Thursday, September 1, 2022

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "Three Thousand Years of Longing" as well as "Jurassic World: Dominion" and "Memory." ]


Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)



A literary scholar on a trip to Istanbul finds a genie in a bottle. And you know what that means.

Tilda Swinton plays Alithea Binnie, a "narratologist," a scholar who studies narrative structure.  She travels the world giving lectures on mythology vs. science.  During a trip to Istanbul, she purchases a little bottle in an open market and back in her hotel room, while cleaning the bottle, wouldn't you know?  A djinn, also known as a genie, appears (Idris Elba).  And what do genies do?  Why they grant three wishes. Except it turns out it's not as easy as that, and this genie didn't know who he was dealing with.  

Alithea lives alone, is divorced, has no children, no family but likes her life. She is fine, thank you very much, and she is suspicious of the genie and his three wishes, aware that there are tricksters out there and wishes can come back to haunt you.  She asks the genie if he knows the story about the three men stranded in a boat.  Each are given a wish and the first two men wish to be back with their families and the third man misses his friends and wishes them back in the boat!  So Alithea says she doesn't want the three wishes.  That is very bad news for the genie who must grant the three wishes to be free or forever be banished to oblivion.

Now the genie must convince Alithea to use her wishes so he tells her three stories of how he ended up in the bottle and thus the film takes a very different turn.  

Elba now becomes the narrator of three epic tales, the first where he was the companion of the Queen of Sheba, but when she met King Solomon, Solomon threw him into the bottle and tossed it into the sea. There the genie laid until he was found by a young slave in the palace of King Suleiman the Magnificent during the Ottoman Empire 100 years later.  She wished to be the Prince's concubine and to have his child, but palace intrigue against the prince caused her to flee and she never used her third wish, thus condemning the genie back to his bottle.  Finally, the genie's bottle was found once again, this time in the 19th century by Zefir, a young genius with no education who wished to know everything there was to know in the world.  And sadly, the genie made the fatal error of falling for the girl and wishing for himself to stay with her, which backfired. He didn't press her to ask for the rest of her wishes and as you know, he must fulfill all three.

So now Alithea realizes that she and the genie have something in common - loneliness.  So she makes a wish.

Tilda Swinton is a very quirky actress.  You never know what kind of twist she will add to a role, what accent she will sport or what color her hair will be.  Likewise, you never know what she will show up in at events. Here she has short, very bright red hair and talks with a northern English accent. But calling her quirky does not mean that I don't like her.  I do.  She is one of our premiere actresses who takes her job seriously, losing herself in whatever part she plays. Sadly, she doesn't have much to do in this film.  It's all about Idris.

Ah, Idris Alba.  There is a reason there is buzz about him becoming the next James Bond.  Even with pointy genie ears, he is swoon-worthy to be sure, but he is also a wonderful actor and here he gets to play against type.  He's a genie with issues!

Oddly, the first half of the movie hardly involves Swinton, and Elba is only incidentally a part of it as these tales unfold, so if you were hoping for a big dose of them together, you will be disappointed. I also had a difficult time understanding what constituted freedom for the genie - does he want to be in or out of the bottle? But there is a lot going on with this film and perhaps it needs to be seen more than once. 

Based on the short story "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" by A.S. Byatt with a screenplay by George Miller and Augusta Gore (Miller's daughter) and directed by Miller, who is best known for the Mad Max franchise.  It's interesting that Miller appeared at the opening of the film to thank the audience for venturing out to the theatre to see his film on the big screen.  I remember that Tom Cruise did the same thing for "Top Gun: Maverick." Filmmakers and stars want to remind us that these films are meant to be seen on the big screen, not at home in our jammies with a glass of wine and some crackers (you caught me).  But he's right.  I feel bad that the movie industry has suffered so much since the pandemic.  There were only two other people along with me and my friend in the theatre when we saw this film.  Granted it was an early matinee, but still a sign that the movies have not yet recovered from the pandemic.  Even though the pandemic changed my movie going, I am going to support going to the movies again, even though I miss my jammies (and the wine).  And I have faith.  The movie industry weathered the advent of TV and other obstacles, and it will weather this. 

