JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION: 2 ½ STARS
This image released by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise in a scene from “Jurassic World Dominion.” (Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment via AP)
“Bigger,” says Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in the trailer for “Jurassic World Dominion.” “Why do they always have to be bigger?”
It’s a legitimate question. The good doctor is, of course, referring to the dinosaurs that, once again, are causing problems in our modern world.
But the question might also apply to the movie itself.
The follow-up to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and the sixth and final film in the franchise, is bigger and louder than the movies that came before it, but as a viewer you may ask yourself, “Why?”
Set four years after Jurassic Park was destroyed by an erupting volcano, “Jurassic World Dominion” begins with dinosaurs let loose worldwide, living among humans.
Dino whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and girlfriend, founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), are in hiding, protecting Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). As a teenage clone of Jurassic Park co-founder Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter, her DNA from her is of great interest to Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the villainous CEO of Biosyn. When she is kidnapped, Owen and Claire give chase.
At the same time, locusts with prehistoric DNA devastate the globe’s grain supply, prompting paleo botanists Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to launch an investigation. Their search for answers leads them to Biosyn and a familiar face, chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm (Goldblum).
The dinosaurs and the story may be bigger than the last time round, but remember, bigger is not always better. The original “Jurassic” franchise worked because if a streamlined simplicity to the storytelling mixed with masterful execution. Oh, and lots of dinosaurs.
“Jurassic World Dominion” has lots of dinosaurs and some fan service, but misses the mark otherwise. It is a talky, dino-bore with none of the suspense that made “Jurassic Park” edge-of-your-seat stuff. The action scenes are murky and few-and-far-between, there’s lots of dodgy CGI and unlike the reconstituted dinosaurs, it feels lifeless. Luckily Goldblum reappears after a quick cameo off the top to shake things up with his trademarked droll in the third act.
Near the beginning of the film, Dern’s character Ellie sees a small dinosaur and coos, “this never gets old.” She clearly hasn’t seen “Jurassic World Dominion.”
HUSTLE: 3 ½ STARS
This image released by Netflix shows Ainhoa Pillet, from left, Maria Botto, Juancho Hernangomez and Adam Sandler in a scene from “Hustle.” (Scott Yamano/Netflix via AP)
“Hustle,” a new sports dramedy staring Adam Sandler, now streaming on Netflix, is an underdog story like “Rocky,” if that movie featured Burgess Meredith’s name above the title instead of Sylvester Stallone.
Sandler plays Stanley Sugarman, a veteran basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. Decades spent on the road searching for new talent has left him weary and jaded, missing his wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Jordan Hull).
His new boss, the arrogant Vince Merrick (Ben Foster), isn’t making the job any easier. The two butt heads over Stanley’s latest find, Spanish b-ball phenom Bo Cruz (NBA star Juancho Hernangomez). On the court Bo is all unrefined power, used to hustle unsuspecting players for cash. Stanley sees greatness in him, but Bo’s troubled past raises alarms with Merrick and the 76ers management.
Convinced he has a winner, Stanley brings Bo to the United States. They form a bond based on their love of basketball and family, and together they set out to prove that they have what it takes to succeed on the court and in life.
“Hustle” may be formulaic and easy to read, but it succeeds because of the chemistry between Sandler and Hernangomez. What begins as an odd couple pairing quickly becomes something more. This isn’t “Billy Madison” with a basketball, it’s a story of fathers and sons, of mentorship, one that provides uplift while avoiding the sentimentality that often shoehorns its way into movies like this.
Sandler’s performance is simple. It’s not as showy as his work by him in “Uncut Gems” or “Punch Drunk Love.” Instead, he infuses Stanley with world weariness tempered with resilience, to create a sincere portrait of a man and the game he loves. Screenwriters Taylor Materne and Will Fetters nail the serious comic tone, feeding Sandler a string of self-depreciating one-liners that help define the character.
Director Jeremiah Zagar and cinematographer Zak Mulligan capture the excitement of the game with frenetic on-court camera work that heightens the drama, and showcases the NBA action and player skills.
“Hustle” is an upbeat, predictable sports story, but succeeds because of the stakes. You’ll know where this story is going (NO SPOILERS HERE), but it transcends the usual sports narrative because the characters have it all on the line. It’s not about the basketball really, it’s more about the struggle of overcoming adversity and thus has a universal appeal even if you’ve never heard of an alley-Oop.
FIRE ISLAND: 3 STARS
A scene from the film ‘Fire Island.’ (Jeong Park/Searchlight Pictures)
Author Jane Austen passed away at age 41 in 1817, but her influence has come to be timeless. Her novels de ella, literary studies in parody, burlesque and irony mixed with social commentary, have enjoyed second lives in everything from “Clueless,” an update of “Emma” set in Beverly Hills, and the self-explanatory “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
Add to the list, just in time for Pride Month, “Fire Island,” a new LGBTQ2+ romantic comedy on Disney+, based on Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Joel Kim Booster stars as Noah, part of a twentysomething group of friends who gather every year for a week of mixing and mingling at a Fire Island house owned by their friend and den mother Erin (Margaret Cho). It is a tradition and a sacred “gay Disney World” weekend for bookworm Max (Torian Miller), pleasure seekers Luke (Matt Rogers) and Keegan (Tomas Matos) and Noah’s best friend Howie (“Saturday Night Live’s” Bowen Yang), who now lives in San Francisco but makes the trip every year.
Determined to arrange a love match, or at least a hook-up, for the insecure Howie, Noah is on the look-out for eligible men.
Enter the “prejudice” part of the story, the Mr. Darcy character, Will (Conrad Ricamora). He’s a snobby, wealthy man visiting the island with a gaggle of his lawyerin’ and doctorin’ friends. Will’s friend Charlie (James Scully) and Howie hit it off, but will Noah and Will be able to overcome their differences and become friends?
Originally created as a series on the now-defunct Quibi service, “Fire Island” has expanded to feature length with its exploration (by way of Austen) of class and status intact. Booster, who stars and wrote the script, transposes Austen’s corsets and petticoats for Speedos and wild drug and booze fueled parties, but maintains the source material’s study of overcoming obstacles for true love, class status and, especially in reference to Noah’s clique, the strength of a family network. The bond between the guys is at is the heart of this R-rated movie and helps anchor the raunchier and lighter “Legally Blonde” moments.
Director Andrew Ahn keeps up the pace, and makes Fire Island look like a million-dollar getaway. That glossy style, combined with Austen’s sensibility, adds up to an entertaining comedy of manners. It’s lightweight, but celebratory.