A Change For The Better

West Cal Arena & Events Center, Sulphur, LA

After a few years in Lake Charles, LA, Bayoucon made the move to the West Cal Arena & Events Center in Sulphur, LA.  This year’s event featured a number of media guests including Todd Haberkorn (anime voice actor and Spock from Star Trek Continues), Alex Zahara (Once Upon A Time), and Beth Broderick (Sabrina The Teenage Witch).  It also featured John Mangus, an actor and stuntman that has recently been featured in Jurassic World. 

The lovely ladies of Orion’s Envy performed on Saturday evening and a costume contest followed.  Also over the weekend there were showings of Star Trek Continues, panels on everything from writing to costuming, and a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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There were also a number of artists on hand and a solid group of vendors offering everything from collectibles to corsets and drinking glasses to Funko Pop figures.  Fan groups were also in attendance.

A major highlight of this event for myself and (I’d like to think) a lot of convention attendees, was the first appearance of the Just-Us League.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with my alter ego, The Discount Dark Knight, he recently became a part of this group of cosplayers that cosplay for FUN and to goof off a bit.  Our group was a hit, and even Alex Zahara of Once Upon A Time asked for a photo with us!

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Another major highlight of the convention for me was getting to meet and talk with Todd Haberkorn.  Most people enjoy him for his work in anime, but I’m a fan of his work on Star Trek Continues.  He was a very nice guy, and his panel was both informative and fun.  He interacted with the crowd and happily answered any and all questions thrown his way.

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This convention has had a number of ups and downs over the years.  Attendance has been fairly low for the most part, but this year saw a nice crowd show up for the event.  The West Cal Arena is an excellent venue and seems to be a much better fit for this convention than some of the larger venues in the area.  Everyone seemed to have a great time at the convention, and that’s good news for this convention.  With hard-working staff members like Mike and Jenni Moreau, this convention has nowhere to go but up, and I wish the convention nothing but good luck in the future.

Star-Lord And The Dino Squad!

Isla Nublar…..twenty years later

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard take us all back to that wonderful time so many millions of years ago, the 1990’s, in what is sure to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer, Jurassic World.  No, the film doesn’t take place in the 90’s, but it does give multiple nods to Jurassic Park, the legendary film based on the excellent Michael Crichton novel.  That film blazed a trail with its use of CGI and was also, at least in my opinion, one of the last films to use CGI as a supplement to the plot and not as the key factor for making a movie watchable.

Jurassic World is a very good film.  It’s nowhere near as brilliant or engaging as its wonderful predecessor, but it is definitely worth viewing at least once in a theater.  Chris Pratt stars as Owen Grady, velociraptor wrangler/whisperer supreme and the source for most of the film’s humor.  He channels Star-Lord…a lot, in this film.  Bryce Dallas Howard portrays Claire Dearing, manager of the park and a poor excuse for an aunt to the youngest stars of the film, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, who play Zach and Gray Mitchell, Claire’s nephews whom visit her on the island amusement park/zoological garden for some “family time” with her.

The cast also features Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani, the park’s mega-wealthy owner, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins, an InGen liaison who’s obviously there to cause trouble because that’s what InGen always seems to do when it comes to genetically brewed dinosaurs.  B.D. Wong reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the head of genetics at the park and the only character that returns from the original film.

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The film opens with Jurassic World experiencing profit decline after many successful years of operation.  It’s very expensive to run such a park, and the dwindling profit margin (at 2% according to Claire at one point) has forced the park’s management to up the ante with new, genetically modified dinosaurs to wow the crowds.  Their latest stew, the Indominus Rex, is a Dr. Wu secret blend of dinosaurs and other creatures, making it the largest and most lethal creature in the park.  The park is almost ready to introduce this new hybrid to the world, and Khan has come to the island to see just what his newest asset can bring to the Jurassic table.

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Zach and Gray arrive on the island as well, ready to visit with their somewhat distant and uncaring aunt Claire.  Zach is your typical teenaged boy, looking longingly at any cute girl that happens to be in his vicinity.  Gray is an overly enthusiastic youngster that really, really loves dinosaurs.  The duo are dumped on Claire’s assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath), who attempts to keep up with the pair as they experience the park.  At first Zach is very aggravated with his younger brother, but as the story plays out, we learn that Gray is very upset about a real world problem that is common in many families (and I’m not going to spoil what that problem is here).  Once this problem is revealed, Zach goes into big brother mode to make Gray’s visit much more fun.  The boys take in all of the sights, including a very Sea World looking experience that features a Mosasaurus and a cool ride in a transparent gyrosphere.

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Elsewhere, Owen has a very special relationship with four velociraptors at the park.  He has become the alpha male to Blue, Echo, Charlie, and Delta and his relationship has drawn the attention of InGen, who wants to use the raptors for more profitable reasons than being park exhibits.  Both he and Barry (Omar Sy), the raptors’ caretaker, refuse to allow InGen to use the raptors for other reasons which I do not wish to spoil.  Hoskins tries repeatedly to convince them to give him the green light on InGen’s project, but to no avail.

After seeing the Indominus Rex with his own eyes, Khan asks Claire to have Owen check out the monster’s paddock. Claire does so with reservations, as the pair obviously have a bit of history between them.  She visits Owen at his “home” on the island and the two return to the paddock only to find that the Indominus Rex has escaped.

