Film Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Camilla Belle

Digital Image Associates, Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

I barely remembered this film, as I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the theater in 1997. Although, I have seen bits and pieces on television over the years. However, I usually catch the movie at the end, once the T-Rex is running around San Diego looking for its baby.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect in revisiting this but I always remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. However, it has a lot more Goldblum, so that is kind of a selling point, regardless of the overall quality.

Staring with what I liked about the movie, I thought it was immensely cooler simply for the fact that it was darker and pushed the envelope a bit further. It felt much closer to Jaws than the first film and it actually showed a good amount of dino on human violence. A lot of people get eaten, as well as a dog. We even see a girl get savagely attacked and are left with the impression that she was eaten to death. But we are told, several minutes later, that she survived the attack and was doing okay.

The tone in this movie, for the most part, was just right. It comes undone in the third act during the San Diego sequence but the movie did pretty good up to that point.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, this movie is heavy on the Goldblum, which I liked a lot, as even though he’s one of the three stars of the first movie, by the mid-point of that film, he’s kind of just hanging out in the techies’ office.

Looking beyond just Jeff Goldblum, this film had a great cast between Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, as well as cameos by Richard Attenborough and his character’s grandchildren. This also featured Pete Postlethwaite in what I would call one of his greatest roles. His character was complex, interesting and he really shined in this role, despite not having the screen time that the bigger stars had.

I also liked the sequence where the raptors are hiding in the tall grass and picking people off, as everyone is running away from the danger. It’s superbly shot and it’s a chilling scene that has held up remarkably well, especially when other scenes don’t look like they’re on the same level as the first movie.

Moving on to the negatives, the CGI and special effects, overall, look worse than the first film. I found that baffling, considering that this came out four years later in an era where CGI effects were moving forward by leaps and bounds.

However, the scene where you see the first dinosaurs greatly pales in comparison to the dino reveal scene in the first picture.

Also, the movie doesn’t feel like a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s a hard thing to explain and his magical cinematic touch is difficult to quantify but this just doesn’t have that “touch” that other Spielberg adventure films have.

Something that made me scratch my head and go “huh?” was the scene where Goldblum’s daughter uses gymnastics to kill a raptor. I remember people bitching about this back in the day but the whole thing slipped away from my memory over the last twenty-three years. It doesn’t break the movie but it makes you question whether or not Spielberg was off that day and left the film in the hands of a stoner baked out of his mind.

While I liked most of the action, the sequence with the research trailers hanging off the cliff ran on for too long. It was stretched out for suspense and to set up the curveball that was the arrival of two T-Rexes but it was poorly crafted with bad pacing and it disrupted the suspense it tried to build towards.

Lastly, I didn’t like the San Diego shit. I get why they did it, as they had to try and up the ante with this film and taking a T-Rex to a major American city seemed like the next logical step. It just feels out of place and strange. Although, I did like the film’s token asshole getting eaten alive by the baby T-Rex.

This film is a mixed bag. It’s mostly good and it’s a better-than-decent popcorn movie to escape into for a few hours. However, it kind of shows that maybe this concept should have been kept to one film.

Rating: 7.25/10
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.

Vids I Dig 427: The Critical Drinker: The Drinker Recommends… ‘Jaws’

From The Critical Drinker’s YouTube description: For this episode of Drinker Recommends, we’re going back 45 years to the small island of Amity, to explore the movie that made everyone afraid to go in the water…

Vids I Dig 363: Whang!: Was ‘Indiana Jones’ Changed After Release? – Lost Media

Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: The ending of Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal skull is different from how people remember it. Many recall Indy saying “In Your Dreams Kid”as he takes his hat back from Shia Labeouf’s character, Mutt, but the line is not there. Is this a case of the Mandela effect, or was it edited quickly after release?

Film Review: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Release Date: June 24th, 1983
Directed by: John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller
Written by: John Landis, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Melissa Mathison, Jerome Bixby
Based on: The Twilight Zone by Rod Sterling
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow, Kathleen Quinlan, Burgess Meredith (narrator), Dick Miller, Steven Williams, Al Leong, John Larroquette, Selma Diamond, Priscilla Pointer, Nancy Cartwright, Christina Nigra

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

“Hey… you wanna see something really scary?” – Car Passenger

After recently watching the Creepshow television series, as well as revisiting the movies for the umpteenth time, I got the itch to rewatch Twilight Zone: The Movie, as it has a lot of similarities and I hadn’t seen it in at least a decade.

I like the highpoints of this movie almost as much as the Creepshow films. However, Twilight Zone is pretty inconsistent, as the first two segments are weak while the latter two are really good. And maybe it was put in this order in post-production because Steven Spielberg felt the same way, even though one of his segments was one of the crappier ones.

The prologue and the first segment were both directed by John Landis, coming off of An American Werewolf In London, a true horror classic. The prologue was a pretty good setup and I loved it when I was a kid. Landis’ segment, however, plays more like an episode of Amazing Stories.

Although, two of these segments play like Amazing Stories episodes and maybe this movie is what inspired Spielberg to create that show just two years later.

Anyway, Landis’ segment is actually incomplete due to an accident involving a helicopter on the set of the film. The accident killed two kids and actor Victor Morrow. It was a pretty controversial event back when it happened (see here) and it forever ruined the working relationship between Steven Spielberg and John Landis.

