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 **

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs

Young Atari (Koyu Rankin) travels to the Isle of Dogs in search of Spots.

There are very few filmmakers these days I can think of whose minds I would like to explore rather than Wes Anderson. Though I have yet to see all of his films, the ones I have seen are as fresh, insightful, original, joyful, and thought-provoking as any I have seen. Isle of Dogs is no exception.

Set in Japan, we see that Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) has sent all dogs (domesticated or not) to a lone Isle in response to a dog flu epidemic. It is also due to the fact that he has an ancient hatred of canines. Not so his nephew Atari (Koyu Rankin), who is Kobayashi’s only heir (Atari’s parents had died in a train crash). He is assigned a dog that he is told not to fall in love with (not even pet). The dog is Spots (Liev Schreiber), who is the first dog sent to the Isle. Atari steals a plane and flies in search of his dog.

While there, he encounters a group of other dogs. There is King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray, Anderson’s Muse), and Rex (Edward Norton). Though they like to have some form of democracy in the vote, the stand alone leader is Chief (Bryan Cranston), whose head is as hard as his heart.

As befitting a Wes Anderson flick, Isle of Dogs supports a strong cast of characters played by a big cast of talented people. It is dumb of me to list all of them; not just because of how many, but because it is fun to find out for yourselves. Still, I can at least name a few you may hear, such as Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance (This is Us), and even Yoko Ono.

Parents, I am still up in the air as to whether or not I agree with the PG-13 rating. There is no sexual content (other than talk of mating), and a few swear words that the local middle schooler has probably heard on a daily basis. The rating is mainly due to a few violent scenes (which I admit caught me off guard). If your kids have seen Anderson’s 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox (which I highly recommend), they are fine seeing this film.

Come to think of it, what I like the most about all of Anderson’s films is how caught off guard they leave me. That is an essential feeling for any great movie, and while Isle of Dogs is not perfect (it does seem to run on long at times), that was the feeling I had throughout.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day Resurgence

Will Smith is absent, but at least Jeff Goldblum is back, right?

As a proud 1990s kid, I had many great movies stapled into my childhood, and seeing Independence Day at the age of 9 was truly one of them. It was loud, silly, and a lot of fun.

Now, twenty years later (in which time I like to think I got a bit smarter along the way), we have Independence Day: Resurgence. I will be blunt: The fact than Will Smith is not in the movie is not the worst part. There are many issues.

First, the main reason that I went to this movie was because of the character of Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner). If you remember the first one, on the second day (July 3rd), he and his team of scientists are performing surgery on an unconcious alien. The alien awakens, and kills everyone in the room. Apparently, Okun survived (despite a scene where his neck is being felt for a pulse, showing he clearly died) and was in a coma for twenty years. Ok, sure, I guess. I know nothing about comas, but something does sound a bit fishy.

Also, though Will Smith’s character is absent (he died in a test flight crash), his step son Dylan (Jessie T. Usher) is still around as a pilot. His mom Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) was an exotic dancer. Now, she is a nurse/doctor (I was not sure). I guess you could say that she had enough time to study to be where she is now at twenty years, but the situations she is in seem as cliche as loud kids on Christmas morning.

The basic plot: we as humans have upped our defenses in case of another invasion, but the aliens had time as well (though if they knew about us in the first place, why not just use that technology in the first one?  Probably because it was in 1996.) We now have stations on the moon, with pilots like Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). He is engaged to Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), daughter of Former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman). The former president is having nightmares/visions (as is Dr. Okun) of the aliens. Jeff Goldblum is back as David Levinson, though he seems uninterested to be there. The same can basically be said for his on screen dad Julius, played again by Judd Hirsch. He too is thrown into a situation that is as cliche as (let me think here)…oh, candy on Halloween (I am on a role!)

Others include William Fichtner as General Adams, Sela Ward as (current) President Lanford, and a brief return for General Grey, played by the late Robert Loggia.

Parents, if the kids have seen the original, you can let them see this (at least they won’t be confused if they haven’t).

Actually, you should let them just end on the first one, and pretend that it ended with Will Smith fulfilling his step son’s wishes for fireworks. Resurgence is like a fire work you see go into the air, and realize that it is not going off.

 

Overall: One Star *