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New Escapist Column! On “The Lost World” as a Nasty and Subversive Spielbergian Sequel…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Jurassic World Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the best sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

The Lost World was somewhat maligned on initial release, with much of the criticism hinging on how dark and how cynical the movie was perceive to be. This was seen as something of a betrayal of the audience, with Spielberg sacrificing wonder and majesty for terror and horror. However, this is the most interesting thing about the movie. It is Spielberg playing with horror in a very deliberate and conscious way. If the original Jurassic Park was a movie about the majesty and spectacle of blockbuster filmmaking, The Lost World can feel like a horror movie about turning such a project into a sequel.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Jurassic Park” as a Movie About Fatherhood…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the looming release of Jurassic World: Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the original Jurassic Park.

Spielberg’s classic is regarded as one of the defining summer blockbusters, and deservedly so. However, Jurassic Park is also a quintessential Spielberg film, dealing with some of the director’s core themes and preoccupations. Like so many Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park is a movie that is essentially about fatherhood, and about what it means to be a father in a radically changing and evolving world. It’s an interesting exploration of an idea that preoccupies Spielberg as a filmmaker, and which spoke to the cultural anxieties of the era that produced it.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the MonsterVerse Has Forsaken Awe and Wonder…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good opportunity to look at the film in the context of the larger MonsterVerse – in particular, Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla vs. Kong is pure spectacle. The film features a host of impressive and showstopping sequences, including two major bouts between the title characters. However, there is something missing in all of this carnage. Like King of the Monsters before it, and like a lot of other modern blockbusters, there’s a curious lack of awe and wonder to the spectacle on display.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

A smashing success?

225. Jurassic Park (#165)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jess Dunne and Alex Towers, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

Billionaire Richard Hammond is building a new sort of theme park. However, when an accident on site makes the investors nervous, Hammond is forced to invite a panel of experts to his remote island for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that doesn’t go exactly according to plan.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 165th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On How “Jurassic Park” Increasingly Feels Like a Warning About Itself…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. For no reason other than because I watched it this week, I took a look at Jurassic Park and how it feels strangely prophetic.

Jurassic Park is many things: a cautionary tale about science run amok, about mankind’s hubris, about dads. However, watched decades later, it stands out as a cautionary tale about the kind of movie that it is. Jurassic Park is one of the best blockbusters ever made, but it was also a game-changer. It seemed to herald a revolution in computer-generated imagery that fundamentally altered the blockbuster landscape. In that sense, the film’s anxiety about the unforeseen consequences of these sorts of innovations, and of bringing the past to life again, have aged very well.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: The Meg

The Meg is proof that bigger is not always better.

There are moments when The Meg works beautifully, the film embracing its ridiculous concept by going all-in on a couple of absurdly heightened images. There are a number of shots in The Meg, particularly towards the climax, that are gleefully and unapologetically “too much.” It would undercut these moments to discuss them in any great detail in a review of the film, particularly since they are the moments when everything in the film seems to click into place. In these beats, there is a reckless abandon, as if the film understands the appeal of “Jason Statham in Jurassic Shark.”

Lifeboats find a way.

Unfortunately, these moments serve to highlight what is missing from so much of the rest of the film. The Meg is a movie committed to the idea of “more”, but is more invested in promise than in delivery. Everything in The Meg happens at breakneck pace, to the point where the first act of the film might make a compelling blockbuster on its own terms, given room to breath. However, like the sea-faring predator that inspired it, The Meg is eager to get to the next thing and the next thing after that. The result is a movie that feels rushed, but never urgent.

The Meg is so busy trying to heighten its stakes and its scale that it never quite manages to establish them.

Don’t bait him!

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Non-Review Review: Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is an intriguing and compelling mess of a film. It is shrewd and clever, if never entirely human.

Director J.A. Bayona might be the first director since Spielberg to put his own unique slant on the Jurassic Park franchise, to move with just enough confidence and faith in his own stylistic sensibilities to escape the shadow of the legendary director who turned a pulpy novel into a beloved family classic. Bayona does that by allowing his own stylistic sensibilities to shine through, to embrace his own interest and to engage with the material on his own terms.

Dino escape.

Fallen Kindom walks a fine line. It is very much a creature grown in a laboratory to satisfy the demands of the larger franchise. There are elements here that exist purely because they are expected, because they are signifiers of what a “Jurassic Park movie” should look like, including both returning characters and new characters fashioned after familiar archetypes. At the same time, there is a coy and wry self-awareness to Fallen Kingdom that was sorely lacking from Jurassic World, a cynicism about its own nature that integrates rather neatly into its larger worldview.

Although it may be damning with faint praise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is easily the best Jurassic Park movie since Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the film in the franchise with which it shares most of its DNA.

Things are heating up.

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Non-Review Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World is very self-aware.

Introducing visitors to the eponymous theme park, an audio recording assures them that the elevated train is passing through the original gates of the park. One of the techies working in the operations centre wears a “vintage” t-shirt from the original park – conceding that it might be “in poor taste.” Nostalgia is the name of the game, and the theme park basks in it. There are landmarks built to the amber that held the mosquito from the original film, and a giant bronze statue of Richard Hammond.

"Mommy's being blatantly emulated..."

“Mommy’s being blatantly emulated…”

So does the film. No opportunity for shout-out or homage is missed. When John Williams returned to work on Jurassic Park: The Lost World, he only broken out the powerful theme for very special moments – crafting a largely original score for the sequel. Not Jurassic World. It seems like every time a character does something, the theme blares. Open the gates? Theme blares! Drive through herd of dinosaurs? Theme blares! Open doors to balcony in resort room? Theme blares!

There is something relentlessly cynical about Jurassic World. The film is based around attempts at Ingen to build a designer dinosaur, one assembled from random bits of other dinosaurs. Nobody except the geneticists seem to know exactly what’s in it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s bits and pieces of what everybody’s seen before, and they’ll love it, right? The fact that Jurassic World basks in this meta-commentary hints at a sly subversive streak, but they film seems more smug than sophisticated.

Feeding time...

Feeding time…

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Non-Review Review: Walking With Dinosaurs – The 3D Movie

You never really grow up past the love of dinosaurs. Sure, you are probably never as relentlessly fascinated with the gigantic reptiles as you were when you were a kid, but those prehistoric creatures still garner affection from children of all ages. That was, after all, the basic premise of Jurassic Park, which got a high-profile 20th anniversary re-release this year. It was also the driving force behind Walking With Dinosaurs, the ground-breaking CGI documentary broadcast on the BBC in the UK and on Discovery in America.

So adapting the show to film seems like a logical step, and Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is a bit of a no-brainer for a holiday family release, especially with families that have children too young to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug or Anchorman: The Legend Continues and who have already seen Frozen. It’s a concept that really sells itself, which makes it incredibly frustrating that Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie goes out of its way to sabotage itself.

"It was a night like this, forty million years ago..."

“It was a night like this, forty million years ago…”

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Non-Review Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is like an extended visual sugar hit. There’s always something happening, the characters seem in perpetual motion, and there’s never a moment where the audience is allowed to catch up. A technicolour marvel, there’s an endearing energy to all this, allowing the plot’s riff on classic monster movies (from King Kong to Jurassic Park) to become infectiously enjoyable. There are moments where the movie almost seems too sweet and too insubstantial, but they are only fleeting – there’s another neat visual gag, corny pun, or exciting slapstick joke only ever seconds away.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is hardly food for the soul, but it’s certainly a satisfying meal.

A berry good idea...

A berry good idea…

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