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Jurassic Park (1993)
Unlike the dinosaurs, Jurassic Park never gets old
I was the dinosaur kid growing up. Books, toys, movies, drawings, my eight year old imagination was often filled with images of meat-eaters, plant eaters, T. rexes and triceratopses. So one could figure that watching Jurassic Park for the first time was a milestone for me. Technically, I did not see the suspenseful opening scene the first time because I was cowering through it. After that, the movie eased up and I was able to take in all of the thrill that the characters, story, music and, yes, the dinosaurs brought to it. The film was everything I had hoped it would be.
A decade and a half later Jurassic Park still holds up as an incredibly rewatchable movie, right up there with big hits like The Dark Knight and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's also super quotable. Instead of covering my eyes in the opening scene I enjoy anticipating each line as it comes, almost like a game. Ian Malcom's character, played by Jeff Goldblum in perhaps his most iconic role, has some classic deliveries. "Dino d-droppings? Droppings?" That line itself is too much fun, and there are dozens of others that stay with you.
Do not think I am all tongue-in-cheek about what makes the film enjoyable, however. Jurassic Park is extremely well made. In addition to the dialogue, the story is very effective. While it can be corny at times, its strength lies in the fact that it does not try to do too much with the dinosaurs and with the carnage people often associate with monster films (which is what JP is at its core). This allows the film to be more concentrated on one location and a small set of characters, and thus make the overall story stronger. It also helps with the suspense! With Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg has mastered the art of the monster film by not revealing too much of the dinosaurs too early. These were techniques he certainly learned while working with B-movies and ones he further cultivated with Jaws as well. But Jurassic Park's effects blow the shark flick's out of the water. Not only does the CGI from Jurassic Park look more realistic than the one from Jurassic World (released more than two decades later!), the crew even created legitimate animatronic dinosaurs that were as close to perfect as anyone has ever attempted. Put that all together and you have a film whose special effects make it timeless.
I haven't even gotten to the music yet! John's Williams' score for the film is tied to its legacy in the same vein as the dinosaurs and Ian Malcolm are. I cannot imagine the film scored any other way. The music will stick with you just as much as the memorable lines.
I may be biased towards Jurassic Park, as it is intrinsically tied to my childhood. But unlike other movies from my early days, I still find myself watching it again and again. The story may not be the deepest, although it does contain an important message about the power of the natural world, but the craft and wonder that is behind the production make you feel transported whenever you watch. It is a special moment when John Hammond steps out onto the field and utters the famous words, "Welcome to Jurassic Park." Even on the twentieth viewing, it still feels as if you have arrived for the first time.
A great character study and crime film
Director Michael Mann sure loves his diner scenes. The scene in which Frank takes Jessie to the diner might very well be my favorite of the film, as it steadily proves that this more than just a film about heists and tough guys. James Caan is perfectly cast as Frank, and throughout the film he holds the weight of his performance up as if it were only five pounds, portraying Frank as tough, fearless and thick skinned. But in the diner, as well as in his interactions with Okla (played by Willie Nelson!!!) he is able to open us up to more. The photo Frank has in his wallet is a very strange yet alluring glimpse inside his mind and his heart that he would not otherwise show. Tuesday Weld's reactions as Jessie also help show us how he is slowly winning her over not just by being aggressive, but by showing vulnerability. From then on, I knew the film had established itself as a great one, as I now clearly understood Frank's true motivations. It proved to me that the film is just as much a character study than is a heist and gangster film. And boy, does it deliver on both fronts.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The Ultimate Popcorn Movie
The best thing I can compare Avengers: Infinity War to is a high speed roller coaster. From the first action sequence to the last the viewer is flung around various battles, universes and emotions. Thanos was much better developed than I expected, and seeing many characters from different films finally interact was rewarding for those who have been watching MCU films since they first came out. While IW was not the best or deepest super hero movie I've seen, it is unlike any other cinematic experience I have ever had. It's easily the closest I've felt to reliving Saturday morning super hero cartoons in theaters, especially with the "to be continued" ending. I was expecting pure fun and I got exactly that. Can't wait for the next one.
