Tag Archives: Films

A Review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and A Dog’s Purpose.

Film Content Warning: blood, hypodermic needles, animal abuse, and animal deaths. These scenes were brief and were often more implied than actually shown.  As always, this otherwise will be a spoiler-free review, and I’m happy to share more details in private with anyone who requests them.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a 2018 science fiction adventure film that is the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World. Fallen Kingdom is set on a fictional island about 200 miles southwest of Costa Rica called Isla Nublar where all of the dinosaurs from Jurassic World were relocated from a failed amusement park before this tale began.

Isla Nublar was intended to be the permanent home for the dinosaurs. When scientists realized that the volcano on that island was soon going to erupt, the main characters in this universe had to decide how and where to relocate the dinosaurs before Isla Nublar was destroyed.

If you haven’t seen Jurassic World or the original Jurassic Park trilogy from the 90s, before, don’t worry. There are plenty of references to the earlier instalments in the later films that are fun Easter eggs for devoted fans, but everything in this franchise has worked well as standalone stories so far. I will briefly fill you in on a few important details in my character descriptions, too.

The Characters

I began discussing characters in the past tense in my first horror film review here to avoid the slightest whiff of spoilers about their fates. This is something I’ve continued doing for the sake of blog continuity and should not be interpreted in any other way.

This cast is on the larger side, but it’s important to know who everyone is before I jump into my review.

Chris Pratt playing Owen Grady

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady

Own Grady was the Animal Behaviourist hired by Ben to help round up as many dinosaurs as possible on Isla Nublar before the volcano destroyed them. He had previously worked as a Velociraptor trainer for the Jurassic World theme park in the first part of this trilogy, so he was an expert on the topic.

While he was impulsive at times, Owen was at heart a deeply kind and brave man.

 

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing

Claire was the former Operations Manager of Jurassic World. After that theme parked closed down, she became a dinosaur-rights activist and founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group. Their mission was to round up as many dinosaurs on Isla Nublar as possible and relocate them somewhere safer.

Unlike some of the men around her, Claire was both emotionally and intellectually intelligent. She knew exactly how to read subtle signals from another person and adjust her behaviour accordingly. I try to avoid picking favourite characters in my reviews, but she was the lynchpin of this film.

James Cromwell as Sir Benjamin Lockwood

James Cromwell as Sir Benjamin Lockwood

Sir Lockwood was one of the two people who originally invented the cloning techniques that brought dinosaurs back to life approximately twenty-five years before this tale began. He was as brilliant as ever, but his attention to detail had begun to waver due to his deteriorating physical condition.

Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood

Maisie was Sir Lockwood’s granddaughter and heir. She had inherited his love of dinosaurs and science.

Rafe Spall as Eli Mills

Eli was Sir Lockwood’s personal assistant who required Owen and Claire to join the dinosaur rescue mission. He was an intelligent, ambitious man who was cautious about who he trusted and how much information he shared with them about his work.

Justice Smith as Franklin Webb

Justice Smith as Franklin Webb

Franklin was a former IT Technician for Jurassic World who now worked with Claire at the Dinosaur Protection Group. His technological knowledge was excellent, and his quirky personality brought a dash of humour to the plot.

Daniella Pineda as Zia Rodriguez

Zia was the paleoveterinarian for the Dinosaur Protection Group.

She did a wonderful job of thinking on her feet in a crisis. Along with Franklin, she was a character I wish had been given more opportunity to shine in the plot. What I saw of their personalities was well-developed, and I loved the way they interacted with the rest of the rescue crew.

Ted Levine (centre) as Ken Wheatley. The characters behind him are his fellow mercenaries.

Ken Wheatley was a season mercenary hired by Eli Mills to provide protection for the rescue crew while they were rounding up dinosaurs.

He was a tough, assertive man who felt most comfortable when he was in charge.

B.D. Wong as Henry Wu

B.D. Wong as Henry Wu

Henry was the head geneticist of both Jurassic World and the original Jurassic Park. There was no one in this universe who knew more about dinosaurs than he did.

 

My Review

Chris Pratt looking at a dinosaurOne of the most interesting things about this film was how many different conflicts it included. The first quarter of the show were spent introducing the characters, explaining a few things about the first Jurassic World flick, and seeing how various characters reacted to the idea of saving the dinosaurs instead of letting them go extinct again.

No sooner was this conflict resolved than a few more took its place as the plot sped up. This was a cycle that happened multiple times during the roughly two-hour runtime, and it occasionally made me feel like I was watching a series of short films set in the same universe instead of one long one. This was something I grew to like quite a bit once I recognized the pattern.

