second half of jurassic world fallen kingdom

When the film he was reviewing would demand it, the late Roger Ebert would retell an old story he’d once heard. It was about a child prodigy, gifted at playing the piano, who was lucky enough to meet one of the old masters to perform. And so he did, skillfully getting every part of a famously tricky composition correct in his performance. When the child finished, the old master patted him on the head and said, “You know the notes. One day, maybe you will know the music.”

That’s a line that’s hard to ignore when watching the chaotic Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second new film in the franchise that knows the notes without getting any of the music correct. This movie is chock-full of references to Steven Spielberg’s modern classic, all of which are simply reminders that this material has been done much better before.

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(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: )

When Pixar Animation Studios began making features, they wanted to differentiate themselves in more ways than one from other animation companies. In the mid-1990s, it was daring to make a full-length computer-animated feature, but Pixar knew there was another trend of modern animation that they should boldly sidestep. To quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail: no singing.

The Disney Renaissance of the 1990s was marked by Broadway-style songs in Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and more. For a while, Pixar’s filmmakers would compromise with Disney, to the point where a song or two played over the soundtrack in their early films, such as Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. Nearly a quarter-century later, Pixar is the standard-bearer of American animation, only slightly delving into the musical genre with last year’s Coco. Though Pixar’s cautiously utilized songs in their films, they’ve had a very strong association with music, akin to Disney and its relationship with the late Howard Ashman, even if they intended to avoid such associations. With Pixar, many of their recent films have been defined and enhanced by the work of Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino.

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Pixar After John Lasseter

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: how Pixar can move forward following the departure of John Lasster by championing its younger filmmakers.) 

This week marks the release of Pixar Animation Studios’ twentieth computer-animated feature film, Incredibles 2. Over the past 23 years, Pixar has risen from rebellious upstart in the industry to the dominant force that other animation studios can only hope to follow. In 1995, making a computer-animated feature film was a folly on the same level as Walt Disney deciding to make a hand-drawn animated feature back in the 1930s. As with the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the success of Toy Story represented the beginning of a sea change in animation.

Last Friday saw a different change, one that is arguably overdue: John Lasseter’s announcement that he’s stepping down from his posts at Disney and Pixar at the end of 2018.

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The charms of Pixar Animation Studios’ first wave of original films have been replaced in the 2010s by a barrage of sequels. Their early films felt fresh. Even though the company’s third film was the beloved Toy Story 2, Pixar avoided the Hollywood impulse of turning into a sequel factory. But recently, they’ve made Cars 2, Cars 3, Monsters University, and Finding Dory, which mostly failed to live up to expectations.

Now, we have Incredibles 2, whose writer/director Brad Bird is only a few years removed from the live-action flop Tomorrowland. So, it’s not wrong to wonder if the new adventures of the superheroic Parr family would feel creatively uninspired. Happily, while Incredibles 2 doesn’t reach the same heights as the 2004 original, it’s more intelligent than other recent sequels.

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Ocean’s 8 Review

The ingredients to pull off an entertaining heist movie are much the same as those needed to pull off the heist itself. First, there has to be motley crew, each of whom has specific talents that will come in handy at the opportune moment. Then, there needs to be a big enough haul worthy of a cinematic heist, followed by moments of high tension, only to be resolved; and a deserving enough bad guy whose misdeeds are enough that you want other criminals to rob him or her blind.

Ocean’s 8 gets a lot of elements of the heist subgenre correct, but stumbles in setting up an antagonist for the antiheroic ensemble to steal from.

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Finding Nemo Turns 15

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: Finding Nemo turns 15 and it represents much of what Pixar has spent the past few decades trying to say about families.)

Over nearly 25 years, Pixar Animation Studios has become the high watermark of American animation. Unlike even Walt Disney Animation Studios, which has had some level of creative and behind-the-scenes upheaval over more than eight decades, Pixar’s films have been consistently successful with audiences and at the box office. Technologically and creatively, Pixar’s filmmakers have made plenty of leaps from the first computer-animated feature, Toy Story, to last year’s Coco.

Although the settings of these stories vary, Pixar has thematically been laser-focused for many years on telling stories about the creation and embrace of a community; it’s an idea that is perhaps reflected most strongly of all in a film celebrating its 15th anniversary this month: Finding Nemo.

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Han Solo is the best human character in the Star Wars cinematic franchise, as played by someone who didn’t seem to care much about the vagaries of the series.

This is the inherent paradox of the character brought to life by Harrison Ford, in a genuinely star-making performance. Before Star Wars, Ford had appeared in a few films, including The Conversation and American Graffiti. However, Han Solo was his breakout role and was at his best in the first film, even if Ford couldn’t have cared less about the science-fiction trappings of the world he was occupying.

This week heralds not only the 35th anniversary of the last original-trilogy film in the series, Return of the Jedi, but the return of Han Solo to the big screen in Solo: A Star Wars Story; each of these films, in their own way, proved that lightning could never strike twice.

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Deadpool 2 review

Much like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is less a movie than a smirky, feature-length meme generator. Though the sequel has a new director and some new cast members, Deadpool 2 is unsurprisingly doubling down on what made the first film such a big hit, including jokes about exactly how big of a hit at the box office it was, as well as plenty of other fourth-wall-breaking moments. Considering that the original was successful, it’s somewhat predictable that this sequel is going to the same well of snark and glib ultra-violence, but this is just as obnoxious as its predecessor, if not more so. Read More »

Life of the Party Review

Over the last decade, Melissa McCarthy has helped boost a handful of comedies with her fierce comic charm and timing. Spy, The Heat, Bridesmaids, and the Ghostbusters remake (which wasn’t perfect, but was still pretty damn funny) all were elevated by her ability to play someone who’s wild and outlandish while managing to feel slightly rooted in reality. Her immense talent in these films makes it all the more puzzling that the three films she’s co-written and produced, including the new comedy Life of the Party, are so scattershot. Life of the Party has a familiar, straightforward premise, but is hampered by dull jokes and a poor sense of pacing.

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Tully Trailer - Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is one of the great living actresses, and Tully is the latest proof. Theron’s ability to fully embody and transform into her characters is already well-documented, from her Oscar-winning work in Monster to the fierce Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Prior to Tully, one of Theron’s better, more acidic performances came in the Diablo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed Young Adult. Now, the actress, writer, and director have come together for a film that’s perhaps slightly less biting but far more resonant in its depiction of the struggles of modern middle-class parenting.

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