2022 Movie Reviews: Jurassic World: Dominion / Fire Island / Crimes of the Future / Pleasure

Dinosaurs, Cronenberg, and Gays, Oh My! Also Porn.

Jurassic World: Dominion

The disparity in quality between Steven Spielberg‘s 1993 Jurassic Park and the rest of these movies is almost amazing. The sequels, whether it be the bland 1997 Spielberg-helmed Lost World or the glossy, clone-obsessed, horrendous-CGI-laden diarrhea fest that was Fallen Kingdom, never come close to capturing the fun or the spectacle of the original. That’s mostly because these other films have zero suspense, one-dimensional characters and are just too fucking ambitious for their own good (child clone subplot, Dinosaur civil rights, Dogson and Wu’s star-crossed romance). Dominion is no exception, in fact, it very well might be the absolute worst entry the franchise has to offer despite a sporadically charming but mostly garishly written reunion between Goldblum, Dern, and Neill. Christ, there’s a scene where Grant asks Ellie how she kept in touch with Malcolm, to which she replies, “He slid into my DMs.” Vomit. This one tries to balance both a Chris Pratt/Bryce Dallas Howard storyline with a Goldblum/Dern/Neill subplot, and that juxtaposition ends up accidentally highlighting how thinly written and violently uninteresting both Pratt and Howard‘s characters are. At least Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm are played by three of the best actors of their generation, instead of just Andy from Parks & Rec and NOT Jessica Chastain. If I have to watch stupid Chris Pratt put his dumb fucking hand out to tame a raptor one more time, I’m going to lose my mind. So this one is so desperate for nostalgic callbacks that it makes the non-character Dogson its villain. For those of you who don’t remember who Dogson was because you’re not currently in a stage play based on the original film, Dogson was the guy working for the competing dinosaur lab that Newman was stealing embryos for. Remember, they had a scene in that cafe? “DOGSON, DOGSON, WE GOT DOGSON HERE!”Well, anyway, he’s funding and fucking Dr. Wu (the always loveable B.D. Wong) and the plot surrounds them trying correct some wrong that brought back locusts that are eating every crop in America but really they’re just trying to cover up their own tracks. I don’t understand why this series keeps trying to make Dr. Wu a villain and then bailing last second. Also, I don’t understand why a mainstream blockbuster released during Pride month would feature a gay, interracial couple as the super villains. Seems kinda in poor taste. I mean, did Rick Santorum executive produce this? In all seriousness, I doubt it was on purpose and I doubt director Colin Trevorrow is a homophobe. I just think he’s a dipshit. A dipshit who is obsessed with cloning. Seriously, what is with this guy and cloning? Didn’t he get it out of his system with The Rise of Skywalker? Jurassic Park: Dominion is more about cloning than dinosaurs with a somewhat action-y hero child clone character who just seems like a lazy and unimaginative amalgamation of El from Stranger Things, Newt from Aliens, and countless other pint-sized archetypes from “child in danger” movies. The actress who plays her is actually not terrible which is a minor miracle seeing how one-dimensional the role is. The three returning vets are far better than Pratt and Howard, with Goldblum shining the most. Sam Neill looks embarrassed and annoyed to be there while Laura Dern seems to be doing her best to prop up a character whose entire personality in the original was, “I want to have kids!” The CGI dinosaurs look terrible here but they are given a few fun moments where they do something cute and sassy. If they’re going to keep making these movies, and after seeing the box office receipts for this bad boy, it’s inevitable, I hope they release one that’s only dinosaurs with no human actors. Real dinosaurs too, no CGI shit – of course I mean puppets and animatronics. Who needs tired and trope-y dialogue between two poorly written characters when you can just have a scene where a Triceratops takes a relaxing bath in a lake and farts a couple times. I’d buy that for a dollar! More dinosaur farts, please! Grade: D (In Theaters)

