Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

In any situation, the T-Rex is still (as the kids might say) the GOAT

It was a fourteen year wait we all endured (along with the third film in 2001) before 2015’s Jurassic World brought back dinosaurs to the theme park, and was probably the best since the original classic back in 1993. Three years later, we have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Fallen indeed. It is like going to a great destination but having your GPS take you though places you never knew existed, resulting in you feeling somewhat interested, but wishing for other scenery on the route.

That is not to say that the special effects are bad. There are some cool looking shots (especially a somewhat heartbreaking one that I will get to later). The story does seem simple enough, but hardly enthralling. After the events of Jurassic World, the dinosaurs stuck on the island are in danger as the volcano is on the brink of eruption. The debate begins over whether to let nature take its course or have the animals saved. One who sides with their demise is Dr. Malcom (Jeff Goldblum, who is barely in the film more than five minutes). A group led by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is doing what they can to save the animals.

Claire is reached out to by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who helps run the company of Benjamin Lockwood (the always wonderful James Cromwell), a one time former partner of John Hammond. Mills wants Claire to help save as many animals (eleven species if I remember correctly) as possible, meaning she will need to reconnect with Owen (Chris Pratt), since he is the only one who can connect with his old pet raptor blu.

One problem I also had with the film was the generic characters we get that are to be expected in a Jurassic film. We have the main military head guy (Ted Levine), who we know will leave the island with far fewer men than he came with. There are two of Claire’s friends/assistants, Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith). While Zia is the tough no-nonsense one, Franklin is the (somewhat annoyingly) scared of everything one (though he did at least bring bug spray). There is also, of course, the child. This time is Lockwood’s grand-daughter Maise (a fresh new face talent named Isabella Sermon). It is standard law that any kid in the Jurassic universe is one of the smartest characters, if no the smartest. I almost forgot the great character actor Toby Jones as a villain who wishes to sell the dinosaurs to the highest bidder.

All of these actors are all talented, no doubt, but it is (some of) the characters making stupid choices that made me upset. The most bizarre moment of the film is when a certain character learn’s something of their past, which is a rather big plot twist. Remember when I said this film was like taking a trip to a great place but the journey was uncomfortable?

Parents, if your kids have seen a Jurassic Park film before, they are fine here. There is nothing sexual (one kiss), just thrills and some blood. Middle School and up is totally okay.

The ending we get to is actually one that can show some promise. Perhaps there is enough left in the tank for one more Jurassic Park film, provided they work out the script and not rush it (which is what I felt during this current film). As for the heartbreaking scene, you will know it when it happens (it involves a Brachiosaurus). Perhaps that may symbolize the end of this franchise, or maybe not.

Perhaps, life may find another way.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War

Thanos (Josh Brolin) shakes the Avengers to their core, as well as the audience.

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. It has also been that long since The Dark Knight, which has always been the best superhero movie. Few movies have been any kind of a threat (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War. In my mind, The Dark Knight is still number one, but it has been shaken by a solid silver place finisher.

I will be brief, for I would fear of any form of spoilers (there will be none here). If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers.

That is as far as I will go. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans),….ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye (that was easier).

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. Afterall, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Parents, I was about to say it is like any Marvel movie, but, to be fair, there are a lot of darker moments. That is all I will say. Middle School and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Baby Groot

I have stated before that I never grew up reading a single comic book. My childhood knowledge of Marvel (as well as DC) came from movies and TV shows. Perhaps this maybe the reason why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did not appeal to me as much as the first (though it is still worth watching).

GOTG V2 starts off with all the Guardians (Peter/Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot) defending a battery source from a giant monster. This is all done as Groot dances to ELOs “Mr. Blue Sky”, providing one of the movies many pleasant scenes.

Eventually, the Guardians are persued by a group of Golden people called the Sovereigns, led by their High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). They are after batteries stolen from them by Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper, who gives us an even deeper character this time around). The Guardians are forced to crash-land, and are met by Peter’s (Chris Pratt) long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell).

