12 June 2015

Jurassic World [IMAX/3D]

This movie is a conundrum. A fairly entertaining film that was poorly written, directed, acted and, sadly, scored. And yet, it will surely draw in the crowd. Mad Max: Fury Road is still the reigning champion of this Summer.

Even for someone like me who had never watched a single piece of trailer, teaser or seen a still from the film, there was nothing throughout its 124 minutes running time that shocked me, awed me or left me impressed. The best moment was when John William's iconic Jurassic Park score played in the beginning, and even there it was more nostalgia than anything else.

And therein laid the problem. Nostalgia.

Director Colin Trevorrow and cinematographer John Schwartzman tried, but nothing on screen captured the magic, wonder, fear, trepidation, surprise, triumph and awe of Spielberg's original.

The shallow script by Trevorrow et al certainly added nothing to the mix. The plot and contrivances were acceptable - ludicrous but acceptable - but the characters were all so poorly written and the dialogue were even worse: clunky and cheap. They really were mining for the lowest common humour.

Furthermore, they committed the biggest sin in movie making: show not tell, and to make it worse, they not only told, they rambled. Gosh, their target audience must be really dumb.

Trevorrow went too big. One of the key things that made Jurassic Park so successful were that we cared for the characters - yes, even the annoying girl. But here, the focus were not on the humans but clearly on the spectacle of the dinosaurs.

It actually bordered on being smartly meta - but I doubt they actually wanted that.

Oh, and way too much blatant and in-your-face product placements. It bordered on obscene.

But having well written characters was one thing, getting the actors to be the characters were another. Laura Dern and Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum effectively became household names after Jurassic Park. We cared that they survive. We related to them.

Trevorrow did not coax such performances from his cast.

When Star Lord met The Kingpin, you wished something will just eat them up to end the moment.

Chris Pratt became a star after Guardians of the Galaxy, but this film is not doing him another favour. He should be glad that he signed a multi-film contract with Marvel. He excels in comedy, and comedy-action, but definitely not when otherwise. And obviously the director and writers did not know how to capitalise on his strength. Poor guy was really just strutting and putting on macho poses and giving his hero-stare.

Bryce Dallas Howard was no better. Joss Whedon was right. This movie is sexist. Howard had no real purpose other than to be the romantic interest of Pratt.

Ever since Daredevil, I look at Vincent D'Onofrio differently, but here he is such a cartoon villain. One dimensional, exposition-spouting villain.

The two children, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, had a bond that should have been explored more. They offered a few of the better moments, but they were short and fleeting. And neither were really engaged with the audience.

As aforementioned, the stars here are the dinosaurs and not the characters. However, like the mantra of the film's theme park itself, it seemed that bigger = better. Not really.

It is sad when even the climatic big battle at the end did not engage the adrenals as much as it could.

And even sadder was that this was possibly one of Michael Giacchino's poorest score. It was distracting more often than not, and even his end credits suite paled in comparison to what he did for Cloverfield.

Having said all that, this movie should be watched on a big screen and in 3D. IMAX would be even better. But the extra cost will be harder to justify. Children would definitely love it.

They are so obviously planning for a sequel. Please make it better.

I am going to go listen to John William's score now.

5 June 2015

The Whispers

Pilot: ABC's new Spielberg TV production has promise, and definitely more potential than his last few ventures. Remember The River? But yet, they all clearly carry some of his trademarks: moderate-to-large sized cast with child actors and involving the supernatural/alien/paranormal. The adults led by a convincing Lily Rabe (wasted on AHS after her star-making turn on AHS:Asylum), with the Barry Sloane who seemed like the straight man here, I am an actor not just a pretty face Milo Ventimiglia whose character is the most intriguing, and Joss Whedon alum Kristen Connolly who I hope is not just here to repeat her horror-Virgin role. The children seemed passable with Harper the creepiest and Henry the cutest (do you think Henry's and Connolly's red hair are linked?). The show is sufficiently creepy but could definitely be more stylish and not as brightly lit to really bring out the effect (that scene where they encountered the strange structure was a good example). But, like Wayward Pines, it is the mystery - who/what is Drill and what does he/she/it want? - that hooked us in and here's hoping it can sustained it through the summer season.

Episode 2, "Hide & Seek": The always doubting partner needs to go. He's more annoying than useful. Drill is still mysterious but they need to give us a bit more breadcrumbs with regards to its origin. Same for Ventimiglia's backstory. Rabe is watchable but the rest of the cast not so much. The domestic problems of Wes and Kristen Connoll's character is annoying. At least we got a Ventimiglia shower scene, but he needs a haircut. 

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...