Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

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WB films/ DC Comics

 

As always, MAJOR spoilers.

You were warned.

 

When the first trailer hit for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice I was just as game as anyone. As a lifelong Batman and comic book fan this was a film I have been dreaming of for years. But as the subsequent trailers and TV spots were released, and more details of the film were spread I started lowering my expectations. I’m glad I did, because I think it actually allowed me to enjoy BvS.

Personally I think BvS was okay. Not great, and not bad- just okay. Which, to some, it might as well be bad- and I understand that ‘lukewarm- spew you out’ mentality. The flaws of BvS are obvious: rushed story and some weird character choices. When some of the things get to being cringe-worthy in the film it makes you wonder how a film can simultaneously have some of the best comic film moments ever. For all its flaws, this film has some amazing moments in it that the audience as well as fans will enjoy. But those moments make the bad sting just that much more, because you know that really… this could have been a really good film

 

The basic synopsis can be found everywhere now, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it. Basically we pick up nearly two years after where Man of Steel leaves off. The world is still

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recovering from Zod and Superman’s battle (although… they seemed to have rebuilt Metropolis pretty damn fast) and people are torn on if Superman is friend or foe. Even Superman for the entire length of the film, until the end, is torn on if he feels like saving the world anymore. Batman/Bruce Wayne sees him as a threat though, a threat that must be dealt with before more innocents are killed. Ensues is their fight, but there is another force (Lex Luthor) that wants to see the world be rid of both of them.

 

 

Overall, as I said before, the film feels rushed. It literally follows the same pacing as Man of Steel, which is unfortunate. The first half, in my opinion, is actually great. Well-paced, and sets up a lot and had me invested. Besides one character (which I will get to soon enough) I was really in to this film for the first half and was actually wondering why it was getting all of the hate. Then the “Knightmare” sequence  happened and you’ll know right then that there is a sudden shift, you can feel it.  Something happens that is both cool and confusing and you know right away that that is how the rest of the film is going to play out then. And that’s how it starts. The confusion… the cramped story, that turns a good movie… cruel.

The rest of the film you really have to fight at times to keep straight. I mean, sure, you still understand what is happening: Batman wants to actually kill Superman, Luthor is [kind of] the overall puppet master and doing evil stuff, and there are other metahumans out there. Got it. But the why’s just seem to either get glossed over or left out completely sometimes. Which makes the resolutions to the problems happen seem less cathartic. You’re left thinking “this really could’ve been easily avoided if-”, or “wait, when did they find that out?” or “wait, why was this a thing again/how did that happen?” instead of focusing wholly on what is actually going on screen.  Great example: as much as I loved the actual battle between Bats and Supes, all we were really given before it was a brief training montage of Bruce in the cave- which I didn’t mind. But him creating the kryptonite gas he’ll use on Superman or any other type of planning he does for the battle is never really explained. It’s showed, somewhat, but unless you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns and KNEW that’s what he was probably making, you’d have no real clue what he was doing and then later when he uses it against Supes you’d be left thinking “wait, when did he make that?” More importantly, how? We’re never given any explanation to is this Batman is

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good at chemistry, or manufacturing, or… really anything other than fighting, being awesome, and some detective skills. I guess we’re supposed to already “know” that Batman can do anything, but it just doesn’t play out that way. When does Clark figure out Batman is Bruce, or Luthor figure Supes is Clark? Or how exactly is Doomsday created? I know it deals with using some of Zod’s body and Luthor’s blood and the genesis chamber… but, seriously, how? It just comes across as lazy story telling when certain things are glossed over. There are tons of other examples, sadly, that I could go on about but I don’t want to meander on the point.

 

The characters really suffer for the rushed second half. Relationships develop, plot points are revealed, and problems are resolved too quickly and in the end while hitting every major beat it just doesn’t feel… complete. What baffles me is the choice of what was included and what wasn’t. There are just some sequences that, while fun, didn’t need to be in the film and I feel like there are probably some that were cut (for crying out loud, there is another 30+ min being added for the BluRay release)  that would have served more of a purpose. Case and point, the Knightmare sequence. While cool I could tell that everyone in the audience who wasn’t comic book savvy didn’t have a clue what it meant. Yes, it serves as a key moment for Batman to decide that he needs to deal with Supes. But it was just all too much. In one scene it introduces us to Darkseid (without actually introducing

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WB films/ DC Comics

him,) and Flash and his powers, AND (kind of) the story of Injustice. It just didn’t serve any other purpose than to look… ahem, flashy and really bulk up a really non-existent side plot. Really it was a post credits scene in the middle of a movie. Actually, come to think of it, I feel like most of the second half of the film was just cut together post credit scenes. That’s the way it plays out. Cool, exciting eye candy that are just really cliffhangers that set up a bigger picture with no real explanation. All these cameos and winks are cool to see, but you’re left confused most of the time and wanting some actual substance.

 

 

 

Now, the characters.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes. This is the one, single character that I didn’t find myself liking through most of the film… and not for the right reasons. The sad thing is, is that like the movie itself, there actually are moments that he nails it. They’re subtle, and very few, but when he does get it you know, and it’s wonderful. But then it’s all very fleeting and waving goodbye as it moves on. I don’t quite know what was the though process with this depiction. He plays out like a mad scientist half the time, which… in the very early days of Luthor in the comics, that’s actually exactly what he is. But it just doesn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and seems weird. Eisenberg is a great actor, and like I said- when he gets it, he gets it. My hope is that if he’s in future films he finds that center more than doing the twitchy mess we got. I will say, despite everything, this Luthor as some very evil moments.

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WB films/DC Comics

Next, Ben Affleck’s Batman. Holy. CRAP. This was, hands down, the best part of the film. Every scene he was in he just ate up. It’s sad that there wasn’t more. I can’t quite decide if I like this Batman more than the TDK/Bale Bat but… man it’s a close call. This Batman in every way was epic. Brutal, fierce, cunning, and just an overall bad ass. Now, here is the thing that I will bet a lot of people will be divided on: Batman and his “one rule.” Do we see Batman kill in this film? Yes. And… no. Defiantly in the Knightmare sequence we see Batman killing.  But the rest of the film I would argue that Batman doesn’t kill any more in this film than the Nolan Bat-films (with two exception.) The BvS Batman really follows that “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you logic.” In some instances he causes things to happen in which it’s possible bad guys would die but a.) that happens in the comics, especially the Frank Miller-verse (which this film is inspired HEAVILY by) and b.) once again, happens in the TDK films (watch ANY of the Batmobile chase scenes.) There are two exceptions. One possible exception is at the very end, where Batman causes a flamethrower tank to explode, but even then one could argue that maybe the guy is just badly burned, but if you argue that I feel like you’re grasping at straws. But as much as I love my non killing Batman… I have to admit, whether he killed the Lex flamethrower goon or not, that moment was amazing. And anybody who’s read The Dark Knight Returns knows exactly how it’s going to play out. “I believe you.” The other obvious (and probably most problematic) one is that he’s trying to straight up murder Superman. In the comics Batman has made contingency’s to kill Superman, so it’s not really like this hasn’t happened or could never happen in the comics. But it’s still kind of shocking to see, and a part of me wonders if he’s doing this to save people why hasn’t he killed to Joker yet… but you obviously shouldn’t be wondering too much about these things, right?

 

Another awesome surprise is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I know when she was cast a lot of people were skeptical, but man is she amazing when she’s on screen. The problem is  her inclusion is seemingly secondary and an afterthought that, while enjoyed and does tie in to the grand scheme of things, was obviously just thrown in there so that the film can

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have that broader scope. While she might be ultimately unneeded she certainly isn’t unwelcome by any means. Her and Batman make this movie.

 

Now, for Superman. This is probably the character I’m most torn on. I think Henry Cavill does a fine job, really. The problem is that in a movie where they are trying to fit so much Superman’s story just gets lost and he’s left seeming really whiny and wishy washy. It’s just… not very Superman-like. Which was also an issue in Man of Steel. That nihilistic, brooding tone is great for Batman and something director Zack Snyder does well… but it’s not Superman. And his evolution goes way too fast. He goes from helping people, to kind of being pissed at people not being thankful, to not sure if he wants to help people anymore, to all of a sudden willing sacrifice himself for humanity. And while that seems like a typical hero arch, it all happens in, like, the second half of the film; a very short amount of time. And it’s this quick turnaround (along with some other aspects) that leave the ending, which I will discuss in a minute, feeling rather hollow.

Other mentions:

Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane, but I think they used her in distress one too many times. It just got old.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred.