This is a beautifully filmed fantasy with an intellectual bent. The stories that the genie weaves are lush and beautiful and there is a moral to be had. Science has given us our creature comforts and technological advances and helped us to understand how the world works.  We have computers on our wrists and we have been to the moon.  But for all of the scientific discoveries that have happened over the last 3000 years, science cannot help us understand the vagaries and longings of the human heart. Maybe that's why we need mythology.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have been craving a smart movie, one that requires you to think, then this is for you. (In theatres)




Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)


I really have no idea what was going on in this movie.

Let me get this out of the way from the start.  There are very few movies that need to be over 2 hours...and this is NOT one of them!  Okay, I'm done. Actually, I'm not done.  Sequels.  Sigh.  This is number seven of the Jurassic Park franchise.  I guess when there are that many, they aren't even sequels anymore.  They are part of a FRANCHISE. I know I rant and rave about how much I don't like sequels, so I have decided to pull back a bit. I have decided that I should evaluate a sequel on whether or not it can stand alone.  I mean, "Godfather II" was a sequel and was probably the best of all of the Godfather films (there were four of those), so I am going to try to be more open-minded.  

So does this film stand alone? Does one have to see the first six of the Jurassic Park/World movies to understand this one?  Mostly, yes.

Though I thought the exposition at the very beginning of the film was good - quick and to the point - I was hopeful.  But as the film progressed, I realized that I hardly knew what was going on at any given moment. Who are these people? Having only seen the first two of the Jurassic Park movies and only the first Jurassic World, I was lost.  

Anyway, here's what I think this movie was about.

There seems to be four storylines at work here. Okay, it's four years after a volcanic eruption on Isla Nublar (didn't know what Isla Nublar was), dinosaurs are no longer extinct and now freely roam the Earth.

Storyline #1 -Biosyn Genetics run by Dr. Lewis Dodgson (I can't help but think this is some sort of play on Lewis Caroll's real name), seeks to control invasive species so he has set up a dinosaur preserve in Italy which is really a cover for his big pharma to do genomic research in hopes of developing new drugs (Dodgson is played by Campbell Scott) and other diabolic plans.

Storyline #2 - At the same time, dinosaur poaching is rampant and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) are part of the Dinosaur Protection Group that seeks to save and relocate dinosaurs.  Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire's boyfriend, is the dinosaur wrangler.  

Storyline #3 - Claire and Owen are hiding and raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), Benjamin Lockwood's 14-year-old biogenetic granddaughter, who appears to be hunted by bad guys who want to do something with her DNA. Don't ask me who Benjamin Lockwood is, because I have no idea.  But naturally she is kidnapped and then this turns into the search for Maisie and the dinosaurs take a back seat, for awhile anyway. 

Storyline #4 - giant locusts.  Turns out the people from Biosyn are bad guys and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) thinks whatever it is they are doing is resulting in these giant locusts.  Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who now works for Biosyn, has asked Sattler to help him expose Dodgson because he has discovered that Dodgson's ultimate goal is to control the world's food supply. So she teams up with her former lover, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), to stop Biosyn.  Turns out Dodgson is also behind the kidnapping of Maisie. All of these characters eventually band together to stop Dodgson and wrap up this trilogy.

Whew!  Anyway, I think that's what was going on. Lots of characters, lots of storylines and lots of dinosaurs in a movie written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow and directed by J.A. Bayona.  

And that's the problem with this movie. Well, not the dinosaurs.  I liked the dinosaurs. As Christopher Walken might have said, "We need more cowbells, I mean dinosaurs!" But just too much other stuff going on. And despite the early exposition, if you had not seen the previous film, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," I think you would be as lost as I was.

