2018 Summer Movie Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Film Title: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) trains Blue in a flashback in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. (Source: Variety)

I enjoyed the first Jurassic World, which became one of the highest-grossing movies of 2015. Not only did it have good actors and fun suspense, I found it to be a touching tribute to the wonderful prehistoric world Steven Spielberg brought to the silver screen 25 years ago. However–some distractions did kill its magic. Not to mention the ridiculous moment when Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire runs around in high heels (as if they were sneakers). She goes on the run again, this time, in black boots, in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest from director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible). Of all the blockbusters coming out this summer, this might be the most disappointing one so far.

After the dinosaurs wreaked havoc in the scientifically-advanced theme park, the owner Claire Dearing (Howard) and Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) arrive at the abandoned Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs, despite the U.S. Senate ruling against the operation. Along with Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith), two members of Claire’s dinosaur protection program, the group notice the island is going to be wiped out by a volcanic eruption. They later learn about Eli Mills’ (Rafe Spall) plan after saving the genetically-engineered dinosaurs.

This movie, now becoming one of the highest-grossing films of this year (hitting over $1 billion worldwide), does have its moments. The scene on the island during the volcanic eruption early one is one of the best action set pieces you will see this year; with its gorgeous visuals (the dinosaurs look as great as ever), tension and Michael Giacchino’s thrilling score. The climax of the film really showcases Bayona’s talent as a filmmaker with its dark, Gothic atmosphere. But–if the best parts of the movie are the first and last acts, that’s not a good sign.

While Pratt saves the movie from being an absolute mess, the cast is trying way too hard in a story containing very little humor and a darker atmosphere. It’s basically a carbon copy of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, with Mills (who is a stereotypical villain) making the most powerful dinosaur on the planet while planning to relocate the dinosaurs with the help of Gunnar (Toby Jones). With little to no surprises, characters making stupid decisions, and the stupid twist involving Mills’ daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), it falls short from being good. While not the worst in the franchise, it’s better than Jurassic Park III.

2/4

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Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

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Atari Kobayashi joins a team of dogs to find his lost dog in Wes Anderson’s delightfully odd animated film, Isle of Dogs. (Source: IMDb)

Wes Anderson is one of the most original filmmakers working today. His deadpan sense of humor juxtaposing his unique visual style, his films are one-of-a-kind. After Bottle Rocket bombed in 1996, he continues to create some of the best movies ever made. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are the ones that made him gain attention in Hollywood. While The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited are very good yet uneven, I think the coming-of-age romance Moonrise Kingdom and the screwball comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel both showcase his talents behind the camera.

However, 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is his most ambitious film of his entire career. Not only did he adapt and expand Roald Dahl’s book (in which he loved as a kid), it brings forth stop-motion animation like no other. Isle of Dogs, his ninth film, is his first–and probably, not his last–animated film aimed towards teens and adults (given it’s rated PG-13).

Set 20 years into the future, cats have become the most dominant pet in the Japanese city of Megasaki. Interpreter Nelson (Frances McDormand) translates the meetings of Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), who has banned dogs to a garbage dump called Trash Island due to a canine flu virus. His 12-year-old nephew Atari (Koyu Rankin) steals a plane to find his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), the first dog ever to be exiled to the island. Once his plane crashes, he is rescued by five dogs–Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and Boss (Bill Murray). Together, they embark on a journey to find the missing dog.

Meanwhile, Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) tries to produce a cure for the virus, and foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) becomes the leader of the dog-ban protests. All the hijinks will decide the fate of Japan.

For someone who has enjoyed all of Wes Anderson’s films, this movie still proves why Anderson is a genius! It’s another movie that has come out at a perfect time. It’s unusual for a Wes Anderson film to contain a political background including protests against a powerful mayor. It also contains a heartfelt message about the means of a man’s best friend. Top it off with flawless animation (developed by hundreds of animators), a massive voice cast, cartoonish yet occasionally gritty action violence and the fast-paced, witty dialogue, this is Anderson at his most beautiful!

It’s hard not to give Alexandre Desplat a break! He brings forth another great film score! Those taiko drums–which play during the opening and closing credits–sound spectacular!

