With studios afraid of anything new or original, it's not surprising that the dinosaurs are back on-screen nearly 15 years after the rather disappointing Jurassic Park III. The good news is that this film has a clever script and solid characters to go along with the first-rate digital work. So even if the effects kind of take over the movie in the final act, it's still a great ride.
The massive island resort Jurassic World has been running safely for a decade off the Costa Rica coast, so it needs ever-scarier attractions to bring in visitors. The owner Masrani (Irrfan Khan) has been instructing his top scientist (BD Wong) to genetically engineer a bigger, scarier species, and he's come up with a beast called Indominus rex. Park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has her doubts, but her velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) is downright furious when he finds out. Sure enough, just as Claire's nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) arrive for a visit, the I-rex escapes and threatens the 20,000 visitors on the island.
The screenplay sets everything up in fine disaster movie style, with quickly explained back-stories to add some emotional undercurrents to the big-scale chaos. There's also, of course, a requisite villain in the form of the meathead Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who thinks dinosaurs could be used by the military and welcomes this catastrophe as a chance to prove his point. Thankfully, the cast dives in with gusto, adding hilarious personality touches to every scene. Pratt is terrific as the swashbuckling action-man, nicely set against the feisty Howard, who trumps him by doing all her action scenes in heels. Simpkins and Robinson have a lively adventure all their own that adds to the film's overall appeal. And there are superb side roles for the talented likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer and Jake Johnson that add both humour and emotion.
Continue reading: Jurassic World Review
Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) ramps up this reboot franchise with a strikingly well-written action-drama, which takes an unusually complex route through the story. By refusing to have any simplistic villains, the film encourages viewers to see all sides of the conflict, which draws out vivid emotions and some unusually relevant political themes. It's also a technical triumph, obliterating the line between animation and actors.
It's been 10 years since the events of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Caesar (Andy Serkis) has built a thriving ape community in the woods north of San Francisco. They haven't seen any humans in years, since the simian flu has killed all but one in every 500 people. But there's a tenacious group of human survivors in the city, and when Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his team venture out to search for a source of hydroelectric power, they run into the ape community. Both Caesar and Malcolm are willing to talk about cooperating, but Caesar's second in command Koba (Toby Kebbell) finds it impossible to trust men after they so viciously tortured him as a young chimp. And Malcolm's sidekick Carver (Acevedo) is more than a little trigger happy, as is the community's leader Dreyfus (Oldman) back in the city.
Instead of concentrating on the conflict between apes and men, the film's perspective is through their family units. Caesar's mate Cornelia (Judy Greer) has just given birth to a son, while their older son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) struggles to make sense of the clash between humans and apes. Meanwhile, Malcolm's scientist partner Ellie (Keri Russell) and his observant teen son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) offer similar emotions from the human side. The script's clear suggestion is that the next generation may offer more hope for understanding, which makes the stakes startlingly high as violence threatens to break out. Indeed, the film is a bracing exploration of how our decisions today will affect our future.
Continue reading: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review
Will (Franco) is a San Francisco scientist experimenting with a new Alzheimer's medication he hopes will cure his father (Lithgow). But things take an unexpected turn when his greedy boss (Oyelowo) gets rid of his lab-test chimps, leaving Will to raise infant ape Caesar (Serkis) in secret. But Caesar's super-human intelligence can't keep him out of the clutches of the nasty father-son animal controllers (Cox and Felton), who badly underestimate him.
Can Will and his chimp-expert girlfriend (Pinto) sort out the mess before a furious Caesar takes matters into his own capable hands?
Continue reading: Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review
As well they should, because, put simply, this isn't your typical Sally Field movie. A long way from Gidget, Eye For an Eye is the very aptly titled story of Karen McCann (Field), a white bread mother whose daughter is raped and murdered (in an exceedingly disturbing opening scene) by a nutcase killer (Sutherland). Ed Harris plays Mack, Karen's second (and very understanding) husband, and Mantegna is the investigator on the case.
Continue reading: Eye For An Eye Review