Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – HUMANS NEVER LEARN

The Jurassic Park franchise has always been based on people making really stupid decisions. Why don’t we ever learn? Because if we did, then there would be no more Jurassic movies, and the studio executives would make no money.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom feels like a movie that was made as a bridge of sorts. The third Jurassic World movie is already set for release in 2021, and Fallen Kingdom feels like the middle of a trilogy, in that it doesn’t have much of a beginning and its ending doesn’t even try to wrap things up.

The movie was directed by J.A. Bayona, a talented Spanish director whose previous films include The Orphanage, The Impossible, and A Monster Calls. I haven’t seen them, but I’ve heard good things about all three and they’re on my ever-expanding watch list, so hopefully I’ll get to them soon. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a well-directed movie with dazzling special effects, but is severely let down in the script department.

Images: Universal Pictures

The script was written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, who also co-wrote the previous film in the franchise, 2015’s Jurassic World, which Trevorrow also directed. They should not be allowed to write the third film, because every single character in both of their Jurassic World movies is an idiot who learns nothing.

At the end of Jurassic World, the titular theme park closed for good after a colossal disaster led to the release of the dinosaurs and a bunch of unlikable/boring people being eaten. Three years later, the volcano on the island that formerly housed Jurassic World is on the verge of erupting, and the dinosaurs are in danger of becoming extinct once again. Why anyone would build a theme park on an island with a potentially active volcano on it is yet another mystery that may never be solved.

A debate rages about how to handle the situation, with some people (including Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, who is in the movie for less than five minutes) thinking that since it was a bad idea to bring the dinosaurs back in the first place, it is not a bad thing that nature is about to once again remove the dinosaurs from existence. Others, such as Claire Dearing (played once again by Bryce Dallas Howard), think differently.

Claire, the former operations manager at Jurassic World, has since become an animal-rights advocate who wants to save the dinosaurs. She is recruited by an aging billionaire named Benjamin Lockwood (played by James Cromwell) and his right-hand man Eli Mills (played by Rafe Spall) to go to the island as part of a rescue operation to relocate the dinosaurs to a new island where they will be safe. She agrees and recruits her ex-boyfriend Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt) to assist. Owen trained the park’s velociraptors back in the day and has a special relationship with Blue, the sole surviving raptor.

If saving a bunch of extremely dangerous giant reptiles from an island with an erupting volcano on it sounds like a dumb idea, that’s because it objectively is. But this is only the first of many dumb ideas the characters of this film have up their sleeves.

From here on out, there are going to be spoilers. It can’t be helped. You have been warned.

It turns out that the dinosaur rescue operation is only half the story. After a sufficient number of dinosaurs have been recovered, instead of transporting them to a different island, they are instead brought back to Lockwood’s mansion, where his evil assistant Mills plans to sell them off to the highest bidders. As an extra incentive to potential buyers, Mills has had Jurassic World geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (played by B.D. Wong, who along with Jeff Goldblum is the only actor from the original Jurassic Park film to appear in the new movies) to create a new, genetically-engineered dinosaur.

You may recall from Jurassic World that the main reason everything went to shit in the first place was because Claire authorized Wu to create the Indominus Rex, a genetically-engineered super-dino who promptly escaped containment and went on a rampage. Well, clearly we stupid humans have CONTINUED TO LEARN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and Wu has created the INDORAPTOR, a hybrid of Indominus Rex and velociraptor DNA, a creature designed SPECIFICALLY FOR HUNTING AND KILLING. THERE IS NO WAY THIS COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG.

Now, to be fair, the Indoraptor is actually pretty cool. The reasons for its creation may be deeply stupid, but it’s a cool-looking creature and I enjoyed watching it create havoc and mayhem after its inevitable escape. I called it the Murdersaurus, which is what I will refer to it as for the remainder of this post. Generally, the Jurassic World films have done a good job with the dinosaurs and a poor job with the human characters, since most of them are dull and make dumb decisions.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are both charismatic and likable actors but they don’t have much chemistry in these movies, and I found it difficult, verging on impossible, to care about their on-again, off-again relationship. The supporting cast includes some good actors but most of them get nothing to do. Besides Jeff Goldblum and James Cromwell, both of whom are thoroughly wasted, take Ted Levine. He plays a grizzled mercenary whose name escapes me whose sole character trait is that he enjoys using pliers to rip dinosaurs’ teeth out. You don’t need me to tell you that this macabre proclivity comes back around to bite him (if you see what I mean) as soon as he makes the catastrophically-stupid decision to take the tooth of a drugged Murdersaurus. Let’s just say that tranquilizers don’t keep the Murdersaurus down for very long.