Diane Lane is great as Martha Kent again. AND we get a surprise return of Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) that I actually think is one of the best Superman scenes in the film. Felt the same way about his scenes in Man of Steel…

 

Now… on an overall note about geek/fan service of the film.  It’s there and it’s not, just like the rest of the film. There are aspects that comic fans will love, appreciate and are on point. Then there are others that just come out of nowhere and tamper with the lore. I could go on and on about my opinions on what they tampered with, but at the end of the day… I just think that comic fans have been a tad spoiled with what Marvel has done. I’m not saying we should expect less, I’m saying that… well, look at the Burton Bat-films. They don’t follow any comics, yet we love them (well, most do.) Try and be a little open minded. I’m not forgiving all aspects where this film diverges from the lore (I actually really hate how Doomsday was handled in this film)  but some you can see they were inspired by something in the comics or another movie and decided to try and do something new. If you want to discuss this note further I’m always happy to talk comic books and movies!

 

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Now… the ending. The ending is actually something I called happening back in August when the first Suicide Squad trailer hit and have discussed with several people. Superman dies. I’m both happy that they stuck to the source material and a bit perturbed. Like I said before, Superman’s arch in this film was just really rushed and because of that I don’t think the impact of his death- his self-sacrifice is fully felt. Furthermore he and Batman’s sudden friendship and Bruce’s mourning and wanting to honor him feels rushed and weird as well. I get it but it doesn’t make it feel any less weird. In the comics Batman is so devastated by he doesn’t even appear at his funeral. While he attended the funeral here, they tried to give him the same level of grief I feel and I just… don’t get it. Literally, like 48 hours before you were trying to kill each other.  It, just like most of the rest of the film, feels a tad forced and rushed. If they just wanted to tell Superman coming to terms with being a hero then they just should have told that story ending with his sacrifice, instead of doing all this other side stuff with Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

 

 

 

In the end while messy, I actually think Batman v. Superman  is enjoyable. I’m actually going to say the most recent comparison in terms of comic book films would be Amazing Spider-Man 2. So if you liked that film you’ll probably like Bvs. If you didn’t you probably wont, and if you thought it was okay (as I did) you’ll… well, you get the picture. A lot is shoehorned into this film making it feel busy and cramped. It’s not the second coming of hero films like I think a lot of people were expecting, but I also think a lot of people (especially critics) wanted to go in hating this film or certain aspects of this film. If you do that, really with any movie, you’re going to hate it. It defiantly is a film to go in to with few expectations and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are some really, really good moments in this film that shine through. It’s not comparably bad to films like Catwoman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, or last summer’s Fantastic Four. But it’s obviously no The Dark Knight or Avengers either. It’s obvious that, despite what they’ve said, WB/DC feels the pressure from Marvel/Disney and wants to catch up. The problem is they tried to fit what Marvel’s done in seven years, across countless movies and show in two movies over the past three years.  I think that the feedback from this movie will result in a few changes in how the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is handled, and hopefully for the best. If  BvS ends up being kind of the bottom film out of it all… I actually think I’ll be comfortable with that.

 

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have a different DC film I’m actually really anxious for to come out in a few months…

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WB films/ DC Comics

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Southpaw was honestly the first dramatic film of the year that I was really looking forward to. I’m a sucker for stories such as these, and with some great talent behind it I was  anxious to see it. On Monday I had gotten an email from AMC Stubs for a free ticket to see an advanced screening last night, so I jumped at the opportunity!

The story follows undefeated boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal). Undefeated that is until his anger gets the best of him and, during the middle of a brawl (outside of the ring,) a rival boxer’s body guard shoots and kills his wife (McAdams.) This drives Hope to an extreme depression, and in the midst of his sorrow the rest of his life begins to crumble around him (you know what they say about glass houses…)
Hope’s daughter is taken away from him by child services (a system that Hope himself was raised in,) and Hope is completely abandoned by most of his “friends.” It’s up to him, with help of  trainer Tick Wills (Whitaker) to pick himself back up from the bottom and become the man he truly needs to be in and outside of the ring.

If the story sounds similar or redundant to past boxing films… that’s because it really kind of is. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before about how a champion becomes an underdog through various happenstances, and then has to rise back to the top to defeat his demons. What sets Southpaw apart from other films like it is how brutal and unflinching it is in terms of emotional and physical brutality. The drama and emotions are truly present within the actors, and the fights are some of the most intense I’ve seen in a while on film.  Seriously, I think the last time that I’ve ever flinched at an onscreen punch was during Bane and Batman’s fight in The Dark Knight Rises. Every single punch is heard and felt by the audience when watching this film.

The emotional connection is really there as well. Gyllenhall not only physically owns this role (I mean… jeeze, just look at him) but he taps into the charter’s feelings the way I’ve come to expect him to be able to do. This character takes us on a ride unlike anything you’d see in a Rocky film. There are moments of this film that you will hate Billy Hope, but obviously there is going to be a redemption point where you start cheering for him again. It’s truly his performance that raises this film above others like it.

McAdam’s does a great job of portraying a worried wife, who really wants her husband to give up the sport while he still can (I.E not “punchdrunk” or worse,) and young Oona Laurence does a phenomenal job as Hope’s daughter who goes through the same roller coaster of love, hate, and love for her father as the audience does. 

As great as this film is there are some finer plot points that I wish had either been elaborated or finished better. One being Tick Wills’ obvious drinking problem. It seems to have no purpose only than to set up a single laugh in the film. From the moment we’re introduced to him he’s very against swearing and drinking (which is not explained at all, but then later he’s revealed to be a Godly man… which I feel would should have been out in the open once we met him and would have explained things better.) But then all of a sudden he’s drinking, like, a lot. It’s a trait never explained, and there isn’t any consequence to this like there is with the characters in the 2011 film Warrior. I felt like it was supposed to, in some way, tie in to a kid’s death later on in the film, and whom Tick feels responsible for- but it never is connected. Also, the kid’s death just felt off, and there was seemingly no consequence to it being done.

And speaking of no consequence… it seems like there are an awful lot of people who knew that Ramone’s bodyguard Hector is the one that killed Billy’s wife. I mean, Billy even finds out where this guy lives. Why is this guys NEVER arrested? Why did nobody ever turn this guy in? Billy’s bodyguard got arrested. This is probably the most infuriating thing that happened in the whole film that was never explained in any way. I was really hoping that, by the end of the film, Ramone or someone from his team would have ousted this guy.

Even with it’s small, somewhat nonsensical flaws Southpaw is a pretty weighty underdog story with some splendid acting and really hardcore fight scenes, It’s a brutal and emotional film, with some real heart backing it up. If you’re in to inspirational stories like Rocky, The Fighter, and Warrior then Southpaw is a film for you.

Southpaw is rated R for language throughout, and some violence

“That scene actually works not because of me but in spite of me. And that really is the marker and definition of working with a truly good director.”

-Troy Baker on the opening scene from The Last of Us. 

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There is something truly great about working with a director who understands and appreciates the craft of acting. Now, really, every director should have some knowledge and respect for acting otherwise… what’s the point? Why are you wanting to direct a show or film? You’re using actors (albeit most of the time, not always) to tell your story.  You’re using actors to convey emotions and connect with the audience, you should care about how they are doing that. I’m not saying this because actors are the end all to the entertainment industry, God no. There are so many different parts in TV, film, theatre, radio, etc. that are just as important. Acting is only one part of those machines. But the director/actor relationship is, in my opinion, of the most key parts of  performance of any medium.

I’m currently working on the production side of a film and this past week I’ve had the chance to watch our director, Estlin Fiegley, work with his actors on set. Every time I see him working with his actors it brings a smile to my face and gives me goosebumps. He walks through the scenes with the actors and legitimately cares about their motivation and relationships. Countless times he’s talked about how the only thing he really cares about is getting the performance he wants on screen. And to see him working with his actors, several of them quite young, to get the performances he wants is inspiring.

I’ve been blessed in the fact that many of the directors I’ve worked with really know how to work with actors. They have worked with me, pushed me, and tested my abilities . Not every actor is that fortunate. These kinds of directors are invaluable to actors, because they’re going to be the directors that help you grow as an artist. They’re going to be the ones that, when you do something right, you’ll take that with you for all time, and when you do something wrong… well, you’ll remember that too. Not that there can’t be discovery with other types of directors as well, but the good directors will be the ones that teach you things and give you experiences that will stick with you forever.

