Jupiter Ascending

A lot of people are going to tell you that Jupiter Ascending, the new movie by the Wachowskis that debuted this weekend, is stupid and not very good. You should ignore those people and listen to me instead! Sure, it’s not a brain-buster of a movie. You will probably not walk away from it with a new insight into humanity or various cultures or even the mechanics of interplanetary travel. But, good god, is it fun.

Let me give you the quick sell:

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Quick hits: The Loft & January reads

If you listen to The Televoid, which you should, you know that The Loft is finally out in theaters starting this weekend! It was shot back in 2011 and has languished in distributor hell since. It’s a remake of a Belgian film of the same name, in which five married guys share an apartment where they take their girlfriends, mistresses, and conquests. When one of them finds a woman dead in the bed, the secrets they keep threaten to destroy their “perfect” lives.

Here’s the good news: Karl Urban, I guess? Except he seems to think he’s starring in a parody of a hardboiled noir movie, while everyone else is just basic-cabling around the joint.

Here’s the bad: every bit of this movie. Every damn bit. It’s turgid and stale, the kind of thinks-itself-clever movie that should be running late at night on Encore in perpetuity. The dialogue is stilted; the characters reprehensible and barely dimensional; and the twist/reveal is–frankly–ludicrous and nonsensical. The cops are idiots. The movie seems to think the audience is, too. Maybe it takes place in an alternate universe, where humor and shame are largely absent? The pleasure-seeking walking boners that make up the main cast don’t do anything but loudly hate their wives and lives, until it looks like they might lose either of the pair. Most of the women in the cast could have been replaced by table lamps. It’s also strangely prudish about its sexual content. For a movie all about men trying to bone everything on two legs, there’s very little nudity. What little there is, including a total strip-down by Urban, is coyly concealed from our view. (Not that I mind a movie where women aren’t asked to get their breasts out every sixteen seconds, mind.) And, as is all too common, the dead woman at the center of the story is about as much a complex character as the sheets covering most of her R-rated body parts.

Do yourself a favor: wait a few years until this is running late at night on Encore and half-watch it then.

In other, quicker hits, I reviewed two new books this month (in addition to Signal to Noise:

Stealing Marilyn Monroe by Sophie Warren: Juliet Chadwick is an expert art curator, employed by some of the top galleries in the country–under assumed identities that conceal her real calling as a thief. But when the gangsters to whom her incarcerated father owes money come knocking on her door, Juliet has to pull off a big money heist to save both their lives and her collection. Naturally, that heist involves conning a mega-wealthy man and his children, and accidentally falling in love with them along the way.

It was cute! Fast read, fun characters, even a little bit of art history knowledge drop. Conversations that sound like real people talking! The progression of the romance was a little hurried–and Juliet suffers from the all-too-common “oh no he wants someone else!!” confusion that always seems to beset romance heroines after initial bursts of “yesss, he wants my face on his face.” The ending was more neatly wrapped up than I’d have liked, but Juliet was relatable, root-for-able, and charming, and Edward’s kids are fantastic, especially the oldest, Cecilia. I am already lining up for more Cecilia. Write more Cecelia!

Stealing Marilyn Monroe by Sophie Warren will be available 14 April 2015 from Alloy Entertainment. I received an advance copy for review from NetGalley.

Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins: This is a bit of a departure for me. Non-fiction, a mashup of history and true crime. It’s New York in 1799/1800, when Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton teamed up to defend a man accused of murdering a young woman. (WHY CAN’T I GET AWAY FROM DEAD GIRL TOWN.) Though the book is ostensibly about this meeting of rivals, it’s more a chronicle of what was New York’s first big and sensational murder case and how the public reaction to it still echoes today.

Collins writes a hell of a crime story. Even though it played out more than two hundred years ago, the narrative was engaging and kept me interested throughout. The actual crime doesn’t come in until surprisingly late in the book, but it’s hardly noticeable because Collins sweeps you along in everyday detail of early 19th century New York. (I’m excited to spin off into looking up the dozens of passages and references I bookmarked for reading and writing reasons.) But, while the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr was electric in real life, and the book is framed as a rare occasion of their working in concert, very little of the story centers on that interaction. Still, as an example of historical true crime, the book is a satisfying and entertaining read. Recommended for anyone interested in both true crime and the early US.

Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins is available now from Crown. I received a copy for review from Blogging for Books.

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Galavant: “I don’t like it when men touch my face.”

I’ll start with the obvious: Galavant is done. Maybe it will get a second series, but that seems unlikely. It’s not had great ratings–something the showrunners anticipated, if the jester’s final song is to be believed. And there hasn’t been much critical or cultural buzz about it either. To be honest, I’m not sure whether I’d watch if it came back.

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Galavant: “Oh, great, another musical number!”

Galavant was back again this weekend opposite the Golden Globes with two new episodes, “Two Balls” and “Comedy Gold”. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Last week I said that Alan Menken and Glen Slater’s musical work for this show is reminiscent of Mel Brooks, though far less pointed and raunchy. But I still didn’t expect the show to go for the full Catskill the way it does in the third episode, “Two Balls.”

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