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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Joe Johnston
Cast:
Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Laura Dern
Writing Credits:
Michael Crichton (characters), Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Tagline:
This Time It's Not Just A Walk In The Park!

Synopsis:
Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) devoted his entire life to the study of dinosaurs, but he never thought he'd come face-to-face with them ... again.

Eight years later, InGen's failure has caused public and private dinosaur research funding to become increasingly extinct. Desperate to fund research for his new theory of Velociraptor intelligence, Dr. Grant is particularly vulnerable when the wealthy adventurer Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (Tea Leoni) approach him with a proposition. They will fund him if he will accompany them on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, the second InGen site…the quarantined island that has become a primordial breeding ground and a magnet for thrill-seekers eager to encounter them.

Box Office:
Budget
$93 million.
Opening Weekend
$50.771 million on 3434 screens.
Domestic Gross
$181.166 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $79.98
Release Date: 10/25/2011

Available Only as Part of “Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy” 3-Disc Set

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Creature Creator Stan Winston, Effects Supervisor John Rosengrant, Animation Supervisor Dan Taylor, and Mechanical Effects Coordinator Michael Lantieri
• “Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure” Featurette
• “The Making of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “The ILM Press Reel”
• “The Sounds of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “The Art of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs” Featurette
• “Tour of Stan Winston Studio” Featurette
• “Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane”
• “Raptors Attack Udesky”
• “The Lake”
• “A Visit to ILM”
• “Dinosaur Turntables”
• Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison
• Production Photographs
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Jurassic Park III: Ultimate Trilogy [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 1, 2011)

Mock me if you must, but I’ve always liked all three of the Jurassic Park movies. When I state this, I encounter little guff in regard to Jurassic Park itself. Widely regarded as the best of the three films, it became the second biggest hit of the Nineties, and it stills stands 18th on the chart of all-time top-grossing flicks in the US. Some deride its silliness, but most seem to see it as the exciting popcorn film it is, and the groundbreaking computer graphics remain pretty good after 18 years.

Fewer folks think highly of the first sequel, 1997’s The Lost World. As I related in my review of that film, I never really understood the criticisms. Both of the first two movies had their share of flaws, but they also offered a lot of fun action and well-shot segments that I felt made up for the goofiness. If forced to do so, I’d give the nod to Park, but I still think that it and World are largely comparable in terms of quality.

Steven Spielberg directed the first two flicks, but he declined to take the reins for the third effort, 2001’s creatively titled Jurassic Park III. Instead, Joe Johnston led the effort. Johnston started as an artist in the visual effects realm with the first three Star Wars flicks, and after his directorial debut with 1989’s surprisingly compelling Honey I Shrunk the Kids, he went on to helm movies like 1991’s The Rocketeer and 1995’s Jumanji. As such, he seemed to be a logical choice for an effects-intensive affair like a Jurassic Park story.

Although the first two movies clocked in at more than two hours, Johnston cut III to its core; this flick ran only 92 minutes, which was more than a half an hour shorter than each of the prior films. While the two prior films didn’t exactly overindulge in character development, they seem positively rich compared to III, which flies through its topics at an absurd clip.

Because of this, III feels more like a “greatest hits” package. It distills the action to its essence but doesn’t bother with any attempts at depth. Though this still means it offers an entertaining and compelling piece, it definitely functions as the weakest of the three.

In many ways, III resembles a remake of Lost World that omits the San Diego conclusion. At the start of the film, we briefly see an adolescent boy named Erik (Trevor Morgan) as he and an adult man parasail over Isla Sorna, the location of Jurassic Park developmental Site “B” seen in Lost World. (That differs from Isla Nublar, the land on which the actual showpiece “Jurassic Park” attraction appeared in the first film.)

Anyway, Erik and the man quickly run into trouble as something attacks the boat that tows them and they sail onto the island. We don’t immediately learn what happens to them as we soon cut to our old pal Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), one of the original Park participants. In short order we find out what’s happened to him over the past eight years, especially in regard to his relationship with Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), his girlfriend during the Park events. Alan’s tried to put the whole Jurassic Park experience behind him and get on with his traditionally conducted research, but a fascinated public makes that difficult.

Although Grant claims nothing could make him visit Jurassic Park again, a rich couple reprise the temptation of John Hammond from the first film and promise him enough money to fund his dig for years if he acts as their dino tour guide. Prodded by his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola), Grant agrees to accompany them on a fly-over trip that won’t actually land on the island. (Actually, they never planned to go to Isla Nublar, as the intention was always to head over Isla Sorna, which Grant never visited.)