As an actor, it’s important that from every experience, no matter if it’s good or bad, you make the most of it, You have a job to do and an obligation to the production. The phrase “make lemon aid out of lemons”  is something I’m sure many of us hear on a weekly basis (… or is that just me?) For all the wonderful director’s I’ve had I have also worked with several who seem to want nothing to do with actors, or avoid me like the plague. Even if you have a director that isn’t that great at working with actors know that it is still a learning experience for you. That is a chance for you to step up to the plate and really take charge of your performance and the role. Not that you can’t do that anyway with a facilitating director, but it is more of a challenge when you strictly have to rely on yourself. Also realize that your fellow cast members probably feel the same way you do. Work with them- you cast is your biggest asset as a performer next to your director.

Working with directors who genuinely care about what they are capturing on stage/film/etc. is a feeling that is indescribable. You know that you’re a part of something that means something to them, and that they are putting everything they have in to that project and in to you as well. You feel empowered and supported. It really is a unique type of collaboration through dialogue that can make for some of the most memorable and powerful moments ever captured or created.

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Fourteen years. Fourteen years of a constant up and down, “it’s happening” then “it’s dead” from those who brought to life this film series to fruition. Fourteen years of waiting for the next film, and then finally it’s released. Words can’t express how excited I was for this film to come out. The last time I was this amped up was when The Dark Knight was released in 2008.  And after months of build up from one of the most intensive marketing/viral marketing campaigns in recent history (which is actually continually happening throughout the films release right NOW,) the park was finally opened to an anxiously awaiting public. I sat with friends in that cinema, and when the lights went out I could feel my heart beat faster, and when it began I allowed myself to be transported back to Isla Nublar once again in Jurassic World.

It’s twenty two years since the closure of the original Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Twenty two years since John Hammond’s dream came to a screaming halt. But a new empire has arose: Masrani Global. They have taken control of International Genetic Technologies (InGen) as well as all of their subsequent… assets. So out of the ashes of Jurassic Park (and apparently all the other subsequent incidents that happened in 1997 and 2001) Masrani has created Jurassic World, and John Hammond’s dream is now a reality. Jurassic World brings in over twenty thousand people each day, and each guest can now come face to face with the most fascinating creatures to ever roam the planet… well, fascinating for a period of time it seems. The novelty of dinosaurs living again seems to be fading, Dr. Henry Wu and his team are cooking up something that’s sure to excite everyone: Indominus rex, a genetic hybrid with the base genome of Tyrannosaurus rex with some other “classified” species thrown in to the mix (that are revealed throughout the film.) The problem is… it suddenly excites everyone in all the wrong reasons. During a inspection of the I.rex enclosure by Owen Grady, one of the resident JW animal behaviorists who is currently working with the park’s velociraptors, the I.rex escapes. Chaos ensues, as the monster rampages though the island killing everything and everyone in sight. Vic Hoskins believes that he and his InGen ACU unit can capture the creature, by using some very radical means. These radical means end up backfiring and even more chaos ensues as even more creatures on top of I.rex are now fanning out across the island. Is there any hope for survival for the people left on the island?

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I’m going to try really hard not to let my passion overshadow my judgement right now. ANYBODY who know me knows that Jurassic Park is “my thing.” It’s my Star Wars, my Star Trek, my whatever you want to say. It’s the movie [series] that inspired me and so many others. As silly as it sounds, they are the films that made me the person I am. But I’m also a huge cinema fanatic in general, as well as a paleo-guy. So there are several conflicting thoughts, impressions, and emotions flying around in my head right now.

I’ll be frank: liked this movie, a lot. It’s a fun ride, and director Colin Trevorrow delivered some astounding fan service while also bringing a lot of originality to the table. The film does have it’s issues, which I’ll discuss, but overall I left the cinema with an extreme sense of pleasure mixed with just enough wonder to make me feel like this film was a good breath of fresh air in a once extinct franchise.

Warning: from here on out there will be plenty of spoilers… you’ve been warned.

The plot to Jurassic World is probably a story that many have thought of in some way shape or form (I can name at least two videos games off the top of my head where JP is reopened after the events of the first film- the original JP Arcade and JP for Sega Game Gear (and then there is Operation Genesis where you can open your own park)) I remember playing with the toys when I was a kid and playing out what it would be like for the park to actually open.  I don’t feel like it’s super original. The way that it’s portrayed and handled by Colin Trevorrow is however. Everything that we saw at Jurassic World seemed like something I would totally expect to find at a world renown and SUPER expensive theme park.  And while I can recall many many people and die hard fans of the franchise rolling their eyes and groaning at the fact that we’d be getting a hybrid dinosaur I loved and understood Colin’s reasoning. I went to the zoo a few months ago with my family and saw so many people on their phone texting and not taking in all of the animals. Same thing happens in museums, so after Jurassic World has been open for ten years I would totally expect that people would be getting “used” to it, and when that happens at any theme park a new attraction has to be built. In this case it was the Indominus rex.

Universal Pictures

I. rex was a wonderful antagonist I felt. Do I feel like it could have just been a normal dinosaur: yes. But as I said I totally understand why it wasn’t. Plus this was actually supposed to be a monster. When rewatching Jurassic Park 3 before hand (I had a marathon of all the films before seeing JW) I couldn’t help but think that a monster is exactly what the spinosaur was- and it irritated me. Yes, the rex(s) and raptors had their monster parts as well in the previous films but at least most of the time it was explainable as to why they were hunting the humans or tracking them (be it territory, food, or otherwise.) The spino had no reason to hunt the humans. The I. rex does. It is not a dinosaur, as Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady points out- it is a monster. It kills for sport, not to eat.  It’s scary looking, it’s big, and it kicks some major tail in Jurassic World. Also it has an ability I’ve been waiting to see in a JP film since reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World: chameleon/camo skin. Technically it’s cuttlefish skin, but none the less I. rex has the ability to camouflage itself into it’s surroundings. While I really would have loved (and still would love) to see carnotaurus in Jurassic World with that ability like in the novel it looks amazing and is effective none the less. Plus, according to the official Jurassic World website I. rex does have some carno DNA in her so… that’s something I guess.

From a Jurassic Park canon standpoint, for the most part, all the dinosaurs looked great. A lot of the old guys are back and have some shining moments- including the original film’s Tyrannosaurus rex. There are some new guys as well, including the Apatosaurus (which interestingly enough was the sauropod in both of Michael Crichton’s novels but has never been in a previous JP film.) The one animal I would have loved to have seen more of… Dilophosaurus. We get one great moment, but it’s SUCH A TEASE. Oh well, even that one short moment answered an age old question in the canon: yes, the dilos in the first film were juveniles.

I’m going to keep my paleo-analytic critiques to a minimum here, because most of anything I have to say about inaccuracies in the animals of the film have been said by many paleontologists already. From a paleo-perspective the film’s dinosaurs are kind of “meh.” Inaccuracies have been in the JP universe since the first film (well… even since the novel.) To fan of the series they’ve always been able to be explained through the genetic modification that occurs during the “de-extinction” of the animals, and that’s even explicitly said in this film. But I will say that with them having a new park for this film and actually going back from “scratch” on many of these animals, it was kind of a missed opportunity to have some really accurate representations of dinosaurs on screen. While I was able to stomach a lot of the inaccuracies the biggest one I have a hard time dealing with is whenever a pterosaur tries to make off with a human, or even a dinosaur.  That and a near tail dragging stegosaurus.

My biggest complaint, above all, concerning the dinosaurs was the over use of CGI. In the first two JP films there was a perfect marriage or CGI mixed with practical effects- it was seamless. In JP3 it leaned more towards CGI, and the practical effects that were there for some reason didn’t seem as good as in the first two films. In this film nearly every shot of the dinosaurs was CGI. Now, a LOT of it looked good- I can’t lie. There was some really great computer animation work going on in this film. But there were plenty of scenes that they could have used practical effects on, and didn’t. But when they did, it was breathtaking. Like the dying apatosaur scene, it had me in near tears.  It was almost as emotional as the ick triceratops scene in the original Jurassic Park. It looked alive. It was wonderful, and I wish that we could have seen more practical effects- especially towards the end…

Universal Pictures

The acting was good. There were several kind of “cheesy” and forced moments, but I never found myself getting annoyed (in the wrong way) with the characters like I did in JP3 or even some in The Lost World.

Chris Pratt actually goes into some more serious territory with Owen Grady. While the signature charm we associate with Pratt  pops up from time to time, for the most part his character is more akin to Muldoon in the first film with a no-nonsense and practical approach to treating, training, and caring for the dinosaurs.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing goes through some good evolution through the film, and becomes kind of a Ellen Ripley of sorts. I think I would have liked to seen more from her in this regard, she does have an amazing and key moment in the end of the film. The one point I really disliked in the film was how Owen and Claire’s relationship just kind of sprung from nowhere. It felt really forced and I disliked it.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays, I guess, the human villain of the film. It’s all in the eye of the beholder really. But he does make some really bad judgement calls and his comeuppance is as good as Dieters in The Lost World. And I am SO glad we got to see some more from BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. A lot of his material is straight from the original novel here and it’s stuff I, as a Jurassic Park fan, have been waiting to see and hear for a long time. He does a great job of playing Wu, like to a T and I really hope we see more of him if the series continues. 