The humour in this film was well done, especially when it came to Franklin’s lines. I mentioned earlier wishing that he and Zia had been given more screen time, and this was a big part of the reason why. They both had quietly lighthearted approaches to their roles that worked nicely for the subject matter.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Daniella Pineda at the Dinosaur Protection Group Headquarters
Zia and Claire at the Dinosaur Protection Group Headquarters.

Obviously, this is an action and adventure movie, so keep that in mind when reading this paragraph. One of the things I didn’t like was how little attention was paid to character development. Would I expect characters in this genre to have rich inner lives and dozens of minutes apiece to explore then? Of course not, but I would have liked to see more examples of people stepping out of the boxes they’d been places in.

The plot was fast-paced and filled with exciting explosions and scuffles, but the characters were a bit too predictable for me. There’s a difference between following the tropes of a specific genre and being chained to them. I did find my attention wandering at times due to how quickly I figured out what would happen to which character, and I’m saying that as someone who enjoys this genre in general. This was something I noticed the most with Ken Wheatley and Henry Wu.

With that being said, I still had a good time watching it. The CGI and animatronics for the dinosaurs was excellent as usual, and I loved seeing how various species reacted to everything from seeing a human to being captured to encountering lava. How a carnivore reacted to these things was nothing at all like a herbivore’s reaction. What made it even more interesting was seeing how members of similar species responded to the same stimulus. Those scenes were clearly thought out and a lot of fun to watch, especially if Owen was involved in any way.

The ending was handled nicely as well. I liked the resolutions that were brought to certain conflicts as well as the new questions Fallen Kingdom asked that will hopefully be answered in the final instalment of this trilogy.

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is available on iTunes.

We Need Movies About Blogging

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. As I’ve said here before, I don’t believe in stretching out my words if a few hundred of them will suffice.

Someone found this site recently by doing a search for movies about blogging. Normally, queries like this happen because of something I blogged about in the recent or distant past.

This time I couldn’t figure out why that search led them here other than the fact that I have multiple posts about movies and blogging as two separate categories.

Sometimes the magic of Google combines unrelated words in new ways when someone searches for something that doesn’t have a lot of hits online.

The more I think about that original query, the more I agree with this person.

The first movie I remember seeing about email was You’ve Got Mail, and it came out shortly after this form of communication became more commonly used.

Blogging hasn’t gotten the same treatment so far as I can tell even though it’s been around for about twenty-five years now. This post is old, but the demographics of blogging also make me think that there are a lot of people out there who would be interested in seeing such a film. At least as of 2010, the average blogger was young and almost a third of them lived in the United States. That tends to be the same demographic that goes to the movies regularly!

This isn’t even to mention the fact that blogs exist for every niche out there. A story about bloggers who were all dealing with chronic health problems would have a completely different narrative flow on the big screen when compared to bloggers who wrote about playing poker, rescuing abandoned pets, restoring vintage cars, reviewing books, or trying to convince toddlers to eat their vegetables.

The possibilities are truly endless.

True, it probably wouldn’t be very entertaining to have an entire film about someone typing away on a laptop or tablet.

The director and screenwriters would need to show other sides of the blogging community like conventions, small group meetups, the things bloggers go through to get that perfect picture for their site, or what happens when you have a post ninety percent written, forget to save it as you work, and then your computer crashes right before you tap that save button.

Raise your hand if that’s ever happened to you!

What do you all think? Would you watch a film about bloggers?

 

 

Second Chances: A Review of A Dog’s Purpose

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain speculative fiction films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

Content Warning: animal mistreatment and animal deaths. I will only briefly mention those aspects of the plot, and this will otherwise be a spoiler-free review. 

A Dog’s Purpose is a 2017 modern fantasy film about a dog named Bailey who was reincarnated mutiple times during his quest to find his original owner. It is based on a book by the same name.

The fantasy elements of this tale are light and contemporary. Think something closer to the magical realism genre than Lord of the Rings.

The Characters

There are quite a few characters in this film I can’t discuss without giving away spoilers because of the episodic nature of Bailey’s lifetimes. Every time he was reborn, he met a new cast of characters who taught him important lessons about what it means to be a good dog and to live a worthwhile life.

For the record, I discuss characters in the past tense in all of my film reviews in order to avoid giving my audience any spoilers for films that don’t involve reincarnation. Don’t read anything into it other than that if you happen to check out previous reviews at the top of this post.

Josh Gad as the voice of Bailey

Bailey was the main character of this story. He was an optimistic and friendly dog who looked for the good in everyone he met. With that being said, his personality changed a little bit from one lifetime to the next. There was always something likeable about him, but to my surprise he didn’t have the same quirks, habits, or preferences in every lifetime.

Dennis Quaid (right) as Ethan

Ethan was Bailey’s first owner and the first person to treat this dog with all of the love and the kindness he deserved. They originally met when Ethan was a child, and they spent many happy years together at the beginning of their friendship. The emotional bond between them was something that even death itself couldn’t break.

