Jurassic World

June 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Written by:  Rick Jaffa (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Amanda Silver (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) and Derek Connolly (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)

There’s some reasonably sharp meta humor bubbling under the surface during certain scenes in “Jurassic World” referencing the notion that, 20 or so years after the world in the film became aware that dinosaurs had been genetically-engineered back to life, the public has grown bored with T. rex and company. “No one’s impressed with dinosaurs.”  The titular theme park- envisioned by John Hammond in the ‘90s – has now become a destination resort filled with kitschy souvenirs, Margaritavilles and families wanting more than the thunder lizards they’ve been seeing for the better part of two decades now. This not-so-subtle commentary alludes to the real-life trajectory of 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” the movie that not only started this franchise but is also nearly entirely responsible for the CGI special effects revolution that has dominated the summer movie season and beyond ever since. With knowing winks at the past and some fresher spins on the formula, “Jurassic Work” finally offers fans of the series a truly worthy sequel to the modern Spielberg classic.

Finally a fully-operational theme park to rival anything Disney has to offer, Jurassic World boasts 20,000 visitors a day, but executive Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) recognizes the park needs to evolve to survive financially, and that calls for and exciting (and dangerous) new dinosaur. After the on-site lab cooks up an unstoppable killing machine, the Indominous Rex, billionaire park CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) insists on bringing in an expert to check the safety of the paddock. Thankfully, there’s one on site in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a wiseass dino trainer with his own pack of semi-loyal velociraptors. When I-rex inevitably uses its genetic modifications to escape its enclosure, Claire and Masrani are determined to capture the valuable beast without evacuating the park. Of course this doesn’t go as planned, and it’s up to Owen and his dinosaur pals to stop the I-rex before InGen mercenary Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) can use it in his plan to militarize dinosaurs.

Messy and over-written, “Jurassic World” nonetheless overcomes whatever misdeeds it may commit in its overstuffed screenplay by giving us some thrilling dinosaur action. With no less than six different plots going on—four of them not interesting at all—the movie thrives when focusing on the banality of modern society in the mall-like atmosphere of an over-engineered theme park, filled with tourists staring at their phones, and cramming it up against the very real danger of unleashing murderous monsters into that ecosystem. The climax of the film, offering up a bronto-sized shout out to longtime fans of the series, is just the right kind of goofy craziness to leave you cheering and laughing at the same time. Finally, we have a reason to return to Jurassic Park.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Let Me In”)
Written by: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mark Bombeck (“The Wolverine”)

The summer blockbuster season can feel like a chore sometimes. Mega-budget special effects extravaganzas heavy on action but light on compelling characters and meaningful story dominate theaters. I’m not complaining, mind you, because my love of movies in the summertime has been with me since childhood, along with all the ancillary merchandise like licensed fast food cups and original motion picture soundtracks. When the weather outside is hot, the movies inside often feel like manufactured products rather than works of art. We’ve come to be entertained rather than engaged, and it’s a position we’ve all agreed upon. Occasionally, though, the stars will align and one of those popcorn franchise films will feature wall-to-wall special effects as well as a resonant, edge-of-your-seat storyline with a depth of character that leaves you utterly amazed. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is one of those movies.

Set a decade after the events in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is hanging on by a thread after being wiped out by the simian flu seen spreading the globe as the first prequel wrapped up. Huddled up in a compound in San Francisco, a small group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) are desperate to get power restored to their small section of the city. The mission is dangerous, however, because repairing the hydroelectric dam requires them to venture deep into territory held by hyper intelligent chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe of apes, most of whom have long-standing grudges against humanity.

While the 2011 film – a prequel to the Charlton Heston-starring 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes”- suffered from the occasional subpar special effect and a climactic battle that required all humans involved to suddenly become stupid and forget how firearms worked, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is tightly-plotted and a miracle of modern special effects from start to finish. Moviegoers old enough to remember the days of miniatures and men in costumes bemoan the glut of computer-generated effects in current films, but what they’re really complaining about is bad CGI. “Dawn” is a master class in how to do special effects right, from the contemplative opening close-up of Caesar’s how-is-this-not-a-real-chimp? face to the chaotic clashes between man and ape featuring automatic rifles and armored tanks. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t just a great summer sci-fi movie, it’s a great movie, period.