Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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In 2015, the first Jurassic World divided audiences and critics between those who enjoyed it for what it was, namely a visually entertaining popcorn flick seasoned with nostalgia, and those who felt it was sorely lacking in terms of the heart that made the original film compelling beyond its superficial appeal as a dinosaur rampage movie. With director J.A. Bayona receiving substantial praise for both past efforts like The Orphanage as well as the more recent A Monster Calls, there is no doubt that the director would bring a certain degree of visual competence to the Jurassic World sequel.

And it does indeed start very well with a thrilling and atmospheric opening sequence that gives the viewer a taster of director J.A. Bayona’s talents as a visual storyteller, just as this sequence also serves as a paraphrasing of the extended ending of the original Jurassic Park, which never made it beyond the storyboard phase back in the day. While it takes a while, such sequences soon prove to be plentiful, which will undoubtedly thrill many viewers, however, some may find Bayona’s approach too tonally distant from the original, as the Spanish director brings an almost gothic fairytale flavor to several of these set pieces.

As we are reintroduced to the protagonists of the 2015 film, the plot begins to unfold, or rather what little and messy plot there is. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are likable due to their natural, individual onscreen presence, but neither is afforded much character development. Except for the exposition-dumping we get – courtesy of a few archive clips of Pratt’s Owen documenting how he forms a bond with his velociraptor Blue when she was merely a cuddly little ball of razor-sharp teeth, claws and killer instinct – nothing else is done to explore the bond between man and prehistoric beast; and that is an awful shame as that would have given the film a distinct, if silly, charm that many dinosaur enthusiasts would have thoroughly enjoyed.

Likewise, nothing is done to further flesh out the relationship between Owen and Claire, as these characters have no interesting exchanges once the action kicks into gear, resulting in non-existent character arcs for a duo that has plenty of potential. New characters are also introduced without taking more than the absolute bare minimum of time to flesh them out, resulting in a handful of underdeveloped supporting characters reminiscent of the equally bland supporting cast featured in Jurassic World. As a result, there is a sinful waste of talent all around, which leaves the viewer unable to invest in any of the human characters, and by proxy the various plot twists and film premise as a whole, as one eventually begins to realize that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has little else to offer than a string of unevenly executed action set pieces.

While Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is undoubtedly leagues better than the eternally abysmal Jurassic Park 3, it still feels like a hollow shell that captures none of the magic of the original, much like it also completely wastes the potential one after all has with cast members such as Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall and Toby Jones. Arguably, Jurassic Park was also a relentless thrill ride with seemingly never-ending perils for our protagonists to face, but what made the viewer engage with that film was the combination of the marvelous technical achievements of Stan Winston’s team and the humanity that Steven Spielberg so competently injected into the 1993 original. What we are left with this time around may be equally relentless on a purely superficial level, but there is nothing there for the viewer to engage with emotionally, making Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom regrettably disengaging narratively, even for someone like yours truly, who never outgrew the obligatory childhood obsession with all things dinosaurs.

Verdict: 5 out 10.

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Review: Isle of Dogs

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Wes Anderson’s affinity for symmetrical cinematography and vibrantly colored production design has always been his signature aesthetic, and his second animated feature bears all the trademarks of the director’s distinct style. Much like Fantastic Mr. Fox managed to impress both as a Wes Anderson film as well as a stop motion feature, Isle of Dogs is of a similarly high standard. Boasting a roster of Anderson’s frequent and very famous collaborators, the voice acting is as superbly eclectic as the narrative in this stop motion animated feature for eccentric kids of all ages.

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Review: Ready Player One

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For decades, Steven Spielberg has been responsible for many a fond movie memory being created in the minds of lovers of relentless sharks, rampaging dinosaurs and adventurous archaeologists with a knack for punching Nazis, and there are therefore understandably high expectations for what Spielberg can do with something as highly imaginative as the world of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. In the film adaptation of the bestselling novel, we are, much like the book, introduced to a dystopian world in the near future where people escape the misery of their lives by entering the virtual reality realm knows as The Oasis, and it is within this realm that the majority of the film plays out.

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Review: Molly’s Game

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It is safe to say that Aaron Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters working today, a status he has deservedly earned thanks to excellent writing credits including the award-winning scripts for The West Wing, Steve Jobs and The Social Network. While Molly’s Game continues Sorkin’s current trend of writing scripts concerning the lives of real people, the film also marks his first time directing.

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Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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As Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson continues his vendetta against iconic elements of 90’s pop culture, no property appears to be safe. Having already tormented cinemagoers with the painful Baywatch film earlier this year, it is therefore understandable that many have expressed their concerns about his involvement with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Being not quite a sequel and not quite a reboot either, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle seeks to show us the inside of the Jumanji board game, which has now become a video game, a change that only spurred further outrage from fans of the 1995 original.

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Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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When The Force Awakens was released in 2015, it was met with overwhelmingly favorable reviews, just as the fans for the most part seemed thoroughly pleased by the continuation of the beloved saga. The cause for the success was largely attributed to J.J. Abrams having managed to bring the franchise back to its roots in terms of tone and atmosphere, just as many of the new additions to the cast were also commended for being highly compelling. However, with a change of director and the untimely death of the inimitable Carrie Fisher, people have been wondering where director Rian Johnson would take the saga, as the ominous episode title The Last Jedi and the secretive marketing campaign seemed to suggest that the latest installment would be a much darker outing than its predecessor.

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Review: Justice League

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Not only has establishing the DC Extended Universe proved to be an arduous task with the numerous flops threatening to be a deadly counterweight to the one big hit the current film franchise managed to land with Wonder Woman this summer, the production of Justice League itself has also been tumultuous, to say the least. When Zack Snyder decided to step down from Justice League due to the tragic loss of his daughter, Joss Whedon stepped in to cover for Snyder, helming a substantial amount of re-shoots. Among DC fans, concerns understandably grew that Warner Bros. were simply trying to imitate the Marvel formula by bringing in the director of The Avengers, but while it is for better and most definitely also worse easy to see which elements Whedon has been in charge of, Justice League overwhelmingly comes across as the vision of a Snyder who has reined in his preference for angsty bleakness and muted colors and instead attempted to create a more vibrant film with more of a comic book feel than his previous DCEU offerings.

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