Tag Archives: Jurassic World

A very short review of “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

I had fun with “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).  I’d rate it an 8 out of 10, if a little grudgingly.  For me, it started quite strong with its introduction of Chris Pratt’s roguish space antihero; I actually had no idea he could be this funny.  (I’ve only seen him once before, weighed down by the failed comedic scripting of 2015’s “Jurassic World.”)

I’m sorry to say that my interest in “Guardians of the Galaxy” waned just a bit as it subsequently unfolded as a cartoonish, relatively tame, family-friendly adventure — complete with a heartwarming value-of-friendship lesson.  That’s fine, I guess — it’s cool and it makes sense that the Marvel Cinematic Universe should offer films more appropriate for younger viewers.  Can you imagine, however, how hilarious this movie would be if it truly deserved its (befuddling) PG-13 rating, and really pressed the envelope?  Between Pratt’s wit and these offbeat character concepts, it would be amazing.

I still had fun with this, though, thanks mainly to the action and the impressive special effects.  I’d recommend it, and I’m planning on seeing the sequel.

Postscript — people are saying that this is the MCU’s answer to “Star Wars,” and I suppose it could be.  But I had a lot more fun thinking that the movie was channeling Harry Harrison’s priceless science fiction book series featuring criminal-antiheroes — the “Stainless Steel Rat” adventures.

 

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“Alien: Covenant” (2017) is a first-rate sci-fi horror show with lots of monstery goodness.

I am part of a happy minority where “Alien Covenant” (2017) is concerned — I keep hearing about “meh” or negative reactions from my friends, but I quite enjoyed it.  I’d rate it a 9 out of 10.

No, this second installment in the “Alien” prequel trilogy doesn’t bring much new to the table.  It often seems like a collection of common tropes, and borrows a bit from previous films in the franchise — especially the first movie in 1979.  Some aspects of it — like a predictable and slightly gimmicky development late in the story — even feel like horror movie cliches.  (I am doing everything I can to avoid spoilers, so forgive how vague I’m being here.)  “Alien: Covenant” isn’t groundbreaking, and it isn’t destined to be called a “classic.”

Here’s the thing, though — all of the movie’s common tropes are exactly what make fans happy.  Think about it … if you had to name two “Alien” movies as unique or the most divergent, they might be the heady, ambitious “Prometheus” (2012) and the baroquely experimental “Alien: Resurrection” (1997).  Whatever their failings, both of those movies deserve points for creativity.  And they are among the three films that fans hated the most.  (The third here is the smartest and most underappreciated installment, 1993’s brilliant “Alien 3.”)

With “Alien: Covenant,” Ridley Scott gives fans exactly what they were clamoring for — a frightening, gory, space-based horror film with creatively designed monsters and some nasty surprises.  It very much returns to the tone of the first film.  It is even jarringly darker than “Prometheus,” which was defined partly by its moments of cautious optimism.  And, more than any other sequel, it seems directly inspired by the grotesquerie of H. R. Giger’s original, nightmarish monster designs.  I feel certain this movie would have received the late artist’s blessing.  (I could name a certain scene and an excellent surprise story development, but I won’t.)

Michael Fassbender shined in his two roles here.  (He not only reprises his role as the android, “David,” but also portrays a newer model, “Walter.”)  The rest of the acting was roundly good too.

I also found the movie nice and scary.  I, for one, don’t think Scott’s direction of action scenes here is perfect.  (They are harder to follow here, for example, than his beautiful arena melees in 2000’s “Gladiator.”) But they were still effective.

So this return to form made me pretty happy.  I didn’t want another muddled attempt at profundity like “Prometheus.”  Nor did I want a winding, bizarre, arthouse-horror tale like “Resurrection” — that movie was like a poorly written, drug-fueled comic book.  I wanted a first-rate sci-fi horror show with lots of monstery goodness, and that’s what I got.

If I had to pick a criticism of “Alien: Covenant,” I’m surprised to have to point to some less-than-stellar CGI.  This was something I noticed from early trailers for the film, and I’m surprised I haven’t heard another reviewer mention in it yet.  One scene rendered a title baddie about as well as a modern video game, albeit a good one.  Another’s depiction of an upright “neomorph” seemed … fairly bad.  (Fans of decent creature features shouldn’t despair, however — there are still some outstanding monster moments, and no small amount of accompanying gore and goo.)  Have I just become spoiled by the amazing dinosaur effects of 2015’s “Jurassic World?”  I don’t think so … I suggest that the otherwise lamentable “Alien: Resurrection,” with its combination of CGI and practical effects, had far better creature effects than this newest outing.

Of course I recommend this movie.  Maybe I should only do so with the caveat that I am (obviously) a huge fan of the series.  It has been said that I’m easy to please, too — I actually gave a glowing review to “Prometheus” shortly after its release, before wiser minds pointed out to me its sometimes egregious flaws.  (A friend of mine shared with me one of those “Everything Wrong With” videos that CinemaSins produces … it’s a hilarious webseries, but it sure will dull the shine of some of your favorite movies, lemme tell ya.)  Your mileage may vary, especially depending on how much you enjoy horror movies, as opposed to more general science fiction.

