Sunday 28 June 2015

Worst to Best - Jurassic Park

There are many acclaimed franchises within the film industry - and despite it's fame and success at the box office, Jurassic Park really isn't the most refined. True, the original is universally loved by audiences worldwide, but in general the series isn't consistently as good. Let's take a look at my thoughts on each one, ranked from the very worst to the very best...

#4 - Jurassic Park III (2001)

Jurassic Park III is a film with little to no story - it simply sees Alan Grant from the first film stranded on Isla Sorna, the second dinosaur island, with a bunch of other nobodies while they search for their missing son. The classic Tyrannosaurus rex villain is replaced by the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus - a decent attempt at variety, but one that's just poorly executed.

The film is literally 85 minutes of running from dinosaurs that want to do nothing but kill the human characters - at least in the original film the dinosaurs behaved like animals, with their sheer size and power being the primary fear factor. Here, the Spinosaurus ignores the world around it in favour of chasing and trying to feast on these meaningless humans, creating an onslaught of forced action sequences. The special effects are impressive, but the script is pretty dreadful; there's an abundance of plot holes, no thought injected into the narrative, and the end result a lacklustre movie at it's very best.

#3 - The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

For me, The Lost World is possibly Steven Spielberg's worst film - much as in Jurassic Park III, the unique premise of the original is malformed into that of a generic monster movie. The dinosaurs want to do nothing but kill the protagonists for seemingly unknown reasons - there's no tension, no slow burning structure, and nothing else that made the original movie such a memorable piece of cinema.

To top that off, Jeff Goldblum delivers one of the most appalling performances in his entire career; he's bland, uncaring, and totally uninterested in his character, and the supporting cast do not fare much better. Nothing about this movie truly shines aside from the occasional epic action scene, notably the climactic rampage of the Tyrannosaurus throughout San Diego. Otherwise, it's naught but a disappointment.

#2 - Jurassic World (2015)

Everyone expected Jurassic World, the first installment to the series in nearly 15 years, to be a massive hit; but not quite like this. Acquiring the records of the largest opening weekend both domestically and globally, and earning $1 billion just two weeks after release, the film has clicked with audiences more so than anyone could've imagined - and these accolades don't go undeserved.

It's not without moments of corny dialogue and unnecessary humour, but Jurassic World transcends these flaws with some gripping action sequences, superb performances, and some excellent if imperfect special effects. The climax alone makes it worth a watch, and is easily one of the most gripping set pieces I've seen in a recent film. At last, the original film has a worthy successor.

#1 - Jurassic Park (1993)

Whenever I watch Jurassic Park's classic Tyrannosaurus breakout scene I just sit and wonder: how the hell was this film made in 1993? Not only is the film a masterful demonstration of revolutionary CGI and animatronics, but it's also an ambitious adventure with the perfect balance of thrills and fun.

There's numerous other blog posts where I've talked about this film, be it my Jurassic World review or my ranking of $1 billion grossing films, so I won't continue to repeat myself; Jurassic Park ranks as one my favourite films of all time, and is, crucially, one of the most important watersheds in the entire industry. Anyone who hasn't seen it is, in my eyes, a genuine criminal.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday 21 June 2015

Nintendo E3 2015 - My Thoughts

In 2013, Nintendo, for the first time in history, forewent a traditional E3 press conference in favour if a live stream dedicated to previews of upcoming games - perhaps due to the mediocre reception of their initially anticipated conference in 2012, which didn't exactly help to advertise upcoming titles for the Wii U console. For the third year in a row, they've continued to adopt this format, and so we've been given all manner of new trailers in their latest Nintendo Direct stream which aired on June 16. Here's my thoughts...

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

For god knows how long I've wanted a true successor to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year-Door, with the same gameplay elements, focus on story, and beautiful visual design. Super Paper Mario was a fantastic game nevertheless, but not quite the sequel I anticipated, and Sticker Star...well, let's just say more effort could've been done. While this isn't the kind of thing I had in mind, the latest addition to the Mario & Luigi RPG saga features a unique idea - combining it's own gameplay with that of the Paper Mario universe.