Fire Island

A light, usually fun, and mostly dumb romantic comedy based on Jane Austen‘s Pride & Prejudice but with a queer Asian twist. A group of gay friends head on down to Fire Island to party and hook up, and hopefully get their shy friend, Howie (Bowen Yang), laid. The story is told in an overly used and trite at this point self-critical/aware voice-over narration by our protagonist, Noah (Joel Kim Booster – who also wrote the screenplay), who classically spends more time worrying about his friends than his own self. On the island, Howie ends up getting sweet on this male-model-looking sensitive motherfucker who is part of a mean, rich clique. He seems nice, but his friends are total elitist assholes, especially this really uptight lawyer one who Noah sorta wants to hate-fuck. Things pop off in the meat rack, and we get a classic traffic jam of romantic entanglements. My biggest complaint with Fire Island is it’s just good and charming enough to make you wish it was better. Besides the three leads, the other friend characters seem really one-note and mere representations of gay archetypes, instead of three-dimensional characters. That being said, the three central leads all give solid performances with Bowen Yang really stealing the show and giving us a character we not only care about but truly understand. He’s very funny but the real headline here is he’s a strong dramatic actor too, never hitting a false note, never going over-the-top, which for a silly rom-com, is more than a little difficult. Margaret Cho is also really funny as the middle-aged, lesbian den mother who owns the house they all party at. She has the funniest line of the movie involving Red Lobster. Speaking of which, I miss those cheddar bay biscuits, I should get one of those home packs and bake them at home. They never turn out right for me though, I think I fuck up the drizzling of the garlic sauce and it makes them soggy. ANYWAY – it devolves into what is pretty much expected, even if you haven’t read Pride & Prejudice, it’s extremely predictable. Which is fine – it’s simple, breezy, entertainment – but I just wish some of the one-liners weren’t as clunky and all of the supporting characters didn’t seem so lacking in depth. This is an important movie though, I think it’s the first mainstream American gay comedies with three Asian leads and if you’re looking for something fun and non-challenging to throw on, it’s a sure bet to engage you throughout. Grade: B- (Hulu)

Crimes of the Future

So much is thrown at you both in text and subtext in David Cronenberg‘s return to body horror and overall weird for weirdnesses’ sake feature film, Crimes of the Future. Is it a satiric comedy about the ridiculousness of performance artists doing avant-garde shit to stay on the cutting edge? Is it a cautionary tale about plastic surgery or feeling the need to cosmetically enhance yourself? Is it a love letter to the process of change that comes with being trans? Is it a Batman remake seen through the lens of 90s indie horror? Who the fuck knows, it’s all of those things or none of those things. Basically, this takes place in the future where human beings have evolved beyond feeling pain and because of that, they perform plastic surgery on themselves at their work desks. Also existing in this world are performance artists like Viggo Mortensen and his assistant, a former surgeon turned stage performer (Lea Seydoux), who do live surgery on themselves in arthouse basements for crowds of people eating plastic. You see, some people’s organs and whole bodies are becoming more synthetic to match the rise of technology and A.I. and everything being man-made vs. all-natural, so they have to eat these purple Power Bars to recharge. Also, Viggo can manipulate his body into growing and tattooing new organs in his body, like made-up organs that look like tea kettles and spurt out some sort of strange liquid. Not everyone takes to their liberal ways though, a doctor with some sort of government agency and Detective Kristen Stewart try to investigate Viggo for his unconventional and possibly unethical theater practices. Viggo is also chatting on the DL with a local detective in abandoned junkyards, showing up masked and wearing all black, like he’s The Batman starring Robert Pattinson. That’s what it’s supposed to be right? A nod to The Batman? I dunno, figuring this fucking movie out is more than a little exhausting but once you’re able to switch off your brain’s logic button, you can really enjoy the fun and interesting visual art the film has to offer. Speaking of interesting, there are so many interesting concepts floating around in this and while some of the set pieces might seem a bit like Cronenberg recycling gags and themes from Videodrome, eXistenZ, and even Dead Ringers to some extent, Crimes of the Future feels more optimistic and at peace with its graphic flesh mutilation and eventual body evolution. For a movie that features a guy having extra ears sewn all over his naked body and the brutal murder of a child in the first five minutes, this is one of David’s least depressing movies. It’s something I enjoy writing and talking and thinking about more than actually sitting in a theater and watching. Still, in this bloated summer glut of remakes, reboots and miscellaneous generic crap, Crimes of the Future offers up more interesting concepts than ten of those movies put together. Grade: B- (In Theaters)

