“Marshall” is just fine which is just a little sad

The story of Thurgood Marshall is an inspirational American tale. The descendant of slaves, Marshall graduated from Howard University law school, argued before the Supreme Court (winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education) and was appointed to the US Supreme Court. With all of that history, it’s surprising that the filmmakers of Marshall have chosen to focus on none of that.

Written by Michael and Jacob Koskoff and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film tells the story of Thurgood (Chadwick Boseman) in 1940 when he works for the NAACP. A white woman, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), has accused a black man, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), of rape in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) is picked to represent the defense by a racist judge, leading Thurgood to act as his silent co-counsel. The case proves complex however and both Sam and Thurgood must grapple with outside repercussions that threaten their commitment.

The most interesting aspect of the film is its reversal of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Much like the classic Harper Lee story, the film frames the same type of story around the same themes and instead gives us an uplifting ending, presenting us with an alternative portrait of justice. As well, there’s a bit of “In the Heat of the Night” to accentuate racial tensions.

The film is fine. It hits all of its beats, the acting is good and the story arcs work. It’s just so strange that a movie about Thurgood Marshall features so little Thurgood Marshall moments. No Brown v. Board of Education, no Supreme Court seat. He’s not even the main character of the story. That is Sam with Thurgood serving as his mentor. These strange choices hinder the film somewhat and while it’s appreciated that Marshall isn’t sentimentalized by Hollywood, recognizing the man for his greatest accomplishments would be a tribute to him.

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“Venom” is a fun mess

Everyone wants a cinematic universe. You got a franchise collecting dust in your cupboard? Brush off that property, separate even the most inconsequential characters and give all of them a movie. Ghostbusters, Men in Black, DC comics, Transformers, Marvel comics, Star Wars, frickin’ Baywatch? Yeah, you could make ten movies out of all of them. Count that money.

Sony’s been trying to turn Spider-Man into a cinematic universe for years. The problem? Well, Spider-Man is lonesome. He has no compadres like the X-Men or the Avengers. Give a movie to Aunt May or Mary Jane? Nah. But you know what? Spider-Man has an awesome rogues gallery. Let’s give a movie to each of his villains!

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, “Venom” tells the story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a reporter who gets canned for spewing off questions with unsubstantiated sources and who betrays the trust of his girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams). When a crazed businessman, Riz Ahmed (Carlton Drake), brings strange alien symbiotes to Earth and attempts to fuse them with unwilling participants, Eddie tries to redeem himself by breaking the story. But one of the symbiotes syncs with him, creating Venom, a monster that Eddie must harness and control to stop an alien invasion.

The film is a very predictable by-the-numbers venture. Introduce hero, introduce antagonist, love interest, save the world, blah blah. It’s very bland for something that could have been different. There are so many superhero movies that the idea of doing a movie about a supervillain holds some promise. You could bend the formula a little bit and adding a dual personality would have given the story some depth. For example, imagine a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde portrayal, with Eddie’s good nature contrasting with Venom’s evil. The interplay between Eddie and Venom in the film is the best part of the story, funny and horrifying at the same time. Eddie tries to be a hero with his newfound gifts. Venom shows him the value of power and justice at all costs. As both characters try to control each other, Eddie must confront the darkness within himself as well, Venom helping him understand the violence of the news stories he has covered in the past and putting it into perspective. The world is a vile place without rules and the only way to extract justice is to take it. Eddie suffers a personal loss that drives home Venom’s hardcore beliefs. By the end of the story, Venom and Eddie are one, for better or worse.

Do we get that? Nope. We get symbiotes throwing motorcycles in the air during a high-speed chase, a makeout threesome between Venom, Eddie and Anne and Eddie eating a lot of tater tots. A lot of tater tots.

It very nearly teeters into the realm of so bad it’s good territory. A few more gross-out moments, some more nonsenical plot moments and a better beginning to the story (it takes forever for Eddie and Venom to meet) would have put it into classic bad film territory. As it is, it’ll just have to settle for pretty bad, kinda fun.

When Eddie rushes through a nice restaurant, jumps in a fish tank and eats a live lobster, the film solidifies itself as a piece of crap that earns your endearment. Who knows if that was what intended or not, but it doesn’t matter. Glorious nonsense.

“Atomic Blonde” has great action, little intrigue

In the era of #MeToo, having strong female characters in mainstream movies is more important than ever. But just having a strong female lead is not enough to guarantee success. You still need to tell an interesting story and “Atomic Blonde” isn’t able to do that.

Written by Kurt Johnstad and directed by David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde” tells the story of Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin right before the wall falls. A list of double agents has gone missing and everyone wants it. As Broughton digs into the deep underworld of the city, discovering allies who may be foes and foes who may be allies such as David Percival (James McAvoy) and Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), the fight to find the list and avenge old colleagues comes to a head.

The action scenes are intense and dynamically filmed. The viewer really feels the pain of each blow and the desperation of each agent as blows are exchanged and bullets fly. The attention to detail is exemplary.

But that in itself is the whole film. A random collection of fight scenes. The plot itself is thin. The McGuffin isn’t memorable, the double crosses are relatively easy to anticipate and there is nothing to really distinguish the film from other spy-action flicks.

Theron as Lorraine Broughton can go toe to toe with male spies like Ethan Hunt from “Mission Impossible” and James Bond from… well, you know. She’s every bit as intense and dramatic, tough and imposing. But she’s not that interesting. More information about her backstory, perhaps some personal vendettas and hidden motivations would have gone a long way towards fleshing out her character and giving us an emotional stake in the story. We ultimately don’t have reason to care.

As it stands, “Atomic Blonde” utilizes style over substance and relegates the film to forgettable.