I could go into a lot more detail about all the things in the plot of this movie that make absolutely no sense, but based on what I’ve written above you can probably figure most of them out for yourself. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the kind of movie that’s a lot of fun to watch with friends and drinks and talk about all the dumb things in it, but it’s very hard to take the movie seriously.

My feelings about this movie are similar to my feelings about RAMPAGE, which came out back in April. That movie was also dumb as hell and full of people making drastically bad decisions, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I enjoyed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for much the same reason. It was fun. I knew I was in for a good time when the movie opened with a scene involving a helicopter and a T-Rex. More movies should open with scenes involving helicopters and T-Rexes.

Fallen Kingdom is a dopey movie but I still got quite a bit of enjoyment out of it, despite its MANY issues. It looks terrific and the dinosaurs are photorealistic, even the made-up Murdersaurus looks damn good. There are fun and suspenseful action sequences that had the people around me in the theater literally gripping the armrests of their seats and the woman sitting next to me visibly recoiled away from the screen during some of the more intense scenes. It may be dumb but it’s certainly effective, and Chris Pratt is always watchable, even if his character is badly-written.

Speaking of bad writing, Fallen Kingdom ultimately falls prey to the same problem that afflicted The Last Jedi: it’s well-directed but badly-written, and ends up being more than a little bit messy. Still, it’s loaded with fun and intense dino-action, which should be enough for summer moviegoers.

Long live the Murdersaurus. Oh wait, it died. Shit.

Avengers Infinity War: The End of the Beginning

The screen cut to black, and the credits started to roll. And everyone in the theater sat in stunned silence.

I suspect this was the case in theaters across the globe last weekend at the conclusion of Marvel’s epic Avengers: Infinity War, in many ways one of the biggest movies ever made. It’s a damn good movie, one with such a devastating ending that I simply must talk about it. I try to avoid spoilers for new releases, but in this case it can’t be helped so be aware that this post will include spoilers.

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get started.

First off: there are a LOT of characters in the movie. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, Mantis, Nebula, Wong, Loki, Heimdall, Shuri, Okoye, and the Mad Titan himself, THANOS.

Images: Marvel/Disney
Whew. One of the movie’s many pleasures is seeing combinations of characters that haven’t met before. I particularly enjoyed Thor’s scenes with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-Man and Star-Lord bonding over 80’s pop culture references. Infinity War is frequently a very funny movie, and many of the funniest lines and moments come as a result of these characters being thrust together in unexpected ways. The only characters that aren’t in the movie are Hawkeye and Ant-Man, and Ant-Man will be in theaters again later this summer in his own sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp. Don’t know about Hawkeye though, maybe we’ll see him in Infinity War Part Two.

Speaking of part two, it’s important to remember that Infinity War is the first part of a two-part story, and the two films were shot back-to-back. So as devastating as that ending was, keep in mind that this is NOT THE END. More on this later.

Infinity War is a movie that requires a level of patience from the viewer, although this is not necessarily a bad thing. There are so many characters and so many things going on that it can be an effort to keep up with it all. The movie follows one group of characters for a while, then switches to a different group, meaning that the viewer has to frequently reorient themselves.

This can be a bit difficult, but it’s not a complaint. Infinity War is a movie that requires the audience to engage with it. It’s not a mindless blockbuster. There’s a lot of intelligence and heart behind it, and it benefits from a decade’s worth of audience engagement with the previous movies. It doesn’t have to make the audience care about these characters because if you’ve been watching every movie for the last ten years then you already do care about them, which is another thing that makes the ending such a gut-punch.

There’s not a whole lot of room in the movie for individual character development, but there doesn’t need to be since we already know all the main characters. If I had to pick one character that I would describe as the most important character in the film, it would be Thanos, the greatest villain the Avengers have ever faced.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been teasing Thanos since the first Avengers movie in 2012, and carefully introducing the Infinity Stones in various movies. Infinity War is the movie where it all comes together, and it’s incredibly satisfying. Thanos is everything fans could want from the character. As soon as he appears onscreen, which happens in the movie’s first scene, no one is safe. The stakes feel very real. One thing about the various Avengers’ solo films is that there’s no doubt the protagonist will survive to the end, but in Infinity War, everyone’s lives are very much at stake.

