‘Paper Towns’ Review

Genre – Young Adult Drama
Director – Jake Schreier
Producer – John Green
Cast – Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Justice Smith, Austin Abrams, and Halston Sage.
Alluring element – Another John Green book comes to the big screen. Another giant victory for Nerdfighteria!
Check it out if you liked  The Fault in Our Stars, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Plot – 7
Acting – 9
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 8
Effects/Environment – 7
Captivity – 7
Logical consistency – 6
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 7
Overall awesomeness – 7

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As an avid Nerdfighter and John Green fan, I was extremely excited to see Paper Towns when it came out this weekend. The Fault in Our Stars was such a brilliant adaptation of my favorite book that I was confident the same team would bring a similar energy and passion to the project. Unfortunately, while their passion for the project was evident, their decision to change the ending bothered me considerably.

Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin (Nat Wolff), a senior in high school who is hopelessly in love with his childhood best friend and neighbor, Margo (Cara Delevingne). While the two drifted apart after finding a dead body in a park when they were young, Quentin is still totally enamored by her. Margo is everything he’s not. She’s edgy, confident, and goes on crazy adventures one could only dream of. She is the “it girl.” Until her boyfriend cheats on her, that is. She crawls into Quentin’s room one night and drags him into a crazy night of revenge. Afterwards, she disappears save for a few clues that Quentin is convinced are from her. He spends the rest of the movie trying to track her down with the help of his two best friends, Radar and Ben and Margo’s best friend, Lacey.

Paper Towns is one of my favorite books and influenced my view on life significantly when I was in high school. It made such an impact on me, I contemplated changing my last name to Roth in honor of Margo’s middle name. Its message of imagining people complexly is something that I strive to do in my every day life. However, that message didn’t come through as strongly in the film adaptation as I was hoping. While I enjoyed that the film had quite a lot of detail from the book such as Margo’s sTraNGe cApiTAliZatIOn and Radar’s house filled to the brim with the world’s largest collection of black Santas, the changed ending negated a lot of the complexity of the story. Before I get to that, though, let me talk about what I did like about Paper Towns.

DF-11873 Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) enjoy an unforgettable evening together. Photo credit: Michael Tackett
Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) shopping for their big night of revenge.  Photo credit: Michael Tackett

The fact that they made a movie of this book at all is great. We need more films about the complexity of human beings. We also need to break down the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Girls aren’t there to fix boys or bring them out of their shells. They aren’t plot devices. This movie — at least for the most part– achieves that.

It also challenges the audience to live their life to the fullest and do things that don’t always make sense. It makes us want to take a crazy risk, which is something that translates well from page to screen. It’s a good coming-of-age movie and the first two thirds of it is pretty great. While it didn’t drive home the moral of the story as much as I was hoping, it does open up a dialogue about not believing someone is more than a person. It’s a complex movie, but not as complex as I was hoping for. It’s a watered down version of the book, but a good watered down version.

Nat Wolff is the perfect Quentin. I love that he brought aspects to the character that I hadn’t thought about when I read the book. He made him more obsessed and a bit of an asshole, which is something I hadn’t pictured before, but realized I should have. There were a few times when I thought, “Quentin’s not this much of a dick,” but overall, I liked the complexity.

I absolutely adored Radar and Ben in this. They may have been my favorite part of the movie. They’re just as hilarious as they were in the book and provided some much needed outside input.  Justice Smith and Austin Abrams brought amazing life to these two characters.

Cara Delevingne was also great in this, though I felt that she wasn’t working with the same character material as the book. She still breaks down the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, which again is great and needed to be done. She’s also just a really adorable, strong and funny person in real life.

Ansel Elgort’s cameo was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw him. It was a good nod to the fans.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie. It was actually pretty good, unless you’ve read the book or wanted the ending to be messier than it was. That brings me to what I didn’t like.

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Best part of the film.

The only thing that really bothered me about the film was the ending; but it bothered me enough that I had to talk about it. It’s sort of key to the whole meaning of the story. The way it ended was almost completely fabricated for the sake of the film and not in a way that serviced the moral. In the book, it isn’t just Quentin who finds Margo. Radar, Ben and Lacey are all there to witness Margo’s new haven. And she isn’t sweet and apologetic. She screams and throws a fit and can’t believe they showed up out of the blue. Margo wanted to disappear. It’s revealed that she didn’t leave Quentin clues to find her, but to leave the abandoned Osprey to him. She’s furious with him for seeing her as this broken, lonely thing that he needs to find and take care of. “You didn’t come here to make sure I was okay,” she tells him. “You came here because you wanted to save poor little Margo from her troubled self, so that I would be oh-so-thankful to my knight in shining armor that I strip my clothes off and beg you to ravage my body.” The relationship between Quentin and Margo is much more complicated in the film than it was in the book. Quentin is obsessed with Margo and doing a disservice to who she really is, and Margo is a little insane with no regard for how her choices affect other people. While they end things on a good note, it takes time and a fair amount of arguing to get there. Margo gets mad before she admits she was wrong, but even then refuses to fix things back home. Quentin learns that he shouldn’t expect people to live up to his imagination of them and that expecting Margo to fall in love with him when they hadn’t talked in years was unrealistic and unfair. None of that was in the film.

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Film Margo is lovable. She’s irresponsible but relatively sane. We’re not mad at her when she’s finally found. It doesn’t bother us that she’s not going back with Quentin. Margo is still the whimsical, amazing girl we fell in love with. She’s just on her own now. Book Margo is frankly not a very good person and challenges the way we look at people. When we read Paper Towns what we’re expecting is this great reunion and lovely ending of “Oh, Q! You found me! I’m so glad!” but what we actually get is much more interesting. We get a lost, crazy girl who just wants everyone to leave her alone and stop playing her up to be someone she’s not. What I loved about the ending of the book is that it shows even someone who seems to have everything together is just as scared and alone as everyone looking up to them. No one is perfect. Even someone as exciting as Margo has big, gaping flaws that terrify her. Book Margo teaches us to look at the whole of a person; not just the parts we want to see. That’s the point of Paper Towns as a book.

The film was less than successful at this endeavor. The only time Margo’s flaws are really mentioned is when Lacey brings up the fact that Margo wouldn’t go searching for any of them if they went missing. Sure, Margo talks about not wanting to be seen as something she’s not, but talking about it doesn’t make the audience feel it. The book’s ending was much more effective in this sense because it shows us she’s broken and mad about how people view her. It doesn’t just tell us she’s kind of bummed about it. It makes us want to do better than Quentin when it comes to imagining the people we love.

Quentin isn’t really affected by finding Margo in the film. He gets on a bus, goes back to Orlando and still imagines her as this beautiful creature. The film ends with him talking about all the things people think she’s doing and how he thinks whatever she’s up to, it must be amazing. He doesn’t learn to imagine people complexly, which was sort of the whole point. By changing the ending, this lesson doesn’t come across as strong as it did in the book.

