Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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There are some franchises that motor on because of the success and quality of those films.  See: 90% of Star Wars films, Rocky 1-4 as well as Balboa and Creed, Indiana Jones Trilogy,  (I don’t acknowledge the 4th like no one recognizes the third Godfather), 75% of the James Bond films, and most of the Star Trek films/reboots.  And there are some franchises that people feel obligated to stay with no matter how mediocre or films have become and they still make boku bucks, hence another sequel every 3 years.  See: Fast and the Furious, Saw, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean.   What do some of these franchises have in common?  The first one is fantastic.  The second and third ones, meh.  By 4, you barely keep up with them and skip over them when they pop up on cable (I know, I just made myself look old by still having cable).  Sometimes, they manage to surprise the hell out of you by hiring new writers/director for the 4th or 5th and reinvigorate the franchise.  Fast and the Furious 5 is a perfect example, it brought me back in because it was excellent.  And then I sat through the next 2 oversized turds.  Guess what?  Now you’re hooked for at least 2 or 3 more films. And bang, you’re just like a vegan who came to their senses and started eating meat again.  

Let’s review Jurassic Park.  The first one, very solid but the book ending was MUCH better than the film ending but 8-9 times out of 10, that’s the case.  JP2, not great except the scene where the dino hunters ran through the field of velociraptors and most of them ended up looking like Jenna Jamison’s b-hole when she retired from porn.  JP3 was even worse, not even the pterodactyl scene saved this monstrosity.  And next thing you know, the franchise was shelved.  

But as Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character in 2 and 1/10 films) says, “Life, ahhh finds a way.”  As does Steven Spielberg to jump start a dead franchise.  3 years ago, Jurassic World came out and ran roughshod through the box office like a T-Rex that just ate a Mexican village and is now looking for a bathroom.  What does that mean?  Fire up the sequel machine!!  JW recaptured the elements from JP and did it well with a bunch of cool nods to the first one.  It worked, even though it was just a blatant reboot of the first one.  But I dug it.  

Of all the previews I saw of FK, not one of them made me go, “Hmm, I’m looking forward to playing hooky from work to see this.”  But since I’m an (unpaid) film reviewer, I felt it was my civic responsibility to see this and comment.  FK starts off with the dino island in deep stegosaurus poop; a volcano is exploding and the dinos face extinction, sigh, again.  And of course, screenwriters Colin Trevorow and Derek Conolly, decide to make this one of the few social issues of the film.  Do dino lives matter?  According to Claire (one of the few attractive gingers, Bryce Dallas Howard), they certainly do.  She gets little resistance from persuading Owen (newly single Chris Pratt and who will be bedding GOTG nerds and film extras galore) to come with her to help save the dinos.  Financing the journey is Benjamin Lockwood (Jamie Cromwell) who apparently used to be partners with JP creator, John Hammond, until Hammond had the idea to make an amusement park with dinosaurs.  Standing in the way is Lockwood’s assistant, Mills, who has plans of his own for the Cretaceous creatures.

Here are several problems with this film:  

  1. What do people want to see?  Dinosaurs killing humans in cool ways with a little bit of gore. Yes, I know that a ton of little kids go see this but it’s rated PG-13 which allows them to get away with more.  When people get killed, it’s almost sanitary and really doesn’t scare you nor feel “real.”  
  2. This film DRAAAAGS.  The last 20-30 minutes should’ve been trimmed down, especially the scene you see in commercials where the dinosaur gets into the little girl’s bedroom.  The running time is just over 2 hours but it felt as long as the math section did of the SATs.  
  3. The plot fell into the same formulaic trap as some of the sequels did.  You know who’s dying within 10 seconds of the introduction of characters.  Asshole money- hungry assistant?  Surprise, he dies.  Overly aggressive and mean head of security?  Auf Weiderzehen.  Soldier who hits a woman?  Appetizer for T-Rex.  Just once, let’s see one or 2 of the good guys get picked off and not everyone making it home in time for dinner.  Let’s have the computer nerd get picked off.  Or the cute little girl.  
  4. Do we need a bunch of social issues in a popcorn blockbuster film?  I don’t think so. Do dino lives matter?  Should we let them acclimate into our world?  Is cloning humans acceptable?  And the last reveal was just plain lazy which ties into the ending.  
  5. You see 75% of Jeff Goldblum in the previews which obviously means he’s critically underutilized.  That character was great in the first and second films.  Maybe he didn’t want to do a full role but man, spread his scenes throughout the film.  
  6. JW hatched (I’m a cutup, I know) a hybrid dinosaur to mix things up.  So if it ain’t broke, Universal ain’t fixing it.  Yes, there’s another hybrid dinosaur and I immediately thought, “Ok, back to the well with this idea.”  20 bucks said the next sequel has TWO hybrids and one of them will involve a pterodactyl that looks like Kathy Griffin.  