Thanos could easily have been portrayed as a generic bad guy, but he isn’t, and it is to the credit of directors Joe and Anthony Russo, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and actor Josh Brolin that Thanos is portrayed so well. The movie gives us some of Thanos’ backstory, and we learn that his home planet of Titan was overpopulated and everyone except him died. Since then, he has been trying to preserve life by conquering planets one by one and destroying half the population of each. This is a time-consuming process, and the powers of the Infinity Stones will give him the means to wipe out half the population in the universe with a snap of his fingers. Thanos doesn’t see himself as the villain. He sees his actions as being right, and is aware of the cost, but to him the preservation of life as a whole is worth the destruction of half of it.

Josh Brolin is excellent as Thanos, and his performance, the excellent writing and directing, and top-notch special effects make Thanos one of the greatest comic-book-movie villains of all time. I counted twenty-five characters in the list above, and all of their combined efforts are not enough to stop him.

Thanos wins.

Or does he?

It’s time, my friends, to talk about The Snap.

Despite all their efforts and the ferocious and thrilling battles that are waged along the way, the Avengers are ultimately unable to prevent Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones, and as Thanos and Thor grapple, Thanos extends a gauntleted hand…

…and snaps his fingers.

And people start to die.

It starts with Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, Captain America’s best and oldest friend. He drops his rifle and disintegrates as Cap watches, helpless.

Others follow.

Falcon. Scarlet Witch. Black Panther. Doctor Strange. Star-Lord. Drax. Mantis. Groot.

And, finally, devastatingly, Spider-Man. Peter Parker. A high-school kid. “I don’t feel so good, Mr. Stark,” he says to Iron Man. He’s beginning to disintegrate. He collapses into Tony’s arms, sobbing. “I don’t want to go Mr. Stark, please, I don’t want to go…” he begs. Tony tries to comfort him, but it’s too late, Peter is gone, and Tony is left literally empty-handed, having just witnessed the death of a kid that he feels responsible for having dragged into this mess in the first place.




I seriously didn’t get through writing that without tears.

Going into Infinity War, I was aware of the possibility of losing some of these characters that I love. But never did I think that there would be so many, or that their losses would be so devastating.

Especially Peter.

Batman will always be my favorite superhero, but Spider-Man is a very close second. I love the guy, and I love Tom Holland’s portrayal of him. Hearing the fear in his voice and the desperation in his eyes as he fades away tore my heart out and stomped on it, and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in that crushing moment was also superb. Earlier in the film, Tony and Pepper Potts, his fiancée, had been talking about getting married and having a family, and later, a kid for whom he had become a surrogate father literally fades away in his arms.

I’m sorry, I’m crying again.

Judging from people’s reactions on the internet, I’m not the only person who was hit so hard by that.

But it is important to once again emphasize that THIS IS NOT THE END. Time for some theorizing and rampant speculation.

First of all, there is no way Marvel and Disney would kill that many franchises in one fell swoop. The Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel already has a release date for 2019, and there is already talk of a Black Panther sequel and more Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which logically would have to take place after the events of Infinity War. Also, Black Panther just made more than a billion dollars worldwide and became a cultural talking point, there’s no way Marvel and Disney would simply shrug their shoulders and say, “Sorry guys, no more Black Panther movies!”

I don’t doubt that some of these characters will be back. I also don’t doubt that some of them won’t be. We’ve probably seen the last of Loki and Heimdall, and it’s hard to see Gamora coming back after Thanos sacrifices her to obtain the Soul Stone. Another thing I do not doubt is that reclaiming what was lost will require further sacrifice. The survivors of The Snap are mostly original Avengers such as Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and War Machine. Perhaps Infinity War Part Two will involve the efforts of the older Avengers to find out some way of bringing back the newer ones, even at the expense of their own lives.

