Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Stargate was the first Roland Emmerich film that I ever saw, and it remains my favourite. It combines Emmerich’s love of ancient civilisations (which we would later see in the awful 10,000 BC) with his love of aliens (see also Independence Day), but in a way that doesn’t seem as silly as his later offerings. Stargate has all the right elements for a good popcorn sci-fi movie: its two main characters are played well by James Spader and Kurt Russell, even if Russell’s character is somewhat flatly written, and the story of uncovering an ancient artifact that can teleport people across the universe is imaginative and evokes the sci-fi ideas of Steven Spielberg. There are a few clunky bits here and there, but the production design and ideas in Stargate still feel creative and fresh today, and were enough to spawn multiple TV series. I saw this when I was 11 years old, and I’d say that’s the perfect age to view it.
3.25 out of 5

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
By far the worst of The Hobbit films, The Battle of the Five Armies is a complete mess, and I consider it a bungled conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable – if not great – film series. Following the death of the dragon Smaug, the company of dwarves holes up in the mines of Erebor as their leader, Thorin, starts to go nuts from overexposure to…gold, I guess? Meanwhile, several armies are amassing to try and take the treasure horde of Erebor for themselves. The lore and characters in The Battle of the Five Armies maintain the standard of quality that we expect from these movies at this point. They’re all fine, but the movie starts to go severely downhill once the titular battle starts. For one thing: there aren’t five armies. If you count Radagast and the army of animals, well, that’s dumb, because they literally show up for only three shots or so. They are completely unrepresented in the film. Speaking of animals, it appears that Peter Jackson has gotten sick of horses, because everyone in this movie rides something funny, like elk, rams, and even pigs. But the biggest grievance that I have with The Battle of the Five Armies is that it does not contain any conclusion to the Arkenstone storyline. The Arkenstone has been the core MacGuffin of the entire trilogy of Hobbit movies, and yet we are given no indication as to who ends up with it, what happens as a result, or anything like that. It plays a major part in the first act of the movie, but never reappears. Call me crazy, but if I’m going to spend nine hours watching a film series, I expect an ending, and this movie did not provide one.
2.5 out of 5

Jupiter Ascending
The Wachowskis’ long-delayed science fiction/space opera/action/fantasy/epic/love story Jupiter Ascending is a huge mess, but it’s so entertaining that I can’t bring myself to give it a low grade. Jupiter Ascending views like a mashup of about a million different pre-existing properties, with elements of Dune, Star Wars, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Princess Bride, The Fifth Element, Harry Potter, Shadowrun, and hundreds of animes all packed into a two-hour movie that feels like it doesn’t care about the plot and instead focuses on just packing every frame with as much glorious detail as possible. Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis are both fine in the lead roles, but in a rare case, the standout performance of Jupiter Ascending is Eddie Redmayne playing the scene-slurping, perpetually whispering villain Balem. His acting in this film is worthy of being compared to Tommy Wiseau, it is so over-the-top terrible. Characters are introduced and then forgotten, weird worldbuilding details are mentioned fleetingly in a single line of dialogue (“Bees are genetically programmed to recognize royalty, and they can’t tell lies”), and every action scene seems to end with Channing Tatum literally flying in on rocket boots to save Mila Kunis. There is so much more to love about the ridiculousness of Jupiter Ascending that a single paragraph review can’t possibly do it justice. All I will say is that this is truly the best kind of messy movie. It doesn’t make any sense, huge chunks appear to be completely missing, and you may not be able to figure out what’s going on from moment to moment, but if you love sci-fi/fantasy and don’t mind turning your brain off for a couple of hours, then you owe it to yourself to see this film. The more I think about Jupiter Ascending, the more I love it, flaws and all.
3.25 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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