film

Movie Review: Jurassic Park III

I think we are all in agreement when I say this film is the weakest of the Jurassic franchise so far. Released in 2001 this was the first of the Jurassic Park franchise not to be based on a book, and the first to be without Steven Spielberg; which may or may not be contributed to its poor reception. As always spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) has become famous after the first Jurassic Park, but he couldn’t be more than annoyed about it. He and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) still talk and collaborate on projects but are no longer together; Ellie has married a man named Mark from the State Department and they have two children. One day Dr. Grant is approached by a seemingly wealthy couple, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) who say they will finance his dig if he accompanies them on a tour of Isla Sorna. Desperate for money, he agrees. Along with his assistant Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola), Dr. Grant goes with the couple and their mercenaries Udesky (Michael Jetter), Cooper (John Deiehl) and Nash (Bruce A. Young) to the Isla. When they want to land, Grant objects and gets knocked out. Grant soon realizes the truth: the Kirbys are not rich or even together; they are a divorced couple looking for their son Eric (Trevor Morgan) and Amanda’s boyfriend Ben (Mark Harelik) who have been missing after parasailing near the island. Because of their stupidity the group is attacked by a dinosaur called the Spinosaurus. Grant and the group have to find a way to find Eric and Ben as well as find a way to get off the island.

While it was great to see Grant and Ellie again in another film that is about as good as the film gets. The writing and special effects failed to live up the hype after the first two films, and the characters were bland at best. I would also like to add that having another dinosaur other than the T-Rex being the big bad dinosaur was not a good idea; although I did enjoy the fight a T-Rex had with the Spinosaurus. While this is not a bad film compared to other dinosaur movies, I think unless you really liked the Jurassic franchise this one is not worth watching.

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based on a book, film

Movie Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Because one island full of dinosaurs wasn’t enough right? Released in 1997 the sequel to the massive hit Jurassic Park was not as well received; could be any number of reason but I’ll get into that later. However I think we can agree out of the original sequels this is the better one. As always spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Four years after the events of Jurassic Park Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is invited to John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) mansion, where he also briefly reunited with Lex and Tim (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello). Hammond explains that his greedy nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is now in charge of InGen, the ones responsible for creating the dinosaurs, and wants to use the secret island of Isla Sorna where the dinosaurs were originally living before moving to Isla Nublar for the park, as collateral damage for not just the prior events but for a lawsuit by the parents of a little girl who was attacked on Sorna. Hammond wants Malcolm to help document the dinosaurs in order to create public support in protecting them and he agrees, only after learning his girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already there. Malcolm, along with engineer Eddie Car (Richard Schiff), video documentarian activist Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and inadvertently Malcolm’s gymnast daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) arrive on Isla Sorna and soon discover Ludlow’s real plot of bringing the dinosaurs into San Diego for a theme park, while the leader of Ludlow’s team Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite) wants the Tyrannosaurus Rex, by luring it out using its injured baby (yeah that had BAD IDEAS written all over it.) About as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie.

I think everyone can agree that their favorite character from the first film, and maybe the entire Jurassic franchise, is Jeff Goldblum, and I did love him in this one. Normally supporting characters in one film are not so great with their own; however Goldblum is so good I thought he did fantastic. Moore is pretty good as Sarah and I enjoyed seeing Hammond, Lex and Tim from the first film. As far as acting goes the rest of the cast is not bad, but the script fails to live up to the hype after the fantastic first film (although to be fair that is a high bar.) This was also the last of the Jurassic movies to be based on a book. Special effects had come a long way in between the first and second film, however I think that is why The Lost World has pretty mixed reviews from critics and fans. The first one made it feel like the dinosaurs were real when you know that is impossible; this one kinda took away that magic. I will say seeing the T-Rex attacking San Diego is probably the best part of the movie while my favorite line in the movie is Sarah asking how they would find the T-Rex and Malcolm (whom already has fantastic lines in here) responds “Just follow the screams” (because that it literally the answer to where did the bad guy/monster went.) I think while The Lost World is flawed it is not as bad as I think the critics and longtime fans say; I will say the kills in here were probably the most brutal until the first Jurassic World. If you are starting the Jurassic Park franchise and are curious if this is worth the watch then I would say yes, otherwise put this on the maybe list.

