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Jurassic World (2015)
Lots of fun and scares
If you were one of the people who went to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" and wound up in "Jurassic World" by mistake, I feel sorry for you. Everyone else had a great time in this movie. It is what it was supposed to be ... a great looking thrill ride with believable CGI dinosaurs making everyone nervous. :-)
This was one of the rare films I've seen where the audience in my showing broke into applause as the credits rolled.
So if you hated it, be smart enough to not go to the next one, and there IS going to be a next one. With a budget of 150 million and closing in on a half billion in domestic gross, there will be another one, and the producers, director, and actors you are all criticizing are laughing at you as their bank accounts go KA-CHING.
This show had a great cast. What it didn't have was any competent writing whatsoever. Mary Tyler Moore knew that from the start. Her performance looked dispirited and tired.
The problem was that the writers were so intent on force-feeding "characters" to the audience that they forgot to give the audience ANY character to actually like, including Mary's. They made every character so self-involved and irritating that the goodwill audience drawn by Mary Tyler Moore's presence stopped tuning in quickly. We're huge MTM fans and I think we watched three episodes and just couldn't take it any more.
This is what would have happened to the Mary Tyler Moore show if the ENTIRE cast had been written like Ted and Phyllis, just to make my point more clear.
They had a can't-miss cast, and they struck out looking.
Man of Steel (2013)
I really thought I was going to like this film ... I just didn't
Superman was one of the very early comic books I enjoyed as a young kid, and I've read those comics for decades. I haven't always liked the changes they've put the character through, but nothing I had reservations about in his comic book portrayals disappointed me in the manner this movie did.
First, very little about this movie and virtually nothing about the character spoke out to me as being Superman. Henry Cavill's portrayal of our single favorite super strong, super fast, invulnerable hero was almost devoid of emotion. Even his brief and infrequent outbursts of anguish seemed forced, and that was virtually the only emotion the writers or director allowed him to show. I just didn't get "I'm Superman" out of this performance in any way. Yes, he was brave. Big deal.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane was OK, but brought little life and only a dab of the spunk to the role that we've watched over and over again from Margo Kidder's performance. It's as if the direction was afraid to "go big" with the acting in a genre that demands its characters be very, very big.
And that's just the acting ... when I start discussing the story decisions thing go downhill in a hurry: 1. As a Superman "traditionalist" I didn't get having Lois Lane track the mysterious super-alien back to his roots with an over-simplistic and hardly detailed investigation that took her directly to the Kent farm. This is not a spoiler, as this happens early in the film and you can see it coming a mile away.
2. The entire sub-plot about her desire to have an expose on an alien presence in the form of a super being on Earth had some interesting potential but in the end was just a throw away story element. More on that later.
3. These writers decided to follow the course of many on having Jonathan Kent die. The manner of his death, especially vis a vis Kal-El as his adopted son, was a complete disconnect for me from the possibility of this character being Superman. It was supposed to provide some deeper psychological underpinning for this Superman story, but it was merely ill thought and useless.
4. Having Superman's relationship with "Earth" transition from moving from a suspected alien threat to a friend and savior was horribly bungled. It was an idea. It just wasn't an idea these writers could competently plot.
5. Turning the end of the movie into an extended battle pretty much resulting in the destruction of Metropolis (sorry if that's a spoiler) was a decision made for the purpose of having a special effects spectacular with what the writers/director hoped would be shock value. Sorry, that's been done. And in this context it made little sense and by logic hampers the story. At the time this happens, "Superman" is completely unknown to the public Even with General Zod's public announcement, this is not a character known, trusted, or beloved by the public. The virtual destruction of Metropolis, in which he participated even as he tried to stop it, would leave pretty much everyone resentful and suspicious of this being. From either the standpoint of logic OR emotion, it just doesn't work.
6. As I promised, back to Lois' expose: That could have been a really interesting element of a Superman introduction if handled with any subtlety or intelligence at all. If it had been the main theme of the movie and been well written, it could (and probably should) have carried the film. Yet the moment Zod shows up with his announcement, ALL of the effort put into that sub-plot became completely wasted. It is obvious that the creators of this story had many ideas, didn't have the skill or talent to boil them down to a few that would work well together, and just jumbled everything they thought might be "cool" into one extended, illogical mess that had little to do with a satisfying "Superman Origin" story.
