Jurassic World: Worth the Price of Admission

jurassic world 2-xlargeI have a deep connection with the Jurassic Park series. I loved dinosaurs when I was little, and can still tell you all about Ankylosaurs, Diplodicus, Dromeosaurus, Allosaurus, and of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex. I had posters, toys, books, you name it, I was into it if it was even remotely related to dinosaurs. I credit Jurassic Park (the book) and Michael Crichton with sparking the fire that burgeoned into the inferno that is my love of reading. I was seven years old when I read Jurassic Park for the first time. While kids my age were reading about Maniac McGee and his pre-teen exploits, I was trying to wrap my head around genetic engineering and Ian Malcom’s addiction to morphine. But I loved those damn dinosaurs, and I loved the book.

I was so so excited for the movie to come out in 1993. It’s one of the few moments I can look back on and still feel a tingle of the pure joy you get as a child when you’re incredibly happy and nothing else matters but that happiness. I remember my mom took me to see it the weekend it was released, and afterward we went to Toys ‘R’ Us and I picked out the T-rex toy with the dino-damage around the ribs. I loved that thing, and kept it for years.

So now with the backstory, you understand my skepticism about a sequel 20 years later. But it was good. Really good. Not great, but really good. It managed to entertain me, bring back some of the nostalgia for the original, and give me a glimmer of that youthfully unblemished joy. It’s the sequel the original we were all waiting for, and definitely deserved. Some of the plotting is…novel (no pun intended) but at least makes a modicum of sense. Do you need to suspend some disbelief? Like an unruly child from a prep school. But they don’t jump any sharks, everything at least gets an explanation or some exposition, and also…dinosaurs.

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I mean, I’d pay to watch this. Wouldn’t you?

The theme park feels real and expansive, and the nods to the original are tasteful and noticeable to an avid fan. It feels like they took some time to think and imagine what Disneyland with dinosaurs would feel like, and they hit the nail squarely, right down to the corny celebrity instructions included on the rides and the kiddie park where you can ride baby dinos. Militarism rears its ugly head, as does the danger of Over-Science, which I also felt to be a nice homage to the thematic elements present in the original book but glossed over in the original movie.

You’ll love Chris Pratt being Chris Pratt. Bryce Dallas Howard is very entertaining as well, and their sexual tension came off as hilarious and real, not forced. It was nice to see Vincent D’Onofrio enjoying a career renaissance in following up a great go-round as the Kingpin in Daredevil with a pivotal villainous role in a blockbuster, and B.D. Wong’s return as Dr. Henry Wu…nothing short of epic. But that might be the nerd talking.

Once more I endeavor to not reveal anything too plot-related Hopefully without that, you’ll still take my word that this movie is good. Made me feel like an anxious seven-year old again, a few minutes before it started, and delivered the action, suspense, and breathtaking visuals that made the first so memorable. This one had a little more humor in it, but also higher-stakes in terms of lives on the line, so the dichotomy fit quite well.

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One thing the movie didn’t have. But the quote fits.

All in all, I give Jurassic World 4-out-of-5 Theme-Park Construction workers. Cuz that fifth one was way overweight, and we know he didn’t make it.

Signing Off.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – A Review

avengerville-the-avengers-age-of-ultronThe second biggest summer blockbuster every (by dollars), and second only to its predecessor, released a few weeks ago. In case you hadn’t guessed, its Avengers: Age of Ultron (heretofore referred to as Avengers 2) and it definitely deserved the hype. We all know the big-name cast, the insane special effects, and cool Easter Eggs are inferred in every Marvel movie, especially the Avengers franchise. Avengers 2 had all of this in spades. James Spader was creepy, terrifying, an thoroughly enjoyable as Ultron’s voice. The original cast was excellent as always, and the two new additions (The other Olsen as Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, aka Kick-Ass as Quicksilver) performed admirably, although Russian accents were occasionally beyond them. And the Vision was a well-executed inclusion, although he did not have a great deal of screen time.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26:  (bottom L-R) Actors Cobie Smulders, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen and Josh Brolin. (top L-R) Actors Chris Hemsworth, James Spader, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chris Evans attend Marvel's Hall H Panel for "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center at  on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Cobie Smulders;Robert Downey Jr.;Elizabeth Olsen;Josh Brolin;Chris Hemsworth;James Spader;Paul Bettany;Jeremy Renner;Mark Ruffalo;Samuel L. Jackson;Aaron Taylor-Johnson;Chris Evans

