REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

jurassic_world_FK

bars

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The latest installment of the franchise takes place three years after the disastrous opening of Jurassic World. A volcano on Isla Nublar has become dangerously active and the U.S. government declines to save the animals still there. John Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) asks Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to join a rescue mission to save the dinosaurs from the doomed island and to convince her ex-boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join them. Once on the island Claire, Owen and their team are betrayed and they discover that this “rescue mission” has a far more sinister purpose.

Fallen Kingdom is directed by J.A. Bayona, the Spanish filmmaker behind the atmospheric and spooky haunted house flick The Orphanage and the bittersweet fantasy A Monster Calls. His script is by previous installment director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connor, who co-wrote the last one, as well. The result is a more Gothic feel to the proceedings, especially when the location switches to Lockwood’s old mansion with genetics lab and creature holding cells in the basement a la Dr. Frankenstein. From here It becomes a tale of man’s greed and trying to play god…again. The Indominous Rex taught these greedy corporate types nothing and now we have the genetically created dino-soldier the Indoraptor to serve as our predator of choice for this flick. After the escape from the burning island…which is a very entertaining set-piece in itself, the flick becomes more of a James Bond movie with dinosaurs. The second third finds Claire and Owen sneaking around the castle-like mansion with Lockwood’s granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), trying to find a way to stop the sale of and genetic tampering with the last survivors of Isla Nublar. It’s not quite as fun as the last flick, but at least they are trying to take the series in a new direction and we actually get off the island. The last act has the skilled director Bayona going back to his haunted house roots with a cat and mouse chase through the dark and cavernous mansion between our heroes and the Indoraptor, with a very exciting and very Gothic rooftop finale. Overall it is an entertaining flick, though a bit darker, a bit more violent and somewhat less fun than Jurassic World.

The cast is fine, even if the bad guys are complete two-dimensional stereotypes. Pratt and Howard still have that chemistry as Owen and Claire and having them broken-up gives us a chance to experience their combative banter and then having them fall for each other all over again. Young Isabella Sermon is endearing as Maisie, Lockwood’s young granddaughter with some secrets of her own. Rafe Spall, Ted Levine and Toby Jones are the trio of bad guys as Lockwood’s conniving assistant, a soldier for hire and a black market dinosaur dealer respectively. While the characters are familiar and stale, the actors give it their best. Cromwell is charming as the elder Lockwood, who is having his dream corrupted right out from under him. Rounding out the main characters are Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda playing Claire’s IT tech Franklin and dinosaur veterinarian Zia, respectively and they are fun characters well portrayed. We also get a nice cameo with Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm and B.D. Wong returns as slimy Dr. Wu. A good cast though some characters are better written than others.

Jurassic World gave this series a bit of revived energy and while this installment is a bit less fun, it does take the series to some new places and Bayona gives it a darker and more Gothic tone, as well as, his trademark visual artistry. On the negative side, the whole predator du jour chasing our heroes is getting stale, as is genetically whipping up new creatures like ordering a pizza. The dinosaur auction was interesting, but one wonders where the authorities stand on black market dinosaur flea markets. Guess it’s too soon to approach that side of the story. It was fun to see Clair and Owen and company playing James Bond in this massive Victorian Mansion, as we also enjoyed the film leaving us at a point where we wonder if mankind’s meddling might get us slapped back to the stone age. Stay through the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 T-Rex

bars

Advertisements

REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

jurassic_world

bars

JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Jurassic World is by far the best of the sequels to Spielberg’s 1993 adaptation of Michael Crichton’s book and wisely ignores the previous two films, being a direct sequel to the first movie. The story takes place about 20 years after the Jurassic Park disaster with Isla Nublar now having been reopened as a fully functional theme park with genetically recreated dinosaurs on display for thousands of visitors. There is a new owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and a new manager of operations, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Now that dinosaurs are a common sights at the park, though, Masrani and his investors have sanctioned geneticist Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) to create genetic crossbreeds to keep attendance up. One of those creations is the Indominus Rex, a hybrid between a T-Rex and another species that is obvious, but, I won’t spoil. She is fierce and fiercely intelligent and makes an escape initiating a killing spree of man and beast alike as she heads toward a full-to-capacity park. Now Claire must team with ex-Navy man and raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to find the monster and rescue her nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Insidious Simpkins and Nick Robinson) who are visiting and have become trapped in the creature’s kill zone.

Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow takes over the reigns this time, armed with a script from himself and co-writers Derek Connor, Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa. The result is a fun popcorn flick, but, one that could have had a bit more intensity and excitement considering how much action there is. The film is enjoyable and sets up some fun action set-pieces but, it isn’t till the last act when Indominus Rex reaches the park and has a free-for-all with a squad of trained raptors and a very familiar face that it really delivered the thrills that should have started when the vicious lady escapes her pen. Treverrow has certainly delivered a technically sound and fast moving movie but, some of the action scenes feel a bit by-the-numbers for this series and the Indominus Rex is never quite as frightening as she should be. Treverrow needs to remember that this is the fourth time around and we basically have seen it all before. Much like with Jurassic World’s customers, this has all become very familiar. Dinosaurs loose in park, people running and screaming, yadda yadda yadda…been there done that. It’s well-orchestrated but, Treverrow really doesn’t shake things up too much outside the Jurassic Park movie formula to really glue us to our seats. I had a good time but, the wow factor has definitely been deluded. Maybe it’s not all he and his co-writers fault, but, the Indominus Rex and Pratt’s squad of trained raptors aren’t quite enough to make it totally fresh and make us feel like we did when Spielberg first revealed his critters 22 years ago. It’s the lack of wonder that really holds this back from being on more equal footing with the first film. Technically the film looks great with strong production design, great SPFX and a bunch of fun easter eggs for fans of the original. Michael Giacchino takes over on scoring duties but, incorporates elements of John Williams’ original score and John Schwartzman gives the film a nice look as cinematographer.

As for our players, the large cast do very well in helping the story along. Sure most of the characters are clichés but, they work within the context of an old-style monster movie, which this is at heart. Howard is a solid heroine as the rigid, work-obsessed Claire who learns to loosen up and care more about those around her…as she is being chased by an enormous genetically created monster. Pratt is full of charm as the tough but, kind Owen who has a crush on Claire and continually tries to melt the ice queen’s heart. He is a solid action hero, yet has a sense of humor about him and does remind me a bit of Harrison Ford, so, rumors he may be the new Indy don’t sound hard to believe. Khan plays Masrani like Attenborough did Hammond. A entrepreneur with a heart and he is likable. Vincent D’Onofrio is the genetics company InGen’s security head, Hoskins, who has is own agenda concerning the island’s inhabitants. He’s a pro and makes a good human bad guy as does Wong’s pompous and untrustworthy geneticist. Simpkins and Robinson are likable as Gray and Zach, Claire’s troublesome nephews. The two avoid annoying movie kid syndrome and that makes them OK with me. The cast of multiple CGI critters are, obviously, still the reason we see these movies and the raptors especially have some personality as do some of the new faces like the massive Mosasaurus.

This was a fun movie and certainly better than Lost World or Part 3. Trevorrow and his writers don’t stray very far from the JP formula and that keeps this from having the sense of WOW or wonder that it needs to really crank it up to 11. The action is plentiful but, doesn’t really start to impress till the last act when our villainous hybrid is finally tracked down and the really intense action begins. The Indominous Rex could have had more impact and character, but, is far more sufficient a bad guy than the bland Spinosaurus we got last time. Overall, though, it is a fun monster movie with top notch SPFX and still entertained very well despite being the fourth in a series that has yet to really expand it’s boundaries. Recommended as a good popcorn flick and a treat for JP fans who were disappointed by the last two visits.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 T-Rex

jurassic world rating

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SAFTEY NOT GUARANTEED and TAKE THIS WALTZ