I found myself over halfway through the film not really caring what happens next.  I honestly got bored through the final encounter.  I’m surprised I’m seeing more positive reviews than negative reviews for this one.  The poster should’ve had Spielberg, BDH, and Pratt holding bags with the $ sign while riding on the back of a Brontosaurus.  Because that’s exactly what this was, a vicious cash grab.  This film opened 60 million less than JW did.  But of course, it will be profitable and they’ll make another one.  Good luck getting me to invest me any more time in this franchise, I’m out.

I give it a 4/10.

Star Trek: Beyond

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the theater because this summer has consistently dropped stinkers upon the masses and I’m glad to say that the public isn’t buying into the garbage.  The latest Star Trek film was just released yesterday and this was one I circled as a “must see” but I admit, when I saw the previews, I wasn’t impressed.  First off, I’m not a Trekkie so let’s not get up in arms if I miss a minor detail here.  No JJ Abrams, he was too busy doing a fantastic job with “Star Wars The Force Unleashed.”  In the director’s chair for this installment is Justin Lin who is most noted for the “Fast and the Furious” films.  Also, Simon Pegg (plays Scotty in the recent films) wrote this film.  Gone are Kurtzman and Orci who penned the first 2.  And believe me, you notice.

The film starts out with Kirk pondering his place in Starfleet and in life, same with Spock.  Then, we get right into it as the Enterprise follows up on a distress call and away we go.  Idris Elba plays the villain but you would never know as he’s layered in makeup.  The film cruises till about the 2/3 point when we learn why Krall (Elba) has a bug up his ass with the Federation.  At this point, I was holding in copious amounts of urine and I wasn’t completely focused but I’m a little fuzzy why Krall did what he was doing.  It kind of felt like they forgot late in the film, “oh yeah, we need to hurry up and get a few more plot points in between the final action scenes.”

Speaking of action scenes, that’s what Justin Lin is known for in the FnF franchise.  In this film, we don’t see anything close to Vin Diesel growl out monosyllabic phrases while his car does a 720 in between 2 high rise buildings.  However, there’s a scene where Kirk is on a motorcycle that reminded me, “Yep, this makes sense because Lin is directing.”  And if we can get away from playing, “Sabotage” in future films, I’d be happy with that.  It worked in the first one just fine, no need to keep flogging that horse.
And there was a little buzz about Sulu coming out as gay in this installment.  Calm down homophobes, it isn’t that bad.  Just only when Kirk bends him over the captain’s chair and has his way with him while yelling out in Klingon.  Just kidding.

I thought this film was fine.  Definitely the weakest of the bunch but not bad.  Would I drop 15 bucks on it?  Maybe but don’t think you’re getting as good of a film as the first 2.  I felt there were moments like it was a mad libs where they had “insert character trait/emotion here”to check the boxes.  I didn’t get much of an apathy or any other emotion for Elba’s villain.  The final action sequence felt too much like the ending of the other 2 films.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Summer 2016 films? No thank you-America

I remember like it was yesterday.  I was 12 year old back in the summer of 1989 and seeing the onslaught of summer previews made me giddy.  When you’re 12 and your social options are highly limited, (playing outside, sports, video games), the cinema is usually hangout number 1.  Being I was (still am) a HUGE film nerd/snob/afficionado, I had no problem spending a ton of time in the multiplexes.  And when we had to write one of our final essays for our 6th grade English class, I chose to write about what summer films I was most excited to see:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (I was 12, cut me some slack on some of these), Uncle Buck, Karate Kid 3, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, License to Kill (James Bond), as well as everyone’s crown jewel that summer…BATMAN.  Jesus christ, I counted the days down for that one like kids counted down until Christmas.  It came out on June 23rd (happy birthday to my then 6 year old sister, Jill) and boy, did America go all-in with this film.  24-7 showings in NYC, breaking box office records.  And look what else came out that summer that I learned to appreciate a little bit later in life: Field of Dreams (ok, it came out in late April.  Also, tied with Major League as my favorite baseball movie) Lethal Weapon 2 (Diplomatic Immnity!  Has just been revoked!), Do the Right Thing, Parenthood (still holds up), Road House, Dead Poet’s Society, and the Abyss.  I mean, wow.  I dare say probably the best summer slate I’ve ever or will ever see.

