Monthly Archives: July 2015

Jurassic World or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Dinosaurs Again

 

June 1993.  22 years ago, Stephen Spielberg adapted and released Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park for the silver screen.  At that same time an eight year old me was discovering how living with a divorced family could get you two of everything…especially two opportunities to see a movie.  This summer coincidence was bittersweet as I didn’t like going to my Dad’s house, but hell, I could go see Jurassic Park again!  And see it again I did.

Stephen Spielberg had not just created another creature film, but he changed pop culture and inspired imaginations around the world.  At least this time he didn’t manage to scare people so badly that they feared going into the museum.  In fact I’d wager that museum attendance went up.  Sadly to this day, people are still afraid of going to the beach due to Jaws, but I digress.

What the film accomplished was changing the way people looked at dinosaurs and even film making.  Not only did he have us believing, these were what dinosaurs actually looked like, but the movie magic created an industry today that is attempting to one-up itself still to this day.  Some will argue that Terminator 2: Judgement Day started this revolution two years earlier, but since we won’t get a chance to tear apart Terminator Genisys for another few weeks, we’ll stick with this.  At any rate, these effects companies can win awards today and still go bankrupt attempting to innovate their craft.  And just like Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum bantered in that first jeep ride in an island of wonders: the former creature makers of the past were going to be extinct.

When the inevitable sequels popped up years later, with Crichton’s new book and a contrived reason to return to Isla Nublar, some of the magic had left the cinema.  These films did not change an industry or blow the minds of kids and parents.  They had become just typical popcorn flicks with some cool chase sequences and dire situations.  After all, they were just dinosaurs.  This was my fear with Jurassic World.  What would win out?  The typical Hollywood action movie with some neat effects, strong plot armor, and sub-standard performances from usually top-notch actors…or my childhood nostalgia from seeing its predecessor 22 years ago.  Well, it was kind of a mixture of both.

First thing I have to get out of the way: Jurassic World REALLLLLY stretched my suspension of belief.  Not because of the dinosaurs, I could turn my brain off for that part, but WHY THE HELL WOULD ANYONE LET THEM BUILD THIS PARK??????  I mean I know humans are by nature complete dumb-asses and greed is completely powerful, but I cannot see ANY nation in the World allowing this thing to continue.  Well, maybe North Korea, but I have my suspicions that even dinosaurs would say “Oh screw that place”.

Seriously, not only can I not believe that anyone would allow this place to be completed after the events of the first one, or the second one when a T-REX TERRORIZES SAN DIEGO!  Let alone, who would insure this place?  Can you imagine that conversation?  No way in hell would this place get off the ground let alone have “increased revenue year over year” as the plain and overworked manager of the Park, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) puts it in within the first 20 minutes.  Whatever Universal Pictures, I’ll bite (see what I did there), your tagline “The Park is Open” will be all the answers I get in this regard.  Now let’s get to the dinosaurs!

If you’ve seen the annoyingly full plot revealing trailers and you’ve ever seen a Jurassic Park movie, you know what will basically happen in the next two hours.  You’re going to see some dinosaurs of all types and they’re going to look great and they really do.  Sure, there is nothing magical about what the effects team pulled off this time, but you can bet Universal and Legendary “Spared no expense” with the making of this film.

What the first film and the sequels didn’t have was Chris Pratt.  From Parks and Recreation, shooting Osama bin Laden, and surprising everyone as Star Lord, Mr. Pratt has really become the toast of the town.  Nothing wrong with that, but he has the same problem I have with Charlie Day…they basically play the same person in every film.  Thankfully Pratt doesn’t have an annoying voice like Day, but his charisma and willingness to have fun with an absurd plot and circumstances really hold the picture together. His acting aside, I can sum up the reason why Chris Pratt’s character is amazing:

He’s a Velociraptor trainer.

Yeah, how badass is that?  Of course you’ve seen the trailers with him holding off a few of them, and the countless YouTube copy cats (some of them literally cats), but it is really quite engaging to see him interact with the creatures.  Somehow establishing a pecking order, he is the Alpha of their pack.  Let’s not get crazy, they still want to eat him, but at least they think about it for a moment.  And that’s what’s cool: for many years we’ve seen films with actors bumbling to work with CGI characters, but Pratt really pulls it off and I enjoyed the results.

At any rate,now that all hell is going to break loose in the park and we all know that Pratt and his high heeled accomplice (seriously, she never changes shoes throughout the whole movie) are going to have to save the day. Their banter keeps things fresh enough while carnage ensues. We also get the patented “Jurassic Park” family sub-plot with two kids enduring their future nightmares. Again, WHY IS THIS PARK OPEN????