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Perhaps I would have enjoyed Paper Towns more if I hadn’t read the book, but I think by changing the ending, the filmmakers lost a wonderful opportunity. It’s not a bad movie by any means. It has a lot of great qualities and is overall a good coming-of-age story. I go back and forth between liking it and being upset about the change. I’m happy to see another John Green novel be made into a movie and I may even see it again to further understand why they changed what they did.  However, if you loved the book like I did, you might be a little disappointed.

“Inside Out” is Pixar’s Most Important Film

Note: This is not a spoiler free article. Sussing out your emotions can be a incredibly difficult thing to do. So often our instinct is to suppress our sadness, fear, anger and disgust because our lives are busy and it’s more convenient to deal with unpleasant emotions later on. We tell ourselves and other to “just be happy,” “suck it up,” or “be a man!” Children especially are told so often to “stop crying” rather than really accept their feelings. This might save some time, but the damage we’re doing by pushing these emotions to the side takes a major toll on us. What Pixar’s newest film “Inside Out” does is bring this damage to the forefront and advocates for being emotionally honest with ourselves and others. “Inside Out” takes place primarily inside the mind of 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), a girl who has just moved to San Francisco with her family and is grappling with the major change in her life. Riley is controlled by her five major emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Each emotion operates Riley’s reactions through a control board and Joy tends to lead the group’s decisions. This usually means Sadness doesn’t get much time at the wheel, as Joy loves Riley so much she just wants her to be happy. Up until the move, Riley has had a pretty good life. She loves hockey, has a strong relationship with her friends and family, has an honest but goofy disposition and is described by her mother (Diane Lane) as their “happy girl.” Most of Riley’s memories are happy and represented by yellow orbs, yellow standing for joy rather than blue (sadness), red (anger),  purple (fear), or green (disgust). Joy is very proud of this fact. However, once Riley starts to realize how much her life is changing because of the move, things get a little hectic for the emotions inside her head. After a scuffle over Riley’s long term memories, Joy and Sadness are accidentally sucked out of Headquarters and into Riley’s long term memory bank along with all of Riley’s core memories, the ones that make Riley, Riley. With Riley in major distress, Joy and Sadness must find a way back to headquarters or she may never be happy again. What makes “Inside Out” such an important film is that it shows just how important actually talking about one’s emotions is. There is such a huge stigma on mental health that we often don’t want to talk about or listen to anything but what makes us joyful. We see Riley’s mother compliment her daughter on being so happy despite the difficult time their family is going through, and while the sentiment is well intentioned, it ends up making Riley feel like she can’t be sad around them. With Joy and Sadness stuck in long term memory, guiding Riley’s actions falls to Anger, Fear and Disgust, showing how children so often lash out during difficult times and how depression isn’t just about being sad. The longer Riley isn’t able to feel Joy or Sadness, the harder her life becomes. Unable to express what she’s truly feeling, she starts to lose her favorite parts of herself. She drops Hockey. She dumps her best friend back home. The strong bond she has with her family starts to crumble and she begins to lie to get what she wants. By the end of the movie, Riley is about to run away.

Anger isn’t always the best leader.

What’s more interesting than what’s happening to Riley on the outside, is what’s going on between Joy and Sadness inside the young girl’s head. While Joy is a kindhearted character at first, it slowly becomes apparent that she isn’t the greatest leader when it comes to Riley’s best interest. She is constantly pushing Sadness out of the way, determined to make only happy memories for Riley. She even draws a circle on the floor and tells Sadness to stay inside it on Riley’s first day of school to keep her from ruining things for the little girl. What Joy doesn’t realize is that sadness is just as important in life. When Joy and Sadness run into Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), he leads them to Riley’s Imagination, which is under demolition. When Bing Bong’s rocket is tossed into the forgotten memories pit, he is incredibly upset. As one of Riley’s less used memories, he feels as though he’s becoming obsolete and the loss of the rocket just further drives in that idea. Joy tries to cheer him up by acting goofy and telling jokes, but Bing Bong isn’t hearing any of it. He continues to be upset until Sadness walks over and sits next to him. “I’m sorry about your rocket,” she tells him and finally Bing Bong opens up about his fears and grief; how he misses being a part of Riley’s life and all the memories they used to have together. Instead of trying to force Bing Bong to be happy, Sadness validates his feelings. “That must of been really hard,” she tells him and after a good cry, the imaginary friend is able to pick himself up and continue to lead them back to Headquarters. Joy is baffled by Sadness’ success.

Joy and Sadness work together.

The biggest message in this film is, “Embrace your emotions.” It’s great to feel joyful, but it’s also okay to feel sad, angry, fearful or disgusted. What’s wonderful about “Inside Out” is that it isn’t until Sadness is accepted by the other characters that any of them really find any solace. When Joy finally gives up being the leader and gives Sadness free reign over the control board, Riley is able to leave what would have been a dangerous run-away and goes back to her family. Once there, she opens up to her parents about how she wants to be happy for their sake but misses her life back home. The memories that used to bring her joy are now just sad. When she finally allows herself to be upset and her parents are there for her, a new core memory rolls into headquarters. Instead of being one color, it’s part blue and yellow; equal parts sad and joyful. It’s this new memory that fixes “Family Island,” the part of Riley’s personality that stands for her supportive familial bond. It isn’t until Riley accepts the fact that her life is complicated with a mix of different emotions, that she’s able to feel okay again. Afterwards, we see Riley thriving in her new environment. She’s playing Hockey again with her parents cheering her on. Inside of Riley’s head, we see the five emotions working together to help Riley score a goal. Along the walls are dozens of multicolored memories. The emotions have finally learned that each of them have value in Riley’s life. With the major stigma on mental health, this film might be Pixar’s most important project to date. It can be hard to open up a dialogue about our emotions and for children, being emotionally honest is an incredibly important message to instill. “Inside Out” serves as a good example and spring board for parents to talk to their children about the importance of letting yourself feel. Not to mention, it’s an incredibly well crafted story that both kids and adults will enjoy. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much during a children’s film. Films like “Inside Out” spread the message that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Depression isn’t something anyone should be ashamed of. Emotions are something we should be talking in depth about, even at a young age. “Inside Out” provides the resources to do that, making it an incredibly profound and important film in today’s society.

Photos by Disney Pixar.

Binge and Purge: The Jurassic Park Trilogy

Thanks to free streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBOgo and Amazon Prime, thousands of television shows and movie franchises are available to use at the click of a button – revered and unknown, alike. With so many programs and movies at our fingertips, it’s hard to tell which ones are worth our time. Have you ever kept watching a series in the hopes that it might get better someday (if you’re watching Homeland, it won’t)? Or finished a show out merely because you’re too invested in it, but find that you no longer enjoy it? Well, are you in luck, because in our new editorial, “Binge and Purge,” we’ll give you a hit by hit on our experience watching the show. Yes, this is pretty much an excuse to look productive while we binge-watch, but we’re hoping that this could save you from or add to your viewing experience.

