Friday, January 13, 2023

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Length:  2h 26min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Amblin Entertainment, Latina Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, Universal Pictures, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Starz!, Peacock, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writers: Emily Carmichael, Derek Connolly, Michael Crichton
Actors: BD Wong, Bryce Dallas Howard, Campbell Scott, Chris Pratt, Daniella Pineda, DeWanda Wise, Dichen Lachman, Isabella Sermon, Jake M. Johnson, Jeff Goldblum, Justice Smith, Kristoffer Polaha, Laura Dern, Mamoudou Athie, Omar Sy, Sam Neill, Scott Haze
IMDb Blurb: Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live--and hunt--alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history's most fearsome creatures in a new Era.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park series. The first is one of my favorite movies ever, and I can find good in all the rest of them. I even enjoy Jurassic Park III (2001), to a point. It would be very hard for any movie in the series to make me feel like I wouldn’t watch it again.
I’ve heard a lot about Dominion at this point, none of it good. Nevertheless, I was ready to make my own decisions. I’m willing to forgive a whole lot when it comes to the dinosaur goodness that is the Jurassic series. I did try to see good here, but there really wasn’t a whole lot to grab onto.
At least, in the first half.
By only a half hour in, I was already done with Jurassic World: Dominion. The lingering exposition, the badly timed – hollow – nostalgia aspects and the janky dialogue had me shaking my head. It was lazy.
It felt like Jurassic World: Dominion was to the Jurassic series what Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) was to the MCU. It’d gone so far that it looped around to parody.
And at least you could laugh at Thor: Love and Thunder.

The second half was a bit better. There were several action scenes that got my blood pumping, and the inclusion of feathers on some of the dinosaurs felt like an upgrade. Even the script seemed to get better.
I don’t think the second half was enough to save the film for me, but it made me a little less angry at it.
The biggest issue I had was the graphics.
One of the most amazing things about the original Jurassic Park (1993) was the insane use of animatronics that keep it looking up to date even 30 years later. It became the best example of a film utilizing practical effects in a way that elevated it way above anything CGI could create alone. Phil Tippett’s (Mad God, Starship Troopers, RoboCop) visual effects made Jurassic Park what it was. As a result, I continue to expect good things – at least in visual effects – where the Jurassic series is concerned.
Even when the effects looked alright, the movements in Jurassic World: Dominion were still exceptionally janky. It’s something I could look past in other franchises – but not in the Jurassic series. Those effects are what the whole damn thing was built on.
It felt like spitting in the face of everything the series once was.
In the end, Jurassic World: Dominion was a disappointment. If they continue the story, I hope they go back to their roots. 

Cat’s Point of View:
Jurassic Park – the book – remains one of my favorites of all time, and so is the franchise launched with the titular 1993 movie. The first and last movies of this 6-film journey are bookends to one hell of a sci-fi journey down the rabbit hole of genetic ethics and the dinosaur fantasies of our youth.
The pair of novels penned by the late Michael Crichton and used as source material for these productions also remain dear to me. Just remember, if you’ve read them the movies need to be taken with not a grain, but a chunk of salt. The very first movie tosses the progression of the story out the window by the end. I’ve never attended these movies with the expectation that I’d see the pages of the novels come to life verbatim. I just wanted to see the dinosaurs and go on an adventure.
That very adventure has led here, to Jurassic World: Dominion, and it was everything I hoped it would be – and more.
The Jurassic franchise has always ensnared my imagination with wonder at the scope of the practical effects of the dinosaurs. I could easily place myself in the shoes of the characters on the screen and felt awe at their experiences because they looked and felt real. The narrative has always been a secondary factor for me. I was very happy that this second trilogy had enough teeth to keep me interested – both literally and otherwise. This final installment was no different. In fact, Jurassic World: Dominion had reportedly more practical animatronic dinosaur effects than the last two movies.
Further, that the production team has remained dedicated to preserving the science around these ancient creatures through consultation with scientists at the head of their field. Jurassic World: Dominion gave us our first look at feathered dinos and it was gloriously terrifying. There was one in particular that was straight-up nightmare fuel. I can’t even describe it here because you should absolutely get your first impression of it from the screen.

