Jurassic World

Universal Pictures

Rated PG-13 for peril and intense violence

Self-Reverential Sequel Revives Prehistoric Horror Franchise

How do you revive an expiring film franchise that was ostensibly put out of its misery over a dozen years ago after audiences became jaded with over-saturated visual effects they no longer found spellbinding? In the case of Jurassic World, you mount a self-reverential sequel laced with allusions to earlier episodes in which you even go so far as to point out how dinosaurs don’t capture people’s imaginations to the degree they once used to.

This is the fourth installment in the sci-fi series based on novels by the late Michael Crichton. Jurassics 1 and 2 were directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from a couple of Crichton’s best-sellers (Jurassic Park and The Lost World). Jurassic 4‘s creative team includes director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and a quartet of writers who came up with a script which basically remains faithful to the feeling of the source material.

The story revolves around siblings Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell’s (Ty Simpkins) Christmas vacation gone bad off the coast of Costa Rica. As the film unfolds, the adventuresome adolescents bid their folks a fond farewell, but not before their prophetic mother (Judy Greer) shares an ominous piece of parental advice: “Remember, if something chases you, run!”

You see, they’re headed to Isla Nublar, the same tropical resort where, in Jurassic 1, raptors ran amok during the christening of a dino-themed amusement park. Today, the place has been renamed “Jurassic World” and it’s set to reopen under management just as greedy and inept as in the original, a deadly combination.

Helicopter mom Karen Mitchell isn’t all that worried about her sons’ welfare since she assumes they’ll be under the watchful eye of her sister (Bryce Dallas Howard), the theme park’s operations manager. However, upon their arrival, instead of spending quality time with the nephews she hasn’t seen in seven years, Claire issues them a VIP all-access pass.

Their subsequent roaming around the premises in a gyro-sphere made of bulletproof glass inconveniently coincides with the escape from containment of Indominus Rex, a prehistoric hybrid bred in a test tube. Unfortunately, no one in a position of authority is inclined to destroy the creature before it goes on a rampage: not its mad scientist inventor (BD Wong), not the war profiteer (Vincent D’Onofrio) with secret plans to sell it to the military, and not Jurassic World’s avaricious owner (Irrfan Khan).

This not only means that each of these dastardly villains will have to get their comeuppance but also that thousands of tourists will have to run for their lives. Most importantly, Aunt Claire must search for her nephews with the help of a chivalrous love interest (Chris Pratt). Overall, a riveting roller coaster ride with eye-popping effects and a satisfying resolution.

Still, not quite a Spielberg-quality blockbuster, but it’ll do.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 124 minutes

 

 

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Fox Searchlight

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, drug use and mature themes

Boys Befriend Ailing Classmate In Bittersweet Bildungsroman

 

High school seniors Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) and Earl Johnson (RJ Cyler) are not only best friends, they’re each other’s only friend, unless an empathetic history teacher counts. Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) has taken pity on the pair, letting them eat their lunch in his office to spare them the humiliation of being teased in the cafeteria on a daily basis.

Terminally-insecure Greg rationalizes their “carefully-cultivated invisibility” with the insight that, “Hot girls destroy your life.” So, instead of looking for love, the ostracized social zeros spend most of their free time shooting clownish parodies of memorable screen classics. But the 42 spoofs, sporting titles like “Eyes Wide Butt,” “A Sockwork Orange,” “Brew Velvet,” “A Box Of Lips… Wow!” and “2:48 PM Cowboy,” suffer from such low-production values, that the amateur filmmakers are too embarrassed to share them with anybody.

At the start of the semester, we find Greg being pressured by his mother (Connie Britton) to visit the suddenly cancer-stricken daughter of one of her girlfriends (Molly Shannon). He agrees to do so rather reluctantly because he barely knows Rachel (Olivia Cooke), even though, until recently, she also attended Schenley High.

However, the two soon hit off, since they’re both artsy types given to an ingratiating combination of introspection and gallows humor. Greg returns to her house again and again, doing his best to prop up her spirits during a valiant battle with leukemia in which she loses her strength and her hair as a consequence of chemotherapy.

