I was a twelve-year old, Dinosaur obsessed young lad when Steven Spielberg unleashed his dinosaurs with the original JURASSIC PARK. Boy, did I love it. I saw it ten times at the cinema, owned the John Williams soundtrack, treasured the VHS, had posters, comics and everything I could get my hands on.
Then along came THE LOST WORLD. I really enjoyed this, too. It has had a fair bit of flak, but I don’t see why. I like that it’s rougher around the edges, and a bit wilder. I like John Williams’ score.
JURASSIC PARK 3, though, was achingly bad. Grant – our hero from the first, communicates with the dinosaurs with a little clay doodah. Urgh! I’ll just pretend that it didn’t happen.
With this in mind, I am really very excited at the announcement of a fourth installment in the series. Yes, I have worries, but it seems unlikely that we’ll be getting a big-budget dinosaur film without the JP name attached any time soon. I note that I haven’t been asked to write the film yet, so until Mr. Spielberg gets in touch, here are my thoughts on the project.
Make it scary.
The first JURASSIC PARK was scary. I remember there being a load of hooplah about whether or not children should be allowed to see it. Dinosaurs are big, with teeth and claws. If they aren’t scary, then something has gone wrong.
Update the Dinos.
A great deal has been learned about dinosaurs since 1993 – and this needs to be reflected. The first JP updated the public perception of them – no longer where they lumbering, tail-dragging stupid animals, but quick, smart hunters. If dinosaurs had feathers, give them feathers!
We need a strong story.
The JP story was pretty much completed by the end of the first film. Everything since has been treading water as an excuse to see some dinosaurs.
I’d like to see an Allosaurus
It’s just an old favourite…
Wanna kill your boss? I went along to Clapham Picturehouse (Which wins a gold star for friendly staff who managed to sort out a problem on the system for me!) to see HORRIBLE BOSSES this week. It’s not the type of film that generally appeals to me, (few aliens, spaceships or dinosaurs involved) but the reviews had been good, and some friends were going along to see it.
The basic story is that three friends all have awful bosses, and decide that the only way to deal with the problem is to kill them. It’s a little extreme, maybe, but a good simple premise for a dark comedy.
You know what? I enjoyed it. The cast are all really good – particularly Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell as the three horrible bosses. They seem to be having so much fun. Colin Farrell continues to impress me – which is annoying, as I began not liking him on principle. Kevin Spacey is always dependable, and was just reveling in his role. Jennifer Aniston was playing against type, and seemed relieved to be doing something other than ‘the good girl’ that she generally plays.
Jamie Foxx is also a lot of fun as, well, let’s call him ‘MF’ Jones, the Murder Consultant.
Our three leads are all a little bland in comparison, but that’s to be expected. They still have their flaws, though, and this makes the film a little more interesting than it could have been – and the morals a little stickier. Much like BAD TEACHER a few weeks ago, the message seems to be that we have to be a little bit evil to succeed in the world.
It’s entertaining, and moves along at a brisk pace. The script is fairly funny, but the real comedy comes from the actors involved.
When evil aliens invade Earth, it falls to the US military to form a compelling war montage and fend them off. Will a salvo of clichés be enough? Can Aaron Eckhart and his mighty chin protect us?
Don’t let the aliens distract you. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is a war film. All of the conventions are of this genre, not an epic sci-fi blockbuster. That is, with one major exception, where one of the worst crimes of sci-fi films makes an unwelcome appearance. I’ll get to this later.
Our hero is Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Eckhart). He recently lost his entire platoon, and is now training new recruits. He intends to retire once his current assignment is over. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get his chance. As soon as the invasion begins, he is assigned to a new squad, and sent straight into the heart of the action.
The rest of the team also have generic back-stories. One is about to get married, one is new and has never fought before, and one is the brother of a soldier killed under Sgt. Nantz’s command. Lt. Martinez, the commanding officer, is green and must find his confidence and bravery. The characters aren’t deep or original, but then they exist simply to carry the action. The introductions are made quickly and efficiently so that we can crack on with the action.
The initial scenes of the invasion are suitably tense. Our team heads though smoky, battle-scarred streets, looking for survivors. The fighting scenes are messy, chaotic and realistic. Clearly, there is an influence from games like CALL OF DUTY and, in turn, news footage from Iraq and Afghanistan. The film is shot in ‘shaky-cam’ faux documentary mode. Whilst annoying for some, this approach does offer a refreshing way of looking at an alien invasion film. Of course, others have used this to an extent, DISTRICT 9, for example, moved between documentary and more standard styles of filmmaking. The technique is used to a much greater extent here.
As the film progresses, the influence of video games becomes even more unavoidable. There are even ‘bosses’ that our team have to defeat, before reaching the next level and a bigger boss. Eventually they reach the ‘big boss’ at the end of the story. The big sci-fi clunker that I mentioned earlier can be found here, at the climax. The superior enemy have, of course, one weak point that can be exploited. All our heroes have to do is take out the thermal exhaust port, sorry, I mean the alien command and control centre, with a missile.