The key difference you’ll notice between this movie and its progenitor lies in the “down-time” scenes where the Avengers gather, occaionally with other heroic types, and commiserate. They aren’t forming a team anymore, and Joss Whedon was free to do the things that made him famous and made Firefly incredible, and that’s witty repartee. The Thor’s Hammer scene was classic. It also enabled him to introduce a familiar idea of the star-crossed lovers, with Black Widow and the Hulk. I found these scenes to be endearing and well-integrated, and helped provide some backstory to the solo-movie-bereft Black Widow, including spy training and forced sterilization. We also got a focus on Bruce Banner as a person, which as one of the reasons I enjoyed the Edward Norton version of the Hulk. And, we get a lot more Hawkeye. I don’t want to spoil any of his surprises. So all the non-solo members had their day in Avengers 2.

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So why didn’t this movie perform as well as Avengers 1? I couldn’t say for sure, but my guess is slight Superhero fatigue. Clearly everyone is willing to shill out the big bucks to watch and all-star cast put on costumes and fight some CGI robots. Part of the problem we may be seeing with the Marvel Movie Universe is the gradual build. Guardians was a great movie and performed well at the box office. Avengers 2 delivered but not as triumphantly as Avengers 1. Building to a gradual climax over the stretch of several integrated movies may leave some more casual movie watchers thinking they’ll wait to see the big one in 2016. I fear for the performance of Ant-Man later this summer, as a lesser-known superhero (Although Paul Rudd brings some pretty impressive star power) following a potentially fatiguing blockbuster, could mean it under-performs. All I know is I will continue to go watch these movies as long as they make them, and Avengers 2 was well worth the money, which is the highest praise I can give.

Signing Off.

A to Z Challenge – T (part two, concerning dinosaurs)

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My theme for the A to Z challenge is Villain Archetypes.

Yes, 26 descriptions of some of your favorite villains of literature, TV, and movies.

April 23 – T is for Tyrannosaurs Rex *Special Edition*

So I did Tyrant for T, and it got me thinking about dinosaurs. Also the new Jurassic Park with talking Raptors and genetically engineered uber-killing apex predators “designed to be bigger than the T-Rex” (Oh Dr. Wu, how could you?) had me thinking about dinosaurs as well. And the question I have to ask is: When was the Tyrannosaurus Rex not enough? The T-Rex is my favorite dinosaur of all time, and one of my favorite bad guys (sort of, it does take out the Raptors and the slimy corporate fat cat, which are way worse). I applaud the Jurassic Park folks for employing it in two of the four movies made about it. And it’s also in just about every dinosaur movie, book, comic book, and television show.

But with the upcoming Chris Pratt-injected super-sequel, I can’t help but ask: when did the Tyrannosaurus become not enough? In JP’s one and two, he’s (and she’s) a feature villain, and even makes an anti-hero turn at the end of both. Why the hell did we have to break out the Spinosaurus for number three? T-Rex not big and scary enough? And now in number four we’re genetically creating an ultra-crazy, gives-no-fucks, not-real dinosaur? No Hollywood, no. If the Tyrannosaur was good enough for Steven Spielberg, it’s good enough for the rest of you.

