Jurassic World

Up this week is the highly anticipated and box office hit, Jurassic World. Directed by Colin Trevorrow and staring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

Set 22 years after the events of the first film, Jurassic World takes us back to the Isla Nublar, which now features a fully functioning theme park called Jurassic World, having replaced the failed Jurassic Park. After years of successful operation, attendance has begun to drop. In order to pick up interest, Claire (Howard) leads the establishment of a new attraction, one that ends up backfiring horribly.

6.5 out of 10

A little over 20 years ago, Jurassic Park hit theaters and became an instant hit. In those 22 years since its release, it has become one of the most iconic films of all time. One of those films that if you haven’t seen, you can’t call yourself a movie fan. Or a human being for that mattered. Jurassic Park’s sequels, however, were not as successful. I admittedly haven’t seen them, but I’ve heard plenty. Despite the futility past the original film, there was plenty of excitement regarding Jurassic World because, man, its 2015! The graphics have to look awesome (which they did). And its got Chris Pratt, the modern day King Midas. Ultimately, Jurassic World stands up as a decent film, but an unworthy sequel to Jurassic Park, though it is a bit much to expect that. 

Let’s start with the good. Jurassic World is chock full of easter eggs, a little feature that I really appreciated. From the casting of B.D. Wong (who as also in the first movie, and has not aged a bit) to the countless references to the old park, I was really able to appreciate this film’s sentiment towards the original.

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Chris Pratt, who is slowly ascending to the top of my list of favorite actors, was excellent as he has shown us of recent. He was awesome in both The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy and has proven that he is bonafide Hollywood gold. Jurassic World only cements that status. He is what makes this movie exciting, fun, and a solid action movie. He is a badass, which is all we need as an audience to stay interested. People say he’s only good because his character is written that way, but I can’t think of anyone who could have done this better. Fingers crossed that he is the next Indiana Jones.

Bryce Dallas Howard, on the other hand, has ascended to the top of my least favorite actors list. There’s just something about her that annoys the hell out of me. Spider-Man 3, 50/50, The Help. It doesn’t help that in half of these movies she’s supposed to be despised, but it doesn’t change anything. She is just not a convincing actress. I can’t tell if we were supposed to like her in this movie, but considering she is really the main female protagonist, I think the answer is yes. Could have easily fooled me.

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 Don’t even get me started on the child acting. The scene where Nick Robinson (the older brother) talks about how he will always be there for his brother… *shudder*. Whether it’s immature acting or poorly written dialogue, the scenes with the brothers were not enjoyable. Their entire storyline, which tried to teach us good family values, was also not enjoyable. More dinosaurs and Chris Pratt, please!

At this point, the film would have been solid. It had good action, good effects, and a nice climax. And usually, I would judge this film independently of its predecessors. However, I can’t overlook the fact that the premise is almost a carbon copy of Jurassic Park. Using genetics to modify the creatures, a massive dinosaur is on the loose, a competitor tries to steal from the par; It’s way too similar for my liking. Talk about a breath of fresh air, this isn’t one.

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Overall, Jurassic World is a successful action film. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of that. There was too much focus on genetics, business, and family values. I’m not saying the movie isn’t successful because of these areas of focus, the focus on this just failed to actually contribute to making the movie enjoyable. The writers should have stuck with its gut and focused on what people came to see: the dinosaurs.

7.5 out of 10

Jurassic World was thoroughly entertaining. Sure, it wasn’t as ahead of its time as Jurassic Park, nor was it as layered or as chilling. It was, however, exactly what it was supposed to be: a summer popcorn blockbuster poised to make billions.

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In fact, last weekend Jurassic World became the fastest movie ever to gross $1 billion across the globe. It had a massive domestic opening weekend gross of $208 million and followed that up with another $100 million dollar showing. It’s performed exceptionally well overseas as well. Many have it pegged to surpass Avatar as the world’s highest grossing movie of all time. Unfortunately for World, though, any records it creates will undoubtedly be shattered when Star Wars hits theaters.

Alas, much of Jurassic World’s success capitalizes on the legacy of the first movie. Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies of all time, despite the fact that I first saw it just a few years ago when it was re-released in theaters. It was thrilling, deep, and it featured exceptional animatronics and special effects. It was a wild ride and a box office success, but differentiated itself from its sequels because of its depth and originality. Subsequent movies in the series, including Jurassic World to an extent, were mere rehashings of the original with prettied up special effects.

