Having learned nothing from movies like Splice or Species or Deep Blue Sea or the latest Godzilla or the original Jurassic Park trilogy or really any other story where any character could be described as “playing God,” the owners of a park full of cloned living dinosaurs try to boost attendance by engineering a new dino species, with predictably awful results. For the last time, movie protagonists, giving intelligence to apex predators capable of crushing human skulls with their teeth just does not have any upside.
The director of the quirky, low-key, low-budget science-fiction movie Safety Not Guaranteed seems like an odd choice to helm a $180 million CGI-fest, but at least Colin Trevorrow has shown he has skills with actors as well as pixels. The cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, and headliner Chris Pratt, the charm-riddled CGI-fest superstar of the moment. (Though he looks like he practiced his best Sam Worthington befuddled glower for this film.) Still, the real pedigree belongs to producer Steven Spielberg and the groundbreaking CGI dinosaurs that made this franchise billions of dollars to date.
No one’s seen it yet, though there’s been some online griping about how much like Deep Blue Sea this sounds. As if that’s a bad thing.
There are a couple. First: This is meant as the launch of a new trilogy, so there isn’t just the question of how and whether it works on its own, there’s also how it works as a series re-launcher. Second, Trevorrow chose to shoot on film in order to better match the look of the first Jurassic Park trilogy. That suggests both a respect for the original movies and an aesthetic pickiness and specificity that might serve the film well.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.7
We all have positive memories of the first Jurassic Park, which gave America a new level of digital effects it had never seen before. This is going to change everything all over again, right?
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Shy, self-deprecating Pittsburgh high-school student Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) plans to coast his way to graduation, avoiding typical teenage drama and spending his days making goofy movie parodies with his best friend Earl (Ronald Cyler II). Then he starts spending time with a cancer-stricken classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), and his entire value-system shifts.
Screenwriter Jesse Andrews adapts his own award-winning YA novel for director Alfonso Gómez Rejón, whose most prominent directing credits up until now have been on the TV series Glee, American Horror Story, and the very Earl-like Red Band Society.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl was a genuine sensation at Sundance this year, impressing attendees with its expressive visual style, wry humor, and heartfelt emotion, and becoming just the sixth film ever to win both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury prize. (The others are Three Seasons, Quinceañera, Precious, Fruitvale Station, and Whiplash.) Towards the end of the festival, though, pockets of resistance did develop, as some questioned the film’s aggressive cuteness and underdeveloped supporting characters.
How non-fest audiences respond to Me And Earl And The Dying Girl will likely have a lot to do with what they think of Greg and Earl’s home movies, which riff on their favorite films. Are they a fun nod to cinephiles? Or an example of how Me And Earl tries to co-opt a sense of cool without really earning it?
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.7
We’re largely willing to watch some young people Swede some movies Be Kind Rewind style, especially with such positive advance reaction to their efforts.
A trio of nerdy high-school kids from a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood stumble on a backpack full of drugs and end up in the middle of a violent turf war, with their only option to find a way to unload the product.
Rick Famuyiwa’s earlier films The Wood, Brown Sugar, and Our Family Wedding have all dealt with characters whose personal identities don’t line up exactly with other people’s ideas about race and class. With Dope, he carries this theme even further, upending the stereotypical “hood” saga by telling it from the perspective of college-bound teens who love comic books and punk rock.
Aside from a high-profile takedown by Grantland’s Wesley Morris, Dope won raves at Sundance, as critics and audiences responded to the film’s clever story, lively style, and up-to-date sense of humor. Famuyiwa has made the rare contemporary film that understands how cell phones and the Internet have transformed young people’s lives, affecting how they process pop culture, how they communicate with each other, and even how they get into trouble.
The one complaint Dope’s fans and non-fans alike have shared is that it’s overlong and structurally unsound, with a pile-up of subplots that Famuyiwa spends much of the last half-hour tediously sorting out. There have been rumors of some pre-release trimming, which if successful could be the difference between Dope being a likable mess or a new teensploitation classic.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 7.2
The concept sounds shaky, but the execution sounds thoughtful, and we’re always willing to give a smart take on a gimmicky topic a try.