Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jurassic World review; a marvelous reboot


As a boy, I vividly remember being mesmerized by dinosaurs.  I remember reading one book after the other about dinosaurs; wondering to myself, what it would be like to actually see a dinosaur.  Like so many other young kids, the Tyrannosaurus Rex was my favorite.  Big, strong and ferocious.  Before the 1993 classic, Jurassic Park, it was all in my head.  Then I remember going to the movie theater with my younger brother and being absolutely floored by what I was seeing.  The movie was 'so astounding that it captured the imagination of the entire planet.'  22 years later, THIS, is Jurassic World.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
The Wonder / Special Effects
There's a lot of things I liked about this movie.  But ultimately, for me, it was about recapturing the wonder of my childhood, and the feeling I got 22 years ago when I left the theater after the first film.  I'll get to the story in a moment, but really, the build up at the beginning of the film, leads us to our re-introduction of the park, set to the amazing original score by John Williams.  The park is stunning!

The special effects used to create, not only the dinosaurs, but the park as well, are amazing.  I say it all the time, that we've come to expect superb special effects in these big tent pole films, but the effects used in this movie are so good.  The animators gave each dinosaur a personality of sorts.  It's difficult to explain, but the movement of the dinosaurs is much more fluid than it was in the original trilogy.  Amazing stuff.

The Cast
Chris Pratt is a freakin' awesome action star!  He plays a former Navy solider, turned dinosaur trainer at Jurassic World.  As you'd expect, Pratt plays the character with just the right blend of charm and humor; but at the same time, he shows us he's a force to be reckon with, when he needs to be.  I thought Pratt was just the perfect actor to play this part.  I can't wait to see what he does next.

Dallas Bryce Howard is wonderful in the film.  She has a great story arc and gets to flex her acting muscles in a variety of ways in the movie.  There are also a lot of notable supporting actors in the movie.  Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson round out the main characters, as two young boys visiting their aunt that runs the park, played by Howard.  They have nice story arcs as well and sell the audience on the fact that they could be brothers, doing whatever it takes to keep each other alive.

Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jake Johnson round out the cast with some really great supporting roles.  They could have gone to unknown actors, but rather, they went to these great actors that added a lot to the film.  I'd also like to note that Johnson adds some terrific comedic moments in the film, that helped balance the seriousness of everything else going on in the film.

Easter Eggs / Call Backs
I'm a sucker for Easter eggs in movies.  This is a bonafide reboot, with new characters and all.  But it's a direct sequel as well.  The events of the original trilogy matter, they've all lead to the events in this film.  I don't want to get into specifics, but there literally dozens of Easter eggs and call backs to the original three films.  If you'd like, check out this great article over at SlashFilm about all the Easter eggs in Jurassic World.  So clever!

Score
One would think that nothing could ever match the incredible score written by John Williams.  I mean seriously, the Jurassic Park tune is engraved in our minds.  Academy Award winner, Michael Giacchino, not only pays tribute to the work done before him by Williams, but adds his own flavor to the movie.  There are subtle nods to the original films in the music, but again, it's created a sound all its own.  I really enjoyed the score in this film.

Money Shot
The cinematography is crucial to a film like this, and John Schwartzman kills it.  Schwartzman is also an Oscar winner that knows how to shoot action.  The fight scenes, the chase scenes, the dinosaur fight scenes, are all shot with a very clear view of the action.  I HATE the Hollywood trend of using shaky cams and all that nonsense.  The camera captures everything in a very clean palate that doesn't have us wondering what's happening on screen.  I loved this aspect of the film, ESPECIALLY the flying dinosaur scene.  Don't worry, I didn't give anything away, the trailer already did that for me.

Director
Most of the pluses I have mentioned here are on the technical side of things.  Well, they all came together because of director Colin Trevorrow.  This is someone with no big budget experience, who hit a home run out the gate.  This is a guy that took over the franchise from arguably the best Director in cinematic history, Steven Spielberg and the great Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3) as well.  Spielberg and Johnston went on to have great careers, after their days of directing dinosaurs.  I have no doubt the same will be said about Trevorrow.  I can't wait to see what he does next.