Jurassic World features the fulfillment of John Hammond’s vision: a fully functional Jurassic theme park. Unfortunately, he is not there to see it, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character has taken his place. In many ways, she is very much like him, and in fact, many characters in this film are modernized versions of characters in the original. There are two kids exploring the park, one very enthused about dinosaurs; there is a naturist, cautioning against the attempt to control potentially deadly dinosaurs; and there is the slimly, greasy villain, attempting to manipulate events at the park to serve his own monetary goals. Many, including some of my friends, have protested that the characters in the film are wholly flat and unlikable, that they mean nothing to the story. And sure, in any Jurassic Park movie, the characters are not center stage, but rather they play a supporting role to the big, teethy, and deadly creatures stalking the park. What the original did so well was that it combined the dinosaurs with an exceptional supporting cast of eccentric humans. Personally, I enjoyed the characters in World, perhaps simply because I consider myself a Chris Pratt fan and Bryce Dallas Howard was, in my opinion, very convincing. Still, there was definitely something missing without Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, and Sam Neil.

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Many have also attacked the concept of the movie. Frankly, I think it was inventive and clever. In the film, in order to raise attendance levels and interest in the park, Howard’s character, the director of the park, okays the creation of a new dinosaur, part T-Rex and part a smattering of other creatures, both dino and not. Working genetic modifications into the plot is a real win, in my opinion, especially because of the rising calls against GMOs in our foods. It was an interesting next step in the series’ continuing cautionary advice against the advancements of modern science.

Others have stated that certain elements of the movie, ones into which I cannot delve into too much detail without revealing key plot elements, are gimmicky and ridiculous. And yeah, that’s true. Dinosaur alliances are a little bit dumb and gimmicky, and are really just a way to bring out all the big dinosaurs at the same time. The brilliance of Jurassic Park was that it never got so ridiculous that it brought you out of the trance and thrill. Sure, there were living, breathing dinosaurs stalking around an island near Costa Rica, but within the basic constructs of the film it all felt logical. Jurassic World seemed to make up its own rules as it went, and didn’t bat an eye at making two vicious, killer dinosaurs team up.

While Jurassic World many not recapture the magic of the first film, it is undoubtedly an entertaining and thrilling, albeit ridiculous, ride that just might make the most money out of any move, ever. It’s worth a watch.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Up next is Mad Max: Fury Road, the first film in the series in 30 years, featuring the debut of our friend, Jenya. Directed by George Miller and starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult, the film is rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.

Mad Max, set in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken,, follows two rebels who attempt to restore order. One is Max (Hardy), a man of action and of few words, and the other is Furiosa (Theron), a woman of action looking to return to her homeland.

10 out of 10

Do you want to touch the face of god?

I walked away from this movie thinking the proclamation Nicholas Hoult’s psychotic Nux makes: “What a day! What a lovely day!” is a rather fitting summarization.

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This film oozes setting and style like a t-shirt struggling to contain a fat person. We see numerous distinct factions, two-headed lizards, steering wheel worship,the resurgence of Valhalla worship along with the use of awesome exploding spears(clever details showing a return to more medieval mindsets), and a guy in a red onesie playing a flamethrower guitar on a goddam moving truck. Yes I just said that. A guy in a red onesie plays a guitar that breathes fire while riding on a truck. It seems like an insignificant(albeit freaking amazing) point to focus on, but the creativity found in such a small background character shows how the filmmakers really want you to see this world as more than a generic wasteland but as a living, breathing, world that has gone to hell, setting up a universe that is begging to be explored, a unique characteristic that has been lacking in many films.

Tom Hardy’s Mad Max is the gruff badass we all want to be, his often quiet demeanor helping to show the solitary and damaged soul that hides within. Charlese Theron’s Furiosa is fantastic as she plays a badass chick who does not give a damn and kicks as much ass as she pulls at your heart strings, the audience discovering her journey is as much about redemption as it is freedom. The real dark horse pulling out ahead of everyone at top speed is Nux. How do you feel sympathy for a henchman, especially a suicidal and insane one? Hoult pulls it off by giving us a good look someone who chooses to give into the insanity since he has nothing else, his character being quite sympathetic as well as entertaining. What truly helps the acting shine is the decision to limit dialogue at times to allow the facial and physical actions for the characters to narrate their current feeling and growth, the choice to have people shut up being far more powerful than having them tell the audience the depth of their sadness in words.

