Dear Hollywood: Stop getting our hopes up

"Jurassic World"

"Jurassic World"

Hope is a dangerous thing, and with its never-ending stream of sequels and franchise reboots, Hollywood preys on its audience’s hope in the most cynical of ways. Hope is what drew me to see “Jurassic World,” even though I knew in the back of my mind not to get too hopeful.

First there was the hiring of hot indie writer/director Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) to make me believe this would not be the same old rehashed story.

Then came the casting of Chris Pratt, recently elevated to leading man status thanks to an unexpectedly warm, funny and charming performance in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Plus, the studio pulled a Disneyland/Disney World name upgrade. It’s “Jurassic World” now. That must mean there are some great new ideas to revive this dinosaur of a franchise!

Sadly, the only real upgrade is exactly the one you’d expect: The CGI is better and there’s more dinosaurs. If that’s all you need to be convinced to see “Jurassic World,” you can stop reading now.

If you are a Hollywood producer, however, please read on. This next idea is for you. I’m not looking for a cut of the royalties or anything — I’m just a concerned citizen who wants to improve your business and my entertainment.

I’m not sure this can be called a flow chart if there’s really only one path, but here goes:

How to Decide Whether to Reboot a Franchise: A Flow Chart (in Column Form, so Not Really A Flow Chart at All)

Does your reboot add or alter the story in a significant way while retaining the spirit of the first movie? If no, then stop. Don’t prey on our hope. Forget about all the money you’ll make. Just stop.

If yes, then move forward.

Really? It does? I know that’s what you’re telling yourself so you can sleep at night, but come on: A dinosaur genetically engineered to bring more people to a theme park isn’t a significant alteration, it’s exactly the same idea as the first “Jurassic Park.” The only difference is that the park is open already. Do you have a better idea? If not, you must stop now.

Oh no. You’re still here? Why? You think your film retains the spirit of the original? Not even close.

In 1993, the wonder of seeing dinosaurs rendered with convincing CGI was analogous to the wonder of bringing an extinct race of animals back to life. Over 20 years later, nobody cares about that. And don’t think that “nobody cares about dinosaurs anymore” line from Bryce Dallas Howard lets you off the hook. It’s not enough to be self-aware about the pitfalls of making a crappy movie, and then just continue to make that same crappy movie. Please stop now.

OK, you’re stubborn. I understand. You think the commentary on how audiences always want “bigger” over “better” is new enough. It’s not. It’s window dressing. You still have little kids in danger of being eaten by dinosaurs run amok and a guy who thinks he’s the Dinosaur Whisperer.

If the core of the film is dinosaurs getting out of their pens and terrorizing people, then you do not get to move forward. Because if this is true, the only place to go is “bigger,” and you’ll think that means more destruction and more violent kills. And we’ll be so bored, that we’ll appreciate those kills for the briefest of moments — and then feel dirty about it afterward. Because we let hope get the best of us. Again.

Please, I beg of you: stop now.

What, “Terminator: Genisys” opens July 1, and you brought Arnold back? Well, with the right idea…

Paul Dano in "Love & Mercy"

Paul Dano in "Love & Mercy"

'Love & Mercy'

Opening Friday at Liberty Hall, "Love & Mercy" is an absolute must-see. Here's my review.

Chronicling two important time periods (the late '60s and mid-'80s) in the life of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, it's a rarity among music biopics in that it actually spends time on the creation of the music that made the artist famous. It also sports a structure that's unique to the genre, which serves to deepen Wilson's creative challenges and personal problems. Elizabeth Banks turns in the best performance of her career as Melinda Ledbetter, the woman who pulled Wilson out of a life-threatening situation.

'Gone Doggy Gone' on VOD/Blu-ray

Back in 2013, I profiled KU graduate Kasi Brown, who was co-writing, co-starring in and co-directing a comedy called “Gone Doggy Gone” with her creative partner Brandon Walter. While making its festival run, “Gone Doggy Gone” played at a Free State Festival pre-event earlier this year, and now the movie has a VOD/DVD release date of July 10.

Ostensibly, “Gone Doggy Gone" is about a childless couple who treats their precious dog like a baby to avoid dealing with their own relationship issues. Then the dog is kidnapped. Weirdly, however, that premise is doled out in the first 20 minutes and it’s obvious who took the dog, so the film pivots into full-on farce, which is a great decision.

The plot doesn’t make any sense, even though it tries in vain to justify its characters’ silly actions. There’s no way Abby and Eliott (Brown and Walter) are as dumb as they act, but that becomes increasingly OK as the story continues to spiral out of control.

The couple’s friend Kat (Kate Connor), who refuses to grow up and still dates much younger men, provides a funny and surprisingly dark stream of middle-aged angst. What’s weirder, in the midst of all the madness, a subplot with lonely dog-sitter Jill (Shaina Vorspan) and a schlubby private investigator (Jeff Sloniker) actually develops some surprising tenderness and sympathy. Tonally, it’s an awkward, sometimes hilarious mix.

“Gone Doggy Gone” is a funny, low-budget indie that’s at its best when it diverts from what is purported to be the main plot. It proves that Brown and Walter are talented comedic writers who aren’t afraid to get more than a little absurd for a laugh.

The writing is less successful when it gets sappy, but even in those moments, there always seems to be a smart-aleck joke right around the corner, like the very last shot of the film.


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