JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION: 2 ½ STARS
“Bigger,” says Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in the “Jurassic World Dominion” trailer. “Why do they always have to be bigger?”
It’s a legitimate question. The good doctor is of course referring to the dinosaurs which, once again, are causing problems in our modern world.
But the question could also apply to the film itself.
The sequel to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and the sixth and final film in the franchise, is bigger and stronger than the films that came before it, but as a viewer you may wonder “Why?”
Four years after Jurassic Park was destroyed by an erupting volcano, “Jurassic World Dominion” begins with dinosaurs released around the world, living among humans.
Dino whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and his girlfriend, dinosaur protection group founder Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), are in hiding, protecting Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). As a teenaged clone of Jurassic Park co-founder Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter, her DNA is of great interest to Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the villainous CEO of Biosyn. When she is kidnapped, Owen and Claire go after her.
Meanwhile, locusts with prehistoric DNA devastate the planet’s grain supply, prompting paleo botanists Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to launch an investigation. Their search for answers leads them to Biosyn and a familiar face, chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm (Goldblum).
The dinosaurs and the story might be bigger than last time, but remember bigger isn’t always better. The original “Jurassic” franchise worked because if a streamlined simplicity of storytelling mixed with masterful execution. Oh, and lots of dinosaurs.
“Jurassic World Dominion” has plenty of dinosaurs and fan service, but otherwise misses the mark. It’s talkative dino-boring minus the suspense that made “Jurassic Park” stuff on the edge of your seat. The action scenes are blurry and few, there’s a lot of dodgy CGI, and unlike the re-enacted dinosaurs, it feels lifeless. Luckily, Goldblum reappears after a brief appearance to shake things up with his funny third-act mark.
Near the start of the film, Dern’s character Ellie sees a small dinosaur and coos, “it never gets old.” She clearly hasn’t seen “Jurassic World Dominion”.
HUSTLE: 3 ½ STARS
“Hustle,” a new sports comedy-drama starring Adam Sandler, now streaming on Netflix, is an underdog story like “Rocky,” if that movie featured Burgess Meredith’s name above the title instead of Sylvester Stallone.
Sandler plays Stanley Sugarman, a veteran basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. Decades on the road in search of new talent have left him tired and jaded, missing his wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Jordan Hull).
His new boss, the arrogant Vince Merrick (Ben Foster), doesn’t make it easy. Both butts head for Stanley’s latest find, Spanish b-ball phenom Bo Cruz (NBA star Juancho Hernangomez). On the pitch, Bo is a raw powerhouse, accustomed to hustling unsuspecting players for cash. Stanley sees greatness in him, but Bo’s troubled past worries Merrick and the management of the 76ers.
Convinced he has a winner, Stanley takes Bo to the United States. They form a bond based on their love of basketball and family, and together they set out to prove they have what it takes to succeed on the court and in life.
“Hustle” may be formulaic and easy to read, but it pulls it off thanks to the chemistry between Sandler and Hernangomez. What starts out as an odd couple quickly becomes something more. It’s not “Billy Madison” with a basketball, it’s a story of fathers and sons, of mentorship, a story that uplifts while avoiding the sentimentality that often finds its way into movies like this. .
Sandler’s performance is straightforward. It’s not as flashy as his work in “Uncut Gems” or “Punch Drunk Love.” Instead, he infuses Stanley with world-weariness tempered with resilience, to create a heartfelt portrait of a man and the game he loves. Screenwriters Taylor Materne and Will Fetters nail the seriocomic tone, fueling Sandler with a series of self-deprecating one-liners that help define the character.
Director Jeremiah Zagar and cinematographer Zak Mulligan capture the excitement of the game with frenetic on-court camera work that heightens the drama and showcases the action and skill of NBA players.
“Hustle” is an upbeat and predictable sports story, but succeeds because of the stakes. You’ll know where this story is going (NO SPOILERS HERE), but it transcends the usual sports narrative as the characters have everything at stake. It’s not really about basketball, more about the struggle to overcome adversity and therefore has universal appeal even if you’ve never heard of an alley-Oop.
ISLE OF FIRE: 3 STARS
Author Jane Austen died aged 41 in 1817, but her influence proved timeless. Her novels, literary studies in parody, slapstick and irony mixed with social commentary, have enjoyed a second life in everything from “Clueless,” an update to “Emma” set in Beverly Hills, and the self-explanatory “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. ”
Add to the list, just in time for Pride Month, “Fire Island,” a new LGBTQ2+ romantic comedy on Disney+, based on Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Joel Kim Booster stars as Noah, who is part of a group of friends in their twenties who get together every year for a week of mixing and dating at a Fire Island home owned by their friend and lair mother Erin (Margaret Cho). It’s a tradition and one hell of a “gay Disney World” weekend for bookworm Max (Torian Miller), fun-seekers Luke (Matt Rogers) and Keegan (Tomas Matos) and Noah’s best friend Howie (“Saturday Night Live” Bowen Yang), who now lives in San Francisco but makes the trip every year.
Determined to arrange a love match, or at least a date, for the insecure Howie, Noah is on the hunt for eligible men.
Enter the “prejudice” part of the story, Mr. Darcy’s character, Will (Conrad Ricamora). He is a rich and snobby man who visits the island with a group of lawyer and doctor friends. Will’s friend Charlie (James Scully) and Howie have hit it off, but can Noah and Will overcome their differences and become friends?
Originally created as a series on the now-defunct Quibi service, “Fire Island” has grown to last with its exploration (via Austen) of class and status untouched. Booster, who stars and wrote the screenplay, transposes Austen’s corsets and petticoats for Speedos and drug-and-alcohol-fueled parties, but keeps the source material’s study on overcoming obstacles for true love , class status and, particularly in reference to Noah’s clique, the strength of a family network. The bond between the guys is at the heart of this R-rated movie and helps anchor the steamier, lighter moments of “Legally Blonde.”
Director Andrew Ahn keeps up the pace and makes Fire Island look like a million dollar getaway. This brilliant style, combined with Austen’s sensibility, adds up to an entertaining comedy of manners. It’s light, but festive.