1 1/2 Stars

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Had I been born approximately two or so years earlier, I would have fond memories of the original Jurassic Park in the theaters during its original release. Alas, I was six, so I had to wait until home video. After the promise of a series revival of sorts with 2015’s highly entertaining Jurassic World, the series was on its last little Dino legs when the highly disappointing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was released in 2018. I hoped life may find a way to bring the series home to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. 

In the third and final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy (and possibly last in the Jurassic saga), Jurassic World: Dominion indeed brings the series home…to extinction.

4 Stars Movies

Little Women (2019)

Except for the fact that it was a classic book that had been remade numerous times over the decades, my knowledge of Little Women was practically nil. Of course, as a kid, I would rather have been reading Robin Hood, Frankenstein, or Tom Sawyer over a book with a title clearly meant for the female audience. This left me entering the newest adaptation of Louis May Alcott’s beloved book mystified as to what I would experience, though I had some hopes since it was directed (and adapted) by Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig.

The result was, to say the very least, surprisingly heart warming, as Gerwig and the knockout cast deliver to both newbies (like me) as well as fans. While I may be wrong on some of the characters and their relationships, I will do my best (thankfully, there was an older couple two seats down the aisle from me, and I could here the woman explaining things to her husband.) The film is told in two separate times, seven years apart. The earlier days is during the civil war, where we meet the four march sisters. They are Jo (Saoirse Ronan, teaming up again with Gerwig after their 2017 film Lady Bird), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen).

Their father is off serving the North in the Civil War, so they try to make the best of things alongside their mother, Marmee (the wonderful Laura Dern). We also meet their neighbor, Mr. Laurence (the ever reliable Chris Cooper) and his grandson Theodore, aka “Laurie” (Timothee Chalamet, also from Lady Bird). And, of course, let us not forget Aunt March, played by Meryl Streep. There are many actresses who can proclaim they are “not always right, but are never wrong.”, but can you think of any you would want to have say that over Streep?

As is the case with all siblings (not just sisters), there is love, envy, forgiveness, resentment, and mischief. This is mainly shown in the earlier time, since the sisters are younger and less mature. Each sibling has their own unique strength: Meg (who I believe is the eldest) is drawn to the theater. Jo is a writer of stories. Amy is a painter. Beth is musically inclined on the piano. A good chunk of the film is how each sister (especially Jo) realizes that growing up means going down different roads. As Meg states,

“Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.”

 They also have their different character traits as well (which I can only assume is true to the original material). While Meg and Beth are on the gentler side (especially Beth), it is Jo and Amy who are more head strong, which could explain why both are having feeling for Laurie. Jo herself states how she is amazed she was not born a boy. Even so, she is still prone to show her vulnerability.

One of the best examples of this is toward the end of the film, when Jo is talking to her mother about love (one of countless scenes of nearly impeccable acting). When asked if she loves a certain character, Jo responds,

“I care more to be loved. I want to be loved.”

Marmee responds,

“That’s not the same as loving.”

As humans, we are all looking for love. As children, we look towards our parents (or guardians). As we get older, we enter the stage of wishing for a significant other (once we realize cooties are not actually a thing.) Yet we realize that actual love is not a one way street: relationships don’t work if the love is not reciprocal.

Jo also has a moment of trying to defy God (which is an action that sums her character up in detail). While caring for a sick family member, Jo is told,

“We can’t stop God’s will.”

Jo responds,

“Well, God hasn’t met my will yet. What Jo wills shall be done.”

Regardless of where we are in our walk with God, we have all tried to defy God and/or his will at one point or another. This is one of the most raw forms of pride we possess. Of course, when we have a loved one who is sick, injured, or depressed, we feel bad for them as well as ourselves. It is when we start thinking along the lines of “Well God, if you won’t do anything, then I will!” that we start going down the wrong path.

All the performers make their mark, but the two that stand out are Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. As of this writing, both of their awards buzz has died down a little, but I would still not at all be surprised if they heard their names when the Oscar nominations are announced.

Perhaps the best part of the film, however, is how Gerwig (who clearly has a great film making career ahead of her) adapted the story. She balances the classical nature of the story with the right amount of contemporary energy that makes the film seem almost like a relic, yet still relatable.

