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                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


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* The Avengers (5/6/12)  * MEMORIAL DAY 2012 – Red Tails, Memphis Belle, Flyboys, The Blue Max (5/28/12) 
Prometheus (6/11/12)   * The Amazing Spider-Man (7/9/12)   * 42 (4/17/13)   * Iron Man 3 (5/9/13)  
Godzilla – 2014 (5/18/14)   * Jurassic World (6/21/15)   * Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2/18/16)
Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (6/21/16)   * Captain America: Civil War (5/13/16)

* Kong: Skull Island (3/12/17)    Star Wars: The Last Jedi (12/17/16)  Black Panther (3/5/18)



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A NO SPOILERS REVIEW,  DISSECTION, ... and look back at Cinema History's beloved "Dumb to Fun Ratio"!


by CEJ
(posted 6/21/15)


(Universal / Amblin Ent. / Legendary Pictures)
GullCottage rating (***½ on a scale of 1 - 5)

Dir. by - Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by - Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver,
Derek Connelly, Colin Trevorrow
Story by - Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Based On Characters Created by -
Michael Crichton

Prod. by - Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley
Exec. Prod. - Steven Spielberg
Exec. Prods. - Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull

Dir. Of Photography  - John Schwartzman
Edited by - Kevin Stitt
Production Design by - Edward Verreaux
Costume Design by - April Ferry, Daniel Orlandi
Music - Michael Giacchino
Running Time: 124 mins.


Robert Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire Dearing), Nick Robinson (Zach Mitchell), Vincent D'Onofrio (Vic Hoskins), Ty Simkins (Gray Mitchell), Irrfan Khan (Simon Masrani), Jake Johnson (Lowrey Cruthers), Omar Sy (Barry), B.D. Wong (Dr. Henry Wu), Judy Greer (Karen Mitchell), Lauren Lapkus (Vivian), Brian Tee (Katashi Hamada), Katie McGrath (Zara Young), Andy Buckley (Scott Mitchell), James Dumont (Hal Osterly), Jimmy Buffett (himself), Jimmy Fallon (himself), Colin Trevorrow (voice of Mr. DNA), Brad Bird (voice of Monorail Announcer)

     Okay, bypassing those customary witty journalistic opening “pithy-isms”, let’s get right to it and say “No two ways ‘round it, JURASSIC WORLD is pretty dumb“. In fact the phrase “Effin’ stupid!” came to mind while sitting there in the theater slack jawed slogging through those first twenty or so minutes. Once upon a time when the world was young "And Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" (couldn't help it - you under 30 folks need to catch up with your cheesy dino flicks if you don't get that reference!) we prided ourselves on the fact that actually walking out on a movie was something we limited ourselves to doing (at most) maybe once per year.  A bit older now, we find ourselves, after committing to trekking to a theater and shelling out that hefty IMAX 3D ticket price, a bit more reluctant to do even the "one a year" thing - willing more nowadays to exercise the patience of say a Noah though you occasionally still feel like the cinema audience version of Job. Okay, maybe not bypassing all of those opening “pithy-isms”

     But ohhh man!, if it wasn't so warm out the morning we saw JURASSIC WORLD, ... and if that theater air conditioning, and those rocking high backed seats, hadn't felt so good, we just might'a had to up and scramble the righteous hell outta there. Ultimately, we were pretty glad we didn't, because (cue the sound of someone gulping - as in swallowing their pride) in the end JURASSIC WORLD ends up as a helluva lotta fun!


