Tag: bryce dallas howard

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
★★ / ★★★★

You know there’s something wrong with a “Jurassic” sequel when you wonder why there isn’t more people being eaten by dinosaurs about halfway through the film. Although J.A. Bayona’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is arguably the most impressive entry visually, particularly when the camera lingers on an animal’s rough skin and even the details of the crevices are eye-catching, it commands neither a compelling story nor a potent social commentary—surprising because the question of whether genetically engineered dinosaurs ought be saved from an island about to undergo a volcanic eruption is at the forefront initially. Everybody has—or should have—an opinion when it comes to animal rights, but the screenplay misses the boat completely in engaging with the complexities of the subject matter.

Yes, a summer a blockbuster can be both wildly entertaining and educational—at the very least one that inspires conversations, particularly questions regarding what if or when technology finally catches up to us. No, it is not too much to ask; perhaps we should hold more films accountable so that we do not receive the same generic rubbish that goes on autopilot every year.

In this day and age, playing with genetics is more commercial than ever—I know because I am in the field. If the screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow were more scientifically curious, especially when it comes to science’s applications on our every day lives, the dialogue would have been more interesting rather than simply painting scientists as greedy or evil. Cue Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) eyeing one another longingly. Their relationship, whatever it is, goes nowhere in this installment.

Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was so successful because the film was able to traverse the tricky balance of providing popcorn fluff and brain food. Here, however, the picture seems content in delivering spectacular special and visual effects but not necessarily modulating the audience’s more visceral reactions. Notice how busy the action sequences tend to be. While most of them take a moment or two of pause, they almost always end up with a jump scare and the inevitable extended chase. Its rigid adherence to the formula suffers from diminishing returns and I grew bored by the last third in which terrified characters run around a mansion where dinosaurs have escaped.

Aside from Owen and Claire’s flavorless main characters, even the supporting ones are a bore. This time around, a systems analyst (Justice Smith) and a paleoveterinarian (Daniella Pineda) are recruited to visit Isla Nublar and lend a hand on transferring the animals to a safer haven. Naturally, they find themselves unprepared and terrorized by the hungry beasts. Smith and Pineda’s characters are not written from an interesting angle. The original “Jurassic Park” has shown that side characters can function mainly as potential victims of dinosaur attack—siblings Tim and Lex quickly come to mind—but they must be so charming that the viewer roots for them anyway even when they make a last-minute dumb decision that puts everyone in further jeopardy. Here, the systems analyst and the paleoveterinarian make good choices and yet… they are dull. It should not be this way.

The picture promises a third “Jurassic World” installment and, I must say, I look forward to it. The way it is set up opens the door to limitless potential for exploration. Still, one cannot help but feel wary because this entry, too, shows potential to go beyond superficial entertainment—yet it does not. “Fallen Kingdom” is passable as a creature-feature film, but its many weapons in its arsenal are not utilized to set the bar high, to achieve greatness, or, at the very least, to become memorable. It seems content in delivering a safe spectacle.

Jurassic World


Jurassic World (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World” seems to forget what made Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” so successful: The sense of awe the viewers experience when a dinosaur—whether it be a T-Rex, a velociraptor, or a triceratops—is placed front and center of the camera. I was not impressed with the way the dinosaurs look here. With the exception of one scene involving a creature taking its last breaths, they look too fake, non-tactile, very likely to be surpassed by CGI technology five to ten years from now. What makes the original special is that many of the dinosaurs to this day still look real. I declare that this sequel will not stand the test of time.

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is in charge of making sure that operations in Jurassic World are running smoothly, but she is also tasked by her sister (Judy Greer) to show her nephews, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), a good time. As the two boys sneak off to explore the theme park on their own, a dinosaur called Indominus rex (untamable king), simply called the I-Rex, ingeniously escapes from its enclosure and heads straight for twenty thousand visitors. This dinosaur is special because it is a hybrid of a T-Rex and… something else. We learn quickly that it is highly adaptable, extremely savage, and very intelligent.

The story is replete with unlikable or downright boring characters, from the controlling Claire, one of the main protagonists, to the villain (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wishes to use velociraptors as weapons in warfare. The brothers at the center of the story neither do nor say anything special about the park or the kinds of creatures they come across within the park. Although the screenplay forges a sort of bond between them toward the latter half, it comes across as forced because we learn next to nothing about who they are as people who just so happen to come face-to-face with extraordinary levels of danger.

