Throwback Thursday: Jurassic Park

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Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park got the Steven Spielberg treatment with 1993’s film of the same name.  The movie blazed new trails in practical and CGI effects.  In fact, the CGI in that film is still considered by some as some of the best CGI in cinematic history.  John Williams handled the musical duties and knocked it out of the, cough, park. The cast featured Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant and Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, two scientists sent to Isla Nublar, home of a new park that features dinosaurs brought back to life through science, in order to give it their stamp of approval.  Along for the ride is Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a chaos theorist who attempts to be a voice of reason, Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), a lawyer representing investors, and John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the man who hopes to bring his dream of a dinosaur park to life.

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Of course, everything goes wrong and the small group (including Hammond’s grandchildren played by Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) end up in a fight for their lives.  If you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out big time.

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The film would spawn four sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (loosely based on the second novel with some of the first book crammed in for good measure), Jurassic Park III (utilizing characters from Crichton’s books in a new story), Jurassic World (featuring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard), and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (releasing in the United States on June 22, 2018). Each one of these sequels has proven to be profitable, but the consensus is that the story quality deteriorated with the second and third films.  The fourth film, which takes place over twenty years after the original, has managed to correct the franchise’s course, but still lacks the magic and wonder that the original film had in my opinion.

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While the films have had some memorable supporting characters portrayed by actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, Wayne Knight, Bob Peck, Richard Schiff, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Tea Leoni, William H. Macy, Michael Jeter, Irrfan Khan, and Vincent D’Onofrio, it’s the dinosaurs that are the real stars.  The Tyrannosaurus Rex, Spinosaurus, and a genetic hybrid known as the Indominus Rex have all been key dinosaurs over the course of the films, but it is the Velociraptor that has become the most popular dinosaur out of the bunch.  They became so popular, in fact, that some of them were given names in the newest films in the series, with Blue being the one raptor that stood out from the rest.

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There have been quite a few deviations from the books in the films, especially when it comes to who lives and who dies.  Muldoon was one of my favorite characters in the first book and he survives the raptor attack on the page.  I was ticked off when he wasn’t as lucky in the film.  Hammond survived in the film but dies in the book.  Gennaro survived in the book but dies in the film.  He’s also a lot braver in the book.  A number of characters have much larger roles in the book, in particular Dr. Wu ( portrayed in the films by BD Wong), who appears to have become a primary villain in the newest sequels.

As time has passed, Jurassic Park has become one of the most beloved films in cinematic history.  It paved the way for modern CGI but also did an excellent job of blending practical effects with computer generated effects.  It did a great job of building suspense and had quite a few genuinely scary moments.  Many of the cast members went on to star in other big films or had solid careers as character actors.

There’s no denying the legacy of Jurassic Park and its sequels.  People still watch the original film and continue to collect any and all things Jurassic that they can get their hands on from clothing to toys and other collector’s items.  The film also triggered interest in paleontology and dinosaurs in general.  My son is one of the many young minds that has been inspired by the film and its sequels.

As always, thanks for reading.  Let me know what you think about the film in the comments section and look out for my review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in the near future!

 

 

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“None Of This Is Real…..”

“It’s Just A Game”

Daniel Emery Taylor (The Return of Swamp Thing) took on the duties of writing, producing, directing, and, yep, even acting in Debtor Entertainment’s It’s Just A Game.  The film’s teaser trailer was recently released (on Friday the 13th of April) and being a fan of independent film, I have to admit that I’m intrigued.  Take a look at the trailer for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

The film stars Hannah Cohen-Lawlor as Brianna, a shy young lady looking to get even with some of her tormentors by having them play a game with her…..a game that is more real than she believes and, based on the teaser trailer, has some pretty terrible parting gifts!

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Hannah Cohen-Lawlor in It’s Just A Game.

The cast includes the aforementioned Daniel Emery Taylor as Brother Thaddeus, as well as Leah Hudspeth as Sister Amelia, Alex Zuko as Brother Marco, Rachel Marshall as Skullgirl, and Sarah Kopkin as Ruby.

The film will be out soon, so keep an eye out for it.  Until then, here are a few stills from the film taken from the official Facebook page for the movie.