As the sightseeing trip progresses, we quickly learn that Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Téa Leoni) Kirby weren’t totally honest about their intentions - or much else, as it happens. They don’t want to view the dinos from afar; the parasailing kid was their son, and they’ve come to rescue him. Not surprisingly, the native critters conspire to make this difficult, and the mission goes awry almost immediately.

From there the movie simply follows the standard Jurassic Park formula. At their essence, these films are just about survival, and that’s what we see in III. The matter is complicated because the Kirbys are still intent on finding Erik, but the focus remains on their basic attempts to stay alive in the midst of the world’s nastiest predators.

So what’s new about Jurassic Park III? Not much, to be honest. As I noted, the plot largely rehashes the basic story of Lost World. Granted, one could consider all three to have the same essential tale, but III seems to match World more closely than the first film, mainly because of the setting. Both take place on the same island, and that variation alters the equation considerably. Isla Nublar was much more technologically sophisticated, especially because Isla Sorna had been long abandoned by the events in World. During Park, Isla Nublar was a place thriving with activity, not the ghost town that was Isla Sorna in the two sequels.

Both World and III follow more linear storylines than does Park as well. That flick offers dual plots, as we watch Grant try to survive in the wild with two kids while Sattler and others try to keep things going back in the main compound. World and III have no such divergent tales, though the former’s semi-preachy environmental take at least gives us human characters who oppose each other; all work toward survival, but a distinct air of menace and distrust remains between the two camps.

III totally omits these kinds of elements. The story has been whittled down to the bare minimum, and character complexities depart the scene. Because III assembles a strong cast, the different roles seem deeper than they actually are, but they never threaten to come across as full-blooded people. Paul and Amanda represent a certain archetype but they don’t develop as personalities in their own right. The same goes for Billy, who feels like a stereotypical ambitious and naïve student. Erik’s a scrappy kid who clearly is based on Newt from Aliens, and he gets no real definition of his own.

Of course, we don’t need to learn much of anything about Grant, for we already know him from the first film. Actually, one cool thing about III and World stems from the fact they both give us some updated information about the characters from Park, and they both acknowledge the effect that flick’s events had on their lives and on society in general. Too often movies depict life and world altering experiences, but their sequels show far too little fallout from those actions.

While the Jurassic spin-offs don’t exactly dwell on the issue, they give us a nice look at the attitudes and reactions engendered by the original events, and III also makes some note of the experiences from World. The movies don’t get into the subject as much as I’d like, but I still enjoy this real-world response to some fantasy events.

I also like the extra life the actors give to their roles. As I noted, none of the parts have any depth or dimension; even Grant, who was already known to the audience, seems to present little extra personality as the writers just coast on our foreknowledge. Nonetheless, Neill continues to make him a fairly winning and endearing (unlikely) hero; he never was a willing participant in these adventures, and Neill brings out this reluctance alongside Grant’s undeniable fascination with the dinos who’ve come to life. Actually, Neill neatly creates a more weary tone to Grant in III; the miraculous charms of the creatures have less effect on him, as he feels more battle-hardened.

Both Leoni and Macy seem perfectly acceptable as the Kirbys, though neither really stands out from the crowd. I like them very much as actors, and I feel a little disappointed they can’t bring out much substance to the roles, but the fault mainly resides with the script; there’s only so much they can do with the underdeveloped parts. They remain likable and interesting, but they don’t do anything terribly special.

On the other hand, the final two leads add some nice spark to their parts. During his short career up to 2001, Nivola proved to be quite versatile and seems like something of a chameleon; I find it hard to recognize him from film to film. He makes Billy something a little more complicated than the usual grad student, and I think he adds an intriguing presence. Morgan is also quite good as young Erik. He gives the part some spirit and spunk but doesn’t allow him to become a silly stereotypical kid.

Some will argue that the actors don’t really matter, and to a certain degree, they are correct. The Jurassic Park flicks are more about dinosaurs and action than characters and acting, and III proves that point in spades. Because character development is so minimal, the film depends on its critters and action escapades, and for the most part, it does well in that regard. The new dinos are compelling, as the Spinosaurus finally offer a diversion from the T-Rex, and the Pteranodons allow the film to take to the air, albeit briefly.

