Film Review: Jurassic Park III (2001)

Also known as: Return to the Island: Jurassic Park 3, Jurassic Park 3: The Extinction, Jurassic Park: Breakout (working titles), JP3 (abbreviated title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Based on: characters by Michael Crichton
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, Laura Dern, John Diehl, Mark Harelik

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I read both of your books. I liked the first one more. Before you were on the island. You liked dinosaurs back then.” – Erik, “Back then, they hadn’t tried to eat me yet.” – Dr. Grant

Well, this is the film that killed off the franchise. Well, at least for more than a dozen years until the Jurassic World series of films started in 2015.

I should preface this by saying that on its own, this isn’t a bad movie. However, when compared to the two before it, it’s a pretty big disappointment. 

The story, given the circumstances of this movie’s universe, seems plausible and I can buy into people returning to the island for the third time.

Granted, this isn’t the same island, it’s a neighboring island. I have to assume that they did that because recreating the Jurassic Park sets, once again, would’ve been really costly. So most of this actually takes place outside, in a dense jungle with only a few scenes on the island actually going indoors.

Narrative setup aside, this has okay action and a new dinosaur threat that is sold to the audience as being more threatening than a T-Rex. Was it really more threatening? Probably not but by the time you get to the third film in a series, you need to up the ante. They could’ve just added a third T-Rex like the previous movie added a second but whatever. Most people know what a T-Rex is; most people don’t know what the hell a spinosaurus is and if they do, they probably never thought, “Oh, I bet that fella can take a T-Rex!”

The only really cool dino addition to the film franchise is the inclusion of the pteranodons. While we got a glimpse of them in The Lost World, we didn’t get to see them in action, fighting with humans. The sequence that features them is the highlight of the film for me and much better than anything with that doofus spinosaurus.

Sam Neill returns and is in the whole movie, Laura Dern shows up for two scenes but Jeff Goldblum was nowhere to be found because I honestly can’t believe that he’d go back to dino-land a third time. But what do I know, I guess, as he’s actually going to be fully involved in the third Jurassic World movie, which I believe comes out in 2021 but who knows with all the COVID bullshit.

Anyway, Neill is good as Dr. Grant, once again. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by imbeciles that make you want to throw an Amazon Echo at the TV screen. I generally like William H. Macy and Tea Leoni but they were absolute idiots in this. It’s not their fault, it’s just the characters they played.

Ultimately, this is just more of the same with half the passion and enthusiasm of the two films before it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Also known as: JP (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: June 9th, 1993 (Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp
Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, BD Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval, Whit Hertford

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, but, John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Dr. Ian Malcom

I think it might be hard for younger people to understand the hype around Jurassic Park when it came out. For me, it came out in the summer between middle school and high school but I spent most of my eighth grade year listening to my science teacher enthusiastically rave about the novel it was based on. In fact, she offered up extra credit for those of us who read the book and did a report on it, which I did. I liked the book better, FYI.

Anyway, I think that I may have been just a hair too old for this movie to have had the same effect on me as it did younger people in my life. For those born just after the Star Wars films had their theatrical releases, this was their Star Wars. And while I liked it, quite a lot, I do feel like the movie is a bit overrated.

Now I still think it’s damn solid and a fun movie but the story seems pretty basic, overly simplistic and just there to show off what Industrial Light and Magic could do with CGI effects. In that regard, this is a masterpiece of its time and without this film, we wouldn’t have gotten anymore Star Wars films, as this was the real test that George Lucas wanted in order to see if he could make more space movies in the way that he had always envisioned.

This led to the Special Edition Star Wars movies, which I thought were cool to see but I still preferred the unaltered originals. But then those movies led to the Prequel Trilogy and a bunch of other effects heavy films to follow.

Getting back to this film, though, it kind of recycles the best animal horror elements of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws but makes the monster a bunch of dinosaurs and shifts the man-eating to land.

Overall, this is less horrific than Jaws and it isn’t really categorized as “horror” even though it very much is. But I guess marketing it as such, kind of hurts trying to sell it to the public as a family adventure movie. Now if they had put (or left) some actual gore in it, I probably would’ve dug it more as a kid but then parents would’ve been outraged and this might not have become a massive franchise.

The film is really good and probably Spielberg’s best from the ’90s, after Schindler’s List, of course.

