Jurassic Park III (2001) Written by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor Directed by Joe Johnston Runtime 92 min. 3 out of 5
When Erik Kirby goes missing on Isla Sorna (InGen’s Site B), his parents, Paul and Amanda, hire Dr. Alan Grant under the pretense of a “tour” in order to find him.
The plane crashes and Alan finds himself back in the same situation he’s been trying so hard to forget: being trapped in Jurassic Park.
Sam Neill as Alan Grant is one of my favorite performances ever. There’s such an air of seriousness and intensity that Sam brings to the role every time. He can be funny, sure, but his character presentation commands a respect from his fellow actors that you don’t see that often in film.
William H. Macy, another favorite of mine, plays Paul Kirby, the bumbling yet-trying-to-be-cool dad. Terrific. He was serious, clumsy, just fantastic. Every film Macy’s in has never let me down and this movie delivers a wonderful Macy performance. There’s something about the pacing of his line delivery that gets to me, too. It’s a guy who’s insecure but tries his best to put a confident spin on things no matter what.
The dinosaurs, as always, look real. They’re huge, they’re scary, they’re loud. The only problem with these Jurassic sequels is the dinosaurs aren’t new and terrifying anymore. They were in the first movie, not so much now. However, there are a few dino attacks in Jurassic Park 3 that weren’t in the others, making the viewing of this film worthwhile.
Michael Jeter (The Green Mile), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), John Diehl (Pearl Harbor) and Téa Leoni (A League of Their Own) also star.
The Rocketeer (1991) Written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo Directed by Joe Johnston Runtime 108 min. 4 out of 5
When Cliff Secord stumbles upon a rocket pack stashed away in an airplane, him and his friend Peevy soon find themselves on the run from gangsters with ties to the Nazis.
I saw this back when I was a kid and it’s still one of my favorite superhero flicks, namely because it’s historical, has a very human superhero, and is about flying. I mean, who doesn’t want to fly? Better, who doesn’t want to think they can somehow piece together a rocket pack, strap it on and take to the sky?
What makes this superhero movie different is it’s not about a guy going around and helping people while trying to juggle a secret identity and, later, ultimately facing off against a supervillain. Instead, it’s about someone who has something the bad guys want and spends all his time running from them, occasionally helping people along the way. So while true the standard superhero “ingredients” are there, they’re presented outside of the standard formula thus setting this flick apart. Couple that with it taking place in the past during a simpler time—a classier time, too—and you’ve got a memorable movie.
I like how they also blended real life history into this, namely bringing in Howard Hughes as the designer of the rocket pack. Very cool. Throw in a Nazi as a main villain and you’ve got some solid Good vs Evil going on. Speaking of which, Timothy Dalton as Neville Sinclair the Nazi was awesome. He was super evil in this and once you found out who he really was you just hated the guy. You gotta love villains you can hate and feel justified in doing so.
There was certainly a pulpy feel to this movie, which is good, as the Rocketeer is an old time hero, a pulp hero, in fact. They kept that element alive, even so far as having him go up against a giant goon with a unique visage. Reminded me of the Dick Tracy villains. Sweet.
If you dig pulp heroes, The Rocketeer is definitely recommended viewing. Go see for yourself.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely Directed by Joe Johnston Runtime 124 min. 4 out of 5
It’s World War II and the US Army needs to up its game in its war against the villainous Nazis under the command of Adolf Hitler.
Enter Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a little guy from Brooklyn with all sorts of health problems, but who has possibly the strongest sense of morals and courage than any man on the front line. Unfortunately, due to his fragility, Steve is not allowed to join the American army despite multiple tries. A scientist experimenting in a super soldier serum for the US army notices this and offers him a chance to take part in a dangerous procedure that, if it goes well, will grant Steve superhuman-like abilities and enable him to be an ultimate man, athlete and warrior. Steve accepts and transforms into the world’s first super soldier: Captain America.
Meanwhile, the first test subject of the serum, Johann Schmidt—aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)—has come into possession of the Tesseract cube, a powerful energy source rumored to be from Asgard. His plan? Nothing less than overthrowing Hitler himself and taking over the world.
If only we had a super soldier to stop him. Wait . . . we do.
His name is Captain America.
Like all good fanboys, I saw this movie in the theatre. Having grown up on the cheesy Captain America movies starring Reb Brown and, later, the 1990 version with Matt Salinger, a part of me, I admit, was waiting for a repeat of the 1990 film (in the general sense). I was more interested in how Captain America: The First Avenger would tie into the then-upcoming The Avengers and this movie didn’t disappoint.
The introduction of the Tesseract—which would be key in The Avengers—was real smart on the filmmakers’ part because not only did it point to the forthcoming ensemble film, but also gave a quick link to the Thor movie as well.
Watching Chris Evans as Steve Rogers was fantastic. He really suits the role and played it perfectly. I wasn’t sure how the once-Human Torch—all witty and sarcastic—would fare as the famous super soldier, and I’m glad Chris Evans proved he can play a kind of Superman-like character as well. Seeing him play both the small, frail Steve Rogers (facially, anyway, as someone else’s body was used), to playing the suped-up Steve made the film truly a story about how our greatest power lies within as opposed to externally.
Likewise, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull did a great job, especially since playing villains is no strange task to Weaving (Agent Smith, anyone?). Even with the German haircut he looked different never mind later when his red skull visage was revealed.
The story was simple and, like the first Spider-Man movie, I left the theatre underwhelmed. After seeing it a second time, I saw it for what it was and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the end battle was anti-climactic. It didn’t need to be an all-out brawl between Cap and Red Skull, but it felt brief considering these two are the heads and tails of the same coin. Some sort of super soldier/titan clash would have punched up the ending. Speaking of which, the ending of this movie has one of the best last lines to a flick ever. It was the kind of line I try to end my own novels on, one that finishes the tale but also has a punch to it.
As far as superhero stories go, the World War II setting gave the genre a breath of fresh air movie-wise as, thus far, pretty much every super flick to come out recently is all set in the modern day. Alternate times and/or worlds with a superhero figure are few and far between. The Spirit is the only one that comes to mind in this regard.
After this movie and The Avengers, I’m excited to see Captain America: Winter Soldier, which is presently set for 2014.