“Jurassic Park” Analysis

Story Analysis Description

*Analysis based off work of Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell and Syd Field

*Special thanks to Movieclips for their clips below

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CHARACTERS

Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Conscious: Finance his dig and discover dinosaurs
Unconscious: Become a parent
Conflict Levels Inner: Fear of evolving
Personal: Dinosaurs, Lex and Tim, Ellie, Malcolm
Extra-Personal: Parenthood, Finance
Character Characterization: Gruff scientist
True Character: Hero
Turn: Caring father figure
John Hammond
Desire Conscious: Finance Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner: Possible madness
Personal: Gennaro, scientists
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Freewheeling billionaire
True Character:
Turn:
Dennis Nedry
 Desire  Conscious: Make a lot of money by stealing dinosaur embryos
 Unconscious:  
 Conflict Levels  Inner:  
 Personal:  Hammond, Arnold
 Extra-Personal:  –
 Character  Characterization:  Corrupt computer hacker
 True Character:  
 Turn:  
Muldoon
Desire Conscious: Neutralize raptors
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Velociraptors
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Cunning hunter
True Character:
Turn:
Malcolm
Desire Conscious: Get together with Ellie
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Ellie, Allan
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Egotistical mathematician
True Character:
Turn:
Gennaro
Desire Conscious: Shut down Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Hammond
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Corrupt businessman
True Character:
Turn:
Principle of Antagonism Positive Evolution Pessimistic Ebbing evolution
Negative Stagnation Negation of Negation Tampering with nature
Controlling Idea: Evolution must be a natural process because tampering with nature leads to catastrophe.

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PLOT

Inciting Incident Hammond proposes to Alan and Ellie to come to his island
Act One Climax Alan, Ellie and Malcolm meet the Brachiosaurus
GAP Alan discovers that Hammond is tampering with nature in dangerous ways
Progressive Complications The park malfunctions and Allan is thrust into a parental role
Midpoint The T. Rex eats Gennaro, injures Malcolm and forces Allan to care for Lexi and Tim
Act Two Climax Alan saves Tim after he’s electrocuted
Climax Alan grabs a gun and decides to save Lexi and Tim
Act Three Climax The T. Rex kills the Velociraptors and Alan, Ellie, Lexi and Tim escape
Resolution Alan realizes he’s evolved into a parent

HERO’S JOURNEY

ORDINARY WORLD Alan and Ellie dig up dinosaur bones in the desert
CALL TO ADVENTURE Hammond invites them to his island
REFUSAL OF THE CALL Alan doesn’t get in the car with Lexi or Tim
MEETING THE MENTOR
CROSSING FIRST THRESHOLD Alan saves Lexi and Tim from the T. Rex
TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES Alan teaches Lexi and Tim to feed the Brachiosaurus
APPROACH TO INMOST CAVE Alan leads Lexi and Tim past the Gallimimuses
ORDEAL Alan saves Tim after he is electrocuted
REWARD Alan learns how to be a caring parent
ROAD BACK Alan leads Lexi and Tim back to the visitor center
RESURRECTION Alan puts himself in danger to save Lexi and Tim from the Velociraptors
RETURN WITH ELIXIR Lexi and Tim sleep on Alan’s shoulders on the helicopter

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ARCHETYPES

HERO Alan Grant
SHADOW Gennaro, Hammond
MENTOR
ALLY Lexi, Tim, Ian, Ellie
HERALD Hammond
THRESHOLD GUARDIAN T. Rex, Velociraptor
TRICKSTER Dilophosaurus
SHAPESHIFTER Dennis

 

THEMES

Tampering with nature disrupts evolution and creates monsters Hammond is reckless in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs, seeking to impress the world through sheer will, but he does not grasp the will of nature. Tampering with such primordial forces is an affront to the natural world and will result only in catastrophe. Evolution is a subtle act that effects all of us beyond our control. Trying to play God will have consequences.
Money leads to corruption Both Gennaro and Dennis are primarily influenced by money, causing each to act against others and, in essence, nature. Gennaro betrays his borrowers by fully buying into the idea of Jurassic Park to make money. Dennis betrays his employers to steal embryos and sell out. Both actions subliminally are an affront to nature by acquiescing to Hammond’s madness and these choices cost them their lives.

STORYLINES

Alan Grant Evolving
John Hammond’s Madness
Dennis and the Embryos
Ian and Ellie
Gennaro’s Greed
Muldoon and the Velociraptors

