Weekend Movies: Success Not Guaranteed

This weekend should end any anxiety caused by the unanswered question: “How will a fourth ‘Jurassic Park’ movie compare to the 22-year-old original?”

Universal has taken some risks with the return to the ‘Jurassic‘ franchise that Michael Crichton created and Steven Spielberg brought to life in 1993. The ‘Jurassic World’ budget landed at $150 million. The helm was given to indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow (‘Safety Not Guaranteed’), and funnyman actor Chris Pratt was placed in a mostly serious role. Featuring just the ‘Jurassic’ name doesn’t guarantee success. Although it went on to gross $181.1 million domestically, ‘Jurassic Park III‘ only opened to $50.7 million in July 2001. The majority of the original cast returned for that installment and it still underperformed expectations. There’s a lot of uncertainty here.

‘Jurassic World’ features an ensemble of characters who are either visiting or working on the island that’s home to the now-successful park. Bryce Dallas Howard plays the operations manager. Two kids play her nephews. Pratt plays a raptor tamer, with Omar Sy as his sidekick. Irrfan Khan plays the park’s owner. Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus play two systems techies. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a war-mongering InGen head, and BD Wong returns as the geneticist whose scientific discoveries have made all this possible. Like CG-laden blockbusters, the grand idea of the dinosaur park has lost its luster with audiences. Because of this, the park heads have cooked up a new genetically modified dino to bring in new crowds. But with a park filled with 20,000 appetizing humans, the unpredictable new Indominus Rex is about to stir things up.

Fox Searchlight acquired ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl‘, winner of both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Imagine a wonderful indie version of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (or any other movie dealing with teens and terminal illnesses). Without coming across as manipulative or fabricated, the film follows a lovingly-eccentric high school boy who loves watching and making quirky short film sequels with his buddy Earl. When a classmate and family friend is diagnosed with cancer, he follows his mom’s nudges and starts socializing with her. This delightful dramedy follows the threesome through the girl’s bout with cancer and could not have been made any better. Searchlight is pushing the movie onto 15 screens this weekend and will likely expand over the coming weeks.

This weekend also brings the documentary ‘Live from New York!‘. Although VH-1 has already documented a major chunk of the history of ‘Saturday Night Live’ through a several-part behind-the-scenes series, someone decided to make a shorter version that fits into a 90-minute slot. Following the same mix of archival footage, ‘SNL’ clips and new retrospective interviews, I don’t see what ‘Live from New York!’ could possibly offer that VH-1’s fantastic (albeit commercial-filled) version didn’t.

Another Sundance Jury Prize winner comes to us via Magnolia – this one of the documentary variety. ‘The Wolfpack‘ tells the unusual true story of a Manhattan family unlike any other. Because their controlling father wouldn’t allow his children to leave their apartment more than a couple times each year, the only things they knew about the “real world” came from the movies they watched from the confines of their small home. Together, the six boys created their own props and costumes and re-enacted their favorite scenes from their favorite films.

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