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based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Jurassic Park

With the fifth film opening this Friday I thought it would be a great idea to finally review one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Based on the 1990 novel of the same time, this 1993 Steven Spielberg movie opened the door to a brand new world 65 million years in the making. For some reason if you haven’t seen the franchise here is a massive spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), his paleobotanist girlfriend Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician/chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are invited by industrialist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), and a lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) to verify that Hammond’s new park is safe. When they get to the island called Isla Nublar Grant, Ellie and Malcolm are stunned (to say the least) that Hammond and his team, including Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) and Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) have recreated dinosaurs using DNA from mosquito and frogs as well as keeping the dinosaurs all girls in order to prevent breading; Dr. Malcolm quickly disbelieves this famously stating “Life finds a way” as well as dismissing the thought of controlling the dinosaurs. Grant, Ellie, Malcolm, Gennaro and Hammond’s grandchildren Lex and Tim Murphy (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) go on a tour of the park, called Jurassic Park, and that is when things go wrong. A tropical storm hits the island at the same time Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), who has been bribed by a competitor to steal embryos, cuts off the security system in order to get to where they are stashed. However because of his stupidity the power goes off as well and trucks with Grant, Malcolm, Gennaro and the kids get stuck right by the Tyrannosaurs Rex area (for those who haven’t seen the film this ends about as well as you think.) Everyone soon has to find a way to survive in Jurassic Park with not only the T-Rex but velociraptors after them until help can arrive. About as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the movie.

I actually avoided this film when I was younger because dinosaurs freaked me out (also seeing people getting eaten on screen makes me nauseous.) However when Jurassic World was coming out my curiosity was getting the better of me and I finally sat down to watch all three films. My reviews for those will come later, as for this this is clearly the best of the Jurassic films so far (not just my opinion but a fact.) This is widely regarded as one of the best films of all time; not just in dinosaur but in terms of Spielberg films as well. Everyone in the movie did a fantastic job acting wise, the script was fantastic and the special effects, given how computers were back in the 90’s, were amazing. The dinosaurs in here are either robotics and/or CGI are so well done you would think they were actual dinosaurs. Of course I cannot forget about the incredible music on the background, one of the most recognizable themes in film and why Jurassic Park won Oscars for its sound mixing, editing and visual effects. While I think the three sequels, as well as the upcoming fourth this Friday, are/may not as good as this one it was still a great way to start off one of the best film franchises of all time. If you haven’t watched the original Jurassic Park I highly recommend it, I’d even call it a must see. In the words of John Hammond: “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”

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Disney, film, must see, Pixar

Movie Review: Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles

In honor of the long, and I mean LONG, awaited sequel now out in theaters, let’s take a look back at one of Pixar’s best feature films of all time (that might just be my opinion, but if you agree awesome.) Released in 2004 this Academy Award winning animated feature took audiences on a ride with a family dealing with their problems, oh yeah and they are superheros. If you haven’t seen The Incredibles here is a massive spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

After years of damage caused by superheros, or supers, finally cause the public to turn against them, the government issues a relocation program for supers to fully accept their secret identities. Two married supers, Bob Parr aka the super strong Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen Parr aka the flexible Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), seem to have adjusted well to a normal life with their three children: the shy and invisible Violet (Sarah Vowell), the super fast Dash (Spencer Fox) and the normal baby Jack-Jack. Bob does love his family, but after 15 years he longs for his glory days being a super; often going out as a vigilante with his best friend Lucius Best aka the ice powered Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). One day Bob receives a message from a beautiful woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) offering the chance to become Mr. Incredible again and provide for his family. He jumps at the chance, but eventually realizes he is a part of a bigger and more sinister plot. The person behind it, a man at one time called Buddy Pine now the smart and vengeful Syndrome (Jason Lee) who wants to rid the world of supers, either by killing or by rendering the term useless. Helen, after a visit with family friend, super costume designer and sassy Edna Mode (director Brad Bird) realizes what has happened to her husband and joins him, along with Violet and Dash in stopping Syndrome.

