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.

jurassic 3

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.

jurassic 6

 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.

jurassic 5

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.
~Vig

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.

jurassic 4

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.

jurassic 2

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.
~Will

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Hey all! Today we’ll be taking a look at Marvel’s biggest risk yet, Guardians of the Galaxy. Directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper, it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fiction and language.

The latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe follows Peter Quill (Pratt) after he steals a mysterious orb that puts him right in the center of a manhunt led by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). However, Quill, after being thrown in jail, makes four unexpected allies that help him combat Ronan and preserve the safety of the galaxy.

8.5 out of 10

Ever since the first time we heard the steady beat and tribal chants that prelude Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling in the very first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy we were excited, for the soundtrack if nothing else. This was Marvel’s riskiest film yet, taking a bunch of “D-List superheroes” (as one article called them) and throwing them on to a slate that already features Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor: all A-list superheroes. But boy, did it pay off big time. What we received was a hilarious, action packed film that stands its ground with Marvel’s best.

I will admit that the beginning of this film did not have me. After the first five or ten minutes I was starting to wonder how this movie, which looked so awesome, could be the biggest disappointment since Iron Man 3! The first scene was pretty unexpected, as his mother dies and then he is taken by a spaceship (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler). It was too abrupt a shift from something so sad—something that established a really tragic tone—to something as unrealistic and bizarre as being taken by aliens. It was just too much for me at first. 

Additionally, the first few minutes after the beginning credits served as an adjustment period for the audience, as the dialogue was difficult to enjoy at first. It was extremely different depending on what characters you were talking about. Ronan and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have a formal, more strict way of speaking when compared with Quill and Rocket Racoon (Cooper) who are laid back and snarky. And then of course, there’s Groot, who only knows how to say “I am Groot”. I can’t really explain it, but  the contrasts made it hard to really enjoy at first, but after 15 minutes or so, I was really loving it.

Last criticism. Ronan the Accuser wasn’t incredibly exciting as a villain. He reminded me of Malekith from Thor 2, which is not a good thing considering how notoriously boring he was. Ronan was an improvement, but not by much. However, he did seem a bit threatening, especially towards the end. Even more threatening than Thanos. Which I’m not sure is what you want.

As much as I’ve talked about the bad stuff, this movie really is awesome. The characters are among the most interesting comic book movie characters I’ve seen and, even better, they mix very well together. Expect for Zoe Saldana’s character, who is kind of boring but still likeable, all the characters are unique, important, and interesting.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the show. Their love-hate relationship is one of the best things about the film. Both characters are such a contrast to each other that it makes it believable that they’re a talking raccoon and (somewhat) talking tree respectively. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel nailed it.

Chris Pratt, likewise, is very good. He’s funny, heartwarming, and courageous without being annoying at all. People are talking about Chris Pratt potentially being one of the next big action stars and consider me on board. Peter Quill has become one of the best characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely thanks to Pratt.

The movie also features some of the best written comedy of any Marvel film. As I’ve pointed out, I didn’t love Iron Man 3, largely because I thought it forced its comedy. This, however, was so well done. The timing was absolutely spot on. Pop culture references, Groot-Raccoon moments; everything. It was a very funny movie.

What lets this movie be so successful is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows how silly it’s concept is and capitalizes on this. It’s a funny, action-packed adventure that proves to be one of Marvel’s finest to date.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Two years ago, Marvel Studios released what many consider to be its magnum opus: The Avengers. In fact, any future Marvel adventures seemed unneeded. So, naturally, once Marvel announced it was producing a second phase, a lot of questions were raised. The main one being what are they going to top The Avengers with? To which Marvel stood up and proudly announced that it would follow up with an exciting, epic sci-fi team: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

And, as far as I can remember, there wasn’t too warm of a reception. Don’t get me wrong, people still poured their faith into Marvel but nobody knew what to think of Guardians. They thought they could top Robert Downey Jr. with a talking raccoon? And the whole rest of the team with a bunch of no-names?

rocket

And two years later….they did. In fact, I think they surpassed the standard set by The Avengers in my opinion. Let us go over why:

The comedy: I laughed more in Guardians of the Galaxy than around 75% of the comedies I’ve seen. This film is very self-aware; it knows its dealing with a pretty ridiculous set of characters and it never takes itself too seriously. The comedic bits tied all of the film’s elements together and utilized humor in such an effective way that it sits on top of the list of funniest Marvel films.

The characters: As I said before, people weren’t too thrilled about this team of misfits. A less professional studio would labor over these new characters’ backstories and tell rather than show anything about their development. Not Marvel: it trusts in the characters’ attitudes and dialogue to tell their story and they do.

The universe: Guardians goes so far out of Marvel’s usual realm that its a wonder it belongs the same continuity. But special effects paired with original designs really made the sci-fi atmosphere. In a weird way, seeing all of these new settings reminded me of the first time I saw Tatooine or the starship Enterprise. Very original, new world that opens itself up to so many plots and characters.

Speaking of, I’m actually anxious to see the Guardians interact with the usual Marvel suspects. It seems like a bit of a challenger but I’m convinced Marvel is up to it. Considering how they were able to integrate five heroes into one movie, I’m sure they can fit two teams.

Gamora (left), Rocket, Quill, Groot, Drax

Gamora (left), Rocket, Quill, Groot, Drax (right)

My one criticism (And it’s an incredibly small one) is that it was so good at crafting little sincere moments that they could have delved into them a little more. That’s a small complaint and, hey, there’s always the sequel, am I right? This is Marvel, so of course I am.