The only memorable scene with the brothers involves being trapped in a cool-looking but ultimately claustrophobic gyrosphere and the I-Rex desperately wanting to eat them. I almost rooted for the dinosaur because then perhaps the movie would focus itself more on Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a raptor trainer who acknowledges and respects the inherent viciousness of these genetically modified animals. Despite this, I still thought Owen is not a very compelling character. His personality pales next to Drs. Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm from the previous pictures. Pratt can do more and should have been allowed to do so.

The product placement in this film is especially distracting to the point where I actually felt insulted. I am not the kind of viewer who is on the lookout for product placement but when a shot feels like it is only present for sake of showcasing a type of soda or a make of car, that is worthy criticism. The point of a movie is to experience a story as fully as possible. Leave the advertising to commercials. I felt so disgusted at times that I found myself wondering what the filmmakers were thinking when they decided to be so obvious about the products rather than what the characters are going through.

“Jurassic World” is not a terrible picture but it is tolerable because it does have some entertaining scenes beyond chase sequences. For example, we get a chance to see the ruins of a special location in Jurassic Park. Clearly, this film is not above utilizing nostalgia—including the insertion of the original “Jurassic Park” score from time to time. Ultimately, however, it is disappointing because one gets the impression that not enough effort is put into the material—whether it be from the writing, acting, or visual department—to give us an experience that makes its own undeniable footprint.

Watching “Jurassic World” is like going to California’s Great America but a lot of the rides happen to be broken at the time, and where I really want to go is Disney World with full-on VIP passes, VIP tours, an extended one week stay in a VIP room in a first-class hotel with free buffet accommodations. No, these are not too much to ask for when a movie costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make thereby having hundreds of millions of reasons to get it exactly right.

The Help


The Help (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Skeeter (Emma Stone), an aspiring writer, had recently graduated from college but was rejected from an NYC-based newspaper she really wanted to work for, so she decided to move back to Jackson, Mississippi to live with her cancer-stricken mother (Allison Janney). She figured she needed more experience as a writer so she applied and was hired at The Jackson Journal as a cleaning advice columnist. Disturbed by the racist remarks and treatment by her friends of their African-American maids, she figured she was going to write a book about their struggles, through conducting interviews done in secret, and expose the inherent ugliness of racism in 1960s America. “The Help,” based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett, was able to clearly communicate its big ideas for the majority of the time, like the hypocrisy in White folks trusting their Black maids to take care of their children and clean their houses yet they were deathly afraid of sharing the same bathroom, but it suffered from an inconsistent tone and subplots that belonged to a different movie. It was understandable, to a degree, that the material needed breathing room by means of comedy because the scars of racial discrimination remains a heavy and painful topic to endure. While some of them worked, for instance, the bit involving the secret ingredient in the chocolate pie baked by Minny (Octavia Spencer), a sassy maid recently fired by a contemptible woman named Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) because the latter caught the former using the inside toilet designed for the family instead of the one outside designed for the help, more than a handful of them felt quite forced, like Mrs. Walters (Sissy Spacek) and her dementia. I found it sad that Spacek, an actress of great range, wasn’t given much to do except to act kooky while delivering a powerful line or two during her moments of mental clarity with the aid of a tightly controlled, at times manipulative, score. Furthermore, I grew tiresome of the scenes when Skeeter was being cajoled by everyone to finally get a man. Her date with Stuart (Chris Lowell) might be considered as cute in the standard of romantic comedy given that their personalities initially clashed, but such cheesiness threatened to take away the social importance in the story that the filmmakers wanted to convey. I wanted to hear more stories from the various maids interviewed. More importantly, I wanted to see more interactions between Skeeter and Aibileen (Viola Davis), still grieving due to the death of her only son, beyond the aspiring writer just looking sad for the woman sitting in front of her. Skeeter was raised by a Black maid (Cicely Tyson) but the importance of their relationship was only occasionally placed under a magnifying glass. It was a decision that did not make sense because it was important we knew how Skeeter grew up to be such a strong woman who was able to see beyond the pigmentation of people’s skin. Based on the screenplay and directed by Tate Taylor, “The Help” had good elements in place but I wished it had been a stronger picture by means of eliminating the vestigial organs and delving more into subtleties of each character and convincing us why their stories, divorced from race, are worth sitting through.