Aaron Eckhart is likeable, and brings some warmth to Sgt. Nantz. Michelle Rodriguez knows her way around this kind of role without having to think, which is just as well, as apparently her character wasn’t added until a month before filming. Ramon Rodriguez manages to find a little meat with his role as Martinez, but is let down by some bad writing. The cast all play their parts well, considering what they have to work with. Some of the dialogue is astonishingly awful. “Maybe I can help. I’m a veterinarian” possibly being the worst offender. There are clichés aplenty – military slang, heartfelt speeches and lots of gung-ho attitude.
Brian Tyler’s music is effective, if unoriginal. It has the sound of a patriotic war film – which was undoubtedly the intention. If anything, the music is let down by our lack of compassion for the characters.
The effects are impressive, and not too over-the-top. Events are only ever witnessed from the point of view of our platoon, which brings a level of realism that is really the film’s main strength. They also work as well on DVD as they did at the cinema, due to this.
So, it’s a mixed bag. Does this add up to a decent movie experience?
Unfortunately BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is not written well enough to be good, and takes itself too seriously to be fun. That said, it does deliver plenty of action and maybe it’s unfair to expect any more. If this is all you want, then you will be pleased.
The DVD extras include four documentaries; Behind the Battle, Aliens in L.A., Preparing for Battle and Creating L.A. They’re pretty standard stuff, with various interviews and a little information about making the film, without going into much detail. There are also some trailers thrown in for good measure.
Thoughts on the last Potter film, with as few spoilers as possible.
Oh, it’s just terribly exciting, isn’t it? We’ve all been waiting so long to reach this point. Finally Harry Potter, the boy who lived, and his nemesis Lord Voldemort face each other in a (possible) fight to the (possible) death. See – no spoilers here! (Possibly).
Essentially, every film before this has been leading up to one climax. I must admit, I wasn’t sure that the film would deliver. But it does.
The action scenes are big and impressive. I have always been fond of the ‘molten’ look of the magic in the wand duels, and this works even better in 3D. There is a dragon, and it is probably the best one I’ve screen in the cinema (bettering previous Potter dragons).
Without giving away the story (there are surely some people still unaware of the ending), everything that needs to be satisfying – is. Character development, relationships, loss and acts of heroism are all here, and all have an emotional ring to them. Considering the amount of time and enthusiasm invested in the series, it would have been a real tragedy if even one of these things was missing.
The acting is top-notch from all of our leads, and Alan Rickman gets some fantastic moments as Snape.
If you’ve been following Harry, Ron and Hermione so far, then turn your computer off, find a cinema and watch it. Go. Go now.
This is not an easy film to review. You know those movies that are ‘love or hate’? Well, TREE OF LIFE manages to bring out both emotions in me at the same time. There are moments of wonder and beauty. Then, there are moments when I was struggling to stay awake. As my little diagram above suggests – go prepared. You will need energy to stay with the film throughout.
The film uses the loss of a son & brother to anchor its various themes. Family, and the bonds that are made is an important element. Parenthood, and how much of themselves parents impart into their children is studied, as well as the bonds of brotherhood. The trials of growing up and, I know it sounds hokey, but love are major themes. If anything, Love is one of the most important ideas, and is referred to throughout.
There is an ongoing analysis of God, and our relationship with God. As an Athiest, I would read this one way, but I’m sure a believer would read it another. There are no answers here, just an awful lot of questions.
Malick will take us between the importance of tiny, tiny details through to a galactic-eye-view. There are Dinosaurs. The question I was asking myself was whether this makes each Human life insignificant on such a large stage, or a complete wonder to be cherished.
Much like the cave on Dagobah in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, you will only get from the film what you take with you.
Watch it on the big screen, I don’t believe the visuals, or the stunning use of music will have the same impact on DVD.
I’m also going to be the only person on the planet saying this – but I wish that some of it was in 3D. The more impressive scenes would have been simply jaw-dropping in 3D, and I believe it would have enhanced some of what I was taking from the film. But then, everyone is different.
I had a wonderful day yesterday at LFCC. I collected autographs from Dave Prowse, Kenny Baker, Walter Koenig and Natalia Tena, and managed not to spend all of my money on shiny toys. I’ve only been to a couple of conventions – but I’ve caught the bug. You’ll find me heading to as many as possible, now.
Following that, I went along to the BARFLY in Camden to catch the amazing TROJAN HORSE. Their last track ‘Alright’ was incredible. Unfortunately, it’s not included on their current album – hopefully one for a future release!
After Trojan Horse, there was a performance by ANDY AND THE PROSTITUTES, who sang a song called Jedi Knight, which I would like to share with you all. Just follow this link. A Star Wars song with a banjo. What’s not to love?