As always, the effects seem excellent, as both practical mechanical dinos mix cleanly with computer generated ones as well as the actors and settings. Although I’ve found much fault with the CG work in other flicks from the same period like The Mummy Returns, Cats & Dogs and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the material for III remains solid.

But it’s no surprise that the action scenes are fun and fairly exciting, and the dinosaurs look realistic. The more important question is whether JPIII brings anything new to the table. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Jurassic Park III is certainly a fun ride, and it had a lot of good moments, but it stands as the weakest of the trilogy. Greater depth to the characters and more inspiration for the scenarios would have improved the tale. While I like JPIII and recommend it heartily for fans of the series, I must acknowledge it isn’t a genuinely strong film.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B+

Jurassic Park III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, this was the strongest presentation of the three films in the series.

Sharpness provided a strong aspect of the image. At all times I felt the movie came across as distinct and accurate, and I saw no significant signs of softness. Definition appeared solid throughout the movie, and it provided no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects; some light edge haloes cropped up at times, but they stayed modest. Print flaws seemed similarly absent, as the picture displayed no speckles, grit, scratches, blotches, or other defects.

Colors varied depending on the setting. Early in the movie, it used a nicely naturalistic and warm palette, but the tones became much colder and starker once the characters were in the thick of dino-madness. In any case, the disc consistently represented the hues well, as they seemed vivid and bright when necessary, and they came across as drained of intensity when appropriate.

Black levels also seemed nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail usually appeared accurate without excessive heaviness. A few low-light shots on the island were somewhat thick, but these instances were rare. I should note that I felt the same about the original DVD and suspect the occasional instances of moderate opacity stemmed from the source photography, not from a transfer issue. As a whole, Jurassic Park III offered a positive visual experience.

Even better was the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Jurassic Park III. The soundfield consistently came across as engrossing and lively. The music displayed an excellent presence with solid stereo imaging, while effects created a terrific show.

Ambient elements cropped up all throughout the movie to provide a realistic and involving setting. Of course, the louder action sequences gave us very active audio action. From the front, effects were appropriately localized, and they moved across channels and blended cleanly. The surrounds kicked in with strong reinforcement of the score and they allowed the effects segments to really breathe. From the early battle between the T-Rex and the Spinosaurus to virtually every other action scene, the soundtrack forced all five channels to work overtime, and it all made for a fantastic listening experience.

Audio quality also appeared to be excellent. Despite the fact that much of the dialogue needed to be looped, speech always came across as natural and distinct, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music boasted fine fidelity, as the score sounded bright and vibrant throughout the film. Highs seemed clear and bass response was deep and smooth.

Again, the effects contributed the finest aspects of the soundtrack. All variety of elements - from the quiet ambience to the loudest roars and explosions - appeared accurate and distinct. The mix displayed fine clarity, and the low-end really kicked into overdrive much of the time. JPIII provided a serious bass-fest, and the DTS track reproduced these elements with solid depth and warmth. Overall, I thought JPIII featured the kind of amazing sonic experience that we expect from the series.

How does this Blu-Ray compare with the original DVD from 2001? Both show improvements, though these aren’t as major as what I saw/heard for the first two movies. Those looked terrible on DVD, while JPIII still provides pretty satisfying DVD visuals.

Nonetheless, the Blu-ray gave us tighter, more vivid picture and improved the audio as well. The Blu-ray’s lossless mix seemed more dynamic and involving. It’s not as big a jump in quality as its predecessors, but it surpasses the DVD.

The Blu-ray includes most of the DVD’s extras plus some new components. I’ll highlight 2011 materials with special blue print. (Note that some of the pieces didn’t appear on the 2001 Park III DVD but instead popped up on a 2001 “Jurassic Park Trilogy” bonus disc; to highlight those, I’ll underline them.)

First up we find an audio commentary from live dinosaur creator Stan Winston, effects supervisor John Rosengrant, animation supervisor Dan Taylor, and mechanical effects coordinator Michael Lantieri. All four were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track.

I was happy to finally get an audio commentary for a Jurassic Park flick, and this one included some decent information. Not surprisingly, the emphasis was on technical aspects of making the movie, but the participants helped ensure that it didn’t become a dry and tedious discussion. Yes, I heard a lot of statements that told us what was practical and what was computer animated, and the piece seemed somewhat self-congratulatory at times; they offered a lot of praise for all involved.

