Jurassic World: A Blockbuster Success, Cinematic Disappointment

Jurassic World
2star
“Corporate felt genetic modification would up the ‘wow’ factor…”

Jurassic World is a solid summer blockbuster–turn off your brain and just enjoy it.” That’s what I was told prior to my 3D dino disaster experience.

But Jurassic World isn’t a commercial disaster; it unquestionably delivers and is a bona fide box office success. Jurassic World opened to $511.8 million worldwide — the highest global bow of all time at the box office opening weekend, and this movie titan will likely reign supreme for the weeks to come. But Jurassic World is exactly what it’s criticizing; people aren’t just ‘wow-ed” by dinosaurs anymore nor do animatronics uphold the scare-factor that 1993’s Jurassic Park created. The dinosaurs have to be bigger, badder and scarier, because no one’s scared of “clever girl” velociraptor anymore.

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It’s been 22 years since Jurassic Park opened in 1993, and times have certainly changed for the summer blockbuster. My expectations weren’t high going into Jurassic World, but, nevertheless, I was enthusiastic about the resurrection of one of my childhood favorites. What I got instead of a saving grace sequel (The Lost World and Jurassic Park III are both forgettable) was a half-baked, over-saturated blockbuster of manufactured entertainment. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to expect from summer blockbusters in the 21st century? All flash and little substance? The bigger the boom the higher the dollar intake? I refuse to believe that a reboot doesn’t have the potential for both commercial success and cinematic greatness, but not even Star Lord could save this one.

In the past summer blockbusters have included Jaws (the original summer blockbuster), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Dark Knight. And I’m supposed to lower my standards for a franchise reboot, because it’s a summer blockbuster? When did we start dumbing down our standards?

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Iris – A Fashion Icon

Iris Apfel

3star
“I’m not a minimalist as I’m sure you’ve noticed!”

Less is not more when it comes to 93-year-old fashion eccentric Iris Apfel. The more the merrier and the greater amount of garb the more layers of creativity to inspire.

Iris follows the fashion maverick Iris Apfel—iconic for bold lenses and a neckline adorned with more costume jewelry than Coco Chanel would ever wear out her front door. But while the topic of fashion may appear superficial, Iris proves that beauty may be evoked at any age with any style.

She and her husband Carl — who turns tumblr_mdtpravDLv1r6sxjfo1_500100 in the film — started out as interior designers, traveling the world every year collecting fabrics, knick-knacks and furniture that they used in refurbishing all sorts of grand manors, including the White House. Then they started their own fabric company, while Iris cultivated her fashion style.

I found looking through the lens of documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (“Grey Gardens”), who passed away in March, was equivalent to a backstage pass at a historical fashion show featuring the icon of costume jewelry excess.

From fashion editors to socialites to bloggers, Iris is one whom many have come to admire throughout the years and look toward for fashion forward inspiration. She’s a unique bird who would rather be the most overdressed to the party and couldn’t care less how outlandish she looks in the process.

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Top 5 Reasons to See Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road
5star
“I live…I die…I live again!”

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Nearly 30 years after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and three years after it began filming, Mad Max: Fury Road has finally been unveiled to a new generation of movie-goers…and the wait has been worth it!

Mad Max: Fury Road is the 2015 post-apocalyptic action film directed, produced and co-written by George Miller. It’s the fourth film in the Mad Max franchise, and it’s being deemed not only the best of the franchise but one of the best action films to date. Fury Road stars Tom Hardy as “Mad” Max Rockatansky, replacing Mel Gibson for the title role. Gibson initially signed on to the project back in the early 2000s, but lost interest when the project was dropped due to filming complications in the Middle East; Miller admit that the actor change was preferable as he wanted Max to remain a younger character as the same “contemporary warrior”.

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The action-heavy flick is set in the distant future where water and fuel are scarce, and civilization is ruled by the malevolent dictator Immortan Joe. Immortan Joe’s tranquility is interrupted when Furiosa (Charlize Theron) helps a handful of his sex slaves escape the Citadel to gain their freedom. On their way to the matriarchal promised land, the women encounter Max on the road, who becomes involved in the search for the promised land with Immortan Joe’s road warrior minions in hot pursuit.

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On the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “Certified Fresh” with a 98% approval rating and an average score of 8.7/10 based on 258 reviews. The site’s consensus reads, “With exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life.”

Anyone familiar with the Mad Max franchise knows certain components of this post-apocalypic world are guaranteed: over-the-top car chases, daring stunts, macho cars and the patriarch behind it all–Max Rockatansky. As someone unfamiliar with the Mad Max movies, I wanted to compose my top reasons to see this film from an outsiders perspective.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 5star
“I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like hamburgers”
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As if the vampire genre hasn’t exhausted the cinema, the self-described “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a fright flick worth experiencing. Ana Lily Amirpour is an Iranian-American film director, screenwriter, producer and actor known for her first feature film “the first Iranian vampire western.” The film made it’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, and it’s based on the short film she wrote and directed by the same title which won “Best Short Film” at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival; she describes the film as more John Hughes than horror. Think Only Lovers Left Alive or Let the Right One In to add to the stylistic library of vampire moderns.

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Top 10 Movies of 2014

Academy Awards

The 2015 Academy Awards have nominated some of the weakest films in recent history. Composing a top 10 of my personal favorite films of the year was partially a struggle with the lack of exceptional movies coupled with a vast majority of mediocre films. One of the most widely positively and negatively talked about films of the year, and the potential Oscar favorite to win, is Boyhood. While I reviewed the film as the most overrated movie of the year, it represents the year as a whole…good, but not great. The Academy appears to be resting on some of the safest films that can be considered important and groundbreaking cinema, but fall on the cusp of mediocrity. There were a lot of great films that got ignored this year that may or may not have made my list like Inherent Vice or Guardians of the Galaxy, but are some great movies that shouldn’t be overlooked by viewers.