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson do a great job of being… well, the kids of this film. Their relationship feels plausible, although for the most part they were just kind of “there” in the film and didn’t offer a lot of support the way children in previous films have.

Irrfan Khan as Masrani did a great job but we really didn’t get to learn much about the guy before he goes down in a fireball. I knew I liked him but his death wasn’t as powerful as if it would have been if, say, Hammond was to die in the first film. If he was given more time I feel like that would have helped.

Other talent like Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, and Katie McGrath offered some variety in the supporting cast but we all knew they’d pretty much be fodder or just help the story along and have a few great moments.

Along with all the new, Colin Trevorrow does an outstanding Job of bringing back the old. We have a wonderful moment where we get to see the old Visitor Center again from the first film. The only problem, the scene(s) only last a few minutes and we move on. I really would have liked it if we slowed down the film when we got in to the “restricted” area of Nublar, which is almost the entire norther half of the island. There are still some unanswered questions, more locations I wanted to see. On top of it all, there were some thing that unless you’ve been following the marketing you wouldn’t really know. Like the rex. I’m sure few people actually realized that the rex in the film was the original (via interviews or websites, etc) the average viewer wouldn’t realize. I wish they would have shown or discussed the roundup of the rex and possibly more of the original animals from the first Jurassic Park. And damn it!- I wanted more dilophosaurs! Sigh… But really JW really has some super nostalgic moments.

The film also has a lot of inside jokes/nods towards the other films in some really clever ways. Take the ptero attack on the chopper. The pteranodon’s beak breaking through the bubble and into the chest of the ACU member- that’s taken directly from a cut sequence from The Lost World. Also that blood dripping on ACU member Hamada’s hand when he’s searching for I.rex… reminded me a lot of when Malcolm is trying to explain Chaos Theory to Dr. Sattler in Jurassic Park. “Which way is the drop gonna’ role off?” Moments like that, and many others in the film just left me tickled as a JP fan. Trevorrow goes above and beyond with the fan service in the film, and for that I thank and applaud him.  He also adds in some really tense moments very akin to the Alien franchise, and you’ll know them when you see them. These moments and Colin’s willingness to show gore actually make Jurassic World the most violent of any of the Jurassic films.

Universal Pictures

The fan service goes even into the soundtrack of the film. Composer Michael Giacchino is back for is third turn in the JP franchise (originally scoring the soundtrack to the The Lost World and Warpath: Jurassic Park PlayStation video games.) For JW Giacchino brings a lot of originality to the plate but really pays homage to nearly all the work done before for the franchise. Not only are their call backs to the classic motifs of Jurassic Park (and The Lost World theme at one major point) composed by John Williams but we get a lot of music that is similar to the themes heard in Operation Genesis, from Jurassic Park; The Game, and even a hint of the PlayStation games. It’s nice, and really brings some added emotion and nostalgia.  The new Jurassic World theme is majestic, and while it may not be as iconic as the classic JP, it’s exactly what this film needs, and the I. rex theme is creepy as well. There are a few moments in the film where I feel like the soundtrack is a tad much, and over the top- but it’s defiantly not as obnoxious as the JP3 soundtrack gets at points.

Some moments of the film really dance a fine line of being exactly what you didn’t know you wanted to see and absolutely overkill. The two main ones being the death of Zara and the death of I. rex. Zara’s death was just… crazy. I personally would have liked to have either had it be the mosasaur or just the ptera and not both, but I can’t like… it looked cool. And I. rex’s death… I actually won’t spoil. I saw it a mile away before it happened during the final encounter, and when it actually happened the cinema erupted in applause- and I was a part of that roaring audience. It was a bad ass death for a pretty bad ass monster.

In the end… to be honest, my head is still spinning. I caught the 7 pm showing (Central Time) of Jurassic World and it’s now almost 1 AM and I’m finishing this review. My thoughts are still jumbled, “but, uh… well there it is.” Jurassic World, while having some zany moments, and some nonsensical plot points about militarized dinosaurs… is pretty much everything I wanted in a sequel. I do wish it was a tad longer, taking more time to explain some things and slow down at some moments, but the pacing wasn’t bad really. I’m super interested in if there will be some deleated/extended scenes in the BluRay release. All in all though, after a fourteen year wait that came after kind of a very bitter bitter sweet third film I feel like this film is a great addition to the franchise. While it’s not as good as the original it’s defiantly a very worthy sequel.

Jurassic World answers a lot of questions I feel, while opening a whole new door for future teams to go down should they choose. If not, I’m actually not concerned. While there are plenty of loose strings it has an ending more akin to The Lost World and not super open ended like Jurassic Park 3. And that makes me as both a fan of this wonderful franchise and a movie goer satisfied. And those questions, along with the ones have have yet to be answered are still out there for future teams to tackle (oh please, let one of those teams include me! … I can wish….)

Jurassic World is a wild romp through the island of Isla Nublar that is not to be missed. It chaotic, fun, terrifying, and exhilarating. This movie is the definition of what a summer blockbuster should be and is defiantly not to be missed. If you’re a fan of the franchise though, bring some tissues- because the nostalgia train is gonna’ hit ya’, hard.

Universal Pictures

I saw this film last Thursday, so sorry this has taken so long for me to post. My mind has JUST NOW stopped racing about it!

Action is a genre I have a love hate relationship for. It seems as though for every film that comes out there are about six more that are utter crap. And I’m talking traditional action, not mixed genres. Furious 7 upon further reflection left me with a bitter sweet taste for action films. While I did, and still really enjoy the film overall (especially for the ending,) when I started to think about it a few days after seeing it I actually realized exactly how much sexism was in the film. Now, objectification of women happens in ALL the Furious films, but it seemed to be REALLY pushed on the viewers in F7 and that made me think twice about not only how much I liked that film, but how much such things happen in action films in general. Think about it: action is a genre typically aimed at male audiences, and what do [a majority] or men like in their action films? Violence and women.

With actions films being so successful, why would anybody attempt to break that mold? Well, because it’s old and it needs to be broken. Action films can star strong female leads now, and the films can be more than just mindless violence. They can actually, gasp, have character growth and a story. ALL of this is present in Mad Max: Fury Road. 

Now, I’ll admit- when I saw the first trailer for this film I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see it in the cinema. I already had Furious 7 on my list of mindless action films for the year and wasn’t sure I wanted another one. But then the film started to gain some major buzz the weeks leading up to it’s release. So I decided, what the hell- I’ll go and see it. I had little expectations for what I’d be in store for. What I did expect was a two hour ‘splosion filled romp through a post apocalyptic wasteland. While that’s mainly what the viewers of Fury Road will get there is so much more that goes on with our characters.

We open on Max, who’s alone (as always.) He’s a man troubled by his past and not quite “all there.” He’s quickly picked up by  a gang of “War Boys” who follow the orders of the tyrant Immortan Joe who rules over The Citadel. Joe is a god, of sorts, to his people. Many worship him, while those who hate him stay silent. That is except for one. Imperator Furiosa is tried of Joe and his sadistic leadership. Along with restricting his people’s water supply and other resources, he has kidnapped many women over the years and uses them for his personal breeding purposes. His newest batch has had enough and wants to be freed. So Furiosa takes them in secret (while she’s supposed to be going for a fuel run) and plans to escape to her homeland where she was originally taken from as a child. She doesn’t get very far before Joe finds out exactly what has happened, and he sends a war party out after her. Max is now a War Boy’s blood bag, and has to be strapped to the hood of one of their cars. But through a series of events he manages to escape and hitches a ride with Furiosa and her “shipment.” While he starts out really not caring about what happens to Furiosa or any of the other women (as long as he’s able to escape) Max starts to form a bond with these women (and Nux, a War Boy who begins to understand how evil and untrustworthy Joe really is.) Can Max and Furiosa escape Joe and his horde, and at what cost?

6 Insane GIFs from the New 'Mad Max' Trailer

It may be weird to start off a pros list for an action film with how visually stunning it is, but DAMN- this film is BEAUTIFUL. Miller proves yet again that he can make a fantastic and visually pleasing action film. From the moment it started to when the credits rolled I was complacently consumed by this film and never taken out of it. The color palate is warm and chaotic, like a fireball engulfing you. Action is amped to utterly fantastical quality, and framed perfectly so that you never miss a moment of it in all it’s splendid glory. Obviously many of the moments in this film need a massive amount of suspension of disbelief, but is you kind of went in to a Mad Max film expecting realism then… well, you’re silly.