It’s also worth remembering that two of the Infinity Stones are the Soul Stone, which can bring people back to life, and the Time Stone, which gives its wielder the power of time manipulation (used to great effect by Doctor Strange in his solo movie, and used to much more nefarious effect by Thanos in Infinity War). It’s not hard to see how those could be used to resurrect some of the heroes we lost, but doing so will require the remaining Avengers to somehow get the Stones from Thanos, which will be even more difficult at half-strength.

If/when some of the departed heroes do return, their loss in this film will still resonate, and will still affect the survivors moving forward.

Who knows what will happen in the as-yet unnamed Infinity War sequel? All I know is that it’s due out on May 3, 2019, exactly one year from the day I am posting this.

And now the wait begins…

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Never Break the Chain

Thank God for James Gunn. In an era of grim and gritty superhero movies, here is a guy who looks at that and says, “let’s have some fun.” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn’s sequel to his original Guardians of the Galaxy which was a hit in the summer of 2014, is finally here, and I am pleased to report that it is every bit as joyously fun as its predecessor.

Image: Marvel/Disney

I won’t say too much about the plot, since I generally try to avoid spoilers for brand-new films. But I will say that the story involves the mysterious parentage of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. I loved the film’s plot, it provided closure to lingering questions and did a great job of incorporating all the characters and making them feel necessary and vital. There are quite a few characters in the movie, and movies with such an abundance of characters sometimes struggle to make all of them feel important. Not the case with this movie, which manages to take Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Baby Groot, Nebula, and Yondu and make them all vital parts of the story, while also adding a few new characters. This is not an easy feat, but Gunn’s clever screenplay makes it look easy.

All of the things audiences loved about the original are here: the memorable characters, the eye-popping visuals, the humor, and the rockin’ soundtrack. The music is a vital part of the Guardians movies. Where else will you find epic spaceship battles accompanied by 70’s pop hits? Gunn’s movies are unlike other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in the best possible way. They’re playful and irreverent, while still delivering the thrilling action and emotional beats that make the best Marvel movies so enjoyable.

But let’s return to the soundtrack for a moment. I love the way Gunn incorporates the music into these films, and I think I liked the soundtrack in this movie even more than the first one. Every song fits perfectly, and many of them carry thematic significance, such as the Fleetwood Mac song that gives this post its subtitle. Gunn clearly put a lot of thought into which songs to use, and where in the film to use them, and he even manages to make a few of them part of the plot. By contrast, Suicide Squad is a recent example of a movie that tried to emulate Gunn’s excellent use of music, but didn’t do it nearly as well.

I would say that the movie is not quite as good overall as its predecessor, but just barely. The new film is a bit more cluttered and is slightly overstuffed. But this is a minor complaint, as it is still a heck of a lot of fun. It’s also a gorgeous movie to look at, and there is a wide variety of planets and environments that our misfit heroes’ adventures take them to, as well as many kinds of alien races and creative vehicles and weaponry, so there is no shortage of eye candy.

Image: Marvel/Disney

The cast has great chemistry, and Dave Bautista as Drax deserves a special shout-out. Who knew that a former pro wrestler could be so damn funny? Drax gets some of the biggest laughs of the movie, and this is a movie with a lot of laughs. Gunn’s Guardians films are easily the funniest Marvel movies, and the humor never feels forced. It doesn’t feel like there are jokes just for the sake of comic relief, the humor is a natural part of the story and the characters. This is also one of the more trippy Marvel movies, only Doctor Strange can come close to it in terms of psychedelic visuals, particularly during the lengthy final battle.

And oh, how I love Baby Groot. I need to go on Amazon and see if there is like, a plush Baby Groot or something that I can get, because that would make me so happy. Not only is Baby Groot adorable, but he also gets to help save the galaxy, so he’s not there just for the sake of being cute and/or funny, although he is definitely both of those things. When he gets caged by space pirates and they’re being mean to him, I spent the whole scene thinking “LEAVE BABY GROOT ALONE!!” One of my favorite lines comes when one space pirate asks the space pirate leader “Can I squish it with a rock?” and the leader replies, “No, Jeff, it is too adorable to kill!” (Some of my other favorite lines include “Die, spaceship!” and “You suck, Zylar.”) And of course there is Groot’s immortal catchphrase, “I am Groot,” which can mean anything at all. The film’s characters are all great but Baby Groot is my favorite.