Show/Season: The Jurassic Park trilogy (3 movies)
Original Run: 1993 (Jurassic Park), 1997 (Lost World), 2000 (Jurassic Park III)
Original Channel/Platform: Theaters, trilogy Blu-Ray on Amazon
Notable Actors/Characters: Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) [1,3], Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern)[1,3], Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) [1,2], John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) [1,2] Tim Murphy (Joseph Mazzello) [1,2], Lex Murphy (Ariana Richardson) [1,2], Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) [1], Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) [1], B.D Wong [1,4]… Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) [2], Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) [2], Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) [2], Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite) [2], Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) [2], Kelly Curtis (Vanessa Lee Chester) [2]… Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) [3], Amanda Kirby (Téa Leoni) [3].

Thoughts before watching:

I remember as a little girl, sitting on my grandma’s porch down in Florida and waiting for my mom and oldest sister to come home from seeing Jurassic Park. I was only 7 at the time, and therefore deemed too young to see it; instead, my grandma babysat me and took me out and bought me a new Barbie so I wouldn’t feel left out. I was already very familiar with the film, as a mean boy at school told me that the dinosaurs would come and eat me at night while I was sleeping – so I was already having nightmares about something I hadn’t even seen. Despite the bad dreams and the new doll, I knew I wanted to see that movie more than anything. My mother and sister returned, and they were speechless. They both gushed about the movie in awed tones to my grandma, who didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about. My mom decided that day that my age didn’t matter, she was so awe-struck by the movie that she felt that was a movie I had to see in theaters because it would be a once in a lifetime experience. The next week, I went to the theater with my mother, father, and two sisters, we sat close to the front and I sunk down in my seat, never taking my eyes off the screen as I experienced the phenomenon that was Jurassic Park and I have never been the same.

Movie by Movie thoughts:

Jurassic Park

While re-watching Jurassic Park, I feel as though I have to keep telling myself to not let my bias get the best of me. It is, after all, one of my absolute favorite things of all time. And not just because I became obsessed with dinosaurs; while all the other kids wanted to be astronauts or athletes, I was dreaming of being a paleontologist and starting the Dinosaur Club at my elementary school. However, even 20 years later, what makes this movie such a tour de force is not simply that there are dinosaurs in it. I’m focusing on overall story, pace, action, graphics, acting, all the things that the kid in me overlooked in the face of “Oh my god this is amazing!”

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As a kid, I had never seen graphics like this before… in anything… ever. The closest special effect that I’d seen was the shark from Jaws, and that was one damn good animatronic. That leads me to my first point about what I think still sets the original Jurassic Park apart: the special effects and graphics. The reveal of the Brachiosaurus is not as amazing as it once was; now, when I look at it, I am easily able to tell that it is not real. However, it is still a hell of a lot better than CGI that stands up in 2015 (Sharknado, I’m looking at you). The computer generated dinosaurs in this movie are still pretty mind blowing, and they become even more so when you take into account that this is a movie from 1993. I think my favorite element though is not even the CGI, but the robotics – pieces and models that actually appear in the film and were made by an art crew. The T-Rex foot that steps in the mud during the Jeep scene is a real giant dinosaur foot that was built for the film. You know what’s even cooler than that? The foot was but one piece of animatronics used in the film. The Brachiosaurus that sneezes on Lex was real, the Velociraptor were real, the Dilophosaurus was real, and above all else, the T-Rex that eats the jeeps and is in the villain of that entire scene was a full on life-size robotic T-Rex. Steven Spielberg has since said was just as deadly as a real dinosaur because of how accurate it was. I Googled it while watching the movie – the CGI dinos had a total of 6 minutes of screen time, the animatronics had more than twice that at 14 minutes. That is such a huge part of what made and still makes this film so magical. Far too few directors and producers utilize puppeteers and on-set monsters; whenever someone does, it tends to set their film apart.

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I hear a lot of people poking fun at the science of Jurassic Park these days. It’s something that I didn’t give a shit about as a kid, and I honestly don’t give a shit about now. There are some questions that still plague me, as in how many mosquitoes did they actually find? There is no way all that DNA came from the one mosquito that is now a decoration on Hammond’s cane. It’s simply not possible, especially considering that there are dinos from the Jurassic, Triassic, and Cretaceous periods present on the island. As far as the likelihood of man cloning dinosaurs, that is something audiences just need to suspend belief on or shut up. It’s a movie – a fantasy/sci-fi movie – which means it’s allowed to employ elements that are not scientifically possible in our current society. Why, I do believe that just might be the definition of science fiction.

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For a fictional movie, they really filled their plot holes well, at least for the most part. It didn’t even occur to me until a few years ago how utterly absurd it is to have ONE guy in charge of your tech and security (Dennis Nedry). Not only that, but his skills and smarts have got to be way up there, so once again, I have a hard time believing he was so hard up for money he had to turn to such treachery. And frankly, for what that guy does, Hammond should probably be paying him a shitload of cash.

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Overall, after all this time I still enjoyed every minute of Jurassic Park. I think it still stands out for it’s time because it stands up so well so many years later. The story is concise, the characters are believable (save for maybe Ian Malcolm) and each serve a valuable part (save for maybe the lawyer). Everything is just so well written and so well executed, there is a reason that this movie still captivates audiences to this day.

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Scorecard

Plot – 10
Acting – 10
Representation of Genre – 10
Cinematography – 10
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 10
Logical consistency – 6
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 10
Overall awesomeness – 10


The Lost World: Jurassic Park

As a child, this movie absolutely reinvigorated my love of all things Jurassic Park and dinosaurs. My mom took me to see it in theaters and I remember leaving not knowing what to think – did I like it? Did I hate it? Am I okay with how they continued the story of one of my favorite things ever? It took me a few hours, but by day’s end I was running around in my yard, playing with my dinosaur toys and escaping from imaginary dinosaurs, all with the help of my new imaginary crush, Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn).

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The first thing that stands out upon re-watching Lost World is that I think I forgot how unlikable they made Ian Malcolm. He is such a grump! I get it; what he went through was traumatic, but it’s almost as if they changed his personality entirely. He was sarcastic before, but it was good-natured and charming. Even after being stepped on by a T-Rex, he maintained a relatively good attitude. But this time around he is bitter and more mean spirited. It’s appropriate character growth considering the trauma he endured, but still, it’s a little disappointing. It does seem a little insane to me that at this point Malcolm seems to be a crazy guy making unfounded claims about an island full of dinosaurs. I have to remind myself that drones weren’t really a thing in 1997, so there were no ways to verify their existence without actually going there again.

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Outside of that, though, I have always really enjoyed this movie; I thought it was a great sequel. The reasoning behind the return to the island makes perfect sense. Dinosaurs are real, we can’t put them in an amusement park but we can sure as hell study them in their natural habitat right? Who wouldn’t want to do that? The likelihood of Malcolm dating the one woman who just so happened to be perfectly suited for the job seems a little low, but I’ll go with it. Sarah Harding is a good character, she’s strong ad smart like Dr. Sattler was in the first movie and it’s nice to have that kind of female character.