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Thanks for reading this post.  If you have any comments about this film or any other upcoming flicks, let me know in the comments section.

Throwback Thursday: Space Rangers

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Space Rangers was a short-lived science fiction series that debuted in January of 1993 on CBS.  Only six episodes of the series aired and it was quickly removed from CBS’ schedule.  Despite being created by Pen Densham (best known for his production work on The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone revivals) and boasting a cast that featured Linda Hunt (The Year of Living Dangerously, Dune, The Relic, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat, The Phantom, Pearl Harbor, Johnny Tsunami), the series failed to find its audience.

I was very fond of the series and its cast, especially Tagawa, Jeff Kaake (who would go on to star in another short-lived series, Viper), and Marjorie Monaghan (who has had numerous sci-fi roles including Theresa Halloran on Babylon 5).

The series also had some excellent guest stars including The Karate Kid‘s Pat Morita, character actor Clint Howard, and comedian Buddy Hackett.

The series was released on DVD in 2013 and is currently available on Amazon for the price of $15.99.  I’m tempted to purchase it.

I’ll have another blast from the past next Thursday.  Thanks for dropping by and feel free to let me know if there’s anything you’d like to revisit in future Throwback Thursday posts.

Focus On: Michael Keaton

The Ghost With The Most

In this Focus On segment, I visit the wonderfully insane talent that is Michael Keaton.  If you grew up in the 1980’s like me, you are well aware of the comedic excellence of Michael Keaton.  You are already familiar with his string of popular comedies such as Night Shift, Johnny Dangerously, Mr. Mom, and the legendary Beetlejuice.

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You were probably just as shocked as I was when it was announced that Keaton was Tim Burton’s choice to portray the Dark Knight in Burton’s 1989 film, Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns.  Heck, even Warner Bros. knew what they were getting into, placing almost all of the film’s promotional focus on the villain, the Joker, portrayed by the much loved and respected Jack Nicholson.

How could a guy known for playing comedic roles successfully nail down the dark, brooding Batman and his billionaire playboy alias, Bruce Wayne? Well, Keaton did it.  He did it better than probably anybody else could have at the time.  He was a perfect fit for the role and solidified himself as an actor with tons of range.  Prior to Batman, Keaton’s only serious role was as substance abuser Daryl Poynter in Clean and Sober.  Keaton did a great job in that film, but doubts were high for him as Batman.

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Keaton didn’t stop with his success in Batman.  Instead, he took on more dramatic roles throughout the 1990’s in films such as One Good Cop and My Life.  He continued doing comedies like Jack Frost as well, but he proved time and again that he was a great actor by taking on various roles throughout the rest of the decade and into the early 2000’s.

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Keaton started doing more independent films as the 00’s rolled along.  He also focused on voice over work in films such as Cars and Toy Story 3 and took on smaller roles in big studio projects like Herbie: Fully Loaded.  His career seemed to be leveling off with starring vehicles such as White Noise and the Robocop reboot not getting as much attention as his work in the 80’s and 90’s, but his star rose once again with his performances in Birdman and The Founder.

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In 2017, Keaton returned to the summer blockbuster with his performance as Adrian Toomes/ The Vulture in Marvel/Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Keaton gave Marvel fans something that had been severely lacking in the MCU up to that point.  He gave them a great villain.  Prior to the Vulture, the only villain that had any mass appeal was Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.  Almost every other MCU villain had been a bland figure for the heroes to slap around in the climax.  Keaton lifted Homecoming above its lighthearted tone and gave it a character that viewers could identify with and, especially in the scene where he drives his daughter and Peter to the homecoming dance, fear.

Keaton has signed on to return in the Spider-Man sequel and will be in the live action Dumbo directed by his Batman bud, Tim Burton.

He’s come a long way from being the goofball that I watched as a kid.  He has proven time and again that he can act in just about any type of role that you throw at him.  I highly recommend that you take a look at Keaton’s filmography.  He’s been in a ton of great films and has been nominated for and won many awards for his work.  Start with some of his early comedies and work your way up to his current projects.  He’s great!

