Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
By Laurence Washington
After the first two Jurassic Park films, you would think that during an InGen Company board meeting that somebody would raise their hand and say, “Excuse mesir/madam, making dinosaurs is a bad idea. In fact, doubling down and making super dinosaurs is an equally bad idea that always ends badly.”
But no, it was not to be. Jurassic Park scientists keep making enhanced dinosaurs, and Universal Studios keeps making Jurassic Park movies, each one worst than the last. Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom is no exception to this rule. It’s riddled with rehashed scenes from the previous films – especially The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and plot holes big enough a brontosaurus could fall through.
Due topremise, the film centers around rescuing 11 species of dinosaurs from Jurassic World on Isla Nubar. Due to a spending volcanic eruption to aid in the relocation, enter Dino lovers Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who were almost killed in the last film. What were they thinking?
The operation is bankrolled by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a billionaire who had creative differences with Jurassic Park’s originator Dr. Hammond. Lockwood had bowed out of the Dino business until now. He tells Owen and Claire that he has an island where the dinosaurs can thrive and be free from human interference.
Of course Lockwood’s plan goes sideways and the dinosaurs end up on his huge estate. Once off the island, The Fallen Kingdom digresses into a typical and boring Monster in the House film. All the charm, wonderment, thrills and amazement of the first Jurassic Park are just dusty memories. To the film’s credit, the dinosaurs look better and better with each film. However, all the advanced CGI magic cannot save a movie if the plot is extinct.
While watching the film’s impressive volcanic eruption (I must say they got it right after watching Kilauea on YouTube), one might ask, don’t volcanoes make islands instead of sink islands? That’s just a thought to ponder.
However, we wouldn’t have a movie if there were a dormant volcano. Nobody is scared of a dormant volcano. In an effort to protect the box office, the filmmakers had dinosaurs trying to eat anybody in their way during their escape from spewing lava and shooting fireballs into the sky. Logic dictates that when a volcano erupts, your basic instinct is to haul ass - never mind what’s for dinner. And will someone please notify the filmmakers that T-Rexs and Raptors do not save the day. In fact, those particular species of Dinos do quite the opposite. By all rights, Barney the blue T-Rex should be eating children. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as scientist/philosopher Dr. Ian Malcolm, who tells a U.S. Senate hearing that taking dinosaurs off Isla Nubar is a bad idea and to let them die in the volcanic explosion. Too bad Goldblum is only on screen for a cup of coffee. He was the only bright spot in the film. However, the Jurassic Park franchise has apresold audience, and should do well at the box office. Fans of the films will be glad to lean that the ending lends itself to plenty of sequels to come.
By Khaleel Herbert
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a safety assessor for The Pearl - the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong and the world with 220 floors making the Empire State Building look like a toothpick.
The Pearl, designed by Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), is a city all in one building with recreational features, a park and living facilities throughout. The mighty tower also holds a small dome at the top where you can see all of Hong Kong. The skyscraper has gadgets, gizmosand self-maintenance features to keep it running smoothly. Things turn sour when thugs, led by Long Ji’s powerful enemy Botha (Roland Moller), set a floor of the mighty building on fire. Will’s family (Neve Campbell, McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell), who reside on a neighboring floor, have to escape the fire. It’s up to Will, who’s a mile away, to save them.
Let’s get the good news out of the way. Skyscraper gets kudos for having an interracial family as the main characters in the film. We get a nod toward the physically impaired community with Will and his prosthetic leg kicking booty and saving his skin on a regular basis. There’s plenty of fire, explosions and epic leaps of doom from Johnson.
Now let’s discuss the flaws. It’s hard to take The Rock as an action hero here. I haven’t seen his earlier work like The Rundown or Walking Tall, but I’m sure it’swaaaaaaaay better than Skyscraper.
It’s hard to take Will seriously because in the beginning of the film, there was a catastrophic event that affected him and gave him his prosthetic leg. Although he met his wife, this scene set a dark tone that kept us intrigued. But that tone didn’t carry throughout the movie like it should have. Flashbacks or PTSD, anyone? Not to mention he gave up serving his country to become a safety assessor. How did that happen? There are simple explanations that one could easily miss if they don’t pay attention.
Denzel Washington is one of the best action stars because he makes all of his characters realistic and believable. They all have flaws and regrets that are established early on. In Man on Fire, Creasy is a bodyguard who has to revert back to his old ways as an assassin to save a little girl. The Taking of Pelham 123 has Walter Garber, a man with his own sins, reaching out to a man hijacking a train for money and to point fingers at society.
In Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo franchise, we have a man who struggles with his past as a human killing machine, save prisoners and his own colonel from enemy lines. These ghosts, flaws and checkered pasts make these characters moving and relatable. Some can relate to Will, but not in depth. This whole film lacks depth because the characters and plot are too straightforward and mediocre. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber should have used the formula he used in Central Intelligence. Both Johnson and Kevin Hart’s characters were meaningful and fun to watch.
The final straw of Skyscraper was the remedial ending. It makes the audience feel like ignorant little children. For people who love Johnson in action, Skyscraper is a hit. But for those who want to chew on substance with their explosions and gunfire, Skyscraper lacks nourishment.
