Jurassic World (2015)

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Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan

Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

It has been 22 years since the events of Jurassic Park, and now John Hammond’s vision has been fully realized. Jurassic World has been up and running for about a decade, and has been run by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, 50/50) to great success. Now, though, with declining numbers, the park’s owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi, The Amazing Spider-Man) wants something new and bigger to boost attendance. He has enlisted Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, Mulan, Focus) with the task of genetically hybridizing a new dinosaur species called the Indominus Rex, but this new species is much smarter than they could have realized, and now a raptor trainer named Owen (Chris Pratt, TV’s Parks and Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy) must help Claire find her nephews, Nick (Nick Robinson, TV’s Melissa & Joey, The Kings of Summer) and Gray (Ty Simpkins, Insidious, Iron Man 3), who are missing in the park.

In this third sequel to the Jurassic Park franchise, we see something that has been almost promised for just as long: a fully functioning theme park, exactly what John Hammond would have wanted. It is a completely new experience for fans of the series, and it offers a cadre of new set pieces for director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) to completely destroy.

Chris Pratt gives another leading man performance that proves he has the chops to continue raking in the dough. Now Owen isn’t played as well to Pratt’s strength, and he comes off rather wooden at the beginning of the film before really finding his character beats as the film progresses. His chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is pretty strong, though the developed romance between feels way contrived in the grand scheme of the story.

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The supporting players all mostly give in to the conceit of the film and perform admirably. Our child actors Robinson and Simpkins do enough to get by, though Simpkins underwhelms when compared to previous work in the Insidious franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Run All Night) is great as the slimy Hoskins who wishes to use Owen’s raptor skills to train the beasts for militaristic purposes. He is matched perfectly by Irrfan Khan’s Masrani, an eccentric billionaire very similar to Hammond and who wishes to follow in his footsteps and do right by him. The term “Spare No Expense” comes to mind several times.

B.D. Wong returns to the franchise from the original film as the genius Dr. Wu, a character much expanded upon from the original source novel by Michael Crichton. In this film, Wu defends his place in the history books as the clever mind behind many of the park’s greatest attractions.

Now the dinosaurs here as missing much of the Stan Winston touch that made them so magical in the 1993 film. They still look amazing from the terrific visual effects work, and some of them, like the mighty aquatic Mosasaurus, but it is something I missed. Looking back on Steven Spielberg’s original film, I still look in wonder at the magic on the screen, whereas here I know I am seeing CGI.

Michael Giacchino’s score is also a great feature of the film, subtly using John William’s original themes while adding notes of grandeur and chaos to reinvent it. When we first see the gorgeous set pieces accompanied by the original music, it made my heart skip a beat.

Flaws? Yeah, there are several. The use of the Gyrospheres being completely controlled by the attendees? Yeah, no safety features required there…not! This film makes several of the same mistakes that we’ve seen before, making the characters seem like they paid no attention to the mistakes made in previous installments.

JURASSIC WORLD - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: The Indominus rex dominates all creatures in her path - Photo Credit: Universal Pictures   © 2014 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Thankfully, the film is much saved by how great the wins are. There are several faults at play, but overall this is the best film in the franchise since the original. The little pieces of homage to the T-Rex, Spinosaurus, Mr. DNA, John Hammond, and Ian Malcolm help validate this film as a strong installment in the series that holds its own and opens new avenues for the future of the story.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So have you seen Jurassic World? What did you think? Did this film’s life find a way or go extinct in the process? Let me know!

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

 

Is Marvel Planning on Coaching The Amazing Spider-Man in the Right Direction?

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So Marvel is a big deal, right? And this year’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could’ve gone better, right? Yes and Yes. Looking in, Spider-Man is one of the few franchises that Marvel hasn’t been able to reel back in since going Blockbuster several years back.

New intel suggests that Marvel has guided the franchise to course-correct itself in a possible crossover for the coming Captain America: Civil War. Wow, this is big. This means that Spider-Man could be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward, at least in some capacity, possibly canonizing The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel as well as the upcoming spin-off The Sinister Six. Big deal indeed.