Pleasure

Former anti-porn activist and first-time filmmaker Ninja Thyberg‘s Pleasure is an extremely disturbing and unnervingly realistic, beyond-NC-17 cautionary tale of an 18-year-old woman, Bella Cherry, fresh off the plane from Sweden, who is determined to become the next big porn star. The movie more or less begins with a close-up shot of our lead in the shower, awkwardly trying not to slip and fall while shaving her vagina, before her first porn shoot. She lives in a sort of boarding house with other aspiring porn starlets, most of whom seem like they’re never going to really breakthrough in the industry. Every character besides our lead is played by real people within the American porn industry, from porn stars playing themselves, to porn producers playing themselves, and even a few porn stars playing porn producers, which I’m sure was in some way therapeutic for them. It’s very episodic in nature and follows Bella from one perilous shoot or awkward business meeting to the next. It would definitely benefit from a better structure seeing as though it doesn’t really have the character depth necessary to pull a Linklater move and have the characters just exist. A lot of the “heightening” seems like lateral moves and after a while the intense, triggering and almost impossible to watch scenes involving bureaucratic sexual abuse start to become numbing. Perhaps this is the point to show how numbing it can be, and how used to it you’d sadly eventually become. However, this movie does so much right it’s impossible to ignore. It never slut shames our lead or points a finger at her for her choices or any of her porn housemates, and it also, in a very David Simon‘s The Wire type of way, points the finger more at the common unsafe practices of the organization more than the individual assholes she encounters. And she does encounter inexcusable assholes, the biggest of which is probably real-life porn producer Mark Spiegler, brilliantly cast as himself. Why hire a character actor to do an impression of this guy when you can get the real-life dude to just be his regular, sleazy, weird, completely unaware self. He’s like if Danny DeVito‘s Penguin relocated to Van Nuys. It’s not a great performance it simply is just a dude being himself. There really isn’t a great performance here besides the lead, who is incredible. It’s become cliche to say an actor’s performance is “brave”, but Sofia Kappel gives one of the most affecting performances I’ve seen all year in both TV and film. The film, which really lacks a story structure, would completely topple over like a house of cards without her performance. You do wish her character had a little more depth to it, but Kappel manages to pick up the slack. It all culminates in a real banger of an ending that hammers home its message bluntly but effectively. This comes with a major triggering warning attached to it, not just because of the dozens of erect, pulsating porn penises and literally everything except actual penetration, but because of the intense authenticity of the sexual assault scenes. It’s good art but it’s certainly not easy art. Grade: B ($6.99 rental on YouTube)

Also Streaming or In Theaters:

TV

Better Call Saul on AMC+

Better Call Saul (Season 6, Part One) AMC+

Under the Banner of HeavenHulu

Stranger Things (Season 4, Part One)Netflix

The Staircase HBOMax

Atlanta (Season 3)Hulu

The Kids in the Hall on Amazon Prime

Severance (Season 1)AppleTV+

The Flight Attendant (Season 2)HBOMax

The Kids in the Hall (Season 6)Amazon Prime

Heartstopper (Season 1)Netflix

We Own This CityHBOMax

Film

The Northman on Peacock

Top Gun: Maverick (B+) – In Theaters

The Northman (B) – Peacock

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (C+) – In Theaters

Men (B-) – In Theaters

Everything Everywhere All at Once (A-) – $19.99 rental on Amazon + In Theaters

Memoria not available anywhere

Memoria (C-) – ??????

X (B-) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

Jackass Forever (B+) – Paramount+

Scream 5 (C+) – Paramount+

CODA (C+) – AppleTV+

The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World (B+) – Hulu

Parallel Mothers (A-) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

Red Rocket (A-) – $4.99 rental on Amazon

Spider-Man: No Way Home (B) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

The Tragedy of Macbeth (B) – AppleTV+

Ghostbusters: Afterlife on Starz

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (C) – Starz

House of Gucci (C+) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

West Side Story (B) – Disney+ + HBOMax

Titane (B+) – Hulu

Candyman (B) – Amazon Prime

Freddy’s Nightmares

Freddy’s Nightmares (Season 1) Screambox

Freddy’s Nightmares (Season 2)Screambox

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