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SCENE BREAKDOWN

Scene #1 The Velociraptors are Transferred
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Load the Raptors safely
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP A raptor breaks free and grabs the gatekeeper
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Inciting Incident: The Raptor attack convinces him that raptors need to be destroyed because they are too dangerous
Analysis The film starts right off with the central theme: man and its inability to control nature. We have man utilizing technology (grids, electricity, lights, gates, tasers), trying to control a creature born out of a lab, the Velociraptor. Man can’t control this beast, resulting in the death of the gatekeeper. Spielberg is able to elevate the relatively simple attack by using his wide skills of cinematic talent, highlighting the hunter/hunted dynamic, the ferocity of the raptors and the most important lesson he learned from Jaws: not seeing the creature is worse than seeing it.
Scene #2 Gennaro at the Dig Site
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Shut down Hammond’s park
Antagonist Hammond, Rostagno
TP Rostagno tells Gennaro Grant won’t come to the park
Value Money
Role Gennaro Inciting Incident: Shut down Hammond for losing his investor’s money. Hammond Inciting Incident: Get backing to finance his park.
Analysis Gennaro is the first representation of greed and corruption in the film. He doesn’t fit into the natural world he walks through, nervously balancing on his boat, tripping over rocks, bumping his head in the mine. He will view the dinosaurs as a great scheme to make money, displaying a lack of respect for nature.
Scene #3 Alan Dig Site
Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Find and learn about dinosaurs
Antagonist Kid
TP Grant terrifies the kid who mocks him
Value Parenthood
Role Introduction of Grant
Analysis We are introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. Alan is gruff and dedicated to his mission as a paleontologist. Ellie is his better half, trying to help him evolve into a parent, an underlying desire he rejects. We are again introduced to faulty technology as the underground scanner they use is shotty. We also come to understand how informed Alan is, particularly in regards to Velociraptors, knowledge that will help him later in the story.
Scene #4 Hammond Proposes Plan to Alan and Ellie
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get Alan and Ellie to come to island
Antagonist Alan and Ellie
TP Hammond proposes to fund their dig for three more years and gets them to visit island
Value Finance
Role INCITING INCIDENT: Hammond gets Alan and Ellie to go to his island and the chance to finance his dig for three years. Hammond Act One Climax: Impress group so his park can be financed.
Analysis Hammond serves as a herald to the adventure, bringing both Ellie and Alan to Isla Nublar. His entrance again highlights his disrespect to nature, his helicopter loud and boisterous, nearly destroying the fossils being excavated. And he opens a bottle of champagne, wearing all white, showing his wealth. Alan and Ellie by contrast are dirty and in work clothes. Given the opportunity of wealth to continue funding their dig, they take it without question, again showing the corrupting power of money and greed.
Scene #5 Dennis Paid
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Make money
Antagonist Hammond
TP Dennis takes money
Value Money
Role Dennis Act One Climax, Dennis Inciting Incident Offscreen: Hammond doesn’t pay him enough money, sending him on a course of betrayal.
Analysis Greed and gluttony rear their ugly heads again. Dennis cares only about money, not respecting nature and its power. Consumed by greed, he works to betray Hammond by selling dinosaur embryos. By accepting Dodson’s money, he embarks on his journey.
Scene #6 Helicopter Ride
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get island financed
Antagonist Gennaro
TP
Value Finance
Role Malcolm Inciting Incident: Attracted to Ellie
Analysis We are introduced to Ian Malcolm, a slightly crazy mathematician who starts his journey by hitting on Ellie, mentioning his concept of “strange attractions.” The helicopter flight is another example of Hammond’s wealth as they zoom across the ocean and through the island mountains. This is Hammond’s gambit, to impress his entourage of Gennaro, Sattler, Malcolm and Grant (GSMG) and to finance the park. And another example of technology not working right, the helicopter landing is bumpy, portending to technology failing the characters at the end. And much has been made of the irony of Grant using two female belt buckles and tying them together, just as how two female dinosaurs will eventually breed.
Scene #7 Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Threaten Hammond with shutdown
Antagonist Hammond
TP Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Value Money
Role Gennaro Act One Climax
Analysis Gennaro puts his cards on the table, threatening Hammond and committing to defunding the island for money.
Scene #8 Meeting the Brachiosaurus
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show his dinosaurs
Antagonist Grant, Sattler, Malcolm, Gennaro (GSMG)
TP They see the dinosaurs
Value Finance
Role ACT ONE CLIMAX
Analysis Grant commits to the journey as he witnesses the rebirth of dinosaurs. In a way, it is his own call to evolve.
Scene #9 Introduction to Sciene
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show off his science
Antagonist GSMG
TP GSMG break out of restraints
Value Finance
Role Explanation of how Hammond has engineered the impossible
Analysis The characters and the audience learn how Hammond has been able to bring dinosaurs back to life. Hammond is selling his science as foolproof, something Alan, Ellie and Ian have qualms about.
Scene #10 Velociraptor Hatches
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Question Ethics
Antagonist Hammond, Dr. Wu
TP Malcolm states that life will find a way
Value Morality, Finance
Role Introduction of doubt about playing God
Analysis Malcolm serves as a cautionary voice, warning that what Hammond is doing is dangerous and a disrespect to nature. Hammond is literally playing god, birthing a Velociraptor in his own hands, the others overcome by the power of creation. As Malcolm speaks, the potential for danger grows in their minds.
Scene #11 Velociraptor Cage
Protagonist Alan
Desire Investigate Raptors
Antagonist Hammond
TP
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Rising Action
Analysis Muldoon, hardened by his experience as a hunter and harrowed by the memory of the slain worker, reports on the danger of the Velociraptors. This is yet another example of man trying to control nature in a way he can’t understand. He commits himself to the idea that the raptors should be destroyed.
Scene #12 Sea Bass Lunch
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Caution Hammond
Antagonist Hammond
TP Grant condemns park
Value Morality
Role Gennaro Act Two Climax
Analysis More examples of wealth include an expensive lunch, waiters and flashing pictures on the wall of progress and technology. Hammond is completely oblivious to the dangers of nature he is trying to control. Only Gennaro, clinging to greed, sides with him against the caution of Alan, Ellie and Malcolm, altering his goal of defrauding Hammond and committing to profiting off the island. Hammond’s ears are closed to counterarguments against his beloved park, a rock against which the currents of caution have no effect.
Scene #13 Tim and Lexi Arrive
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Use children’s awe to impress GSMG
Antagonist
TP Ellie sees Alan’s fear of children
Value Finance
Role Moral need disrupts Alan’s world
Analysis Alan’s worse nightmare arrives: children. Lexi and Tim pose a return to Alan’s dormant desire to be a parent. He consciously forces down this desire and stands petrified.
Scene #14 Boarding the Cars
Protagonist Tim and Lexi
Desire Connect with Alan
Antagonist Alan
TP Alan brushes off Lexi and Tim
Value Parenthood
Role Alan shrugging off call to evolve
Analysis Tim serves as Alan’s conscience, following him around and asking him to accept him. Alan rejects him, slamming the door in his face. At the moment, we believe Alan won’t do anything for Lexi and Tim and would never put himself out there for them. Malcolm also continues to seek out Ellie.
Scene #15 Headquarters
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Impress GSMG
Antagonist Technology, Dennis
TP Muldoon shuts everyone up
Value Finance
Role Introduction to how rocky things are behind the scenes
Analysis Behind the scenes, Hammond is much more ornery. Battling with technology and Dennis, he voices grievances and bickers. We realize that his charming persona in front of GSMG and his grandchildren is a fake to hide his deep fear and uncertainty.
Scene #16 Tour Starts
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Evaluate park
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP No dinosaurs show up
Value Finance
Role Further proof of the inability to control nature
Analysis Nature can not be controlled as none of the dinosaurs show up to be shown off to GSMG. The lamest attempts to coax the dinosaurs out are failures, again illustrating how Hammond and InGen don’t understand what they’re handling.
Scene #17 Malcolm Explains Chaos
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Explain chaos
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie jumps out of the car after Alan
Value Love
Role Malcolm continuing pursuit of Ellie
Analysis Malcom moves in on Ellie, unaware that Alan is her partner. His explanation of chaos is laced with sexual undertones, overted more than subverted. For Alan, he is uncomfortable standing up to Malcolm, showing a reticence to fight for her. Chaos theory itself plays out in the plot of the film. As the forces of nature mettle against man’s inclinations, chaos will reign.
Scene #18 Meeting the Triceratops
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Understand the Triceratops
Antagonist Illness
TP Ellie goes to dino droppings
Value Finance
Role The awe of dinosaurs may sway GSMG yet.
Analysis The awe of the park again appears to GSMG. It wows the audience as well, appealing to our childhood wonder, the desire to see and touch a real dinosaur.
Scene #19 Storm Moves In
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Investigate storm
Antagonist Weather
TP Headquarters decides to stop tour
Value Finance
Role Hammond Act Two Climax: Hammond believes his tour a failure and his park’s future is in doubt.
Analysis Hammond curses the weather, a hindrance in his mind to his ambition, another aspect he can not control.
Scene #20 Dino Droppings
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Determine next course
