Movie Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Movie Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Occasional dino thrills in this odd, goofy sequel.

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"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is the follow-up to the "Jurassic Park" soft reboot "Jurassic World", and the fifth entry overall in the "Jurassic Park" series. Confused? That is perfectly fine, because the movie is, too. "Fallen Kingdom" cannot decide what movie it wants to be, so it presents itself as two movies for the price of one. It will ultimately depend on personal preference which half of the film you prefer, if at all, but I preferred the oddball second half far more than the first.

"Fallen Kingdom" picks up a few years after the events of the previous film. Isla Nublar, home to the resurrected dinosaurs, just so happens to be the site of an active volcano that is about to erupt. Animal rights activists want government intervention to save these endangered species, while others (specifically Jeff Goldblum, in what amounts to a begrudging cameo) insist the dinosaurs should be left to die since their very existence is unnatural. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the dino-loving heroine of the previous film is approached by a representative of the heretofore unmentioned business partner of John Hammond, the crazy rich guy behind the original Jurassic Park. The slick investor-bro representative offers Claire a chance to rescue some of the reptiles from the island since the government refuses to intervene. One brief scene of recruiting Owen (Chris Pratt) the raptor trainer later, and the two protagonists (plus two deliriously unfunny comic relief sidekicks) once again find themselves knee-deep in dinosaur action.

The film often feels like a retread of "The Lost World", particularly the dinosaur rescue mission. Just like in that film, the operatives hired to assist the heroes with rescuing the big lizards have ulterior motives. There is the requisite betrayal as the heroes realize the rescue mission is profit-minded rather than altruistic. The island erupts, there are action scenes of fleeing from lava, a daring escape onto the bad guys' ship, and so on and so forth. If nothing else, these scenes are shot competently, sometimes even shot well. There is a particularly affecting image of a brachiosaurus slowly being engulfed in a cloud of ash that could have been a powerful closing statement had this been the end of the film. Instead, the film continues on. The sequel to a reboot stops to reboot and start a new story in the middle of the film. What crazy times we live in.

The second half of "Fallen Kingdom" decides it wants to be a goofy B-horror film, which is an abrupt change from the whiz-bang adventure of the previous hour, but it is a change for the better. The first half of the film lacked a sense of identity, merely blending together with other generic summer fare. Once the dinosaurs are back stateside, the evil representative guy reveals his master plan: selling dinosaurs on the black market. He does not elaborate on this plan much further, aside from the implication that these creatures could have military use. Sure, okay. To further add to the ridiculousness, the representative shmuck decides to engineer a custom-built velociraptor (the "Indoraptor") in the style of the engineered T-Rex of the previous film. Obviously, the creature gets loose, eats some of the paramilitary goons, and runs amok. There is a solid half hour of Howard, Pratt, and a generic child actor being chased around a spooky old mansion by a giant mutant velociraptor. It is every bit as dumb and loud and silly as you could hope for. There is even a shot of a Good Guy raptor running away from an explosion like an action movie hero. Some might be turned off by this nosedive into craziness (the mutant raptor can even open doors this time), but for those with a love of weird monster movies, there is plenty to enjoy.

I was not particularly enjoying "Fallen Kingdom" until the second half of the film. The parts with the mutant raptor realize that the characters of the "Jurassic World" films are not why people come to see them. It delivers on dino action in full, to a ridiculous degree. Everything is absurd and illogical, but it works in the way those pulpy Lincoln & Child-type sci-fi/adventure books work. It is strictly lowbrow fun, but what an hour of fun it is. I wish the first half had been as entertaining, but it is certainly worth sitting through that part to get to the zany dinosaur-in-a-mansion part.

Rating: 6/10

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.
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When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.

Sincerely,

Your Dance Teacher


Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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