My Review

Let’s talk about the content warning I added for this review before discussing anything else about it. As I mentioned earlier, this tale follows one dog through several different lifetimes. Some of the lives he experienced were not happy ones, and there were scenes that showed him being mistreated by the humans around him. Since this was a children’s movie, none of those scenes were long or particularly graphic.

The difficult chapters of this dog’s existence were sugar-coated at times for the sake of the audience. I’d be happy to go into more detail about this part of the plot privately with anyone with needs more information before deciding to watch it, but I didn’t have trouble with it even though I’m generally sensitive to this sort of content. It was handled gracefully.

Bailey (right) in one of his earlier lifetimes.

One of the most interesting things about A Dog’s Purpose for me was seeing all of the changes to Bailey’s personality from one life to the next. Despite having the same soul, he evolved every time he was reincarnated.

To give one example, he was an active, energetic dog in some lifetimes and perfectly content to sit on the couch with his owners and watch television in others. I’ll leave it up to all of you to discover the reasons why he didn’t behave exactly the same way in every incarnation he experienced, but I did enjoy what the screenwriters were doing with these shifts in his temperament. They were all explained well.

There were times when I found this film a little too sentimental. This may have been due to the age group it was written for, but I would have preferred to see a more pragmatic approach to his journey in certain scenes. Bailey’s goal was a lofty one for a dog, and there were instances when it would have been nice to for him to run up against some more obstacles while he tried to find Ethan again.

With that being said, I was intrigued by the thought of a dog trying to figure out the meaning of life for his species. It wasn’t something I’d expect a canine narrator to think about, so it was interesting to see how he came up with his theories about why he kept being reborn and what he was expected to do with all of his lives.

This was a mostly lighthearted and uplifting movie that I’d recommend to kids and adults alike. Despite the occasionally sappy moments, I did enjoy seeing what Bailey’s various lives were like and how he made the best of each one of them.

 

A Dog’s Purpose is available on Netflix and iTunes.

My Review of The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, and Astraea.

This is a spoiler-free review. 

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a 2018 American fantasy film based on John Bellairs 1973 novel by the same name. While it was written for a middle grade audience, I think adults would enjoy it, too.

This story was set in New Zebedee, Michigan in 1955. A ten-year-old boy named Lewis was recently orphaned, so he was sent to Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan.

The interesting thing about Lewis and Jonathan was that they didn’t seem to have any sort of relationship before the opening scene of this film. It made me wonder why he’d been selected as Lewis’ guardian! There was a reason for that, but you’ll have to watch it to find out.

While most of my aunts and uncles lived far away from the communities I grew up in, I did see all of them at least occasionally while growing up. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to go from not knowing a relative at all to being raised by them.

I liked the fact that the characters acknowledged how odd that transition was before diving into what Uncle Jonathan was capable of as a warlock and what was really going on in his magical, clock-filled home.

There wasn’t one clock in Uncle Jonathan’s house, there were dozens – or maybe even hundreds – of them. The vast majority of them were perfectly ordinary and were only capable of telling you what time it was.

Yet there was one magical clock hidden somewhere in the house that had the power to end the world. If Jonathan couldn’t find it soon, the bad guy might beat him to it.

The Characters

Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt.

Lewis, the protagonist, was a bookish and intelligent 10-year-old boy whose parents had recently been killed in an automobile accident. He was sent to live with his uncle after their deaths.

Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt

Jonathan, a quirky bachelor, was Lewis’ uncle and guardian. He worked as a warlock and was quite good at his profession. While he had good intentions when he took in his nephew, he knew absolutely nothing about raising children. Some of the funniest scenes in this film showed what happens when someone who doesn’t understand anything about children attempts to parent one.

Cate Blanchett as Florence Zimmerman

Florence was an old and dear friend of Jonathan’s who lived next door to the Barnavelts. She was sensitive, caring, and by far the most intelligent character in this tale. I’d love to see a spin-off about her someday.

Kyle MacLachlan as Isaac Izard

Isaac was the antagonist in this story, but I can’t share anything about his backstory without giving away spoilers. Like Florence and Jonathan, he had developed the ability to perform various types of magic.

Colleen Camp as Mrs. Hanchett

Mrs. Hatchett was the nosy, grumpy neighbour who spent a great deal of her time spying on the Barnavelts and complaining about all of the strange things that can happen when one lives in a magical household.

My Review

One of the many clocks in Jonathan’s home.

I loved the humour of this film. Yes, it was written for a preteen audience, so there were the obligatory bowel movement and other body fluid jokes you’d expect for this age group. There were other scenes that were clearly written for adult viewers, though, and I don’t mean that in an x-rated sort of way at all. Instead, the storytellers showed how easy it is to make mistakes when you have no parenting experience and have suddenly found yourself raising a grieving 10-year-old.

