Jurassic World Review: Instead of going through the synopsis of this film I just rather offer some commentary based on my viewing experience. Only 2 movie franchises have blown my mind that have combined never-before-seen special effects and a story that hits the heart. Those 2 franchises are Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Movie buffs (especially those from age 40-55) know that George Lucas changed the movie business forever with Star Wars in 1977. His team did it once again in 1993 with Jurassic Park when a photorealistic computer generated dinosaur lumbered across the screen. Fast forward to 1999 when after 16 years audiences would once again visit that galaxy far, far away in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We pretty much all know how that turned out. An out of touch director more worried about the wizardry of CGI short changed what made his movies great to begin with - great characters and quotable dialogue. The second issue was that the wizardry was already spent on Spielberg's Jurassic Park instead of the franchise that defined special effects and what we now know as "the summer blockbuster". Now in 2015 we have Jurassic World, a film like Star Wars trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of a 20 year old franchise. I can't say I had the exact reactions watching this film as I did watching The Phantom Menace - that movie killed my ability to buy into hype - but I felt that same hollow feeling of "been there and done that". Jurassic World isn't a terrible movie because it's constructed well and has likeable actors, it just lacks the magic and well developed characters of its predecessor. The film's message also is bigger is better because we've become blase' toward what's older and dated. I think the issue is technology (CGI in particular) has hit the glass ceiling and until we hit the next plateau of cinematic technology, the magic will stay static in the eyes of the viewer. Final Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars
Love & Mercy Review: The film tells the story of prolific songwriter, Brian Wilson at two different stages of his life. Paul Dano portrays Wilson in the mid 60s while John Cusack plays Wilson in the mid 80s. We start with Brian Wilson (Cusack) meeting Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) while trying to buy a car from the Cadillac dealership where she's employed. Wilson makes an impression on her despite his erratic behavior and the two start dating. Wilson opens up to Melinda sharing with her his past (Dano takes over the Wilson role in flashbacks) of mental illness, parental abuse, his failed marriage and the abandonment of his family. The more involved she becomes with him she learns that Wilson was bedridden for several years and was "rescued" by Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) from his depression. She also learns that Landy hold totals dominion over Wilson as well. The movie is based on the life of Brian Wilson but the title refers to the unconditional love and mercy given by Melinda Ledbetter who rescues him and ultimately becomes his wife. The acting in this film shows that true ability of all the leads. Dano and Cusack have Wilson's mannerisms nailed down. The likeness between Dano and Wilson at the same age are uncanny (no prosthetic make up was used). Paul Giamatti is once again perfectly cast and relishes his role as a slime-ball but the real award in my opinion goes to Elizabeth Banks. Known for her comedic roles in films like Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Zack & Miri Make a Porno, she steps into the role of a woman with a damaged past to rescue a man that truly needs her. Elizabeth Banks must have lived the title of this film in every shot she was in. FINAL REVIEW: 4 out of 4 Stars.
Entourage Review - 6 months after where we left off from the tv series, we learn that Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) has come out of retirement and is now running a studio. Ari's first movie, funded by Texas mogul Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment), will star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier who says he must direct the film if he agrees to star. As the filming nears completion it runs over budget and Ari is forced to visit the McCredle's for more money. Larsen who only cares about profits instead of processes sends Travis to see an initial cut of the film before the funds are released. Subplots include Eric (Kevin Connolly) who continues to be Vince's manager while trying to work out the relationship with his pregnant girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuel Chriqui), Turtle (Jerry Ferarra) who tries to score a date with MMA fighter Rhonda Roussey and Vince's brother "Drama" (Kevin Dillon) who still struggles to find a career as a serious actor. The movie is great for fans of the show and easy enough to follow for those who have never seen the series on HBO. Some of the subplots are goofy as are the multitudes of celebrity cameos, however Entourage is not a film expected to recreate the art form. It's a playground for the likable characters to experience the ups, downs and excesses of their celebrity lifestyle. P.S. Thanks HBO for giving men their version of Sex and the City. Feels good to "bro down" while the yentas are out drinking mojitos. (I keed, I keed.) FINAL RATING: 3 out of 4 stars
Ex_Machina 2015 : Code writer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) enters and wins a contest sponsored by his company's founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan who wrote software that revolutionized the Internet at age 13 is an eccentric billionaire who's walled himself inside of a high tech fortress far away from civilization. Caleb has no idea what to expect from the meeting but upon his arrival learns that he will serve as a test subject to interact with advanced artificial intelligence. The A.I.'s name is Ava who is beautifully realized by actress Alicia Vikander and computer generated effects. The films asks important questions about human nature, sentience and technology that could conceivably exist in the near future. Couple that with great acting, beautifully shot locations and you're left with one of the better films in the genre and possibly of the year. Many current science fiction films are following the model of the new age "blockbusters" with elaborate action sequences and overblown special effects. Ex_Machina plays out deliberately and doesn't preach to the viewer allowing the three leads to play out their story without being jarred by rayguns and explosions. It's reminiscent of the tales told by Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. I couldn't help being reminded of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone or Charlie Brooker's excellent Black Mirror series (which Gleeson appears in) that warns of what could happen in a very near future. Unlike Chappie (released in March of 2015), a film that introduced intriguing concepts but was trampled by mass marketing and broke under the weight of including too many plots, Ex_Machina stays on target and asks can a machine ever become sentient and if it becomes what we consider a "human being", does it learn to inact the good or terrible things that we do to each other?Final Rating: 4 out of 4 stars.
Aloha 2015: Aloha tells the story of Brad Gilcrest, a celebrated former military pilot turned contractor who returns to Hawaii, the place he achieved the greatest accolades of his military career. Now employed by Carson Welch (Bill Murray), Brad is on a ceremonial mission to gain favor of Hawaiian elders to launch Welch's satellite into space. He is assigned a military liaison named Allison Ng (Emma Stone) who is of Hawaiian decent to help along with this task. During his stay Brad also runs into his former lover Tracey Woodside (Rachel McAdams) and her husband "Woody" Woodside (John Krasinski). Brad finds himself caught between his job, regret and potentially a new path for love and happiness. I always enjoyed Cameron Crowe's ability to write such amazing characters - many of who are deemed special by the perceptions and standards of the American public and and then strip them down to being relatable to everyone. Unfortunately, he's trying to balance messages of the woes of businessmen buying themselves into the military and breaks away to shots that try to loosely tie Hawaiian culture into the themes of his story, both of which are extremely flimsy. I have zero problems with that subject matter but it took away from the core of what Cameron Crowe is known for - the interpersonal relationships of people. I think his subplots should have been left to a political thriller that he could have explored with a full film instead of short changing the characters that I was ready to like as much as the actors that portrayed them. With lesser actors this film could have turned out to be a far huger mess than the final product. FINAL REVIEW: 2.5 out of 4 Stars