When deciding on a good movie to see on a date, one has to consider the artistic merits of a movie, or at least how much fun they’ll have watching it. On the other hand, as Catholic Christians, we also have to assess the moral standards of a movie. This week, I’m bringing you two reviews – or actually, partial reviews, as the first movie – “Jupiter Ascending” – was so bad I literally couldn’t take the risk of brain damage and thoughts of suicide it incurred in me any further and I walked out after 45 minutes. I have walked out on a total of five movies in my life, and I’ve seen over 3,000. Trust me, this movie is BAD.

The second is “Project Almanac”, a low-budget sci-fi movie shot with “real” footage, like “The Blair Witch Project”. It follows a group of teens and what happens when they build a time machine. This has been done in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” to better effect, though played for laughs. This time, the movie is mostly serious, and not quite as much fun as that late ’80’s classic (which you should watch again sometime, though maybe not on a date).

Jupiter Ascending

In “Jupiter Ascending”, Mila Kunis stars as a woman named Jupiter whose father was inexplicably killed by Russian gangsters while she was still in the womb. Her mom abandons her after childbirth to other Russians, who raise her in Chicago to be a cleaning lady.

For reasons that take forever to be explained and then remain painfully obtuse, Jupiter gets caught in the middle of a fast and furious attempt by ugly aliens and their human-looking leaders on Jupiter to kill her. The only one who can save her is a bounty hunter named Caine (Channing Tatum), a half-wolf and half human-looking being who also comes from our solar system’s largest planet.

Why they want her is a mystery to Jupiter, and will likely be so for anyone watching this film. Nearly every line in the opening hour is a jumbled mess of exposition in which an endless series of weird names are introduced and weirder words from the planet’s vocabulary are explained to the confused earthling.

Even more annoying were the endless and confusing action scenes, in which constant jump cuts and an over-reliance on lasers rendered everything an explosion of colors. The result is a mess of flying bodies and spaceships that are hard to distinguish from one another and even harder to care about.

While a science-fiction movie should induce awe and wonder in a crowd, the only thing that “Jupiter” seemed to make people wonder about is how such big stars agreed to make such a terrible film. Beyond Tatum and Kunis’ embarrassing performances, in which Tatum just mumbles a lot and Kunis constantly looks like she is trying not to laugh at her lines — it’s shocking to see British actor Eddie Redmayne caught up in this trash.

Why Was Eddie Redmayne There?

Redmayne is currently up for a Best Actor Oscar for his remarkable performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”, but this movie could prove to be his “Norbit”. That 2006 debacle starred Eddie Murphy and was released right in the middle of Oscar voting — just as “Jupiter” is now — and is widely believed to be so bad that it led voters to deny Murphy a richly deserved Oscar for “Dreamgirls”.

Those audience members who didn’t join this reviewer in fleeing the theater guffawed loudly at Redmayne’s bizarre line readings throughout. If you don’t believe it could be this bad, consider that audience members walked out in droves at the free screening at the Sundance film festival last week, while those who remained refused to applaud, even as Tatum and Kunis were known to be in the theater.

I realize I can’t account for everything immoral that takes place in “Jupiter”, due to the fact I left early. But it’s rated PG-13, and from what I saw, it was mostly rated R for violence, and that was mostly because of laser-fighting, spaceship-chasing, with plenty of wanton destruction of both Jupiter the planet and Chicago. There are few bad words in it, mostly because everyone’s constantly speaking in space slang from Jupiter, or in Russian, both of which have to be explained but barely are.

Finally, the one scene of sexual content I noticed consisted of someone getting groped by a bunch of female creatures while his shirt’s off, insinuating an orgy but again, the scene is so confusingly written and poorly shot like the rest of the movie and therefore it’s just more creepy than salacious.

Basically, my advice to you, regardless of how immoral this movie is or not, do not see it. It’s bad on every imaginable level. You’ll thank me for sparing you the money. And your relationship.

Project Almanac

Feeling the need to restore my faith in filmmaking, and curious to compare how a sci-fi film with a much lower budget would compare, this reviewer actually paid to see the week-old release “Project Almanac” rather than suffer one second more for free with “Jupiter”. “Almanac” has no recognizable stars, and at $12 million cost far less than one-tenth of the budget for the Wachowski tragedy.

The lack of recognizable faces plays in the favor of “Almanac”, which is the latest in the found-footage school of movies started by “The Blair Witch Project”. It’s about a group of science-whizz teens led by David, who get accepted to MIT but needs to come up with an amazing science project to win a scholarship to the notoriously expensive school.

He and his best friends find plans for a time-travel machine that his dad — a long-dead scientist — created secretly many years ago. With his sister Christina filming their efforts on a video camera to document everything for MIT’s scholarship committee, the gang goes through a series of fun near-misses on the device before finding they have succeeded.

Using their newfound ability, they first do fun things like get revenge on a bully, attend a Lollapalooza concert they had missed, and find winning lottery numbers they then use to get rich beyond their imagination. However, as David keeps pushing it, trouble starts to brew and they find they have to undo the dramatic changes they have unwittingly caused by altering events.

Is It Good For Catholic Viewing?

“Almanac” is a fairly innocent movie, with one possible yet unclear “F” word, occasional “S” words and some fairly mild sexual innuendos spoken throughout, but not constantly. The filmmakers wisely keep the focus on the science and the aforementioned escapades the kids get into while traveling through time. There is also a scene that implies a teen boy and girl just had sex, but it’s not discussed or actually shown.

Sure, these kids are sneaking around and therefore duplicitous, and they break into the school science lab at one point to steal hydrogen for their machine’s engine, but that shouldn’t matter to parents or anyone, frankly. If a movie about making a time-travel machine isn’t a fantasy that kids can’t replicate bad behavior from, what is? Basically, it’s the intensity of the scares as they risk death to travel that makes the movie too much for younger children and earns it a PG-13. This is perfectly acceptable fare for teens and adults.

That said, “Almanac” isn’t perfect film-making either, and is often more interesting than exciting to watch. But the young cast and filmmakers put the Wachowski’s and their big stars to shame. All in all, even “Almanac” isn’t worth $15, so this is a great weekend to catch up on an Oscar-nominated movie you’ve missed, or get to know each other via a real conversation.

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About the Author

Carl Kozlowski

Carl Kozlowski Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.

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