Most of the movie plays out in a typical Jurassic Park fashion, dinosaurs and people don’t mix. You knew that was going to happen, in fact, like NASCAR, you were waiting for it to happen. And we all know that Pratt and his high heeled accomplice (seriously, she never changes shoes throughout the whole movie) are going to have to save the day. Their banter keeps things fresh enough while the carnage ensues. We also get the patented “Jurassic Park” family sub-plot with two kids enduring their future nightmares and astronomical psychiatric bills. Again, WHY IS THIS PARK OPEN???? What I found more intriguing was all the sponsorship in the Park.  There were Starbucks, a Hilton Hotel, and even a Jimmy Buffets!  So basically they’ve trivialized the greatest scientific and genetic breakthroughs in the last 30 years with lattes and margaritas.  At least it adds a bit of color to this universe.  I’d say it would be different in real life, but I’m totally kidding myself.  If there were a theme park with real dinosaurs, you bet your sweet Capitalist ass every inch would be sponsored.  It’s referenced in the film, but I found this aspect enjoyable, it added that bit of reality to the film.

Colin Trevorrow, the director, really has a great eye for cinematography.  There are at least three sequences that feature people fighting dinosaurs and each of them is engaging and in IMAX 3D, pretty terrifying.   I was impressed. Many moments throughout the film were truly unique in the realm of monster films.  It’s also interesting to note that not only do these sequences show extreme amounts of violence, but completely remind you that we as humans could NEVER have survived with these things around (take that you Literal Creationists).

Since the movie made all the money (currently sitting at $1.5B Worldwide), the inevitable sequel will be here within a few years. It’s nothing that we’re all clamoring for…wait, check that, obviously we all wanted it because EVERYONE went and saw it. With regards the the sequel, all I care is that the Amblin Entertainment logo comes up before the movie starts and I’ll be good to go.

As nervous as I was, I saw the film twice.  Yeah, nostalgia and badass dinosaur CGI won me over for this one.  It’s not going to inspire a new generation of dinosaur lovers and although Pratt was excellent, I don’t really see him being nominated for an Oscar for this one.  We’ll reserve that for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.   But him being himself, some decent scares, and great effects kept this film from following the sequels and learned from the spirit of its ancient (22 year old) ancestor and reminded everyone dinosaurs are cool.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Every crowd came out entertained.  It’s Jurassic Park all over again and who doesn’t want to see a good Jurassic Park movie?

-darkmovienight

Ant-man

TL;DR Portion

I enjoyed this film… a lot. It was a Marvel super hero film, so of course it has the same formulaic tropes and story plots as the other ones… but it’s fun. The special effects are neat, and it’s surprisingly funny.

There are really two possibilities here, from what I can tell:

  • If you enjoyed the other Marvel films, I think you’ll like this one too.
  • If you hated the other Marvel films, you probably won’t like this one either.

The Premise of the Film

Scott Lang is down on his luck. He has a young daughter who is growing up without him, and his vigilante-style whistleblowing has landed him with a criminal record and jail time, which he is just finishing up when the film starts. Scott’s daughter lives with the girl’s mother, and her step-father, who is a cop. He has a hard time finding a job with his record, despite an advanced degree and extreme determination. He relents and considers returning to crime, and that’s where the excitement begins.

Scott breaks into a house he believes to be unoccupied, which leads him to finding something special. This special something brings Dr. Hank Pym into his life, and Hank’s daughter Hope. There’s the usual family tension, like with most Marvel films.

Hank has an old apprentice, Darren Cross, who is dabbling in some dangerous technology involving a suit that can shrink and give the wearer extraordinary physical capabilities while enabling them to get into small places, which is a similar feat accomplished by Hank himself decades before.

The main players in this film are:

  • Paul Rudd – Scott Lang / Ant-Man
  • Michael Douglas – Dr. Hank Pym
  • Evangeline Lilly – Hope van Dyne
  • Corey Stoll – Darren Cross / Yellowjacket
  • Abby Ryder Fortson – Cassie Lang (little girl)
  • Judy Greer – Maggie Lang (mother of little girl)
  • Bobby Cannavale – Paxton (step-father of little girl)

I think the best player was probably Michael Douglas. I thought that he did “regretful father who kept secret that which he should not have kept secret” well. The worst player, I think, was Corey Stoll. While I like Corey Stoll – mostly from his work in House of Cards – I don’t think he did a very good job with “jilted and jealous apprentice”. This could have been Peyton Reed’s (director) fault, the world may never know.