Image: Marvel/Disney

And let us not forget that this is a movie with a lot of heart. We learn more about the characters and their relationships and backgrounds, and everything we learn feels meaningful, and is often quite touching. Gunn is able to deftly balance the emotional beats with the humor and the big action scenes, and somehow the tone of the film still feels consistent. There’s so much going on in any given scene that in a lesser director’s hand it could all fall apart, but once again Gunn makes it look easy. Gunn is such a surehanded director that it’s hard to believe this is only his fourth directorial feature. I hope the success of Guardians will lead to him getting more directorial gigs in the future, in case you couldn’t tell, I love this guy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 delivers everything you want from a summer blockbuster. It’s smart, funny, well-directed, action-packed, and full of memorable characters. I could spend a lot more time going into details of specific scenes that I loved, but that would mean describing more or less the entire movie, and we don’t have all day. But suffice to say that I loved it, and I’m confident that you will, too. Also, be sure to stay all the way through the credits, because not only are there a whopping total of FIVE post-credits scenes, but the end credits also have several other little Easter eggs that are fun to look for. So go see it, have fun, and remember, I AM GROOT!

Humans: The Other White Meat

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, I guess.

Somehow, Jurassic World managed to have the biggest opening weekend of all time, raking in a staggering $500 million worldwide. In most cases I would be happy about this. I love movies, and I’m happy when lots of people go see them. Unless we’re talking about an abomination like 50 Shades of Grey, but that’s another discussion.

So maybe it’s hypocritical of me to say that I wish it had been for another movie. I thought Jurassic World was mediocre at best, and here’s why.


First, the premise. In the film, John Hammond’s dream from the first movie has become a reality, and Jurassic World the theme park is now open. Unfortunately, attendance is down, so the park’s scientists have created a new, genetically-modified dinosaur in an attempt to draw more visitors.

Okay, a few things here. First off, I really like that the Jurassic theme park Hammond envisioned in the first film is now a reality. That’s really cool, and Jurassic World feels like a real place. It lives and breathes. The filmmakers did a great job of making it feel like an actual theme park that thousands of people would visit. I’m pretty sure I saw a Starbucks in there somewhere, which may be product placement but makes the park seem pretty genuine, since if this place were real you can bet that there would be Starbucks or three nestled in there someplace. Maybe you could get a Jurassic frappuccino.

Mmm, frappuccinos.

jw om nom nom

Ahem, anyway, the problem is that I just can’t buy that the people who run the park would be all that worried when attendance dips a bit. Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager who is played by Bryce Dallas Howard, gives a long speech to potential investors about how people are bored with plain old dinosaurs, so they fiddled around with various species’ DNA to create the new dinosaur, called Indominus Rex, a name so stupid that even the characters in the film make fun of it.

But, wait, hang on a second. People are bored with dinosaurs? Are you kidding me? Disneyland has been open since 1955 and still draws huge crowds, and people are already bored with freaking dinosaurs???  Mickey Mouse is fine and all, but when it comes to creatures that have been dead for 65 million years you need to think outside the box a little? WTF? Man, people really do have the attention spans of goldfish these days, I guess.

And, I dunno, you couldn’t have made a peaceful dinosaur or something? You had to make an incredibly dangerous super-predator, that I like to refer to as Deathzilla the Murdersaurus? And as it turns out, Deathzilla also has (spoiler alert) the ability to camouflage??  Why are scientists in movies always so stupid?! What do you people think is going to happen?!


This. This is what’s going to happen.

And then to add to the stupidity, you’ve got an oily bureaucrat who wants to weaponize the freaking velociraptors for military use, because there’s absolutely no way that could possibly backfire. Admittedly, I would totally watch a movie where raptors hunt down terrorists, that would be awesome, but in this movie it just comes off as really half-assed.

And later, the slimy bureaucrat (who is exactly the same as every corporate douchebag you’ve ever seen in any other movie) has the unbelievably brilliant idea of releasing the raptors to hunt down Deathzilla, which (spoiler alert, although I really shouldn’t have to say that because anyone with half a brain [which is still at least two-thirds more of a brain than anyone in this movie has] knows what is coming next) GOES HORRIBLY WRONG.

“What have we learned from 65 million years of evolution?” the douchey corporate guy asks at one point. NOT VERY MUCH, as it turns out.

Just, ugh. Jurassic World is a movie that leaves no cliché unused. The movie has four (credited) screenwriters, and not one of them has an original bone in their body.