Moving on to the second segment, it’s the one directed by Spielberg himself and it is also the other segment that feels like an Amazing Stories episode. It’s also really boring and slows the movie to a crawl. But thankfully, Joe Dante’s segment gets the movie back on track.

By the time the third segment rolls around, you might find yourself in a comatose state that even the gentle, kind and always fly Scatman Crothers couldn’t pull you out of during the previous story. But once you get to the midpoint of the film, everything picks up, gets better and the movie delivers.

The third and fourth segments feel almost as good as the best segments from the Creepshow franchise and they save this movie from being a total disaster.

Where the first story dealt with an unlikable, old, racist piece of shit and the second dealt with old people getting to feel young again, the third deals with a young boy with special powers and a nice lady that eventually wants to help him, played by Kathleen Quinlan. It has more energy, it’s a more interesting story and the monster effects that Dante had created for this are superb. I love the third segment and it’s actually a story I would revisit if ever there were a followup to it. Plus, it has Dick Miller in it.

Now the fourth segment is directed by George Miller, the man behind the Mad Max franchise, and it is a remake of the most famous Twilight Zone episode.

The story sees an airplane passenger freak out over a monster on the wing of the plane. It may sound like an odd setup but it is a great segment that builds suspense incredibly well and also benefits from the great talent of John Lithgow. I also really liked the young Christina Nigra in this, as she added some good comedic seasoning at just the right moments. She was also really good in Cloak & Dagger, alongside Henry Thomas, a year later.

The final segment features the best (and only real) monster of the movie. The special effects are outstanding and the payoff in the finale makes the rest of the movie worth sitting through.

In the end, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a good example of what I don’t like about anthologies: consistency. The first half is bogged down by dry, slow, boring stories that one has to suffer through in an effort to get to something better. Thankfully, the second half of the picture is good.

In retrospect, though, it feels like this is almost a movie length pilot to Spielberg’s anthology television series Amazing Stories. If you’ve ever seen that show, this feels like an extension of it more than it feels like it fits within the Twilight Zone franchise. However, this would also lead to the Twilight Zone getting resurrected on television. In fact, it relaunched just a few days before Amazing Stories debuted.

Going back to the Spielberg segment with the old people experiencing their youth again, there are a lot of parallels to it and Ron Howard’s Cocoon. I’m not sure if this was an inspiration for that movie and its sequel but it’s very possible.

In fact, Twilight Zone: The Movie seems to have had quite the impact between launching a new TZ television series, influencing Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and its similarities to Cocoon, all of which came out two years later in 1985.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthology films of the time: the Creepshow movies and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, as well as the television shows Amazing Stories and Tales From the Crypt.

Documentary Review: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004)

Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title)
Release Date: September 12th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker
Written by: Ed Singer
Music by: John Williams
Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite

Prometheus Entertainment, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, A&E, 151 Minutes, 120 Minutes (TV Edit)

Review:

“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford

I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.

Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.

Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.

If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?

Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.

Film Review: The Goonies (1985)

Release Date: June 7th, 1985
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Mary Ellen Trainor

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.” – Mikey

Cyndi Lauper sang that the “Goonies ‘r’ good enough” and frankly, I have to agree with her.

This is a perfect movie for kids… and adults, really. It’s fun, funny, full of adventure, danger, treasure, good feelings, friendship, imagination, wonderment and a bit of swashbuckling.

On top of that, every single person in the cast is absolutely perfect, top to bottom. This was just a special movie where everything seemed to go right, especially in regards to the actors chosen for each specific role.

On one side, you have the kids and their hulk-like ally Sloth. On the other side, you have the Fratelli crime family.

Every kid in this is great and they had spectacular chemistry. You believed that they were all friends and it was impossible not to root for them. With the Fratellis, you had another group that worked damn well together. Honestly, as a kid I kind of wanted a Fratelli spinoff movie. Sadly, Anne Ramsey died a few years after this but I’ve always wanted to see Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano come together as gangster brothers again.

Apart from the casting, you had a wonderful script penned by Chris Columbus from a story written by Steven Spielberg. With Richard Donner directing, it’s kind of hard to imagine this failing, even before seeing the picture.

It’s very rare that I come across someone that hasn’t seen the film. It’s reputation precedes it and for good reason. It has stood the test of time and it’s not something that loses steam the more you watch it. In fact, at least for me, it’s a film that I appreciate more with every viewing. It’s hard to peg as to why that is but man, it’s a film that just brings you to a special place; it’s magical and it is full of optimism when most entertainment, at least in modern times, is pretty nihilistic.

The Goonies gives one hope because it is exactly what entertainment needs to be, pleasant and enjoyable escapism that leaves you with a positive feeling despite whatever crap your day threw at you.

It’s perfectly paced, there isn’t a dull moment and every frame of the film… hell, every line spoken, has a purpose and has real meaning behind it.

The Goonies also benefits from its stupendous score by Dave Grusin, a guy who isn’t as well known as John Williams, James Horner or Alan Silvestri but was still able to create a theme and a score that was good enough to rival the best work of those three great film composers.

For what it is, The Goonies is absolutely perfect. If you don’t like it, you probably aren’t human or at least don’t have a heart.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The Monster Squad, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Explorers.