Now this isn’t exactly the first time Marvel has guided a franchise. Essentially it happened in a far lesser capacity with The Incredible Hulk.

I’m excited as can be with this news. I wasn’t hating on the newest Spidey outing, but it could definitely could have used some assistance picking itself up. What do you think? Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe about to get a whole lot bigger? Let me know!

Man of Steel (2013)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayalet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer

143 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

 

So what happens when the king of green-screen takes on the most famous superhero in history. Why, you get Man of Steel. My review is here.

On the far-off planet of Krypton, science officer Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Noah) tries to convince his dying planet that they do not have any time left and must abandon all hope to the stars. As he quells a coup from military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon, TV’s Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter), Jor-El realizes that all hope for saving his race are gone except for a miracle which has resulted in the first natural birth in years. His son Kal-El is born. Jor-El does one of the most insane things in comic book history by launching his infant son off into space in hopes of saving the Kryptonian species.

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Years later, an adult Kal-El (Henry Cavill, Immortals, The Cold Light of Day), now under the guise of Clark Kent, tries to keep his superpowers under wraps as he lives a normal life raised to Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, Draft Day) and his wife, Martha (Diane Lane, Unfaithful, Secretariat).That is, until General Zod comes to Earth in search of taking the planet and terraforming it for his own. Now, with the help of Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Her), Superman must stop Zod and save the human race from extinction.

I wanted to like this movie. I am a major fan of the Superman mythos. I love director Christopher Nolan and his work with The Dark Knight series, so when I saw his name on the producer credits for Man of Steel, I was overjoyed. I even like somewhat likable director Zack Snyder, and find him to be a slightly more skilled director than Michael Bay, so I was excited. Then I saw it.

It felt like the team behind the film didn’t know anything about Superman or why his character is so important. We see virtually none of Clark Kent. He reveals himself to Lois Lane way way too early for there to be an actual romance to develop. I like General Zod, but he isn’t nearly as strong as previous incarnations have made the character. He comes off as a lost little leader looking for someone to blame as opposed to the cold and calculated military beast he should be. His flunkies are not anything more than flat uninspired flunkies.

The film has some strong performances from minor characters due to great work by Costner, Lane, and Crowe as well Laurence Fishburne (TV’s Black-ish, The Matrix) as Daily Planet bigwig Perry White and Christopher Meloni (TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as Colonel Nathan Hardy, but unfortunately, when you cast an unknown, you might get a dud. Henry Cavill is a dud.

Then there is Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch), who definitely brings the spectacle, and a lot of it, but he doesn’t give us any heart. This film is all spectacle, no substance. We don’t get any Daily Planet or Jimmy Olsen. We don’t get any Lex Luthor (though I can get waiting on the sequel for him). We don’t get what an origin story needs. Here’s some advice. Don’t do an origin story if the previous incarnation did it so well. Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie did the origin so well, so why try to top it. Do what The Incredible Hulk and just skip past it while referencing little moments. This film was too much like The Amazing Spider-Man and not enough like a reboot should be.

And if I might have a moment to speak to David S. Goyer. Sir, please take a break from superheroes. It’s becoming a little weird.

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Sadly, Man of Steel was not the movie I was looking for. The character of Superman has a little camp, and that’s fine, at least Marvel took on the camp with their version of Captain America: The First Avenger and embrace it a little. Have a little fun. Isn’t that what superheroes usually are about (with the exception of a select few). Hopefully this team can pick up the pieces with Batfleck and fix it for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I said hopefully.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 10 – John Dies at the End (2012)

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Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck

Screenplay: Don Coscarelli

99 mins. Rated R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content.

 

I didn’t watch anything of Don Coscarelli’s films at first release. He displays such vivid enthusiasm on the screen that his movies cannot be ignored forever. Thanks to Netflix, I found a copy of Phantasm to experience. Thanks to a fellow reviewer, I was able to view Bubba Ho-Tep. Thanks to the bargain bin, I have now been given access to John Dies at the End, a quirky and rather disappointing film based on the novel of the same name.

