Movie review

Grumpy Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending

This movie has the best musical score of any movie I’ve seen this year. In terms of graphics and special effects, it is huge, much too lavish for my pathetic little 32″ TV. There were some appealing characters, most notably the former soldiers Caine and Stinger. However, I got the impression that the script came from a story written by a teenage girl (like Twilight or Divergent).

Wikipedia indicates that critics faulted the movie on the incoherence of its script. I agree with them, and was very surprised to learn that it was written, not by a teenager, but by the Wachowskis, who wrote The Matrix movies.

The main character, a girl called Jupiter, whose father loved astronomy and was killed by thugs who stole his telescope, lives with her Russian mother in Chicago and cleans toilets as part of the family housekeeping business. She is abducted and discovers that aliens planted humanity on the earth and many other planets thousands of years ago, and are waiting for the population to hit critical mass in order to harvest the humans and use their bodies to produce a serum that has kept them alive for thousands and thousands of years.

It turns out that, by some means that isn’t clearly explained, Jupiter is the genetic reincarnation of the late queen of the aliens that run this human-farming business. The three heirs of the queen are involved in intrigues against each other, and Jupiter gets kidnapped by one after the other, for each one’s nefarious purposes. In the process she discovers that her genetic link to the late queen makes her the new queen, and in an episode clearly ripped from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s visit to the planet Vogon, she gets taken from office to office to office, dealing with a never-ending series of bureaucrats, to get her official title, symbolized by a globe hologram embedded in her wrist.

One of the three heirs manipulates her to marry him, like a villain in an ancient Flash Gordon film, and as in those old films, Caine bursts in just in time to break up the ceremony. The other even slimier brother kidnaps her family and uses them to extort her, demanding she abdicate her crown, which has given her ownership of Earth (it had been part of his inheritance until she came along). She realizes just in the nick of time that if she gives up her crown, he will proceed immediately to harvest the rest of Earth’s population, so she turns him down. They fight, Caine shows up again and rescues her family, the city on Jupiter where this is taking place begins to disintegrate, she fights her way through the mess, another rescue, etc., and at the end, Jupiter is back on earth, happy to clean toilets, and flying around the skyline with Caine when they have a date.

The reasons I thought this was written by a teen:

The whole queen thing. Jupiter is genetically identical to the most powerful alien of them all, and considered her reincarnation, but except for a pointless ability to get bees to swirl around her, she seems to have no power of her own. In most of the scenes where she’s getting pushed around by aliens, she’s totally passive. It’s only at the end that she shows a little spirit, punching one obnoxious little alien in the face, kneeing the guy who wants her to abdicate, then fighting with him and struggling her way through buildings that are falling apart around her. The other way in which she is assertive is in pursuing Caine romantically. We get no sense of what it actually means for her to be queen except that it gives her control over the destiny of the earth. But we never actually see her govern, and at the end, she’s back in her tawdry little life in Chicago, except that now she’s happy and has an amazing boyfriend.

The werewolf thing and the wings. Caine is a genetically manipulated soldier. His makeup includes wolf genes, so he is a lycanthrope. He also has scars where he used to have wings. They were removed prior to this movie’s events, when he got into trouble for ripping out the throat of a member of the royalty. The werewolf thing never really comes into play, except that he has a keen sense of smell and a dangerous but noble disposition. The really cool things about him are his boots that allow him to skate through the air, and his holographic shield, neither of which has anything to do with being a werewolf or having had wings. So why make him a werewolf at all? And who needs wings? Those boots are awesome!

Sloppy writing. The royal family are so very slimy and deceitful. I get really tired of villains like them. It’s lazy writing. Having Caine burst in at the very last minute, not once but twice, to rescue her from the villainous brothers, is also sloppy writing.

Bad science. A large chunk of the movie takes place on Jupiter, but gravity is not an issue, despite the vastly greater mass.

Another annoying thing: Jupiter (Mila Kunis) wears twice as much makeup as any other character, especially around the eyes.

If a sequel comes out, we’ll watch it, and we might rent this one again to look at the special effects more closely, but this is not a movie that I would buy.

If the Wachowskis are smart, for the sequel they’ll ditch Jupiter and focus on Caine and Stinger. Those guys are in a completely different category from the rest of the cast.

Music, My life

Minnie the Moocher

This great song was played on WMNF this morning as I was driving to work. It reminded me of watching Jeeves and Wooster with my kids, laughing at Bertie’s analysis of the meaning of the lyrics, and especially Jeeves’ chorus: “Ho dee ho dee ho dee ho, sir.” A couple of the most memorable lines from the Jeeves & Wooster are included in their skit.

Here are the two versions:

Man, I miss my kids.

