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Flawed, but the Power of Thor Goes a Long Way
While it did sag in the middle, and could have used a tad more action, I found the movie to be enjoyable from start to finish. I especially loved seeing Thor getting his ego battered as a mortal on Earth, which is something that could have been worthy of a movie all on it's on. When I heard about the magical elements of the mythology being explained away as science fiction, I didn't like the sound of it, but I thought the movie did an excellent job of this, and I honestly loved the idea of magic as science and science as magic.
While the movie's time spent in the fantasy realms had an extremely stylish, polished, and cheesy quality that made it seem like a live action animated Disney epic (one of the classic and great animated Disney epics at that) , I was giddy as could be watching it play out, and loved how it contrasted with the Earthly setting.
And about Loki, I thought he was an awesome villain. Seriously, the guy's one slick, smooth operating fiend, one sympathetic enough to be understandable yet despicable enough to boo for. He ended up being my favorite character.
On a down side, I feel that the movie could have used more action, and more time in the eye-popping fantasy settings. I do like the Marvel easter eggs scattered across the movie, but it's getting to the point where these movies are being some what bogged down with attempts at interconnectedness (Iron Man 2 suffered from this problem as well). I'm hoping to see a sequel in the future, one with much more focus on Thor's mythology and maybe a more serious tone (not too serious, I still want the movie to be able to laugh at itself, but maybe not as cheesy). In the mean time though, this movie will do, despite it's flaws.
Not the Best Sequel, But Still Not a Bad Sequel
I often find it difficult to pinpoint exactly how this movie falls short of its predecessor, Jurassic Park. I've always gotten the feeling that the movie just wasn't as good as the first, but I could never be sure how much of that feeling came from nostalgia for the first film and how much from the movie's own fault. But after some careful re-watching I believe I've found the main culprits.
For one, the timing and dinosaur reveals aren't as masterfully pulled off. In the first movie, director Steven Spielberg did an amazing job building up to the dinosaur money shots, I didn't feel like I was kept waiting too long or for too short a time. And said money shots were incredible, beautiful, and chilling. In The Lost World I wasn't as anxious to see the dinosaurs by the time they were shown, and even when the dinosaurs were revealed the shots weren't as visually appealing or exciting and the build up lacked the subtle touches of the first movie. To be fair, it's nearly impossible to recreate that first time charm to begin with.
The next issue is that the set pieces aren't as suspenseful. There are some creepy and tense moments (one especially eerie one involving a tent) but overall it's more geared towards action than suspense. Sequels like Aliens have taken similar routes, but the results don't pay off as well in The Lost World. The raptor scene is a great example: in the first film the raptors were cunning and sinister, and their portion of the movie was like a demented game of hide and seek. In The Lost World the raptors are used in a great action romp type scene, but it comes at the cost the monsters lethality and mystique. When raptors caught up to the characters in the first film it seemed like curtains for the heroes, but here the humans are able to run circles around the beasts. And I guess I should mention the infamous final act of the movie where a t-rex goes on a rampage in San Diego. It's a fun scene, and personally I can't help but love every minute of it. But it feels like overkill, like something tacked on at the last moment rather than part of the flow of the movie. But I find it to be a nice change in scenery and it always makes me smile ear-to-ear.
As for the cast, Jeff Goldblum is likable as always, although his returning character, Ian Malcolm isn't as entertaining or lively as he was in the first film. He's more reserved and more sour in temperament which I guess is what happens to you after too many near death experiences with dinosaurs. Malcolm's daughter, Kelly, unfortunately yet another irritating seemly unnecessary child costar. Vince Vaughn seems miscast and his character comes across as dis likable at times, and Julianne Moore occasionally drops the ball acting wise. Can't say too much about the rest of the cast good or bad except for Pete Postlethwaite's Roland Tembo who is earnest and transparent in the best meaning of the word: he just wants to kill something worth killing, that's all he wants period. It makes him a real standout in a crowd of characters motivated by fortune, glory, rescue, and activism.
More on the up side, the story is darker both thematically and literally. Gone is the lush jungle, instead replaced by dark nightmarish forest. Gone is the band of cynical experts, replaced by an assortment of activist who are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep the dinosaurs on the island. And forget kindly old man-child John Hammond, in his place is his money lusting nephew backed up by an army of grizzled hunters. And this isn't a dinosaur break out, it's a land dominated by them. The dinosaurs run the place, and humans are the intruders. Aside from the fact that it isn't explained why the hunters go through the trouble of catching adult wild dinosaurs rather than just steal eggs or infants like the villains in the book the story is solid and seems like a natural progression for the franchise: Hammond's company wants to reclaim their prehistoric cash cows and start Jurassic Park anew.
