Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal, 4k Ultra HD + DVD, PG-13, 147 + 160 min.). There are many visual treats in this film, the third with returning heroes Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the raptor whisperer, and Clair Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the sixth overall in the franchise, started in 1993 by director Steven Spielberg from Michael Crichton’s novel, as it has 40 “hero” dinosaurs and brings back Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldberg, as his wonderfully unpredictable self) from the original films. However, except for one road chase sequence in Malta, the film is less successful as a story, despite the return of director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow (2015’s “Jurassic World”).

The setting is a world where dinosaurs now exist throughout the planet, it being four years since the destruction of Isla Nublar, where John Hammond created Jurassic Park and filled it with genetically “resurrected” dinosaurs. However, as usual, dubious members of mankind are misusing the dinosaurs, as Owen has to deal with poachers and, at an underground dinosaur black market in Malta, there is betting on fights between small dinos, illegal sales of the creatures and items made from their skin, barbequed dinosaurs and more.

Owen has retreated to the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he is secretly raising genetically altered clone Maisie in isolation. He is soon joined by Claire, the former Jurassic Park manager who is now an activist with the Dinosaur Protection Group. The semi-domesticated raptor Blue also lives near Owen and has self-conceived a child. There is supposed to be a thematic link between Maisie and the baby raptor, but it is not clearly articulated.

Meanwhile, Ellie is investigating a plague of genetically modified locusts, which are destroying crops from Iowa to Texas, except those of BioSyn grain, clearly leading to the assumption that BioSyn has been the genetic modifier. The BioSyn CEO is Lewis Dodgson (a first film character, recast with Campbell Scott), who has hired scientist Dr. Wong (B.D. Wong), the true villain of the series. He also has hired Ian as a sort of lifestyle coach.

Dodgson has built BioSyn Sanctuary high in the Dolomites in Northeast Italy, where dinosaurs can roam freely – although he includes two apex predators – and be researched. He orders the kidnapping of Maisie, which, with Ellie’s locust investigation, brings all six major characters together. There are two new characters in mercenary pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who doesn’t want to get involved in the heroes’ problems but does, and Dodgson’s disillusioned acolyte Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie).

The Malta sequence is the most action-packed, with a fight breaking out in the black market, a rooftop chase modeled after one in “The Bourne Supremacy,” but with a raptor, and the highlight road chase of Owen on a motorcycle (stunt double of course) and Claire in a truck, pursued by laser-directed Atrociraptors. In all, there are some 30 main dinosaur types here, including the dangerous winged Pyroraptor and a return of the vicious, venom spewing Dilophosaurus. The creatures look more realistic than ever, making the film watchable despite its over-stuffed nature and plot deficiencies.

Viewers can choose between the theatrical version or an extended one. There is a solid short film, “Battle at Big Rock” (10:17), with a dinosaur attacking a trailer park; a look at the improved special effects and modeling (6:16) and a five-part look inside the film (47:09), covering the cast, the black market, the road chase and creating the dinosaurs. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.75 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Vivo (Sony, Blu-ray + DVD, PG, 95 min.). This animated feature film features new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway’s “Hamilton,” “In the Heights”). At least two stand out, while a third is obnoxiously loud (and has a remix as an extra). The family-friendly story is simple, although it gets complicated with a trek through the Everglades. The directors are Kirk DeMicco (“The Croods,” also co-writer here) and Brandon Jeffords.

Vivo is a kinkajou, a tropical rainforest mammal, related to raccoons and the ringtail. As a cub, he is saved by Havana‘s Andres and together they develop a popular street performing act, which we see in the film’s colorful beginning. (It is confusing, though, that while we hear Vivo talk, humans in the film cannot, yet they appear able to hear him sing, and he, voiced by Miranda, does an extensive, speedy rap during the opening song.)

Andres (Juan de Marcos Gonzalez of Buena Vista Social Club) once performed with Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan) and was about to propose to her, when she got her big chance to perform in America. Heartbroken, he wrote a song to profess his love for her, the last song he wrote in 60 years. Now, Marta has sent a letter, inviting Andres to perform with her during her last-ever concert in Miami. However, tragedy leaves Vivo to make the journey himself, to deliver the song to Marta.

Vivo hops a ride in the luggage of Andres’ grandniece Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), who visits from Key West with her mother Rosa (Zoe Zaldana). Gabi is a perky, purple-haired tween who is a bit of a misfit — her loud anthem is about marching to the beat of her own drum — and whose mother is forcing her to join an ecologically-themed girl group. A quick bond forms and Gabi decides to help Vivo travel the 160 miles to Miami. They miss the bus, land on a barge, and eventually sail through the Everglades in a sail-raft Gabi makes from spare parts.

There is menace in giant snake Lutador (Michael Rooker), who hates noise, and rescue by new lovebirds Dancarino (Brian Tyree Henry) and Valentina (Nicole Byer), but these action sequences actually slow the film down.

Extras include a sing-along version, a remixed, lyric video of “My Own Drum” and a look behind the animation (3:57). Grade: film 2.75 stars; extras 2 stars

The Burned Barns (France, 1973, Cohen Film Collection). It is unfortunate that the extra, interviews with three crew members about director/co-writer Jean Chapot’s difficulties making the film and dealing with its stars (26:44), actually is more interesting than the film, despite the presence of two of France’s greatest stars in Alain Delon and Simone Signoret. Delon had to direct some of the key scenes near the filming’s end.

Delon (“Purple Noon,” “The Leopard,” “The Samurai”) plays inspecting Judge Pierre Larcher, sent to investigate the murder of a young woman in snow-covered French countryside near the Swiss border. His suspicions quickly fall on the two adult sons of a nearby dairy farm. The matron of the family is Rose (Signoret of “Diabolique,” “Ship of Fools”), who is fiercely protective of her family. The sons are Louis (Pierre Rousseau) and Paul (Bernard Le Coq of “Van Gogh”). Paul, in particular, is very dodgy when we first see him.

The film’s pace is slow and not too much happens, although a couple of family secrets are revealed. How the murder is solved is a crock, as it has nothing to do with Larcher. Grade: 2 stars

Bad Roads (Ukraine, 2020, Film Movement, DVD, NR, 105 min.). The film, which was Ukraine’s entry for the 2022 Best International Feature Film Oscar, consists of four stories near the Ukraine border during war with Russia that get progressively better. The first, rather dull, has an inebriated school official stopped at a checkpoint, with only his wife’s papers. The second has a teenage girl waiting for her soldier boyfriend and interacting with her aunt, who wants her to come home. Much of the time the actors are in silhouette as director-writer Natalya Vorozhbit is fond of natural lighting. Towards the end, shelling can be heard in the near distance.

The third story deals with a young woman’s encounter with her often too-aggressive soldier boyfriend and ends in unexpected violence. The soldier is very nasty at times. Finally, a woman who has driven over a brood hen, tries to pay the owners. When the couple wants more than she has, she leaves to get more cash. Upon returning, the couple keeps upping what they want. Grade: film 3 stars

Reflection (Ukraine, 2019, Film Movement, DVD, 127 min.). This Venice Golden Lion nominee, written, directed, filmed, and edited by Valentyn Vasyanovych, tells the story of surgeon Serhiy, who joins to fight the Russians in the Donbas region in 2014, but is captured and subjected to torture, as well as seeing fellow soldiers tortured until death. Released during a prisoner exchange, Serhiy then must deal with the trauma he suffered. The director likes long, leisurely shots – often just of traveling – that could have been edited down. Grade: 2.5 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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