By Khaleel Herbert
It’s been six years since Whitney Houston’s passing. For some, it seems longer. We’ve lost other African-American musical legends from Michael Jackson and Prince to Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., and Fats Domino. But on Feb. 11, 2012, the world lost one of the greatest voices in music.
Before the fame, Whitney was known as Nippy in the slums of Newark, New Jersey. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was out touring as a backup singer for Aretha Franklin and others. She had her own singing career.
Whitney and her brothers lived with various family members while their mother was on tour. As time went on, Whitney discovered she loved to sing, and sung in the church choir. This led to her mother’s mentorship and a record deal with Clive Davis of Arista Records. The world was in awe when they saw her first TV performance on the Merv Griffin Show in 1983 and the music she created soon after.
Kevin Macdonald’s thoughtful documentary covered a lot of ground with interviews of the singers’ relatives, friends and colleagues including Kevin Costner, Bobby Brown and more. There’s plenty of archival footage even some diehard fans may not have seen.
Documentaries celebrate and highlight someone’s life. Macdonald does this to a tee, chronicling the highs and lows of Houston. It’s a film that pierces your heart because Houston suffered from her fame as a drug addict. But this film makes you smile because her voice touched so many people, especially after she performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl.
There were some things I felt were missing or didn’t get a lot of screen-time. For example, Dolly Parton’s thoughts of Houston covering her song, “I Will Always Love You,” making it a great hit. It would have also been nice to mention the alleged “beef” between Houston and Mariah Carey and how they put those rumors to rest with their collabo, “When You Believe.” Even the relationships she had with Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson could have been extended.
Macdonald’s style of Whitney wasn’t Lauren Lazin’s style for Tupac: Resurrection or the recent PBS special Diana: In Her Own Words where the subject described their life in their own words. But Whitney is a living breathing celebration of her devoted life that newbie fans can appreciate.
Lisa Leslie says “Uncle Drew is alight hearted comedy with a really good message behind it”
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate
“To have the opportunity to play someone who is in their 80s, I thought was pretty cool, especially with all of the prosthetics,” says Lisa Leslie of her role in the warm-hearted comedy Uncle Drew, a film which follows an aging team of former ball players who compete in a basketball tournament. “Initially when I went in for the audition, I actually dressed up as an old lady, talked to everybody like an old lady and was moving slowly with a bible in my hand.”
Leslie plays Betty Lou, a staunch preacher’s wife, who is initially skeptical about letting her husband return to basketball with all its temptations.
“She is feisty, fierce, independent and she doesn’t take any mess,” Leslie describes. “She’s bossy and likes to be in control, but she is also very in love with her husband and wants to make sure he stays on a positive path.”
One of the funniest characters is a character the WNBA champion modeled on her grandmother who she says is a devout Christian.
“She is definitely a church lady and she walks kinda hunched over, but on Sundays she would have on her suit head to toe with a blazer and a hat. She is one of those ladies who has always been in the church.”
For Leslie, a four-time Olympic Gold Medal winner and Basketball Hall of Famer who first started acting while playing basketball in high school, and has starred in movies Love & Basketball andThink like a Man, taking on the task of playing an elderly woman was a challenge she embraced.
“I love acting and I think it’s the closest thing to the feeling that I felt when I played basketball and I really love it and I hope to do more.”
To perfect the look of Betty Lou, layers were added to Leslie’s cheeks, forehead and chin, a daily process which the actress says took a couple of hours.
“When I first saw her in the testing scene, I did not like the way she looked. I didn’t want her to look too ugly as I am out here with these men, and I thought she was too masculine. It was important for her to look a little more feminine so I showed them a picture of my grandmother as I wanted them to see that Black women age a certain way. They really listened and we took a little bit off and brought it down to what I would really look like if I was aged,” she adds.
With humor and a heartwarming message “Uncle Drew” follows Dax (Lil Rel Howery) a shoe salesman who has been dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team and his gold-digging girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish) to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll). Desperate to win the basketball tournament and the cash prize, he stumbles upon the legend Uncle Drew (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and after convincing him to return to the court one more time, they cobble togetherDrew’s old basketball cronies.
The bunch of seniors includes the grumpy Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), a sight-impaired gentleman called Lights (Reggie Miller), the charismatic character Boots (Nate Robinson), who is obsessed with his hoop shoes and Preacher (Chris Webber) who after retiring replaced his basketball with the Good Book of the Lord. Dax is initially skeptical of Drew’s elderly squad, but with no other options he’s forced to go along with Drew’s plan that a group of seniors can still win the big league.
There is that underlying message which is that if you fall you have to get back up,” Leslie continues. “It happens in life and we have a lot of things that we hold on to that happen to us in life and we let that shape us - it can be something that is negative. Howery’s character was holding on to something that happened that was so traumatic and because it was negative it held him back in so many other areas of his life. It is a comedy and it’slight hearted and it’s fun, but it also has a really good message behind it.” A predictable, but delightful sports drama directed by Charles Stone III (Drumline), Uncle Drew has a bunch of definable and lovable characters, which exalts the humor.