This is my third year composing a top ten list, and while I’m satisfied with these 10 films, I’m disappointed in the year as a whole. These are what I consider my personal favorites (not a top 10 of what I consider to be the best in well-rounded cinema). Here’s hoping 2015 has more to offer with greater competition and greater risks in the filmmaking industry.

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Boyhood is the Most Overrated Film of 2014

Boyhood Movie gif2star“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

“It’s been months since I left Boyhood feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with nearly a three-hour viewing, and while I’ve let the film digest, I still don’t get the over-hyped appeal.

With a nearly perfect 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (only five critics out of 258 dared to negatively review) and a 100% ranking at Metacritic (ranks as the highest scored new release for at least this century at Metacritic),  New York Times film critic A.O. Scott hails Boyhood as “one of the most extraordinary movies of the 21st century.” And I’m left here wondering…why?

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The film was recently awarded best picture at the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globes, and it’s the frontrunner for best picture at the Oscars. Director Richard Linklater explains “I wanted the whole film to feel like a memory–how you might feel if you looked back on your life.” But, the memory isn’t compelling. A straight, white boy grows up in a middle-class family to become an arts student. Groundbreaking, no?

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Only Lovers Left Alive Revisits Vampire Genre

Only Lovers Left Alive5star“How can you’ve live for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living.”

If any genre of as been over-explored in our culture, it’s the blood-sucking, vampire genre. But indie director Jim Jarmusch offers a melancholy, hipster-driven film that pushes the boundaries of love for centuries between two outsiders living in the shadows.

The lovers are underground rockstar Adam (played perfectly by a cooly morose Tom Hiddleston) who lives in Detroit and Eve (played by Tilda Swinton, worldly and knowledgeable) who lives in Tangier. The couple lives apart, but remain deeply in love after being married for centuries; their love remains timeless as the world around them constantly changes. After reuniting in Detroit, their lowkey lifestyle is transformed to chaos with the visit of Eve’s wild-child sister Eva (a careless freespirit played by Mia Wasikowska).  Her senselessness and greed is a reckless endangerment to the family, and to the crimson supply of “good stuff” Adam and Eve survive off of.

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The Beauty in The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything fireworks gif5star“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is part biographical part love story based on the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking dealing with her relationship with her ex-husband, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and his success in physics.

The Theory of Everything has received praise for its acting (particularly for Redmayne and Jones), James Marsh’s direction, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s musical score and its overall production. Catherine Shoard of The Guardian praised the film and particularly Redmayne, writing, “Redmayne towers: this is an astonishing, genuinely visceral performance which bears comparison with Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot.

The film balances both beauty and fact with an elegance seldom seen in theaters. If I were to have it my way, both leads would be taking home golden statues for their challenging portrayals executed so effortlessly on screen.

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“I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything Movie. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me. Seeing the film has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successsful in my scientific work. I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Eastr Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero gravity flight. One day I hope to go into space. I’ve been priviledged to gain some understanding of the way the universes oprates through my work. But it would be an empty univere indeed without the people that I love.”  Stephen Hawking via Facebook

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What appears to be one of the most challenging stories to execute has produced some of the most picturesque scenes in film this year. Here are a few scenes that I consider to be some of the film’s most beautiful shots.
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Whiplash is One of the Year’s Best

Whiplash 20145star
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

Jazz drumming at an elite conservatory didn’t puncture my curiosity initially, but Whiplash has more to offer than a tremendous jazz score. The film shares a dynamic duo whose relationship heavily blurs the line between right and wrong. Miles Teller rips through this film with an elevated level of dedicated ferocity that I haven’t seen from a young actor recently, while J.K. Simmons is both electrifying and terrifying to glimpse on screen. Whiplash is knocking on Oscar’s door, and I think the Academy may listen to what Whiplash has to offer.

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A lot of people seem to be shrugging off Whiplash as a “music movie” or a movie about a kid who’s got a real knack for playing the drums, but Whiplash is one of the best-reviewed films of 2014 for a reason. It has the strength to get under your skin and challenge you–should you settle at mediocrity or strive to be the best? A question both relative to the film as it is relative to our present day culture who perpetually settles at the margin. The film pushes the envelope with this question combining the driving force of Black Swan dedication under the severe command-style of Full Metal Jacket. This tour de force is not one to miss and certainly one to learn from this year.

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“The Past is a Grotesque Animal- a Film About Of Montreal” An Endearing Glam Rock Odyssey

The Past is a Grotesque Animal

Evolving over time from a fairly pretentious Beatles inspired pop rock act to a theatrical mixed genre masterpiece, Of Montreal is one of the most prolific musical acts of the past twenty years. Since 1997 frontman Kevin Barnes and his menagerie of collaborators have produced an impressive discography of twelve studio albums as diverse as they are elaborate as well as a handful of EPs and compilations. Directed by Jason Miller, The Past is a Grotesque Animal – a Film About Of Montreal was well overdue but, like anything Of Montreal, perfectly timed. Their last few albums have been what many have come to know them by, and still you would be lucky to come across a song of theirs on your car radio. This is a wonderful opportunity to look into the mind of the enigmatic genius who wrote, produced and often played every instrument.

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