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The Lost World is made up of all sorts of characters, and all sorts of enemies. The rag tag group of researchers there to observe and InGen people there to harvest is strange, but endearing. Malcolm is kind of a dick to everyone, but that’s just kind of his deal these days I guess. The lines between who is good and who is bad are kind of blurred and I think that makes this movie so much more interesting. Roland starts out as an asshole, and ends as a hero. The men there doing Ludlow’s bidding are not necessarily bad people, although they are on that side because they are just there to do their job and earn a wage. There is a very interesting dynamic in that, and I really enjoy it.

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This is the one movie in the trilogy where dinosaurs are never the friend. In The Lost World, they are all just straight up out to get the humans. They are the unwavering bad guys, along with Ludlow, that make this movie the scariest one. There was still so many awesome moments in the first movie, but outside of seeing all the new species that the hunters are gathering up in the valley, this movie is straight based on fear. The T-Rex hunts them relentlessly, and it is so intense when it sneaks up on them in their camp. This is the carnage candy movie in the trilogy with by far the highest death count. I can’t even count how many people get picked off by Velociraptors in the long grass.

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I have to acknowledge the San Diego scene. I heard a rumor that during filming, Spielberg rewrote the ending to put the T-Rex in Southern California because of a dream he had. I don’t know if that is true anymore, and I may be the only one to share this unpopular opinion, but I like the ending of this movie. It’s probably more silly than scary at this point, but it didn’t ruin the movie. The Lost World is about how dangerous the dinosaurs are, especially when they are up against something they don’t understand. Spielberg decided to bring that fear home and it ended nicely. Of course it’s absurd, but it’s fun.

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Overall, I still think The Lost World: Jurassic World is a really decent sequel and movie. It told the story from a new light because now man is trying to capture something wild, not trying to deal with something they’d harnessed that escaped. It set itself apart from the original by no longer acknowledging the wonder of the dinosaurs, but instead focusing on the fear.

Scorecard

Plot – 8
Acting – 10 (except for Kelly; she gets a 3)
Representation of Genre – 8
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 8
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 10
Overall awesomeness – 8


Jurassic Park III

It’s sad to say, but this was the movie of the trilogy I was least excited to start. I’ve still seen this one a hundred times, and when AMC airs it for the 100,000,000th time on a Saturday, chances are that although I’ll still watch it, my disappointment will never fade. The first and second films hold such a special place in my heart, and while I enjoy Jurassic Park 3, there is nothing about it I’ve formed an attachment to. As I remember the third movie: it lacks heart, it lacks motivation. It feels so much more like a third film for the sake of making a trilogy.

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This is where the trilogy all falls apart for me. As I mentioned earlier, there seems to be so little motivation behind any of the story action. Maybe it’s just me, but other than Alan Grant and Paul Kirby, there are no really likable characters in this movie. I know you’re supposed to root for the kid Eric (Trevor Morgan) to survive and reunite with his parents, but the only reason I feel inclined to to that is because nobody wants kids to die on-screen, myself included. A crap-ton of people die to save this kid, and he’s about as charismatic as a mud puddle. Don’t even get me started on Dr. Grant’s paleontologist friend he brought along, Billy (Alessandro Nivola). That guy is an idiot. What exactly was he going to do with those Velociraptor eggs he stole? Vivisect the babies that hatched? Raise some pets? Release them in San Diego? The Alan Grant from the first movie would never have hired that guy, let alone be around him for any period of time. Although he does seem to be the inventor of 3D printing, what with the Velociraptor sinus cavity he made, but the sound that damn thing makes sounds nothing like the raptors in any other movie. And I just hate Téa Leoni, but that may just be my own personal grudge.

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I am less than keen on the science in Jurassic Park 3, too. First of all, the Spinosaurus. I like him, he’s awesome, but the likelihood of him being one of Hammond’s clone species is kind of low. The first specimen was discovered in 1915, but most of the other noted specimens weren’t even discovered until 1996 to 2005 so the chances of their blood being in the one mosquito seem unlikely. Also, Spinosaurus ate fish, and lived primarily close to water, not in the middle of the jungle where it battled T-Rexs. My big problem with this is not that they didn’t fact check “well enough,” it’s that it feels more like they relied on adding a new predator to make this movie work as opposed to really writing a compelling plot line. Oh, and the Velociraptors with the eggs? First of all, that damn sinus cavity whistle does not even sound like them. Second, they would not just take their eggs and leave, they would rip apart the mother fuckers who stole them and either feast or send a message to any other kidnappers who came along. Third, so let’s say that whistle did sound enough like the raptors, it would probably scare the shit out of them that their prey was making those sounds and they would have ripped those guys apart.

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It’s not all bad, though. The effects in this movie are once again simply amazing. Stan Winston’s brilliance strikes again. I love the animatronics, and I’m so happy that they once again built full-size and half-size dinos to actually have on set. I love Dr. Alan Grant, and I’m very happy he came back. I don’t understand why the writers had to take away his seemingly happy ending from the first movie, though. On the helicopter away from the island, it really felt like Ellie would settle down and have kids of their own, but nope. According to the jerks who write Jurassic Park 3, Dr. Alan Grant ended up alone while Dr. Sattler married some other dude and had kids who only know Alan as the “dinosaur man.” Dick move writers, dick move.

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Scorecard

Plot – 2
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 4
Cinematography – 10
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 5
Logical consistency – 3
Originality/Creativity – 3
Soundtrack/Music – 10
Overall awesomeness – 5


Jurassic World

For our full review of the 2015 film, Jurassic World, click here.


Thoughts after watching the Jurassic Park trilogy:

After rewatching the trilogy in anticipation of Jurassic World, I am hit with kind of a melancholy confusion. The original Jurassic Park will never go down in quality for me; I will always stand by it being one of the best films of all time. While these are some of my favorite things, I do not think I can honestly say the trilogy as a whole lives up to the first film or even stands out as one of the greats in cinema history. The Lost World found its own footing, and even though it could not work on its own, it was a good follow-up to the original while still being nothing like it. However, it fails to ever capture the wonder of the first movie, as does Jurassic Park III. While I still think, overall, nothing really compares to these movies, it is extremely obvious that what makes them work is not necessarily based on individual merit outside of the first film.

Report Card:

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Adversely to the Mad Max trilogy, where the films got better and better, the sequels that spawned from Jurassic Park proved to fall short of the original. The second one found its own unique voice, but Jurassic Park III ruined everything. It took 15 years, but the eventual sequel, Jurassic World, revitalized the brand and realized John Hammond’s dream, being the only worth successor to the movie franchise that rocked the 90’s.

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I’m counting Jurassic Park as it’s own genre for the most part, while also considering monster movies and sci-fi. The first movie set the mold, the second held up and excelled with the monster movie genre, but the third merely provided dinosaurs and did little with them. In effects, the films all were top of the line across the board. Each film featured brilliant pairings of excellent CGI and extremely life like animatronics and the quality never went down from film to film. The third film dropped the ball in a lot of areas, being one of the least creative and logical movies of the bunch. Also, no matter which film you watch, that classic John Williams theme song will make everything alright.