Oh!  There is a mostly non-sequitur postscript that I can’t help but add here … yet another one of my movie prognostications was flat out wrong.  It isn’t a spoiler if it’s a far-out prediction that didn’t happen, so I’ll go ahead and share it here … during one of the ads for “Alien: Covenant,” I could swear I heard a character call out the name “ASH!!!!”  (I’ve evidently started hallucinating at the start of mid-life.)  I predicted that the new and robotic Walter would turn evil, and actually become the android named Ash in the 1979 original.  (And why not?  Androids do not age, and a web-based prologue for “Alien Covenant” suggests their faces can be easily swapped out.)  I further predicted that the more human David would be pitted against him in order to save humanity somehow from alienkind.  (These things do not happen.)

I still think that’s a pretty clever idea, though, even if I only accidentally arrived at it.  It would be great if that happened somehow in the planned “Alien: Awakening.”

 

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Oh! Just one more Thing tonight!!

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You’re glad I reminded you, aren’t you?

I told Pete Harrison the other night that I watched the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”

He simply responded, “Why?”

To me and undoubtedly many others, the 80’s classic will always be the paradigmatic horror – science fiction movie.  Because I admire a well made house as much as anyone, but AIN’T NO CARPENTER LIKE JOHN CARPENTER.  (Nobody repeat that, I want to copyright it and sell bumper stickers at horror conventions.)

Yes, the recent prequel inexplicably has the exact same title as the 1982 movie, and I have no frikkin’ idea why.  That just seems … deliberately stupid.  Nor is that the 2011 film’s only flaw … it’s universally maligned.

Does the 2011 outing really deserve all its bad press?  I say no.  Among other things, it delivered some fine goopity-gloppity monster goodness, delivered by an archetypal flying saucer, no less.  That’s something that I find refreshing in a horror movie marketplace that just seems inundated with demons and ghosts.  (I loved “Insidious,” but enough already.)

C’mon, Hollywood.  There are plenty of horror fans out there who grew up loving giant ants, Marine-baiting “Aliens,” werewolves, swarms of spiders troubling William Shatner, and the adversaries of Godzilla.  It’s why I gave a positive review to this year’s “Jurassic World,” despite a script of the same quality as that of “Gilligan’s Island.”  I want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.  I will ALWAYS want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.

And … I liked the 2011 movie’s protagonist!  Trying to mimic MacReady’s cunning anti-hero would have redundant!  This story featured a smart, young lady scientist who turned out to be tough under pressure.  That kinda worked for me.

I actually have seen 1951’s “The Thing From Another World,” but that was 30 years ago on VHS, with my “Movie Uncle,” John Muth.  I have NOT read “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell, Jr.’s 1938 novella upon which all of these films were based.  But I’m planning to.  (Last time I checked, it was floating around online somewhere.)

I’m just waiting for the first big blizzard to hit next winter.  Because ATMOSPHERE.

My review of “Jurassic World” (2015), with Bryce Dallas HowAreYaDarling

“Jurassic World” (2015) was raptortastic and T-Rexific.  It was also fun in another way, but I can’t think of a pun for “Indominus Rex.”  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

Seriously — this was a fun monster movie.  (I, for one, maintain that these are horror-sci-fi movies at heart, and not the family adventure films that others seem to take them for.  Even the theme music for this entire franchise seems to insist that a zippity good time was had by all, after dinosaurs devour adults and traumatize lost children.)

The kid in me thrilled to this movie’s great special effects and abundance of monsters.  Those raptors are the coolest movie monsters since Aliens and Predators.

The action sequences were good.  Did anyone else think the initial attack/ambush was an homage to the initial attack/ambush in “Aliens” (1986)?  They have the heart rate monitors and helmet-cams and everything.  I kept waiting for Corporal Hicks to yell, “DRAKE, WE ARE LEAVING!!!”

The aerial attack by the winged dinosaurs was outstanding.  (I don’t know the difference between pterodactyls and pteranodons.  Besides, one of them looked like it had a T-Rex head, and I’m not sure that was even was a thing.)  The plight of one plucked victim was pretty damn creative and horrifying — I think that entire sequence was an example of some pretty inspired horror filmmaking.

And all of those things are good, because I honestly don’t think this film has much going for it without them.  This really is … pretty much the same story as “Jurassic Park” (1993).

Smart people do stupid things.  I got a “C” in biology freshman year, but even a guy like me immediately doubts the wisdom of the Raptor Recruiting Plan.  I also have no military experience, but I know what “cover” is, and I know what a “kill zone” is, and I wouldn’t rush from the former to stand stationary in the latter.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas HowAboutADrinkLater are both very good actors; this movie’s script has them rattling off humorous lines that are typical of a mediocre sitcom.  The character concept for Pratt’s hunky-extreme-sportsman-naturalist raptor-whisperer is kind of silly.  Bryce Dallas HowDoYouJustKeepGettingPrettier plays another stock character — the uptight corporate princess who needs to be taken down a notch.  Their banter is like the dialogue of a lackluster episode of “Friends,” and it insults the viewers’ intelligence.

The movie’s two most interesting characters are the two young brothers.  Their dialogue was actually touching — this movie would be far better it had focused almost entirely on them.  (And, yes, that is young Ty Simpkins from “Insidious.”)

I keep seeing articles on the Internet alleging that the technology depicted by these movies will soon be possible, but I pretty much don’t believe anything I read on the net anymore.  Because I totally bought into that Mars One fiasco, and now I feel like an idjit.

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