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_SNG_TTW

bars

Decided to focus this double feature on two charming and very entertaining indie comedy/dramas that might have flown a bit under the radar but, have familiar faces, good performances and are refreshingly un-Hollywood…

SafetyNotGuaranteed

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012)

Safety Not Guaranteed is a really entertaining and offbeat romantic comedy from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly that tells the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) an intern at a high profile Seattle based magazine whose first assignment is to assist self-centered reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) in writing a piece on a man who placed a personal ad looking for a time travel companion. While Jeff uses the story as an excuse to look up an ex-girlfriend who lives in the area (Jenica Bergere), Darius befriends the placer of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and soon finds a bond with the eccentric and lonely man. Director Trevorrow  crafts a sweet and quirky tale of two loners who find each other over some very strange circumstances. And while the film sometimes plays like a drama, there are some laugh out loud bits and there is always an offbeat humor running underneath. The cast do really well in bringing their eclectic characters to life with Plaza and Duplass doing a great job of showing the progression of two people learning to trust each other and then discovering much deeper feelings as they get to know each other. We get to watch a sweet relationship form between these two lost souls all the while being teased with the notion that maybe Kenneth may not be so crazy after all… or maybe he is. The other subplot between Jeff and Liz also shows a sweeter side of the cocky Jeff and possibly humbles him a bit as well and is nicely realized by actor Johnson. To elaborate anymore would be to spoil a really nice indie flick that has some pleasant surprises. Also stars Kristen Bell as woman with ties to Kenneth and Karan Soni as accompanying intern Arnau, who Jeff decides to motivate out of his shell. A quirky, original and entertaining indie.

3 and 1/2 hearts!

take waltz_Saftey rating

plus

take_this_waltz

TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011)

One of my favorite things about this charming indie drama was that I really enjoyed was just how real the relationships in the film came across. Writer/director Sarah Polley creates a freshness and realness to this story of a happy young married couple Margo (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) whose happy life is challenged when Margo meets and falls for neighbor and artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby). Margo thought she had what she wanted but, the free spirited Luke makes her question whether she is really happy with Lou or just thinks she’s happy. As Lou becomes focused on writing a cookbook, Margo begins to explore what she really wants… or is it. And that’s the thing that I felt was so real about this charming little movie. Margo’s answers are never clear as in life they sometimes aren’t. Are we really happy or just convincing ourselves to settle for what we have? Is it human nature to always think there is something better for us out there and thus were never are truly content or satisfied? These are true life questions and questions we ask ourselves as we watch Margo pursue a course which could cost her everything. And, of course there is the age old question, of the grass always appearing greener. I really enjoyed how director Polley gave the film a very refreshing style and really made the characters seem like real people. They all have their little quirks and habits and they make decisions based on emotions and are sometimes selfish and not careful about hurting those around them… and they don’t always know what they really want. The performances are strong across the board with Michelle Williams giving another great characterization of the almost childlike Margo, who’s very likable despite her selfish pursuits. Seth Rogen surprises as Lou, a man who obviously loves Margo but, has his own goals and is a little too focused on such to notice his wife is troubled. Luke Kirby is good as the artist Daniel who, much like Margo, decides to selfishly pursue their attraction despite knowing she is married and he will likely undo that. Rounding out the main characters is a perfectly cast Sarah Silverman as Lou’s sarcastic alcoholic sister Geraldine. All in all, this is a refreshingly un-Hollywood indie that takes a look at real people with real emotions making real and sometimes selfish and stupid decisions. Something we are all guilty of and that’s why we can identify with these people and how love or, what we think is love, can be such a confusing factor in our lives. And, most of all, is there such a thing as true happiness or is it an illusion we create ourselves? A very interesting drama that does have a quirky sense of humor to go along with the more serious moments. Also loved director Polley’s visual style and how she made use of the film’s charming Canadian neighborhood locations.

3 and 1/2 hearts!

take waltz_Saftey rating

bars