The story is extremely convoluted but it comes down to this: a new drug has the potential to take its users into other dimensions and across massive expanses of time, but not everyone who uses is entirely normal after the experience. The story follows John (Rob Mayes, Enough Said, A Golden Christmas 3) and Dave (Chase Williamson, Sparks, The Guest) as they attempt  to discover the source as Dave recounts the tale in a restaurant with audience Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti, Sideways, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) listening intently.

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Now, I like a lot of the supporting work here. Giamatti gives us a more captivated audience to connect to, but ultimately is unused, as is Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) as Dr. Albert Marconi, a paranormal power-player whom John and Dave look up to.

I had to spend a lot of time calculating exactly what turned me off of this film, and I came to the conclusion that it suffers for the very reasons that Coscarelli’s other work, Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, work so well. That strangeness, that quality of oddity turned me away from this. It didn’t start like that, I happened to find the film’s opening, involving an exorcism, a doorknob that transforms into a penis, and a demon made up entirely of frozen meats, quite entertaining. The plot just sort of unravels as it is trying to build.

That’s a lot of what makes up John Dies at the End: trying. I can see that it is trying to be strange and yet appealing. I can see that it is trying to be comedic. I can see that it is trying to shock. It is, and yet none of that matters between a weak script and lead performers that can’t carry the film.

Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are unknowns, and are likely to stay that way, neither one of them seems to be able to handle a scene and truly hold an audience in the way that Dave tries to hold Blondestone.

Coscarelli was quoted that John Dies at the End was one of the greatest titles in motion picture history, and that can be kind of true, although SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT allowing John’s character to live makes it come off as less inspired. Making the decision to kill off the character you promised to kill off would allow you some more creative freedom to embrace the strange, because it allows the audience to be less focused on the ending and more on the journey, which is oftentimes a tough sell. END SPOILERS.

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In the end, I can openly appreciate the attempt that this film is making. I can, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I was checking my watch less than fifteen minutes in, and that doesn’t make for a wonderful last eighty minutes or so. Don’t rate Coscarelli on this bummer.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field

Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner

142 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

 

After the okay-ish 2012 release of The Amazing Spider-Man, I was uncertain if the franchise had the staying power after essentially remaking the original Spider-Man. Now, with this year’s sequel, is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 further proof? Find out now.

And, I should point out, Spoilers be warned for any and all plot points of previous films. I won’t ruin this one though, so feel free to read on.

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Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), still suffering from his failure to save Captain Stacy, is forced to juggle his role as Peter with his role as Spider-Man when new villain Electro (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) rises to power, literally. Peter’s problems only get greater as old friends and new enemies appear, all seemingly linked to the death of Peter’s parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) and his father’s connection to Oscorp. His relationship with the captain’s daughter Gwen (Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman) has progressed to a point where he must constantly fear for her safety. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle, Life After Beth), an childhood friend of Peter’s shows up, wanting to cure a disease, but to do that, he needs too much from Spider-Man. Peter is further tested when his relationship with Aunt May (Sally Field, Forrest Gump, Lincoln) is strained by his hunt for the truth in his lineage.

This film dramatically improves on many of the faults and worries I had from the previous picture, while still having issues with pacing and tone. From a visual perspective, after 5 theatrical Spider-Man films, this one has a lot of nice work going on for us to watch. The camera knows when it has to focus and when it has to move. The effects are, in a word, stunning. I love the costumes here as well. For the fact that there are a lot of villains in this movie, each one, from the new to the recognizable, is an awesome costume which breathes life (or new life, in the case of one) into the characters. Garfield’s performance has improved as well. He isn’t as confused about where his character needs to be, emotionally, in each scene. Fresh faces Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, River of Fundament) as Alexsei Sytsevich, a russian gangster, provide something fun to play with. Foxx’s performance only kicks in as he becomes Electro, but when it does, he takes off.