Movie review, My life

Twenty-five things I don’t care about Donald Trump

Fear not, I have no such list. I’m actually reviewing movies.

The blog title is inspired by a Zergnet article title: “25 Things You Don’t Know About Donald Trump.” The few things I do know about him are more than enough.

I have been meaning to do a gripe post for some time. Unfortunately, I forget what I was planning to say whenever I actually open my blog.

Today there was an article on AOL called “11 things you should never put in your freezer.” They were wrong in including coffee, at least if you’re a very occasional coffee drinker and your coffee can or bag lasts for years without running out. They say that thawing and freezing coffee will cause it to become humid and absorb odors. However, if you only take it out long enough to fill the coffee machine, it doesn’t thaw, and if you keep it sealed, it doesn’t absorb odors.

An online article last year lauded the benefits of the “safety razor” (the traditional rectangular blade) over fancy multi-blade options, because it’s cheaper and supposedly shaves closer. I suspect the author has never had to shave in his or her life. I distinctly remember my relief at age 15 when I splurged on a Trac II, after having cut myself over and over again with the old-style safety razor that Mom had got me for my 13th birthday. When the three-blade razors came along, I immediately made that switch as well. Now I use the kind with five blades. They last me 3-4 weeks, so the cost doesn’t bother me, and they are most definitely safer than safety razors.

Grumpy mini-reviews of movies:

Insurgent: The first movie (Divergent) didn’t convince me of the basic premise (that people can be divided according to primary motivations) so I was grumpy most of the way through this one. It was extremely predictable, down to the Harry Potter-type self-sacrificing heroism and the revelation that (gasp) the system is stupid and Divergents are the ones to fix it. Obviously from the scene during credits, the series will go on, now that Cuatro’s mom is the big cheese and appears to be little better than the blonde lady. Yawn.

Mad Max: Fury Road: I watched this because my daughters loved it. It was much too bleak and grisly for my wife, and the jabbering of the bald boys lost much of its charm in the translation to Spanish.

Interstellar: Dr Who meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not bad, but leaves you thinking, “Wait, what?”

Birdman: Another “Wait, what?” ending. But it’s always nice to see Emma Stone.

Magic in the Moonlight: Clever movie about an illusionist getting duped and falling in love. The repeated assertions that lies are okay if they give people hope disturbed me. Also I got the sense that Emma Stone could be Woody Allen’s new Mariel Hemingway.

Edge of Tomorrow (Live, Die, Repeat): The first thing I liked about this movie was getting to see Tom Cruise get pounded over and over. But the story line grew on me, and by the end I was into it. My wife now uses the line, “We’ve had this conversation many times before” whenever she can.

A Thousand Ways to Die in the West: I despise SNL humor. So very tedious, so very trashy. As I told Alicia afterwards, “There wasn’t even a take-away line” (something to laugh about later, like “We’ve had this conversation many times before”). The closest was when a conversation with Native Americans ended with the line “Mila Kunis!” the way Cantinflas used to throw the tongue-twister “Tin marín de dos pingüé” into foreign dialog at every opportunity.

Focus: I had trouble with this movie for a number of reasons. I don’t like getting dragged into rooting for predators. When the characters make their living by elaborate, ongoing lies, it is hard to believe it when there appears to be love between them. The ending is disappointing. And who in the world can travel with a suitcase full of millions of Euros?

The Time Traveler’s Wife: Not bad, but not at the level I had expected. Maybe it was the book that people gushed about, not the movie?

Project Almanac: Fun, although it was unclear why sometimes the main character could go back and undo things and other times it was a big problem to be in the same place twice at the same time.

About Time: We enjoyed this movie a lot. Like any time travel movie, it has its issues, but the characters were well-done and the story is very upbeat.

And that’s all I have time for today.

Handyman, My life

Upgrading the whole-house water filter system


Our whole-house filter got clogged several months ago and I was unable to replace it because the housing was jammed. I set the water system to bypass it temporarily, which means we have been using straight well water for everything except drinking (we have a Brita tank in the kitchen). But recently my wife has been complaining about white clothes turning yellow in the laundry, so I decided I had better fix the filter.

The purple item in the photo is the main filter, very fine (several microns). The two smaller blue housings are sediment filters, to clean most of the dirt and minerals from the water before it gets to the purple filter. I used to have only one sediment filter, but it would get clogged up within a month and bring our water pressure way down. Today I added the second one (on the right), and installed the purple housing where the old jammed housing used to be. I use the two faucets occasionally to run water backwards through the filters and blow out some of the sediment.

So, water comes in from the bottom right, goes through the two small blue filters, and then through the purple filter before going back into the ground. If you look sharp, you can see that I took this photo before setting the valves to route the water through the filters.

I’m sure this is the most thrilling post you’ll see today.