The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

JurassicPark2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Jurassic Park = Godzilla.

As the days progress, we await the turnout of Jurassic World. Will it be good, will it be bad – who knows. While we wait, however, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go back and watch the classic films. I rewatched the first and second last night, and because I already have a review of Jurassic Park, I thought I would review The Lost World. It’s been a few years, and I remember loving this movie too, but things do change, because this film lacked a certain…hoorah that the first held.

Ian Malcolm is our main hero in the sequel – you remember him right? He was the cool guy in the leather jacket that made a lot of sarcastic remarks in the first one? Played by Jeff Golblum. He’s back and ready to battle more dinosaurs as John Hammond let’s him in on a little secret: there’s a Site B. That’s right, a whole other island with more dinosaurs that they use to breed and raise the animals before they move them to the park – that means no gates or fences – just pure dino land. However, he needs a team to investigate how they are still living – since their science allowed them to live as long as they administered a certain serum every few months. But life, as Ian Malcolm likes to say, found a way. So it’s back to the island he goes to battle even more dinos than before.

This movie is a little ridiculous. The foundation of the plot makes some sense, but not enough to have people go to the island to investigate and document. John Hammond knows first hand that dinosaurs are dangerous, but he sends more people in regardless – just to investigate and document? I don’t really believe that. Instead, this movie was really about the “poaching”, as I’d like to call it. A whole other team comes in with a plan to poach the dinosaurs and steal them for a park in the United States – which of course, is a terrible idea. This introduces you to the idea that the dinosaurs aren’t the monsters this time, but the humans…because you start to feel bad for these animals.

The switch in theme is somewhat remarkable and respectable, but you watch a Jurassic Park movie for the danger the dinosaurs bring while matched with human interference. You still get some of that at the same time, thanks to momma and poppa T-Rex, but there’s a lot of caring and love for the dinos in this film. Again, good in theory, but a bit boring in execution. Of course, the only real thing you actually remember about this movie is the last 15 minutes or so. When people say “Wasn’t The Lost World the movie where the dinosaur roams the city”, you know the rest of the movie made no impact on them whatsoever. You know what also had that same problem? The Phantom Menace. You want an entire movie memorable, not just the end. Which, by the way, was basically just Godzilla.

That being said, there are still some pretty good action sequences in the movie that I personally really enjoyed, and I think the characters are also pretty good – not as good as the first movie, mind you – but still good nonetheless. Yes, even Vince Vaughn’s character. As far as the visual graphics go, there was some improvement since the first film, but you’d be surprised at how much things still don’t look that great when CGI came into question. There was MORE CGI, which probably meant they had more money to work with, but the improvement wasn’t too much if you ask me.

The Good:

The Lost World is not as terrible as people would like to have you believe, there are some great action sequences in this film, more dinosaurs in this film (more of the same, as well as different dinosaurs), and more danger all around – as well as a very memorable ending.

The Bad:

At the same time, it doesn’t meet the criteria the first film held either. It doesn’t have that same level of innocence, simplicity, and danger the first had, but instead….it had sarcasm, arguments, paranoia, and reverse/danger (humans are the bad guys instead) – and some of that made the film a little dull and boring at times.

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Men in Black (1997)

MIB1

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Sugar…in…water.

I admit I may be a bigger fan of Will Smith than most. I grew up with him, sure, but I think it goes beyond that. The man was one of the biggest names in Hollywood for a long time. Nearly every year he came out with another hit on the top of the blockbuster titles. Beyond that, he’s just a cool dude in general that has a lot of good-spirited beliefs. Yes, I also love his music – and grew up listening to the songs nonstop as a kid. But it all started in the mid-nineties. Men in Black was one of these films that really got the film buffs to pay attention to his talents – and it’s not hard to understand why.

This film primarily focuses on the life of J (Smith) after he is recruited in a top-secret government organization that deals in finding and controlling alien life on earth. His partner is K (Tommy Lee Jones). When news comes out that a bug-type alien crash landed on Earth looking for a hidden artifact that decides Earth’s fate, J and K must stop it before the world ultimately comes to an end.

