[Early Review] Rings (2017)

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Director: F. Javier Gutierrez

Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan

Screenplay: David Loucka, Jacob Estes, Akiva Goldsman

102 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material.

 

It’s been 12 years since American audiences were given another installment in The Ring franchise. Maybe we should’ve waited longer.

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In Rings, we are treated to several teases before a convoluted plot actually begins. Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Summertime, L’Universale) and Holt (Alex Rose, The 5th Wave, Sniper: Legacy) are high school sweethearts, but when Holt goes away to college and subsequently goes missing, Julia tracks him down to a group who passes around a video tape that promises to its viewers that they will die in seven days upon the initial viewing. The cursed must then make a copy of the tape, or in this case, video file and show it to someone else. When Julia is cursed, she does whatever is possible to end the curse without passing it along to someone new. But can she learn the secret of Samara (Bonnie Morgan, Minority Report, The Last Witch Hunter) before it’s too late?

Rings is the third installment of the American version of this franchise, and the best thing I can say about it is this: it isn’t the worst. At least, I think it’s not the worst. I do not remember much of The Ring Two except being bored the entire time. Rings is less terrible but still pretty bad. It’s leads are absolutely dreadful (think The Bye Bye Man dreadful). Even though they aided by the somewhat-capable Johnny Galecki (TV’s The Big Bang Theory, In Time) and the strangely popular franchise Viagra in Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Magnificent Seven), the film flounders in its attempt to reinvigorate an unwanted franchise. Most fans of even the original American classic from Gore Verbinski pine for its Japanese predecessor, and Rings does little to sway any new fans to its cause.

First of all, the film is poorly edited. There is an opening scene. Then, there is another opening scene. Finally, we meet our actual leads in a third opening scene. The film could have these moments appear less monotonous if it only juggled some of this exposition to later in the film.

Then there’s the issue of the mystery, which seems interesting as it starts to unravel before ultimately turning the story into a mixture of clichés from more recent better films and before too long, Rings becomes a standard slasher flick with no substance.

Finally, there’s the pacing. At around 100 minutes, this movie felt like it would never end. I sat there, wishing I could check the time before realizing I would be asked to leave (pre-screenings do not allow phone usage). Then, I almost thought to do it just to get out of the theater, but I stuck it out for you, readers.

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I won’t even get into all the new images in the actual video tape that look like CG from an early 1990s video game version of The Ring because it just hurts. Rings was supposed to jumpstart a dead franchise. Sadly, it just convinced the world to keep it dead. And it didn’t even take seven days (but it sure felt like it).

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

 

So have you seen Rings? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

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.

 

[#2015oscardeathrace] The Judge (2014)

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Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton

Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque

141 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

What happens when a judge becomes the suspect in a murder?

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In The Judge, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers, Chef), a high-powered defense attorney, is going to home to bury his mother who has just passed. Being barely on speaking terms with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall, The Godfather: Part II, Hemingway & Gellhorn), a small-town judge, Hank wants to get in and out and on his way. But when Joseph Palmer is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a man he let off easy years earlier, Hank stays on to help his father as the two rebuild their fractured relationship.

I would like to see Downey take on work that flexes his abilities better than the same character he has played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the recent Sherlock Holmes films. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have tremendous chemistry, or anti-chemistry, in their portrayal of father and son on the brink of collapse here. These two save an otherwise faulty film with some major flaws.

First of all, Hank’s rekindling of a friendship with old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Conjuring) comes off as boring, unneeded, and somewhat silly. It could’ve been sliced and brought this film down to a more accessible two hours. The courtroom scenes are far less engaging than they should be, wasting the talented Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Entourage) on what almost seems like an extended cameo at most.

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The score here is great and the two leads have some truly tense and unforgettable scenes, but overall The Judge is too long and too little about actual courtrooms. The entirety of Joseph’s criminal trial is uninteresting and useless at building anything. The Judge could have been better under a more capable set of hands (director David Dobkin is known for his goofy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up and less so for anything serious).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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