As always, thanks for reading.  Be on the lookout for a Throwback Thursday tomorrow and hopefully a review of Solo in the next few days.

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: The Monster Squad!

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Remember these guys???  It’s hard to believe that this film is over thirty years old.  Featuring Andre Gower as Sean, leader of the Monster Squad, and Duncan Regehr as Count Dracula, leader of the monsters, this film didn’t make much noise at the movies but eventually gained a cult following (myself included).

It also featured early performances from Jason Hervey and Jonathan Gries, both of which would go on to bigger things with The Wonder Years and Napoleon Dynamite.

Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, the film featured the special effects of the legendary Stan Winston.

Along with Focus On, Throwback Thursday is a new feature that I’m adding to my page in order to provide more content for my readers.  Let me know what you would like to see featured on Throwback Thursday in future posts!

Not Your Daddy’s Oklahoma!

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I enjoy watching independent film productions.  They find brilliant ways to use their limited resources to give the viewer the best possible version of their particular vision.  Independent horror is particularly interesting to me because these films often push boundaries and explore dark corners of the mind that large studios won’t risk funding at a potential loss of profit.  The big boys are quite happy producing mediocre PG-13 horror films that will draw in a certain demographic and make at least a minimal profit from with minimal risks.

Once in awhile an independent film comes along that blazes new trails for the horror genre.  The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are two well known independent horror films that took horror into new territories of gore, terror, and even humor (especially The Evil Dead).  Newer indie films like The Babadook and Wolf Creek continue to push the envelope with gore, mental anguish, etc.

Meet Me There doesn’t necessarily blaze any new trails, but it does attempt to follow the paths of many of its predecessors.  The film opens up with what is apparently supposed to be an unnerving event that opens the viewer’s mind to a ton of questions.  Then the focus shifts to Ada (Lisa Friedrich) and her beau, Calvin (Micheal Foulk), as the duo return to Ada’s small hometown of Sheol, Oklahoma in an attempt to remedy her issues with intimacy.  Ada can’t recall many memories from her childhood and she and Calvin think that by visiting her old home, her memory will be triggered and she can remove any blocks that might be putting a strain on their love life.

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The film follows the couple on their journey to Sheol from Austin, Texas, giving us more insight into both characters.  Ada talks about the few memories that she can recall and Calvin brings up a light memory of him dealing with Smurfs.  The entire sequence is rather long, bordering on mediocrity.

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Once the pair arrive in Sheol, a bizarre sequence of events begins to unfold that includes everything from locals pulling a gun on Calvin for being an outsider in a Cleveland Indians cap to a visit with Ada’s strung out aunt who accuses her of bringing evil to the town.  There are also two interactions with Preacher Woodward (Dustin Runnels) who I’m sure WWE fans will recognize as Goldust and his daughter, that can be described as uneasy (the first one) and completely whacked out (the second one).

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The film rambles all over the place with no real direction in sight.  As is standard for most horror films, the lead couple make one bad decision after another and get into more trouble and more bizarre situations.  Also, one thing that I found puzzling was that despite being from the small town, no one seems to recognize Ada outside of her aunt.  Everyone just seems to want her and Calvin to end up dead and they are more than eager to help them end up that way.

Light humor is injected throughout the film, much of it being delivered by Foulk, but it’s very forced in some instances.  There are also shots of druids in the forest doing things in various states of undress.  I didn’t know whether to laugh at these moments or be terrified by them.  I ultimately just stared at them wondering what the heck was going on in the scene.

Eventually the film ends and the viewer is left with just as many questions as he or she might have had at the the beginning of the film.  It’s a very bizarre flick that really doesn’t seem to have any defined end in sight.  While this works for a lot of horror films, it fails pretty hard in Meet Me There.

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I will say that I enjoyed the performances of Friedrich, Runnels, and Jill Thompson (who portrayed Ada’s Aunt Lindsay).  Friedrich in particular really put herself out there in the film, and I commend her for her work.  Runnels does well with what he has to work with, and in all honesty I’d love to see him take on a slasher type role in the future.  Thompson plays up her character’s addictions and gives an excellent performance as a woman in an abusive relationship that has given up on life and has become a bit unhinged.