The action is also really well paced so that it revved up to get your heart pounding, but also will allow for ebb and flows so that some of the smaller action moments can happen. We have car chases but then on top of that you have gun gun battles, fist fights, and explosions. A lot of times in action films everything is framed of edited so that you’re really only focusing on one of those things happening. Not here. Every bit of action gets its moment in this film, ensuring that the viewer never misses a moment of any of it. It’s quite literally (and I know this is a cliche analogy) like being on a roller coaster.

I feel like the ebb and flow of the scenes is extremely complimented by the wonderful scoring done by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL.) It’s a super charged score befitting of such an action film that has super intense moment while also having very contrasting feeling moments that get you to feel more than just adrenaline. I have to say though, some of my favorite moments in the score go to this guy:

The acting is splendid. I mean first off you have Tom Hardy as Max, taking up the iconic role from Mel Gibson. Hardy does an amazing job, as always. He not only brings back the isolation of the character that we’re familiar with but also adds more heart than we’ve ever seen before. We can see more of what’s ticking in Max’s head than before, and over the course of the film Max actually gains empathy for other characters and realizes that maybe he doesn’t always have to be alone and that maybe there is a road to redemption. 

Then you have Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is honestly one of the most amazing action hero/heroines ever created in any kind of medium. She drives the soul of this film from start to finish. Her struggle to free Joe’s captive “wives” and return to her home pushes her forward, even when things are looking bleak. It’s her compassion, rage, and drive that hooks us. That and the fact that she can kick some major ass!  The fact that film actually focuses on Furiosa and less on Max has a lot of people talking. Miller brought us a new Ellen Ripley of sorts with Furiosa. . We’re ready for more characters like her in action films. And she isn’t the only female hero in this film. We get a whole fleet of them by the ending. It’s wonderful, and Miller proves to us that women aren’t

just eye candy or “help.” I can’t wait for more films from him that feature such strong female leads, and hopefully more directors will take notes from this as well.

The makeup effects and visual effects in Fury Road were flawless as well. While there are moments from time to time during the epic battles that you can see some CG manipulation, it seems to fit with the overall visual style I think. The makeup and costumes of all the characters on screen fit the desolate world around the characters. Be it to show how diseased, and decrepit the characters are, or to have an intimidation factor the costumes and makeup all have a purpose and feel organic. Same goes for all the sets and, probably most importantly, the vehicles. The vehicles are war machines seemingly designed for one reason- to kill (or, you know, to seriously maim. ) All of these elements fit together like some sort of demented jigsaw puzzle for the final product.

I have a few final notes on the film. Overall I was stunned by how the violence was handled. In a R-rated film, which contains almost nonstop violence and action throughout, most of the worst stuff happens off frame, or it’s somewhat out of focus. I could probably only count a handful of times in the whole film that I saw real bloodshed or dismemberment. It was all… very tasteful. Which seems really weird to say, especially in a world where many of the R rated action films have no qualms about showing disembowelment, or blood squirting wounds this film. It was a welcomed change, and I’m someone who doesn’t really mind that. It shows that you can have a really good action film without having to have obscene amounts of gore.

Probably my only qualm with the entire film is that out of the cast I only noted one character that was not Caucasian (that being Zoe Kravitz.) There was a real lack of racial diversity, and I’m not quite sure why that was… but it was kind of obvious.

Overall though Mad Max: Fury Road is a film that I HIGHLY recommend to anybody who loves a good action film.  While the movie defiantly gets the blood pumping and is unrelenting on the action throughout, it does allow for some genuine character development and growth. The violence, while not overly gory (with the exception of a few scenes) does get pretty intense at time. Visually stunning, well acted, and directed Fury Road is defiantly a film you should treat yourself to see on the big screen. Overall it is an action film that has re-written what it means to be an action film.

It’s here. It’s FINALLY here. The sequel we superhero junkies have been waiting for since that final shawarma scene. The sequel that comes after an amazing second phase of films. The sequel we hoped would wrap up some loose ends and give us some hint at what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This film was in my top three most anticipated films of 2015, and I had no doubt in my mind that it was going to be awesome. Phase two has been fantastic as far as I’m concerned, with perhaps a few missteps along the way but nothing major. Phase two spans across two TV series, one Netflix Series, and four (so far) released films this was building up to be even bigger than the first Avengers film. And as a sequel to one of the most successful films in history… it rightfully should be. But could it live up to the hype? I’ll save you the suspense- yes, it can and it did I think for the most part. While not without faults Avengers: Age of Ultron was not only the best way to kick off of the Blockbuster season of 2015, but an overall satisfying semi-conclusion to phase two (semi-conclusive because we still have one film left to go technically.)

As always, spoilers ahead so… well, you were warned.

This film starts off with a bigger bang than Avengers and it fully keeps that momentum throughout. It centers on the fact that Stark has created, with the help of Loki’s scepter and the infinity gem (mind gem) inside of it, the ultimate AI- Ultron. Of course this is with the best intentions, which are to save and protect the human race. But Ultron can only see one way to peace- the extinction of the Avengers and ultimately the human race. I mean… it’s not like Nazi’s have been messing with Loki’s scepter or anything. Probably should have checked on that first. But anyway…

See, he's not an orphan! Oh, wait... wrong Quicksilver.Ultron enlists the help of Quicksilver and Scarlet-Witch, two mutants…erm, I mean two “enhanced” humans who have it in for Stark since his weapons made them orphans. But they soon realize Ultron’s plans to irradiate all human life and join the Avenger’s in stopping Ultron. But these heroes won’t be enough. No, a new hero has to be made, which is exactly what Stark does… even though that didn’t really work out the first time. It synthesizes a body for the Jarvis AI and out pops Vision. But will that be enough? Will the Avengers win!? …

Why is that even a question?

It’s all fast and furious, rough and tumble, and kind of jumbled throughout the film. But you get used to it and even through all the noise you’re still able to grasp the story that is spanning out in front of you. Whilst not to say that there aren’t any quieter moments in Age of Ultron they are scarcer than they were in the first Avengers film. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that director Joss Whedon feels comfortable with just picking up where everything left off in the films, and Agents of Shield (Age of Ultron picks up almost IMMEDIATELY after the events in this week’s episode of the critically acclaimed television series.) He doesn’t feel like he needs to backtrack and explain each character again because he knows the audience is there with him. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time because while we don’t necessarily need to know about who Stark or Rogers are, or how Banner became the Hulk I feel like some details about newer characters are kind of glossed over.

In addition to the roster we know by now Whedon introduces two [kind of] new faces to the mix. We’re introduced to Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen )- the Maximoff twins. Their origins are discussed in the film but I feel they are rather glossed over. Now… I totally understand why that is the way it is… *cough*Fox*cough*X-men*cough*. But still I would have liked a little more character development on these two.  They suffer from the same fate as Hawkeye in Avengers. Half the film they’re bad then by the time they’re on the good side we can’t backtrack at all because, well big action is happening. I’m sure that in the future they (or, well, at least one of them) will be more flushed out like they tried to do with Barton/Hawkeye in this film but it still feels like the characters were just kind of there for convenience. Still, they offered some really spectacular moments of action and wit- a great addition. Age of Ultron does a fantastic job of opening up the universe even wider than it already was, which is something that I think felt left out of the first Avengers film. In the first film the MCU was all self-contained to the characters that already had their solo films (or two in Iron Man’s case.) All we really got was Thanos at the end, and that was it. In Age of Ultron they do introduce new characters and heroes like the Maximoff’s, Vision, the official inclusion of Wakanda and Ulysses Klaw. Then, to top it off, we have Falcon and War Machine (yep, we’re back to War Machine again instead of Iron Patriot) as well as Thanos again in the end credits scene and all of the infinity gems are kind of explained and wrapped up by the end of the film- setting up the next phase/next two Avenger’s films perfectly.

I also do love what little is actually added on to the characters we already know. This mainly happens after Scarlet-Witch makes each Avenger see/”experience” their worst fears with her powers. Some of them have flashbacks, some of them see visions, and others just kind of… well, Hulk out. But that leads to character development later on where Banner still is gripping with the monster inside himself, and… well, the monster is gripping with Banner. We see more of Black Widow’s backstory, and she has the most gut wrenching story out of any of them. The scene in which she tells all to Banner is moving, as well as heartbreaking and Scarlett Johansson knocks it out of the park. We also learn a lot more about Hawkeye and see more of him in this film than we did in the first film.  It’s wonderful because while he’s not the only human on the team (even though the film kind of makes it seem that way) he might be the most human one on the team. He has a family, a home, and we see him get wounded in the field, badly. We’re feeling for him from start to finish. That kind of brings me to my next point as well though….