Fun summer blockbuster
I knew I had to see Fallout as soon as all of the raving reviews came out for it. Although I wasn't as impressed by the story as some of the critics were, the main action sequences were well worth the price of admission, especially the final London chase scene and the climax of the film. The skydiving scene in France was also very well done. I easily see myself watching Fallout again one day when I have spare time to watch a fun, action packed film.
My Favorite Indie Movie
After the credits rolled, Juno had me asking myself the question I don't ask too often, "why did I wait so long to watch this movie?" It is heartwarming, witty, original and unpredictable in all the right ways. The film broke many of my stereotypes about an unwanted pregnancy and all the attitudes that surround it. It was as if Diablo Cody knew my assumptions on what was going to happen or how a character would react to a situation, and then turned my assumption upside down in a satisfying and thought provoking way. This was achieved through the depth of each of the characters, and how my opinions on many of the characters changed throughout the film. While Cody plays with our assumptions on certain characters, Juno herself is pure gold from the first scene. Ellen Page does an incredible job in the lead role, taking Juno's character and witty banter in stride and holding the film together very well. The supporting characters are all memorable in their own way, and most of them win you over by the time the film is over. Props to the filmmakers and actors for really challenging and exceeding our expectations. This is easily the best independent film I have had the pleasure to watch.
Well acted, well crafted and clearly influential
Don't mind the running time, Heat will keep you on its ride for the whole movie. De Niro and Pacino sharing the screen for the first time does not disappoint one bit, and the story is smart, engaging and high octane.
As of fan of The Dark Knight, I immediately realized why many have pointed to Michael Mann as one of the main influences for Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. Many of the heist scenes are echoed in TDK, which goes to show how effective the scenes are.
It is these scenes as well as the investigative scenes from Pacino's character Lt. Hanna that carry the film. The personal life backstories of the main characters are necessary in moving the plot forward and creating an ideological struggle in each person's mind, but they are not what make the film memorable, particularly the angle on Neil, De Niro's character.
Yet I will remember Heat mainly by the way it is carried by De Niro and Pacino, two world-class actors who balance and complement each other perfectly throughout the film, even when they don't share screen time. I shouldn't have put off watching this film for as long as I did. If you have Netflix and three hours to spare, do yourself a favor and watch Heat!
Not great, but better than anticipated.
I chose to watch Tau because I love Gary Oldman and saw that he was credited in the film. I was a little let down by the fact the it is only his voice in the movie, but even then I looked forward to whenever his character showed up. The story isn't great, and neither is the acting, but I still found myself enjoying the look of the film, especially the interior of the house, which gave off a futuristic yet imprisoning mood. This is Frederico D'Alessandro's first feature-length film as a director, and seeing that his background is in the art department of some pretty big movies that rely on that field like Doctor Strange and other Marvel films, it was evident that the visuals were his biggest strength. So I found myself rooting for the film more than I thought I would. I wasn't expecting much story-wise, and it did not really deliver there as some plot points were pretty weak, and the thrills were fairly cheap. But in the end I am glad I watched the film and hope D'Alessandro can combine good visual directing with a compelling story in the future.
The Dark Knight (2008)
One of the defining films of the 2000s
I remember watching all of the trailers for this film and all of the clips before the movie came out (a cardinal sin for moviegoers, I know), and the film still found a way to surprise me and blow me away. I watched it again on a whim recently, probably my 15th viewing or so, and I still noticed new things that left me impressed. Nolan has constructed a story that resembles a classic tragedy or epic than a superhero caper. He turns the traditional superhero arc on its head by centering the struggle not around a villain chasing after an object, money, or even outright power, but around the concept of justice and what it means for Gotham. And he does so through his three main roles in Batman, Harvey Dent and the Joker. The three characters arcs are interwoven. Harvey Dent needs Batman in order to finish off the mob, and Batman looks to pass the torch so he can be free of the burden of crime fighting as well as (and maybe more importantly) be with Rachel, who happens to be dating Dent. This in itself is a set-up for an interesting story, but then Nolan has to throw the Joker in there for good measure, and turns the story from being good, to being one of the greats. The Joker isn't possible without the environment Batman has created, and his ultimate goal isn't possible without Dent. I haven't even begun to talk about the acting performances and the directing, which are also things to behold. There's so much to this film, it is worth watching multiple times and focusing your attention on different aspects each viewing. That is the mark of a truly great film that will live on for decades to come.