Jurassic World Review

Genre – Science Fiction / Action / Monster Movie
Director – Colin Trevorrow (Home Base, Safety Not Guaranteed)
Cast – Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onfrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong
Alluring element – Um…it’s Jurassic World, as in the fourth Jurassic Park movie! And this one takes place at a functional theme park, AND has Chris Pratt. .
Check it out if you liked  Any of the other Jurassic Park movies, Godzilla, Pacific Rim
Plot – 8
Acting – 9
Representation of Genre – 10
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 10
Logical consistency – 9
Originality/Creativity – 9
Soundtrack/Music – 9
Overall awesomeness – 10

 

 

 

Jurassic World takes us on a journey to John Hammond’s original dream, before the follies of man could destroy such inspiration. Had it not been for Dennis Nedry being an insanely irresponsible and selfish asshole, Hammond’s dream may have even been possible in his time. Now, with the help of a wealthy and adventurous investor, the park is open and in full swing. They use top-of-the-line engineering and technology to ensure safety, and their bioengineers are the best in the world, led by Dr. Henry Wu – one of Hammond’s original scientists. Simon Masrani, a close friend of Hammond’s, invested in the idea and brought it to life for him, before he passed away. Masrani is charismatic, passionate and believes wholeheartedly in Hammond’s ideals. This particular story takes place when two brothers, the nephews of the park’s C.E.O., come to visit and just as they are preparing to unleash the newest attraction – the Indominus Rex. But does that idea work as a sequel or has too much time gone by in the Jurassic Park universe for the thought to even be plausible? Can this story from so many years ago still stand, or is it just another ploy to make a bazillion dollars by riding the coattails of something already successful? Remember when the original Jurassic Park was an adventure 65 million years in the making? Well I feel like Jurassic World is a movie 22 (not million) years in the making. This was both the sequel we deserved, and the sequel we needed.

I’m sorry, I had to.

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Now that I have that out of the way, I can actually focus on what made Jurassic World so much more than I had hoped for. I am a huge fangirl of the franchise, and I won’t go into detail about how moved I was when the music started in and the movie started, after all these years of waiting for it [Note: That’s a lie. You can read about Keriann gushing about the original trilogy here]. I was captivated from the very moment it started. The whole experience was almost overwhelming for me. When the two brothers, Gray and Zach, arrive at the park and go through those iconic gates, I was left breathless, and with a lump in my throat. Jurassic World was so well-written, it had everything, and in true Jurassic Park fashion, it was absolutely stunning.

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Jurassic World had an excellent pace, from action to story to drama, and then back to more action. Nothing ever felt like it carried on too long or like story was being wasted for the sake of action. None of the characters went through very powerful individual arcs – except for Claire, who went from calling the dinosaurs assets to seeing that they were beautiful and wild animals. Even without those individual changes to actions and motivations, everyone in the movie was so likable, except for the one person you were supposed to hate, Hoskins – played by Vincent D’Onofrio – and even he was charming while be excellent at villain-ing. Chris Pratt makes an absolutely amazing action hero and tough guy. He is fantastic with drama and substance, but is also so naturally witty that he can bring enormous life to even the cheesiest of lines. Bryce Dallas Howard is captivating and endearing, even at the points when you root against Claire, she brings out the redeeming qualities that will eventually save the character. Gray and Zach stole my heart and instead of feeling like a burden on the plot they, were a solid addition. Jake Johnson was hilarious as the new version of a non-evil Dennis Nedry/Ray Arnold hybrid and he fit all the plot points appropriately, adding comic relief when needed and sharing in the intensity when a joke would have been annoying.

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As I said before, this movie had everything. There were times when I felt a fear that was just like what I felt as a kid. When the Indominus Rex peaks her jaws around the corner for the first time, and she nearly mimics the T-Rex’s action during her on-screen reveal in Jurassic Park; I was on the edge of my seat. Indominus Rex was a genuinely terrifying antagonist, being both brutal and determined, but she wasn’t the only scary part. I’m sure you’ve seen in the trailers and TV spots when the Pteranodons and Dimorphodons are unleashed upon thousands of tourists in the park. That part was horrifying! It was so much scarier than I thought it would be, watching those winged beasts attack and pick defenseless people off. Maybe I’m lame now because I have kids, but that part was so scary on a primal level because there was nothing any of those people could do to protect themselves or their loved ones.

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There was also real drama in Jurassic World, which is unique to this movie in the series. Zach stepping up to protect Gray was sweet, and the relationship that eventually came to light between the two of them was heartwarming. I feel like in this movie more than any others, there was new life breathed into the dinosaurs. They were portrayed so much more like living animals with personalities, motivations, and emotions. That was clearly evident in the Velociraptor pack and in the Apatasaurus when she was dying. It was devastating to watch that poor thing take its last breaths, and when Blue ran off into the night after losing the rest of her pack I was so heartbroken for her. This movie pulled out a whole array of emotions in me.

Jurassic World

One of the elements of Jurassic World that made the writing so strong was the attention to detail. The little things went so far. First of all, they paid great attention to acknowledging any scientific inaccuracies people may have observed in the previous movies. I myself always wondered how the got the DNA of so many species, and they made a point to have a decoration in the park that showcased multiple chunks of amber, all presumably with different blood sucking insects embedded in them. The conversation between Dr. Wu and Misrani addressed the added DNA of reptilian species and explaining that is why these dinos look more like lizards, and not birds as modern paleontological science suggests. Oh, and I feel quite the fool if I didn’t touch on the crazy awesome dinosaur action! It didn’t overtake the plot of the movie by any means, but when it happened, it was SO. FREAKING. COOL –  especially the battle royale between Indominus, T-Rex, and the Velociraptors. That shit was like watching an old monster movie with way better effects and way cooler monsters.

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After all the gushing, it is only fair to acknowledge the things that didn’t work for me. First of all, militarized dinosaurs. I cannot believe what a huge plot point that turned out to be. Militarized dinos is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Who the hell is dumb enough to think that would be a good idea? Oh, drones can’t go into caves and can be hacked? Yeah, I get that, but dinosaurs are dinosaurs and they do this thing where they’re wild animals driven only by their need to survive and kill any/everyone they feel like. Not to mention, they attached lazer beams to Velociraptors heads, not at all unlike Dr. Evil’s sharks with “fricken’ laser beams.” I’ll give them this: for a dumb idea, it was very well-written. Vincent D’Onfrio played an excellent bad guy, and while the idea was ridiculous, the character’s belief in the idea made it work.

 

Second, and this isn’t a big problem for the movie, is Owen Grady on his motorcycle with the pack of Velociraptors. Maybe it’s just me, but everything else about this movie could be so very right (and basically it was) and no matter what, that was always going to be too goofy. I know Owen is the Alpha, and that is exactly how he would travel but nothing will make it not look silly. It was supposed to be badass, but it made me giggle.