Eventually, he enlists the assistance of his BFF in making their first documentary, a biopic dedicated to the now bed-ridden Rachel. Throwing himself into the project with an admirable zeal, he marks the production with meaningful touches like get well wishes from the patient’s family and friends, including his own repeated assurances that she’s going to beat the disease.    The only problem is that the attention paid to Rachel leaves little time for academics; and Greg’s plummeting grades have a negative effect on his college prospects.

Adapted from the Jesse Andrews young adult novel of the same name, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a bittersweet coming-of-age adventure directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown). The film was very warmly received at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it landed both the Audience and Grand Jury Awards.

A refreshingly exhilarating, emotional and ultimately uplifting examination of youngsters forging an unbreakable bond in the face of a malignant force far beyond their control.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 104 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening June 19, 2015

 

Dope (R for profanity, nudity, sexuality, drug use and violence, all involving teens) Coming-of-age saga, set in the ‘hood in L.A., where a nerdy, high school senior (Shameik Moore) with a bright future jeopardizes his Ivy League dreams when he succumbs to the influence of some unsavory characters. Ensemble cast includes Zoe Kravitz, Rick Fox and Kimberly Elise.

 

Inside Out (PG for action and mature themes) Animated adventure revolving around an uprooted 11-year-old’s (Kaitlyn Dias) attempt to adjust to a new life in San Francisco with the help of her anthropomorphic emotions after being forced to relocate from the Midwest to the Bay Area for the sake of her father’s (Kyle MacLachlan) employment. Voice cast includes Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, Bobby Moynihan and Diane Lane.

 

3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets (Unrated) Black Lives Matter documentary about the trial of a middle-aged white man for the murder at a Florida gas station of Jordan Davis, an unarmed black teenager sitting in the back seat of a car playing loud music.

 

Balls Out (R for sexuality, profanity, drug use and crude humor) College debauchery comedy revolving around a fifth-year senior’s (Jake Lacy) effort to reunite his flag football team to take one last shot at the school’s intramural championship title. Cast includes Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennett and Jay Pharoah.

 

Eden (R for nudity, sexuality, profanity and drug use) Music-driven drama, set in the ’90s, about a teen DJ’s (Felix de Givry) headlong plunge with friends into Paris’ hedonistic rave scene. With Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne and Zita Hanrot. (In French and English with subtitles)

 

The Face Of An Angel (Unrated) Fact-based drama, set in Italy, chronicling a fictionalized account of the trial of Amanda Knox, the American exchange student accused of murdering her British roommate with the help of her boyfriend. Co-starring Kate Beckinsale, Genevieve Gaunt, Daniel Bruhl, Peter Sullivan and Ava Acres. (In English and Italian with subtitles)

 

Gabriel (Unrated) Rory Culkin handles the title role in this psychological drama about a vulnerable teen who becomes desperate to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend (Emily Meade) in the wake of his father’s suicide. Featuring David Call, Deidre O’Connell and Lynn Cohen.

 

Infinitely Polar Bear (R for profanity) Dysfunctional family dramedy about a bipolar manic-depressive’s (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to win back his wife’s (Zoe Saldana) trust after a nervous breakdown by raising their two daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderhelde) as a stay-at-home dad while she goes back to school. With Keir Dullea, Beth Dixon and Muriel Gold.

 

Manglehorn (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and graphic images) Al Pacino plays the title character in this romantic dramedy as a heartbroken recluse who decides to give romance another chance when he’s befriended by a kindly bank teller (Holly Hunter). With Chris Messina, Harmony Korine and Natalie Wilemon.

 

The Overnight (R for profanity, drug use, sexuality and graphic nudity) Kinky comedy about a couple new to L.A. (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) who are invited home for a kinky play date by a mysterious couple (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche) they meet at a park. Supporting cast includes Max Moritt, RJ Hermes, Sarah DeVincentis and Kyle Field.

 

The Tribe (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in the Ukraine, about a shy freshman (Grigoriy Fesenko) trying to fit in at a boarding school for the deaf. With Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy and Alexander Dsiadevich. (In Russian sign language with subtitles)

 

The Wanted 18 (Unrated) Animated documentary, set in the ’80s, about a Palestinian village which bought 18 cows and began boycotting Israeli milk, only to have its herd declared a threat to national security. Voice cast includes Holly O’Brien, Rosann Nerenberg and Alison Darcy. (In Arabic, English, Hebrew and French with subtitles)

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