Antagonist Weather
TP Ellie decides to stay while group goes back to Jeeps
Value Knowledge
Role Separation from Ellie
Analysis The group separates, leaving Malcolm and Alan together. This sets Alan adrift in a way.
Scene #21 Dennis Plans His Heist
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather
TP No promises for weather
Value Finance
Role Increased risk for Dennis
Analysis The pressure on Dennis mounts as the storm complicates his plan to steal the embryos. Time is now a factor as the risk increases.
Scene #22 Dennis Puts Plan in Motion
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather, Security
TP Dennis shuts down system
Value Finance
Role Dennis works on plan.
Analysis Dennis commits to his plan and moves to get the embryos.
Scene #23 Ian and Alan Talk
Protagonist Alan
Desire Keep Malcolm away from
Antagonist Malcolm
TP Malcolm backs off from Ellie
Value Love
Role Malcolm Act One Climax
Analysis Alan tries to talk to Malcolm, but they don’t have much in common. Alan has seen how Malcolm is flirting with Ellie. He lets Malcolm know about their relationship, ending his pursuit of her.
Scene #24 Dennis Steals the Embryos
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal the embryos
Antagonist Hammond, Arnold
TP Dennis gets the embryos
Value Finance
Role Dennis Act Two Climax
Analysis Dennis’ plan seems to be working as he gets the embryos and shuts down the security grid to escape.
Scene #25 The T. Rex Breaks Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan uses a flare to save the kids
Value Survival
Role MIDPOINT, Gennaro Act Three Climax
Analysis Nature breaks free fom the constraints of man’s technology. As the park shuts down, the T. Rex emerges from its pen, causing havok. Gennaro is killed for his lack of respect for primal nature, ending his storyline. For every other character, their goal changes. The goal of the evaluation of the park morphs into a need to survive.
Scene #26 Alan Gets the Children Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan climbs down into paddock
Value Survival
Role Alan Midpoint
Analysis Alan is faced with a choice: hide in the car and wait or try and save Lex and Tim. He chooses to save the kids, his inner parental instinct taking over. This represents his character midpoint as he changes his goal from avoiding children to saving them.
Scene #27 Headquarters Wonders
Protagonist Arnold
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Dennis, Nature
TP Arnold admits he can’t get the park back online without Dennis
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis The repercussions of their actions begin to become apparent to those in headquarters. As the park crumbles around them, Hammond feels the burden of his decision bare down on him.
Scene #28 Dennis and the Dilophosaurus
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist Weater, Dilophosaurus
TP The Dilophosaurus attacks Dennis
Value Survival
Role Dennis Act Three Climax
Analysis Dennis’ greed becomes his destruction as his disrespect for nature (and the fault of technology symbolized by his car) come to pass. The Dilophosaurus kills him, ending his storyline, and the embros are lost to the mud, a symbol of man’s faulty ambition.
Scene #29 Escaping the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Car
TP Alan saves Tim
Value Survival
Role Continual development for Alan
Analysis Alan faces another test of his parental instinct. Lexi begs him not to leave and he needs to convince Tim to get out of the car. Again, the car represents man’s faulty technology, helpless against the power of nature. Alan successfully saves Tim.
Scene #30 Ellie and Muldoon Save Malcolm
Protagonist Ellie and Muldoon
Desire Save Alan, Lex, Tim, Malcolm and Gennaro
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Escape T. Rex
Value Survival
Role Deeper stakes as headquarters realizes that Alan, Lexi and Tim are missing and Gennaro is dead
Analysis Ellie and Muldoon come face to face with the power of Hammond’s creations as the T. Rex chases after them and they realize Gennaro is dead.
Scene #31 Alan, Lexi and Tim Sleep in the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Reassure Lex and Tim
Antagonist
TP Alan tosses his Velociraptor claw
Value Parenting
Role Alan development
Analysis Alan ditches his old self symbolically by tossing the Velociraptor claw. His comfort with Lex and Tim as their surrogate father continues to develop.
Scene #32 Petticoat Lane
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Justify actions
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie chastises Hammond
Value Justification
Role Hammond Act Three Climax: Hammond realizes his mistake.
Analysis Hammond’s past drives his present, so much so that he may have gone mad. Desperate to regain control, he realizes that his actions have been foolhardy, a fact illuminated by Ellie. His goal changes from searching for control to retrieving his grandchildren.
Scene #33 Brachiosaurus in the Morning
Protagonist Alan
Desire Educate Lex and Tim
Antagonist Lex, Brachiosaurus
TP Petting the Brachiosaurus
Value Parenting
Role Evolution of Alan
Analysis Alan continues his adaptation into a parent by teaching Lex and Tim about dinosaurs.
Scene #34 Dinosaurs Breeding
Protagonist Alan
Desire Discover secret
Antagonist Nature
TP Alan realizes how the dinosaurs are breeding
Value Morality
Role Alan learning the value of Malcolm’s theory
Analysis Alan confirms to himself and to the audience about the versatility and resilience of nature. Malcolm’s theory of chaos has occured on the island as the dinosaurs take over.
Scene #35 Arnold Shuts Down the System
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Arnold
TP Arnold agrees to shut down system
Value Survival
Role Hammond’s goal has changed to saving his grandchildren.
Analysis Hammond is trying to get the park back online, but not to save his idea of the park, but to save his grandchildren, an evolution of his character.
Scene #36 Outflocking the Gallimimus
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape stampede
Antagonist Gallimimus
TP Duck under tree
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim venturing to safety
Analysis Alan, Lex and Tim are tested as they venture back to headquarters, seeking safety.
Scene #37 Going to the Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn the park on
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Ellie decides to go to the breaker
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis A new sequence begins as Ellie and Muldoon have to venture out and turn the park back on. This wil test them and their ability to survive.
Scene #38 Ellie Runs to Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Get to Breaker
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie makes it to breaker
Value Survival
Role The desperation grows
Analysis Ellie must work to save herself and in so doing, Alan. The escape of the Velociraptors puts greater risk into the mission.
Scene #39 Ellie Turns the Park Back On
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn park on
Antagonist Tunnels, Velociraptors
TP Ellie finds the grid and turns it back on
Value Survival
Role Glimmer of hope and fear
Analysis Ellie turns the park back on, but the Velociraptors hunt her. Time is now running out before there is no hope for the survivors.
Scene #40 Tim Electrocuted
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim and Lexi
Antagonist Fence
TP Tim electrocuted
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Faulty technology proves dangerous to man again as Tim is electrocuted.
Scene #41 Ellie Runs from Velociraptor
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Evade Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie jams Velociraptor behind door
Value Survival
Role Ellie survives
Analysis The intelligence, speed and ferocity of the Velociraptor is demonstrated as Ellie is hunted. This sets up the final threshold guardian for the group to overcome.
Scene #42 Alan Saves Tim
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Electric fence
TP Tim wakes up
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested.
Analysis Alan does everything in his power to save Tim. In marked contrast to his earlier apprehension with children, Alan is now their parent.
Scene #43 Velociraptors Hunt Muldoon
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Shoot Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Velociraptors get the jump on Muldoon
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Act Two Climax
Analysis Muldoon enters the ring against the Velociraptor, the one-on-one confrontation he had been dreading. He puts all of his knowledge about the creatures to his own instincts as a hunter. He loses in his contest against the raptors, their wit outsmarting him. This concludes his storyline.
Scene #44 Alan Finds Ellie
Protagonist Alan
Desire Find Ellie
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Alan finds Ellie
Value Survival
Role Malcolm Act Two Climax
Analysis Grant and Ellie are reunited, signifying their union as a couple after being apart. After Malcolm budding into their relationship, this concludes that storyline as Ellie chooses Alan.
Scene #45 Velociraptors Hunt Lexi and Tim
Protagonist Lexi and Tim
Desire Escape Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP They lock Velociraptor in freezer
Value Survival
Role Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Lex and Tim are alone, without Alan. Their resourcefulness is tested as they must use the tricks taught to them by Alan to escape the raptors. This is a test of Alan’s parenthood and teaching played out against the raptors.
Scene #46 Lexi Hacks the Park
Protagonist Lexi
Desire Turn the park back on
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP Lexi turns on the door locks
Value Survival
Role A last chance for escape
Analysis Lexi uses her computer skills, hinted at before, to turn the park back on, giving the characters hope as the raptors move in. This is their last chance.
Scene #47 Escaping the Raptors
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape the Velociraptors
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP The T. Rex saves them
Value Survival
Role ACT THREE CLIMAX
Analysis Alan, Ellie, Lex and Tim must work together, using all of their skills to best the dangerous raptors. The T. Rex, again utilizing the chaos theory of Malcolm, intervenes and inadvertently saves the day. As the final vestiges of the park collapse around them, nature has taken over the island from man’s mettling.
Scene #48 Escaping the Park
Protagonist Alan
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist
TP The helicopter takes off
Value Parenthood
Role Alan’s reward
Analysis As the characters depart, Ellie sees Alan’s growth as a parent, Lex and Tim asleep on his shoulders. He has evolved, just as dinosaurs had evolved into birds.