There you have it. All of these elements combined created such a great superhero movie that I daresay it cracks my top five superhero movies list. But I really can’t describe the fun, you’ll have to experience it yourself: see it.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.2
Metacritic: 76
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

The Lego Movie

Getting right back into it after the 86th Academy Awards, this week we’ll be looking at the surprisingly popular Lego Movie (sorry, we know it’s kinda late!). Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett (and many, many others). It is rating PG for mild action and rude humor.

The LEGO Movie is a 3-D animated film that follows the life of an everyday Lego mini-figure (for lack of a better word), Emmet, (Pratt) who is identified as “the most extraordinary person”, “special”, and a “master-builder” after an encounter with a mysterious girl, Wyldstyle (Banks). He is told that he is the only person who can save the Lego universe. With the help of Batman (Arnett), Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) and other “master-builders”, Emmet goes on a journey to save the universe, but struggles with finding himself in the process.

8.5 out of 10

What a stupid movie.

Now let me explain. Yes this movie was silly. I mean, it’s Legos for Pete’s sake. If that’s not silly then I don’t know what is. But sometimes stupid and silly is good. And in The LEGO Movie’s case, a great thing. In a way, it’s The Expendables for kids. Stupid, mindless action (I guess) and fun. It’s just a fun movie to watch from beginning to end: a fast paced, endorphin releasing adventure. Hell, it’s got Batman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings; everything.

There’s really not much to analyze, but I’ll do my best. The cast is star studded, featuring all sorts of big names including Arnett, Banks, Pratt, Freeman, Will Ferrell, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, and even Shaq. The voice acting is pretty good, and everyone seemed to actually put in effort. Hey, Will Arnett could probably do a better job as Batman than Ben Affleck! (I kid, I kid).

lego movie characters

The animation is very impressive. The work to make the fire, smoke, and water look like it’s actually made out of Legos was very cool. Every detail was so specific and careful, helping the universe look so good. The whole universe, both in terms of its myth and its physical attributes, is created to perfection. It’s not hard to imagine playing this story with your own Legos as a child.

Though I did say this movie is stupid, I will be the first one to admit how smart the script is. There are so many ambiguous references that are hilarious if you understand them. I remember being the only person in the movie theater that laughed when Batman says “he’s the boyfriend you deserve” (a reference to the end of The Dark Knight). They’re not afraid to make obscure references and sometimes tease cultural icons, making fun of Gandalf and Dumbledore at points in the film. The writing of this film is impressive and rich with pop culture references.

As depth-less as this movie may appear, its message is honestly pretty deep, especially for the young children that this movie is targeted towards. Not trying to force myself into analyzing themes of a film (especially a movie like this) but the fact that The LEGO Movie actually has a relevant, important message is pretty cool. Everyone is unique, even if all signs point otherwise. Such an uplifting movie. The ending gives you all kind of feels and if you don’t get emotional then you’re not human. It’s kind of like the polar opposite of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, if you’ve ever seen or heard of that.

I can’t finish without mentioning the song ‘Everything is Awesome’, which is, well, awesome. It’s catchy and fits the tone of the movie so well. You’ll be singing it for days. Overall, the entire movie is so much fun and features so many intelligent jokes that contribute to its comedy. There is no doubt that this a silly movie, but seriously, who cares? It’s awesome.

8 out of 10

Everything (About this movie) is awesome!

Seriously, logistically, this must have had Village Roadshow, Vertigo and all of the other producers sweating bullets. Yes, when kids see brightly colored Lego-versions of their favorite characters, they’re gonna flock to the movies (And shell out the extra $3.00 for 3-D to boot) but what about parents? And, if we’re shooting for the moon here, teenagers?

Well, that got me thinking of all of the times I dragged my parents to hour and a half long kid films as a child. Now, those were great times, they probably wouldn’t have seen Shrek 2, Toy Story or Wall-E without them but, then again, they also wouldn’t have seen Shark Tale, The Wild, or Home on the Range without them (There’s a bonus if you actually remember those).

What I’m getting at here is that animation can get pretty dicey. It’s a category rife with beautiful opportunities and untapped potential but it’s also rife with money-makers: half-baked, loud, watch-checkers that’ll keep your kid entertained for $11. And sitting at the tippity top of this category is an animated movie that’s based off of a specific toy or brand.

Lego Movie really didn’t go with that route whatsoever. It was not an 100 minute commercial, though probably did work just as well as one. No, Lego Movie actually had me laughing. It also had me physically shocked that I was enjoying it so well. I read that it was laugh-a-minute but that was totally wrong: I laughed about every thirty seconds.

Now, given that just last week we looked at some of the first-tier Oscar picks, this praise may sound ridiculous but I thoroughly enjoyed this. This movie blindsided me in plenty of ways. First of all, it may operate in a world of blocks and bricks but its a beautiful film. Attentively animated and really kinetic but not busy. Second, it gets all of these different characters and licenses together in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced.

And, most importantly, it has a lot of heart. Really, I was surprised that this movie had a thoughtful message. Did it completely go against everything Lego says? Yes, Lego does not want you to practice what it preaches apparently. But it executes it in a pretty darn mature manner without getting taking itself too seriously.

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Aside from the lack of Mega-Blocks jokes (I thought they’d be a good sport if that happened), I really can not say much more about this movie except that I loved it. Even if you are a self-proclaimed adult, break down that steel age-barrier and see it, you certainly will not regret it. You just might enjoy it more than most kids will.

IMDB: 7.9
Metacritic: 83
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%