What I Liked

I liked the fight scenes, the sci-fi elements, and I always like how Marvel rewards me for being a comic reader. I don’t read Marvel stuff much anymore, but I used to and I liked it. I still have fond memories of Ant-Man appearing in my books when I was a kid and young adult.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like that I had to watch the same Marvel film again with different characters and different special effects. I understand that this is how Marvel does its business, and that most of the characters and story arcs go like this… but they changed so much of the canon that they could have improved this as well.

Conclusion

I will concede that I am not the objective observer on this film. Watching this film carries almost two decades of comic book love with it, and I have to disclose that up front.

I’m glad I saw this film in theaters, I’m glad I saw it in 3D-IMAX, and I’m glad that while Marvel couldn’t bring me a complex and innovative story line, they at least brought me enough classic Ant-Man throw-backs to reward me for my ticket price.

Spy

TL;DR Portion

This film was funny with a capital Z. What does that mean? That means I liked it, my girlfriend liked it, my buddies liked it, and we all agreed that while this film wasn’t going to win any awards it was going to make a lot of people laugh until Coke shoots out of their nose. For this reason you should see it.

The Premise of the Film

Susan Cooper is a top-class agent for the CIA who is helping other field agents succeed. Her own record is stellar but due to a gross lack of confidence, combined with a lack of opportunity, she is unable and/or unwilling to enter and perform in the field… until the agent she is working closest with is killed in action.

The main players in this film are:

  • Susan Cooper – Melissa McCarthy
  • Bradley Fine – Jude Law
  • Rick Ford – Jason Statham
  • Rayna Boyanov – Rose Byrne

Susan Cooper enters the field in a surprisingly competent fashion, speckled with bits of incompetence, brilliance, and slapstick humor.

What I Liked

I liked the comedy stylings of Melissa McCarthy. Pretty much everything she does turns to comic gold. I thought that Jason Statham’s character added a bunch of needed bravado and absolutely-called-for inappropriate humor to the mix as well

I think the real hero of this film is the spoiled brat – but surprisingly capable – character of Rayna Boyanov. She is brilliant at anticipating people and countering them, but she’s just gullible enough to be susceptible to Susan Cooper’s shenanigans.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like how formulaic the jokes were. Once you saw the previews of this film you pretty much could steal the punch line of every joke presented in the whole film. Don’t get me wrong, they were still fun and I still enjoyed them, but it wasn’t fun when every joke was the same one we saw 15 minutes ago, or were easily predictable based on the ones before.

Conclusion

This film is worth a watch. I watched it in theaters with my girlfriend and we both laughed out loud. We left with abdominal fatigue due to laughing, but I do wish that the jokes had been a bit more surprising.

In a five-shot revolver, this movie has three bullets loaded.

Inside Out

TL;DR Portion

I love this film, I think you will, too. I took my two older boys (four and seven) to this film, and they liked it as well. I think your kids will understand and love the film as well. This is Pixar at its finest, which is something we haven’t seen a whole lot of lately.

The Premise of the Film

The story is that of a girl from birth up to adolescence, following how different aspects of her life form her personality, feels about things, and how all of that affects her decision making skills. All of this is manifest through the characters which are her feelings, which are:

  • Joy (Amy Poehler)
  • Fear (Bill Hader)
  • Anger (Lewis Black)
  • Disgust (Mindy Kaling)
  • Sadness (Phyllis Smith)

You get to see glimpses into how other characters in the film have their feelings arranged as well, which is nice.

As the young girl’s parents move the family for her father’s new company, you get to see how those changes affect her and how that combined with the angst of adolescence take her feelings on a rather action-packed journey of discovery, change, and growth.

What I liked

I liked how all of the characters interacted with one another, and the ways that they chose to manifest the feelings in the young girl. Most of all, I really enjoyed the animation style, the whimsical nature of the animation and story flow, and I found the voice acting to be a joy in and of itself. I could have watched this film blind-folded and I would have still found it super fun.

Amy Poehler was amazing as Joy, and Lewis Black was his usual amazing self as Angry (he’s very believable). I think the real amazing star here was Phyllis Smith, as Sad. She pulled off the funniest depression I’ve ever seen portrayed ever, and I think that between Sadness and Joy we all got a really clear picture of what the film was trying to say about how sadness isn’t a bad thing.

What I didn’t like

I think that fear and disgust were really throw-away characters. I think that they could have done a lot more with those characters and they really wasted an opportunity. Sure, Fear did a great job of lousing things up as fear usually does, but as supporting characters Fear and Disgust were just weaksauce.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this film, I will probably buy it on Blu-Ray. I give it four out of five broccoli crowns.