Tag: ty simpkins

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.

Insidious: Chapter 2


Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
★ / ★★★★

Though Josh (Patrick Wilson) has succeeded in getting his son (Ty Simpkins) back from the spirit world via astral projection, something else has found its way into Josh’s body and it intends to stay there. So, Josh finds himself stuck in the other realm as if he were one of the dead. His wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), suspects that the man in front of her may not really be her husband after he fails to recognize a song she has written for him. To top it off, her fears are amplified due to the ghostly occurrences beginning to unfold in the house.

“Insidious: Chapter 2,” based on the screenplay by Leigh Whannell, is a witless, humorless, uncreative, and messy would-be horror movie. I was astonished that this embarrassing wreckage is from the mind of the same person who wrote the suspenseful, eerie, genuinely scary predecessor. Even though the first picture ended in a cliffhanger, a sequel should not have been made because there was no script worth putting into celluloid.

If there is one word to describe the film, it would be “reaching.” As in: the movie is constantly reaching for something that simply isn’t there. The supposed scares lack energy and a sense of timing—two key qualities to pull off an adequate horror film. As a result, every attempt to “scare” the audience is so dull to have to sit through.

It throws everything at us: an entity playing the piano when one is alone in the house, something suddenly moving while one explores a dark room, a malicious voice being heard through the baby monitor. And though these things can work if used wisely and sparingly, showing them one right after another communicates nothing but a desperation to impress. I wasn’t impressed. It bored me.

The characters are now aware of the nature of what they are dealing with so suspense and mystery are no longer present. We are asked to do nothing but anticipate how they react. It does not help that there is a strictly enforced formula to the scares as well as in the unveiling of revelations. It is like having to sit through a joke we’ve heard before… only this person is not telling it very well. If the material had been smarter or if the writer had been more ambitious, it ought to have had some kind of a spin with respect to the characters being more aware of what they are fighting against. Instead, it settles for less than mediocrity and just about everything about the picture feels interminable and desultory.

To add insult to injury, the sequel connects one of the most terrifying encounters in “Insidious” into its veins. It feels so forced—something that comes right out of those cheap, badly made, insulting sequels to James Wan’s “Saw” and Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” Is this what commercial horror has been reduced to—“connecting” events with its predecessors to appear “intelligent” or “creative”? I find it disgusting, lazy, and insulting.

It is clear that “Insidious: Chapter 2” is not director James Wan’s finest effort. There is nothing to see here unless one is interested in sifting through distractions and clichés. A litmus test on whether or not a scary movie is effective: if you come out of it more frustrated than uneasy to be in your house alone, it has fundamentally failed to do its job.

The Next Three Days


The Next Three Days (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Cops knocked on the Brennans’ door and claimed that Lara (Elizabeth Banks) was under arrest for the murder of her boss. Evidence was against her: a co-worker saw her leave the scene of the crime, the blood on her jacket matched the victim’s, and her fingerprints were on the murder weapon. But John (Russell Crowe), Lara’s husband, was convinced that she was innocent. In a span of three years, the community college professor did the best he could to get his wife out of prison. When the judge sentenced her to a life in prison, John turned to illicit means. His first move was to ask an ex-convict (Liam Neeson) how he managed to escape prison seven times. “The Next Three Days,” directed by Paul Haggis, was enjoyable for half of its running time. I liked it best when it focused on John’s increasing irrationality. There were times when I was convinced all the planning would ultimately amount to nothing because I figured by the time he was ready to execute his ambitious plans, he was already neck-deep in his obsession. When he made mistakes, the consequences were high. One particularly suspenseful scene was when he created a bump key, a key that could open most locks, and decided to test it on a prison elevator. It didn’t work and when he tried to force it out, it broke. An alarm went off a couple of seconds later. Worse, the room had a camera and it recorded every move. We were left to wonder how he was going to squiggle his way out of the complicated situation. However, the tension wasn’t consistent. If the tension isn’t consistent, the momentum doesn’t build. Worse, the movie ran for about thirty minutes too long. There were scenes between John and Nicole (Olivia Wilde), a single mother who was always at the park with her daughter, which suggested that there could be romance between the two. While Nicole was a key figure in John, Lara and their son’s (Ty Simpkins) eventual attempt to get out of the country, there wasn’t an effective moment between John and Nicole where we would be convinced that something was going to happen between them. Most of those scenes should have been edited out to make room for scenes from Detectives Quinn (Jason Beghe) and Collero’s (Aisha Hinds) point of view. Instead, we mostly saw the duo spying on John while in their car or just sitting at their desks. How were we supposed to take them seriously, to feel that they were a threat to John’s plans, if we didn’t know how their minds worked? Lastly, I wished that the picture kept some of its mysteries from us. In the end, it showed us whether or not Lara’s sentence was deserved. It didn’t matter. What mattered was we rooted for John’s plans to outsmart the system.

Insidious


Insidious (2010)
★★★★ / ★★★★

The Lamberts, led by schoolteacher Josh and musician Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), recently moved into a new house with their three kids (Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor). In the beginning, there were small incidents around the house like books being put out of place but no one ever touching them. Then the changes started to become more noticeable like Renai hearing malevolent voices from a baby monitor when no one was supposed to be upstairs other than the sleeping infant. One night, one of the children, Dalton, went to explore in the creepy attic and fell from a ladder. He was hurt but there was no serious injury. The problem was, the next morning, Dalton wouldn’t wake up. Doctors claimed he was in a coma but they couldn’t explain why. Written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, “Insidious” was a creative, thrilling, old-fashioned haunted house film. When you’ve seen a lot of horror movies, you start to feel as though you’ve seen everything in the genre, that nothing can surprise you anymore. But there are times when movies like this would come and take you completely by surprise. From its title card in gargantuan red text designed to summon 70s and 80s cheesy horror nostalgia down to its chilling soundtrack, it immediately showcased its knowledge of horror conventions. I got the feeling that maybe it was going to poke fun of the standards. In some ways it did, but I was happier with the fact that it took the known conventions and made them better by altering them just a little bit. In a wasteland of bad remakes and cringe-inducing adaptations, a spice of modernity feels like a new breed. The first half worked as a horror picture because of the way it patiently built the suspense. The ghosts were scary but they didn’t go around following the family (depending on how one sees it). They were just hanging about, taking up the same space as the living. The director was careful in revealing too much. Sometimes the ghosts were on the background and the characters didn’t see them. But the audiences certainly did. Sometimes the apparitions were on the foreground and we had no choice but to scream at the images thrown at us. Because the director varied his camera angles and the types of scares, the film held an usually high level of tension. Each situation was a potential cause of alarm. In a dark room, we knew that something was going to happen but it was a matter of when. “Insidious” also worked as a horror-comedy. Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), a geek tech duo who seemed to have been plucked from Ivan Reitman’s “Ghost Busters,” provided required tension-relievers as they attempted to get bigger weapons to detect the ghosts. Meanwhile, the addition of Lin Shaye as the concerned psychic was an excellent counter-balance to the more comedic moments. Her character reminded us that “Insidious” was a horror movie first and foremost by allowing us to see what she saw in a dark room via Spec’s drawings. For an old-fashioned horror flick, “Insidious” felt progressive, even fresh. Sitting in a packed theater, I felt like the film continually threw snakes of increasing size onto my lap. I screamed louder each time.