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I know it sounds nuts, but as such a fan girl of the Jurassic Park movies, it was so very moving for me to gaze upon the theme park that is Jurassic World. It was breathtaking and such a dream come true. There was something so very beautiful and sentimental about. Every inch of it, especially the statue of John Hammond, was such a loving tribute. When Gray and Zach stumbled upon the original Visitor’s Center and found the “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” banner crumpled up on the ground and when Gray walked up to the Velociraptor mural and ran his hand across it, I was humbled and crippled by emotion. It was so awesome for that to be included in this film, and it was so heartfelt. The whole movie felt like a loving tribute to something so incredible. There are few movies in history that have changed the world, Jurassic Park is one of them. I don’t think continuing this vision could possibly have been put in better hands. Colin Trevorrow so lovingly took this sequel to amazing places, all the while reminding the audience where it all began and how that made us feel. I was blown away, I was speechless, and on more than one occasion, I was overwhelmed with emotion, nostalgia, wonder, and adoration.

 

All pictures belong to Universal Studios, Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Genre – Dystopian Future, Action, Retro
Director – George Miller (Mad Max franchise, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet)
Cast – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hault (Beast from X-Men: First Class), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter from Mad Max 1)
Alluring element – A modern-day adaptation of the 30 year-old franchise that really launched the dystopian movie phenomenon.
Check it out if you liked –  Mad Max franchise, Book of Eli, Sin City

Plot – 6
Acting – 7
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 8
Effects/Environment – 8
Captivity – 6
Logical consistency – 5
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 10
Overall awesomeness – 7


In 2015, we will see the return of: Mad Max, Poltergeist, Jurassic ParkTerminator, Creed (a Rocky sequel), and Star Wars. With so much stock in retro stories and reboots, it’s easy to forget just what year it is, and while so many of these franchises are attempting to start over and appeal to the masses, Mad Max: Fury Road stays true to its roots. Whether or not that’s a positive description is really up to you as a viewer. George Miller’s fourth installment of Mad Max is somewhere in between a relaunch and a remake mishmash of the last two films, and it’s undeniably the best movie in the franchise. The good news is that you don’t have to see any of the old movies (we suffered for you in our new feature editorial, “Binge and Purge“) to understand what’s going on, as you get all the prologue you need in Max’s opening monologue.

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That isn’t too high of a compliment, though, to be honest. There’s no denying that the effects are turned up a notch, that the scale is much grander than the first three, and that the music is some of the most form-fitting I’ve seen in a movie (I’d put it just under Interstellar in the best use of music in a movie this generation). The signature fast-motion fight scenes and race/fights are spectacular to watch, even if they are the most nonsensical bologna I’ve ever seen. There’s even a bit of character development, something the original trilogy was completely devoid of. That’s not to say at all that there shouldn’t have been more. Several issues that rendered the first three nearly unenjoyable were glaring in a 2015 version that should have been up to date.

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There was an awkward amount of missing dialogue in the film. It’s not that people needed to be talking all the time, but a little background to satisfy the underwhelming backstory would have been appreciated. What made the lack of backstory so frustrating was that, in each of the four films, I was left begging to know what the hell was going on. There was a perfect opportunity for set up in every movie, and it was squandered in favor of explosions, primal screaming, or awkward shocked glances to the fourth wall. We get the vibe that all the Lost Kids were killed, and that it was Max’s fault, but we don’t ever find out any specifics.

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The return of Hugh Keays-Byrne was a sentimental one, as he is the same actor who played Toecutter in the first film, but there wasn’t really any depth to him other than he likes getting sexy chicks pregnant. Even Tom Hardy, who was the reason many were drawn to see the movie, was boring, flat and hardly even in the whole film. To be fair, Mel Gibson wasn’t really magnetic or anything, nor was he ever the star of his own films (Max was always the “strong, silent” type), but I was expecting this level of dryness from the guy who played The Forger in Inception. The jury is still out on whether or not we should cheer for this protagonist, who would have readily left a group of women out to dry had it not been for a crafty Furiosa.

It was Furiosa who really starred in the film, and they added more to the film than just comic relief – as Max’s companions Goos and the Gyro Captain were. Furiosa (Theron) is a badass warrior with one arm who gives Max a run for his money in a fisticuffs battle. From the start, we know she’s a rogue of Immortan Joe’s empire, but the way she looks out for her girls shows her willingness to redeem her past mistakes. She’s the reason these dumbass male right’s activists (I just found out MRAs are a thing) are boycotting the movie. Please, if you want to see old white guys circle-jerk each other with explosives, go see the Expendables.

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On the other hand, there is Nux, one of the ghost-like junkies (who all look an awful lot like the “I Like Turtles” kid in Beyond Thunderdome) who is bred to think going to Valhalla (a majestic heaven for dead warriors in Norse mythology). but ends up going the good guys after realizing the team he’s playing for is evil. It’s not very deep, but the shallowness of the rest of the film helps these two stand out among the rest.

I get it. That’s not why you go to the theater to watch Mad Max. There’s a reason this franchise died in the 80’s, and it wasn’t just 9/11. Since Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome, movies about a dystopian future have been the norm. Heck, pretty much every young adult franchise takes place in some messed up future or another. Fury Road was a step towards what fans want out of the insane series, kicking up the violence and race scenes a few notches, but it’s still a far cry from what it could be if Miller and the other writers spent more time on developing their world. After four movies, I understand less about the Mad Max world and the characters in it than I did in the mediocre Book of Eli.

Less of this would be nice, too.
Less of this would be nice, too.

If Mad Max really wants to keep up with the times, then it needs to start developing the environment as its own character. Brevity has not been kind to a world that has so much more to explore than the crazy asshole who reside in it. Take some notes from games like Fallout 3 on how to set the environment appropriately and use the irradiated future to show us how it all went wrong. Dystopian futures are supposed to be a darker reflection of current times, and that needs to be more than just explosions and firefights. Unless, you know, that’s all you want out of your movie-going experience.

All pictures belong to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Productions and Warner Bros. Pictures

Binge and Purge: The Mad Max Trilogy

Thanks to free streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBOgo and Amazon Prime, thousands of television shows and movie franchises are available to use at the click of a button – revered and unknown, alike. With so many programs and movies at our fingertips, it’s hard to tell which ones are worth our time. Have you ever kept watching a series in the hopes that it might get better someday (if you’re watching Homeland, it won’t)? Or finished a show out merely because you’re too invested in it, but find that you no longer enjoy it? Well, are you in luck, because in our new editorial, “Binge and Purge,” we’ll give you a hit by hit on our experience watching the show. Yes, this is pretty much an excuse to look productive while we binge-watch, but we’re hoping that this could save you from or add to your viewing experience.

Show/Season: The Mad Max trilogy (3 movies)
Original Run: 1979 (Mad Max), 1981 (Mad Max: The Road Warrior), 1985 (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)
Original Channel/Platform: Theaters, First Mad Max on Netflix and Comcast OnDemand, trilogy Blu-Ray on Amazon
Notable Actors/Characters: Mel Gibson (1-3), Joanne Samuel (1), Hugh Keays-Byrne (1,4), Bruce Spence (2-3), Vernon Wells (2), Tina Turner, Angry Anderson (3)

Thoughts before watching:

For our first installment of “Binge & Purge,” we’re starting with the Mad Max trilogy – right in time for the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. The original Mad Max came out in 1979, and inspired two sequels that were released in 1981 and 1985, respectively. For reference, I was born in 1987, so when I finally got around to watching the first one in college, it goes without saying that it was severely outdated. The effects were poor and the pacing was worse. Yet, the Mad Max franchise is still considered the signature post-apocalyptic badass film. This new movie straddles the line between sequel to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and a franchise reboot. I’m not honestly sure, but here is a pretty thoughtful article about where it fits in the Mad Max lore. It’s a new approach to relaunching a franchise, and judging by the reviews, it looks like it worked out. While the concept of futuristic wastelands may be tired out now, it was very much a new and exciting concept 35 years ago – back in a time when the world respected Mel Gibson. Buckle your seatbelt, Sugartits; it’s time to for us to dive in and get ready for some post-apocalyptic action.

