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 **

Heat (1995)

Heat

Pacino and De Niro, having coffee

“There are no small parts, only small actors”.

This quote (from acting legend Konstantin Stanislavski, a name known to every actor alive) was always one of my favorites on the area of acting, and it is shown all over Michael Mann’s 1995 classic Heat.

Before we get to the two big names of the movie, consider the supporting characters who do just as equal work. Val Kilmer. Ashley Judd. Jon Voight (I even forgot he was in this film). Mykelti Williamson (Bubba from Forrest Gump). Tom Sizemore. Wes Studi. (A young) Natalie Portman. Ted (“Buffalo Bill”) Levine. Dennis Haysbert. Danny Trejo (!). William Fichtner (if you google him, you will know who he is). All of these actors have varying screen times in Heat, and are memorable in their own rights.

Perhaps it was the genius of the direction (and writing) of Michael Mann. Perhaps it was because they all did their own research into the parts (which must have helped, because, according to IMDB, in 2002, the US Marines were shown the scene of the big gun fight to show how to actually retreat in real life) . Or (my guess), because they were all in the presence of the big guns Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Anyone who loves movies such as I knows that actors don’t come much better than Pacino or De Niro. True, the two of them have not had much great success in the new millennium (Pacino was in Jack and Jill and De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, after all), but I am a loyal movie goer. I know these two have talent that other actors envy. Al Pacino is the only actor I know that you can still hear when the volume is muted. Robert De Niro (when not doing comedy), has a stare that pierces the soul.

In Heat, they play rivals on the crime and moral spectrum. Pacino is Vincent Hanna, a veteran cop who stumbles upon De Niro’s Neil McCauley, a veteran robber. McCauley and some of his henchmen (Kilmer, Sizemore, and Trejo) are near the end of their robbing days, but after one slip up, Hanna is on their trail (with help from characters played by Williamson and Studi).

Almost at the exact midpoint of the movie (give or take a few minutes), Hanna finally meets McCauley. After being pulled over, Hanna does not kill McCauley or even arrest him. He offers him to buy him a cup of coffee.

This, of course, leads to one of the most memorable scenes of the last few decades in film. At this point in time, Pacino and De Niro had never been seen on-screen (though they starred in The Godfather, Part Two, none of their scenes were together). Here we see two actors exchange in dialogue no more than ten minutes. We see each actor at the top of their game, and it is like watching a pay per view boxing match. I always find myself unsure who to root for. It is not a match up of Cop vs Robber, but Pacino vs De Niro.

 

Parents, the movie is rated R mainly for swearing and violence. There is one scene at the beginning where Hanna is with is wife Justine (Diane Venora) kissing in bed. It lasts about one minute, but there is no nudity. The violence and swearing are harsh, but nothing a High Schooler would not be able to handle.

 

The only thing that keeps Heat from a five-star rating is its pacing seems a bit fast to me. I did not have much time to catch up, and felt a bit confused by the story. Nevertheless, a few more viewings would probably push it to a five star. The movie is worth seeing alone just for the acting. In the dinner scene, there is an instant moment where we see both Pacino and De Niro giving each other a look of respect. I feel that is not the characters doing that, but the actors for each other.

 

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

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

the-silence-of-the-lambs

Very rarely has dialogue been better than that displayed between Hopkins and Foster…

Murray: “Is it true what they’re sayin’, he’s some kinda vampire?

Starling: “They don’t have a name for what he is”.

A quarter of a century since The Silence of the Lambs was first on the big screen, and there really is still no actual name for who many consider the greatest movie villain of all time. True, you could call Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a cannibal, but there is far more to him than that. I would argue he may be the smartest (fictional) character in cinema (the only other I would place higher would be HAL 9000.) It is only more spellbinding when you remember he is on-screen for twenty minutes or so.

For those who have not seen the movie, Lecter is not the main character. The main character is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). As a trainee in the F.B.I., she is sent by her boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to talk to Lecter. The goal: see if Lecter can help in the case of Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a serial killer currently on the loose. Buffalo Bill is finely played by Levine, but he can’t keep up with Lecter.

The film was one of three films to win the five main Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Screenplay (the others were It Happened One Night from 1934 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975).

I offer now how it won each award. The screenplay, written by Ted Tally (based off of the book by Thomas Harris) tells a story that goes far beyond the basic find the bad guy plot thriller. It gets as deep into the psychological field of the mind of a killer as any film. For Director Jonathan Demme, he masterfully balances the time needed we need to see what we need to of Lecter and Starling. It is evident that staying with Starling more than Lecter is actually a better choice than the contrary. As for actor and actress, neither Hopkins or Foster will ever be remembered for anything more than their roles in this film. Foster is one of the best examples of courage in film (you can see her fighting her fear just by looking in her eyes). Hopkins (who said he based his performance off of Katherine Hepburn, Truman Capote, and HAL 9000) could quit acting, and cure cancer, and he would still be remembered more for playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter (just looking at him, you think “Lecter” before “Hopkins”.)

Parents, there is no secret this movie deserves its R rating: High School and above. Obviously, there is a lot of swearing (some F bombs, and the use of the four letter C word that is not crap), dialogue about sexuality (including a disturbing sequence in front of a mirror that almost shows complete male nudity for 5-10 seconds) and a LOT of violence.

Winning the Best Picture Oscar is never easy (there are a lot who did not deserve to win and a lot more that did). To date, The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror flick to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also had some good competition as well (I have not yet seen Bugsy or The Prince of Tides, but Beauty and the Beast and JFK are still masterpieces in my book). It is clear that The Silence of the Lambs will live on as long as there are fans of horror films (both good and bad).

Ironically, the lambs will never stop screaming.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****