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

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LOOKER (1981)

MZNJ_New_TONnow playing

looker

bars

LOOKER (1981)

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

Looker is an 80s mystery/thriller with some science fiction overtones that today, some of which, would be considered science fact. The film opens with the mysterious death of a beautiful young girl. She’s not the first to die like this and not the first to be a patient of high profile L.A. plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney). Roberts finds it odd that these beautiful women came to him with specific and practically unnoticeable changes in the first place, but now those same girls are winding up dead. Despite some evidence left at the crime scenes for police that Roberts is involved, he begins to investigate the deaths himself with the help of model and friend Cindy (Susan Dey). Roberts soon uncovers a possible conspiracy involving a shady research company called Digital Matrix and business tycoon John Reston (James Coburn). What is the Looker Project and why is Reston prepared to kill to keep it secret?

Written and directed by über-author Michael Crichton, Looker is a silly movie that does have some good ideas behind it. The idea of using computer generated actors and models was ahead of it’s time back in the early 80s, as is the concept of using computer generated imagery to place subconscious suggestions in viewers minds. Sadly these concepts are used in a film that starts out as an OK murder mystery, but gets increasingly silly as it goes along. The idea of this posh plastic surgeon turning all private detective is goofy enough, but to have him go complete James Bond in the last act, including sneaking into a pontificating villain’s lair and battling his thugs with futuristic weaponry, is almost laughable. Not to mention the actual reason for having the models killed is just borderline dumb to begin with. The last act is just plain wacky and not in a good way, and almost seems to be part of another far more campy movie. We’d actually have some fun with it on that level if it didn’t drag on for so long. Technically the film is well made and there is a cool 80s score by The Warriors composer Barry De Vorzon. The title tune sung by Sue Saad and the Next is probably the most memorable thing about the movie…though I do find it oddly charming, despite all it’s flaws, mostly because of how 80s it is.

Finney is a great actor, but doesn’t quite click as a sexy Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who beds woman more than half his age. He also looks outright uncomfortable during some of the action scenes. The legendary James Coburn is just going through the motions as a cliché megalomaniacal villain. Probably just a paycheck job, as his career was winding down at this point, as the 80s brought in a new generation of actors, like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone, to steal the spotlight from the old school movie tough guys. Susan Dey is pretty as Cindy and actually comes off the most natural for the context of the film as Roberts’ somewhat ditzy romantic interest.

There is some cheesy 80s entertainment here and some good ideas mixed in with all the silliness. It starts off well enough, but gets increasingly goofy as it goes along. The usually excellent Finney is miscast and the last act really goes off the over-the-top deep end with a James Bond-ish finale set in a constantly rearranging television studio. It all occurs in front of a live audience…who are laughing as much as we are at this point. A misfire for sure, but not one without some nostalgic charm.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) scanned lookers…earns extra points for being charmingly 80s.

looker rating

 

 

 

 

*****************************************************

bars

REVIEW: THE 13th WARRIOR (1999)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

13th_warrior_video_release

bars

THE 13th WARRIOR (1999)

I’ve always liked this flawed but very enjoyable action adventure since I first saw it. The 13th Warrior is based on a book by Michael Crichton called Eaters Of The Dead and tells the tale of Arab scholar Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Antonio Banderas) who is made an ambassador to a far off land as punishment for falling for the wife of a nobleman. On the way to his new assignment, he encounters a group of Norsemen and while staying in their camp is drawn into a quest by new king Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) to journey to a remote Norse kingdom and help rid them of mysterious foes that come out of the mist and murder and devour their people. Ahmad joins 12 other viking warriors including King Buliwyf in a battle against a phantom enemy that seems to be both man and beast. An outcast at first, the more they fight together, the more Ahmad and his unlikely companions become brothers in a fight against a savage and possibly supernatural enemy.

This 1999 adventure directed and co-written by Die Hard’s John McTiernan has a troubled history filled with re-shoots and talk of Crichton himself taking over the director’s reigns after poor reaction to preview screenings. That may explain why the film is a bit choppy in the first half, but, to be honest, even with a bit of an uneven narrative, the film is still an entertaining action adventure with a lot of bloody battles and a really fun covert raid into the mountain caverns where our villains reside. The film starts to click once they arrive in the besieged kingdom and even before that, the camaraderie between Banderas’ Arab scholar and these fierce Viking warriors makes this flick enjoyable. The film does convey well the bonding of this unlikely pairing and Ahmad’s slow earning of the men’s respect, as well as, finding the warrior and hero in himself is a lot of fun to watch unfold. There are also some really bloody action scenes as the vicious invaders try to take the village once and for all and our valiant group of few try to defend it and it’s people. Despite it’s flaws, the film does have an old fashioned action adventure spirit and it’s heart is in the right place. Whether it is McTiernan’s work coming through or the result of the additional post production efforts, the film is overall entertaining despite being far from perfect. There is some really nice use of the largely outdoor locations and the cast all perform well with Banderas being his usual charming self and the Viking warriors all being a very endearing bunch underneath their brutal and crude exteriors.

Not a classic but a fun and entertaining flick that is sadly under-appreciated. Also stars Tony Curran and the legendary Omar Sharif.

3 war axes!

13th warrior rating

bars