Film Review: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Starring: Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr.
Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I can’t fathom the immense pressure the creators, directors, writers, producers and studio had going into “Infinity War.” Marvel has spent the past decade crafting content that not only stands on its own two feet, but was meticulously building towards this moment. Since Thanos first reared his ugly purple head in a post-credits scene in the first “Avengers,” fans knew that this monumental occasion was eventually going to happen. With lofty expectations, I’m happy to report that “Infinity War” delivers on nearly every level.

I usually type out a short summary or try to set-up the plot at some point early on in my reviews, but I feel like it’s a moot talking point because if you’ve kept up with the Marvel movies or have a good idea of what’s going on in them, you don’t need me to paint a picture about the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet or the fight to save the universe. But I also know you don’t need me spoiling anything, so I’ll stay quiet on the specifics. However, I will say that it only takes the first five minutes of the film for “Infinity War” to knock viewers right in the jaw and set the tone.

Getting every character in one film, give or take a few, is an impressive feat on its own. But what’s cleverly done by Marvel’s creative crew is dividing our favorite heroes into different groups to tackle different tasks. The film pairs similar personalities that bounce or conflict well with each other. It also keeps the movie from being inordinate and having too many egos talking about the same thing or over each other, something that “Age of Ultron” ultimately suffered from. So there’s the possibility that fans of certain characters might be disappointed by the lack of screen time for their favorite hero or character.

That being said, Marvel’s gotten a lot better recently at villain building and Thanos (Brolin) may be the pinnacle. Not only is he fierce and overwhelmingly magnetic in his scenes, he’s a sadistic joy to watch stomping around the scene as he articulates his thoughts on death and the balance it creates. There’s also this shocking amount of softness to the character that we’ve rarely seen before with any other Marvel bad guy, except for maybe the one in “Black Panther.” While most of Marvel’s villains have been evil for the sake of being evil or because of their own vanity, Thanos seems genuine in his wickedness, because he’s not only a conqueror, but views himself as the universe’s scales of justice.

There’s a surprising amount of emotion and laughs mixed into the film’s bleakness and knockdown fights. “Infinity War” is never crushed under the utter weight of its own ambitions, serving up a worthy spectacle for audiences along with a captivating storyline that feels rich in content, but never bloated. This ambitious project, 10 years in the making, is not to be missed, but also raises the stakes even higher for when the Avengers assemble again in 2019.

Film Review: “Passengers”

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 116 minutes
Columbia Pictures

Our Score: 1 out of 5 Stars

At casual glance, “Passengers” is “Cast Away” in space. 30 years into a 120 year journey, Jim (Pratt) is awoken from suspended animation due to a technical glitch with the spaceship, Avalon. But out of the thousands aboard the ship, including the crew, he is the only one to be disturbed from his slumber. Alone, he spends the next year trying to entertain himself, only finding companionship with an android bartender named Arthur (Sheen). But there’s only so much chit chat with a machine, along with digital dance gaming, basketball, and other recreational activities, one can do before developing cabin fever and crippling loneliness.

But on one particularly lonely day, after contemplating suicide, Jim comes across a pod containing Aurora (Lawrence). It’s love at first sight, but suddenly he develops a moral quandary in his brain. Being an engineer, he has the capability of waking up Aurora. Aurora’s natural beauty is alluring enough for him to do some electronic snooping. So, much like a 21st century stalker, he goes through her digital footprint and learns everything about her. This should creep out any sane audience. Right?

Now comes the worst part. Instead of asking a moral question about the lengths humanity would and should go to combat isolation, “Passengers” takes a disturbingly sexist route. Jim awakens Aurora and keeps his bastardly deed to himself, thinking he’ll wait for the right moment to tell her he’s ruined her life and condemned her to a lonely death. Of course, any good audience should know it’s only a matter of time until Aurora finds out. But once she does, “Passengers” attempts to paint Jim as the.

I’m really not ruining anything for you. I’d like to believe I’m saving you. Aurora’s revelation happens around the midpoint of the film. The only reason it happens so early is so that “Passengers” can spend the rest of its runtime, justifying Jim’s actions, directly and indirectly. But the movie makes the mistake of allowing Aurora to say the one thing we should all be thinking, “He’s committed murder.”

