Tag Archives: chris pratt

If ‘Fallen Kingdom’ is the Best They Can Do, Maybe it’s Time to Let ‘Jurassic Park’ Go Extinct

To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from the first “Jurassic Park” film: “the executives at Universal were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a “Jurassic World” sequel, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the sequel to the 2015 blockbuster that confirmed Chris Pratt as a leading man and (for a time) owned multiple box office records. This time around, with the island of Isla Nublar set to fall victim to a volcanic eruption, Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) must return to the abandoned theme park to try and rescue the remaining creatures. J. A. Bayona takes over director duties from Colin Trevorrow (who returns to write the screenplay with Derek Connolly) as Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Isabella Sermon all join the cast.

I really loved the first “Jurassic World.” It was a fun summer surprise (that I saw three times in theaters) and really thought it captured the fun and thrills that a film of that genre should. Yet despite that, I really wasn’t looking forward to this sequel all too much. The trailers did nothing for me and as we got more and more of them it just seemed like they were struggling to find new places to take the franchise. And after seeing the actual film, it is obvious they are struggling to find new places to take the franchise.

Let’s talk about the good first. There are brief moments throughout the film that play almost like a horror movie and I think that is when director Bayona felt most comfortable, which makes sense since his breakout film was “The Orphanage” in 2007. Dinosaurs are killing machines, there shouldn’t really be a scene in the entire film that doesn’t have a sense of threat surrounding, and Bayona makes good use of shadows and sound to convey that fear.

Chris Pratt is too good for us and he is too good for movies like this, but he tries his best to make the best of a weak script. Occasionally his charm bleeds through and he gets one fight scene to flex his muscles but most of the time you can see the embarrassment in his eyes and the “this is paying for your beach house” in his line delivery. Isabella Sermon, who plays the young granddaughter of James Cromwell (who in-turn is playing an old partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond), does alright keeping up with the likes of Pratt and Howard, although her character adds nothing to the story save for one twist that is eye-rollingly dumb. Also Sermon, an English actress, speaks only half of her lines in American so they literally added a scene where her nanny is struggling to teach her how to speak with an English accent to try and cover for it. It’s funny to realize but lazy by the filmmakers.

The first “Jurassic World” had its moments of cringe humor but it also had some comedic moments that worked (“I was with the Navy, not the Navajo!”). Here near everything is a swing and a miss, from the jokes to the over-the-top acting (mainly by a shrieking Justice Smith). There are moments of possible tension that are ruined by “jokes” and while that is a problem that plagues many Marvel movies, those jokes are at least actually funny and they’re characters we’d expect it from (including Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord). The script here just felt like a first draft, with unpolished dialogue and numerous conveniences, and they clearly assumed this thing would crank out a billion dollars no matter the quality.

What truly hinders this film, however, is just that we’ve seen this all done before and it has either been done better or are parts of previous “Jurassic” films that people noted as not liking. Take the dinosaurs off the island? Didn’t work in “The Lost World” but let’s try it again here. Create a super dinosaur with a grab-bag of powers that work for the plot? Really annoyed some people in the last film but that made $1.5 billion so what do people know? And so on.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a massive letdown and wastes a great director and charismatic star. There are a handful of thrills and exciting moments, as well as those darker bits I mentioned, but they just never mesh and the sense of “been there, done that” is more powerful now more than ever. As Jeff Goldblum is asked during a senate hearing, “should these be left to die?” and if they’re talking about the “Jurassic Park” franchise then to that I say, maybe it is time.

Critic’s Grade: C–


‘Magnificent Seven’ a Surprisingly Dull Western

Magnificent_Seven_2016Do yourself a favor and instead of watching this, go watch “3:10 to Yuma” and then “Seven Samurai” (after reading this review of course).


“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 western film of the same name, which in turn was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai.” It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier as seven outlaws in the 1870s Old West who are hired to save a town from a corrupt industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard). Antoine Fuqua directs.


Fuqua has always been a mixed bag with me. When he tries to make popcorn action films like “Shooter” or “Olympus Has Fallen” the results are good, and the films are fun. However when he tries to elevate his craft to a more serious tone like “The Equalizer” or “Southpaw,” the finished products are meh at best (the exception being “Training Day,” but I haven’t seen that film in a minute). And unfortunately, Fuqua tries to make “Seven” too serious but yet keep a playful tone, and much like “Suicide Squad” the end result is a monotonous mess.


