A January with some halfway decent surprises lying behind us, it’s time now to plow into the real depths of the winter dumping season: after a few years where there was one surprising hit toe be found in February, 2015 looks to have nothing of the sort. A hit, yes – a big, enormous, Top 10 of the Year sort of hit – but one that looks terrible. We might always be surprised, of course, but I’m not counting on it, so let’s just get this over quickly
But now, having said all of that, I am going to proudly declare that I’m totally excited for Jupiter Ascending, and I don’t give a shit what anybody has to say. After Cloud Atlas, a movie I just keep loving more despite/because of its faults when I re-watch it, I will follow the Wachowskis to whatever place they have it in their mind to go. Will Jupiter Ascending be bafflingly dumb? Probably. Maybe. Will it be splendid to look at? I expect so. Will it be totally its own thing and a complete outlier in the 2015 popcorn movie biosphere? Undoubtedly, and that’s what matters to me most of all.
Elsewhere in very visibly-delayed effects-driven fantasies, we find Seventh Son, which manages to combine the powers of Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, and Olivia Williams into the creation of what is, by all available evidence, boring crap. Though it’s exciting to think that Moore and Eddie Redmayne might both end up winning Oscars after having played the main villains in two enormous, high-profile flops that opened just 16 days earlier. Oscar joke writers: do something with this, now that I have called it to your attention.
And then we have the animation hybrid The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water, which I’d surely have any kind of opinion toward if I had any level of connection to the SpongeBob SquarePants media franchise.
So here’s the deal: I am indecently excited for the thought pieces to come out surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey, from all directions. It will be the great talking point of 2015. But I could not possibly be less excited to drag myself out to see the actual movie, outside of what appears to be some sleek, handsome Seamus McGarvey cinematography. I’ve failed multiple times to get more than a few pages into the infamous bestselling novel it’s based on, which is written at a sub-literate level, and my understanding is that the whole thing is really just porn dressed up with a feeble narrative copying the main points from Twilight. And I don’t mean to say “just porn” in a dismissive way; it frankly makes the whole thing seem more respectable than assuming all those middle-aged women are actually enjoying the horrible, horrible prose and what I am assured is horrible, horrible character psychology.
But it leaves us with the ungainly fact that a movie is being adapted out of a porno while not, itself, being very pornographic (R-rated in the sexophobic United States, with apparently only around 20 minutes of sex, and a confirmation that there’ll be no onscreen penis). Which suggests that the horrible horribleness is all that’s going to be left. And director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s only other feature, Nowhere Boy, was a fucking dog.
As counter-programming, nobly muscling its way to the teenage boys confused why a major blockbuster release doesn’t care about them at all, we have Kingsman: The Secret Service, a Matthew Vaughn film that sure as hell looks like a Matthew Vaughn film, and there are some people for whom that is a good thing. But some people ain’t me.
Now this feels like a February weekend. Disney is gamely releasing a warm and fuzzy “crusty old white dude intervenes for the better in the lives of underprivileged minorities” sports drama, McFarland, USA, and the white dude is even played by Kevin Costner. There’s some hideously generic high school clique movie, with the “ooh, look at me, I’m raising all kinds of questions!” title of The DUFF, and then there’s Hot Tub Time Machine 2, which has all the feeling of a project that got greenlit and financed at a particularly drunk party, and by the time everybody came to their senses, they were into it for too much financial and legal liability to safely back out.
And then, blessedly, things finally sputter to a close. We’ve got Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie as con artists who perhaps have romantic comedy sparks between them – or perhaps that is part of the con! – and is giving me something not entirely unlike Duplicity vibes, so maybe it’s got something worth looking forward to, hiding in its DNA? Anyway, there was a time when Smith made enjoyable movies for halfway intelligent adults, and I’m kind of getting that vibe, too.
The Lazarus Effect, for its own part, has an excitingly junky trailer surrounding a lazy, retread concept, with a much too classy cast for it, including Olivia Wilde as this movie’s version of the Frankenstein monster. Hopefully cheesy enough to be fun, possibly actually good and just mis-marketed, but either way, it’s the first horror movie in some while I’ve actually caught myself looking forward to.