     Perhaps the most gorgeously realized and stunningly well made bad movie since James Cameron's TITANIC, JURASSIC WORLD also oddly emerges as simultaneously pretty bad-assed. Filled with the most (ehh hemm!) "original" characters since FREDDY VS. JASON (Bryce Dallas Howard's park operations manager, Claire Dearing, isn't gonna win over any feminists), … .  Oh yeah, and it’s hard to believe the husband / wife screenwriting team of Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver - who gave us the intelligent and exciting narratives of RISE OF and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, would battle for Writer's Guild credit on this film.  That said however, JURASSIC WORLD manages against all logic, and perhaps expectation, to genuinely recapture a bit of the charm, wonderment and thrills of Steven Spielberg's 1993 original. Go figure.  Now, before you go and get that look on your face …

     A brief recap for those one or two out there who (yes, hard to imagine) may not be as familiar with the JURASSIC film series. It’s kind of necessary to explain the new film’s "dumb to fun ratio" scale.  Anyway ...


     Flashback to twenty-two years ago. On Isla Nublar, a remote island 120 miles (190 km) off the west coast of Costa Rica, billionaire industrialist John Hammond commissions a cadre of geneticists to clone dinosaurs back to life using DNA strands from the ancient creatures’ blood - the samples of which were preserved over time within the parasitic mosquitoes which fed upon that dino blood then became encased and preserved themselves within the since solidified tree amber sap of ancient foliage for 65 million years.

     Hammond uses the re-created dinosaurs to populate a “safari park” like no other on Isla Nublar. But during a pre-opening incident a worker is killed by a Velociraptor, and an insurance company attempts to placate nervous investors by having a scientific team - consisting of a noted paleontologist, a mathematician and a paleobotonist, visit the still-in-development site to “sign off” on it’s security system. High tech industrial hubris in full swing,  Hammond (blissfully secure in his park’s appeal and security) invites his two grandchildren along for the dream weekend, which, at first wondrous turns nightmarish when an act of commercial sabotage shuts down the park's security system, and the wild dinos escape their enclosure paddocks to hunt down and feed upon everything and everyone in their path.

     Based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, WESTWORLD, RISING SUN), Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK very quickly snatched up (or perhaps more accurately “chowed down” on and made mincemeat out of) that golden crown with the label “All Time Box Office Champ” written across it’s brow. Then in 1997 the director unleashed THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK - very loosely based on Crichton’s 1995 follow up novel. It too breaking a series of box office records, it was no surprise when a third film - JURASSIC PARK III, written directly for the screen (but containing elements from the two Crichton books), produced by Spielberg, and directed by his longtime friend and collaborator, Joe Johnston (THE ROCKETEER, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER), stormed into theaters in 2001.  Now, unfortunately, within the narratives of the first three films lay the inescapable "dumbness factor" of the new entry - JURASSIC WORLD.

     With all of the death (no, carnage!) of the first three adventures, and the attendant fallout in the way of billion dollar lawsuits, and industrial, economic, scientific and international / political hot-potato-like controversy surrounding all of that destruction (in the second film a T-Rex is brought to mainland U.S.A., only to escape then rampage, Kong-like, through the streets of San Diego), there (caps lock time) IS JUST NO WAY IN HELL!!!, anyone would or could re-open that damned park … regardless of how many years had passed!

     But, okay, let’s say we really REALLY do the suspension of disbelief thing, and tell ourselves someone could revive the park. And not only revive the old Jurassic Park drive-through safari idea, but expand it to a sprawling Disney World-like city unto itself, replete with hotels, a Sea-World-like amphitheater / aquarium (which is pretty cool, by the way!), night clubs and the works. One still has to span a credibility gap wider than Monument Valley, Utah to believe that hundreds of thousands of patrons annually could even afford to travel halfway across the globe to Costa Rica to visit this new “World”.  

JURASSIC WORLD (Global Trailer #2)

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JURASSIC PARK crew circa 1992 - incl. (center three) Spielberg, Sam Neill and Stan Winston

     "I wrote a screenplay about cloning a pterodactyl from fossil DNA in 1983, but the story wasn't convincing. I worked on it for several years since, trying to make it more credible. Finally I decided on a theme park setting, and wrote a novel from the point of view of a young boy who was present when the dinosaurs escaped. I then sent the book to the usual people who read my first drafts.

     Over the years, I've come to rely on five or six people who read my drafts; generally they have a range of responses. Not this time. They were all in agreement: they hated JURASSIC PARK.