The CGI and animatronics are improved, the dinosaurs seem more lively and more finely detailed and even more humanized thanks to the tyrannosaurus family. It's interesting to see the first film's lead monster as a caring parent this time around, in addition to also being the lead monster. And it's simply a pleasure watching the prehistoric cast do their thing.
I'm always a bit mystified by people who refer to this movie as one of the worst sequels ever made. I agree that it falls short of it's predecessor, but I think it's a gross exaggeration to place this movie in the ranks of Batman and Robin and AvP:R. The Lost World is a truly under-appreciated sequel.
Families should "Catch Up".
For starters, I would like to apologize for the summary description I gave this film (I couldn't resist the chance to use a pun). Now that I've said that, lets cut to the chase; Up is your average Pixar movie...and if you're not familiar enough with Pixar then you should be informed that the average Pixar movie has 1) excellent voice acting. 2)cutting edge animation. 3)great story and script. and 4) heart.
In other words, Up is slam dunk of a family movie. The plot is about the misadventures and adventures of an old man named Carl Fredriechson and a tag along boy scout. But there's more! If you want to know the rest, then go see the movie.
Like all Pixar movies, the voice cast is spot on. All of Up's characters are brought to life with well read lines, vocally emotional undertones, and an assortment of talents. Pixar's trademark CGI animation also breathes life into the characters, all of them are given convincing facial animations and gestures which could match any Hollywood A-lister's.
All of the CGI (which is everything seen in the movie) is done beautifully. The scenery is breathtaking and the jungle sets sometimes look as if they were ripped from an issue of National Geographic. Pixar's signature animation is always cartoonish, yet photo-realistic and of course, ahead of their competition.
What's also impressive about Pixar is that they never underestimate the power of story. Up's story is original enough (talking dogs and a house held afloat by balloons aren't even the half of it) but it isn't just about the physical conflict and events. It is really the story of an old man trying to find redemption in the twilight of his life by fulfilling an unrealized dream. Pixar has mastered the art of throwing tragedy and warmth into the same basket without becoming too heavy handed, and you can feel it in this movie.
Up is also exciting and fun. The sense of adventure is palpable and the humor is charming. The script is also nicely written and clever. This movie is also very, very family friendly, despite its PG rating.
The bottom line is that Up is beautiful, touching, humorous, charming and kid and parent friendly. It is just another grade A Pixar movie. Which means that unless your inner child is completely dead you should see it!
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Great special effects and nostalgia can only carry a film so lackluster so far...
The original Jurassic Park was a film held together by good pacing, good cinematography, convincing actors, and of course the unfair advantage of being one of the first films to showcase photo realistic CGI effects. The film was hardly a masterpiece (the story and some of the characters were fairly unrealistic, many easy-to-notice and major bloopers), but the films finer points over powered the weaknesses.
Jurassic Park was basically a special effects demonstration, but a well crafted one. With that said, Jurassic Park III has more in common with its predecessor than many would give it credit for. However, JP III lacks the fore mentioned finer points that made the original work. The acting is flat, quite flat. Even Jurassic Park veteran Sam Neil, who gave a solid performance as the charter Alan Grant in the first film, is stiff in his acting this time around. The other issue is the film's pace. Jurassic Park had suspenseful timing. It would build up tension and then release it at well chosen moments. Jurassic Park III tries to just throw dinosaur themed action at you as fast as it can, without effectively building up the moment. As for the story, well it is actually pretty lame. It is a sad excuse for a sequel plot.
The cinematography in Jurassic Park III isn't poorly done, but it can't compare to the cleverness of Jurassic Park's constantly iconic and dramatically chosen points of view. Not all in this movie is bad. The dinosaurs themselves don't disappoint. If anyone in Jurassic Park III should be nominated for best actor, it should be one of its CGI or animatronic cast members who are actually more convincing than the flesh and blood human cast. There are moments when it is a real challenge to tell apart the late Stan Winston's practical dinosaurs from Industrail Light and Magic's CGI ones. It is a pure delight to watch the roaring, hissing, winged, and clawed creatures interact with the scenery, fight, and destroy on the screen. If only they could tear apart the lame story and dull characters in the process...