Steven Spielberg's 1993 mega-hit rivals Jaws as the most intense and frightening film he'd ever made prior to Schindler's List, but it was also among his weakest stories. Based on Michael Crichton's novel about an island amusement park populated by cloned dinosaurs, the film works best as a thrill ride with none of the interesting human dynamics of Spielberg's Jaws. That lapse proves unfortunate, but there's no shortage of raw terror as a rampaging T-rex and nasty raptors try to make fast food out of the cast. The effects are still astonishing (despite the fact that the computer-generated technology has since been improved upon) and at times primeval, such as the sight of a herd of whatever-they-are scampering through a valley. --Tom Keogh
The Lost World - Jurassic Park
In the low tradition of knockoff horror flicks best seen (or not seen) on a drive-in movie screen, Steven Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park is a poorly conceived, ill-organized film that lacks story and logic. Screenwriter David Koepp strings along a number of loose ideas while Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm, the quirky chaos theoretician who now reluctantly agrees to go to another island where cloned dinosaurs are roaming freely. Along with his girlfriend (Julianne Moore) and daughter, Malcolm has to deal with hunters, environmentalists, and corporate swine who stupidly bring back a big dino to Southern California, where it runs amok, of course. Spielberg doesn't seem to care that the pieces of this project don't add up to a real movie, so he hams it up with big, scary moments (with none of the artfulness of those in Jurassic Park) and smart-aleck visual gags (a yapping dog in a suburb mysteriously disappears when a hungry T-rex stomps by). A complete bust.--Tom Keogh
Jurassic Park III
Surpassing expectations to qualify as an above-average sequel, Jurassic Park III is nothing more or less than a satisfying popcorn adventure. A little cheesier than the first two Jurassic blockbusters, it's a big B movie with big B-list stars (including Laura Dern, briefly reprising her Jurassic Park role), and eight years of advancing computer-generated-image technology give it a sharp edge over its predecessors. While adopting the jungle spirit of King Kong, the movie refines Michael Crichton's original premise, and its dinosaurs are even more realistic, their behavior more detailed, and their variety--including flying pteranodons and a new villain, the spinosaurus--more dazzling and threatening than ever. These advancements justify the sequel, and its contrived plot is just clever enough to span 90 minutes without wearing out its welcome.
Posing as wealthy tourists, an adventurous couple (William H. Macy, Téa Leoni) convince paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his protégé (Allesandro Nivola) to act as tour guides on a flyover trip to Isla Sorna, the ill-fated "Site B" where all hell broke loose in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In truth, they're on a search-and-rescue mission to find their missing son (Trevor Morgan), and their plane crash is just the first of several enjoyably suspenseful sequences. Director Joe Johnston (October Sky) embraces the formulaic plot as a series of atmospheric set pieces, placing new and familiar dinosaurs in misty rainforests, fiery lakes, and mysterious valleys, turning JP3 into a thrill ride with impressive highlights (including a T. rex versus spinosaurus smack-down), adequate doses of wry humor (from the cowriters of Election), and an upbeat ending that's corny but appropriate, proving that the symptoms of sequelitis needn't be fatal. --Jeff Shannon