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OVERALL

“Jurassic Park” rightfully deserves its place as a classic “monsters” film. Though it is remembered most for its technological advancements, it is the sense of childhood wonder it creates that endears it still today. It perfectly captures the youthful sense of awe each of us would feel if we were to actually see and touch a dinosaur. The respect the film has for that childhood wonder elevates the film beyond simple monster mash.

The dinosaurs are not just monsters that our heroes need to escape from. They are living, breathing creatures, cinematically built up as primordial beasts with intelligence, power and majesty, reverential godlike entities that we can not control. The buildup over the course of the first half of the film, man tampering with nature, unaware of the danger of playing god, fully plays out over the second half of the film as all of man’s preconceptions and safeguards fall by the wayside. There’s a certain amount of glee in seeing the park fail as strange as that is, nature taking its due revenge on people who don’t respect it. The fact that we empathize with characters who are just along for the ride, not responsible for this tampering, gives us a way of caring about their escape. We delight somewhat in seeing Gennaro, Dennis and Muldoon fall because it is their basic flaw of disrespect that causes their demise. Alan, Lexi, Tim, Malcolm and Ellie never committed that sin so we feel sympathy for the situation they are in.

The brunt of technology that Hammond, Dennis, Muldoon and Arnold use to try to control the park is repeatedly referenced as faulty, little clues in the first half hinting at technology being mankind’s tool of control, but nature breaking free of such feeble attempts. It speaks to the sense that evolution is an unstoppable force, tying into Alan’s evolution from selfish paleontologist to caregiver. Accepting evolution then should be mankind’s goal, not trying to impose its will against it.

The film could use some work in terms of the characters and their relationships. Alan, the central character of the film who has an arc, is rather bland. His refusal to evolve into a parent feels kind of shoe-horned into the story to give him some depth and something deeper to do other than try not to be eaten. Perhaps if he and Ellie had tried to have children or couldn’t or there was some reason he felt insecure around them it would tie into the narrative a bit more. But as it happens, Hammond is a much more interesting character: a joyful billionaire who slowly realizes he may have gone mad in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs.

