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‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ Review: A Series Headed For Extinction

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‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ Review: A Series Headed For Extinction

The last Jurassic World ended with a bold twist: It made the movie’s title literal. Jurassic Park’s surviving dinosaurs got released into the wild and promptly knocked mankind off the top of the food chain. It was a surprising cliffhanger and, if nothing else, guaranteed that the next Jurassic World wouldn’t be another tired story about a couple of brave survivors trying to escape a secluded nature preserve full of dinosaurs.

Or maybe not. The strangest part of Jurassic World: Dominion is that it not only doesn’t answer its predecessor’s central question — How would humanity co-exist with dinosaurs? — it doesn’t even try. Instead, it quickly devolves into yet another tale of brave heroes running from scary dinos in a remote location. Its only novel element: Bringing together the current Jurassic cast, primarily Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, and the alumni from the very first Jurassic Park: Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum.

One would assume, given their respective backgrounds, that dinosaurs would be the thing to unite all these people. One would be wrong. Sure, there are a bunch of raptors and a T. rex or two on hand to occasionally chase (but never catch) the heroes. But that’s all dinosaurs are in Jurassic World Dominion. They’re plot devices; puppets the screenwriters manipulate in order to provoke action scenes and jump scares. The wonder, the majesty, the intellectual curiosity, and the satire from Michael Crichton’s original premise and Steven Spielberg’s first film have long since gone extinct in this series.

In their place, we get a bunch of pointless action sequences and a lot of hopscotching around the world while various villains continue the Jurassic World franchise’s unblemished record of antagonists who make the dumbest possible decisions at every single moment. When a tech company named BioSyn gets their hands on Jurassic Park’s technology, what they choose to do with it threatens to wipe out all life on Earth. Purely by chance, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Dern) is the first person to catch wind of what BioSyn’s doing, and she recruits her old flame, paleontologist Alan Grant (Neill), to help her expose the conspiracy. Later, they get an additional assist from chaotician and fellow Jurassic Park survivor Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), who’s been working at BioSyn for six weeks and already has access to all of the company’s most top secret and incriminating laboratories.

Satler, Grant, and Malcolm work very hard to uncover the truth, but it feels like a task beneath the intelligence of these great scientific minds. The bad guys murder and kidnap people at will and leave obvious clues to their nefarious schemes all over the planet; Inspector Gadget could have solved this mystery. Also, their name is BioSyn! I guess calling them MegaEvilCorp would have been too on the nose.

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Chris Pratt’s former raptor trainer turned dino herder Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s former Jurassic World manager turned dino rights activist Claire Dearing get mixed up in the older characters’ quest after the same evil tech company nabs their teenage daughter (Isabella Sermon), the world’s first cloned human that you totally forgot was introduced in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. (Or at least I did.) The guy behind all these evil schemes is Lewis Dodgson, a bit player from the first Jurassic Park — he was the guy who paid Wayne Knight to smuggle dino embryos off the island in a Barbasol can — now played by a very overqualified Campbell Scott.

But then everyone is overqualified in this movie. These are all gifted, charismatic performers. The old Jurassic Park gang have aged impossibly well and it’s fun to see them back together, if only to debate whether Neill, Goldblum, or Dern have the best hair. (My vote: Goldblum — but it’s close.) Their innate likability does not change the fact that there isn’t a single valid reason for any of them to play a significant role in this story. Why are a paleobotanist, a paleontologist, and a math theorist skulking around a tech company campus looking for data?

Imagine a Ghostbusters sequel where the Ghostbusters became corporate whistleblowers instead of catching ghosts and you start to get the idea (or lack of one) here.The only reason these actors are in Jurassic World: Dominion is because legacyquels are big business in Hollywood these days, and after two so-so Jurassic World movies, director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow needed something to make this one look a bit different and special.

Alas, Dominion is just more of the same. More banal platitudes about the dangers of science run amok. More breathless chases involving dinosaurs who can keep pace with a jeep and yet never manage to catch the humans when they’re running on foot. More scenes where an idyllic and flawless dino sanctuary completely collapses in a matter of minutes. More scenes where Chris Pratt’s unflappable and impervious action dude gets a dinosaur to stop attacking him simply by sticking his hand in front of its face. (Later, he teaches the other characters this trick and then they’re all controlling raptors by shoving their hands in their faces.)

Jurassic World: Dominion’s marketing materials bill the film as “The Epic Conclusion of the Jurassic Era.” For all of our sakes, I hope they’re right. The efforts of a very fine cast do little to mitigate the feeling that this franchise has completely run out of steam. Trevorrow and his team have steadfastly refused to learn their own film’s message: You should never bring a dead thing back to life, no matter how beautiful or unique it was.

Additional Thoughts:

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-Before you tweet or email me: Yes, I know the BioSyn name comes from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novels. It’s still a silly name for a tech company that want to con people into think it’s not pure evil.

-This movie has to set a record for the most tasers in a Hollywood production. There’s a taser in every scene! If you want a very effective Jurassic World: Dominion drinking game — and this movie is bad enough that you might need one to get through it — take a shot anytime a character zaps someone or something with a taser.

-Or here’s another drinking game idea: Take a shot any time a Jurassic Park character meets a Jurassic World character (or vice versa) and somehow knows exactly who they are. “Hey, you’re Owen Grady! I know you! You trained raptors!” “You’re Dr. Sattler! You were at Jurassic Park!” “Wait, aren’t you Ian Malcolm?” Everyone in this film not only knows everyone else, they’ve apparently read their resumes.

-I still cannot believe they ended Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by unleashing dinosaurs on the entire world, and then made a sequel that did absolutely nothing with that concept. Apparently the answer to the question “How would life be different if dinosaurs lived among us?” is “Not very different.”

RATING: 3/10

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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