The thing that bothers me about these endless sequels - I guess they are called franchises now - is that as long as the producers think they can get an audience and make a buck, they are going to keep going.  Oh, look, we have a blockbuster, and remember, that first one, "Jurassic Park," based on the book by Michael Crichton really was.  It was directed by Steven Spielberg, and 29 years ago CGI dinosaurs were a big thing. Spielberg stuck around for a sequel - "The Lost World," - but bowed out after that. But looks like the powers that be wanted to keep that money train rolling. So they probably thought, let's just run with it as long as we can until we run it into the ground.  And that's what this movie feels like. It pulls out all of the stops - plucky kid, cute dinosaurs, scary dinosaurs, car chases, bad guys, strong women,  romance, and some really soppy sentimentality, all the tropes that adventure/spy movies play on and on. There is all of this running around the world to save Maisie.  What happened to the dinosaurs? And the really big hook? Why let's bring back Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, who starred in the "Jurassic Park" films.

And now I am going to be even more bad and judgy.

Chris Pratt?  What happened to you?  "Guardians of the Galaxy," I thought you and the film were incredible and couldn't wait to see the next one but as happens with sequels, I was disappointed.  But then you did "Passengers," and I mostly liked it and thought you were going to go somewhere.  And then you did Jurassic World, which I saw in 3-D and also liked, but then you were lured into these sequels.  

Jeff Goldblum?  Okay, Nicolas Cage haters.  Tell me that this guy is any better. He is about as actory and mannered as an actor can get.  Laura Dern?  What happened? Where have you been?  Bryce Dallas Howard?  Have you done anything except this Jurassic World stuff?  If you have, I have forgotten.  And Sam, Sam Neill.  C'mon. You can do better than a cameo in this sort of thing. Okay, the first ones were cool, but you were in "The Piano," and "A Beautiful Mind," both Oscar nominated films ("A Beautiful Mind" won Best Picture), you were Reilly, the Ace of Spies, you have a New Zealand accent, you don't need a comeback in a movie like this.  And Campbell Scott?  I never really got you.  But I know it must have been difficult having acting titans like George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst as your parents.

So, there I said it. Didn't like it. I know actors have to work, but these people who perpetuate endless sequels, oh, sorry, franchises, have worn out their welcome, and I am not a fan of those who participate. The dinosaurs needed more screen time.  I know.  I'm bad. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...unless you are a die-hard fan of this franchise, save your money and your time. (In theatres and on DVD)



Memory (2022)


It's Liam Neeson as a hitman once again but with a twist - this hit man is losing his memory.

I don't know what it is about Liam Neeson but for some reason I am willing to watch him in movies with plots he has done a million times before, not to mention some absolute stinkers.  Well, I do know what it is.  He is a nice big tall handsome man with a fabulous nice big tall handsome man voice, and I will probably follow him anywhere.  

Which is how you find me reviewing this movie about yet another hit man with a conscience - he doesn't want to kill a kid.  Sound familiar?  See my review of "The Gray Man."

Anyway, there is actually a twist here that sets this film apart from all of the other Liam Neeson hit man movies.  He plays Alex Lewis, who is struggling with his memory.  He has Alzheimer's which is a very bad thing for a man on the run.  He went against his contract because he doesn't want anything to do with child trafficking, which is his employer's game, so his employers want him dead. Likewise, the FBI led by agent Vince Serra (Guy Pearce) is after him too. 

Remember Neeson's "Set of skills" speech from "Taken?" 

"I do have ...a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." 

Well, now Liam runs the risk of forgetting those particular skills! I guess he could also run the risk of forgetting who he is supposed to kill too.  Not good for a hit man.

There are mostly bad guys in this movie (screenplay by Dario Scardapene and directed by Martin Campbell) and lots and lots of violence and gore. You might remember when I said I was not going to support films with gratuitous gun violence and I'm not. There really isn't a lot of gun violence in this film, but there is all kinds of other gratuitous violence to the point that it was almost laughable. Don't like that either. 

Though the idea of a hit man losing his memory is an interesting one, I just wish the movie had been better.

Alex knows he is losing his memory and he wants out of the hit man game.  I wonder when Liam is going to want out of the hit man movie game. He is really too good for these kinds of movies, and despite my saying that I would follow him anywhere, I have changed my mind a bit and have to say, "Liam, if you keep making these kinds of movies, we will have to part company."

Rosy the Reviewer says...I wish I could lose the memory of this film.   (For rent on most streaming platforms)




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See you again soon!

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