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Independence Day (film, not the day)

Before Roland Emmerich went crazy and started spewing out ridiculous disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, he made an awesome disaster movie called Independence Day. This was one of the best summer movies of the ‘90s. It had it all: a sweet cast, amazing special effects, and good action scenes. Plus Vivica A. Fox plays a stripper.

The movie stars out with a bang. It starts on the moon and a giant shadow creeps across its surface, steadily heading for Earth. Before long, giant spaceships are hovering over 36 major cities across the world. As we learn about the threat, we are introduced to the main characters. Jeff Goldblum plays David Levinson, a genius who discovers a hidden code that indicates the aliens are going to attack. He goes to Washington, D.C. to warn his ex-wife who works for the President of the United States. Bill Pullman plays the President, a former combat pilot.

Will Smith plays Captain Steve Hiller, a pilot for the Marines. He wants to become an astronaut, and he has a stripper girlfriend named Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox). Randy Quaid plays Russell Casse, he’s a pilot too. Seriously, the whole world gets destroyed, but half the survivors are pilots. If you wanna survive Independence Day, you should start taking flying lessons.

The hidden code that David finds turns out to be valid, and the ships attack simultaneously across the world. Millions of people die, but if you jump into a storage closet in a tunnel, you’ll be fine. That’s how Vivica A. Fox survived. She plays a stripper in the movie by the way.

So the world’s been half destroyed, and we have no idea how to stop them. Will Smith flies around and gets one to crash and then he punches it in the face and welcomes it to Earth. And then he and the alien body get a ride from Russell Casse and his family to Area 51. And the President is there, along with David and all the other people who haven’t died yet. The alien turns out not to be dead, and we find out that they want to take over the world and they want us to die. So we decide to nuke them. And it doesn’t work, and we don’t know what to do. And we seem pretty fucked.

Then David gets an idea. He’ll simply use his Apple laptop to upload a virus to the mother ship to disable all the other ships, while simultaneously the survivors across the world will launch a global attack on the alien ships. Will Smith and David fly to the mother ship, and the President and Russell Casse and all the other survivor pilots take to the skies in a desperate attempt to save mankind.

Not to spoil anything, but we won. We beat the aliens. And David takes up smoking. He probably stops recycling too.

This movie came out when I was ten years old. It was the movie of the summer. It was like my Star Wars. It was an event. And when we went back to school we shunned the ones who didn’t see it.

There are a lot of funny moments and lots of great one-liners. There are also some touching moments, like when the President has to tell his daughter that mama ain’t coming back. Some of the actors do a great job, like Judd Hirsch as Julius, David’s father. Some of the actors do a terrible job, like James Duval as Miguel Casse, Russell’s son. He looks like he went to the Keanu Reeves School of Wooden Acting. I think Bill Pullman’s speech with the bullhorn is one of the best fake president speeches of all time. Oh, and Vivica A. Fox plays a stripper.

Of course there are lots of plot holes (like where’s the Secret Service?) and poorly written characters, but the movie is exciting and fun and entertaining. I like being entertained, it’s fun. I think it’s weird how everyone laughs at Russell whenever he mentions being abducted by aliens ten years earlier. They know that aliens exist now. They should be apologizing for having doubted him.

Independence Day is a cool movie. It was the first time Will Smith saved the world. He does that every other summer now. This was back when it was still special. Seriously if you haven’t seen this movie you missed the ‘90s and I feel bad for you.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Vanessa Lee Chester

You have probably seen Vanessa Lee Chester on the big screen before. You probably don’t remember her. She played Jeff Goldblum’s daughter in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I feel bad for her. She did everything right in order to become a successful working actor. She started doing TV and small film roles, and eventually gets cast in a Steven Spielberg movie, a sequel to the then currently most successful movie of all time. Too bad it was a terrible movie and she played a terrible part. Her character was just another burden for Ian Malcolm to have to deal with. She spends most of the movie running around with Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, and Vince Vaughn, so no one noticed her. At least she got to kick a velociraptor to its death. That’s cooler than anything I’ve ever done.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg has directed or produced some of the most iconic and influential films of the last half century: Jaws, Back to the Future, E.T., The Indiana Jones Trilogy, Hook, The Goonies, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List…. All great films, but Jurassic Park is his masterpiece.

Every five to ten years a movie comes along that changes everything. It blends genres, it appeals to all ages, critics love it, audiences love it and above all else it makes movies fun again. Not just fun, magical, something that you watch and absorb and want to share and so you take your friends, your mom, your crush and you drag them out to sit in the dark and experience this event. Jurassic Park is the film that showed that computers could create realistic creatures, that showed virtually anything a director envisioned could be put on screen.

There are so many timeless moments in this movie. Dr. Grant pointing up at the Brachiosaurus and exclaiming, “It’s a dinosaur!” It was a dinosaur. I still think it’s a dinosaur. The music swells up and time stops, that sequence is stuck in your head forever. You don’t even have to have seen Jurassic Park and you know that scene. It is a staple of modern cinema; it symbolizes the transition to modern CG. There are many other great sequences, namely anything with the T-Rex. It doesn’t even matter that the ground in the T-Rex paddock suddenly drops fifty feet for dramatic effect. The Velociraptors were cunning and the kitchen sequence with the trapped kids freaked me out as a youngin’.

Jurassic Park brings up a lot of ethical questions. Is man justified in playing god? Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm represents chaos theory and he blatantly states  the film’s themes: “life finds a way” and “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” (“Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the Earth.)

The CG was groundbreaking. It still holds up today. Sure it’s not 100% there, but it serves the story and the story makes the movie. Dinosaurs were cool again. More importantly, movies were fun again.

Critically Rated at 16/17.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

This is the sequel to one of the best films of all time. And it is a mediocre sequel. The magic is gone. The thrill is gone. And you are stuck there, just going through the motions, hoping that something amazing will redeem this movie, but nothing does.

The problem lies with making Dr. Malcolm Reynolds the main character. He doesn’t care about dinosaurs. He doesn’t see their grace or how majestic they are. If your protagonist doesn’t care about what is happening, the audience wont give a fuck either.

Yeah, the CG is improved and you see more dinosaurs doing more things in more shots, but the story is so mediocre that the effects have no relevance. The first movie tackles ethical issues like man playing God. This movie tackles issues like a T-Rex destroying San Diego. This became a lame Godzilla movie.  This first movie was all about how dinosaurs were animals, real creatures and how they don’t belong in the modern world. This sequel is about how dinosaurs are scary monsters. T-Rex running though San Diego doesn’t have the same impact emotionally as when the T-Rex chased the Jeep in the first one.

This is a rushed, hollow sequel. It cheapens everything about the first one. If you watch the behind the scenes material, you get the sense that the filmmakers knew that they were making an inferior product. Lazy, shoddy writing, with a few decent action scenes, there’s no memorable moment that stands out in this movie. Pretty, pretty lame movie.

Critically Rated at 8/17.

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