Still, the movie was very effects intensive, and this track told us how the filmmakers worked their magic. The information was related in an easily understandable manner and it revealed a fair amount of depth about the topic. I especially liked the parts that covered the ways in which the dinosaurs have “evolved” over the years from their original Jurassic Park counterparts. Ultimately, this was a good but unspectacular commentary that should be reasonably enjoyable for big fans of the series.

For something new, we go to Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure. In this 25-minute, 20-second show, we hear from Lantieri, Rosengrant, executive producer Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Joe Johnston, production designer Ed Verreaux, concept designer Mark “Crash” McCreery, and actors Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Trevor Morgan, and Laura Dern.

“Adventure” looks at bringing Johnston into the franchise and aspects of script/story development, cast and performances, sets and locations, various effects, creature design and creation. The final installment in the six-part “Return to…” series, “Adventure” is probably the weakest. It comes with some nice moments – I especially like Macy’s observations – but it lacks the depth of its predecessors and feels a bit more self-congratulatory than the others. Still, it boasts enough good material to deserve a look.

Next we find a program called Making Jurassic Park III. This 22-minute and 43-second piece offers the standard mix of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews. In the latter category, we have comments from Kennedy, Neill, Macy, Morgan, Johnston, Verreaux, Rosengrant, Lantieri, Taylor, actors Michael Jeter, Téa Leoni, and Alessandro Nivola, production designer Ed Verreaux, paleontologist/advisor Jack Horner, creature creator Stan Winston, and visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell.

Overall, this is a fluffy but decent overview of the production. Most of it seems pretty basic, and it runs through the topics at a rapid pace. However, it gives us a reasonable synopsis of the issues faced during the making of the film, and it comes across as entertaining and compelling. Best of the bunch are the clips from the set, which provide a nice look behind the scenes.

The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III appears like an extension of the prior show. This seven-minute and 52-second piece offers interview snippets from earlier participants Johnston, Horner, Macy, Kennedy, Winston, Neill, and Taylor plus it adds ILM CG modeler Ken Bryant. Essentially it just gives us a quick look at some of the new critters and the modifications made to the old ones such as the raptors. It’s interesting and breezy but somewhat insubstantial; the material should have simply been included in the “Making of…” program.

During the 10-minute, 31-second The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III, we hear from Neill, Leoni, Macy, Kennedy, Winston, Rosengrant, Lantieri, Johnston, and Taylor. Overall, the show is interesting and compelling, but I must admit it seems a little redundant among a lot of the other pieces. A fair amount of the footage looks familiar, so while some of it’s new to this piece, don’t expect to see only fresh material. Still, it’s a breezy and efficient program that neatly synopsizes some of the effects issues.

More effects material appears in The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel. Accompanied by the film’s score, we see a progression of visual effects from JP III in various stages of completion during this 10-minute, 14-second feature. Basically this show acts as a highlight piece for the studio, and it does so nicely. It displays a nice synopsis of their work and even tosses in some of the “before and after” splitscreens seen in earlier features. It’s an interesting little program that demonstrates a number of effects elements.

The Sounds of Jurassic Park III provides a solid 13-minute, 35-second look at that area of the process. While we see some movie snippets and rough footage from the shoot, mainly we hear from sound designer Christopher Boyes as he discusses his work. In addition, we also get some good tidbits form foley artists Jena Vance and Denny Thorpe, foley mixer Tony Eckert, and composer Don Davis. In addition to their sound bites, we see some of their work. Overall, the program offers a nice little view of this side of filmmaking, and it’s interesting to hear how the pieces came together, particularly in regard to Boyes’ creative combinations.

The Art of Jurassic Park III takes a look at the production design of the film. During the seven-minute, 55-second show, a particular emphasis falls upon the storyboards, but we also learn about the sets and the general visual look. The program offers the standard shots from the set and clips from the film as well as interviews with Verreaux, Kennedy, illustrator Jack Johnson, key storyboard artist David Lowery, and storyboard artist Rodolfo Damaggio. In addition, we get some glimpses of storyboards, concept art, and a few other elements. This isn’t a deep feature, but it adds some decent information.

Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs provides a good four-minute and 21-second look at some dino digging. We hear from Jack Horner as he discusses his attempts to locate more skeletons, and we watch the diggers at work. It’s a nice view of the real-life research.