It certainly looks like a creative direction for both franchises; the addition of paper allies allows you to utilise more diverse attacks during turn based battles, as well as traverse through narrow gaps and face new challenges via co-operative strategies. I'll certainly be keeping an eye to see how this one pans out.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

Yeah, that's what we all wanted. No F-Zero or any of that nonsense. How about a new Mario Tennis game? Damn, Ninty, are in touch with your fanbase at all?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the N64 original and Mario Power Tennis for the Gamecube, but since then, the sequels have been nothing but uninspired clones with subtle new features that largely go unnoticed. Ultra Smash tries to differentiate itself with a new feature that allows players to enlarge themselves to deliver more powerful shots; something that looks just as cheap and unfair as the Super Strikes in Mario's football outings. It doesn't look bad, per se, and in fact could be quite fun, but I'm really not interested in more Mario sports games at this stage.


Unfortunately Nintendo didn't consider their current build of the Wii U Zelda suitable enough for an E3 demonstration, so instead we had two others: Tri Force Heroes and Hyrule Warriors Legends, both to be released for the 3DS.

Not a lot can be said about the latter for it is simply a port of the Wii U original with some extra content and the ability to swap between characters on the go. As for Tri Force Heroes, it seems to be highly reminiscent of Four Swords Adventures, with a focus on solving puzzles using multiple characters. Initial backlash occurred as it seemed the game was only playable in multiplayer modes, but Nintendo have confirmed that a single player mode will be available, as well as online play. It looks fun, I won't lie, and I'm interested in what it can offer. In the long run, however, I was severely disappointed to see absolutely nothing in regards to the Wii U project.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Yes, this is supposed to be a 3DS game.
With over 60,000 dislikes on the official Youtube trailer, compared to barely 6000 likes, Federation Force has generated an onslaught of outrage and contempt more so than anything Nintendo has done before. It essentially features a group of Galactic Federation soldiers travelling to various planets and battling all sorts of baddies, along with the Blast Ball multiplayer game, which is a football-esque competition that sees players trying to shoot balls (grow up) into an opponents goal. I sincerely doubt the finished product will be much better than it looks (although I'd love to be proven wrong), but based on it's putrid visuals, tacky art style, and generic looking FPS gameplay, this seems to be nothing but an uninspired cash in that fails to reward Metroid fans for their lengthy patience. Literally, I have nothing else to say on this apart from an uncontrollable desire to get it cancelled.

Star Fox Zero

Nintendo hinted at a new Star Fox title in their last E3 presentation, with a secret ending showing Iwata controlling an Arwing using the GamePad on a large screen. This was barely elaborated on until now; Star Fox Zero was the most notable feature of Nintendo's latest E3 stream, and the first iteration of the franchise in just under a decade. It harkens back to the classic gameplay that fans know and love, featuring intense battles both in space and throughout fictional planets; new additions include the ability to transform between different vehicles on the go and to pilot the Arwing using the GamePad's motion controls. Little else is known for now, so we'll have to wait and see.

One problem many people are pointing out is the visuals. Whilst they've yielded good results based on art direction, they seem to lack detail, and some of the texturing and bland backdrops make the game look on par with a dated Wii title. Hopefully dramatic improvements will be made before the Q4 2015 release, because there's a lot of potential to make it one of the Wii U's most visually impressive games. That aside, I'm still extremely enticed.

I'd be here all day if I was to go in depth toward everything at Nintendo's latest E3 showing, but a brief outlook on their other offerings won't hurt. Super Mario Maker for the Wii U will allow players to create and play on their own custom made Mario stages across multiple formats: the original 8 bit NES, the 16 bit SNES, or the 3D New Super Mario style gameplay. It's surely going to be tons of fun if Nintendo execute correctly; and hopefully provide hefty amounts of replay value.