This is one of Will Smith’s greatest films. Even those that aren’t the biggest fans of his work would probably agree with me on that one. Yeah, a lot of his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air attitude is shining out here, but that’s fine. It’s as if the entire role was written specifically with Will Smith in mind, and he carries the role really well. The same can be said about Tommy Lee Jones, as the two of them have a really good sense of chemistry – in more ways than one. The young and the old, the rookie and the veteran, the goof and the stern man, the student and the teacher – and all of these different personalities never clash and instead feel like opposites really truly do work well together.

Beyond that, our story is stitched together really well in terms of comedy and the flow of the plot itself. It’s a pretty simple saving the world from utter destruction story, but all of the characters are very colorful and work well with each other – and everything truly feels original. But beyond that, for a film that’s nearly twenty years old, it still translates incredibly well for a modern audience. The CGI in the film doesn’t always look amazing – in fact, it never matches up to today’s standards, but the whole overall tone of the film somehow makes it so the viewer doesn’t really care. The way these CGI creatures look among everything else in the film somehow looks perfect. I don’t know how they did it. It was partially practical effects and partially CGI, but they made the CGI itself look practical at times, and because of that…it works.

I will say that as a whole, the film feels complete. Not only is there a great plot, visuals, and musical score by Danny Elfman, but you have a really good sense of character development – even when it’s not completely needed. It’s there just to feel more complete and more real. I can respect that. It also does a great job at introducing a fish-out-of-water element with Will Smith for the first half of the film, which in and of itself was hilarious.

The Good:

Men in Black is one of the best films Will Smith has ever been a part of. It truly feels like a complete and nearly perfect film in terms of what it was actually going for. Great musical score, good character development, great fish-out-of-water sequences, hilarious jokes and acting, great chemistry, colorful and diverse cast of characters, and a solid plot. It’s hard not to love this movie.

The Bad:

The only thing that really comes to mind in terms of negative aspects to the film was the CGI, which obviously fails in terms of today’s standards, and these differences have the potential of turning away modern viewers. Then again, I think the CGI in the movie actually works for what it was going for…but that could just be me.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good-Will-Hunting

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Serious and soulful.

It’s still relatively recent and active news that Robin Williams passed. It was such a shocker that I, like the rest of you, felt an inescapable urge to honor him by watching his films. I won’t go on a strict Robin Williams diet, but here and there, I’ll check out the films that meant the most to you and me. The two movies that really shout Robin Williams in terms of what people consider his best roles, are often somewhere in-between Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. I know this is horrible, but I can’t really remember either of these films very well, and I’m not even sure I’ve seen the latter. So these two films I will focus on first, the first being Good Will Hunting. I’ll admit it was done very well, but there are other Williams films that I prefer.

The story revolves around, surprise surprise, Will Hunting (Matt Damon). Will isn’t a bad kid, but he has had a pretty unfortunate upbringing in the system. He has truly devoted friends that love him, but they are seen more or less as scumbags with no futures – and because he is always with them, he has the same future…which is a waste, because he is a genius. He’s throwing his life away without really realizing it. So when a teacher at MIT notices him, he busts him out of jail on a probationary period – to do math problems with him, and to hand him his full potential…there’s only one catch – he must participate in therapy with an off-beat therapist named Sean.

This is a very honest, in-depth look of how messed up kids are that go through the system, but it goes about it in a different way that you wouldn’t normally expect. This is about broken trust and hidden feelings, and most importantly – about the slow buildup of self-loathment through life – and settling for second best because you’re around something you consider safe…because it’s the only safety you’ve ever known. In all honesty, it’s a very strong and powerful portrayal of things real people go through that are unnoticed constantly. You won’t hear any complaints from me in that regard, but you will hear one complaint – that it was predictable.