     I got angry reactions such as,  'Why would you write a book like this?' But when I asked them to explain exactly why they hated it, they couldn't put their finger on anything in particular. They just hated it, that's all. Hated every bit of it.

     I wrote another draft. They hated that one, too. Just as strongly as the one before. Whatever I had done in the latest draft, it hadn't helped.

     I wrote another draft, but the result remained the same.

     Finally one of the readers said that they were irritated with the story because they wanted it to be from an adult point of view, not a kid point of view. They said, 'I want this to be a story for me.' Meaning for an adult.

     So I rewrote it as an adult story.    And then everybody liked it."
                                                                                                    - Michael Crichton (1942 - 2008)

Michael Crichton & Steven Spielberg on the creation of JURASSIC PARK

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 "As The Jurassic World Turns" (M. Giacchino) - JURASSIC WORLD score

     No spoilers here. The JURASSIC WORLD trailers and TV spots have too much of that as it is.  But if you’ve seen any of them you know the events of the current film take place during a day when the park has over 20,000 patrons - most of them families with strollers and baby-carry pouches; and with teens in tow who’d much rather split off from mom and dad, and from little brother or little sis, to go make goo goo eyes at other similarly disenchanted opposite sex members of their own age group.  Hmmm? For most families we know, it’s a financial investment to take an afternoon vacation to the movies to see a film like JURASSIC WORLD, let alone take a holiday season flight or cruise to Costa Rica and Jurassic World.

     Are we being too hard on the film? Probably. But like we said, if you can actually get around this one great big sprawling road block of common sense, JURASSIC WORLD does end up being a nifty roller coaster ride chiller diller thriller.  It even has a handful of clever Crichton-esque concepts floating around, perhaps the most interesting one inspired by those military experiments of WWII wherein the Navy trained dolphins for use in underwater demolitions.  

Now, don't get us wrong, we're not making excuses for dumb movies.  We've been accused of that more than once.  But we've also been accused of at times being a little too hard on films. So in this go 'round we think we're being somewhat fair and level. Often what emerges to an audience and / or the individual as "good" or "bad" is a matter of expectations rather than actuality. For example, back in 1987, upon first seeing John McTiernan's original PREDATOR in theaters, we despised it because of its dunderheaded cast of characters ordered (collect-on-delivery) right outta the "SGT. ROCK School Of Cliche'" catalog.

     Realized on a much more modest budget, three years earlier James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR had considerably raised the bar in the sci-fi actioner finally being able to emerge from under the Rodney Dangerfield-like umbrella of no respect regardless of how good a film it actually might be. Hey, life is unfair. But THE TERMINATOR made things a little more fair in the Fall of 1984. A hit with action groupies, fan boys, and even women (caught off guard by its rather heart moving "love story across time"), THE TERMINATOR (like LETHAL WEAPON in the buddy cop genre) had made the task of "measuring up" in its respective (and now respected) genre a bit more difficult for those who would follow. And, for our money at the time, PREDATOR was a giant leap backwards.



We felt that way, that is, until reading an article wherein one reviewer recounted how he at first watched PREDATOR in the same mindset.  Then he caught sight of a man or woman (can't recall which) entering the theater after the movie had already begun. Laden with heavy packages, sweating from the late June heat, and cussing up a bit of a storm under their breath, this was gonna be one tough customer for the movie to win over, … which one hour in, PREDATOR had managed to do, and then some! Caught up in the suspense of McTiernan's near silent movie action finale, the person's former cussing and bitching at and about life had turned into shouting and screaming at and about (and to) the characters on screen. 

   PREDATOR (1987)
     Suddenly (there's that gulping sound again) the reviewer realized he was guilty of that most common of deadfall-like traps into which many a film fan unexpectedly falls, that of cinematic arrogance. That at times unreasonable expectation for EVERY film to be of such high "artiste"-esque intentions, that it becomes near impossible to enjoy the occasional flick which has nothing on its mind except to thrill and entertain.  Oh yeah, and sell lots of yummy popcorn. Sort of the cinematic equivalent of Paul McCartney's "Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs, ... and what's wrong with that".

JURASSIC WORLD's indominable "Indominous"


     Once again, don't get us wrong - we're not copping a plea for "crap projected at 24 frames per second". And yeah, we know, with digital projection nowadays, that phrase is something of an anachronism.  But so deliberately also is the bonafied (and this isn't always a four letter word) "no brainer" Creature Feature, of which JURASSIC WORLD definitely is.  Here's an example of "intentions" vs. "expectations"…

     During the production of the first three JURASSIC films, the creature creation crew under animator Phil Tippett (STAR WARS, DRAGONSLAYER), Dennis Muren (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) and the late Stan Winston (THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN, TERMINATOR 2), operated under the Spielberg mandated edict that "we are not creating monsters, but rather naturalistic animals". With JURASSIC WORLD the intent this time around was to create a monster in the form of the film's primary antagonist - dubbed "Indominous Rex", a hitherto unimaginable genetic crossbred dinosaur fashioned from the DNA of nine species including T-Rex, Abelisaurus, cuttlefish (imbuing it with bio-camouflage abilities) and more.  

     There’s something refreshingly unpretentious in an old fashioned Saturday afternoon or late night “Creature Double Feature” kind of film, and that’s what JURASSIC WORLD has on its mind. This isn’t really a hybrid science fiction / adventure thriller, as were the original two (and maybe the third) films.  No, at it’s core JURASSIC WORLD is a balls out monster movie.  And if taken as such, a pretty damned good one. Now before you say what‘s on the tip of your tongue, be honest and keep in mind that we all, quite frequently, and usually for nostalgic reasons, sign a Faustian pact with some of our favorite films - selling our souls (so to speak) for 90 minutes to two hours, and forgiving the most egregious of dumb-assed movie making in exchange for the pleasure of the rollercoaster ride. 

     There’s the previously mentioned PREDATOR of course.  Oh, and, you know in actuality the sequel PREDATOR 2 is a much better realized film, right? It’s better written with more realistic and identifiable characters. And it’s scenario, taking place within the “war zone” of a high tech L.A. gangland; and with the “soldiers” this time around being a police unit lead by the always believably intense Danny Glover, it’s the genuine cinematic goods. But most die hards still prefer John McKiernan’s “G.I. Joe”-like original. Okay, fine. Speaking of “die hards” though, what about the film DIE HARD? There's one with an interesting "dumb to fun" ratio. 

     Another well-loved McTiernan classic, 1998’s DIE HARD was considered by many to be the thinking man’s action film, while in actuality the only two characters in the entire film who do any kind thinking are the main opposing characters - Bruce Willis’ John McClane and Alan Rickman’s “terrorist” Hans Gruber.  Pretty much everyone else in the film, the TV media characters, the L.A. police, and definitely the FBI - yahooing it up in the helicopter, flying dangerously low over the city streets and yelling how “... This is just like f**king Saigon!”, make the average graduate of Archie's Riverdale High School look like Jurassic Park genetic scientists in comparison.

  Jurassic "Blackfish"

     Oh, and don’t even get us started on DIE HARD’s ridiculously dumb-I-fied FBI agents’ names - “Johnson” and “Johnson”. Y’know, as in big and little ones. C’mon, that vies for the prize of "Most Inane Filmic Phallic In-joke" since SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT’s introduction of the characters “Big and Little Enos”. Only in SMOKEY it’s supposed to be silly. In the “thinking man’s action film” it’s just dumb.  And let’s not get too much into TITANIC, except maybe to say Billy Zane’s character is perhaps the most clichéd villain since Dick Dastardly and Mutley went after Penelope Pittstop during the course of those “Wacky Races”.  There’s probably deleted footage somewhere of Zane twirling his moustache Snidley Whiplash-like. And if there was a set of railroad tracks on that ship, he sure as hell would’ve tied Kate Winslet to them. But TITANIC is forgiven its lack of realistic and believable characters because of its romantic sensibilities and stunningly realized attention to historical detail. 

