Thursday 21 March 2019

Movie Reviews: Jurassic World, Let Us Prey and Queen & Country

Jurassic World
Jurassic World
Let Us Prey
Queen & Country
Queen & Country
Jurassic World
Let Us Prey

Jurassic World looks impressive but lacks a bit of pace, low budget horror Let Us Prey is entertaining and scary and Queen & Country is a hefty period piece

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Action/Adventure. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson. Director: Colin Trevorrow. Cert: 12A

With every passing summer, the blockbuster blow-outs get bigger, buffer and beefier. We've already had a blast, thanks to instalments in the The Avengers and The Fast and the Furious franchises… but for all their power, they've not been quite as hotly anticipated as Jurassic World.

Fourteen years have passed since the pretty paltry Jurassic Park III (though looking back on the dated special effects, it feels like much longer).

2001's offering felt like the wringing out of a good idea, so little wonder that this year's movie spent well over a decade in development hell (several rewrites and directors are never a good sign, for any project). Eventually, the behemoth lurched into production with a young gun-slinger director at the wheel… but was the wait worth it?

We find ourselves, along with brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), stepping over the threshold of the furiously slick Jurassic World resort in Costa Rica. How's this for some neat symbolism?

Out of the ashes of the ill-fated Jurassic Park theme park (which you may recall went down in a flame of notoriety), the bigger, and more impressive resort of Jurassic World has risen, pterosaur-style.

It's the sort of theme park which, to be fair, makes wherever you are going for your two-week summer holiday look fairly rubbish.

Gray is a plucky, mop-top cutie, while Zach is the sort of headphones-on sulk who stares a bit creepily at pretty girls. The brothers' aunt is the park's supervisor Claire (the ever-watchable Bryce Dallas Howard). She's not your average cuddly auntie, though: we know this because she is career-obsessed and can't remember their ages.

She appears to have personal beef with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a hunky dinosaur trainer (something to do with a date where he showed up in board shorts).

Owen is an earthy, good guy: we know this because he lives in a trailer and talks to his trainee raptor dinosaurs as though they're more than just sideshow stars.

He's a strong, silent type, although light on the cheeky wisecracks and not a patch at all on the charismatic Jeff Goldblum's Dr Ian Malcolm. Compared to starchy Claire though, the root of whom's emotional frigidity we never get to the bottom of, he is a cartwheeling delight.

The park, as we know from Claire's robotic rattling out of statistics, is going great guns: punters are thrilled, the rides are eye-popping, and the seven-dollar cokes are selling like hotcakes.

But they want to take things up a notch. And that's where their latest attraction comes in: the Indominous Rex. Designed rather than bred, he is a truly evil bugger (a second one was bred, but he ate his sibling as a baby).

Held in captivity for much of its life, Indominous Rex outsmarts the park's personnel and finally ends up free and unbidden in the wider theme park, and this big boy is in the mood for bloodthirsty mischief.

Despite using a lot of big words, nobody at this park had any clue just how tricky and aggressive this creature could get.

And, double derrrrp, Claire's nephews are still out in the park unsupervised, having somehow wandered off-piste.

After that, it's a race to the finish as we tick off a number of threadbare clichés along the way: the sexual tension between Owen and Claire gives way to a Hollywood kiss in the middle of the chaos (and why not), while the two youngsters outsmart dinosaurs that have already disposed of dozens of militia.

As the film progresses, Claire suddenly becomes a bit kick-ass (miraculously, she manages to stay alive in while running for her life in spike heels).

Trevorrow's handling of his slice of the gargantuan franchise is certainly slick (not bad going, given he has Steven Spielberg's directorial shoes to fill). But there's a fine line between self-assured and showboating.

Clocking in at over two hours, Trevorrow was clearly loathe to let any of his fancy efforts fall to the cutting-room floor, but the end result can sometimes feel a bit leaden.

As for those all-important visuals: well, they're chaotic, fun, and might not look overly ridiculous in a decade's time.

An inter-dinosaur fight scene near the end feels a bit surplus to requirements, mind… all I saw were a lot of scales getting their knickers in a twist.

Overall, Jurassic World is light on human warmth, but it's loud, riotous, with more teeth than its predecessors. There are a few moments where you will feel the crunch in your seat… who can say fairer than that?

Rating ***

Let Us Prey

Let Us Prey

Horror. Starring Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge, Douglas Russell, Niall Greig Fulton. Director: Brian O'Malley. Cert: 18

Where this week's biggest offering isn't short on shock, this Irish/Scottish film, with its charmingly hand-crafted feel, is a different, though no less stylish, beast entirely.

A rookie cop Rachel (a hugely magnetic McIntosh) finds herself stationed in a remote Scottish town; the sort of place where the waves crash against the shoreline with genuine menace.

Predictably, the cop-shop's holding cells are where a motley crew of the dysfunctional and the disenfranchised call home.

The arrival of the enigmatic Six (Cunningham) one night upends the relative peace.

Not quite carrying the film squarely on his shoulders, Cunningham's slow-burn, subtle performance certainly provides plenty of the film's horsepower.

The only bum note is Let Us Prey's flabby script, packed with dialogue that thinks it's much smarter than it really is (sample: handcuffed inmate Caesar: 'If you're into domination, just say, we'll book a room').

Featuring some impressive camera work, thanks to Piers McGrall, and an ominous soundtrack by Steve Lynch, Let Us Prey's tango dance between light and shade (with plenty of the latter) is fairly enchanting.

It takes a while for Let Us Prey to kick its body count off, but once the inmates start to come around to Six's evil way of thinking, it gets off the ground.

Granted, the disembowellings can sometimes veer towards the cartoonish, and boasts one of the most bewildering film endings I've seen in a while… but a pulsing, prime slice of bright-red gore always makes for a dependable night out.

Rating ***

Queen & Country

Queen & Country

Drama. Starring Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thewlis, Richard E Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Sinead Cusack. Director: John Boorman. Cert: 15A

Not for nothing is director John Boorman considered a true-blue heavyweight. Fans of his 1987 classic Hope and Glory have probably not been chomping at this bit for a sequel… but Boorman's giving them one anyway.

Here, Bill Rohan has grown up and been drafted into the army from his beautiful home on the river Thames, a stone's throw from Shepperton Studios. With its heavyweight cast, Queen & Country is every bit as ambitious and deliciously detailed as you might expect.

The welcome addition of Pat Shortt notwithstanding, Boorman stays ever faithful to the usual British epic period tropes (complete with a hefty two-hour running time).

While there's little wiggle-room for innovation, to mess with tradition here would be a travesty.

Rating ***

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