Cute and classy, Netflix’s new late-summer love story, Falling Inn Love, is decent enough fare for an end-of-August afternoon, but might not do much to satisfy audiences craving bold new content with unexpected plot twists or subverted expectations. This really is the sort of movie that should be watched on a couch, preferably while wearing pajamas, when there’s nothing else to do. That’s not an insult, just a reference for when and how you should go into this film in order to get the desired effect. It’s sleepy comfort-food for the soul.
The romance at the heart of the film is charming enough, and relies on the Opposites-Attract formula. Gabriela (Christina Milian) is a stressed out architect from San Francisco who’s bored with the corporate hamster-wheel of her busy life: finding no comfort in either yoga sessions or her over-eager boyfriend, she flies out to New Zealand after she wins a charming little bed-and-breakfast inn in a contest. Once there (literally, as soon as she arrives), she runs into Jake (Adam Demos), the town’s most eligible bachelor/contractor, who decides to help her renovate and remodel the place. That’s basically it. Both stars are likable, but Milian more so: perhaps because Demos’ charming Kiwi handyman takes on the Moody Brooding Leading Man™ persona about halfway through, which then leads to some severe misuse of the Misunderstanding™ trope, followed by some of that good old “I Can’t Fall In Love Because [Insert Past Tragedy]”™ cliche. I won’t spoil too much, but the story basically devolves into a series of well-worn story beats a little more than halfway through.
As for the scenic backdrop of New Zealand and its culture, which wows Gabriela, well…it’s barely ever seen. In a small-budget film like this, that’s not really surprising, but it does make one wonder why the script focuses so heavily on Gabriela’s constant surprise at the Kiwi way of life, when almost everything we see in the rural locale of Beechwood can be found in any American town. I say almost because there are a few Maori phrases in the cast’s vocabulary, as well as a few Maori extras and supporting characters. But really, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t make much difference.
So, if you don’t plan on going anywhere for an hour and a half, why not relax on the sofa, grab some snacks, and give Falling Inn Love a chance? It’s cute, it’ll pass the time, and it doesn’t require too much thought. But in a world where rom-coms are becoming increasingly more thought-provoking (looking at you, Last Christmas), it just might not be enough.
I debated for a long time whether to title this “Jupiter Ascending Review” or “Two Hours Of My Life Wasted On Space Monopoly”. That should tell you something about what this movie is like.
I only decided to watch Jupiter Ascending, a movie I had never previously seen, because Netflix was promoting it on their social media as a “wacky space opera” that needed to be seen to be believed. The only thing I knew about it was that it starred Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, someone who I have loved in previous movies like The Theory Of Everything and the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I now feel like I am well within my rights to sue Mr. Redmayne for emotional damages caused by this particular film, which is less like a “space opera” than it is like ” Wagner’s entire Der Ring des Nibelungen but with spaceships”.
This movie is long. So long, in fact, that I had to physically force myself to keep watching at multiple points, but I made it: well, technically there were three or four unnaturally long action-sequences that I had to fast-forward through, and I can’t even say that I’m ashamed. Action-sequences are supposed to be exhilarating and fun – but for some reason, these ones were bizarrely quiet (like Redmayne, but we’ll get to him), and also incredibly dull. There are lots of films out there that get bombarded for having good fight-scenes but a boring, convoluted plot: Jupiter Ascending doesn’t even have halfway-decent fight-scenes, and its plot is structured similarly to a labyrinth. I have to wonder how anyone actually convinced themselves this movie was a good idea – that this movie was even an okay idea. In my opinion, it doesn’t even count as a bad idea: abysmal is nearer the mark. And while I don’t like ranting, I have to make an exception in this case: mostly because I’m going to use this as evidence for when I sue Netflix, Eddie Redmayne, the Wachowskis, and everybody else even remotely involved in this film’s conceptualization, production, release and distribution.
Where do we begin? Can I even try to make sense of the…hmm, it’s not a plot – what’s the word I’m looking for? It’ll come back to me. Anyway, the thing-that-isn’t-a-plot begins with a young Russian woman named Jupiter Jones (the fact that she’s Russian has no impact whatsoever on absolutely anything, but you would at least expect it to influence her name: yeah, no), played by Mila Kunis, who, to give her credit, tries her level best to act with all resources available to her, including, but not limited to: an oversize blanket, a hand-gun, toilet-brush, space-iPad, cloud of CGI bees, wedding-ring dispenser, and eyeliner. Unfortunately for her, everybody else in this film is also trying to act with their eyeliner – and everybody, including Kunis, is failing. Jupiter Jones just so happens to be obsessed with astrology (wouldn’t have guessed it from the name or anything), and her entire motivation throughout the film is…to buy a telescope. She has no interest in playing the Game of Thrones with Eddie Redmayne, and she’s only temporarily intrigued by the laws and customs of Jupiter (for whatever reason), but getting home to her telescope is her primary goal. And, look, I’m not here to judge you (I’m judging you), but who in their right mind actually approved this script? While trying to make money to buy this telescope, Jones gets kidnapped by aliens disguised as fertility clinic doctors (I’m not making this up), before being suddenly rescued by a werewolf/human/alien/angel hybrid bounty hunter with flying boots named Caine Wise. And basically it’s Channing Tatum with eyeliner, pointy ears, a ridiculous chin-beard, and wings (or, rather, horrific scars where his wings used to be, before he was thrown out of heaven or whatever for biting somebody: I’m not joking). Then they blow up most of Chicago, but somehow it gets rebuilt within a day. And that’s it. That’s the plot of this movie.