It was well cast and the main players are all pretty great, as they created iconic roles that seem to leave a void when they aren’t included in the Jurassic movies after this one. This was, in fact, the only film to feature the Jurassic Holy Trinity of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern.

This one also feels the most special, as it was the first. It’s probably the best too but I really need to watch the second and third, as it’s been years.

Top to bottom, this is just fun, energetic, doesn’t have a dull moment and you find yourself getting lost in it. It’s a good movie to turn your brain off to and it’s still one of the greatest popcorn movies of its time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Event Horizon (1997)

Also known as: The Stars My Destination (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1997
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by: Philip Eisner
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Issacs, Sean Pertwee, Jack Noseworthy, Noah Huntley, Peter Marinker

Golar Productions, Impact Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes, 130 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“I’m telling you it was his voice I heard, he was calling to me. A young bosun named Eddie Corrick. We served on the Goliath together. When the O2 tanks ruptured, four of us made it to the lifeboat but Corrick was still on board the Goliath when the fire broke out.” – Miller

This is hands down my favorite film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

In fact, I love it so much that it bothers me that there was once a 130 minute rough cut of the film that none of us will ever be able to see because they didn’t really archive deleted scenes and alternate takes like they started to do a few years later when DVD extras became a thing.

What’s really sad about that is that this was a film that was whittled down by the producers into a quick, palatable 96 minutes because I guess horror or sci-fi movies can’t be longer than that. I feel cheated not being able to see Anderson’s full vision.

However, this is still a solid, sci-fi thriller with sick and disturbing twists that made this the most frightening space movie of its time. I can’t say that it’s as good as the first two Alien movies but it exceeds all of the sequels after the first two pictures.

This is also imaginative and just fucking cool.

The story follows a space crew as they travel to the orbit of Neptune to see what happened to another crew that went missing. Once there, they discover a pretty horrific truth. The missing crew’s ship jumped through a different dimension and thus, brought back what can only be described as Hell in space.

For those who have never seen this movie but are familiar with the Dead Space video game series, you’ll see a lot of stylistic similarities. Funny enough, every time I watch this movie, I want to go back and play those games.

In lots of ways, this is a terrifying film. It’s visuals are intense and it’s some of the best work Anderson has ever done. The movie is a total mindfuck but what does kind of suck is that you’re left with so many questions and you want to know more. Unfortunately, there will probably never be a sequel. I mean, it’s been 22 years since this came out.

Apart from Anderson being on his A game, this movie is truly carried by the performances of its great cast. There are ton of people in this, most of whom have gone on to have bigger careers after this picture. But they were all very capable and convincing actors in this film. I’ve always loved Sean Pertwee, Jason Issacs and Jack Noteworthy and seeing them get to work alongside Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill is excellent.

Event Horizon is such an underrated film. It came and went in theaters pretty quickly and it did okay on video but I feel like it came out in the wrong era and was lost in the shuffle of all the other horror movies from its time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, as well as Pandorum and 2017’s Life.

Film Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Also known as: Wild Pork and Watercress (working title)
Release Date: January 22nd, 2016 (Sundance)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Taika Waititi
Based on: Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump
Music by: Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, Conrad Wedde
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Rhys Darby, Oscar Knightley, Taika Waititi

Piki Films, Defender Films, Curious Film, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Shit just got real… again” – Hec

Taika Waititi may be one of the best filmmakers of his generation. Finally, after the great Thor: Ragnarok, he seems to be getting some mainstream success and notoriety. But before his take on Thor and just after his underground classic, What We Do In the Shadows, he made this film.

In this picture, we have an unlikely pair on the run from the authorities. Julian Dennison, who is now most famous as the sort of evil kid from Deadpool 2, plays Ricky Baker, a juvenile delinquent sent to live with two foster parents. When the kind foster mother dies, Ricky is left with the husband, a sort of cranky man that likes his solitude out in the bush. Ricky is to be picked up by the authorities and sent to juvenile detention, as this was his last chance with a foster family and the aging bushman named Hec isn’t capable of caring for him. Ricky and Hec butt heads over this and Ricky runs away. Hec catches up to him but injures his ankle. After some discussion, the two go on the run from the law trying to split them apart.

This is a quintessential “buddies on the run” comedy but it is unique in that it is a kid and an old man and that it takes place in majestic New Zealand, most famous in movies as Middle Earth. Sadly, they don’t fight orcs but there is a funny Lord of the Rings homage thrown into the movie.