This is one of my family’s favorite Pixar films, which if you’ve been following this blog probably doesn’t surprise you. The action, comedy, family dynamic, writing and voice acting for The Incredibles is exactly like the film title says. Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Spencer Fox and Sarah Vowell are amazing as the Parr family as their characters develop, grow and kick butt. Jason Lee is fantastic as the villain Syndrome; my opinion one of the best Pixar and Disney bad guys. My favorite characters to listen to are Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone (who doesn’t love the whole sequence with Frozone and his off-screen wife) and Brad Bird as Edna Mode (NO CAPES)! However if I have to say what my favorite thing about The Incredibles is, it might be how the film makers took traits in an every day family and turned them into the powers. A dad, usually the patriarch, has to be the strongest member, mom has to be flexible running the house and kids, teen girls usually feel invisible and pre-teen boys are full of energy and run around. They made everyone in The Incredibles relatable in some way to the audience which help the success of this wonderful animated film. Of course after a nearly 14 year wait Incredibles 2 has finally come to theaters, and I know my family will be in line to watch it as soon as we possible can. If once again you have not seen The Incredibles I would put it on the must see list immediately. It is truly an incredible film (sorry, not sorry.)

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film, musical

Movie Review: A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song

The third installment of the Cinderella story franchise may not be as well known (or as good) as the previous two, but it is still a decent watch. Released on DVD in 2011 this one is more musical than the other two and took the story in a different direction, which actually made it all the more interesting. Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Katie Gibbs (Lucy Hale) is a student at the Wellesley Academy of Arts aspiring to be a singer, but has many obstacles in her way. For starters she lives with her horrible stepmother (and headmistress of the school) Gail Van Ravensway (Missi Pyle) who has never had success as an artist, her mean and tone-deaf step sister Bev (Megan Park), her trouble making (but actually cares about her) step brother Victor (Matthew Lintz) and Gail’s guru Tony (Manu Narayan), and cannot escape Gail or Bev in school with only her friend Angela (Jessalyn Williams) for company. Gail gets excited when Guy Morgan (Dikran Tulaine), the president of Massive Records Inc. comes to enroll his son, and gorgeous pop star, Luke (Freddie Stroma) in the school. Katie manages to slip in a demo into Guy’s briefcase, and capture the attention of Luke, but Gail claims it is Bev’s. On the night of a big Bollywood ball at the school Gail orders Katie to babysit Victor, but she convinces Tony (who is not actually a guru but an actor needing the work) to do the job. Katie, wearing a disguise, impresses Luke with her voice but quickly leaves when Gail arrives. However Gail beats Katie home and threatens Angela’s education if Katie doesn’t help Bev get with Luke. Katie agrees, even though it is killing her seeing Luke with Bev. About as far as I should go, but given the material it is probably not hard to figure out.

While I did not like this film as much as the previous Cinderella stories, I did like the twist that the stepmother actually beats Cinderella home and force her to help the stepsister; for the record I don;t support it but is definitely a good twist. I was a little familiar with Lucy Hale from some works, but I had no idea how great of a singer she was; it was a very pleasant surprise. Freddie Stroma I remembered from Harry Potter and I was glad to see him as a good guy, and a pretty good singer. Missi Pyle is hilarious as Gail, I almost sympathized with Megan Park and enjoyed the performances of Lintz, Narayan and Williams. The writing and filming could have been better, but I liked the soundtrack. Lucy Hale sang really well with songs such as “Make You Believe”, “Bless Myself” and “Run This Town” while Stroma did pretty good on “Knockin”. While this is probably not must see, if you liked the previous Cinderella stories, then A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song is great for you.