The Indominus Rex leaves a trail of dead park workers, security officers, and other dinosaurs as it makes its way to the core of the park where tons of tasty human snacks await it’s mouth.  Claire then finds out that her nephews are alone in the park after ignoring a call for all of the park’s visitors to return to a central “safe” area.  She asks Owen to help her locate the boys and the pair set off while park security desperately tries to stop the Indominus Rex without alarming the visitors to the park.

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Of course, park security is no match for the Rex, and as always, the park turns into a chaotic feeding frenzy.  A series of events unfold that lead to pterosaurs attacking visitors, more park worker deaths, and an atmosphere of total chaos.  Desperate to stop the Indominus, Owen and Barry reluctantly agree to use the velociraptors in a last ditch attempt to stop the Rex.  CGI dino violence ensues and the film goes into full action mode.  It’s both unbelievable and amazing at the same time, but the film ends on a high note and there’s even a tease at future entries to the franchise about two thirds of the way through the film.

So, did I like this movie?  Absolutely.  It’s an over-the-top, big budget, CGI dino fest.  In many ways (and I’m sure I’ll get a lot of heat for this comment), it reminded me of Jurassic Park IIIJurassic Park III wasn’t reined in by the books like the first two films were, and JW is very similar in that regard.  Director Colin Trevorrow knows that modern mass audiences want to be wowed by a spectacle and not bothered too much by a believable plot.  In that regard, he gives the masses what they want in spades.  Also as in Jurassic Park III, this film tosses aside all of the suspense that made me fall in love with the first film and focuses heavily on action.

The film did hold my interest and I really liked watching it (especially in 3D), but ultimately I left this film feeling no different than I have after leaving every other summer popcorn blockbuster I’ve watched.  It looked really cool and sounded great, but there was nothing exceptionally brilliant about it in the end. I’m sure that plenty of people will talk about the FX and the action, but I don’t think that JW will imprint on the minds of viewers as much as the original JP did.

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One other thing that I must point out about this film is the absence of John Williams and his wonderful musical score.  Yes, Williams’ legendary theme from the original film is included, but composer Michael Giacchino, whose work I loved in the new Star Trek films and in John Carter, failed to make the music matter in this film.  Where Williams’ music added to the film, Giacchino’s work was lacking.

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I do recommend seeing this film in 3D.  The wow factor begs for you to see it in that format.  I also loved how JW tipped its hat to the original film.  It was a very classy move. There are scenes in the movie that mimic scenes from the original, and little hints and winks are littered throughout the film as well.  Pratt, Howard, and the rest of the cast did excellent jobs with what they had to work with, and the pacing of the film was excellent.  Once all of the dust has settled and the hype fizzles out, though, Jurassic World will be remembered as just another profitable hit in a long line of summer flicks with little substance.

The Dinos Are Back!

Isla Nublar…..I think.

Tomorrow night I will be checking out Jurassic World at the theater with some friends as part of my Jurassic Birthday Weekend Celebration!  In all honesty, I know very little about this film other than the fact that it apparently takes place after the first Jurassic Park film and does so as if The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III never existed.  That’s a good thing and a bad thing as far as I’m concerned, because I wasn’t a big fan of the second film and felt as if the third one did its part as a big popcorn action flick.

My agitation with the second film is based primarily on the fact that I’ve read both of the books that these films are based on and feel that while the first one got a lot right about the books (although I didn’t particularly care for one film death that didn’t happen in the books), the second film got a lot wrong.  It’s still a decent flick, but I enjoyed the third installment a whole lot more.  Why?  Because it wasn’t bound by the books and played out on the screen as the big dinos-chase-and-eat-people schlock fest that it intended to be all along.

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I’m very excited about the new film, primarily due to the fact that it features Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt.  Their reputations alone make me believe that this film will work.  Howard is an excellent actress that I’ve enjoyed watching for quite awhile now.  Pratt is still riding the glory wave of Guardians of the Galaxy and his work on television (although I have never watched any television show where he is featured prominently).  I also enjoy watching Howard and Pratt in interviews about the film.  Both of them seem to be extremely happy with the film and I hope that their happiness carries over in their performances and the performances of the rest of the cast.

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Still, I have a couple of reservations about this film.  First of all, I’m not too wild about the fact that the film features genetically modified dinosaurs like the Indominus Rex and a stegaceratops.  I really hope that these “mixed breed” dinosaurs don’t take away from the actual dinosaurs featured in the film that lived so many millions of years ago.  My son is a huge dinosaur fan and I hope that seeing creatures like the Indominus Rex won’t confuse him too much.

My second reservation about this film is the use of the velociraptors as good guys.  Pratt’s character is apparently their alpha male and leads the pack into battle against whatever raging dinos happen to get loose this time.  I hope that they come across as somewhat believable.

I’m not too worried about the CGI in this film, although a few bits that I’ve seen on the web have me hoping that they cleaned up the graphics a tad more before the final release.

Overall, I do believe that Jurassic World is going to be an excellent film.  I also think that it would be nice if the film at least gives a nod to the core cast of the original films (rumor has it that Dr. Ian Malcolm has a cameo but I am not sure if this is true).  I’m going to miss seeing Sam Neill and Laura Dern on the screen with the dinosaurs.  Oh well, I guess I’m getting old.  I’ve been watching the original flicks all week long and I’m ready for the new stuff!

As always, thanks for reading.  I’ll have a full, non-spoiler review this weekend of the film!!!