That might not seem like good fodder for a joke, but it strangely was. I had so much compassion for Uncle Jonathan even while I laughed at his sometimes incredibly odd ideas about how a child of that age should be treated and how much influence they should have over stuff like what they eat for dinner or when they go to bed.

Jack Black’s goofy persona was the perfect fit for who Uncle Jonathan was, but I was also impressed with how this actor handled the more serious scenes Uncle Jonathan eventually experienced. He brought a lot of depth to a character that could have easily been written as nothing but fodder for comedy.

This picture-perfect casting repeated itself with everyone else in this film. Every actor was well-suited for his or her role, including the supporting characters who didn’t necessarily have a lot of screen time but who still managed to make their roles memorable. I always enjoy finding films that pay such close attention to matching actors to the roles that they play.

Be sure to pay close attention to what’s going on in the background of the scenes. Occasionally there are surprises lurking where you might least expect them, and I loved picking them out.

While I know that this movie was based on something that was written in the 1970s and set in the 1950s, I was disappointed with the gender-based insults that wereso carelessly thrown around in it. There were several times when Uncle Jonathan made sexist comments that made me wince. They were supposed to be written in the context of him having playful banter with another character, but I don’t personally see anything amusing about using gender-based slurs as a retort. As much as I enjoyed the plot itself, these scenes dampened my urge to recommend it to others without warning them about it first.

It would be one thing if those terms somehow played an important role in understanding the context of the storyline and the world in which it was set. I do not think that every potentially offensive reference should be edited out of classics when they are retold for modern audiences, but I do believe there’s something to be said for updating non-critical parts of a story that are understood in a completely different light now than when they were originally written. This was a case where those terms could have easily been been exchanged for non-sexist insults instead.

I like to end all of my reviews on a positive note, so the last thing I’ll say about The House with a Clock in Its Walls is that it was quite creative. It blended the wonders (and occasional frustrations) of childhood beautifully with the many references it included to more serious, adult topics like how to deal with grief or what it truly means to be a family. This is the sort of film that can be enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike in my opinion.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is available on iTunes.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favorite Movies of All Time and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Oh, this week’s topic is a tough one. How can I possible narrow it down to a list that won’t take half an hour to read? I think I’m going to accomplish that goal by choosing films off the top of my head that I’ve already seen multiple times and would happily rewatch over and over again in the future. There is something to be said for enjoying a film as much the fifth or tenth time you’ve seen it as you did the very first.

  • The Princess Bride
  • The Matrix
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • The Babadook
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Dead Poets Society
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Selma

I find it interesting that Selma is the only piece of nonfiction on this list. Normally, I watch a lot of documentaries and films based on historical events, but this was the only one from those genres I could think of that I’ve watched over and over again without wanting to move on and see something else. There is something about the battle for civil rights in the 1960s that always feels relevant and timely to me.

Dead Poets Society originally struck my fancy because I was pretty young when I first watched it and it showed me a side of being wealthy that i’d never considered before. Not everyone who has access to wealth and power also has love or attention from their parents and other relatives.  Money can do a lot of things for other parts of your life, but it can’t make up for emotional neglect or growing up knowing you were unwanted.

The rest of the titles on this list are among the best that the (modern-ish) science fiction and fantasy genres have to offer. I’d happily show any or all of them to someone who was curious about these genres and wanted to learn more about them.

How did you decide what to put on your lists? Did any of the titles I select make your cuts?

I’ll end this post with a stock photo that reminds me of The Matrix and makes me want to rewatch that film right this second:

Hopeful Science Fiction: Astraea

Last June I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of Time, The Lovely Bones and Semiosis. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi, and this time it’s a film!  If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to… Read More

Don’t Make a Sound: A Review of A Quiet Place

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, and The Little Stranger. Content warning: death of a dog and… Read More

Echoes of the Past: A Review of The Little Stranger

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, and Winchester.  This is a spoiler-free review.  The Little Stranger is the 2018… Read More

5 Funny Short Horror Films You Should Watch This Halloween

One of the things I love the most about Halloween is seeing all of the creative things storytellers do with common horror, science fiction, and fantasy tropes at this time of the year. There’s something about the Halloween season that seems to bring out the best in writers, filmmakers, and other creators. The films in… Read More

The Unforgiving Dead: A Review of Winchester

Winchester was originally mentioned in my to-watch list in this post. So far, I’ve also reviewed Into the Forest, Annihilation, and Coco from that list. A content warning for anyone who is sensitive to this topic: this film does contain a few brief references to the death of a child, but I will not be discussing that part of… Read More