Really, I only have two major complaints about the film. One is I actually thought there was too much humor. A staple in all of the Marvel films is the use of wit and humor. But literally  it got to the point that nearly every other sentence in the film ended with a punchline of some kind, even in the really serious moments. The jokes really start to undermine the situation/stakes.

I also really don’t like how much time is spent on building up the red herring that Hawkeye is going to die. From nearly the beginning of the film to the end it plays off the fact that Hawkeye is human, and that he has this family who loves him, and that he actually can get hurt because he did early on. It reaaalllly lays it on thick and it was just too much and it got to the point that one of two things was going to happen: one- he was going to die, and it would no longer be a shock or two- someone was going to sacrifice themselves for him, and therefor THAT wouldn’t be a shock. Either moment should be incredibly powerful but knowing that one of the two of them was going to happen ruined it. And when Quicksilver does give his life, it is sad but I felt way more for Scarlet Witch losing her brother and seeing her anger and grief than I did over seeing Quicksilver dead. The fact that his death is kind of glossed over in the, and that there was ALSO a joke slapped on by a still somewhat wounded Hawkeye once he lays down next to Quicksilver’s dead body doesn’t improve matters. I actually think he isn’t dead, to be honest. I mean… they have this amazing machine that can repair cells like crazy and essentially build an entire body out of nothing. That mixed with his metabolism, probably excelled healing… I’m sure he’ll be up on his super sneakers in no time.

Also as kind of a minor nitpick, I also wasn’t quite sure why Falcon wasn’t joining the final fight. If he’s able to join the Avengers team at the end… why wasn’t he allowed to be in the Ultron fight? I mean we all heard him talk about that “missing person’s case…” but really, the end of the world seems a little more problematic than Captain Roger’s best ex-best friend.

Some final notes: James Spader is absolutely FANTASTIC as Ultron. Something that’s been kind of missing from phase two of the MCU is a good villain. While there is Hydra, and each solo film has had a villain none of them, I think, have been very good. They’re all fairly basic, and one dimensional. Not bad by any means, but not really original. Ultron was menacing as all hell, and while his plan wasn’t necessarily new by any means his story arch, overall technique, and dialogue in the film was. It was refreshing to see.

The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster Iron Man was AMAZING. There were film angles and shots that seemed a bit off to me but visually it was amazing through and through and it offered one of the best fights ever in a super hero film.

Overall this film was great. I honestly can say I don’t know if I’d rank it above Winter Soldier or Guardians, but it is an amazing movie and is not only fun but is thrilling and engaging all the way through. A few hiccups are present, with the story feeling jumbled due to simply the amount of characters present but it’s all rectified by the satisfying ending that is everything we ever hoped for in an Avengers sequel.

As a preface let me say sorry. It’s been a while since my last review, and for that I apologize. I’ve been slacking, but life has been pretty crazy these last few months. Right now I’m in the process of helping put up a show for a theatre company, and other jobs are keeping me busy. Hopefully though I’ll have more of these heading your way soon!

But what better way to begin with one the 2015 movies that I have been anticipating: Furious 7.  I love these movies. Ever since the original The Fast and The Furious I’ve been hooked. They’re action films with heart, and to me (personally) that’s something hard to come by. Now I’m not going to sit here and say this is a super deep, enriched film series that has tons of character development, logic, and is well grounded because… well, it’s not. The cornerstone of this franchise is the spirit of hard core action, which seems to grow the series continues. Much like the SAW franchise (which ironically enough Furious 7 director James Wan began) the series had evolved from something really simple into something complex, massive, and at times downright ludicrous. We’ve seen our team go from simply street racers to taking on tanks, blowing up planes, and now driving out of planes as well as jumping three buildings in a car. Still, these films retain their heart with the notion that family is everything. With each film you can tell that the cast is genuinely loving what they are putting on screen, and never is that more evident and with more dedication than in Furious 7.

Now… we all know why. This movie was a passion project for everyone involved due to the sad passing of Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner.) The accident caused for a halt in production for a while, and when the team came back I can only imagine how difficult it was for them. But the end product is a great tribute, and probably one of the best entries in the series since the original.

The film wastes no time getting right to the point and throwing us into action, which is both nice and my only real complaint of the film. It’s nice because we already know what’s going on. We have six other films about these characters and even with the third film being an outlander it’s tied in to this movie’s events very nicely.  My qualm with it is that for the first twenty or thirty minutes of the film it seems… kind of choppy. Like the film is missing something. Unfortunately this is probably due to Paul Walker’s absence that the beginning of the movie is structured/edited this way, and for a while I was actually a little scared about if this is what the whole film would feel like. Fortunately, though, it wasn’t. After the first act the movie really gets revved up with the beef of the story beginning after Owen Shaw (Jason Statham) finally tracks down the team.

This film had some of the best fighting scenes I’ve seen since Captain America: Winter Soldier. The hits were amplified by the sound mixing that made them all really hard and poignant.  And each fight was well choreographed and mixed to perfection.  I personally think that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Kara’s (Ronda Rousey) fight was the best one. And no, it’s not because it was two females. You could really sense that these two women were giving it their all in this scene and it was brutal as hell. I seriously believe that these two could have whooped half the male talent’s ass any day of the week.  Also both of the fights with Shaw (Saw vs. Hobb and Shaw vs. Dom) were amazing as well. The final fight started off a bit “too much” for me with the two actors wielding weapons (wrenches, bars, and car parts) but once those were out of their hands the fighting was infinitely better in my opinion.

I loved the fact that this film went “home.” I rewatched the original the night before I watched Furious 7, and caught all of these amazing homages that made me smile like a dope. Best one hands down, and you’ll have to see the film to get it, is “going old school” with Brian. That moment was fan-freaking-tastic. And seeing that Charger again was sweet!

James Wan does an awesome job at directing, and really has some fun shots and camerawork throughout the film though. Really there is only one moment in the entire movie that it felt like “classic James Wan,” and that was the montage where everyone from every faction is preparing for the “war” on the streets of L.A. The way that was cut together, along with the music and the camera work really harkens back to the scene in Death Sentence (one of my favorite James Wan films) where Kevin Bacon’s character is doing the exact same thing- preparing for battle.

Where the movie lacks somewhat in dialogue it obviously makes up for with spectacle and over the top action. As stated before this film goes way beyond what previous installments in the series have done with the action and effects, and the fact that they did some practically is just astounding to me.  There is no denying though that the interactions between the cast is downright cheesy  and cliché at parts. The original film had some pretty natural dialogue and encounters between the characters, but once again that was at a simpler time in the team’s life. When you’re sky diving cars out of a plane, and going head to head with missile welding drones… what can you expect? At the end of the day the series has become a fun, entertaining romp basically harkening back to the classic action films of yester-year.

Amid the muddled writing though there are some really genuine moments though with the characters, most of them involving Brian. And the last five minutes of the film is literally one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It was an amazing, heartfelt ending to this film that had me choked up.  That final moment with Brian’s car heading down a different road with Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again playing… even just thinking about it gets me.  It’s in those final moments and some of the other moments mentioned before concerning Brian/Paul that you can really tell what this film was made for. It’s on all of their faces and in all of their voices. The emotion is real, which is what propels this movie forward.

In the end, the mixture of passion along with the action that pushes the envelope for the series is what makes this one of the best F&F films since the original. When you leave the theatre you do feel like you watched something that was special and sincere while at the same time being absolutely entertaining and over the top.  While it has it’s flaws it overall is good ol’ fun, and the best kind at that.

It’s New Year’s Eve, everyone!  And I’ve chosen to end the year with a reflective list of my top five favorite films of the year. Now, just to clarify, these are the films that I enjoyed the most. These aren’t the films that I think are necessarily going to bring in the Oscars (my Oscar’s post will come closer to the actual event!) These are the films of 2014 that compelled, inspired, and entertained me the most. Obviously ones that I have listed are ones that I have seen. There are still many that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Birdman, and Babadoook… lookin’ at you.

Before we get on to the main five here are some honorable mentions, in no real order:

The Lego Movie

Captain America: Winter Soldier 

Godzilla

X-Men: Days of Futures Past

Tusk

Fury

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Into the Woods

So with out further adieu, here are my top 5 films of the year!