What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
This is a tough subject to criticize.  I mean what else could the writers come up with to give us a reason to re-visit the park?  Nonetheless, in the interest of being unbiased, the story is not original and you could have swapped out the dinosaurs for any 'monster' type of creature in this film.  There as just nothing new.  It's almost uncomfortably close to the plot of the first film.  Jurassic World still manages to tell its own story, but it is just not a great one.


The Verdict:
A Marvelous Reboot
I was a huge fan of this film.  It was just the right mix of summer fun, excitement, humor and action.  The little boy inside of me kept remembering what it was like to read about dinosaurs in books, and what it was like seeing them come alive in Jurassic Park, 22 years ago.  The dinosaurs in Jurassic World really are a marvel.  The movie now owns the title of most successful opening weekend in the history of film.  Wow.  That's an unbelievable achievement at just over 208 million dollars in revenue.  Something tells me that this is not the last we've seen of the Jurassic franchise.  And I'm more than OK with that!

Spy review


At this point we know two things for certain... 1.) Director Paul Feig knows how to direct woman in some hilarious comedies.  And 2.) Melissa McCarthy is one funny lady!  Feig and McCarthy first worked together on the modern classic, Bridesmaids.  They re-teamed for The Heat, co-starring Sandra Bullock.  Spy marks their third film together.  I have mixed feelings about this movie.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
Feig and McCarthy
As I noted in my intro, I am a big fan of the films Feig and McCarthy have done together.  Feig knows how to direct funny ladies, and McCarthy's physical style of comedy has been a hit with fans across the globe for the past few years.  Both director and star are do a great job with this film.  Feig's use of the camera, pacing, and tone are all spot on.  He has a really good sense of timing, which is pretty much what makes a comedy successful.  You can also tell when he lets the actors, just go.  He allows improv and it really adds to the film.

McCarthy is just flat out funny.  I love how she was able to play various characters, under the disguise of multiple aliases.  She makes a big lady falling over just as funny as an f-bomb laden tirade.  McCarthy really gets to flex her softer side as well.  Her character has a friend in the film, and you get the sense that these ladies go way back and would do anything for one another.  I really loved McCarthy in this after a few of her films fell flat for me.

The Supporting Cast
It's not just the star of the show that steps up her game in this movie, so does the rest of the case.  Jason Statham plays a character so different from anything else we've ever seen him in, you can't help but laugh!  We're so used to seeing Statham as the always in control action star.  It was so fun to see him as a neurotic odd-ball spy who may just be crazy.  So good.

Jude Law plays a suave secret spy, and he does so perfectly.  Law is charming, funny, handsome and an all around stud.  He's very sincere in his portrayal of this spy, and I enjoyed every scene he was in.  Finally, there is the lovely Rose Byrne.  She plays the villain and she is wonderful in this movie!  We've seen Byrne play the 'villain' in Bridesmaids, but it was nothing compared to this.  I love how far Byrne was willing to go for her director and co-stars.  She did and said some crazy stuff in this movie, and it was all to make the movie better.  Nicely done!


What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
Unfortunately, this will go down as a cookie-cutter, save the world from a nuke being auctioned off, type of film.  We've seen it all before and there is really nothing new brought to the genre.  Coincidentally I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service, and that movie brought a completely new spin to the spy, action-comedy genre.  Where this film, Spy, did not.  The performances were enough to keep us laughing, but the story was unoriginal and not very engaging.

Character Arcs
Outside of the McCarthy character, there is no real growth when it comes to the rest of the characters in the film.  I understand it's a comedy, but everyone is pretty much the same person at the end of the film, as they were at the beginning of the film.  If we're going to be vested in these characters, we have to see some sort of growth, or change, and that doesn't happen here.


The Verdict:
Wait for the Rental
I hate to even say that; but after having a few days to think about it, I think the movie is only worth a rental.  I loved Feig, McCarthy and company; but ultimately I go to the movies to see a compelling story, with interesting characters; and I didn't get that with this film.  I still laughed my butt off at pretty much every McCarthy and Statham did; but I would have paid a lot less to laugh my butt off at home than at the theater.  Let me know what you all thought!