Another short piece offers a Tour of Stan Winston Studios. While we don’t actually get ushered around the place, we do see the process via which the practical creatures are created. Most of the three-minute, 14-second featurette is silent except for musical score as we watch the workers make their magic. At the end, we get some nice shots of the critters on the set. It’s too short to offer any real value, but it’s a good presentation of some basics nonetheless.

Next we find brief examinations of Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (1:48), Raptors Attack Udesky (0:59), and The Lake (1:38). These all have some cool shots from the set, and they’re interesting as a whole, but unfortunately they show too many clips from the movie itself, and they also cut too quickly from image to image. As such, it could be tough to get a good look at the material.

A Visit to ILM packs in a slew of small snippets. Under “Concepts” we find an “Intro” from visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell and then watch material that covers “The Spinosaurus”, “The Pteranodons”, and “The Raptors”. All three of those pieces provide comments from animation director Dan Taylor; all in all, the clips last a total of five minutes and 35 seconds. The give us a decent overview of what the folks at ILM wanted to do with the characters, and they show some good behind the scenes material.

This “Visit” then moves to “The Process”. After a 95-second “Intro” from Dan Taylor, we go to additional subdomains. “Models” gives us a 40-second “Interview” with digital model supervisor Ken Bryan, and we then watch “View Models”, which shows some basic computer work along with more commentary from Bryan.

“T-Rex Vs. Spinosaurus” opens with an “Interview” from lead animator Glen McIntosh and then shows us the 13-second “Production Plate”; that piece depicts the film before the CG creatures appear. Lastly, we see the 10-second “Final Shot”.

After a 59-second “Interview” with lead animator John Zdankiewicz, “Pteranodon Air Attack” launches into a three-second (!) animatic and than gives us the five-second “Final Shot”. “The Process” ends with “Raptors: Returning the Eggs”. A 72-second “Interview” with McIntosh starts the section, and we then see an eight-second “Production Plate” and the five-second “Final Shot”.

That finishes “The Process”, and we move to “Muscle Simulation”. The “Intro” includes 49 seconds of comments from creature supervisor Tim McLaughlin, and we then witness a 103-second “Demonstration” of the computer techniques with technical animation supervisor Dennis Turner.

The “Visit” ends in the “Compositing” domain. In “Definition”, compositing supervisor Eddie Pasquarello tells us what the term means in 32 seconds or less, and the “Demonstration” shows 88 seconds of these techniques in action.

All in all, “A Visit to ILM” offers some interesting material. Due to the brevity of many components, it can be a bit of a chore to wade through the footage, but at least the Blu-ray makes it easier than the DVD, as it comes with ample “Play All” opportunities.

The Dinosaur Turntables show the computer-animated critters in basic configurations - without coloring or detail - and in final form as they spin for the virtual camera. Some of the segments add running or other interaction as well. Via “Play All”, the 12 pieces go for six minutes, 23 seconds. These are reasonably interesting studies but they don’t seem terribly fascinating.

The Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison shows the boards in the top half of the TV frame with the finished movie in the bottom segment. We see three scenes: “The Lab” (1:08), “The Aviary” (2:57), and “The Boat Attack” (2:02). I’ve never been terribly interested in storyboards, but this presentation seems pretty solid.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a collection of Production Photos. These show the images as a running program accompanied by the movie’s score. Sometimes this method works well, but here it makes the pictures fly by in too dynamic a manner; it could be tough to really see them in this two-minute, 50-second compilation.

As a fan of the Jurassic Park movies, I enjoyed Jurassic Park III and I thought that it was a fun and entertaining piece of fluff. However, I must acknowledge that it didn’t live up to the standards of the first two movies; those flicks had their flaws, but JP III included even more problems. Nonetheless, it remained fairly exciting and compelling for the most part. The DVD provided a good picture with excellent sound and an interesting roster of extras. This is another positive Blu-ray for a fairly enjoyable movie.

Note that as of October 2011, you can purchase Jurassic Park III solely as part of this “Ultimate Trilogy” set that also includes the 1993 and 1997 films. Will the movie come out individually at some point? Probably, but it might take a while; a year after the release of the Back to the Future trilogy on Blu-ray, all of those movies remain bound to the boxed set. Given that precedence, I’d be surprised to see Park III sold on its own before 2013.

To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of JURASSIC PARK III

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main