5.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 

A surprisingly intense and emotional sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this film delivered with everything I wanted and more. Fairly solid character development, and outstanding visuals made this film a real treat. People have gone on and on about Andy Serkis’ performance as Cesar, and I too am on that bandwagon. He’s great. He is the mo-cap equivalent to Lon Chaney as far as I’m concerned and I think it’s high time he’s recognized for that. His Caesar drove the heart of the film, and made us actually begin to hope for the extinction of the human race.

4.) Interstellar

Probably one of my most anticipated films of the year did not let down on expectations. It was a well crafted story, and had some really emotional moments backed up by some great acting by the lead cast. Gripping, powerful, and visually stunning Chris Nolan proves again that he is one of the top directors in Hollywood, creating a Space Odyssey for this generation. While the film is slightly bogged down in the third act by some technical jargon, the overall film makes up for it in how well crafted it is all around. If you haven’t seen this film on the big screen yet, you’re doing yourself a MAJOR disservice.

3.) Guardians of the Galaxy 

I’ll be honest and say that even with James Gunn, Chris Pratt, and Bradly Cooper (among many others involved) I was not expecting a lot from this film. What I saw, when the film was announced, was the first possible bomb for Marvel. But then came the trailer, and I was seriously reconsidering my stance. I was excited but still not sure of how it would all play out in the end. Then I saw the film and HOLY CRAP was I blown away. This film is a marvelous, comedic romp through every action/adventure/scifi film of the 70’s-80’s there is while still adding some of it’s own unique Marvle-icousness to the mix.  The film is over the top, exciting, and down right funny as hell. See it. SEE IT NOW.

2.) Nightcrawler

God, I loved this film. Everything about it was outstanding. It got under my skin, it thrilled me, and it shocked me. Three things not easy to do, especially all at the same time. Jake Gyllenhaal deliverers one of the best performances so far in his career.  He turns himself body and soul into this conniving, twisted, fairly psychotic little weasel of a man.  His performance alone is reason enough to see the movie. This film is guaranteed to give you some shivers more than once.

1.) Gone Girl

This film left me speechless. I can only remember a handful of times that has ever happened when I watched a movie. I was dumbfounded when the film ended, and in a good way. This film is the definition of master storytelling. Like Nightcrawler, it is bound to get under your skin many times throughout. No other film of 2014 impacted me the way that Gone Girl did. Well acted all around, and well crafted this film is sure to leave you guessing all the way through (well, unless you’ve read the book I guess!) This film deserves any and all nominations heading it’s way.

Now that I’ve shared mine, what were your top films of 2014?

Many people know of my love for this series. Some day I’ll write some long, epic post about my detailed history with Jurassic Park. Someday we’ll tread down my “petticoat lane.” But not today. Today, right now, I’m going to focus on the above trailer; the future of the series.

Boy does it look bright.

I’ve probably watched the trailer, no joke, around twenty times so far. I’ve had many friends ask me about my thoughs, which is my main reason for writing this post.

I literally cannot tell you how excited I am. First, last week, the Masrani Global site launched along with the official Jurassic World site. Masarani Global is one of the best viral marketing sites I have ever seen- tightly answering several questions fans have had while also connecting it all back to the previous films while also throwing some nods to the original novels and even TellTale’s JP game as well. It’s an amazing site, and if you haven’t checked it out you must do so right away. And this past Sunday an actual “teaser” for the trailer came out that really got my heart racing. For the first time we were seeing official JW footage. It was finally feeling real to me- this film was going to be a thing. I knew it was for a year now. But I was actually seeing it. And I was excited.

And while the promised date for the trailer release wasn’t supposed to be until Thursday night (what I dubbed as #Jurassicgiving, it dropped today in the afternoon for reasons that director Colin Trevorrow tweeted saying were “out of his control.” I don’t know what those reasons were, and I don’t care. I’m glad it’s here. Words can’t express how happy I am, or how excited I am. It calls back many classic Jurassic moment from the series while also adding something new.

Now there are a few things that I have to get out of the way. I have some small comments that I feel I have to say to clarify some doubts others have.

One of the biggest complaints is the raptors at the end.  There are some people flipping their lids over the fact that the trailer seems to show “tamed raptors” at the end, running alongside Chris Pratt’s character, Owen. First off, several people working on the film, have said that they are not “tame.” I personally think people need to calm down about it because not only do we not now what the context is in the film- it isn’t that outlandish of an idea I think.First off, earlier in the trailer we see a giant freaking mosasaur eating a shark ala SeaWorld/zoo style.

Universal Pictures

 That may not be “tamed” but that is a learned show trick for that animal. It learned to do that to get its food. Raptors are supposed to be the smartest dinosaurs made by InGen. It’s not outlandish that they could be trained, even remotely, to be used for tracking or something. In fact, to me, that makes them more like actual animals and less like the monsters the first three films have made them out to be. But in the end, once again, that may not even be what they are used for in the film. They may not be trained in any way, or could turn on Owen/humans, or something else! We have no clue, which is one of the coolest things about this trailer (which I will talk more about later.)

Secondly is the CGI. First, several scenes (or so I have heard/read) were only made for the trailer and will not be in the final film. So it doesn’t surprise me that maybe, on a few effects, they weren’t 100%. Secondly, post production and finally touches goes on until almost a few weeks before the film is shipped out for theatres. The films doesn’t come out until June 12th of next year everyone- there is still a LOT more rendering, and CG work that has yet to be done.

There are some people criticizing the science of the film, but I think only half of them are serious and the other half realize that JP is a creation of Hollywood and just roll with it and make a joke, like Thomas Holtz and Brian Switek. But others have really been outraged at how little “accuracy” there is to a lot of the dinosaurs. While science has been littered in and out of the series (there is def more in the novels) nobody should expect true science to come from JP film. They are fun science fiction film. Besides, with a lot of the inaccuracies many fans (including myself) have actually found explanations for them by analyzing the films/novels/games/etc. much like Trekkies do for Star Trek. But when all else fails, you can simply blame it on the frogs. I want a perfect, scientifically accurate dinosaur film too. I just will never expect that from a JP film.

So onwards and upwards.

 

The trailer not only brings a lot of new to the mix, but also recalls a lot of classic scenes and bits from the first three films as well as surprisingly throwing in a scene or two from the novels- which I’m not many people realize. While I love the whole nostalgic feeling of some of the call back moments in the trailer it’s the novel scenes that have amped the most because I personally think there are moments/plots in the novels that haven’t been used yet in the movies that would be awesome to finally see on film.

Universal Pictures

First off Chris Pratt’s scene where he is riding alongside a pack of raptors is NOT ONLY ONE OF THE COOLEST PART OF THE TRAILER, but an obvious refrence to a very identical scene in Chrichton’s The Lost World where Sarah Harding is riding a motorcycle trying to catch up to a pack of raptors.

Universal Pictures

Next is the jungle river scene. I really hope this leads to some great moments. The river section of the first novel near the end had some of the best moments in the whole book including a swimming tyrannosaur, a pair of dilophosaurs, pterosaurs attacking, and finally a waterfall where the rex was waiting for them at the bottom. Even if we don’t get ALL of that (hopefully we get some…) it’s nice to see this little nod to that portion of the novel. Plus… STEGOSAURS. OH MY GOD, STEGOSAURS. DO YOU SEE THOSE STEGOSAURS!?

….

Stegosaurs.

Also a few other moments that remind me of scenes in the novel:

-When the man is being dragged along in the jungle reminds me of the moment when Levine lands on Sorna with his guide in The Lost World and the guide is dragged off into the jungle by something unseen.

-The idea of “tamed dinosaurs” was actually in the first novel. Wu talks to Hammond about being able to alter the DNA of the dinosaurs to make them more “domesticated” or controlled. There is also the idea of making “dinosaur pets,” and altering different versions of dinosaurs to get the perfect animal.

Universal Pictures

The trailer, while showing you some of the species, does a real good job at hiding others. It keeps a real mystery about what the new hybrid dinosaur looks like exactly, but also about other events that happen in the film. It’s very reminiscent of how the first film’s trailer was done. You see glimpses of the dinosaurs here and there and a few full shots of dinosaurs but not much. The rest is only parts or cutaways which keeps the intrigue up. It’s a great trick, and I’m glad that they brought it back for this trailer instead of just showing us everything outright.

Another thing that isn’t shown is exactly what the large group of people are running from. From the way that shot is set up (this large, aerial view) makes me inclined to believe that they are running from a pterosaur of some kind instead of a dinosaur.