50/50


50/50 (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seemed like a healthy twenty-seven year old who abstained from smoking and doing drugs. He even chose not to learn to drive a car because it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. When a pain in his back began to bother him, he decided to see a doctor. The results weren’t good. It turned out that he had a rare cancer and an aggressive form of treatment was necessary. Written by Will Reiser and directed by Jonathan Levine, “50/50” successfully made the topic of cancer easier to digest by highlighting the comedy without losing track of the sadness and fear upon discovering the news and dealing with the reality. The filmmakers made a smart move by making human relationships the primary concern instead of the cancer. Kyle (Seth Rogen) was Adam’s best friend and rock throughout the ordeal. One of the best scenes between the two was in the way Kyle reacted to his friend’s grim diagnosis. Rogen balanced amusing allusions of famous people who had beaten cancer and tenderness without being obnoxious. I was glad that their relationship didn’t have a significant arc. It didn’t need to. There were still unexpected discoveries along the way, but their friendship was a good place. Another important support Adam had was Katherine (Anna Kendrick), a young, perky counselor working on her doctorate. Their interactions were amusing because there was an awkwardness in their attempt to find a solid footing with something new: Katherine and her job; Adam and his cancer. Adam and Katherine shared wonderful chemistry but it wasn’t creepy, unethical, nor inappropriate. Through their conversations, they learned to form a special friendship. We rooted for them to take that next step without forgetting the fact that there should be a line between a professional and her client. However, there were some connections that weren’t as strongly established. Diane (Anjelica Huston), Adam’s mom, was always worried about her son. Adam felt suffocated by her ways of showing affection and he constantly felt the need to prove that he was strong and capable of being independent. I wanted to know more about that tension between mother and son, the mother’s specific feelings in no longer being needed. Huston was only given about half a dozen scenes and she made the best out of all of them. I think that if her character was closer to the center, the actress’ talent for balancing regal quiet power and in-your-face emotions would’ve made the project soar. Lastly, the conflict involving Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), Adam’s girlfriend, sometimes felt forced. I understood that the point was some people are just not equipped enough to handle long-term sickness. I appreciated that the filmmakers acknowledged that reality. Unfortunately, it all boiled down to whether or not she would ultimately stay with Adam. It felt out of place, too shallow, for a movie about mortality. “50/50” is a reminder: When you do have that moment where you catch yourself staring miserably at your empty glass, people who love you in the best ways possible can fill it right up. Then it doesn’t seem so bad.

Hereafter


Hereafter (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Written by Peter Morgan and directed by Clint Eastwood, “Hereafter” followed three strangers from different areas of the world and how they’ve been touched by the afterlife in some way. Marie (Cécile De France), a successful French television reporter, survived a tsunami while on vacation with a co-worker who happened to be married man (Thierry Neuvic). Since she got back, Marie became obsessed over meeting with scientists who studied life after death for some explanation about what she saw when she lost consciousness. San Franciscan George (Matt Damon) had the ability to communicate with the dead. He used to do it for money. He wanted to stop altogether and lead a normal life but his brother (Jay Mohr) kept sending him clients. When George met a girl (Bryce Dallas Howard) in his cooking class, it seemed as though the life he wanted was within reach. Lastly, in London, Marcus and Jason (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren), were inseparable twins. But when Jason passed away and his mother checked into a rehabilitation center to attempt to recover from heroin addiction, Marcus was placed in foster care. The film was promising because of the way it set up the characters’ unique circumstances. The tsunami scene was heart-pounding, the reluctant psychic’s situation had a whiff of comedy to it, and the twins’ relationship was genuinely moving. However, as it went on, I couldn’t help but feel like it was afraid to tackle the difficult questions. It was plagued with scenes that led nowhere, especially the middle portion, and it became repetitive. I wanted several of my questions answered but the picture never got around to it. In regards to Marie, was she able to step outside of herself and notice a change from being a fact-driven woman to a woman so willing to embrace what’s outside the realm of possibility? She seemed to be a very smart person and for her completely believe everything she saw right away didn’t seem like the material showed loyalty to her character. As for George, he claimed he wanted to stop using his gift but was there a part of him that enjoyed giving other people closure? In some circumstances, if he didn’t hear anything from the spirit or if the connection wasn’t strong enough, was he forced to lie in order to give someone a chance to move on? His craving for a so-called normal life felt superficial. What I found most moving was Marcus’ harrowing quest in dealing with his older brother’s untimely death and the abandonment he felt when his mother had to leave. The character was the “quiet twin” and it worked especially the heartbreaking scenes when Marcus met with people who knowingly and falsely claimed to have a connection with spirits. He didn’t need to speak or scream or yell in order for us to understand what he might be going through. His actions (or inaction) were enough to reflect his sadness and possible state of depression. “Hereafter” need not offer me any definite answers because I have my own view of the afterlife. But what it needed was to fearlessly confront the characters’ own beliefs about the unknown, challenge them, and show us how they’ve changed, or if there even was a change.