Case in point: the kids. Remember Lex and Tim, the extremely irritating kids from the original Jurassic Park? Well, meet Jurassic World’s obligatory kids-in-peril, Zack and Gray.

jw freaking kids

Zack and Gray are Claire the park manager’s nephews, and I did not care about them at all. They’re at the park because their parents are having some marital problems (which I also did not care about) and sent them to Jurassic World under the pretense of reconnecting with their aunt Claire, who hasn’t seen them in years and clearly has no idea how to interact with them.

To their credit, Zack and Gray are nowhere near as obnoxious as Lex and Tim from the original movie. They’re just…kinda boring. I didn’t care about their parents’ marital problems. I didn’t care about them reconnecting with their aunt. I didn’t care when they were in danger.

And this leads in to the biggest problem with the movie as a whole: I just. Didn’t. Care.

I didn’t care about the kids.

I didn’t care about Claire.

I didn’t care about the 20,000 visitors at the park.

And, although I’m a bit shocked to find myself saying this, I didn’t even care very much about Chris Pratt’s character. Pratt plays Owen Grady, who works with the velociraptors. Every review that I read of the movie called him the dino-whisperer, so I am going to go out of my way to not refer to him as the dino-whisperer here.


Anyway, Pratt is his usual likable and engaging self, but he’s let down by a lackluster script that gives his character very little personality. It’s stated that he and Claire had some sort of relationship in the past, but surprise surprise, I did not care.

He and Claire spend a fair amount of time together looking for Zack and Gray after the fit hits the shan, and Pratt and Howard have decent chemistry, but it’s just not enough to get me to care. It’s also not helped by the fact that Claire ridiculously spends half the movie running through the dino-infested jungle in high heels. Why not just ditch the damn heels and go barefoot, seriously. I think scraped feet would be the least of your worries when you’re trying not to get eaten by a Murdersaurus.

God, this movie is sloppily written. Subplots are introduced and dropped without going anywhere. None of the characters have any personality. And half the characters are morons. Here’s something that bugged the hell out of me: before they go to Jurassic World, one of the kids (the older one, I already forget which one he was) says some long, drawn-out goodbye to his girlfriend, and then proceeds to completely ignore all the dinosaurs at the park and make eyes at literally every single teenage girl he sees. Seriously, what a shithead.

And there are at least three or four separate occasions where people are like, “Hey, look how cool [Chris Pratt’s character] is!!” Seriously, Jurassic World screenwriters, I don’t need to be told multiple times how cool someone is supposed to be! Show, don’t tell! Screenwriting 101! Sheesh.

the prattification of the world is nigh.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m bashing on this movie unnecessarily. Despite all of its (many) flaws, I didn’t hate it. I guess I can’t really hate any movie that has dinosaurs, since my inner eight-year-old still loves dinosaurs. If I saw this movie when I was eight, I probably would have loved it.

To be honest, I don’t really like the original Jurassic Park movies all that much either. I appreciate them, I just don’t like them very much. They strike me now as being really pretentious and they seem like they’re trying too hard to make a point or something.

This isn’t helped by the fact that I HATE the Jurassic Park theme music. You know how it goes. Even if you can’t come up with it off the top of your head, you’d recognize it if you heard it. I just freaking HATE that music. Don’t get me wrong, John Williams’ music for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman etc. are brilliant. Iconic. But I HATE Williams’ score for Jurassic Park. It’s so smarmy and overwrought, and it draws so much attention to itself. Music in films is supposed to blend seamlessly with the movie, but to me, the Jurassic Park theme sticks out like a sore thumb. Admittedly, all of this isn’t a problem with Jurassic World specifically, but I think it bears mentioning anyway.

I don’t know, guys. This movie just didn’t do much for me. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t like it very much. At least it’s not overlong. The movie runs at just about two hours, so at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome too much. And it does look pretty good, and has a couple of fun sequences. But overall, I really can’t recommend it. Not that it matters, since half the damn universe has already seen this movie, and the other half of the universe has it on their to-do list.

Oh well.

