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Jurassic World (2015)
"Jurassic World" is a serious candidate for the "Honest Trailers" website
Full of spoilers. Read this only if you have already seen the movie or you can't remember stuff.
"Jurassic World" is completely satisfying. It must be; it's made 3x the $$ which "San Andreas" made and did so in half the time in theaters. (As of The 4th.) Best scene: the asshole character gets eaten. AND we just KNOW there is going to be a sequel because the bad-guy scientist escapes with the GMO Überdino genes. (It's a combination of tyrannosaur and velociraptor with greater-than-human intelligence, the ability to change colors for disguise, and suppress its infrared signature so it cannot be tracked with heat sensors, and it somehow knows that the thing implanted in its back is a tracking device.) So you had better go see "Jurassic World" so you know how things stand when the sequel comes around.
They still don't get the dinos right. Their velociraptors are about the size of achillobators and none of them have feathers in the movie. ( I have to admit that I do not like dinosaurs with feathers even tho recent finds suggest that many later dinosaurs had feathers. I WANT SCALES, not feathers, and "Jurassic World" delivers! )
Regardless of the overly large size of the movie velociraptors, our hero in the movie becomes an alpha velociraptor and uses his position in the pack to take them hunting for the Überdino. The Überdino had gotten out of his cage by scratching the wall as if he climbed it, shutting off his thermal signature and changing his color to blend in with the plants. Then he waits for people to foolishly enter the cage, eats a couple of them, then crashes the gate which, of course, does not close in time. The Überdino then goes on a killing spree because he was raised alone (or was it a she?) and has no dinosaur manners or social skills. (I kid you not. That is the reason given in the movie.) Überdino is therefore the tallest, heaviest, toothiest psychopath ever created by Hollywood ! The hero in "Jurassic World" of course has a failed relationship with the female boss of the Jurassic World theme park. (Very failed; they went on ONE date. It boggles the mind why one of them is not in jail.) She in turn has invited her two nephews to the park where she is too busy to spend time with them. The little cretins therefore go off on their own at just about the time Überdino has started slashing sauropods. These kids think it's OK to go through a huge gate which has been ripped to shreds. (These kids are so dumb that Überdino would have done our gene pool a favor had he managed to eat them.) So we go through all kinds of chase and escape scenes and hunt-the-Überdino scenes. Überdino manages to escape the helicopter shooting at him with a M134 Minigun (100 bullets per second) by knocking a hole in the "bird cage". The pterodactyls escaping from it obligingly attack and bring down the helicopter which in turn falls through the roof of the "bird cage" releasing all of the pterodactyls which in their turn swoop down on 20,000 fleeing theme park patrons causing general mayhem. All very satisfying for Hollywood escapism.
Of course in the end our hero saves the boss lady and her brain-dead nephews. Curiously it is the younger of the latter who states that the way to solve the problem is to have "more teeth", so boss lady orders the release of T-rex and she leads it to Überdino running with a flare as if dinosaurs are attracted to heat. She somehow outruns T-rex in her bare feet and tosses the flare at Überdino thus marking it as the proper target for T-rex. But T-rex has a hard time with Überdino even tho a friendly velociraptor pitches in to help.
I won't tell you the mildly surprising T-rex + velociraptor vs. Überdino result in case you want to go see the movie. This movie is a serious candidate for the "Honest Trailers" website too! I'd have rated this movie higher if the plot holes were not big enough to sink the Titanic in. It was fun anyway.
San Andreas (2015)
A cliffhanger from the first scenes but geologically improbable or impossible
I liked this movie. I might even go see it again, but in 3D.
"San Andreas" is a CG-heavy disaster movie plain and simple. If you go see it for the story or the characters you will be disappointed. The characters are likable enough (even the bad guy is merely a coward but not evil) and the plot and dialog are predictable. I found myself sometimes saying what the actors said before they said it.
However "San Andreas" has more cliffhangers per minute than any other movie I can think of. It starts off with a literal cliffhanger to introduce the main character, Ray (Dwayne Johnson). Ray is a man who knows precisely what to do in almost every deadly situation which, in the beginning of the movie, means dropping down on ropes from a hovering helicopter (which he also pilots) to rescue a young woman from a car which is hanging on a cliff. A literal cliffhanger.
The remainder of this movie is one disaster after another which shoot at you with machine-gun rapidity from which only Ray and his disaster-savvy daughter, Emma (Alexandra Daddario), her young engineer friend, Burt (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his bright side-kick brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson), can escape from again and again while rescuing themselves and others along the way. "San Andreas" is the movie version of the old saying, "Life favors the prepared."