Parents, this may be the family holiday movie that you don’t know your family actually needs (though I can see young boys not wanting to see this.) It is rated PG, mainly for the thematic elements. There is no swearing or violence, and only two kisses I can remember. I would guess a girl of any age would heart this film.

Little Women does have moments were it tends to drag on a bit, but very few times: I was basically enthralled the whole time. When you think of it, making this film was very risky. A PG family movie with mainly a female lead cast, no action or songs (basically, a film not steered by the Mouse House). Yet that does not take away from the films morals of life, heartbreak, romance, and all the little things in between. As one character states,

“Morals don’t sell nowadays.”

Little Women is nothing short of a delight.


Rating: 4 out of 5.
4 Stars Movies

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Update: With The Rise of Skywalker less than a week away, it was inevitable that I would return to watching The Last Jedi. I am confident in saying that no other movie in my life time has ever been this divisive, splitting the opinions of families and friends world wide. I am still sticking to my guns (or blasters, as it were).

No one can overstate the fandom of the Star Wars Universe. Even so, regardless of how many times you have seen the movies, the amount of books you read, the hours of gameplay you have spent on KOTAR (Knights of the Old Republic) and the Lego versions, and even if you know the difference between a fambaa and a Tauntaun (actual creature names in the Star Wars Universe), you are still going to be surprised by Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. The dialogue from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says it best:

“This is not going to go the way you think!”

Set right after the events of The Force Awakens, this film shows the rebels under attack and virtually cornered by the first order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Despite efforts by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and others, the rebel’s star ships seem to be running low on fuel and are at the end of their rope. Still, hope is still being held onto, mainly by Leia (the late great Carrie Fisher, whose final film performance both melts your heart and warms it at the same time). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker, but getting him to join the fight is no easy feat.

That is all I will say of the plot, because I would never dream of dropping any spoilers. I can say that this film does seem to be in a class of its own in the Star Wars franchise. It has shown us parts of the force we have not experienced before. Yet where it differs, the similarities are still there (there are vibes you get of The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi). There are twists we do not see coming, and I was shocked many a time during the film. That is a positive thing.

Obviously, the film is a technical marvel. It is so wondrous to see that, even after all these years, the Star Wars films can still give us imagery that we have not yet seen (the same goes for the music, done, once again, by the legend that is John Williams.) The credit of taking a risk with going in a different direction has got to go to director Rian Johnson (who also helped write the screenplay). This even includes some unexpected, yet delightful humorous moments.

The Last Jedi does have some faults that keep it from the likes of Episodes 4 and 5. The movie is long (the longest, in fact, of the franchise, at 2 1/2 hours). There is also a character played by Benecio Del Toro (undoubtedly an amazing actor) who, I feel, was totally redundant to the film. His character, DJ (which really seems a little odd for a Star Wars film, somehow) is in a situation to help the rebels, but that situation alone was awkward writing in the first place. One of the main arguments of the film (and there are too many to count from Star Wars fans) is that the subplot with the Casino does not work, and I agree.

Still, we get some fresh new faces that add to the franchise that are more than welcome. The two stand out characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a rebel fighter helping Poe and Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (the always wonderful Laura Dern). All these characters (and others) get at least one moment in the film to shine (some of which will have you applauding). 

The one main scene involving Dern’s character has been debated constantly, with haters of the film saying that her decision would not work at all in the vast scheme of things. My response to that would be to simply ask, “Do we really go to a Star Wars film to be informed or entertained?” Let’s not forget, this is Science Fiction.

Parents, if your kids have seen at least one other film in this franchise (and if they haven’t and are old enough, what are you waiting for?!?!), they will be fine here. There is no nudity or sex, just some mild swearing and (obviously) action.

As of this review, there is a vast difference in opinion between critics and the public (as is normally the case). It is strange, however, that the critics seem to like it a lot more (at the moment, 93% of critics liked it, while only 63% of the audience liked it*). Upon reading the reviews from the latter, I realize a lot of people are upset that certain questions are not answered. Personally, I feel not all questions need to be answered in a movie. It is up for interpretation, meaning The Last Jedi will require many a viewing.

Something I will gladly do.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

*As of 2019, the critics rating is 91%, while the audience is 43%. The ultra Star Wars fanboys/girls have given this film the treatment equivalent to throwing it to the almighty Sarlac.