He has. “Passengers” never finesses the simple, but complex ethical questions behind Jim’s actions. Instead we’re just supposed to believe the ends justify the means. It doesn’t help when we watch as Aurora attacks Jim in his sleep, along with moments where Aurora is by herself. Instead of watching her sulk or seeing her realize the horrifying predicament she’s in, we watch her play video messages of her friends back on Earth, basic calling her narcissistic and selfish. It also doesn’t help that when Jim and Aurora are separate, Aurora is helpless and constantly at risk of peril, while Jim seems like a self-sufficient machine.

Regardless of its visual style and modest attempt at interesting concepts of intergalactic space travel, the most glaring flaw in “Passengers” is one that can’t be ignored. It should be condemned and abhorred. While Jim’s plight could certainly be relatable and sympathetic, “Passengers” almost seems to casually fall back on the concept of victim blaming. “Passengers” is a movie about a relationship built on selfish lies, stalking and entitlement. Its attempt at romance and a cutesy happy ending are stomach-turning.

Media Mikes 2016 Fall/Holiday Movie Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, and unless you’re dressing up as a ghost, you better not be wearing anything white! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall and the start of Hollywood’s “Prestige Movie Push!”

We’ll take a look at what the studios hope are their best bets to fill the multiplexes and bring home the Oscars. Once again, a big thank you to our friends at Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) for some synopsis information. Opening dates noted are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!

OCTOBER 7

THE 13th

Documentary
Directed by: Ava DuVernay

The director of “Selma” gives us an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

OSCAR CHANCES: Will surely make the short list.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Nate Parker

Set against the antebellum South, the film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

OSCAR CHANCES: After last year’s #OSCARSOWHITE controversy, the early buzz on this film almost guaranteed a bounty of nominations. However, it was recently revealed that writer/director/star Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow college student in 1999. Though Parker was not found guilty and Celestin had his conviction overturned, their alleged victim committed suicide. Not sure how this news will affect the Academy voters.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor

In the film, being compared to “Gone Girl,” a recently divorced woman
takes the train to work every day and imagines the lives of a young couple she
sees every day. Things get weird when the young wife disappears.

OSCAR CHANCES: Blunt is already getting raves for her performance.


OCTOBER 13

MASCOTS

Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch
Directed by: Christopher Guest

Simply described as “a look into the world of competitive mascots,” this is the latest opus from the great Christopher Guest. Sadly, unless I missed it, this is the first of Guest’s films that does not include Eugene Levy.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible screenplay nod.

 

OCTOBER 14

THE ACCOUNTANT

Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. What I like about the trailer is that Affleck seems to be a young genius. Maybe this is his chance to play Will Hunting?

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe.


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

Starring: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story

Kevin Hart performs his comedy in front of 50,000 fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: No.


OCTOBER 21

AMERICAN PASTORAL

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Ewan McGregor

In 1968, a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.

OSCAR CHANCES: Adapted screenplay?

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Starring: John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Karen Gillan
Directed by: Ti West

A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody cross-hairs of revenge. Ethan Hawke’s second western this season and John Travolta in a cowboy hat for the first time since “Urban Cowboy.” Yee-hah!

OSCAR CHANCES: Sadly Western’s very rarely get recognized.

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Director Zwick has helmed three of my favorite films (“About Last Night,” “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” but only has an Oscar for co-producing “Shakespeare in Love.” It’s about time this man was recognized, though I don’t think it’s going to be for a Jack Reacher film.

A MONSTER CALLS

Starring: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: J.A. Bayona

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

TYLER PERRY’S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens. I’m scared.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”

OCTOBER 28

INFERNO

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ron Howard

When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot. The second Felicity Jones film in as many weeks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Sorry, Tom, but your nomination this year is coming from “Sully”

 

NOVEMBER 4

BLEED FOR THIS

Starring: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Ben Younger

The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Robert DeNiro and Hillary Swank won Oscars for portraying boxers so never say never. Hell, Stallone got nominated…TWICE!