The love triangle between Malcolm, Ellie and Alan is also lacking. It’s just played for a few laughs in the first half, but could have been expanded into more of Alan’s evolution. Perhaps Malcolm is an old boyfriend of Ellie’s that she still has some feelings for. Then Alan’s refusal to have kids and evolve for her would have added weight as she could easily go back to Malcolm who will give her what she wants. But as it plays, Malcolm is more of just an annoyance rather than an integral part of the plot. Cut him out and nothing drastically changes in the plot.

And finally, the ending lacks clear choice. The third act climax should feature the protagonist making a clear choice that illustrates what he has learned over the course of his journey. In this case, that should be Alan, demonstrating his ingenuity. But the film’s ending takes him out of the equation as the T. Rex bursts in and kills the raptors, a deus ex machina, fate saving them rather than Alan. A conclusion that featured Alan saving the day would have been easy enough. Using his smarts as a paleontologist and some piece of knowledge gathered in the park with Lexi and Tim, Alan devises a way to trick the raptors and the Rex and helps everyone escape, proving his mettle as a parent by putting his life on the line to save Lexi and Tim.

Where the film falls in character though, its ability to create awe and build up its action sequences is impeccable, really putting the audience in the park and highlighting its theme to optimal effect.

NHL Predictions 2018-19

The NHL season is just a few weeks away. Who will be this season’s Vegas Golden Knights, a group expected to be at the bottom of the league who very nearly won the Stanley Cup in their first year of existence? On the other hand, who will be this season’s St. Louis Blues, a team that should have challenged for a title and missed the playoffs entirely?

As with all sports, the unlikely may be reality.

CENTRAL

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  1. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets made it all the way to the Western Conference Final last season and boast a talented team with depth at all positions with forwards Mark Schiefele and Patrick Laine, defensmen Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba and goaltender Connor Hellebucyk. Making such a deep run last season must have the players salivating for another chance at glory. The time for them to win is now.

Big Question: Can the Jets put it all together and make it to the Cup final?

2. Nashville Predators

The Predators remain a dominant force with the best blueline in the league led by PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis and a deep forward corp with star forwards Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johanssen. Goaltender Pekka Rinne slowed down later in the year and all eyes will be on him to pull the Preds deep.

Big Question: Can Pekka Rinne be as dominating in the playoffs as he is in the regular season?

3. St. Louis Blues

The Blues had one of the busier offseasons of any team in the league. Adding Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon adds depth to the forward unit and the defense still features Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo. Can Jake Allen rise to the challenge and finally fulfill his promise as the goaltender of the future?

Big Question: Will the new faces mesh with old stalwarts like Vladimir Tarasenko to push the Blues back into the playoffs?

4. Dallas Stars

The Stars were riding high last year until a late season collapse. Rather than a major overhaul, the Stars return pretty much the same unit, but with their third coach in three years, hoping better luck can get them back into the playoffs. With Tyler Seguin staying put for the next 8 years and Jamie Benn already locked up, the Stars have great offensive power, especially with budding blueline force John Klingberg. Finding some sort of defensive consistency will determine their fate.

Big Question: Will the third coach in three years be the charm for the Stars?

5. Minnesota Wild

The Wild have been stuck in neutral for years, not quite good enough to make a deep playoff run, not quite bad enough to miss the playoffs and get some higher draft picks. It looks like it’ll be more of the same for the team as they keep getting older with veterans Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Ryan Suter.

Big Question: Can the Wild find that next gear and break through in a tough Central Division?

6. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade last season, largely because of an injury to goaltender Corey Crawford. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith have powered the team for a decade, but an infusion of youth may be needed to keep up with the quicker teams of the league. Crawford’s health is paramount to the team’s success as they work through some internal changes.

Big Question: Is Corey Crawford healthy?

7. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche leaped from bottom of the league to the playoffs in just one year, thanks  to an MVP performance from Nathan MacKinnon. With so much value in one player, he’d have to duplicate that performance for the Avalanche to succeed again.

Big Question: Can MacKinnon drag the Avalanche back into the playoffs?

PACIFIC

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  1. San Jose Sharks

After striking out on John Tavares, the Sharks had to settle for trading for the best blueliner in the league. The arrival of Erik Karlsson to a defense that already includes Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic signals that the Sharks are all in. With a forward corps that includes Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane and Thomas Hertl and backed by goalie Martin Jones, the Sharks have all the pieces in place to make a Cup run. None of them are spring chickens so the sooner the better for the Sharks.

Big Question: How does Erik Karlsson fit onto the Sharks?

2. Los Angeles Kings

The Kings locked up franchise defenseman Drew Doughty over the summer to a new contract and added former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a lineup screaming for goals. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown had their best seasons last year, but all it got them was a first round sweep to the Golden Knights. The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the league last year so defense isn’t an issue. It’ll be scoring goals, the same mantra that has been the team’s Achilles’ heel for years

Big Question: Can the Kings score enough goals to advance past the first round?

3. Calgary Flames

The Flames have carefully been building a contending team for years with no discernible results. Perhaps this is the year they break through. Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennet, Sean Monahan and Brady Tkachuk form a potent attack and Mark Giordano continues to lead the defense. Goaltender Mike Smith may be the key to determine if the team succeeds.

Big Question: Can Mike Smith lead the Flames to the playoffs?

4. Edmonton Oilers

After nearly making the Western Conference Finals two years ago, the Oilers bottomed out last season despite another Art Ross from Connor McDavid. No real changes were made over the summer so change will have to come from within. Who can lead this team out of the wilderness?

Big Question: Can the Oilers finally find some consistency?

5. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks find themselves in much the same place as the Wild: full of strong veterans, but unable to break through and make a deep playoff run. Ryan Getzlaf is still a preeminent center and Rickard Rakell has morphed into a good scorer, but Corey Perry just posted his lowest goal scoring season and Ryan Kesler’s health remains a question mark. The defense is deep and mobile and John Gibson is beginning to establish himself as a real quality netminder, but as teams go younger and faster, can the Ducks keep pace?

Big Question: What happens with vets Kesler and Perry?

6. Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights had the most remarkable inaugural season in sports history. Now what to do for an encore? William Karlsson, Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault exploded and Marc-Andre Fleury put on a performance for the ages. New faces Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny inject another element of talent and veteran savvy. A lot of last season’s surprise success though will need to be replicated for the Knights to perform well again.