Ego takes Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista, who gives the film some of its most immortal quotes) to his home planet with his assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Staying with the ship is Rocket and (the ever cute) Baby Groot (still voiced by Vin Diesel) as they watch over Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Eventually, they are tracked down by the familiar face of Yondu (the always underappreciated Michael Rooker). He is still after Quill, after being denounced by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone).

What made the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie so endearing was the humor, and Vol. 2 is no different (the same can also be said for the immaculate soundtrack). I won’t ruin any moments, except to say the scene stealing belongs (again) to Groot. When sent to find an item, what he returns with goes from hilarious to even a bit disturbing.

My main issue with the movie is the villain. Without saying who it is (thought it will become rather obvious), the actor is indeed a far talented one. It just seems like the Guardians have more than enough character and spunk to deserve a much menacing villian. In Vol. 2, the villian is downright forgettable.

Parents, if you kids have seen the first movie, they are fine with this one. There is some action/violence (mild), swearing, and one awkward (though funny) scene about where babies come from.

I know there are probably a lot of nods to the comics that would make GOTG V2 very appreciated by comic book fans. Good for them. I am more of a movie fan. That being said, the movie does give us some good slow moments of reflection (especially at the end, which took me off guard).

While it is not as good as the first one, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has certainly started the 2017 movie season with a bang.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars ***1/2

Jurassic World (2015)

Chris Pratt calms things down in Jurassic World.

Chris Pratt calms things down in Jurassic World.

I admit that when I heard they were doing a new film in the Jurassic series, I was hesitant. The first film came out when I was six, and it was a great entertainment. Sadly, after the unimpressive (but mildly entertaining) The Lost World and the very anti-fun Jurassic Park 3, it seemed the original was doomed to follow the same path of another Spielberg classic, Jaws.

Luckily, the new Jurassic World brings life back into the franchise (unlike the Jaws franchise, in which the fourth one was…..oh, don’t get me started). Set nearly 20 years after the events of the original, the park is now named “Jurassic World” (one character is seen wearing a “Jurassic Park” shirt, and is told not to wear it again, as it reminds them of what problems occurred there). We see two boys, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) getting ready for a trip to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who helps run Jurassic World. Of course, Zach is not wanting to be there, while Gray is over the moon.

Claire is too busy to attend to the boys, so she leaves them with her assistant. There is a new attraction to be shown, as public interest has been declining. Enter the idea of the Indominus Rex. At first, he looks like a version of the T-Rex who can use his hands to grab things (such as people. I doubt I am giving much away on that.), but there is more to it than that. This may be one of the smartest dinosaurs in film history.

After Owen (the always wonderful Chris Pratt, who is set for another good year after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie) fails to tell Claire and Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) that it is not a good idea to keep this new creation, all that can go wrong, well does (and if it didn’t, would there really be a movie?) It also does not help when Claire’s nephews decide to escape the assistant and decide to go their own way.

Much of the action sequences are breathtaking, but I felt some of the movie did have a story line or two too many (mainly the one with Vincent D’Onofrio as Hoskins, who is good here). Still, the film brought together an action packed fight at the end that I was ashamed to say I did not know I wanted it, but I truly did (one little girl in the theater, maybe 7 or 8, said as I left the theater “That was the best dinosaur kill EVER!”)

Parents, I admit I was a little afraid to see kids in the theater, but I remember I was that age when I saw the original (though on VHS, not in theaters). Of course it may be scary for little kids, but I think 10 or above would be fine (some sexual innuendo of dialogue is in the film, but none that a kid would understand).

My favorite thing about Jurassic World was the nostalgia (which shows how much respect the film makers put into the film). I for one was excited when I saw the night vision goggles, the old jeep with the number “29” (used by Hammond in the original), a bit of the ribbon that said “When Dinosaurs ruled the earth”, a place in the park called “Winston’s” (a nod, I imagine, to the late Stan Winston, who helped make the original dinosaurs in the first films),  and BD Wong as Scientist Henry Wu. Still, the best thing by far was the original theme by the legendary John Williams. As it played, it made me think that this what John Hammond truly envisioned in the first place.

Well, minus the chaos and death.

Overall: Three and a half Stars *** 1/2