So when we all shell out 10-15 dollars for all the summer blockbusters (Avengers first, then the rest), if part of your paycheck is going to watch Jurassic World, think of the T-Rex. He’s the reliable old antagonistic primal force that scared the living bejesus out of every kid (and their parents) with a cup of water and some clever bass play. No matter what Hollywood tries to do to one-up the poor old guy, he’ll always be the best. Vampires have Dracula. Robots have the T-1000. Comic book villains have the Joker. Dinosaurs have the T-Rex. Don’t forget him this summer, people. Don’t you dare.

Signing Off.

The Awakening : A Ghost Story Not Really About Ghosts…Or Is It?

the-awakening-2011-movie-posterI just finished watching the awakening with the SO. We found it on a whim in the Netflix horror section and figured why not? It’s won some superfluous English film awards, and a few even less prestigious indie horror honors, how bad can it be? The answer was surprisingly good…and then surprisingly mediocre.

The acting’s damn decent. Rebecca Hall, who if youve never seen her, all you have to do is picture a British Scarlett Johansson built more like a supermodel than a superhero, and that’s her (and you totally see her boobs for like .3 seconds). Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny. She’s a myth de-bunker in post WWI London, which by itself is an interesting enough concept to merit giving this movie a try. Lots of dead young folks left lots of grieving, mentally unbalanced mothers as easy prey for con men and charlatans of the time.

Then Dominic West (or the Asshole guy from 300 who tries to swoop in on Gerard Butler’s wife while he’s off killing Persians) plays a very convincing wounded vet with just the right combo of angst and vulnerability that he totally gets to bang Supermodel Scarlet Johansson. Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge to you Harry Potter fanatics) rounds out the main three as the housekeeper who is sweet and lovable…until the last 10 minutes. Then she goes full-Umbridge on everybody. And it is glorious, if a bit contrived.

The interesting setting and strong acting is also coupled with an intriguing story. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you like a good ghost-oriented yarn, or would rather see a real person get gaslighted into thinking they were nuts by a poltergeist, this one’s for you. The pacing, acting, and story are enough to keep you guessing, and there’s enough jarring, jump-out-of-your-seat moments to keep a horror fan happy.

And then the ending. I like a twist just as much as the next guy, but when basically everything gets twisted for no apparent reason, I have questions. Like why I do feel like I need a shower-type questions. And you feel a bit cheated because apparently nothing you thought was real was. I liked part of the twist, really, I did, but it all happened at break-neck speed, in contrast with the controlled pacing of the rest of the film.

While I do kebitz, the ending wasn’t terrible. And if you like shocking for the sake of shocking its defintiely for you. And if you don’t, its still a very good movie I’d recommend if you’re spending an evening in and want something to keep you occupied, it can’t be beat.

I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

What About Birdman?

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What About Birdman?

My one word review for Birdman: Glorious.

The End.

Just kidding. I don’t usually do the Oscar hype thing, but seeing a movie with Michael Keaton playing a washed-up actor who played a franchise superhero on the big screen…the beautiful layers of irony were too much to pass up. The SO and I found a small theater that was still playing it, and after a trek accompanied with white-knuckling levels of parking frustration, sat down for the fun.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll tell you why you should see it: layers. Everything in this movie is layered, from the humor, to the tragedy, to the really dynamic all-in-one-shot cinematography. I may have used that word incorrectly. I definitely don’t care. It kept the movie-watcher in a state of semi-amusement from open to close, and managed to walk the line between artistic and damn funny without being too full of itself.

I’ve been a Michael Keaton fan since Beetlejuice and Batman, and he was the best damn Dogberry in the history of Much Ado About Nothing. Big sorries to Nathan Fillion, but it’s true. I was incredibly happy to see him back in the limelight and up for an Oscar, and if you take the time to see this film you’ll understand why. The quiet, reserved crazy he brings to a lot of his roles fits perfectly here. Every time Birdman’s gravelly voice starts narrating inside his head, you giggle internally. You just can’t help it.

So go see Birdman. It’s worth the $20 admission and then some. And that’s the highest praise I can give a movie.

Signing Off.