Nintendo also presented more content regarding their money making machines known as Amiibo, integrating them into future upcoming titles such as SkyLanders: SuperChargers and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. Collectors of these figures will surely be in for a treat...

There's plenty more to check out from Nintendo's E3 showing, but from what I saw it got just as many things right and it did horribly wrong. In general, it failed to maintain my interest, and very few of my expectations were fully met.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday 13 June 2015

Movie Review - Jurassic World

Twenty two years after the inception of Jurassic Park, John Hammond's vision has finally been realised with Jurassic World, a fully functional dinosaur theme park located on Isla Nublar. After a lengthy streak of public success, the park's attendance begins to decline, and so a new attraction is prepared to rectify this - however, as you'd expect, it doesn't quite work out as intended.

Truth be told, the Jurassic Park trilogy in general isn't truly spectacular - whilst the original is a stunning achievement for sure, the next two sequels are unbalanced in terms of their overall quality. Jurassic World, on a flip side, features an excellent premise, and harkens back to the original classic whilst adding plenty new ideas of it's own. The Indominus Rex acts as a menacing villain but also as an interesting allegory in regards to the entertainment industry consistently fuelling it's own greed at the expense of others. Not the most original theme, of course, but it's still nicely executed. 

Whilst the CGI is lacking at times in terms of believability, the animation has come a long way in the past decade, and as a result the dinosaurs are much more fluid and lively than they were in the previous films. This makes for some faster paced action sequences and fight scenes (trust me, they're amazing), which makes up for the occasional lack of realism. The climax particularly stands out as one of the film's most exciting and impressive demonstrations of special effects and choreography.

But of course the dinosaurs aren't the only important things. Many people have criticised previous entries (even the original) for thinly developed characters; Jurassic World once again shows examples of this, but it's never a consistent flaw. The younger characters portrayed by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are a little confused in terms of their relevance within the storyline, but Chris Pratt as Owen truly shines as a bold protagonist with a balanced degree of intelligence and humour, as does Bryce Dallas Howard as manager Claire Dearing. Jurassic World is not without it's moments of misplaced gags and cheesy dialogue, but it also never goes down a generic 'dark blockbuster' route - something I was extremely pleased with. Flaws are inevitable, but Jurassic World is far superior to the other two sequels, and definitely one of this year's most exhilarating movies thus far.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Movie Review - Insidious: Chapter 3

The third entry to the Insidious series flashes back to before the events of the first film, where teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) has lost her mother in a tragic accident, and seeks out the help of psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shayne) to try and communicate with her within the afterlife. However, Elise's attempts to do so go horribly wrong, releasing a dark entity that slowly pursues Quinn with malicious intentions.

Insidious: Chapter 3 gets many things right but a lot of things wrong. It's key issue is pacing; the editing is sloppy, with scenes cutting away at random moments before reaching an apparent conclusion or resolution. There's a really good story beneath the rusty surface, but the emotional weight it needs is never truly explored - as a result, many characters are poorly developed and their personalities aren't truly interesting. We've also got, now and then, more stupid moments of misplaced comedy in scenes that really can't accommodate it. 

On a flip side, Chapter 3 has some genuinely fantastic jump scares that convey some truly fearful images instead of being cheap attempts to make you scream. The rendition of the Further is just as evocative as it was in the previous instalments and there's a dark and brooding atmosphere in each scene set within it. In fact, most scenes set within the Further make up some of the best parts of the entire film.

Except the climax. It is hard for me to explain this without spoiling, so you'll understand more if you see the film. It essentially transitions from an eerie horror flick to a ridiculous borderline action film with some embarrassing 'fight scenes' and a severe case of melodrama. It's not the climax the film deserved after such an effort to build a strong layer of tension. Chapter 3 benefits overall from good performances, rich visuals, and some exciting scares, but it's sadly bogged down by an unfocused narrative and severe pacing errors.