Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dino-Might in JURASSIC WORLD

History has been made with this new science-fiction monster dinosaur sequel.  I don't mean the fact that JURASSIC WORLD set a new weekend record by raking in $208.8 million gross at the box office.  I mean the fact that the black man you see as a character in the first ten minutes is still alive in the last ten minutes.  If you're a black person of a certain generation who grew up watching countless horror movies on TV and the big screen, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Every time we saw a black character in a horror movie, we moaned to ourselves "Oh, Lawd!  Creature gonna jack yo' ass up.  Run!" We always knew that black person would be eaten or otherwise killed off before the end of the picture.  Remember Samuel L. Jackson in 1999's Deep Blue Sea?  That sci-fi underwater horror movie co-starring LL Cool J was pretty much "Ghetto Jaws."  That monster shark had a grill on its teeth.  In Jurassic World, all those dinosaurs on the loose gobbled up the other competition at the box office last weekend.  I've gotta tell ya -- Jurassic World really is one exciting thrill ride once the action kicks in.  Besides the super special effects with the new enormous killer beasts, the other thing that drew me to the picture was its lead actor.  I am a Chris Pratt fan.  I have been digging him since he made me laugh when he was so loopy on the NBC sitcom, Parks and Recreation.  He's a charismatic, talented and versatile actor.  Also, Chris Pratt has movie star quality.  I didn't care about the Jurassic World plot, I just wanted to see him be totally cool and save folks from becoming a dino lunch.  He makes a good action hero.
Time flew by like scary pterodactyls did in this new movie.   Jurassic Park came out in 1993.  Seems like I was paying to see it just last summer.  The box office champ, based on a novel of the same name, started a movie franchise.  I feel about Jurassic World, the way I felt about Jurassic Park.  It may be too intense for youngsters.  Like the original, this new sequel has kids stranded in the Jurassic jungle and they are in major danger.  Dinosaurs go after them like they're appetizers.  The real action starts 35 minutes into the movie when it's discovered that one clever killer dinosaur has gotten out of containment.  After one portly Paul Blart: Mall Cop-type security guard becomes fast food, the thrills and gasps keep coming.  Before that, we meet the main characters and get some back story.  That means dialogue and set up.  Chris Pratt is the hero, Owen.  He cares for, trains and respects raptors.  Bryce Dallas Howard is Claire, the Jurassic World amusement park corporate yes-woman who is more devoted to her corporate family than she is to her real family.  Her sister, whom she could be closer to, is flying her two young sons to visit Aunt Claire at Jurassic World for some family time.  The oldest is a high school senior who's bored that he'll have to watch his little brother.  Aunt Claire hasn't seen them in seven years and still pretty much blows them off when she sees them now.  Instead of making them a top priority and bonding with them, she gives them special passes so they can have independent amusement.  She'll catch up with them later.  We know a crisis will occur.  Aunt Claire and the big brother both have a lesson to learn about relationships and showing family love.  Stop treating loved ones like they're junk mail.  Treat them like a special delivery.  There's no guarantee that they'll always be around.
Claire and Owen will bicker but they're attracted to each other. When you boil it down, this is just like a 1950s sci-fi movie.  He's the macho hero.  She's an umarried career woman who poses a scientific puzzle even bigger than the one of genetic modification that reboots pre-historic creatures.  That puzzle is this:  How the hell did she run through all that Jurassic World jungle in high heels and not get her ecru-colored outfit dirty?  How did that happen?  Claire is not exactly in the same league with my favorite sci-fi movie hero -- Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien and Aliens.  Ripley could kick some evil creature ass, challenge the corporation, be the hero and be maternal to a little girl at the same time.

Chris Pratt talked about his Parks and Recreation chubbiness in interviews.  He talked about how he worked out, slimmed down and shaped up for his previous hit, Guardians of the Galaxy.  He's still buffed here.  Vincent D'Onofrio co-stars as the bad guy.  Bearded Chris Pratt is the young handsome hero, a likable alpha male cub who opposes a burly and goateed D'Onofrio as the older corrupt corporate daddy bear.


Irrfan Khan plays the company guy who recently learned how to fly a chopper.  You may not be familiar with this performer from India, but he is one terrific actor.                                                  
He was the abusive police inspector in Slumdog Millionaire and heartbreaking as The Father in The Darjeeling Limited.  The other actor I was excited to see in Jurassic World was BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu.  Wong was in1993's Jurassic Park with Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern and Sam Neill.    

There would not have been a Jurassic Park without him because he's the scientist who discovers the genetic modification or whatever you call it that basically can regrow dinosaurs.  Dr. Wu reminds you that his scientific genius and his genetic breakthrough are the reasons why Jurassic World exists.  And he's correct.
Here's the thing the struck me -- and it relates to today's issue of diversity in Hollywood.  BD Wong's scientist character is not seen anymore after his brief appearance in the first 20 minutes of Jurassic Park.  We see a black scientist played by Samuel L. Jackson.  But he's black so he becomes a dino meal before the last act.  I interviewed BD Wong live in studio when I was on WNBC/Channel 4's Weekend Today in New York.  BD and I are acquainted. We lived two blocks from each other in Manhattan.  The original film had just come out and it was destined to be a hit.  On WNBC, I asked BD if he'd be interested in doing a sequel -- because surely there would be one.  Yes, BD Wong wanted to be in the sequel.  But his important character -- an Asian-American scientist played by an Asian-American actor -- was never in any Jurassic Park sequel until now.  As a performer and as a black, that bothered me.  Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough and Sam Neill were in sequels.  Why didn't film critics and entertainment journalists who report on the hiring of minority actors catch that back in the 1990s?  BD Wong is in the first ten minutes of Jurassic World and he appears later when all genetic modification hell has broken loose.
Corporate got involved and, in order to increase Jurassic World customers and build revenue, ordered the creation of more pre-historic beasts.  Corporate wanted "bigger, louder, more teeth" for audience thrills.  And then something went horribly wrong.  The creatures are bigger, louder and have more teeth.  They're also smarter and deadly.
We also see how corporate got involved behind the scenes.  Jurassic World is a Universal Pictures release.  Universal is now attached to NBC.  That means NBC television product got plugged into the filmmaker's script as a commercial.  When the two kids are riding in a Jurassic World bubble-like vehicle, they see a promotional video.  Who is the wacky science host in the video?  Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's Tonight Show.  I like Fallon.  But there was really no reason for him to be in that video for about 30 seconds of screen time.  A non-famous actor who desperately needs work could've done the role and maybe gotten other work because of it.  Corporate NBC stuck a TV commercial into the Universal movie for the sake of advertising a network star.

There will be another Jurassic Park or Jurassic World sequel.  Chris Pratt will be in it.  BD Wong should be in it with an even bigger role than he's had before as Dr. Wu.

Father's Day is coming up.  If you want a DVD tip for dad, I've got an excellent recommendation.  It stars Irrfan Khan who has a key scene with BD Wong in Jurassic World.  Khan plays a devoted, quiet father in New York.  He was a poor immigrant from India who came to America to seek a new life.  He became a citizen and a family man.  His son is very American, a trendy and young New Yorker who distances himself from his parents' past and traditions.  He learns about his father's struggles to give him the good life he has in 2006's THE NAMESAKE.  Mira Nair directed it and what a beautiful job she did.  The son is played by Kal Penn, popular from the Harold & Kumar movie comedies.  He's dramatic here and quite impressive.  The Namesake shows what an outstanding actor Irrfan Khan is.  Even if it's not Father's Day, you should see it.

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