This movie couldn’t have picked a better voice cast. Bryan Cranston is PERFECT as Chief, a stray and leader of the pack. He fears Atari will do something bad to him and his dog friends. Things do get rough (no pun intended) on the island whenever the dogs fight (which hilariously produces a cloud of smoke). But–he eventually gives in and learns how to be a normal, everyday pet. While the other actors playing the dogs are wonderfully deadpan, especially the circus dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), Cranston’s timing hits it home.

Isle of Dogs is far from perfect. There are some narrative flaws and the use of the narrator–when introducing the proceeding chapter (while the words appear in English and Japanese)–becomes a little redundant. Nevertheless, this movie is a painting in motion and something I’ll revisit time and time again.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) join to save the world in Thor: Ragnarok. (Source: Crave Online)

I enjoy Thor a lot as a character in the MCU. His first outing in 2011, directed by Kenneth Branagh (known for adapting some of William Shakespeare’s plays), had the right amount of fish-out-of-water humor, mythology, and action. While not perfect in any way, there is no doubt Chris Hemsworth was the perfect choice for Thor. The sequel, Thor: The Dark World, was quite underwhelming and, in my opinion, the weakest entry in the MCU. This time, there is no Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgård. New Zealand director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) is the perfect choice to direct Thor: Ragnarok, in which it never takes itself seriously.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back with a new haircut, new group, and a new motivation.. He finds himself on the planet Sakaar, ruled by the deadpan Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Without his trusty hammer Mjolnir, he must fight to the death against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a duel, which excites him (“We know each other! He’s a friend from work!”). Why does he do it? It’s the only way for him to return to his homeland to prevent Ragnarok, destroying Asgardian civilization. Thor and Bruce Banner join Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Korg (Taika Waititi) to stop the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett) and save Asgard.

Thor: Ragnarok has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe. Not only is it visually stunning and action-packed (how can you not smile when Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” is playing during the opening scene?), it’s also really funny (probably just as funny as Guardians). Waititi also does a great job expanding Norse mythology. Hemsworth proves he still has it; succeeding the physicality and emotional gravity of the story. The supporting cast is memorable. Waititi is known for starring in his own movies. Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. He provides some really funny lines as Korg, a rock warrior imprisoned on Sakaar. Blanchett is downright awesome as Hela, who plans on taking over Asgard. Great stuff!

4/4

2016 Summer Movie Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

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David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is about to celebrate the Fourth of July once again with some new faces in Independence Day: Resurgence

20 years ago, Fourth of July was more than just a celebration of America declaring independence from the British. It became a day where we saved the world from annihilation. Well, that was the case for Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, the mother of popcorn entertainment. Everyone knew the aliens would come back someday. Emmerich had plans to make the sequel ever since the attacks on 9/11, but it took so long to find out where the story will go. Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t horrible. It has plenty of wondrous effects and wall-to-wall action that are always a joy to watch. Jeff Goldblum’s deadpan antics of David Levinson are back, as well as some of the recurring characters from its predecessor. However, Resurgence is bogged down by new characters who are either tedious or a nuisance, plot holes that you can ride a space shuttle through, and the aliens have barely changed. Defending Earth once was enough.

1.5/4

Movie Review: Mortdecai

Johnny Depp becomes mustachioed in "Mortdecai", the lost sequel to the "Pink Panther"

Johnny Depp becomes mustachioed in “Mortdecai”, the lost sequel to the “Pink Panther”

I appreciate Johnny Depp as an actor. From playing an innocent man who has scissors for hands to a pirate going on countless adventures, his quirky nature is always quite entertaining. However, he overplays these type of roles to the extent. Mortdecai, the latest collaboration of Depp and director David Koepp (Secret Window), is no exception. Depp plays Charlie Mortdecai, an aristocratic art dealer who embarks on a globetrotting mission to find a missing Goya painting. There are rumors of a code to a Nazi bank account. His man servant, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), comes along with him to get their hands on it before anyone else can (sound familiar?).

I cannot imagine another performance by Johnny Depp to be worse than Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, his performance as the title role tops it. You can tell how he’s really trying to get a laugh from the audience. The comedic timing feels off that it’s hard to get one. His jokes – notably about his mustache and having a gag reflex every time he kisses his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) – fall flat and become repetitive. With a lazy screenplay, some boring action, and a massive waste of talent by a gifted cast consisting of Paltrow, Betanny, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, and Jeff Goldblum, Mortdecai is a ginormous mess of a film. Even so, how can Jock stay alive from being severely injured many times? Easily a contender for one of the worst movies of the year and the decade.

0/4