Movie by Movie thoughts:

Mad Max

Mel Gibson plays this cop for the MFP (which I can only assume stands for Mother F*ckin Police) who is a fearless driver, and forces the “Night Rider” to crash his car and instantly explode. Well, apparently the dude was some heavy-hitter in a biker gang, and they retaliate by basically being a bunch of a-holes. They want to prosecute one of the bikers, but the lawfulness of the land has begun to unravel. The use of music is very grandiose, but doesn’t really fit the circumstances, making the film appear just silly at times. The bikers in general are a bunch of drugged up idiots, making them frightening enough villains. This movie screams the end of the 70’s, though. From the choice of clothing (cops in all black leather uniforms), fully-dressed funky cabaret performers), this is as much of a reflection of time as it is its dystopian setting.

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The movie takes a sharp turn for dark when the bikers decide to burn Max’s partner alive (He doesn’t die, of course. That would be too much…); essentially, the first real bit of action takes place almost 50 minutes in (the film is 93 min long). I do miss the days of short movies, but Max is really only in the movie for about 20-30 minutes of the film. Another odd point – I’m jealous of a time when a man named Fifi who looked like he did was considered manly. Australia is more progressive than we knew, I guess.

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Upon seeing his friend burned to a crisp, Max takes a vacation to clear his mind or whatever. BIG mistake. Everybody dies and Mel Gibson goes full Patriot on these guys. He hunts the bikers down one by one in disturbing fashion (I mean, disturbing for 1979, anyway). I suppose the lesson is that if you’re hiding from a roaming gang of bikers, don’t drive a bright orange station wagon? I’m not sure. If the original Mad Max were made today, it’d be much more violent and gratuitous. While it wasn’t a great film by any stretches of the imagination, I appreciated the musically-induced thrills and implied violence; I almost forgot what it was like to use my imagination. Also, little tidbit – the actor who plays Toecutter, the main bad guy in the first film, will be the villain in Fury Road, going by the name Immortal Joe in the relaunch.

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Scorecard

Plot – 3
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 6
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 4
Captivity – 4
Logical consistency – 5
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 7
Overall awesomeness – 5


Mad Max: The Road Warrior

There’s finally some backstory to what is going on here in the form of a black and white synopsis that reminds me a little of Nazi propaganda. Apparently the situation in the Outback is much more dire than the first film led on, and there is a super oil shortage, leading to chaos, deconstruction of civilization and a bunch of murder. More than anything, though, there are a bunch of weird mo-fos around now. In the first twenty minutes, I’ve seen: a midget squirrel child, a guy that looks like the roided-out version of Hook‘s Rufio in assless chaps, Jason Vorhees, Luke Skywalker, and a warrior lady that just stepped off a Bon Jovi music video set.

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Again here, the music really drives the movie. Just like the Star Wars throne scene, I’d love to see how awkward this movie would be if there was no sound. I swear that I heard no more than a couple sentences in the first 20 minutes (again).  Max is caught in the crossfire between another band of murderous renegades and a “civilized” bunch of idiots bogarting an oil rig. Whether he’s bored or endeared by the boomerang-throwing midget kid, he decides to take on the task of driving off the bad guys. These baddies are people I would personally not mess with; everybody looks like the first thing they looted after the apocalypse was the S&M section of Fascinations.

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The group of idiot bad guys make Mad Max even madder by killing his dog. Ya know, in two films, this franchise has pulled off two of the most despicable murders possible: defenseless dog and baby. All they need is an old lady to complete the trifecta. Max is able to defeat the bad guys with trickery and deceit, filling the tanker with sand and allowing the good guys to get away with the fuel. It was pretty dumb as far as movie endings go, but I can at least appreciate the effort to build a complete story in this iteration, as opposed to the borderline home video quality of the first Mad Max.

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Scorecard

Plot – 5
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 8
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 8
Captivity – 6
Logical consistency – 4
Originality/Creativity – 9
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 7

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Mad Max: Beyond Thenderdome

Finally! Three pain-staking hours into this and we are at the finale. Judging by the opening sequence, and the rockin Tina Turner jam, this film is going to be all 80’s. Rock and roll mixes so well with dominatrix clothing. Max has abandoned the rugged pretty boy look for some really long Moses hair. Everything in the land is radioactive and there is a makeshift civilization being forged. Also, thanks to Tina Turner, there are suddenly a whole bunch of black people. The third in the series noticeably improved  in quality, from cinematography to dialogue to the amount of influence the music has, it seems closer in quality to what today’s output is.

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Welcome to the Thunderdome, b*tch! Now we’re at the part from the “California Love” music video. Master Blaster, who must surely be the inspiration for Mortal Kombat X‘s Ferra/Torr, is a corrupt tyrant of this odd makeshift city. Any disputes must be had in the Thunderdome, where they engage in Peter Pan-like aerial combat. After whooping Blaster’s butt, it turns out that the Blaster monster was actually the Feral Child from Mad Max 2. Tina Turner ends up being the bad guy, and by bad guy, I mean the evil genius who puts together short, senseless phrases that get stuck in your head.

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It feels like Max spends an eternity in the stupid desert and then rescued by the Lost Kids from Neverland (one of whom looks like the “I Like Turtles” kid from YouTube) – at least he gets a haircut, too. He’s evidently the chosen one or some crap to these kids. I can’t begin to describe how far this show’s concept has gotten from the original Mad Max. It’s like defining the Star Wars franchise based off their time with the Ewoks in Endor. Max is a straight up a-hole in this movie; he rescues some kids, sure, but I never felt like I should be rooting for him in this one. Never once in this movie did I feel that there was a specific direction the story was going in. It ends pretty horribly, with the rescued party finding a destroyed Sydney, and Max left alone with no way to get where he needs to go. I almost feel like they made a bad choice by attempting a complete story; give me more senseless violence and humor.

mad max 3 lost kids

Scorecard

Plot – 4
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 8
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 5
Logical consistency – 4
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 6

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Mad Max: Fury Road

For our full review of the 2015 film, Mad Max: Fury Road, click here.


Thoughts after watching the Mad Max trilogy:

At the end of it all, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a series of movies that was expected to have such an impact on the genre of post-apocalyptic films. It gets a bit of a pass for being done in the late 70’s-mid 80’s, a time when science-fiction was still trying to find its footing (that, or imitate Star Wars); in the end, it just didn’t live up to the potential I felt it had or the hype that surrounded it. The concept is cool, the vehicles and zany villains are awesome, and the relative stoicism of Max makes him seem really cool. You can tell that many movies and entries to pop culture since Mad Max have used it as inspiration, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good. You don’t see IBM going around saying how much cooler they are than flash drives because they invented the floppy disc, but you have to respect the creativity it took to get to that point.