Denzel Washington, much like Tom Hanks, will never turn in a bad performance, no matter what kind of role he is in and he again shows why he is one of the biggest actors of his generation. Washington plays a man with a clouded past and acts in his own self-interests, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a sympathetic heart. Chris Pratt, who is quickly becoming Hollywood’s next big action star, is pretty fun in his role and provides most of the film’s laughs, however at times his character comes off as annoying.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems: most every character besides Denzel, to varying degrees, is a cartoon. Ethan Hawke hisses during a gunfight, Vincent D’Onofrio speaks in a high-pitch for the entire film and Peter Sarsgaard’s villain is straight out of a Western comic book. Often it gets tedious and at times it becomes laughable, because all these different and quirky personalities never gel.


Fuqua has always been able shoot action scenes well however he also is used to being able to play with an R rating, a luxury he is not allowed here. The film has two main shootout sequences and the final one at the climax (which runs for an ungodly 45 minutes) falls victim to “PG-13 violence,” meaning there is a lot (*a lot*) of rapid fire editing and close-ups of people getting killed.


And let’s talk about that end fight. I touched on how it lasts way too long but it is also the only thing to truly happen in the entire film. The first hour and a half consists of the Seven riding horses and training the townspeople to fire guns. It wasn’t until they were doing the obligatory “final supper before battle” that I realized we were about to enter the climax of the film and nothing had happened yet. The stakes don’t feel earned and since the one single event is dragged out for the entire runtime it makes it difficult for them to be acknowledged at all.


“The Magnificent Seven” is fun in small bursts, and there’s a “summer movie season” vibe about it that is inviting, but the whole film drags along and with its polished, attractive cast and elaborate set pieces, it feels very “2016,” not like a dirty, gritty Western. The film is not magnificent, nor does it score a 7, but look on the bright side: at least Pratt and Washington both get chances to redeem themselves with their new films come December…


Critics Rating: 5/10

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

‘Jurassic’ Knocks it Out of the Park

Jurassic_World_posterIt’s a cliché line, but I don’t care: this is why we go to the movies.

“Jurassic World” is the first film of the Jurassic Park franchise since 2001, and it stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Vincent D’Onofrio. 22 years after the events of the first film, the island of Isla Nublar now features a complete dinosaur-driven theme park. In an effort to boost dwindling attendance, a new hybrid dinosaur is created, which then escapes containment and must be stopped before it reaches the park. Colin Trevorrow directs.

There is so much that “Jurassic World” does right, I don’t know quite where to begin. From the score, to the direction, to the visuals, this movie succeeds on most every level, as both the quintessential summer blockbuster, as well as continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise.

The score of the film is done by Michael Giacchino (who won an Original Score Oscar for “Up”), and he does every scene masterfully. He puts his own little spin on the John Williams classic theme, and every time it starts playing you’ll get goosebumps and be filled with nostalgia.

Trevorrow does a great job directing, too, and just like Giacchino he strikes the perfect balance between the classic style of the first film while still giving it his own touch. When Trevorrow was named director of the film a few years back, many scratched their heads. His only directorial experience was the indie film “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which was about magazine writers covering a guy who wants to create time travel; doesn’t exactly scream “give this guy $150 million to create a dinosaur adventure!”.

But Trevorrow masters the intense scenes, and builds up a shroud of mystery surrounding the hybrid dinosaur, by only giving us small glances for the first third of the film. His camera movements are smooth and the climax is as entertaining and satisfying as anything you’ll see at the movies this year.

Chris Pratt continues to impress and show why he’s Hollywood’s next leading man. Gone are the days of him being the funny fat sidekick; Pratt, just like in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is a rugged, sarcastic cool Joe that all the guys want to be and all the girls wanna be with. I mean, the dude trains raptors. You should be reaching into your pocket to give the film your money based on that sentence alone.

The film’s biggest problems aren’t really problems, just gripes that took me out of the moment for a second. For example, the whole film is based around the idea that attendance to the park is declining because people aren’t interested in seeing dinosaurs anymore. I find that hard to believe, seeing as zoo’s have been around for 150 years and remain huge attractions, and they aren’t filled with creatures that went extinct 65 million years ago. [shrugs] Just saying…

When you get right down to it, though, this is the perfect summer movie. It has a charismatic star, features amazing music and visuals, and is immensely entertaining throughout. “Jurassic World” captured my childhood fantasies and made me feel like a kid again, and I don’t know of too many movies that have been able to do that.

Critics Rating: 9/10



‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Zany, Brilliant Fun

GOTG-posterImagine “The Avengers” and “Star Wars” had a child and it listened to nothing but music from the 1970’s and 80’s. That’s pretty much what “Guardians of the Galaxy” is, and it’s about as awesome as you imagined when you read that description.