Hooked on a Feelin’

Do you like fun? You know, fun – an experience that is enjoyable or playful, a cause for mirth and/or merriment? Because if you do, you need to see Guardians of the Galaxy. It is probably the most fun I have had at the movies this year.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy...Milano..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2014

Most Marvel movies are surefire moneymakers, and while Guardians did have the advantage of having a built-in fanbase of Marvel movies in general, a movie that features an anthropomorphic raccoon and a talking tree creature was not exactly a sure thing.

So the success of the movie since its release on August 1 has made me extremely happy. It’s one of the most-liked movies of the year, and pretty much every review I’ve read of and every person I know who has seen it has loved it.

And what’s not to love? The best way I can describe the movie is that it’s like Star Wars or Star Trek on steroids. There are quite a few similarities – the protagonists are a veritable Rogues Gallery of lovable vagabonds, the kind who will save the day but may or may not steal your wallet in the process, in true Han Solo style.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy characters

The characters and settings are wildly diverse and creative, with all kinds of different intergalactic locales and the frequently shady denizens that populate them. Everything in the movie looks fantastic, and while movies of this sort are generally unlikely to win Academy Awards, in this reviewer’s opinion the special effects, costumes, makeup and production design are all Oscar-worthy.

The story itself is maybe not quite as memorable, since it’s not all that much different from the plot of Thor: The Dark World last year. You know, bad guy wants to acquire ancient cosmic power to destroy stuff, good guys want to prevent this from happening. That kind of thing.

But that’s okay. The movie is more about bringing its eclectic group of characters together and letting them do their thing.

And what a fun thing it is! They escape from space prison, have all kinds of spaceship battles, beat each other up a few times, and ultimately end up bosom buddies.

All five of the main characters are very likable and the movie finds time to give all of them a lot of personality and also gives each of them their own time to shine during the many explosive action scenes.

Between this and The Lego Movie (and Moneyball a few years ago), Chris Pratt is now one of my favorite actors. He proves with Guardians that he has the charisma to carry a movie, and he looks like he’s having a great time.


The rest of the cast is also great – Zoe Saldana looks just as good in green as she did in blue (in Avatar), and we get our first glimpse of Josh Brolin as megavillain Thanos, teased at the end of The Avengers.

Professional wrestler Dave Bautista proves surprisingly endearing as Drax the Destroyer, a musclebound, vengeance-minded fellow who, hilariously, doesn’t understand metaphors, which, as an English major, was doubly hilarious to me.

Bradley Cooper makes Rocket Raccoon my favorite character in the movie, giving the pint-sized critter an attitude a mile wide. I hate raccoons in real life, but Cooper’s performance as Rocket has to be one of the best performances by a computer-generated character by anyone not named Andy Serkis.

The same goes for Vin Diesel as Groot the tree creature, who is only capable of saying “I am Groot,” but he’s a downright lovable character. He’s kind of like the Chewbacca of the movie, since he only says “I am Groot” but his best friend Rocket knows exactly what he means. (Example: Groot: “I am Groot.” Rocket: “What do you mean 12% of a plan is better than 11%? What the hell does that have to do with anything?”)


 It really is amazing that everything in the movie works as well as it does. It had all the ingredients of a potential disaster, but under the direction of professional nerd James Gunn it all works like gangbusters, right down to the groovy array of 70’s tunes that play throughout the movie.

This is only Gunn’s third feature film, and his first with a blockbuster budget, but he proves himself an extremely capable and sure-handed filmmaker.


Look at him! He looks so nerdy! He looks the kind of guy who probably would have gotten picked on a lot in high school, but he made one of the most successful and widely-loved films of the year, so suck it, bullies!! Nerds rule the world!

I don’t really have anything particularly profound to say about this movie. It’s just a ton of fun, and you probably won’t get more bang for your buck from any other summer movie. And did I mention that it’s hilariously funny, on top of everything else? Because it absolutely is. I saw the movie twice on its opening weekend, and both times the audience I saw the movie with was in stitches. My face was sore afterwards because I was laughing so much.

Seriously, why are you still reading this? Go see Guardians of the Galaxy! I don’t care if you don’t usually go for sci-fi or superhero movies, you don’t need to be a sci-fi or superhero movie fan in order to find something in Guardians to enjoy.

You just need to like to have fun.

Everything is Awesome

Sometimes, I don’t understand myself.

When I first found out about The Lego Movie, I thought, “Well, Hollywood has officially run out of ideas. A movie where everything is made out of Legos? That sounds kind of dumb.”