 Billy Zane throws TITANIC's "dumb to fun ratio" gearbox into full-throttle mode

     Yeah, some movies we just can’t forgive either.  No matter how much we try, we can’t get around IRON MAN 3, certain aspects of THE PHANTOM MENACE, and the empty-skullness of ARAMAGEDDON (explosions, sparks and fire in the vacuum of space?), or how some films will just flat out belligerently “jump the shark”, ... or is that “nuke the fridge”? Ouch!  But admit it, we ALL now and then sign that contract in red ink, and forgive some pretty dumb-assed films because they’re a whale of a tale and a helluva ride otherwise.  And that’s all we’re saying about JURASSIC WORLD.  If you’re willing to sign the contract, we think you’ll dig it. So maybe make the gulping noise and just ease up a little, huh? Hey, if we can do it anyone can.


 "Gyrosphere Of Influence" (M. Giacchino) - JURASSIC WORLD score


     From the point-of-view of film making craft, JURASSIC WORLD is a technical tour de force. Watching the original JURASSIC PARK today, it’s amazing how well the visual effects in the realization of the dinosaurs still hold. And while that now famous “Welcome to Jurassic Park” sequence - where Sam Neill’s Dr. Grant is so overwhelmed (as is the film audience) upon first sight of the dinos grazing on the horizon, is still the most gorgeous realization of Spielberg‘s “not monsters but naturalistic animals“ dictum, from the very first opening shot of JURASSIC WORLD, one has to acknowledge that film technology has advanced over the years to the point where, “Good Lord! Look at the detail in those eyes!”, the new creatures are even more realistically / naturalistically realized than those of the original trilogy.

     As with the previous JURASSIC entries, the actual stars of the film - those digitally realized dinosaurs, are the work of the George Lucas-founded visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic, this time under the supervision of Tim Alexander (STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, SUPER 8) rather than Dennis Muren - although Muren is still ILM's top dog. The full sized interactive on-set dinos are once again the product of Legacy Effects (formerly Stan Winston Studios). And as with the earlier three films the live action effects mayhem (everything from flying debris to upturned and imploding vehicles) is under the baton of Michael Lantieri (MINORITY REPORT, A.I.).


     Matching the original films effects-wise is a tough bar to meet (let alone exceed), especially when now placed in the realm of 3D and IMAX digital theatrical exhibition, which can at times make things look less “You feel like you can reach out and touch them” and more el cheapo “View Master”-esque. Part of the reason things not only look but feel extremely naturalistic in JURASSIC WORLD is because, on this latest trip to Isla Nublar, the wizards at ILM use a motion-capture system in creating the animal movements and behavior. Essentially capture / recording the green or blue screen studio performance of an actor, then (for lack of a better term) laying and layering a computer generated creature atop that performance, it makes all the sense in the world to use such a process in the creation of KING KONG, LORD OF THE RINGS’ Gollum, DAWN OF THE APES’ Caesar, or an INCREDIBLE HULK, as they are all bi-pedal humanoid based characters.

      It really isn’t even too far a stretch to imagine using Mo-Cap in the realization of JURASSIC’s Velociraptors, as they too are bi-pedal and fairly close to human sized. But Mo-Cap creating a 40ft. Indominus Rex is a truly daring “Rex of a different color” (ha! ha! - remembering its camouflage-like abilities!). The ILM techno-sorcerers pull it off in spades though. Miss I-Rex is a marvel to behold.  And we’re fairly certain she’ll go down in movie lore as one of filmdom’s most “you love ‘em and hate ‘em at the same time” creations, right up there with Stan Winston’s PREDATOR and PUMPKINHEAD. A sweeping statement, we know. But check back in a couple’a years and see if it isn’t so.  Audiences will probably remember her more than the film itself.  