Report Card:

Binge and Purge Mad Max ratings

This shows an overall upward trend in scores, meaning an improvement in each film for the most part. Road Warrior received a higher score than Beyond Thunderdome for the completely new concept of degenerate bands roaming the desert. All three final movies were a huge upgrade from the original Mad Max, which was basically about chasing down a biker gang and murdering the key members.

binge and purge mad max categories

Here we see the franchise’s strengths and weakness. While it might not have any logical consistency and usually crappy plots, it has really defined the genre for lawless dystopian futures. Mad Max also has great originality and sound.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Genre – Superhero / Science Fiction / Marvel
Director – Joss Whedon
Cast – Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, and James Spader (with appearances by Hayley Atwell, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, and Samuel L. Jackson)
Alluring element – It’s the Avengers.
Check it out if you liked –  Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man
Plot – 8
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 10
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 8
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 7
Overall awesomeness – 8

 

 

hush_rating_83

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Let’s go back to a time when comic book movies were just starting to break the surface of mainstream movie success. The year is 2008 and Iron Man has just broken the mold on comic book movies, starting off a chain reaction so large that Marvel Universe had to start naming them in Phases. Then The Avengers assembled. The 2012 team-up annihilated everybody’s expectations of what a comic book movie should be like, and grossed over $200 million in its opening weekend. Director Joss Whedon, who has been spectacular at putting together ensemble casts and giving each one a distinct voice of their own. Well, what happens when there are too many voices? When there aren’t even enough kids playing to collect all the Easter Eggs? In short, you end up with Age of Ultron.

Avengers: Age of Ultron had been building in anticipation, and pressure, for a couple years. Since the first Avengers, the climate has changed in the movie world. Marvel has realized what a cash cow they have in their hands, and are less willing to give Joss free rein creatively like he received. This wasn’t unexpected; it happens with pretty much anything niche that hits the mainstream. While the goal was always to remain a character-driven story, the movie became just too BIG for its own good. Pressure from the studio, and worse – from himself – have made for a tumultuous production. Even Edgar Wright, the original director of Ant-Man, left the production due to creative differences. Nevertheless, as Joss assured Vulture, “it’s baldly, nakedly” him.

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I wish that this wasn’t a relevant discussion to the movie, but I’d be lying. It shouldn’t, however, detract from the fact that Avengers: Age of Ultron was a entertaining experience, full of as much dry humor as there were explosions. Each player on the team was given a spotlight, a purpose, and the film moved around from each teammate relatively smoothly. Each action scene was sandwiched with a slower scene, usually in the form of some comic relief. The scene in the previews where the team is challenged to pick up Mjölnir is just as hilarious the 20th time I’ve seen it, and there are multiple one liners that I hope will live on just as “puny god” did from the original. Wit wasn’t in short supply, and that can happen when your villain is supposed to be a mirror image of Tony Stark. James Spader (Red from The Blacklist) does a fantastic job as the spoiled artificial intelligence, and watching him go back and forth with Robert Downey Jr. was organic – even though one of the characters was not. Not all the characters were well-represented, though.

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Black Widow was, up until Scarlet Witch joined the team, the only girl on the team. The stunt work in Avengers for her was awesome. She beat up a group of gangsters while she was strapped to a chair! This movie? Not so much. Her new tactical Tron suit was neat, and she had a few good punch lines, but it seemed like her entire purpose of being in the movie was to be the love interest of Bruce Banner. Their romance seemed trivial to the point that the movie would have been better without it entirely. Yeah, I get the necessity of the lullaby, but the whole “run away with me” thing? It just left a bad taste in my mouth. It was #notmyJoss. Also, even a Hulkbuster battle couldn’t make me forget how dirty they did Black Panther’s homeland. #NotmyWakanda.

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Scarlet Witch, on the other hand, is everything you want in a strong female character: tragic backstory, symbiotic reliance on a platonic character, and enough firepower to destroy the world (literally, in the comic books). Elizabeth Olsen totally stole the show as Scarlet Witch, and she did it without being reduced to a helpless romantic plot device. The horror-type scenes where she taints the Avengers’ minds is the most Whedon-esque part of the film.

Her brother in the movie, Pietro Maximoff, did a wonderful job, too. Aaron Taylor Johnson is coming into his own as an actor, and is virtually unrecognizable as the same kid who played Kick-Ass; in both this film and Godzilla, I leaned over and asked Adrian, “Can you believe that’s Kick-Ass?,” to which she replied, “That’s Kick-Ass?!” Even Hawkeye, who was virtually a non-factor in Avengers, found his footing in Age of Ultron.

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Look, it’s up to Marvel to look beyond the status quo, and with a project this vast, there isn’t enough space to carve up something new. The dawn of saturation could finally be upon us. The movie was good. It might even be better than the first Avengers. However, we knew the magic wasn’t going to last forever. We may have gotten just a little too much of the machine and not enough of the mind that turns the gears. To bring back the magic, Marvel Studios is only a few steps away.

First, stop releasing so. much. media… There used to be a sense of surprise and adventure to seeing a movie. Shoot, I remember when I saw Dude, Where’s My Car? as a 12 year-old based on the “Dude, Sweet” debate alone. Suffice to say that my standards have improved, but I can still do without having secret characters, fight scenes and plot twists explained to me in continuous waves for months on end. Ant-Man is a great example how a tiny bit (no pun intended) of exposure will result in a better experience for fans.

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Second, if Marvel Studios is going to explore every inch of the Marvel Universe, they need to take their time. I didn’t like the idea of turning the Infinity War into a two-parter at first, but after seeing just how much they tried to cram into Age of Ultron (which is actually two minutes shorter than its predecessor), it’s clear that a more immersive experience beats a thrilling one anytime. We got to see the Vision in this film, what, like 10 minutes? Depth is the reason Daredevil is doing so well as a Netflix series; there is time to build attachments to these characters.

Lastly, putting out original content will make everybody happy. Marvel puts out a couple dozen comic books out every week; surely they could borrow an actual storyteller (Marvel has more than a few of those) instead of retrofitting and rehashing decades of previously-established events. Guardians of the Galaxy is a good example of how film makers can actually come up with their own source material.

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It’s no coincidence that the most enjoyable parts of the movie were the unique and new aspects to it. When I sign up to see an Avengers movie, I’ve grown accustomed to the action scenes and dry wit. That no longer impresses me, though. It’s a shame, too, because Ultron has the potential to be the scariest villain they’ve faced so far. Instead, we ended up with a nuisance – one with access to nuclear codes that instead opts to elevate a flying city and drop it on the Earth like a meteor. That’s what made reviewing this movie so difficult; it’s a good movie, but it might just be too much of the same thing for fans that have been flocking to the theaters for seven years now.

All pictures belong to Disney and Marvel Studios.