Big Question: Can Karlsson and co. repeat last year’s performance?

7. Arizona Coyotes

The biggest move of the Coyotes offseason was resigning defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Coyotes went on a bit of a run late in the last year, but putting it all together for a full season remains a hurdle for the team. With Anti Raanta in goal and a slew of prospects on the horizon, the places are there for the team to potentially put it all together.

Big Question: Can the prospect pool elevate themselves to the next level?

8. Vancouver Canucks

Henrik and Daniel Sedin have retired. The Canucks are entering a new phase with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat leading the team. It may take some time for them plus prospects Elias Lindholm and Quinn Hughes to ripen and take the club to respectability.

Big Question: Who takes leadership in the void of the Sedins’ retirement?

ATLANTIC

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning still have Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevsky. They may be the deepest team in the league. They’ve made it to the final four in three of the past four years. Can they actually win the Stanley Cup?

Big Question: Can the Lightning get over the hump?

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs landed the biggest fish in the history of UFAs in John Tavares. Adding him to a lineup that already includes Austin Matthew, Mitch Marner, Jake Gardnier and Frederik Andersson gives the Leafs the deepest team they’ve had in decades. They have to advance to at least the second round this year.

Big Question: How does Tavares fit into the Leafs lineup?

3. Florida Panthers

The Panthers were one of the hottest teams down the stretch last season, missing the playoffs by one point. If they get off to a better start, perhaps they don’t need such a mad dash. Alexander Barkov is the new captain in town and looks to break out and be a star in the league.

Big Question: Can Barkov drive the team?

4. Boston Bruins

The Bruins feature the top line of the league in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and have some young risers on the way. They lost Reilly Smith and trade deadline acquisition Rick Nash over the summer, and Toronto and Tampa have improved. In the Atlantic, it seems as though they’ve lost the arms race.

Big Question: How much does Zdeno Chara have left in the tank?

5. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres added stud blueline prospect Rasmus Dahlin and signed Carter Hutton as their new starting goalie. If Casey Middlestadt, Risto Ristolainen and Jack Eichel continue developing, the Sabres may finally be able to breakthrough.

Big Question: How good is Rasmus Dahlin right now?

6. Detroit Red Wings

Henrik Zetterberg’s sudden retirement thrusts the Wings into a new era. This is Dylan Larkin’s team now. Several prospects are knocking on the door in Michael Rasmussen, Dennis Cholowski and Filip Zadina, and their development is paramount to Detroit’s success.

Big Question: How does Larkin adjust to Zetterberg’s absence?

7. Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are a franchise in distress. Defenseman Shea Weber is out until Christmas at the earliest. Captain Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk have been traded for underwhelming returns. Goaltender Carey Price may need to replicate his MVP season for this team to have a remote chance of success.

Big Question: How much longer can GM Marc Bergevin keep his job?

8. Ottawa Senators

Speaking of franchises in distress, the Ottawa Senators must surely be testing their fan’s commitment. Just one year removed from nearly making it to the Stanley Cup Final, the team is plagued by problems internal and external, culminating with the trade of star defenseman and captain Erik Karlsson just a few weeks ago to the San Jose Sharks. The Senators are a mess.

Big Question: How big will the train wreck be?

METROPOLITAN

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Calgary Flames

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins

After failing in their quest for a three-peat, the Penguins have finally had some extended time off. The longer summer may do them good. They still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Matt Murray. They’re still a world-class organization with Stanley Cup aspirations. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t return to the top of the league.

Big Question: How does bold GM Jim Rutherford tinker with the lineup over the season?

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets stand at a precarious point. They may have the most talented team in their history with Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. However, both Panarin and Bobrovsky have proven hesitant to sign new contracts in the last year of their deals. Losing both for nothing is not an option. It’s imperative for Columbus to convince them that the team is on the right path or trade them. If convinced, the team could be a surprise Cup contender.

Big Question: What happens with Bobrovsky and Panarin?

3. Washington Capitals

The Capitals finally got over the hump. The Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. It’s still weird to write. Such a ginormous accomplishment in light of so many years of playoff disappointments is bound to produce quite the hangover effect (for Ovechkin, perhaps literally). The team returns largely the same except behind the bench, where coach Barry Trotz has departed to the Islanders, replaced by assistant Todd Reirden. Repeating is never easy.

Big Question: Will the hangover hang over the Caps all season?

4. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers made the jump to the playoffs after an absence and boast some talented young defensemen, highlighted by Ivan Provorov. Claude Giroux had a marvelous season with 102 points and Sean Coutourier finished second in Selke voting. The problems remain in goal. A goaltending tandem of Brian Elliot and Michael Neuvirth does not exactly strike fear into opponents.

Big Question: Can the Flyers get good enough goaltending to compete (stop me if you’ve heard that one before)?

5. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have seemingly been rebuilding for years. Unsuccessful draft picks on offense, coaching changes and ownership turmoil have withered the team, and the hope is that Andrei Svechnikov, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, new coach Rod Brind’amour and a resurgent Scott Darling may finally get the team back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Big Question: How does Brind’amour handle this roster?

6. New Jersey Devils

Reigning MVP winner Taylor Hall practically dragged this team into the playoffs last season. There was an over-40 point spread between him and the next highest scorer on the team. It may take a similarly Herculean effort to repeat that playoff performance.

Big Question: What does Taylor Hall accomplish this year?

7. New York Rangers

The Rangers went into rebuilding mode at the end of last season. Captain Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the team began stockpiling draft picks. Henrik Lundqvist is still manning the net, but had an off-year last season. Could he soon be a trade chip if the team continues to build for the future?

Big Question: Which young guns step up?

8. New York Islanders

No team has gone through more heartbreak over the summer than the New York Islanders. After getting Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz and legendary GM Lou Larmiorello, it seemed that might be enough to convince John Tavares to stay on the team, especially with Matthew Barzal winning rookie of the year. But Tavares dashed to the Maple Leafs, leaving the club and its fans heartbroken. Perhaps this puts a chip on the team’s current players and they excel, much in the same way the Golden Knights did after being declared castoffs. But that would be a big jump.

Big Question: Who leads the team after Tavares?