Which brings me to my major criticism of this movie. "San Andreas" is geologically WRONG. The San Andreas fault can AND WILL create major carnage in California but it cannot deliver a 9.1 earthquake, let alone a 9.6 earthquake. Furthermore the San Andreas is a "strike-slip" fault, so it moves sideways, not up and down, and so it CANNOT create a large tsunami like that depicted in the movie.
If you want to make a film about a REAL 9+ earthquake and tsunami you should make it about people living along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, anywhere from northern California up past Oregon and Washington state right up into Canada. The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs along that entire portion of the west coast of the North America. It WILL deliver an 8.8 to a 9.1 earthquake which will devastate the Pacific Northwest coast first with the BIGGEST earthquake we can have in the US and then with a tsunami equal to the 2011 Japan tsunami. The only question is when and how bad (8.8 if half of it rips or a 9.1 if all of it rips). Contrary to the movie no one has yet figured out how to say exactly when an earthquake will occur on any given fault.
If there is one actually good thing about this movie it is that it MIGHT get people to think a little more about disaster preparedness.
The San Andreas fault and the Cascadia Subduction Zone will cause DEVASTATION for which we as a nation are ill prepared. Example: Building codes consider a building to be a success if it does not collapse during an earthquake. But can the building be USED after an earthquake? Building codes are mostly silent on that. With really big earthquakes vast number of buildings will be rendered unusable (or collapse completely) resulting in loss of housing, work places, and other infrastructure thus dealing a devastating NATIONAL ECONOMIC DISASTER on top of the earthquake disaster.
I hope "San Andreas" will make people think more about being prepared, because preparedness is our only defense against earthquakes and other disasters.
Thanks for Sharing (2012)
This movie tells it like it is. Someone in Hollywood finally did their homework.
I write this review from the viewpoint of someone who is in recovery from sex addiction. I have attended 12-Step, anonymous "S" meetings (SLAA, SAA, SA, etc) for 23 years. In that time I have seen it all, so I can say from experience that "Thanks for Sharing" tells it like it is for those of us who struggle with sex addiction in recovery.
The movie itself follows multiple addicts whose recovery stories weave around each other. There are no plot twists, just a series of seemingly random, real life events and situations which plague addicts, and how addicts in recovery deal with them, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but always making progress and learning how to live life.
The movie depicts a surprisingly complete spectrum of victories, failures, and facts of recovery: meetings, sponsorship, relapses into addiction, a "crash", a "crash and burn", job loses, near relapses, just-in-time phone calls, phone calls which went unanswered at critical times, suspicious girlfriends, wary wives, male addicts, female addicts, addict parents having to confront the affects of their addiction on their own children, addicts having to deal with their abusive parents, starting a healthy relationship with another addict in recovery or with a non-addict, the confusion caused by sex after long abstinence from sex, multiple addictions, and, above all, a message of hope and freedom. It's all there, and it's there in a surprisingly compact story.
The movie importantly points out a critical difference between sex addiction and substance abuse, and that is that substance abusers do not have their "drug of choice" manufactured within their own bodies, and that recovery from sex addiction is not about abstaining from sex forever but is about getting into a healthy relationship with sex.
"Thanks for Sharing" evoked strong feelings in me because I have "been there and done that". There were a couple of scenes where persons new to recovery were staggered by the new hope that was shown to them. I cried at those scenes because I *remember* that exact feeling from when I first started going to meetings. And I cringed when characters with long-term abstinence relapsed or nearly relapsed. I myself once relapsed back into active addiction when I was not able to get in touch with my sponsor, a reality eerily similar to one situation in this movie.
There were some mild sex scenes; R-rated stuff. It would be hard to make a movie about sex addiction without depicting at least some sex. These scenes were not gratuitous but were an integral part of the story, so I had no difficulty with them: I just shut my eyes to stay connected with the story rather than be distracted by the view.
My only negative remarks on the realism of this movie are that the meetings depicted had more of a "flavor" of an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. One is MUCH more likely to be hugged at an NA meeting than at "S" meetings since recovering sex addicts tend to have a lot of issues around body contact. Then there is the manner in which people were depicted as sharing at meetings. I can't really put a finger on what the difference is but the dialog was much more like the way people share in NA meetings.
But the above are minor observations compared to how much the movie got right. Someone really did their homework to get so much right. And someone really put some effort into keeping "Thanks for Sharing" from becoming a "sexploitation" movie. Last but not least, the cast, writers, and director did a really good job of creating credible characters in an accurate story.