The film isn’t terrible, but I don’t see it making any lasting impression.  It is apparently loosely based on the hometown stories of Destiny Talley (who co-wrote the film with Brandon Stroud) and seems to try and fuse these small town stories (every small town has at least one weird story) into a horror film.  Hopefully the cast and the writers will continue working on projects like this, as I did see a few flashes of greatness within Meet Me There, but not enough to recommend buying this film.  It’s currently available to stream for free on Amazon Prime, so if you’ve got a little time to kill, give it a chance.  You might like it more than I did.

Thanks for reading, everyone.  Be sure to go out and support indie films, especially if they are created locally.  I’ve been involved with a few short films myself, and they are extremely fun to work on with friends and locals.  Even if the end product isn’t all that great, it’s still a great feeling to put something out there for others to see and tell them, “I made this.”

 

 

Who Knows….

What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?

Having recently revisited The Rocketeer and The Phantom, two 1990’s films set in the 1930’s, it’s only natural that I also take a look at 1994’s The Shadow, an Alec Baldwin vehicle that had high hopes just like those films did but ultimately fell flat at the theater.  Of these three films, The Shadow is my least favorite.  I liked it, but not as much as the other films.  I’ll give my reasons below.

Based on the character made popular in pulp novels, a highly successful radio program narrated by the legendary Orson Welles, and classic serials, the film seemed to struggle to find its way.  Lamont Cranston’s (The Shadow’s alias) background story was okay, but I felt that it was poorly explained in the film.  I also felt that the villain, Shiwan Khan (John Lone), wasn’t impressive or consistent enough to be a real threat.

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Jerry Goldsmith’s score also seemed a tad lazy.  While the film had style for miles, the music felt a tad phoned in and the hero’s theme sound very similar to Danny Elfman’s 1989 Batman theme.  Oddly enough, it was the success of Batman (who was created with partial inspiration from the original Shadow) that apparently triggered this short run of superhero films that also included Dick Tracy.  I also wasn’t a fan of Original Sin, the end titles song performed by Taylor Dayne.  Dayne did a great job vocally, but the song just seemed dull and uninspired.

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The special effects were brilliant in almost every aspect.  The look of New York in the 1930’s was brilliantly executed with both sets and matte backgrounds.  That’s right, kids, even in the 90’s we were still using traditional paintings as part of the background.  That, in my opinion, gave the movie an even more classic look and feel.  The Shadow’s facial features were apparently prosthetic, and worked quite well.  Animation (not CGI) appears to have been used for the Shadow’s shadow as well as the fight sequences (which featured the Shadow fading in and out of the scene), which were simply wonderful.

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Where the effects failed was when Phurba, the knife of Tulku (Cranston’s trainer and mentor), appeared on screen.  The effects were terrible for this knife and it jarred me out of the movie every time I saw it.  Thankfully Phurba didn’t spend a lot of time on the screen.

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The film had a solid main cast that included Baldwin, Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, and Ian McKellan.  It also featured a stellar lineup of supporting actors that included Peter Boyle and Jonathan Winters (who had major supporting roles), and a whole smorgasbord of character actors that we’ve all seen on television or film over the years.  Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Max Wright, Joseph Maher, James Hong, Sab Shimono, Ethan Phillips, Abraham Benrubi, Steve Hytner, Wesley Mann, and Al Leong.

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For a film that was a tad hit and miss, The Shadow is still worth a look.  It’s got plenty of style and a great all around cast that gets bogged down in a script that can’t find its legs.  I’d love to see The Shadow get another shot on the big screen in the near future, but I don’t know if it will happen any time soon.

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For now, fans will have to be content with the 1994 film and the classic serials and older films.  Personally, I think I’ll stick to the pulp novels.  The movie has plenty of things going for it, but it doesn’t hold my attention as well as The Phantom and The Rocketeer.  Still, I highly recommend that you give it a look.

As always, thanks for reading.  Let me know what you thought about the film in the comments section.  I hope to have a review for Solo: A Star Wars Story in the very near future, so be on the lookout for that and other upcoming posts including another Focus On feature, and a look at collecting blind bag items.