7. Then at the end, we have Clark Kent merrily showing up for work as a reporter at the Daily Planet (where of course Lois already knows his secret!). But how? When? With the damage and evident loss of at least tens of thousands of lives, Metropolis would have had to be essentially abandoned as a toxic environmental nightmare, not to mention graveyard ... and that included extensive damage to the Daily Planet Building itself that likely would have taken years of repair, if it was even deemed structurally to be salvageable! It's like this film was written by clueless 20-somethings with no idea of even the most simple practical results of the events they were so proud of. These writers seem like the kind of people you'd see Jay Leno quizzing on the street and finding incapable of locating Canada on a map of North America. LOL There is more but this review is long enough.
Suffice it to say that if this movie is at some point in the future playing on one channel, and Christopher Reeve's Superman of 1978 happens to be playing on another at the same time, I'll be watching the 1978 version. This film simply has none of the charm, humor or life of the first series. In fact, the much lambasted "Superman Returns" had a far more convincing and embraceable story than this film. I was often annoyed by the decisions to go with a "pushed" look for most of the film (especially the flashbacks) that often left scenes looking grainy and washed out. It was a stylistic choice that didn't work for me as a viewer.
Whether you enjoy the CGI effects and scenes or not, nothing about the excellent technical presentation can make up for the ineptitude of the plotting or writing.
Dean Cain brightens up anything he's in, but he couldn't save this poorly written mess.
There was an idea here with some potential. However, evidently the writer was a 10 year old who has never been out of the house. Virtually no one's actions in the film ring true. There is a lot of law involved, and none of it is even CLOSE to being right. Situations that the writer and director hoped would be zany and funny are just contrived and awkward.
Characters who are meant to be funny caricatures are just annoying. Bill Engvall is completely wasted. Eric Roberts is tragically miscast as a gay hotel reviewer. Juliana Paes seems uncomfortable and insincere in most of her scenes. Julia Duffy is underused.
This film is a waste of everyone's time.
The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943)
Entertaining entry in The Saint series
The Saint Meets the Tiger" was the first of the Saint books, but appeared rather late in the series of movies. The Saint is following the trail of a million pounds sterling of gold stolen from a Bristol bank by a gang headed by "the Tiger", a criminal mastermind. Hugh Sinclair, who doesn't much look the part initially, grows on you as the Saint with his witty and confident performance. His sidekick, Horace, has been transformed from a rough retired seaman to a dapper butler. The story isn't, or course, exactly the plot of the book, but it is close enough to give you fond reminiscences of the book. The cast is very similar in most respects to the main characters in the book. One of the main differences is that the identity of the Tiger is revealed quite early in the movie, and that revelation is virtually the last event in the book.
Some of the action scenes are a bit simplistic, to the point of virtually being bungled. Yet the charm of the dialog and the heroes overcomes those deficiencies. If you like these classic old mysteries, you can do a lot worse than "The Saint Meets the Tiger".
Takes us back to the 60s,
After the first three Star Trek films, where the producers tried hard to push the series into a modern age of special effect, with varying results, they finally settled down and did a Star Trek film that matched the stories that made Trek so popular in the first place. "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", of the six "Original Series" films, takes me back to what it was like to see a new Star Trek episode when I watched them in the 60s.
Even though the fate of planet Earth in the future rode on the success of Kirk and crew's mission to the past, the movie didn't have a serious tone. There was plenty of the light comedy and entertaining character interaction that made Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty such beloved characters in the first place. Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov round things out, and after all, these seven were what made the TV series popular.
The overall plot is almost irrelevant. Sure, the Earth is threatened with total destruction (again). Sure, the Enterprise crew goes back in time (again). Sure, of course Kirk and company save the day (again). But all of that is just a vehicle to get the stars we came to respect and the characters we came to love on the screen interacting in amusing and entertaining ways. We have Kirk charming a woman. We have Spock as dizzily out of touch with slang as in "A Piece of the Action". We have Scotty mastering the areas of technology, yet failing to comprehend a computer "mouse". We have a truce between a concerned Bones and a reemerging Spock, yet still with an entertaining interaction between them. Chekov's session of being questioned by Naval officers is hilarious, and would have pleased Abbot and Costello.
Instead of "The Voyage Home" you could virtually name this movie "The Trouble with Whales". In this case the problem is not too many tribbles, but too few whales. And the story should keep us humble. Here, Earth, technologically advanced in so many ways, and the Capitol of the United Federation of Planets, is helpless before the arrival of a yet more advanced technology from the endless depths of deep space. Not even the Borg would want to mess with this baby ... and if they'd found and assimilated a world of intelligent whales, once this probe came across them the Borg problem would have been solved the easy way. LOL yet the probe is not of evil intent, just interested in finding the species it had been assigned to be caretaker.