DOCTOR STRANGE

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

HACKSAW RIDGE

Starring: Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington
Directed by: Mel Gibson

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Mel doesn’t appear in this one but his dead-ringer son, Milo, does.

OSCAR CHANCES: Gibson (Mel, not Milo) already has an Oscar for directing so you never know. I’m sure people have forgotten what all of the hub-bub was about concerning him a few years ago.

LOVING

Starring: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Back in the dark ages, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Apparently they had nothing better to do in Virginia at the time.

OSCAR CHANCES: Acting, picture.

TROLLS

Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn

Remember those little plastic things with long hair that you used to put on the end of your pencil? When I was a kid we called them Kewpies but apparently they are Trolls and they have their own movie. Good for them!

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe best hairstyling?

NOVEMBER 11

ARRIVAL

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

OSCAR CHANCES: Picture, director, acting.

SHUT IN

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Farren Blackburn

A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Unsure, but young Mr. Tremblay should have been nominated last year for “Room.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE

Starring: Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. If you saw “Jaws,” this is the tale that Quint tells. Other “Jaws” related facts: this was the original idea for “Jaws 2.” Also: Mario Van Peebles starred in “Jaws the Revenge.”

OSCAR CHANCES: To me it looks like a “made for TV” movie. How about Emmy chances?


NOVEMBER 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Starring: Hailiee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. Is that weird? When I was in high-school I wanted to date my best friend’s older sister. Hopefully Stevie Nicks got some money from this.

OSCAR CHANCES: Nada

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jon Voight and Ezra Miller
Directed by: David Yates

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. Even though Harry Potter and his pals are less than 20 years old it seems like they’ve been around forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, music (the great James Newton Howard)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Affleck and Williams have been nominated in the past so I’m not ruling anything out.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Starring: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Tom Ford

An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. November is Amy Adams month.

OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board


NOVEMBER 23

ALLIED

Starring: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Cotillard isn’t married so maybe we can look forward to reading about “Bradarion” soon.

OSCAR CHANCES: Pitt, Cotilliard and Zemeckis have been there before.

BAD SANTA 2

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox
Directed by: Mark Waters

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

OSCAR CHANCES: I thought Billy Bob deserved a nod for the first film but I’m going to say no.

MOANA

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Scherzinger
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams

A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated feature, original song

RULES DON’T APPLY

Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Ed Harris
Directed by: Warren Beatty

An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for. Beatty has been wanting to do a Howard Hughes-based film since the 1970s. Not sure if this is what he had in mind back then but, after a 15-year absence, it’s great to see him both in front of and behind the camera.

OSCAR CHANCES: Only two people have been nominated in the same year for acting, directing, writing and producing the best picture: Orson Welles and Warren Beatty. And Beatty did it TWICE!


NOVEMBER 25

LION

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis

A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

OSCAR CHANCES: Many


DECEMBER 2

LA LA LAND

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Directed by: Damien Chazelle

From the creator of “Whiplash” comes a film about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. And it’s a musical!

OSCAR CHANCES: Early film festival buzz say’s this may be the film to watch (both on screen and at awards time!)


DECEMBER 9

MISS SLOANE

Starring: Jessica Chastain
Directed by: John Madden

An ambitious lobbyist faces off against the powerful gun lobby in an attempt to pass gun control legislation.

OSCAR CHANCES: Actress. Madden directed the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Starring: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston
Directed by: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

OSCAR CHANCES: Zip

DECEMBER 16

COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Starring: Will Smith and Keira Knightley
Directed by: David Frankel

A tragic event sends a New York ad man on a downward spiral.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’ve already had to apologize to Will Smith twice for doubting he’d get nominated for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” There won’t be a third. Good luck Will.

FENCES

Starring: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Directed by: Denzel Washington

An African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. Based on the August Wilson play.

OSCAR CHANCES: YES!

THE FOUNDER

Starring: Michael Keaton and Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

The story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. You may look at your next hamburger differently. Keaton is said to be so good that they pulled the film from it’s original release date.