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film

Movie Review: Beyond The Lights

A not very well known film, which I find sad because it has some pretty good performances. Released in 2014, Beyond the Lights shows that even when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulder, a little bit of love can go a very long way. Spoilers ahead as always.

Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the newest and hottest pop star in the music business, having been pushed into super-stardom by her ambitious mother Macy (Minnie Driver). Despite her success before she has even dropped an album, Noni is feeling the pressure to succeed and it is consuming her. One night she heads to a balcony ready to end her life, until she is saved by police officer, who has his own ambitions, Kaz Nicoli (Nate Parker). The two are immediately drawn to each other and begin a relationship. However the two young lovers may be torn apart because of their families (specifically her mother and his father and police captain David Nocli (Danny Glover)), ambitions and the public. About as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the movie, but keep an eye out for Machine Gun Kelly as well.

Now this is not the best romantic drama movie I’ve seen, but it is an interesting story. Imagine having everything in the world like Noni has, but it is too much for her, and then her guardian angel in Kaz arrives (and looking very fine in uniform if I may say so.) Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a true shining star and I have loved her in every movie I’ve seen her in; she has something in her performance that I just enjoy. Nate Parker is amazing as Kaz; he and Raw have such great chemistry together. Driver and Glover are great as the overprotective parents as are the rest of the characters in the movie. The songs are pretty good, writing is decent (the performances make up for it) and the movie itself while not must see is a good watch. I think this was on Netflix streaming a while ago, not as of this date I think but that might just be in my area, but I know this airs on TV every now and then. I would definitely DVR it it is on, but in my opinion, there are a few other romantic drama films worth watching more than this.

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Disney, film

Movie Review: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

The follow up to the hit Disney film may not have been originally planned, but was nonetheless enjoyable. Released in 2007 National Treasure 2 focuses on another war with secrets, legends and once again an impossible crime has to be pulled off. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

A couple of years after the first film Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) is living with his dad Patrick (Jon Voight) after he and Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) broke up while Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) is a not exactly successful author. Ben and Patrick are at a Civilian Heroes conference accepting for Ben’s great great grandfather Thomas Gates who died the same day as President Lincoln destroying parts of John Wilkes Booth’s diary and perhaps preventing Booth and his conspirators from the Knights of the Golden Circle from decoding a message hidden within the pages. However Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), a black market antiquities dealer, provides what seems to be one of the missing pages from Booth’s diary with Thomas’s name on it claiming Thomas was not only one of the conspirators but was the mastermind behind Lincoln’s assassination. Ben, along with Patrick, Abigail, Riley, FBI agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) and Ben’s mother, Patrick’s ex wife Emily (Helen Mirren) set out to prove this is not true. Traveling all over the world and discovering clues Ben and the team discover that the message hidden in Booth’s diary may be leading to Cibola, the legendary city of gold, and the key to finding it may be hidden in another legend: the President’s Secret Book which supposedly also contains many other conspiracies that may or may not be true. Ben decides in order to get to the treasure and to prove his ancestors’ innocence before Mitch can further drag his family’s name down he has to do another impossible task: kidnap the President (Bruce Greenwood). About as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the movie.

Now what I said a while back about sequels still stands (nine out of ten are not great), and this sort of proves it. National Treasure 2 for me was not as good as the first one for a majority of the film (Cage in particular if I have to be picky), but I still enjoyed the movie. With so many legends out there it probably wasn’t easy to come up with the right one, but I think the President’s Secret Book is one that may not be as well known so whether or not it was the right call is debatable. The writing and acting could have been better in a few places, I think they were taking a more comedic routine in this one so that is a fault, but I do like how international the movie went. My last nit pick is the conclusion. Obviously they were leaning towards making a third film, but it has been so long I somewhat doubt it will happen. I read somewhere that a script was finished, but Disney did not like it. I think if they were to do a sequel it is too little too late, unless it is a REALLY good script. Otherwise do not bother. As for this film if you liked the first National Treasure than by all means watch it, otherwise this probably should not be on your radar.

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