I have to say this, the real win of this film is the mystery surrounding the deaths of Peter’s parents. This is something that we didn’t really have in the previous series, so it is a point that we as viewers didn’t feel like we had to compare.

The music choices surrounding Electro were interesting. Webb cast a musical group specifically for Foxx’s character, called the Magnificent Six. This works at times and fails as others. See what I meant by tone issues.

The ending is where this tonal confusion really gets notable. I won’t play with any reveals for you, but strictly speaking, things get much more serious than they have the entire film previously. So many important plot points jammed in there, and it just didn’t work.

Now, the open-ended set up for sequels worked fine, setting us up for a little Spider-Man Cinematic Universe feeling, and that excites me.

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I need to day that this film definitely isn’t the Spider-Man 2 we have seen before, and it isn’t as good as we deserved, but it is a ton of fun and a big step up from its immediate predecessor. Remember that, and enjoy yourself.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Did you feel the electricity or was this a short circuit? Let me know!

 

For my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, click here.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

 

I feel like I should describe the film I’m about to review, but to streamline and simplify the process by just having you watch Spider-Man. This film is little more than a carbon copy, subbing one villain in for another and one love interest in for another. I should point out that this is mostly a well-made movie, but the pacing issues really drag it down given the fact that we had seen all of this before.

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), a loser but a smart one at that. The only thing he seems to want in life is Gwen Stacy (perfectly casted with Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman). That, and to discover the truth behind his parents’ death. Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill, The Five-Year Engagement) is the man who may hold some truth, but he is a bit too preoccupied with becoming a monstrous half-man/half-lizard hybrid.

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There is a lot of sameness to this film. Peter becomes Spider-Man. He fights the monster and tries to save those around him from certain doom. This plot is kind of boring for a regular superhero film at this point, but the fact that this is the second time it has been shown on film makes it all the more painful. If this first 90 minutes had been more brushed over, we could be enjoying ourselves a lot more, but this movie just drags. The subplot mystery surrounding Peter’s parents does help, but not enough.

I personally thought Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey was less likable than I would’ve hoped for. Now Emma Stone was pretty likable. She was some damn perfect casting, as with her father, played by Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Draft Day).

Then you have Curt Connors, a character who was merely cameos in previous Spider-Man films, and here he is in all the glory. And he is friggin’ creepy as The Lizard. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln) are Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and give us solid performances given the unsolid scripting.

Now, from a cinematography standpoint, Marc Webb’s film has some very nice touches. The new costume for the masked hero is actually pretty nice looking. The ending was pretty awesome. I like that they are taking a page from Marvel to end on a note that not all is finished here. So the film does have some great moments, given that it is the same movie.

Now, I’m going to just state something. I hate comparing reboots and remakes to their predecessors. I don’t think it is fair as we have already had too much time to fall in love with the originals. It doesn’t offer up a fair fight, but then again, maybe that is the reason that we shouldn’t have remakes. It makes a good argument, but at the same time, I feel like some remakes are pretty damn perfect (John Carpenter’s The Thing and Peter Jackson’s King Kong to name a few). The problem with not comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man is that both films are so close in both exact plotting and timing that it is difficult not to. If you make a film right, it doesn’t have to be up for comparison. I never find myself comparing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to Tim Burton’s original Batman because both films have difficult tones and aim for different ideas.

So, when I come to a topic of comparison from a music perspective, I don’t want to compare the fun and upbeat feeling of Sam Raimi’s trilogy to the ominous toning of Marc Webb’s film. But I do, and the difference and preference keep me to the original.

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Now, this film was originally scripted as Spider-Man 4, and I don’t understand the reason to reboot. All the best parts of this film would’ve been made better by continuing the previous film. We already introduced Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, so even planting Emma Stone in would’ve done fine enough. Curt Conners was already a character, so his introduction would’ve reduced the strained runtime. The mysetery around Peter’s parents would’ve injected some serious intrigue into the series. Even the open-ended finale would’ve translated perfectly. It just felt like a monetary decision (and it was) to push the reboot button, and we can tell.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Did this tale need retelling or where you experiencing deja vu?

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