Fast forward to present day.  Every April, I still enjoy looking for that summer release schedule to see what the biggest films of the year are going to be.  And every year, I have about 3-5  I truly am excited for.  This year, Captain America 3 was my biggest anticipation and it didn’t let down.  X-Men: Apocalypse was a CLOSE second but unfortunately, this was a letdown and Singer’s first swing and a miss in this franchise.  The new Star Trek looks ok and Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne so I was pretty sure I’d be giving my 15 bucks to see Bourne yet again.  But after that, the list went bleak.  Bleaker than Yankees playoff hopes.  Yeah, didn’t think I’d be writing that sentence in awhile but here I am.  I’m a movie reviewer for a radio station in NY but I haven’t been fully doing my job as I refuse to pay money to see crap in the theater.  I’m mainly reviewing new to DVD films, that’s how bad it is.

Here’s a list of the most likely money makers along with their budgets (domestic grosses)

Secret Life of Pets: week 1 take over 100 million, budget 75 million.  Verdict: Winner  Most cartoon films do pretty well in the summer time.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Legend of Tarzan YTD 81 million, budget 180 million.  Verdict: BOMB  How many times do we have to tell Hollywood that no one cares about Tarzan since 1960?

Finding Dory: YTD over 400 million. Budget N/A Verdict: HUGE winner.  Pixar RARELY misses (The Good Dinosaur is the lone exception)

Independence Day: Resurgence YTD 91 million, budget 165 million Verdict: BOMB (Should’ve paid Will Smith what he wanted, probably could’ve saved this)

Warcraft YTD 46 million, budget 160 million. Verdict: COLOSSAL BOMB.  Even the gamers turned their backs on this one.

Xmen: Apocalypse YTD 158 million, budget 178 million.  Verdict: It will break even, especially with DVD and overseas but this was not supposed to be a break even or slightly profitable, it had higher expectations.  Are poor reviews to blame (yes and it wasn’t that good) or over saturation of superhero films?

BFG YTD 38 million, budget 140.  Verdict: Colossal Bomb.  Spielberg doesn’t eat shit but in this case and Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull, he sure did.  No one gave a shit about the 3rd most popular Roald Dahl story.

Ninja Turtles 2:YTD 80 million, budget 135 million.  Verdict: BOMBS AWAY.  Again, world box office receipts may get it to even but how do you fuck up a Ninja Turtles movie?  Answer: Keep Michael Bay in charge.

Alice Through the Looking Glass: YTD 76 million, budget 170 million.  Verdict: Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined.  No one gives a shit about the Looking Glass story anyway, why make this a live action film?

 

Next week is probably one of the most negatively discussed film that has yet to be released, the Ghostbusters film.  I hate reboots because 9 times out of 10, there’s no need to reboot a solid film.  And there’s no need to reboot a film just to force-feed us political correctness.  I loved Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars.  Why?  It was organic and not contrived about this.  I love Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft for the same reasons.  The new Ghostbusters has the dubious honor of being the most negatively reviewed trailer on youtube.  Even Target put the action figures in the clearance bin (target clearance) before the movie comes out!? Yeesh, not a good sign.

And what else do we have to look forward to?

The new Ice Age film comes out soon and not one has grossed under 160 million yet.  Will America burn out on this franchise?  Maybe but I doubt it

The new Star Trek film.  Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious) takes over JJ Abrams director’s chair so we’ll see.

Jason Bourne.  Should be fine

Suicide Squad-DC’s answer to the Avengers.  Massive reshoots were ordered after the success of Deadpool because they felt more humor needed to be injected.  The real question will be how does Jared Leto handle the Joker after Heath Ledger put that character in the stratosphere with his performance.

Pete’s Dragon (live action) The Jungle Book live action was a smash but I don’t think this will be near as successful.  I never saw the original Pete’s Dragon and don’t recall anyone else looking back fondly on it.  Hell, did or do they even have a ride at Disneyworld for this film?

Ben Hur-historical reboot.  No thank you

Sausage Party-animated Seth Rogen film.  I’ll pass.

Here’s the bottom line: A lot of these tentpole films bit the big one.  Why? America is getting smarter and not dropping $15 a ticket.  And god forbid if you go see a film in 3D or even 4D where you could shell out as much as $30 a ticket for a mediocre film.  Audiences are saying no thanks, I’ll wait for Netflix or illegally stream it.  And can you blame them?  You run the risk of sitting next to assholes who are talking and chewing their food loudly.  The guy 5 rows in front of you is on his cell phone every 2.5 minutes and the light keeps distracting you.

The reason you see so many reboots is because a lot of the good ideas have been done and the knockoffs of those good ideas are mediocre at best.  Long gone are the days where an entire summer offers a variety of quality movies.  I wish they weren’t but it sure does seem that way.  And good for you, America.  Keep your wallet in your pockets and don’t pay top dollar for less than acceptable quality films.  I know I’m not…