I clearly remember thinking this, and being confused when the movie came out, got rave reviews, (96% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) and was a huge hit.

Well, last week I decided to get over myself and watched the movie. I loved it. It was fantastic. Contrary to my stupid assumption that The Lego Movie was proof of Hollywood’s lack of good ideas, The Lego Movie is actually an incredibly creative and fun movie, with gorgeous animation, top-notch voice acting, and a lot of heart. It’s also hilariously funny and is just a joy to watch.


The movie is about Emmet, an ordinary Lego guy who just wants to fit in. He promptly becomes involved in a spectacular adventure involving Batman, Morgan Freeman, a cop with split personalities (both of which are voiced by Liam Neeson), a Lego love interest (my mom cracked up when I used the phrase “Lego love interest”) and an ultimate superweapon known only as…the Kragle.

If none of that makes sense, that’s okay. I’m not going to spend much time talking about the details of the plot, although it did occur to me that the plot is basically that of The Matrix, except that everything is made of Legos.

This is just a really, really fun, creative movie. Sometimes movies can enlighten you and make you consider deep philosophical questions about life and the human condition, and sometimes you need that. But there are other times that you just need to watch Lego Batman say “I’m here to see…YOUR BUTT.”

And I love what they did with Batman in this movie. I love Batman and I will defend Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies all damn day for being the serious treatment of Batman that the character deserves, but The Lego Movie’s Batman is just freaking hilarious, and pokes fun at the character in a way that is never cruel or mean-spirited, but just really funny and clever.


The voice work in the movie is fantastic too. Emmet is voiced by Chris Pratt, an immensely likable actor who will soon be seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, and he gives Emmet an inherent likability that makes him so easy to root for. Batman is voiced hilariously by Will Arnett, whose gravelly Batman voice manages to make him both a good depiction of Batman and also completely adorable. Unsurprisingly, he’s my favorite character in the movie.

lego batitude

There’s also Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius, the Morpheus-esque leader of the Lego resistance who wears a Lego tie-dye shirt and what I can only assume are Lego bellbottoms. Elizabeth Banks voices Wyldstyle, the aforementioned Lego love interest (who is totally not a DJ), Will Ferrell is the evil Lord Business, and of course, the great Liam Neeson is both Good Cop and Bad Cop. My favorite Bad Cop line is when he’s waving his little Lego hands around and says “Do you see these quotation marks I am making with my claw hands?” There’s also Gandalf, Dumbledore, Wonder Woman, Shaquille O’Neal…the list goes on and on, and part of what makes the movie so much fun is spotting all these characters in the background.

lego liam neeson

The movie was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, a directing duo who can pretty much do no wrong these days. The visuals in this movie are frequently nothing short of breathtaking, and I was particularly transfixed by the Lego ocean in one scene, which looks exactly like rolling waves of Lego bricks. I have no idea how the animators pulled this movie off, but everything in it looks spectacular. Lord and Miller also directed 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, and in The Lego Movie they manage to work in a pretty hilarious joke about how annoyed Lego Superman is by Lego Green Lantern, which is even funnier once you realize that Superman is voiced by Channing Tatum and Green Lantern is voiced by Jonah Hill.

The phrase “fun for the whole family” gets tossed around a lot, but The Lego Movie really is the perfect example of a movie that will appeal to pretty much everybody, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

When I wrote about Transformers a few weeks ago, I said that a fire-breathing robot T-Rex is a perfect representation of what you would find in the brain of a 12-year-old boy. The Lego Movie is similar, but in a way that is so much more meaningful than anything Michael Bay has ever been able to accomplish. This is a movie that has a really good message, and I know that it seems like every piece of children’s entertainment has to have sort of message for the kids these days, but this movie manages it so much more gracefully than most. The final scenes of the movie are genuinely poignant, and I found myself actually being moved by a movie about children’s construction toys. That alone qualifies The Lego Movie as one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I’ve had all year.

I write about a lot of dark and violent movies on this site (which isn’t going to change much because I’m going to write about The Raid 2 soon), but it’s important to remember to have a little levity every now and then. I’m not in a great place in my life right now, and I’m always grateful when a movie like The Lego Movie comes along to remind me that hey, everything will be okay and life will get better.

Everything is Awesome!

lego movie emmet

And now that song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.