This is Star Trek as I grew to love it, and I thank the people responsible for giving me a look back through the same magic mirror through I saw the series in the 60s.
Interesting modern fantasy
In "Interstate 60", a young man unknowingly undertakes a quest to find himself. Thinking that he is delivering a package under the most bizarre of circumstances, on a journey during which he may literally find the girl of his dreams, he faces a series of challenges that will define his character and his future.
Along the way we may, or may not encounter God, a variation on a leprechaun, a mysterious set of billboards, a town with nothing but lawyers, and a dieing ad man with an abhorrence of lies ... among other interesting characters and situations.
"Interstate 60" is not fast paced, but it is a delightful and interesting exploration of the measure of its hero, a budding artist whose father would prefer follow his footsteps into practicing law. However, even this common sort of plot conflict is not overblown with high drama.
The plot, characters, and circumstances are thoughtful at the same time as they are entertaining. This movie will not be to every one's taste, but it is certainly worth a look.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Brilliant laugh out loud comedy
There have been a few movies over time which have portrayed private eye characters that are quirky, or losers, or both ... but this one takes that concept out into left field and then keeps going into some completely unexplored area way beyond left field.
Jeff Bridges ("the Dude") and John Goodman are particularly brilliant in their roles of bowling buddies setting out to unsnarl a kidnapping fiasco. Goodman is well known for his comic talents, but everyone in this movie puts forth a full effort in displaying their craft exercised to the fullest. I laughed out loud at more lines and circumstances in "The Big Lebowski" than I have in a long time during a movie.
There are bizarre circumstances, absurd conversations, acid flashbacks, and entire characters that you may decide aren't really there. I anticipated the "punch line" in the strange little funeral that Jeff and John held for their friend, and still had a tummy holding laughing jag when it arrived. I had somehow missed this movie for quite some time, so I am certainly glad I finally watched it. If you are a fan of offbeat, irreverent comedies and haven't caught this yet, this time is nigh! Warning, after this movie you may experience strange sub-conscious desires to drink white russians and go bowling.
Hatari! means Danger!
With the cast doing up close and personal stunts with African animals, including in the capture sequences, there was more actual danger in this film than most! In Hatari!, John Wayne leads a group of professional animal capture experts, filling orders for zoos worldwide. Their season of hunting is complicated when one of the group is gored by a rhino, and by a female photographer (Dallas) who shows up. When Dallas begins to accumulate a nursery of baby elephants, things get even more complicated.
A budding romance between Sean (Wayne) and Dallas is by no means overdone, but does provide a few of the many amusing moments in this excellent tale, full of slice of life moments on the African veldt and in the hunters' compound. Such solid acting talent as Red Buttons, Bruce Cabot, and Hardy Kruger help fill a delightful cast which operates with perfect chemistry.
Listen closely as the cast prods and pushes a zebra into a capture crate. You'll hear John Wayne say "Get him the hell in there!" While common even in family hour programming for decades now, you didn't hear even "hell" and "damn" in much movie dialog in 1962! LOL Another treat is the rocket shot to capture monkeys.
This is a one of a kind movie. If somehow you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do. You won't be disappointed.
Good family film
If you aren't a Brenden Fraser fan, stop right here and search for another film.
If you are, you'll like "Journey".
This is a good family film. We were able to watch it very comfortably with our 9 year old grand-daughter.
The movie, which is about three people trapped far beneath the earth with prehistoric plants and creatures, is both exciting and funny. The main characters are all likable, and Brendan Fraser is at his charming and funny best.
Sadly, even if you do all the work to correctly track down the 3D DVD version of this film and the 3D glasses. it won't do you much good. The home 3D presentation doesn't exactly jump off the screen at you, so my advice would be to skip the extra trouble and expense that I went through to that end.
Suspension of disbelief is no greater for this 'follow-up' film than it was for the Verne book or for the original movie with James Mason and Pat Boone. The special effects are good, and the same solid dinosaurs about to eat people type that you've come to appreciate ever since Jurassic Park. The story is NOT meant to be a cover of the Verne book, it is sort of a sequel, in a way. That element of the movie was handled in a very interesting fashion.
This is not the best movie you've ever seen, but it is enjoyable, and one of few you can enjoy with the family, so it does have value