I wish I'd seen this movie sooner so that I could have added my review sooner.
Unstoppable is a great, full throttle action movie! :-)
The plot of Unstoppable is so entirely stereotypical and predictable that it is hard for me to believe that anything I write here could be a spoiler, but consider the rest of this review a spoiler anyway since I do mention some "plot" elements, like how the movie ends in the very next sentence.
Our Heroes, of course, have difficulties (on and off their train) but they save the day and prevent a load of highly toxic chemicals from being sprayed all over a city. Then there is the sleek and sexy train dispatcher who is in charge of many grizzled railroad men. So believable. The corporate guys, of course, are only worried about the value of their stock after the train crashes. And the circumstances which led to this fictional train being unmanned but under full power on a main line could only be dreamed up by someone who has worked in Hollywood for way too long. The only thing which is "unstoppable" in this movie is the ignorance and the arrogance of the script writers.
Speaking as a guy who has studied trains and knows something about how they really work (tho I never have worked in the railroad industry) the script for "Unstoppable" is itself a train wreck. According to the Unstoppable Script Writers, just how does an unmanned right train get on the main line under full throttle? Here's how: (1) A stereotypical fat-boy loser yard engineer moves the train without hooking up the brake line between the engines and the cars. This is normal for real railroad switching operations and is believable, tho the brakeman in the movie thinks otherwise.
(2) There is a switch track in front of the train which is set the wrong way. Instead of the brakeman doing his job and lining the switch the right way for the train (he is on the radio yelling at the yard engineer) the yard engineer puts the engine into neutral, leaves the throttle set at "run 8" (full throttle), and jumps off the moving train to run ahead to line the switch, leaving no one on the train. This too is believable, tho generally against railroad rules, but it leaves the poor audience with our jaws hanging open at the stupidity of it all.
(3) While no one is on board, the lever in the engine controlling (What? Forward / Neutral / Reverse? Dynamic brakes / motor? ) pulls a Harry Potter and *FLIPS* *ALL* *BY* *ITSELF* !! ?! The engines, left at run 8, roar to life and the train accelerates. The stereotypical fat-boy loser yard engineer tries to get back on the engine but falls over and does not try again. Of course.
(4) The emergency is on. Soon thereafter someone asks the sleek and sexy train dispatcher why the "dead man switch" won't stop the train. Without missing a beat she replies that it won't work because the brake line is not hooked up between the engine and the cars. GIVE US A BRAKE! Apparently the script writers felt the audience incapable of understanding the real reason why the "dead man switch" failed. A real "dead man switch" has a button which the engineer must push every minute or so to prove that he is still alive and paying attention. In real life, failure to push that button within the time allowed throws the engines into "emergency", ie full engine brakes, full car brakes, engines effectively OFF, and the train stops. However, in real life, the application of the engine brakes can nullify the dead man switch, and in the incident on which this movie is based, the engineer HAD set the engine brakes, thus disabling the dead man switch. By the time the real engines were stopped, the brake shoes were completely fried.
(5) Then there is the bit about the rescue engines sent to slow the runaway crashing and exploding after taking a switch into a siding while the runaway somehow stays on the main line. (There must have been some unemployed "Gravelings" left over from the old TV series "Dead Like Me" present to throw the switch in the split second between the rescue engines and the runaway.) Unbelievable. Stunningly stupid.
(6) And of course the runaway demolishes evil management's second attempt to stop it, half a dozen solid steel "derailers", in a shower of sparks. (No movie featuring anything that moves -- bullets, trains, or whatever -- is complete without lots of sparks.) Our runaway also manages to demolish the back end of another freight train (driven by Our Heroes) without derailing. Even a train wreck will not stop our runaway train. Guess it really is Unstoppable.
(7) And I won't say anything about helicopters as numerous as a flock of starlings, the train full of school children conveniently also on the main line, or the people lining the tracks every inch of the way, including near the expected crash zone.
Having said all that, this is still a FANTASTIC ACTION MOVIE. Two thumbs up from me! I'm going back to see it again. The director of this movies manages to set a feverish pace which just plain grabs you by the gut. Nothing -- NOTHING -- is going to derail HIS movie! By the time the heroes save the day the script writers are forgotten, you are totally spent, and you will cheer for Our Heroes too (and the director)! I had to sit in my car for a while and calm down before I drove home. What a movie! :-) If you like action movies go see this one. Just don't expect to learn anything about the way railroads are run. REAL railroaders know what REALLY happens when a REAL train goes "on the ground" and, with RARE exception, they work REALLY hard to avoid that.