Friday, June 22, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

So all the dinosaurs are on Isla Nuba with no human interference after the last fiasco (see Jurassic World). And somehow they are confined there (weird sea gate but only in one place??? flying dinos can't fly to mainland???). When the island volcano begins an eruption cycle, there is discussion about how to save the animals. The old team is brought back together to help save the dinos, are double crossed, and have to improve their way around a bad situation. My critique of this film is primarily that is seems like lazy story-telling. Over and over again, the details don't make sense or are cheap tricks to move to the next stunt (e.g. a brontosaurus is transported, but the largest truck seen is an 18-wheeler, a knife in a crack suddenly pops off an entire pod door, etc.). The only good that can come out of this movie is perhaps it sets up a Planet of the Apes scenario now. Unfortunately, there is only one intelligent dino, so we would again have to take a big leap to make it work.
2 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mojin: The Lost Legend

Three Mojin (tomb raiders) have retired and relocated to New York. They are basically surviving as small time thieves when they are given the opportunity for one last score. They travel back to China under a bit of duress, infiltrate the tomb by solving a bunch of puzzles that only they can solve as a team, discover the treasure and find out about themselves, their history, and what makes them special as a team. Awwwh! Moderately good story, moderately good action, perfect for a late night time killer.
2 stars (out of 5)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fauda (serial)

Season 1 & Season 2

An Israeli made, police/military thriller based on a special military unit whose members pose as Palestinians in their efforts to identify and eliminate (arrest/kill) terrorists. The show is really a fascinating portrayal of the complexity of life in Israel/Palestine, and I think, shows well how no event or action is ever isolated. In each episode and each season, characters are making the best decisions they can based on their current information and current emotion and current threat perception. But as an external viewer, every outcome so obviously connected to those of the past, and it is clearly difficult to break this cycle of violence and action. It struck me as particularly insidious that for any movement away from violence, every single stakeholder and individual must be able to resist the draw of anger/hatred/revenge. If even on person acts with violence, the exponential chain reaction of violence fans out again. I also really feel like the series captures how culture is connected to place. Loved this, as painful as it is to watch sometimes.

Here is a link to an Atlantic article with another perspective on the series.

5 stars (out of 5)

Set it Up

A couple of overly busy, overly self-important bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) have their professional and personal lives run by their overly enabling assistants. Then the assistants meet up and realize that they are missing out on life because of said overly busy bosses, they conspire to have bosses meet, fall in love, and (therefore) have less time for work. Perfect. As the formula goes, it works, and then it doesn't, but in the meantime, the assistants learn about themselves and each other and live happily ever after. Standard fare rom-com. I am not even sure that it had any significant moments, but it didn't suck...
3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ocean's 8

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney's Danny Ocean of 11, 12, & 13. She is recently paroled after 5 years, all of which was used to plot her next heist. The heist is to burgle the Met gala, swiping a few million worth of jewels from the necks of the rich and famous. She needs, and assembles, a team of 7 to pull it off, and proceeds to pull it off. I am definitely a huge fan of a good heist film, and this one had many of the elements of a good heist film: the assembly of the team, each with a clear and unique role specific to the heist; a reveal of enough of the planning to see what is happening, but not all of the planning so there are some reveals during the heist; ; a con within a con; an all star cast playing their roles perfectly; etc. But where this falls flat is the complete lack of tension. Of course in a film like this, all tension is manufactured and overcome as part of the script. But a good film manufactures good tension. Reasonable, unexpected, reliable problems that must be "overcome" in the heat of the moment. There is none of that here. There is some cleverness, and some "oooh, I see...", but never any struggle. I feel like this was in many ways a set up for a trilogy (here comes Ocean's 9 & 10 to complete the series)... and the Ocean's 14 where the two gangs get together... and then... Cynical much?
3 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Sniffer (Serial)

Season 3

More of the same as the first two seasons, but in the best possible way. The Sniffer is trying to navigate "normal life" by finding a girl friend and deal with his manipulative ex-wife. His police partner is trying navigate a work romance. Both get embroiled in a strange plot surrounding the Sniffer's recently departed father. Very enjoyable.

4 stars (out of 5)

King Kong

This Peter Jackson version of the classic story pretty much follows the classic story. Set in the 30's, troubled filmmaker gets funding for film and takes crew on voyage to hunt for mysterious Skull Island. Finds dinosaurs and King Kong, who happens to fall in love with the leading lady. Capture Kong and return to New York for broadway debut (what could go wrong). Climb Empire State Building and swipe at planes. Perhaps the most telling part of this film is that it clocks in at over 3 hours. Visually, pretty cool. Storywise... not so much.
2 stars (out of 5)