It follows a very basic routine. While it has a fresh way of going about things, the heart of the thing is still pretty predictable, and so I didn’t feel like I was as surprised as I really should have been about how things would turn out. The acting was out of this world, but as I sat watching…nothing threw me for a loop. It was very matter-of-fact and that actually disappointed me…but I also understand I’m probably in the minority in that regard, so I won’t let that affect much of my score. It’s still a very well-done movie.

I think the biggest strengths of the movie relied on the messages and various forms of human nature in general, which is all fine and dandy – they did a great job, but without that plot having any unpredictability involved, I’m forced to be a little set back. As powerful as the performances really were, I wasn’t personally connected with the characters, nor felt the emotional scene’s worth. I know that’s probably just me, so it is what it is.

The Good:

Without a doubt, this is more a character-oriented film than anything else. The issues it delves into about abandonment, trust, friendship, and how to free yourself from a mental prison are all dealt with incredibly well, and Robin Williams is such a fantastic actor that any real problems the movie faces, it doesn’t really matter.

The Bad:

I still require the movie to have a little more oomph. It was powerful, it was, but it was also predictable and very matter-of-fact. I don’t want to bash it for anything, as it was done well, but I expected more and felt let down.

The Random:

Truth be told, I actually thought this was the movie with the “oh captain, my captain” thing. I completely forgot about Dead Poets Society, and had pictured Matt Damon saying it.

As Good as it Gets (1997)

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Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It got good.

Jack Nicholson is a curious guy. His acting style is more or less static in Hollywood…so he’s almost, almost a typecasted actor…but at the same time, he just feels like he has a massive acting range…which is weird, but a good weird. I honestly think the man is a wonderful actor, even one of our bests, and I can’t believe that I’ve never seen As Good as it Gets, which is clearly one of his best movies. Strangely enough, this movie is kind of hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for the blu-ray…but if you do end up running into it, I urge you to check this film out if you haven’t yet.

The story focuses on OCD-plagued Melvin Udall (Nicholson), whose disorder has more or less made him bitter at the world. He is more or less a misunderstood man because he sees the world a little differently and requires different things to remain sane. When a neighbor is hurt, he is tasked with looking after their little dog…and he begins to love it. At the same time, he meets a beautiful waitress who, for some reason or another, he just clicks with. Her very presence makes him want to become a better man.

Sometimes I start off a review with what I did like, but this time I’ll start with what I didn’t… because for the most part, this is a wonderful film. The things I didn’t like had more to do with the fact that there isn’t much of a solid plot. There is no main goal, but instead it’s more of a coming-of-age tale…which I don’t always like. However, the pacing and structure of what they did have was pieced together amazingly. The second main thing I disliked about the flick was clearly the “romantic chemistry” between Nicholson and Helen Hunt. They clearly had amazing chemistry, but it wasn’t romantic at all. Them together seems weird and out of place, but their regular interactions are nothing short of phenomenal…so it’s really strange to explain.

The rest of the movie…I was a fan. I’m not always a fan of movies utilizing the “cute” factor for animals, but the little dog was really good in this film. It was such a little bitty thing, but the way the trainers had it act was brilliant…and the “cute” factor worked because it was integral to the story and to Melvin’s shifting personality. I also think the acting from everyone was perfect. Chemistry is questionable, but the acting itself was spot on. From Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, and especially Jack Nicholson. I don’t know what it is about him, but even with his crazy personality in everything that he’s in, you always feel a deeper connection with his characters about how he’s truly feeling about different things – even if he’s not being obvious about those feelings. He is a remarkable actor.

As for the presentation of OCD, I think they may have overdone it. I believe they wanted to really expand the seriousness of what this guy goes through on a daily basis, but it was like he was every form of the disorder, which naturally feels rare and kind of fake…however, they presented the problems honestly and accurately. So, it may be a bit more rare than what the typical person with OCD experiences, but rare doesn’t mean impossible. So you may have to accept that Nicholson’s character is really screwed with OCD, but he at least acts it out beautifully, and that’s really what matters.

