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The Films of J.A. Bayona

The Orphanage & The Impossible

Click here and here for reviews.

A Monster Calls (November 28/16)

Based on a book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows Lewis MacDougall's Conor as he relies on an imaginary tree monster (Liam Neeson) to help him overcome a series of personal catastrophes - including daily encounters with a bully and a mother (Felicity Jones) afflicted with a terminal illness. It's a fairly standard coming-of-age setup that's employed to consistently (and aggravatingly) muted effect by director J.A. Bayona, as the filmmaker's pervasively subdued approach to Ness' low-key screenplay prevents one from wholeheartedly connecting to the material or the characters - which, in turn, makes it awfully difficult to work up much interest in or enthusiasm for the protagonist's continuing endeavors. There's little doubt, then, that A Monster Calls benefits substantially from its convincing atmosphere and stellar performances, and it's clear, too, that the title creature's seamless inclusion into the narrative plays an integral role in perpetuating the movie's mildly watchable vibe. (The film does receive jolts of energy from the Monster's periodic stories, which unfold via impressively and handsomely animated mini-movies.) The hands-off atmosphere ultimately ensures that the third act's big emotional revelations just aren't able to pack the punch that Bayona has surely intended, and it is, in the end, impossible to label A Monster Calls as anything other than a passable young-adult drama (that is, ironically enough, probably too frightening to appeal to small children).

out of

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22/18)

A seriously bizarre (and erratic) sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom follows Chris Pratt's Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing as they embark on a trip back to the series' dinosaur-inhabited island to save several creatures from an impending volcano eruption. It's worth noting that director J.A. Bayona, working from Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow's screenplay, does an absolutely fantastic job of immediately capturing one's interest, as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom kicks off with a riveting opening sequence that rivals the original film's in terms of its impact and effectiveness. From there, the picture segues into a somewhat familiar yet fairly compelling narrative detailing the central characters' perilous exploits on Isla Nublar - with the watchable vibe heightened by a continuing emphasis on admittedly engrossing sequences and set pieces (eg Claire and a scientist attempt to escape a vicious dino on an emergency ladder). It's only as Connolly and Trevorrow begin suffusing the proceedings with decidedly tedious elements (eg tiresome human villains, a pervasive meanspiritedness towards the dinosaurs, etc) that Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom begins to lose its grip on the viewer, with the progressively less-than-engrossing feel exacerbated by a second half that doesn't entirely work (ie it's unpredictable, to be sure, but there's not much here that wholeheartedly entertains). The overlong running time ensures that certain portions of the third act drag to an almost unconscionable degree (ie one can't help but wish certain characters would receive their comeuppance, already), while the final stretch, intriguing as it undeniably is, seems to be paving the way for progressively oddball future installments - which ultimately cements Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom's place as a passable followup that's lacking most of the awe and wonder (and fun) of Steven Spielberg's superlative 1993 original.

out of

© David Nusair