OSCAR CHANCES: Keaton

A KIND OF MURDER

Starring: Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel
Directed by: Andy Goddard

In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman. This will be a day of decisions for Patrick Wilson fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: Don’t see any

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Starring: Felicity Jones, Jimmy Smits and Warwick Davis
Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Or, as I like to call it, “Episode 6.5” The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. Holy crap! The Death Star, Leia’s family, Darth Vader AND Wicket the Ewok? I’m already in line!

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, make up.

DECEMBER 21

20th CENTURY WOMEN

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Laura Wiggins
Directed by: Mike Mills

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

OSCAR CHANCES: Can anyone tell me why Annette Bening hasn’t won an Oscar yet? Didn’t think so. Keep your fingers crossed.

ASSASSINS CREED

Starring: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel

When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. This synopsis seems so crazy considering the cast. I wonder if the two leads made the same mistake Bill Murray did when he thought “Garfield” had been written by one of the Coen brothers!

OSCAR CHANCES: Fassbender elevates everything he’s in so I’m not saying no!

PASSENGERS

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It’s so weird to see Lawrence in a movie at the end of the year NOT directed by David O. Russell. Oh well, there’s always next year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, technical stuff

PATRIOTS DAY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Peter Berg

An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Sounds better than what I thought it was – knowing Wahlberg is a huge New England Patriot fan I thought it was about a day with Tom Brady. The third film by Wahlberg and director Berg and second this year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yes.

SING

Starring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Garth Jennings

A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated film….maybe.

DECEMBER 25

GOLD

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. When he was outrageously thin in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” McConaughey still looked good. In this one he’s bald and….dammit!

OSCAR CHANCES: No sir.

WHY HIM?

Starring: James Franco and Bryan Cranston
Directed by: John Hamburg.

A dad forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend. Based on a story by Jonah Hill. Somebody needed money.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m ashamed that I have to include those words with this film.

DECEMBER 28

PATERSON

Starring: Adam Driver
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.

OSCAR CHANCES: Love Jarmusch. Maybe a witting nod.

Film Review: “The Magnificent Seven”

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 132 minutes
Columbia Pictures

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

“The Magnificent Seven” feels like it comes about two months too late. I may have enjoyed this remake more if my phones weather app read triple digits outside and the theater was still pumping out Arctic air. “The Magnificent Seven” feels like a good fit for the summer line-up, especially with the cast at hand, stunning visuals and exciting action-packed finale. Maybe it’s because I’m gearing up for awards season or my mind is ready to overanalyze, but I was in total critic mode while watching this movie.

This remake of the original (which was also remake) follows familiar beats. Sam Chisolm (Washington) is a bounty hunter that is contracted by a pair of residents from Rose Creek. The town is under the thumb of a ruthless businessman. He’s milking valuable materials from nearby mines, utilizing the populace as slave labor and poisoning the town’s water source. The capitalist, played by Peter Sarsgaard, establishes his cold-heartedness early by killing residents and burning down the Rose Creek church. But not before giving a very ham-fisted speech about how evil he is and how capitalism and our society justify it.

Feeling like it’s his civic duty, Chisolm rounds up some degenerates to save the town. Pratt plays Josh Farrady, a charming alcoholic that gambles and kills those who double cross him. Hawke plays a Civil War sharpshooter, Goodnight Robicheaux, who clearly suffers from PTSD after the War of Northern Aggression. He’s accompanied by a Chinese assassin, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee). Then there’s Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior, whose appearance is the most random. There’s also Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican fugitive and Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) a murderous man-sized teddy bear that you can’t understand half the time.

The “origin” story takes forever to get moving. The movie is more fascinated about establishing and having fun with its star power, Washington and Pratt, than it is explaining why half the group would join a suicide mission to help protect a town that none of them have heard of. The throwaway montage scenes of training Rose Creek citizens to fight and the predictable action-movie beats could have been trimmed for a much more lean and fluid flick.

The overall charm of the cast is nearly enough to forgive the movie for its storytelling mistakes and unimaginative narrative. When there aren’t guns blasting, explosions going off, or one-liners, the movie is a real drag. I wasn’t emotionally invested enough in the townspeople to care about them being in the path of a murderous tycoon. I also wasn’t emotionally invested enough to feel anything when the body count started to pile up towards the end.