And speaking of non-dinosaurs, the other MASSIVE inclusion to the trailer (as well as the series) is that of prehistoric aquatic reptiles- specifically the mosasaur. Now in TellTale Game’s video game (which ties into the original film) there is a mosasaur, but we have never seen on in the actual films yet. So this is a big deal, and I’m super excited to finally see it. I expect there to be a few really good moment with this creature.

I could sit here and point out every single moment that seemed to wink/nod to the other films but a.)you have probably caught most of them, b.)it’d make this post much longer than it already is. I’ll point out a few, but what I will say in a broad sense is that while I’m glad Trevorrow picked up on a lot of these “little” moments and I think it’ll be nice to see them in the film I hope it isn’t done too often in the final product. I’m sure it won’t and that a majority of them were used for the trailer to get that nostalgia factor in there, but it’s just a faint worry I have. I don’t want to send the whole movie playing a matching game in my head with scenes/moment in JW matching up with scenes in the other three films.

Here are a few I want to point out:

-Bryce Dallas Howard’s “run” yell reminds me of Ellie Sattler’s call to Dr. Grant to run after her encounter with the raptor in the shed. In fact, her scream resembles Dern’s scream A LOT in this vintage JP marketing video (skip to 2:24, and it basically shows an alternate take.)

Howard’s character’s tank is even, essentially, the same color.

-The shot with the Gallimimus’ and the main gate, I feel, is almost the exact angle used in the first film.

-“You really think she climbed out?”

Like I said, there are many many more and if you want I can always point more out if you want (via comments, messages, etc.)

I am beyond excited, as I’ve stated before. Those last few moments of the trailer, with that haunting theme ending on that fogged logo… just sent chills up my spine.

I’ve been waiting thirteen years for this trailer, and it will end up being fourteen years since the last JP film once JW is released. I’m ready. What gets me even more excited is how well the trailer has been received, in general. It was all over the news feeds on major media outlets today, and everyone is talking about it. Soon the merch will be out, and the ball will really be at full speed towards June. This gets me excited for two reasons. 1.) I hope Universal really takes note of all of this, because I know for several years now it’s been rumored that a revamp of the JP area of IOA in Orlando could be planned. All this positive feedback from the trailer shows me that the public is still in love with Jurassic Park (as if the OVER two billion that the previous three films have collected wasn’t enough proof.) And 2.) the public still, and always will love dinosaurs. I hope that this film inspires a whole new generation of dinosaur lovers and future scientists, and the first one did me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the first JP.


The trailer is beautiful, nostalgic, and haunting. It does its job by satisfying with some awesome and exciting moments, as well as reeling you in by keeping you guessing at the new twists and turns director Colin Trevorrow and company will throw our way. I had an inkling, based on the teaser released Sunday, I was going to like this trailer. I just didn’t know exactly how much I’d like it. That’s chaos theory.

The park opens, June 12, 2014.

Universal Pictures

Movie Review: Interstellar

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Film
Tags: , , ,

I know it has been a while since my last post. A mixture of post-Halloween depression, busy work life, and a wonderful plethora of auditions has kept me away from my duties to all of you wonderful people reading the words I write! But never fear. The next few days, as long as I have the time, I hope to catch up on a few reviews and random blog posts. And I might as well start with this one…

Last weekend I saw Chris Nolan’s new film, Interstellar, a film I have anxiously been awaiting since first hearing about. Chris Nolan is a straight up blessing to modern cinema and I knew that this film would only secure that notion even more so. But even I, after watching the film, sat there in the theatre stunned at just how amazing this movie really was. If you follow film culture at all, your news feed the past week has probably been blowing up with posts of how stellar Interstellar is. Right off the bat I will tell you, it is good. It’s a masterpiece of cinema, plain and simple. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have faults, which I will address. The movie is set in the not to distant future where the world had literally gone “ashes to ashes; dust to dust.’

Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, who is an ex NASA pilot and currently a farmer who is trying to keep his fields alive. But the world is dieing, as are the crops. And pretty soon Earth will not be able to really sustain life due to the conditions. So NASA comes up with a backup plan (actually two,) so save the human race. We have to find another world, and the only way to do that is to leave ours. So Cooper, along with a few others are enlisted to embark on an interstellar mission to another galaxy to look for new, habitable worlds. The cost? Leaving family and loved ones behind, and possibly even not completing the mission before the human race dies.

The story is a lot, I replete,  A LOT more complex in all actuality than what I just outlined. But that is the “general” story line of the film. But it goes really deep into physics, space travel, the “human footprint,” and a lot more. It’s a beautiful, complicated, generally well crafted story handled in classic Nolan fashion.

The acting, across the board, was amazing. Especially from McConaughey. Coming from someone who loves his performance in Dallas Byers’ Club, I actually think that his performance in Interstellar is his best one to date. The video logs scenes alone should be reason enough to solidify this. They are heart breaking, and he is 100% committed in those scenes to making us feel the same kind of anguish he does. I’ve always liked McConaughey as an actor, and I’m glad that people are finally realizing and appreciating his potential.

Murph is arguably the main focus of the film, possibly only second to Cooper. I mean, she is “what it’s all about” (see the film, because I won’t be clarifying otherwise.) And all actresses playing this character, at various stages of her life, do an amazing job. First you have Murph at 10, played by Mackenzie Foy. Foy plays the character sincerely and with great depth. Not only does her intelligence and wits come out, but her emotion and feelings are strong. The 30’s-ish Murph is played by Jessica Chastain. She subtly plays that “clinging to anger” emotion while also holding on to hope that not only will she see her father again but can save the world as well. Anne Hathaway shines as Brand, and Michael Cain does a great job as her aging father who keeps a pretty dark secret. The list of other supporting characters goes on an on, and each one of them adds a different trait and emotional weight to the film. When they die, or perish in some way it’s felt who heatedly and Nolan captures that loss  in the movie.

Visually, this is Nolan’s best film. The locals are breathtaking, and sets are wonderful. Nolan has always been a “practical” effects and locations director and boy I love that. It adds a real grounded and real-life feel to the movie since a majority of the locations were indeed real. I’d so much rather see real locations and effects rather than CG. And what CG there was (because, well, it’s a space travel/inter dimensional travel sci-fi film, so there is obviously going to be some) is done really well. It all blends together seamlessly in the movie, and nothing ever flashes out to the viewer as fake or unreal unless it is done on propose (I.E- the inner workings of the black hole/ inter dimensional world.)

Now, Christopher Nolan is obviously a director who acknowledges, appreciates, and honors the history and art of film making. He understands “the magic”  of seeing movies, and what makes a good movie and a good film going experience. This is both Nolan’s blessing and curse. While it is assured that Nolan’s work will be quality and amazing, it also means that perhaps thing’s get messy and rushed towards the end. My theory as to why- Nolan never wants his movies to end. His pacing is perfect, generally, for the first two-thirds of his films. It’s full of twists, and turns, and emotions, until we get to the final act and it feels like he realizes “Crap, I have to actually end/finish the movie.” The third act then feels slightly rushed to end, and while it’s satisfying you get the sense that it isn’t on the same level as the rest of the film. Now, this is more evident in some of Nolan’s work than others, but it’s almost evident in all of his films I feel- especially Interstellar. The whole film is fairly evenly paced, and well explained until the final portion which then brushes over a lot of details and questions. Don’t get me wrong, the ending is great and moving but it still feels hurried. I know Nolan isn’t a fan of director’s cuts but I feel like this film deserves to go just that tad bit longer to explain things more clearly and concisely rather than leaving it a slightly convoluted rush.

Hans Zimmer’s score took me a little bit of getting used to because it is just completely out of the box for him, and not his normal style. But I think that is why I ended up liking it. Because it is so different. While there are moments that I feel the use of music could have been toned down it really shines through in the more action filled and tension building scenes. My biggest problem with it wast that there were moments when the score completely overpowered the dialogue of the actors on screen. Not sure if that was a mixing problem or a problem with the theatre I saw it at. Regardless it ends up being a beautiful score in the end.

Go, see this movie. In fact, spend the extra and see it in IMAX. I was actually planning on doing that but the ONE time I don’t preorder my tickets they sell out of IMAX. The person right in front of me bought the last ticket for the showing. IMAX is the way Nolan intended for the movie to be seen, having apparently shot a majority of it with the IMAX cameras (which I’m so glad. I’d rather more directors start doing this than keeping going with the stupid 3D trend. It’s so pointless, and I’d rather get the amazing picture that IMAX has to offer.) It’s thick, plot wise, but a lot of Nolan’s films are. So if you’re expecting a “shut your mind off” kind of film this isn’t it. But it is engaging. It does slow down a bit in the middle, but really it doesn’t mess with the overall pacing of the film. It’s a cinematic work of art and craftsmanship across the board.