Jurassic Park (1993 - DVD)

As you probably know, Jurassic Park was the first movie to truly create realistic looking and moving dinosaurs via a combination of utilizing full-scale models and miniatures, and computer graphics made possible by then-recent advances in technology. The effects are seamless and the prehistoric creatures that roam the screen are very believable in how they interact with the humans, each other, and their environments. But the real icing on the cake is that not only do the special effects hold up well after all these years, but so does the story. The characters are all interesting, likable, have unique personalities, and importance to the plot. It's got everything from humor (lawyer on the toilet, Ian Malcolm's dialogue), to suspense (T-Rex attacking the car), and a great soundtrack (by John Williams), too. The explanation for how the dinosaurs exist in the modern day certainly seems plausible enough, and the movie has a grandiose sense of adventure and atmosphere.

The only reservation I have is that the action sequences get a little repetitive and silly towards the end (it's like they tried to have an Aliens-style double climax, right down to people running through air vents to escape pursuing creatures), and the final scene with the T-Rex is rather improbable, but hey, it's still an enjoyable ride that can really get your adrenaline going. No better dinosaur movie has ever been made.
Rating: 4.5/5

Jurassic Park III (2001 - DVD)

I hate to say this, but this is (IMO) the worst of the three Jurassic Park films. Okay, imagine this scenario: A guy goes to an island full of dinosaurs and becomes trapped there with no way to return to the mainland. Somehow he has to survive for several months on his own, with all of these fearsome prehistoric beasts surrounding him, until help arrives. How will he do it? Doesn't that sound like an interesting idea to you? That's the set up to JP3, but instead of worrying about that, it focuses on the annoying parents who form the kid's rescue team, strings along a few Obvious Dinosaur Fodder Characters, and shoehorns in Dr. Alan Grant because, hey, he was in the first movie! Finally, instead of a plot, it has an endless string of chase scenes.

The dinosaur special effects are as good and convincing as ever, but the way Spinosaurus relentlessly pursues the humans everywhere on the island makes him seem rather cartoonish and less like a real animal. Oh, and what's an even worse kick to the groin than that gymnast scene in The Lost World (see below)? For reasons unexplained, Ellie Sattler married and had kids with someone else instead of Alan Grant, even though that goes entirely against the whole point of Dr. Grant learning to like the kids in the first movie. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate that sort of shit.
Rating 2/5

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997 - DVD)

The harder this movie tries to top the first Jurassic Park, the worse it gets. The beginning is not too bad, as there's a rather good sequence involving a close encounter with a family of Stegosauruses. But as soon as the party of hunters showed up on the island, I got the same sinking feeling that Alien3 gave me where I knew there'd be a bunch of action scenes in which these people are chased by dinosaurs and you don't care who gets killed because you don't really know any of them. That's exactly what happens, and the only hunter with any personality is Pete Postlethwaite's character, who just happened to be in Alien3. Ian Malcolm is also back from the first movie, but he feels out of place as the main character and most of his dialogue only serves to foreshadow the obvious.

Then there's that embarrassing gymnastics scene in which a character (who was very briefly mentioned as being a gymnast in one sentence early in the movie) kicks a raptor after swinging around on a bar. You might think that would serve as the symbolic kick to the groin of the first JP movie, but it's one-upped by a travesty of a third act in which a T-Rex is brought to San Diego and thoroughly rampages through it. It's an homage to Godzilla and comes complete with a crowd of Japanese people running away. The first movie had some comedy, but it wasn't a farce.
Rating: 2.5/5

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010 - Theater)

A long time ago, I said in my review of Zoda's Revenge that it "seems to take place in a bizarre alternate universe in which things normally found only in video games exist in the real world." Scott Pilgrim vs. the World feels like someone read that review and said, "Why don't we make a movie that does the same thing?" Movies based on video games are notoriously bad, and so are games based on movies, but it's like someone finally figured out how to get the peanut butter into the chocolate and make something worth eating.

I've seen the movie accused of "pandering" with its various game references, but part of me believes it's because most of the nods are to oldschool games and the people complaining are the same types who demand to know why "X Game" isn't on my "Top X List". You don't have to know the significance of things like a band called "The Clash at Demonhead", or twins who fight with "Double Dragons", or musicians wanting to play at "The Chaos Theatre" to enjoy the movie, they're just bonuses for those who will get them. The real highlights are the exceptional visual style and outrageous action sequences. (Whether you're oldschool or newschool, fighting games, which the movie uses for its main motif, are universal.)

Now with all that said, the movie isn't perfect. I felt it was a little too long, and the downside to having references is that I started intentionally looking for them in every scene which caused me to get distracted on several occasions. I still liked it enough to be disappointed when I heard it flopped, so hopefully it'll find new life in the DVD market as a cult classic.
Rating: 3.5/5

The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (1996 - DVD)

I felt like my Simpsons knowledge was severely lacking, having only seen episodes from the first three seasons and the most recent seasons. So, I started with Season 8 because it was the only DVD set that was immediately accessible to me. While there is some debate as to when exactly the quality of the show started tapering off, I'd say that this was generally a strong season with only a few bad spots. Some of my favorite moments include:

  • Mr. Burns saying he didn't like the outdoors because there are "too many fat kids" in "Bart After Dark".
  • Homer blowing the bubblegum in the doctor's face in "Hurricane Neddy".
  • Mr. Burns as an alien in "The Springfield Files".
  • Homer as the voice of Poochie in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show".
  • "Brother From Another Series" actually making me feel sorry for Sideshow Bob.
  • The Mr. Sparkle subplot in "In Marge We Trust".
  • Frank Grimes's descent into insanity in "Homer's Enemy".

    And now, the low points:

  • With the exception of one Chief Wiggum joke involving a wheelbarrow, "My Sister My Sitter" was a very painful episode.
  • I didn't care for "The Old Man and the Lisa". (Funny, both of these are Lisa episodes and I've heard people say before that episodes that focus on her have a greater tendency to suck.)

    And yeah, I finally saw the "Poochie Episode" after all these years. Overall, I probably enjoyed my time with Arrested Development and Seinfeld, Season 8 more, but if earlier seasons of The Simpsons are even better than this, then I have a lot to look forward to.
    Rating: 4/5



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