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Now that sounds great, right? Well hold onto your butt and keep it in park because I haven’t even gotten to the villain yet! Imperator Joe is the classic villain that makes a film like this fun. He is diabolical, intimidating, and downright driven(like a car).

Speaking of cars, let me get on to them. The cars in this movie are understandably THE MOST GORGEOUS THINGS IN THE PLANET. The Big Rig the heroes drive around is like a souped-up ghetto Optimus Prime and is amazing. We see a huge variety of vehicles that are exciting to see since you never know what will come next. Who knows it could even be a cadillac WITH TANK TREADS. It is worth seeing this movie just to see the lengths its inhabitants go to make their rides as dope as possible for the hell hole that is their home, these making the exhilarating action scenes even more outrageously awesome that they already are.

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This film could be said to be nothing more than an extended chase which is a fair assessment to make. But if you hold it against the film, you fail to see the underlying genius behind it. Making a film nothing more than a chase scene and squeezing in the amazing setting, characters, and action is a gift in of itself and the real tension the movie fills you with makes it standout and truly be a masterpiece that every man, woman, and accompanied child should see.

Who knew that I needed the maker of Babe in the City and Happy Feet to remind me what good action is?

9 out of 10

If there’s one thing I love in cinema, it’s a pleasant surprise. A summer cinematic pleasant surprise? Even better. Mad Max: Fury Road just happens to be one of those stealth-bullseyes that has absolutely (and deservedly) dominated these past few weeks.

When I first heard the idea, I was pretty skeptical; of all the films to recreate during the Remake-Renaissance, the film about a bunch of clunky, sometimes cheesily-designed thundering through the desert seemed like an unlikely pick. Yet Fury Road has proven to me just I’m always in for a rock solid remake: it weaves in a little complexity in what could have been one dimensional story, it injects an old world with new colors and fascinating characters and, above all else, it resuscitates a pretty stagnant franchise. Remakes are always best when they reignite interest.

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First, let’s address the sheer insanity of this movie because it’s beautifully hyperactive from beginning to end. There’s no denying, the movie is chaotic and kinetic, pretty much unstoppable. If I may use car wordplay (forgive me here), it goes from 160 to infinity in two hours. The best part though, the thing that keeps the film fun, is that the viewer doesn’t get lost in the shuffle; I’ve maintained the simple fact that, for a movie to be truly fun, the audience has to be able to actually keep track of what’s going on as plenty of directors who toy with obscene amounts of CGI and indecipherable shaky-cam don’t seem to grasp. With all the hot rods and oddball characters running around here, keeping up with things certainly isn’t hard to do. You also – gasp – actually care about what’s going on here. (You’re laughing and saying “but it’s an action movie” but believe me when I say it’s all the difference). The movie’s relentless nature has led it to be viewed as a two hour chase by some and, yeah, it kind of is but that’s an occupational hazard of a Mad Max movie.

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This is all bolstered by the fact that the film has its own taste and unforgettable flare. I can only imagine how much time was poured into all these vehicle designs and pieces of clothing but the effort is tangible. The filmmakers pretty much galvanized a world fading into forgetability which is darned admirable. The actors working with the materials are giving it their all as well (Tom Hardy never fails to impress).

There’s also one driving (a-ha) idea behind the movie and that’s survival. Critics have lauded this for its surprising complexity and, yeah, I was nicely surprised by it. I like how the cars have become symbols of power in a barbaric world and I love how those who made the movie morphed it from being a standard action flick to being a full-on epic about what happens when humans are relegated back to their most aggressive instincts. There are definitely other themes there but my brain is too burnt out from finals to grope around for them (apologies).

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Whether you want to see it as the Odyssey of action movies or you’re just looking for some noise and neat visuals though, one thing’s for sure: you won’t be dissatisfied by the latest volume in the Mad Max saga.