The Good:

As Good as it Gets is a surprisingly wonderful movie that beautifully portrays people with various problems that are often misunderstood, and it paints a portrait of combining three incomplete individuals to create unique symmetry, which is a very special sight.

The Bad:

As great of a symbolic movie this film can be, it still has the flaw of overreaching itself. The three together make a really nice friendship trio, but the romantic subplot with Nicholson and Hunt felt way too weird for it’s own good. It would have been a lot stronger if they didn’t try so hard for the two to be a couple.

Flubber (1997)

Flubber

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Better if younger.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

Ever read those “you know you’re a ‘90s kid if…” posts? Well I have, and I am usually surprised how accurate those things can be. Kids like me who grew up in the ‘90s probably remember Robin Williams in a little Disney movie called Flubber. What was so special about this movie is that not only kids could love it, but parents would want to watch it with them, as it’s actually a remake of an older film called The Absent-Minded Professor. I’m sure I’ve seen both at some point, but it’s been way too long…like…fourteen years long. Plus, who wouldn’t pass up on seeing another Robin Williams movie anyway?

Flubber centers on Professor Philip Brainard (Robin Williams), who is a brilliant scientist that has the unfortunate predicament of being forgetful…about a lot of things. The man forgot about his own wedding…three times. He just has a lot on his plate. For two years, he has been working on one scientific discovery that would change everything, but the school he’s working at is shutting down unless they get financial backing soon. That’s when he accidentally discovers Flubber, a flying rubbery substance. The flubber in question can be made into anything, like a cream or spray, or you know…a living organism. Professor Brainard’s brilliant plan to save the school obviously starts with…cheating on a basketball game.

For a Disney movie, this film sure is cluttered. Kids like simplicity, and to be honest, there was no good reason why this had to be so wrapped up in a bunch of stories. Heck, it just left me feeling absent-minded. Let’s see, there was the story about trying to save the school, about saving the Professor’s relationsip/marriage, about the Wilson guy trying to steal all of the professor’s work, and of course all of the sciencey stuff with Flubber and of course – the professor’s flying robot that has fallen deeply in love with him. He’s over here, inventing a robot that is actually capable of falling in love, and he’s worried about a bouncing agent? I think you have something backwards there, Professor.

For the sake of argument, let’s just stick with the Flubber plot, since that’s the title of the movie and the main reason you’re watching it in the first place. As a kid you get it, these little things are fun to look at and create a heck of a lot of havoc. It’s filled with a lot of physical humor and halfway decent visuals. On a technical level, I totally get it, but on a story level, I don’t. It’s not that great of a story, because he uses this thing to cheat on a basketball game. In the end, that is the main thing he uses it for. It’s cool to see how many things are affected by this mysterious green goo, but there’s only so much you can actually do with “bouncy”. I think the main issue was with the decision of structure.

The first version of Flubber he creates is the one with artificial intelligence and a mind of it’s own, but for some reason, that version is mostly ignored in the movie, while he goes on to make other versions of it that don’t have a living concious. If they did this backwards, it would have been better. Imagine the absent-minded professor, who gets so worked up in his work that he crosses the barrier of ethics, and his science creates life. The last version of Flubber would be the one with the mind of it’s own. It would be a completely different movie, but at least the one that’s alive wouldn’t be so incredibly ignored. Seriously. There’s two main scenes with the living Flubber, and these are scenes that are primarily just there for laughs, and don’t advance the story…which is sad.

The Good:

The movie would downright be awful if it weren’t for Robin Williams, who is able to keep that balance of funny guy and serious guy at bay. I don’t really care for anyone else, but at least he fits into the role pretty well. This movie also feels remarkably original and does a great job at making science look fun.

The Bad:

This is a Disney movie that should have had an easy plot. There was no reason for it to have so many plots, and the ones they did have didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I honestly don’t think this was written very well, but as it is, kids would probably still like it.

Memorable Quote:

Phillip Brainard: I love you with every cell, with every atom. I love you on a subatomic level.