What makes this so great is that Taika Waititi just has a great balance between serious, emotional material and comedy. This isn’t as wildly hilarious as What We Do In the Shadows but it has a similar lighthearted spirit to it. It is probably closer in tone to Waititi’s 2010 film Boy, which saw a young New Zealand kid try to reconnect with his absentee father.

I have been a fan of Sam Neill probably as long as I have been alive but it was sweet seeing him have such solid chemistry with a young kid. Dennison is a rare talent and he really carries the film, making Neill that much better. And Neill certainly has a great presence on his own but Dennison brings the best out of him. I loved this pairing, which was a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t a big fan of Dennison’s character in Deadpool 2. But that was probably the writing and not Dennison’s performance.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is just a solid way to spend two hours. It touches the heart, makes you laugh but it isn’t overly sappy or sad. It’s a good time and just another nice feather in the cap for Waititi.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Taika Waititi’s Boy and Eagle vs. Shark.

Film Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Release Date: October 10th, 2017 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Sam Neill, Matt Damon (uncredited cameo), Stan Lee (uncredited cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 130 Minutes

Review:

“Last time we saw you, you were trying to kill everyone. What are you up to these days?” – Bruce Banner, “It varies from moment to moment.” – Loki

The Thor movies probably get the least amount of respect out of the solo Marvel films. I enjoyed the first two, more so than a lot of Marvel’s stuff. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic, as is Tom Hiddleston. So when I learned that the third movie would also feature a version of the spectacular Planet Hulk storyline, I was super excited. When I learned that it was going to be directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do In the ShadowsFlight of the Conchords), my interest went through the roof.

To put it bluntly, this is now my favorite Marvel film. It actually eclipsed the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in both fun and scale. It is hard not to make comparisons between the films, as both Guardians and this Thor movie involve outer space adventures and a real lightheartedness missing in other Marvel pictures. My god, man… this was so much better than the drab and predictable Captain America: Civil War and light-years ahead of those convoluted Avengers pictures. This also had villains that matter and that look cool, unlike Baron Zemo, who was just some guy, or aliens on flying jet skis or killer robots for the nth time.

Chris Hemsworth is absolutely dynamite in this and even though he has been great as Thor, thus far, this is the chapter in the massive Marvel universe where he really just shines and shows that he is not only the coolest Avenger but an actual friggin’ god. This is the film where Thor finally becomes Thor, the King of Asgard, the protector of his people and a guy that can actually take it to the Hulk.

Tom Hiddleston once again kills it as Loki and this is also where his road to redemption comes full circle. Sure, he’s got his tricks up his sleeves but when his big bad evil sister shows up to destroy his home, he can’t not be by his brother’s side when the chips fall.

Having the Hulk in this was also a real treat that just added weight to the actual threat in this film. This is the best that the Hulk has been and the movie really showcases his power and pits him not just against Thor but also Fenris, a kaiju sized wolf, as well as the mountain sized god, Surtur.

Speaking of Surtur, the first part of the film, which deals with Thor besting a weakened Surtur, was really cool. Ultimately, Surtur does appear in his full form by the end of the film. While he is Asgard’s version of the Devil and he brings about Ragnarok, which is Asgard’s version of Armageddon, Thor uses Surtur’s presence in the film to his advantage. I always wondered how they could actually handle and present Surtur in a film and Waititi nailed it perfectly.

Apart from Surtur, we get Cate Blanchett as the evil Goddess of Death, Hela. She is the older sister of Thor and Loki and has been locked away for eons. The death of Odin brings about her release and even united, the brothers cannot defeat her without additional help in the form of a newly assembled team of heroes.

Jeff Goldblum shows up as another villain, the Grandmaster. He runs a planet that has a massive gladiator coliseum. This is where the big fight between Thor and the Hulk goes down. Obviously, the two end up teaming up and taking it to every baddie in the film.

For what Thor: Ragnarok is, which is a fun comic book movie, it couldn’t be more entertaining. It’s really hard for me to give out a perfect 10 score when rating a picture but in the context of superhero movies and for the fact that it is a better Marvel film than both of the Guardians of the Galaxy outings, which both earned a 9, I have to give Thor: Ragnarok a 9.5 out of 10. It will take something quite exceptional to reach a 10 in this genre but maybe Waititi will give us an even better Thor picture in the future. He’s certainly capable of it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Thor and Thor: Dark World.