I was absolutely giddy when news broke that the original Jurassic Park trio would be returning together in Jurassic World: Dominion. We got to see an epic team-up with Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and Dr. Malcolm joining Owen Grady and Claire Dearing through yet another harrowing dino-riddled landscape. I really don’t have any faults with any of the cast. I’m never really watching these films caring about that sort of thing, though. I will say that there weren’t any performances that took me out of the experience – that is, ultimately, what was important here.
I have always appreciated how the Jurassic World trilogy has made so many subtle nods to the original movies. There have been myriad little Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout that either bring up nostalgia from the first or are point-blank callbacks to the first three productions. Jurassic World: Dominion is no different. There was one particular Easter Egg… well maybe two… that had me nudging my kid next to me in the movie theater and whispering “look at THAT, it’s the [thing] from the earlier movie.”
That’s right. I watched this one in the theater, originally. I don’t get to do that very often lately but there are some movies that I will go out of my way to cram into the budget. Jurassic World: Dominion was one of them and I don’t regret it for a second. I’ve watched this movie several times since then via streaming and On Demand. I will likely watch it more in the future.
If you have enjoyed these movies, I encourage you to absolutely give Jurassic World: Dominion a shot. I believe you’ll be glad that you did. The series is tied up very nicely on many layers. I was very satisfied with how this ride ended.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 29%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 77%
Metascore – 38%
Metacritic User Score – 4.9/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Smile (2022)

Streaming Service: Paramount +
Movie Name/Year: Smile (2022)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 1h 55min
Rating: R
Production/DistributionParamount Players, Temple Hill Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment
Director: Parker Finn
Writer: Parker Finn
Actors: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, Gillian Zinser, Judy Reyes, Nick Arapoglou, Matthew Lamb
Blurb from IMDb: After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Selina’s Point of View:
For a while, Smile was absolutely everywhere. There was more marketing for this flick than there was for anything else last year.
Hype started spinning out of control. I couldn’t turn on anything connected to the internet without hearing something amazing about it. Expectations were high.
I think that might be why I feel a bit underwhelmed now that I’ve seen it.

I’m not saying it was bad. Although a lot of it relied on jump scares, they were effective. There was also a deeper quality that went into the lasting effects of trauma and grief. It was an elevated horror dressed down to be easily digestible by the masses.
In the first half it just felt so common that I was almost bored. I certainly didn’t feel like I was getting enough out of it to warrant all that hype. Especially not after having watched The Menu (2022) for our first movie this week. If anything, I think word of mouth should be pushing that horror instead.
Still, Smile was effective and anxiety inducing. I wish I’d gone into it blind. I feel like it would have had a better experience.

Cat’s Point of View:
The most insidious sort of evil is that which wears a smile as it conspires to harm you. I was instantly down to watch a movie that built on that concept – and the trailers for Smile were unnerving as all hell.
The smiles these actors cooked up – without the aid of CGI – were simply creepy and unsettling. That particular word bears repeating. The whole film was unsettling.
Of course, there were a few jump scares along the way, but don’t knock them. Those brief moments gave a little relief to the mounting tension that began to build from the opening scene. It started off so bleak and just amplified from there with each traumatic occurrence on screen.
I anticipated a decent movie but didn’t expect how deep the theme would run. The performances, by the by, were outstanding. The reactions of fear, specifically, felt genuine. I had a visceral empathetic reaction to what the characters on screen were experiencing.

Smile explored trauma from so many angles. Further, the attention to detail was absolutely phenomenal. I’ll admit that this was my second watch-through and I picked up new little tidbits here and there that I didn’t catch the first time through. There was even a tattoo that I found significant this time around.
My nineteen-year-old daughter, who has just begun to dabble in watching horror movies with me, was intrigued enough by my explanation of the plot’s summary that she decided to also watch with me this time. Her reaction when the credits rolled could be summed up with a single quote: “What the fuck?!”
Writer and director Parker Finn (The Hidebehind, Laura Hasn't Slept) really had excellent instincts when he expanded his own original short into this feature-length adaptation. I would say Smile could even be called intelligent horror. It had something to add to the grisly deaths and sundry frights. I could see myself watching this one again and would certainly recommend it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 77%
Metascore – 68%
Metacritic User Score – 6.6
IMDB Score –6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 9, 2023