Don’t make me continue. Please don’t make me.
After being rescued by Channing Tatum and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jupiter Jones is whisked off to a farm in the middle of nowhere, where she meets Sean Bean – sorry, “Stinger”, who happens to be a human/alien/honeybee hybrid bounty hunter. You read that correctly, he’s part honeybee. And yes, his name is Stinger. It gets worse from there. Stinger has a lot of helpful exposition to share with Jupiter Jones, and thankfully she has all the questions in the world, including ones that we really didn’t need answered, like “who killed the dinosaurs?” – (it was aliens, by the way). Stinger then tells her everything there is to know about Caine, except for the crucial stuff like; why is he a werewolf? Why did he have wings? Why does he own flying boots? Why did Channing Tatum willingly do this to his career? And when Jupiter learns that she can control bees, Stinger immediately realizes that means she’s the one true queen of the earth, because…because…(don’t make me literally write these words)…bee-cause bees are genetically disposed to recognize royalty, and because bees don’t lie. Remember, somebody actually wrote this script. Jones is then taken captive by a different gang of bounty hunters working for Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), until it turns out that some of them are actually working for Lady Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) – if only I knew or cared who either of those people were, I might actually be somewhat interested in this plot twist. Unfortunately, the movie then decides to try and force me to care by carrying our bee-dazzlingly boring protagonist off to an alien planet where Kalique decides to give another long expository speech about how Jupiter Jones is actually the reincarnation of her murdered mother, before losing Jones in another boring, eerily quiet action-sequence that features Channing Tatum once again swooping in (literally) to save the damsel in distress. Good thing the Wachowskis decided to use that overdone trope a few hundred more times in this movie! Because not only does Jones need to be rescued from Kalique (flying boots do the trick there), but she then needs to be rescued from Lord Titus Abrasax (handy-dandy spaceship battle and incredibly slow-moving wedding ceremony saves the day), and finally from Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne’s incompetence combined with Channing Tatum’s flying boots get Jones out of this one), as various planets and civilizations crumble around her. Thankfully, I couldn’t care less about any of them. Spoiler Alert!, Jupiter Jones eventually ends up with her werewolf alien boyfriend; Eddie Redmayne falls to his death; thousands of innocent human beings are saved by one magical pair of flying shoes, proving that practical footwear is the answer to all of life’s problems; Sean Bean don’t die and the bees don’t lie. Oh, and did I mention that deep inside the planet Jupiter there’s a giant factory where flying lizards transform human souls into a nectar which keeps rich and famous intergalactic bureaucrats eternally youthful? But that, for some reason, the hair-and-makeup team didn’t get the memo and decided to make Eddie Redmayne look like he was sixty?
That’s the plot. That’s Jupiter Ascending. Sadly, it doesn’t end there: this movie relies heavily on some of the most pathetic dialogue ever written, so much so that it deserves a special shoutout for lines like:
“I CREATE LIFE! And I destroy it…” – Lord Balem Abrasax (delivered in a high-pitched scream followed by gravelly whispering, in what I suspect was meant to be an artistic decision).
“I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs.” – Jupiter Jones (delivered while trying to convince her gravity-defying werewolf buddy that he and she are meant to be together: Tatum’s glassy-eyed silence in response is possibly the only time this film tried to make its characters’ dialogue logical: by not having them speak).
“Does any part of you want to bite me?” – Jupiter Jones (not taking no for an answer, Jones hounds (haha, a canine joke) the werewolf and again tries to make this relationship seem even remotely interesting. I have to hope and pray that this line is only in the movie because someone left the cameras rolling while Kunis was making fun of the script, but didn’t cut it out of the finished product because unfortunately it could easily be misconstrued as intentional: then again, this is the same film that informed me that bees don’t lie, so I don’t know what to bee-lieve anymore).
Now that I’ve shared those gems with you, it’s obviously time to talk about performances, or what little remains of them once you dig through all the exposition, Random Dialogue About Bees, and several layers of hurricane surrounding the planet Jupiter (don’t worry, Channing Tatum does). Eddie Redmayne could have been the highlight of this movie, the one thing preventing it from totally collapsing into a murk of space-ooze. He could have been the sole remaining survivor of this catastrophe, the one member of this cast who could hold his head up high after making this film and point to his performance as the one thing that kept Jupiter Ascending from descending into the never-ending bleakness of the void.
Thank goodness he didn’t do any of that. Instead, we get to see the Academy Award-winner gliding around in a shimmery space-bathrobe before Jeff Goldblum made them cool, alternately screaming at the top of his lungs, whispering so softly you can barely hear him, or drawing breath. The fact that he was still breathing was quite possibly one of the most interesting things about his performance, because I, for one, don’t know if I would have had the strength and perseverance necessary for that role. Alongside Redmayne is screen legend Sean Bean, desperately clinging to his dignity for as long as humanly possible, until he finally just gives up, betrays the good guys for unexplained reasons, develops a moral compass out of nowhere, redeems himself, and…doesn’t even die. The Wachowskis got Sean Bean for their movie and did not kill him: what kinds of filmmakers are they?
I’d rather not talk about Kunis and Tatum, if it’s all the same to you. I’d rather just stop now.
So what can I say for this film that isn’t negative? It’s wacky, that’s undeniable, and it doesn’t let you forget it once during its incredibly long runtime. But its wackiness isn’t good: it’s the sort of scratching-the-bottom-of-the-barrel that leads to extended sequences spent watching Jupiter Jones walk back and forth between desks at the space DMV, or gives aspiring talent like Gugu Mbatha-Raw a bad name by forcing her to wear giant prosthetic ears. It’s boring, once you’ve seen all that space has to offer, and even Jupiter realizes that halfway into the movie: she couldn’t wait to return to earth, and nor could I. Sadly, there isn’t a place in the universe where I can be far enough away from Jupiter Jones and the flying werewolf angel, because they’re permanently scarred into my brain now. If you want more scathing satirical analysis of this film’s many faults, I will refer you here and here – I don’t even particularly like CinemaSins, so me recommending them says a lot about how bad this movie is.
But if Jupiter Ascending taught me anything, it’s this:
The war to fill the fantasy-adaptation void that Game of Thrones left has begun: HBO is racing around the clock to get Bloodmoon, a Game of Thrones prequel, up and running, while their adaptation of His Dark Materials will debut later this year (and has already been confirmed for a second season); Amazon Prime will drop Carnival Row, a moody Victorian-era paranormal thriller, in August, about the same time they’re supposed to start filming their five-season prequel to The Lord of the Rings – their Wheel of Time series has already cast Rosamund Pike in the lead role of the sorceress, Moiraine, and should go into production soon, while Conan the Barbarian is still in early stages of development, and the Ringworld project has been silent for a year or two now; BBC America will start adapting some of the works of late author Terry Pratchett, which is something I am very much looking forward to; Apple TV’s adaptation of the science-fiction epic, the Foundation Trilogy, is still…maybe…on its way to being greenlit. Netflix’s The Witcher, however, will arrive on screens sooner than most of these adaptations – the first look arrived today.
The photos and official poster that have been released are really exciting, so let’s check them out. First of all, we’ve got Henry Cavill, formerly known as Superman, in the role of Geralt of Rivia, scarred monster-hunter and Legolas look-alike, sporting the silvery wig that had him being ridiculed all over the internet just a few months ago: it looks…better now, even though it’s hard to believe that could be possible.
A pretty good wig, if you ask me. I’m not a big fan of Cavill’s, but he looks better here than he ever did during his short-lived run as Superman in the DCEU: he looks gritty, weathered, harsh. He’s also, I believe, the only real star-power that Netflix can rely on for The Witcher: besides him, we have Anya Cholatra as the powerful sorceress Yennefer, looking stylish in a heavy fur-coat:
The outfits look to be very high-quality. Finally, we have Freya Allan as the secretive Princess Ciri, all shadowy and mysterious, lurking in the forest while the others are all posing dramatically by the sea.
The images look quite good, and give me hope that this might be a pretty decent adaptation – granted, I’ve never read the Witcher novels, so I won’t be able to give you in-depth analysis of what’s different between the books and the show, but I know someone who can: check out Elliot Brooks on YouTube if you want to know more about the show, and the novels, and the accompanying video games that actually made the novels as popular as they are (her channel is awesome, but especially for stuff about The Witcher).
What do you think? Do you like these images? Netflix has announced that they will be heading to San Diego Comic Con with The Witcher, so expect many more updates – and probably a trailer! – there.
