Review: Jurassic World

Let me admit my bias from the get go.  For 12 years “Jurassic Park” held the top spot among movies I had seen in theaters the most.

So when a new film comes along to redeem the franchise after that one big pile of shit that was “Jurassic Park III” (yes, I’m referencing Jeff Goldblum’s line from the first film there) it’s a big deal.Jurassic World

I kept my expectations measured in the weeks leading up to “Jurassic World,” the latest dino-disaster film.  I read as few reviews as possible, skipped watching the final trailer and avoided the TV spots.

Cutting to the chase, a bad idea if I actually wanted you to read the whole review, when the credits rolled I was ready to watch the film again.

I had fun, didn’t have any major lingering issues with the plot and had actually been brought to the brink of tears during two scenes.  The first time was more of a sad tears situation the second tears were of pure happiness.

“Jurassic World” sticks to the keep it simple rule of blockbuster movie making.  We have a fully operational Jurassic Park, they engineer a mysterious new dinosaur to boost attendance, it escapes and a deadly chase ensues.

There you have it.

As much as we need captivating heist films like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” and ensemble adventure flicks like Marvel’s “The Avengers,” audiences also need to decompress.

This was also a virtue upheld to the max in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (sorry, couldn’t help use that line).  Both “Fury Road” and “Jurassic World” bust out the big action sets and serve, not to reboot, but the refuel old franchises.  They do this while keeping the sub-plots to a minimum.

A quick rundown of the characters.  Chris Pratt plays Owen, someone who is a bit of a composite between Muldoon (the “clever girl” guy), Pete Postlethwaite’s hunter from “The Lost World” with a hint of Chris Pratt tossed in.  Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the executive in charge of the park who gets to one-up Owen on several occasions while running in heels.

Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus and the velociraptors round out the supporting cast.

Yes, I listed to velociraptors as cast members.  You’ll understand once you watch the movie.

Now if I had to pick one complaint about “Jurassic World” it would be the depiction of Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan).  Masrani is said to be the ninth richest man in the world who swore to John Hammond that he would restore his dream of a dinosaur theme park.  Very solid motive and I wish they did more with that.

Masrani is treated like a guy just trying to do the right thing throughout the movie even though, like Hammond in the original, he doesn’t fully think about the consequences.  He gets my pick for most underutilized character, needing more moments to show his authority instead of being thrown in as a token millionaire boss.

There are many worthwhile references/easter eggs from “Jurassic Park” but only once actor making a return appearance.  Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) is back as the man who once again is responsible for engineering the dinosaurs and eventually creating the new Indominous Rex, our main dino-villain.

Treading carefully to avoid spoilers, a handful of reviews have said Dr. Wu’s motives were unfair to the character.  If you rewatch the first movie, though, Wu sort of played the foil to Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) when it came to whether the Jurassic Park system was foolproof.  He’s always been a believer in the system.  That in itself gives enough room to take the character in the direction they did.

Wu and Masrani also share a heavy scene where they clash over the genetic make-up of the Indominous Rex, with Wu delivering one of the best lines of the film.

Finally, the question of whether there is too much CGI in “Jurassic World.”  Maybe.  But it didn’t ruin the film for me … might have to elaborate on that later.

Bottom line: This is an adventure 22 years in the making as we finally revisit the island from “Jurassic Park.”

 

Leftover notes:

-The much debated riding a motorcycle alongside raptors scene was treated with the kind of skepticism you’d expect and wasn’t just tossed in as an action shot.  It was handled well in the movie and if that was a point of concern for you don’t worry about.

-Two cool voice cameos from Brad Bird and director Colin Trevorrow, but why is Jimmy Fallon in this movie?  Considering the scene Fallon was placed in couldn’t they have called Bill Nye the Science Guy instead?

-They also toss in a line about why the dinosaurs in the park look different from the modern thinking on their appearance, which states that dinosaurs were more feathered.  Good line!  Kind of gives you some hope that Dr. Grant and Sattler aren’t out of a job (extinct?) in the sequel.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Going into Guardians of the Galaxy I was looking for an excuse to brush it off.WP_001210

Sure, the trailers were promising but could I really get into a movie with a talking raccoon and a walking tree whose dialogue was on loop?

Well, I stand corrected. Getting down to brass tacks, you gotta love a film that praises Kevin Bacon, features a Soviet space dog and might be our last, best hope to remind kids what the hell a cassette tape was.

For the most lighthearted Marvel film, Guardians has a pretty serious opening. It begins with a young Peter Quill in the hospital the day his mother dies of cancer. The movie skips over the grieving part as Quill runs away and is immediately zapped into space.

We then fast forward over two decades later to find Quill (Chris Pratt) snagging an ancient orb and using space lizards as microphones. No word yet on whether that’s animal cruelty. The end credits only promise that no raccoons or tree creatures were harmed making this picture.

From there, all our characters meet up as each tries to steal the orb and sell it to the highest bidder. This is in the back-drop of a rogue alien NGO* trying to use the orb to destroy its former enemy despite a recent peace treaty.

It’s a real contest to see who steals the show the most. Pratt nails his part. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) can do anything Quill can do only backwards and with green skin. Other reviews have said Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) breaks out the most to carry the movie. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) … is Groot (not that that’s a bad thing).

Me? I’d nominate Drax (Dave Bautista) for best character. He delivers some of the film’s best lines with a straight face, has a damn good vocabulary and you’ll never laugh so hard at a bazooka blast than in this movie.

The main villain, Ronan (Lee Pace), is sufficiently sinister and even has a spaceship that matches his costume! Oddly enough, he has a line similar to Ben Kingsley’s in Iron Man 3 (“Some people call me a terrorist…”).  Nevertheless, his character isn’t just a tool who’s a walking excuse for a Budweiser plug.

Guardians is the kind of fun sci-fi film I would’ve loved as a kid. The trailers sold us a space comedy with action elements and, by Jove, that’s what we got. That’s a much more accurate selling tactic than when trailers presented Iron Man 3 as a serious flick but gave us a slapdash action-comedy instead.

Geez, when did this review turn into an Iron Man 3 hatefest?

On the negative side, for a film that takes place in the vast frontier of space the two starship battles feel somewhat cramped. The close, zoomed-in shots feel just like the fight scenes in the Bourne Trilogy: tight and hard to follow. Guardians makes up for it with great hand-to-hand fight scenes, though, especially during the prison escape scene.

The final showdown between the Guardians and Ronan was also a little too melodramatic. But being a comic book/sci-fi movie I’ll give it a pass.

Finally, we could’ve used more Djimon Hounsou. Aside from the scene featured in the trailers he only makes one and a half more appearances in the movie. What a waste.

Bottom line: Marvel departs from its established superhero franchises and wins.

*Just in case you didn’t know, NGO stands for non-government organization. My political science major tendencies couldn’t resist.