The Menu (2022)


Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: The Menu (2022)
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Thriller
Length:  1h 46min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Alienworx Productions, Hyperobject Industries, Searchlight Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, HBO Max
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Actors: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, John Leguizamo, Nicholas Hoult, Judith Light, Aimee Carrero, Arturo Castro, Christina Brucato, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, Rob Yang
IMDb Blurb: A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve been hearing a lot about The Menu lately. It came out in November of 2022, and I had it as my #5. Despite that, it’s really only in the past couple of weeks that I’ve been seeing clips pop up. I thought we should open the year with it as our first review.
I’m glad I did.
I was no where near prepared for The Menu. It was a screaming statement on class warfare, a whole new way to perceive the saying: ‘eat the rich.’
This was not a jump-scare-riddled horror movie. This was the kind of terrifying visual statement that had me saying, out loud, “what the fuck” pretty often. At no point did I ever have any idea what was going to occur, and still the horrific moments seemed to play out in slow motion as if I was in the room when they happened.

Not only that, but The Menu takes a hard look at what it means for people to insist that everything in the whole world must be elevated and perfect, without ever returning to something simple and fun. Perhaps the critics who think there’s no room for popcorn movies can take a lesson from this elevated horror.
It’s almost amusing to read some of the reviews for The Menu from critics who missed the point entirely.
Ralph Fiennes (The King’s Man, No Time to Die, The Forgiven) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Northman, Last Night in Soho, The New Mutants) did phenomenal work, but they weren’t alone. Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Banker) gave off the impression from the beginning that there was something off with his character, but never ruined the surprise. Hong Chau (The Whale, Showing Up, American Woman) remained stoic, carrying the creepiest aura while on screen. I could say something about every actor playing a patron, but it would take days to write.
I cannot recommend The Menu enough. It was an amazing watch. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I can’t say that I’ve really become a die-hard foodie in the last umpteen years, but I really enjoy watching cooking shows – generally the competitions. I have learned a lot about different ingredients and how to prepare them that way. The judges on these shows tend to use culinary jargon left and right – and some of it does just sound silly if you think about it.
I do love cooking, I just rarely have the energy for anything complicated. These days, complicated is anything that requires me to stand for more than a few minutes at a time or linger in the kitchen after it has hit a certain heat threshold. I recently accepted a Hello Fresh offer and excitedly went to prepare the 2 meals I’d ordered… and was exhausted afterward. They turned out great, though! I digress…
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that The Menu was a glorious mashup of things I enjoy – movies, dark comedy, horror, and food. I was sorely tempted to add ‘taking pretentious people down a peg or two’ to that list, though, I can't say that I've ever participated in or witnessed a 'take-down' quite the way it is presented in The Menu. The element of ‘sticking it to the man’ and revenge was clear within the story and I was all in for it.

The Menu might not be to everyone’s taste, but horror lovers should be able to find at least something to identify with among the meticulously planned thrilling dishes served within the film. Seriously, though, what’s up with the restaurants that charge the equivalent of a mortgage payment to serve you a few bites of fancy-plated food? 
The Menu absolutely pokes at the establishments like that, as well as pretentious food critics and food bloggers that delay the enjoyment of their meals while they snap a zillion pics for “the ‘gram” first. I loved Anya Taylor-Joy’s (The New Mutants, Last Night in Soho, Peaky Blinders) character Margot’s reaction to the ticket price for a meal at the exclusive island restaurant: "What are we eating, a Rolex?"
I could ramble about the cast further, as they were a large draw to The Menu for me, though I already did that in my #14 entry on November 2022’s Top 20 article. All of them met and exceeded my expectations. In hindsight, I’m wishing I’d placed this movie in a better position on that countdown. It should have rated the Top 10 at the very least. My 19-year-old watched it with me as well, and while she found the movie strange in some ways, she enjoyed it in spite of her general aversion to the horror genre.
I do love a good Motörhead song now and again, as well; and as the final credits rolled, I thought to myself that it was a seriously missed opportunity not including "Eat the Rich" in The Menu’s soundtrack. Even with that said, I was intrigued and entertained by The Menu and would gladly watch it again. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 89%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 76%
Metascore – 71%
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
Movie Trailer: