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Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner Divorcing After 10 Years of Marriage

Random Musings

Oh no!

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Jurassic World Poster

Magic Jurassic XXL

Movie Reviews, Rave!

I allow myself to watch exactly one Hollywood blockbuster in the theatre every summer. I welcome the brain check at the door in lieu of buttery popcorn, inane plots and finely shellacked stars and starlets who escape life or death situations with the greatest of ease and finesse. Nary a sweat is broken as the bad guys are trampled by the titular american hero. Stilted dialogue is embraced, and love always wins by the time the credits roll. I allow myself to be riveted for the entire running time, suspending my critique-ish mind and enjoying the superficial imaging at face value. But, unfortunately, the analytics almost always come into play 1-2 hour the film is completed…which is now where I find myself.

Jurassic World Poster

This year I used my blockbuster pass to watch the much-buzzed about Jurassic World, which as per my requirements, has all of the trademarks of the classic Hollywood epic. The bronzed Chris Pratt gets to fill the frame with jump cuts to his newly acquired bulging muscles, and Bryce Dallas Howard gets to outrun(!) an obviously aged Tyrannosaurus Rex, which the movie wisely saves to showcase until near the film’s rather suspenseful climax. But you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the film from the first shot where a tiny hatchling of a dinosaur sees the world for the very first time to the last image of a screeching T-Rex who revels in his kingdom.

The film has at its centre a variety of on-trend Hollywood blockbuster fads. From military infiltrations, to commentary on woman in power, to the controversial topic of cloning and animal containment, Jurassic World literally has something for every potential viewer beholding its sheer veracity of motion picture-making. The plot, while not entirely innovative, plods along quickly, building an inherent momentum that really grasps the viewer, causing one to wonder what is going to happen next (though we sort of all know what is next on the agenda.)  The director also apparently enjoys referencing JAWS many a time. I won’t say how but you’ll figure it out.

Obviously one of the strongest elements that makes Jurassic World work is the incredibly believable animations and the use of CGI and the director’s clever play between real and unreal dinosaurs. The film is full of projections of dinosaurs in the islands’ central pavilion where visitors can behold a life-size but clearly artificial image of the extinct creatures. Bryce Dallas Howard’s stern Claire Dearling, the operations manager for the theme park, is seen walking through the image at times. It’s a subversive technique by the director to increase the believability of these creatures. The creatures themselves are incredibly life-like. Their sinewy, leather-like skin and sharp, yellowed teeth are the ingredients to make a terrifying nightmare. The depiction of their speed and strength are brilliantly captured and down right believable.

The first quarter of the film was essentially like a guided tour through the Dinosaur amusement park, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Many of the pavilions that house various species are visited, and an outdoor sea creature does a trick for the outdoor audience, very reminiscent of those provided at animal water parks. As a fan of the previous Jurassic Park films, this portion of the film was heavy on the nostalgia and I loved every minute of it. But there’s always a dark, menacing baseline with every reveal of the next, amazing dinosaur – we all know they’re going to turn bad.

Mosasaurus

The Mosasaurus

The remainder of the film is pretty much a chase to capture the hybrid Indominus captured after it escapes its sanctuary. It’s a wily and smart thing, and of course, described as a female. A female who ate its sibling in order to show dominance, and is sly enough to set up a deceptive escape. Like many Hollywood films of this fantasy/action/sci fi genre, the female roles are one dimensional at best. Judy Greer’s role as mother of the two young boys who visit their Aunt Claire is pretty much given nothing more to do than worry about her children and pick them up at the film’s end. Howard’s Claire is an uptight business woman dressed all in white. Like the film’s focus on Pratt’s muscular frame, the camera also closes in on Claire’s sweaty, exerted body as she tries to save the day. A little dated but not all together surprising given the demographic the film is trying to court.

This brings us to Pratt himself. The recently minted matinee idol is, well, bronzed and buff. From his first scene where he has taught a quartet of velociraptors to sit and stay, you know he’s going to be the hero. He’s dressed like a lite-Indiana Jones minus the bandana but with the khaki vest and semi-tight pants. He is relatable and funny, bringing the audience an element of compassion and trust in his character. An excellent casting choice, I must say.

Pratt in Training

For the Jurassic Park fans, there are a lot of references and comments about the previous films of the successful franchise. From visits to long-forgotten locations of the first film, to references to Tea Leoni’s character in Jurassic Park 3 – the film acts as a welcome hug for those of us who grew up watching this film on VHS on repeat. It’s more like a sequel to the first film rather than to the last, nipping all of our griping about the second film in the series, The Lost World.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the Indominus communicates with the four raptors. They are literally talking to one another, and I was secretly hoping for some hilarious subtitles to pop up on the screen. Alas, I was disappointed. I’m sure tonight a certain dinosaur or two will pop into my dream, awash in greenish skin and long talons.

A little digression, if you may please  indulge me. Throughout all of the Jurassic Park films the dinosaurs are always referred to as inherently evil or malicious. Now I won’t pretend to be an expert in the way of our extinct relatives but I’m sure there were some peaceful co-existence happening on some level. Because these dinosaurs are contained then they are tame. If let loose, they want to destroy humankind. I don’t know how much of that is true. It is this inference that makes the hunt scenes for the ‘mean’ Indominus a bit painful to watch. I know these aren’t real creatures, but watching loud and obnoxious children riding small triceratops and other small dinosaurs in the “Gentle Giant Creatures” emporium made me a little angry.

All in all, I enjoyed the film immensely. I devoured every, impossible scene in much the same way the villains of the film devour their temptations in the wilderness. Lush and beautiful, and surprisingly really violent, Jurassic World appeals to the masses, but also manages to carve out some intellectual commentary on today’s world with its clear propensity for establishing power and maintaing it.

P.S. Did I mention Lauren Lapkus is in the flick?! Amaze.

A Fool Among Fools

Fool’s Gold

Book Reviews, Rave!

Ah, 1986; the year of Chernobyl, the birth of the Oprah Winfrey Show, and another average year in terms of hopes and dreams in New York City. Using 1986 as the setting for his hilarious and touching “A Fool Among Fools,” John Terracuso cleverly uses the readers fondness for the past to tell a story that is like a brilliant mash-up of a great 80’s tv show sprinkled with all the good parts of a Jennifer Aniston movie.

Michel Gregoretti, “Fools” driving narrative force, finds himself coping with the grind of being a copywriter at some nameless, mammoth New York ad agency where Don Draper would not be entirely out-of-place scouting the pretty new things loitering in the lobby. Underpaid and immensely talented at his craft, Michael churns out terrible commercial after terrible commercial for a new novelty product. In hopes of changing his current rut, Michael accepts a new assignment that will get him a better paying, more respectable position. With this new assignment comes the introduction of the utterly evil Gwen Hammond, a villainess, and Craig Connolly, a love interest for Michael who isn’t without his own flaws.

A Fool Among Fools

The Return

Intrigue-o-Mania

Book Reviews

So it seems that in much of the visual media that permeates today’s culture there is an underlying theme of religion. Even if not factored explicitly into the plot of the work itself, it exists in the murmurings of secondary characters or in the historical context of the birth of a story. The DaVinci Code? Yup. Pi? To a certain extent. The Chronicles of Narnia? Duh. What is the value of this religious presence? Is it to present a certain level of comfort for the fickle, aged and 1%’s who are active readers? Or is it to permeate the reader’s subconscious and appeal to the oft-religious upbringings that many of us can relate to?

Questions such as these filled the nooks and crannies of my analytical mind as I began reading “The Return,” an ‘action adventure not about religion’ by promising author Carter Vance. Despite the tagline that accompanied the book review request, I instantly knew that Mr. Vance’s explanatory words were indeed a warning that it was the omnipresence of the religion that would fill the pages of his work.

A Scandinavian Lesson

Book Reviews

As my followers of Reading Other People know, I am constantly looking for new and innovative pieces to analyze and learn from. When I was contacted by Norway’s Nordland Publishing to review their anthology entitled “The Northlore Series Volume 1: Folklore,” I graciously accepted. My knowledge of Scandinavian folklore is limited at best, providing me with ammunition to expand my knowledge of the world.

Comprised of 33 short stories and poems, “The Northlore Series” is heavily ensconced in a world of magic and delight. Alongside such otherworldly enchantments exist ageless themes and motifs ranging from betrayal to courage, all presented with a certain whimsical literary style. When there is a consolidated book with various contributors, as this book clearly is, there is sometimes an inconsistency of thematic representations and ultimate moralistic tellings. While no book is free of such inconsistencies, “The Northlore Series” does a great job in maintaining a gradual building of historical expositions in the context of eccentricity and amusement.

Northland Series

New York moms: don’t toss trash out the window

New York

Ephemeral New York

New York City has always had a complicated relationship with the garbage it produces. From the city’s earliest days, trash was dumped in the street, thrown in the rivers, or burned.

Garbageopenlettertomoms

In the 19th century, rich neighborhoods hired dependable private street cleaners. The rest of the city relied on free-roaming pigs and rag pickers.

Finally in the 1890s, a corps of sanitation men nicknamed the White Wings and led by a Civil War veteran turned “sanitary engineer” launched a war on filth—now known to be a source of many diseases.

GarbageoldtruckThe White Wings helped clean up the city. But even in the 20th century, New Yorkers were still tossing their garbage on city streets.

To help combat this, a city campaign in the 1920s and 1930s aimed its message squarely at city mothers.

This open letter above, from the archives of the New York Academy of Medicine, sums…

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Twain opener

The Shania Twain Experience

Concert

Thursday, June 25th was a night to remember. Not for the choral renditions of the songs that are embossed within our brains, but because of the sheer showmanship of a certain Shania Twain.

Twain opener

Starting with the titular song Rock This Country, Twain stormed the stage looking even better than she has ever before. While the bare midriff baring outfits have gone by the way side, the snazzy disco-inspired shiny one-pieces worn by Twain perfectly accented her parade of non-stop hits that had the 14,000 plus people in attendance dancing in their too-small seats.

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Quickly moving through her endless catalogue, Shania managed to hit every note and sing, literally, every song that she’s made famous throughout the years. It had been a LONG TIME since I’ve been to a concert where I stood the whole time, ensuring that I danced just the right amount so as to not annoy the cowboy wearing people behind me and the small, fearful couple on either side. I was truly mesmerized at Shania’s charisma and stamina and ability to command a crowd full of every demographic possible.

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Personal favorite part? That’s got to be the encore where she changed into thigh high boots and a cape (!) to sing her karaoke-laden hit Man! I Feel Like a Woman! Let me tell you – she sang every exclamation mark in a song heavy of them.

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Part Vegas revue, part arena tour, seeing Shania was like throwing on your favorite, hideous fleece sweater that always manages to make you feel better and that you’re not shy to wear around others. It was soul food, and I hadn’t realized how hungry for it I was until the music ended.