Where to start with this review? Well, how about this: the movie does not begin on a dark and stormy night – but that’s one of the very few mystery-story cliches it does not tackle in its surprisingly short, swiftly-paced runtime. And I mean, one of the very few: this is a movie that comes packed with all the requisite elements of a classic mystery; from the suave British host to the alluring city-streets of Monaco, illegitimate children of English nobility, enigmatic French detectives and lethal Indian daggers. Every overdone trope gets its moment of melodrama in the spotlight – before it is inevitably wrestled to the ground by hilarious, heartfelt satire.
But no, our story begins in New York City, with our protagonists: lazy NYPD detective Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) and inquisitive, bookish hairdresser Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston). The couple are bored and tired in their middle-class American lives, until their wedding anniversary, when Nick agrees to take his wife on a long-awaited European vacation – a honeymoon fifteen years in the making. On the plane, they run into the aforementioned suave British gentleman, Charles Cavendish; elegantly portrayed by Luke Evans, Cavendish is immediately suspect even before Audrey openly states that, with a name like his, he would be the bad guy in a mystery story. Nevertheless, he politely invites Mr. and Mrs. Spitz to be his guests on a private yacht rather than have to spend their honeymoon traveling on a crowded tour bus learning about aged Italian ham.
Naturally, the mystery begins there.
The usual suspects are all present. Aside from Charles, we are presented with prospective-heir-to-a-magnificent-fortune Tobias Quince (David Walliams), Charles’ ex-girlfriend Suzi Nakamura (Shioli Kutsuna), the Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), grizzled war hero Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), the celebrity race-car driver Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Méndez), and the silent Russian bodyguard known as Sergei (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), plus the film’s most lavish star aside from the three leads, Gemma Arterton, playing…well, the film’s most lavish star, actress Grace Ballard. The actors all get a chance to take themselves far too seriously, as their caricature characters clash (try saying that one three times fast) in a desperate attempt to win the love – and magnificent fortune – of the elderly, steely-eyed tycoon Malcolm Quince. Terence Stamp gives a brief, but almost Christopher Lee-like performance as Mr. Quince, before he is dramatically slain with, you guessed it, the Indian dagger. The scene immediately preceding his death, in which Mr. Quince realizes that he has two unexpected (and decidedly civilian) guests in Mr. and Mrs. Spitz, is absolutely hilarious – Aniston and Sandler are brilliant in their roles, and somehow sell the premise that they are, in fact, the odd ones out on this high-end French yacht full of celebrities and moviestar personalities.
After Quince’s sudden demise, just when the film should really take off, the movie suddenly jolts in the opposite direction – or maybe “jolt” is too strong a word. Our protagonists sort of just…idle, while the plot stands still around them, allowing for a handful of genuinely funny moments, most of them provided by our French detective, Inspector de la Croix (Dany Boon). But while he can blow an impressive smoke-ring, Hercule Poirot he is not. To make matters worse, Sandler’s characters suffers with sleepiness throughout the movie, but seems to get especially lackadaisical just when things get interesting. With a little less than an hour left, the movie suddenly remembers that it is, in fact, supposed to be entertaining: like a crimson Ferrari gunned into action (that metaphor will make sense later), the story gets fun, fast. We’re treated to another death, an obligatory escape-out-the-window scene in a luxury hotel, and hysterical humor. From that point on, except for some unnecessary marital drama, Murder Mystery gleams. Most of the film’s best material is packed into the last thirty minutes.
The high-points of the movie are the performances, and the finale: Aniston, Sandler and Evans are all exceptional – Evans does grow less so as the movie progresses, and his dashing elegance is, unfortunately, never shattered with comedic precision, but his charm is enough to make up for that. Many of the smaller roles are enjoyable to watch: Akhtar’s Maharajah is delightfully cool; Arterton is blessed with a large enough role in which to show off her range; and, as previously noted, Stamp gets one delectably funny scene, which he dominates. Only Ólafsson and Méndez are forgettable in their roles.
As for the finale – well, I did not actually guess the murderer’s identity correctly. But I loved the way that, even in its closing minutes, the movie had time to turn the tables on one more mystery cliche: and it’s a good one, too. There’s an excruciatingly funny car chase as well, involving one beautiful red Ferrari – I was not expecting goats, but I got goats, and I loved them. The film’s final scene can be read as either a tease of sequels down the line, or just a loving nod to the genre; an apology, of sorts, for all the mischief and madness committed in the name of mystery.
So, is Murder Mystery worth seeing? Well, if nothing else, it will definitely have you smiling and probably laughing out loud in its best moments – it’s not brilliant, and it’s not even the most brilliant use of satire, but it is heartfelt and heartwarming. Sandler and Aniston make a great duo, and have a fun supporting cast. So if you’re an insomniac on a dark and stormy night, why not check it out?