2018 Half Time Report

halftimereport1

 

I am rather surprised that the first half of 2018 has had a rather good share of quality films, nearly breaking the tradition of having mainly bad films in the first half of a year. It actually made me realize that while I can make a top five of the year so far, I could not do a bottom five (for it would include films I actually enjoy).

That being said, such good movies like Deadpool 2, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, and Set it Up did not make the list.

First, the bottom three…

 

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

After the nice revival of the series in 2015, we are given this let down. Nice visuals, but way too many plot turns and clichés that make you shake your head rather than nod.

2. Irreplaceable you

It is rather sad when there is a romantic movie that tries hard to bring the tears and fails. Too many characters making choices that are really difficult to relate to, let alone agree with.

1. The Cloverfield Paradox

Credit to the film makers for keeping this project a secret up until the release right after the Superbowl. That is really the only positive I can think of. I have not seen any of the other Cloverfield films, but it still does not hide what a waste of time and money this was.

 

Note: The last two films mentioned star actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I point this out because I wish to say she is talented, and I hope she gets better material soon.)

 

Now the best so far…

5. Isle of Dogs

Leave it to Wes Anderson to, as always, give us as fresh an original movie as possible. It is weird, quirky, funny, touching, and has Bill Murray. So, you know, a basic Wes Anderson film.

4. Black Panther

Easily one of Marvel’s top films, the kingdom of Wakanda gives us some of the best action, grit, and realism we have seen in any action film. All the cast is wonderful.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

As if the previous film were not enough, Marvel then proceeded to give us the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. Seriously, think of how bad this movie could have been, and yet there is hardly a fault. Regardless of how you feel, there is no doubt of the wonderful, terrifying screen presence of Thanos (Josh Brolin is definitely having a good 2018).

2. Hereditary

This horror thriller reminded me a lot of 2016’s unseen gem The Witch. With a stellar cast (mainly Toni Colette), this film leaves a taste that I have still not fully gotten out of my system. I don’t think I want to either.

1. Won’t you be my Neighbor?

We still have more action packed films (comic book or otherwise) to endure this year, but they did not come much more humble and respected than Fred Rogers (who took me years to realize his first name). A documentary that is sure to bring tears and cheers, it is as necessary a film as the world needs these days. Like Hereditary, it will leave a taste (albeit a much warmer and comfortable one) in your bones and soul that will not leave you (not to mention make you feel somewhat guilty for the parodies Rogers had to suffer).

 

Now to the second half of 2018…

 

 

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 **

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