After completing my own bracket, I’m predicting a Stanley Cup Final of San Jose and Tampa Bay, with the Sharks winning their first championship.

Though if anyone correctly predicted a Cup Final last year at this time of Washington and Vegas, they ought to enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

The unlikely will happen. That’s what makes things exciting.

“Justice League” Just a Disappointment

Where is the DCEU going? Is it the gritty, god-obsessed mythology of Zach Snyder? Is it a copy of the MCU? Is it something else? No one seems to know. “Justice League” is the latest example of how no one at Warner Bros. seems to know what they’re doing with the DC Universe. In the race to make a counter to Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Justice League has been given the short stick.

When a new threat to the world emerges after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Bruce Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) must recruit a team of other superheroes such as Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Together, they need to defeat the villainous Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) before he destroys the world.

That is pretty much the whole plot right there. Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? Whereas “Man of Steel” (2013) and “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) were failed films with high concepts, “Justice League” is a failed film with no concept. It is the laziest excuse for a superhero ensemble. No deeper morals, no themes about gods and superpowers, no character arcs beyond the most absolute basic. It is a totally paint-by-numbers movie devoid of any creative spark. There is nothing memorable about it.

It really is hard to criticize specific scenes or characters because the film is so hollow. You just don’t care about the story. It’s a series of action sequences followed by mandatory “character” moments. Flash is the funny one. Aquaman is dashingly reckless. Batman is brooding. Cyborg is angry.  The villain wants to destroy the world for… reasons. He’s a baddie. The team must learn to work together as a team. Fill in the blank.

This is not the film the Justice League deserves. The audience should be on the edge of their seats as the different members of the League are assembled by Batman and Wonder Woman, broken souls who have never been heroes before. Guided by the memory of Superman, the team must put aside their egos and pasts to band together as a team (in a way that’s different than the MCU). Superman’s absence has allowed a new supervillain to emerge out of the shadows, a multi-faceted villain who has a personal beef with Batman/Wonder Woman/Aquaman/etc.

People often complain that the DCEU movies are too dark and that they’re being rushed too fast, but that’s ignoring the big problems at their heart. Being dark is not an inherent problem. Indeed, it’s a good way to distinguish themselves from the MCU. The DCEU can be dark and moody, but we have to care. Superman and Batman should be shining beacons of light in a hostile world, people we connect with and aspire to become. That has never happened in any of these films, both Affleck and Cavill flat and uninteresting cardboard cutouts. And you don’t need to follow the MCU and build up all the characters in individual films before putting them together in a team movie. It’s a disservice to the audience to think they need to be led by the hand and explained every little thing. You can introduce a bunch of characters in one film and give them fully fleshed out arcs that don’t cheat them. It’s hard, but it’s doable.

But you have to do it well. That’s what the DCEU has never done (“Wonder Woman” (2017) excluded). Tell a story with engaging characters that the audience can empathize with. The idea of the DCEU (other than to make money) was to be the “mature” superhero franchise, with high ideas of mythology, religion, idolism and violence. It has never struggled for ideas and reach, it has struggled in execution.

“Justice League” is the first film that never even tries. At least the previous films tried. But the MCU has apparently taken permanent residence in Warner Bros. psyche. They need to be different and the same, light and dark, popular and edgy. And with the trailers for “Shazam” and “Aquaman” lacking the same sort of coherent guidance needed to create a DC world, it looks like more of the same is in store. The best move would be to start over from scratch, wipe the slate clean and let the series evolve naturally, with committed filmmakers taking their time and putting together a refined product.

But that can’t happen today, when movies are planned years in advance, an assembly-line production that stifles creativity. It’s a shame.

 

“Crazy Rich Asians” is crazy good

What ever happened to rom-coms? Much maligned, seldom appreciated, the rom-com was a staple of modern cinemas from the 1980s through the early 2000s. Sure, they’re cheesy, overly optimistic, formula-reliant. But they’re pleasant to watch. Not everything needs to be the-movie-to-end-all-movies. Movies can be light, entertaining and still matter.

Around the early 2000s, the rom-com disappeared. Movie schedules became inundated with tentpole blockbusters or Oscar bait films. Really, it seemed that after “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, the rom-com went extinct.

So it’s nice to not only see a rom-com, but a good rom-com and one that is doing well at the box office. It seems it was missed.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan. New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is in love with the dashing Nick Young (Henry Golding). He invites her as his date to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Little does Rachel know that Nick comes from an incredibly wealthy family, with sister, Astrid (Gemma Chan), brother Eddie (Ronny Chieng), cousin Alistair Cheng (Remy Hii) and demanding mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Each of them has their own issues tied to the upkeep of family and the power that money entails. Astrid’s husband, Michael (Pierre Png), feels inferior to his wife’s wealth. Alistair is making movies with a slutty actress. And Nick’s mother hates Rachel, believing her unworthy for her son. Rachel confides in her friend, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) as Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta’s (Sonoya Mizuno) wedding approaches.

The three main points of conflict are right in the film’s title: crazy (love), rich (wealth) and Asian (culture). Rachel may have love for Nick, but she is doubted for being a gold digger and not Asian enough. The film then is a test for her to prove her worth against the family and economic situations working against her. It’s a traditional but classic story structure.

The film is a modern Cinderella of sorts and a celebration of Singapore culture with plenty of ethnic music, food, architecture and people. It’s also beautifully shot, setting it apart from the usual rom-com, with wide shots of the city, extravagant buildings and the elaborate wedding itself.

Now, the film is not especially new. Many characters are classic tropes (the crazy best friend, the pushy mom, the wise grandmother, the perfect male love interest, the backstabbing old flame). The plot is a classic fish-out-of-water narrative. And the relationship between Rachel and Eleanor as protagonist and antagonist could have been highlighted more. Perhaps Eleanor tests Rachel, pushing her to her limits, such as during the dumpling scene. Perhaps Rachel has to make the family recipe dumplings over and over again. Her hands feel like giving up, but she perseveres to prove herself. Scenes like this would have really put the battle over culture and love into perspective.

But the story is told well, which is the most important aspect of any film. And it fills you with a warm and funny feeling at the end. That’s a strange sensation for modern films.

Understanding films from all angles