     JURASSIC WORLD features stunning production design by frequent Spielberg / Robert Zemeckis collaborator Edward Verreaux (CONTACT, JURASSIC PARK III), and brilliant conceptual contributions by the legendary Mark “Crash” McCrery (THE RELIC, GALAXY QUEST) and Aaron McBride (of the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN franchise and THE AVENGERS).  The new tech kids on the block this time around (that’s “new” as in “new additions to the JURASSIC creative family“ - but they’re all seasoned filmic vets) include Academy Award winning composer Michael Giacchino (LOST, UP, RATATOUILLE, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) and director Colin Treverrow (SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED).

 Multi-award winning composer Michael Giacchino

    Scoring over ten years of video games (including the Spielberg produced THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK and SMALL SOLDIERS: SQUAD COMMANDER) before becoming film maker J.J. Abrams’ go-to-guy on LOST, ALIAS, and films such as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, SUPER 8 and STAR TREK, Giacchino is often a breath of fresh cine-melodic air, composing long and complex lines of rich orchestral score in an era when many producers shy away from the practice as too “old school”. 

     An accomplished music filmsman on par with the legendary Lalo Schifrin, Basil Poledouris and James Newton Howard, if there’s one minor quibble we’ve had with Giacchino’s (impressively prodigious) output over the years, it’s something which probably isn’t his fault. Namely a tendency for contemporary film makers to steer their composers away from those long melodic lines.  As such, many Giacchino scores will feature some truly rich and memorable thematic content which really isn’t developed as much as (we feel) it should be during the course of said film.

     The truly memorable exceptions to this occur when Giacchino is teamed with a film maker who appreciates, and isn’t afraid of, what music can bring (and can change in) a cinematic sequence. As such some of his most accomplished (and what we feel will be timeless) works include his Pixar collaborations (on RATATOUILLE and his Oscar winning UP), his team ups with Brad Bird (most impressively on THE INCREDIBLES and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL), the aforementioned J.J. Abrams films (his new STAR TREK theme is a wonder, is it not?), and on his many video game scores. Most recently a friend reminded us of a piece of music from one of Giacchino’s MEDAL OF HONOR game scores, and pointed out how apropos it might be tied to an action sequence from an INDIANA JONES or CAPTAIN AMERICA adventure.

  Director Colin Trevorrow (L) and Giacchino (R) on the scoring stage

     Personally chosen by Spielberg to score THE LOST WORLD video game, Giacchino’s no stranger or slouch when it comes to the sights and sounds of an Isla Nublar based adventure. John Williams’ scores to the first two JURASSIC films are stunning masterworks. And while we love the grandeur and wonderment of JURASSIC PARK, the dark percussive nature of Williams’ THE LOST WORLD has a feral bad-ass-ed-ness tonally akin to the timbre of his second STAR WARS installment, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  This will always musically make Williams' LOST WORLD our favorite of the series. 

      Don Davis’ musical contribution to JURASSIC PARK III is serviceable but not incredibly memorable; while with this new film Giacchino steps up to the plate and acquits himself nicely - his score only sparingly using Williams’ original JURASSIC theme in a couple of key sequences, then going on to create its own entirely new musical identity.     

     Remaining faithful to Williams’ musical DNA imprint, Giacchino likewise goes the structural route of scoring each key filmic set piece with its own unique motif. In this respect the standouts are certainly the “raptor / motorcycle chase” and the climactic (we’ll call it) WWF dino “super slam” battle.

     Oh, and we now arguably have perhaps our personal all time fave Giacchino piece in his new “Jurassic World Theme”. Alternately wondrous and thrilling (as during the film’s first tour sequence), heart achingly gorgeous (when our heroes come upon the dying Apatosaurus), and stirringly epic (the final fade out coda).  We’re pretty certain it will get lots of play in the coming years from film score fans, pops orchestras and music aficionados in general.

JURASSIC WORLD clip 1 - "Nightmares"

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