On Wednesday, I went 2-2; 1 for my #BlockbusterJuly project and 1 for my #SummerWithHitchcock project.
Jurassic World (2015)
Box Office ranking: #4
Worldwide gross: $1,671,713,208
This one, I wanted to see for a while. I love the original, and even think the second and third parts have worthy parts. The good ($great!$) reception from critics and audiences that this one got was further motivation to check it out, and for the most part, I agree with them. Jurassic World is not without its problems, but I still think it is a pretty good, fun ride.
20 or so years after the events of the original Jurassic Park, a full-blown theme park called Jurassic World is already established at Isla Nublar, led by Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Claire is a calculated workaholic that has no time for anything else, not even family. One of the park attractions are the well-known raptors, now domesticated by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy veteran and raptor trainer. Obviously, things at the park go awry just when Claire's young nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are visiting, and it's up to Owen and Claire to save her nephews and the day.
For its first half, Jurassic World was a pretty good spectacle of tense buildup and great action. The new characters were solid and fun to watch. Special kudos to Chris Pratt who creates a cool and fun character in Owen Grady, and Vincent D'Onofrio, who relishes his role as mischievous security chief Vic Hoskins. The two kids were also pretty good in their roles, and it was also good to see BD Wong reprise his role from the original. After one hour, I was loving it and was ready to give this a solid A or A-, just on plain entertainment.
The second half was a bit more problematic, though. For some reason, Colin Trevorrow and his co-writers sorta lose control of things in it. I had issues with the characterization of Claire, the character, not the performance, and how she evolves. Starting with her shift from cold and distant workaholic to kick-ass, heroine/aunt and ending with the love relationship with Owen, neither of which felt organic nor believable. Second, I had some minor complaints with how Trevorrow handled some moments. For the most part, he proved he is a capable director that knows how to build tension, and knows his way around an action setpiece. However, in more than one occassion, I think he botched the overall effect of specific scenes.
Despite these issues, I can still say I really enjoyed the film. I wishes the film would've stayed at the level it was through the first half, but despite the issues that arose in the second half, I still thought it was a fun ride. Grade: probably a B+
My other Wednesday watch was for Hitchcock...
The Lady Vanishes (1938) was the last film of what has been referred to as Hitchcock's "thriller sextet" before his move to Hollywood. Like the five films before, it was also a fun and enjoyable ride.
The film follows a group of tourists stranded on a remote European inn due to an avalanche. When they all board a train back, an elderly woman misteriously disappears and her companion, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), is determined to find her with the help of a musician called Gil (Michael Redgrave). Things get more mysterious when multiple travelers that had been in contact with the lady, deny having seen her for different reasons.
The biggest strength of The Lady Vanishes lies in its wonderful cast. Lockwood was solid as the lead, but Redgrave was a scene-stealer. Charming and funny, I was surprised to see it was his first film role. In addition, the rest of their travel companions are just as alive and colorful, particularly a psychologist (Paul Lukas) and a pair of cricket enthusiasts (Naunton Wayne & Basil Radford).
Through all of its duration, Hitchcock manages to present an enjoyable film while also building intrigue and tension. It all ends with a particularly tense confrontation in the last act that has darker shades than the rest of the film. At the end of the day, the motivations for the disappearance of the lady end up being a MacGuffin, but the ride is all worth it. Grade: B+