Directed and written by James Gunn, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is yet another film set in the Marvel Universe. It stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper as the Guardians, a group of rag-tag intergalactic criminals who set out to save the world from a radical tyrant.

The first time I saw the trailer for “Guardians”, I thought it was a joke; like a parody skit from a late night show. It was so sarcastic and over-the-top and self-referential that it couldn’t be an actual film. But it was, and the final product is as entertaining as that first trailer implied it to be.

Everything about “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been done before, yet the film manages to be fresh and new all at the same time. The heroes in the film, despite ranging from a walking tree to a talking raccoon, are more relatable than the average superhero. They curse, get drunk, and debate not saving people because it would endanger their own life. You know, people stuff.

Gunn, who directed “Super”, a film where a regular guy becomes a vigilante hero, has written a script that doesn’t forget about its hero’s humanity, as well as their humor, and it is what makes “Guardians” such a fun ride. Honestly, this is one of the funniest films of the year. All the Marvel movies have their share of wit and humor, especially “Iron Man”, but “Guardians” is different. It’s just plain zany. Characters will say things that on paper shouldn’t work, or may seem awkward in a superhero film, but on screen it turns to gold (“I have a plan! I have…I don’t know, 12% of a plan!”).

The only true flaw in “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the use of filler scenes. While I was never bored, and at times was having the most fun I had had at a cinema all year, there are a few scenes that just felt unnecessary, and created some pacing issues. If the film had been an hour 45, instead of pushing it to the two hour mark, I think it would have been perfect. But hey, I’m not complaining I got an additional 15 minutes of seeing a raccoon shooting a machine gun.

The villain was also very Darth Maul-ish in that he looks cool, but in actuality has a cliché plot and is just a puppet for the main villain of the series. But that’s neither here nor there.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is like everything you’ve seen before in superhero and science-fiction films, yet unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s stupid, cliché, and over-the-top all while being brilliant, original and relatable. I honestly had a blast with this film and feel no guilt saying that it is just as good, and slightly funnier, than “The Avengers”. In a month of the year that normally has studios dumping out trash, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is anything but.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘Delivery Man’ Brings Laughs and Charm


         It is often said that Vince Vaughn plays the same character in every one of his movies, and that that shtick is getting pretty tiresome. Well Vince Vaughn must read people’s reviews of Vince Vaughn movies because all of a sudden in “Delivery Man” he drops the quick talking, used car salesman-like attitude and shows a much deeper side.

Based on a Canadian film entitled “Starbuck”, “Delivery Man” follows an underachieving middle aged man (Vaughn) who discovers that, due to a mix up at a fertility clinic, he is the father of 533 children, and that 142 of them are suing to find out his identity. Ken Scott, who wrote and directed the original film, has the same duties here.

I’m not too shy about the fact that I am not a Vince Vaughn fan. Much like Adam Sandler, I find many of his films lazy, uninspired and above all not funny. But it is strange; every movie that Vaughn only acts in (so doesn’t write or produce as well), I find enjoyable. Vaughn only acted in “Dodgeball” and “Wedding Crashers”: I like those films. He wrote and produced “Couple’s Retreat” and “The Internship”: ehh, not so much a fan. Vaughn only did work in front of the camera in “Delivery Man”, and maybe that is one reason I enjoyed it so much.

Vaughn is more relatable and sympathetic in this movie than many of his other roles. I was rooting for him the whole time as he attempts to connect with his 142 children without exposing himself. He never breaks out into those trademark fast-talking Vaughn rants, despite having several opportunities to, so I have to commend him for that. He had charm and heart and some solid chuckles, and that was enough for me.

What makes the movie as pleasant as it is, however, is Chris Pratt, who pays Vaughn’s lawyer friend and overstressed father of 4. Pratt just has a great screen presence and a couple great pieces of dialogue, and each and every big laugh in the film comes from him. Without Pratt, the movie would have just been another feel-good dramedy; he pushes it the extra mile.

There really isn’t anything wrong with the movie except for some its construction. There are a few plot points that seem forced, and others that just go away without any real reason, such as Vaughn owing money to the mob.

“Delivery Man” is pretty much what the holiday season is all about: spending time with your family, some of whom you may have never met, and having moments that are funny, awkward and heartwarming, sometimes all at once. A hat off to Vaughn for having a change of pace in his films, and hopefully it is a trend that continues.

Critics Rating: 7/10