The Village


The Village (2004)
★★ / ★★★★

The first time I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” back in 2005, I didn’t like it because I thought it was too strange for its own good and the pacing was too slow. I’m happy to have given it more than one chance because I thought it got better upon multiple viewings. The story involved a small village terrorized by creatures in the woods. For some odd reason, skinned animals started appearing in greater numbers but the leaders of the village (William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson) had no idea what they have done to anger the creatures. As the younger residents (Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Judy Greer, Michael Pitt) lived a life of relative bliss thanks to the secrets they have not yet discovered, chaos started destroy the village from within until a blind girl, played by Howard, went on an important quest through the feared woods. I thought the second half of the movie was stronger than the first half. While the first half had the bulk of the story, I constantly waited for small rewards that would keep me glued to the screen until its climax. Unfortunately, those small rewards did not deliver so I felt like the story could have gone in any direction. I questioned whether it wanted to say something about the specific group of people in relation to the environment they built for themselves or if it wanted to be a psychological-supernatural thriller. The lack of focus lost me. Fortunately, the second half was when everything started to come together. I’ll try not to give anything away but I enjoyed the way Shyamalan incorporated the reality and the supernatural. Specifically, when Howard went into the woods and encountered something she did not at all expect. There were twists on top of another and it made me think without feeling any sort of frustration which I think is difficult to accomplish. The scenes in the woods were beautifully shot but at the same time the beauty was sometimes masked in an ominous feeling of dread and anticipation. I can understand why a lot of people would consider “The Village” one of Shyamalan’s worst projects especially if they’ve only seen the movie once. The pacing was indeed quite slow and there were a plethora of questions with open-ended answers concerning the characters’ histories and the multilayer mystery surrounding the village. However, the second half piqued my interest (even though I’ve seen it before) and I thought it was very well done without overdoing the twists. At its best, “The Village” is imaginative and unafraid to take risks; at its worst, “The Village” is a bit insular and may drown in its own vanity.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse


The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

I can always rely on the “Twilight” series to be consistently mediocre despite the fact that each movie released was better than its predecessor. In “Eclipse,” based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer and directed by David Slade, the love triangle between Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) reached its peak but the vampire and werewolf camps decided to join forces in order to protect Bella from newly-born vampires led by Riley (Xavier Samuel) and Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard taking over for Rachelle Lefevre). Like the first two movies, “Eclipse” suffered from far too many ways Edward and Bella expressed how much they loved each other. I understood that the whole thing might have worked on paper or else the novels wouldn’t have been as successful but it just did not work on film because it quickly became redundant. Even when the movie tried to explore the romantic relationship between Bella and Jacob, the picture lacked energy and, to be quite honest, I started noticing the make-up, editing and the lighting. In other words, it lost my interest despite my best intentions of sticking with the story. The movie would have benefited if it had more action sequences. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy but I did enjoy the climax when the werewolves and vampires came head-to-head with the vampire army while Edward and Bella faced Riley and Victoria. Victoria was probably my favorite character since the first movie because I thought she was menacing but enchanting at the same time. Unfortunately, even though I could tell she was trying her best, Howard’s interpretation of her character did not work for me because she lacked Lefevre’s subtleties (which the series desperately lacked). In this installment, Victoria felt like a pawn instead of a rogue vampire who was full of malice and thirst for vengeance. I also enjoyed the tent scene when Edward and Jacob finally connected not because it was touching on any level but because it was very amusing to the point where people were actually laughing out loud in the theater. There was something purposely homoerotic about the very intense glares the two sent each other. Even though that scene wasn’t very effective, I admired that the material was aware enough to make fun of itself. Furthermore, I can criticize the film for not being a good example for teenagers in promoting marriage considering the characters’ ages but I won’t because it simply tried to remain loyal to its source. I can only hope that the final installment (divided in two) will have more suspense and action than romance. It needed less cheese and more bloodshed.