That being said, there’s actually a lot this movie does right. The visuals and action are infectious. A lot of what makes the fighting sequences exciting can be chalked up to the use of real horses, set pieces, and stunts. So much of it appears natural and real that when the use of CGI is required, the computer animation sticks out like a sore thumb. On that level, it’s a successful summer movie that came out towards the end of September.

It’s odd that the movie never appears to pay homage to old Westerns or attempts a style change that may help it carve a new path in a familiar trail. It’s brainless entertainment that has awkwardly shown up at the beginning of Oscar season. “Magnificent Seven” is a stick of dynamite blast half the time, but the other half of the time it’s like watching a tumbleweed blow unenthusiastically in the wind.

 

 

Nick Robinson talks about “Jurassic World”

Nick Robinson made the leap from the critically acclaimed indie Kings of Summer (2013) to starring in the number one movie of this past summer, Jurassic World. The smash hit features Robinson playing teenager Zach, one of the nephews of park operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Zach, along with his brother Gray (Ty Simpkins), are left to fend for themselves when Jurassic World is overrun by the escaped Indominus Rex. After a quick visit with promotional raptor “Zulu” on the show floor, Zach sat down with me at this year’s New York Comic Con to discuss making the blockbuster.

Lauren Damon: What were your favorite scenes to film?
Nick Robinson: I think my favorite scene to film–one of my favorite scenes to film just on like a practical side was the moment when we open the doors to the old visitors center. Just because that was so cool to see what they were able to think up…Like all the set decoration was like so specific and it was cool to see 22 years later what kind of damage had ensued in this place. And then also the scene where Gray and I are in the back of the veterinary unit and we have to fight off the raptors. That was really fun to shoot just because I felt like an action hero. The whole thing was shaking and we had to like roll a barrel off and stab ’em.

LD: The movie is twenty-two years old and you’re only twenty can you remember the first time you encountered the original? 
Robinson: I don’t know if I remember the exact first time that I encountered it but pretty young. I’d probably say–I remember like at least by like seven or eight having seen it a few times and it’s just a great film. Like all of Spielberg’s stuff, Amblin films, it’s just got real timeless qualities and you know as soon you’re getting into it you’re just going to see something good. You know, John Williams knows how to throw some notes together…it’s just a great movie-going experience.

LD: Did you spend a lot of Ty Simpkins when you guys were cast as these brothers?
Robinson: Yes we did. I think it was by design…From the first day we got to set to when the first day we actually shot it was like about a month and so Ty and I got to just hang out just without any pressures of a camera rolling, and we just got to know each other so that helped a lot.

If you could make a hybrid dinosaur, what kinds of animals would you throw in there?
Robinson: That’s a good question. Maybe a pterodactyl and a raptor with some like falcon and tiger thrown in there for good measure. Just make like the deadliest thing of all time.

When the sequel eventually gets made, how do you see your character fitting in?
Robinson: Maybe Zach goes into train under Owen [Chris Pratt’s character] to be a Navy SEAL and then you know he gets trapped in a love triangle [laughs] between someone and someone so we’ll see what happens. Just an idea…it’s brainstorming.

Working with Chris Pratt was there a lot of jokes being pulled?Robinson: Yes. Yes. That man is like a–he’s a machine, he’s got like an improv brain like nobody I’ve ever met before and he’s…It’s just you never know what is gonna happen. And every day it’s just really fun because he makes it that way. He kind of leads by example and so it was yeah, pretty fun.
Any examples you can share?
Robinson: Um…an appropriate example, I mean, he ate a bug one time. For twenty bucks he ate a bug. Yeah.
Who’s twenty bucks?
Robinson: Who’s twenty bucks? Uh, not mine!

Being we’re at Comic Con, are there any superheroes you’d ever like to play?
Robinson:  Maybe Iron-Man just because he’s got a bad ass suit and that would be fun…
Not Star Lord?
Robinson: Well okay I don’t wanna take that–That’s…that’s Chris. But yeah I’d probably say Iron-Man. This is my first time at Comic Con and I’ve seen a lot of the films killing it right now.

Jurassic World is available to own on blu-ray on October 20th.