Posts Tagged ‘review’

 

3Once again we are finding ourselves in the approaching shadow of the haunt season, folks. The great thing about Illinois is that no matter where you are there never seems to be a shortage of haunted attractions (professional or non.)

I wrote up a list last year, and figured I’d do the same again this year. While there are tons of haunts that I am looking forward to this year and am hoping to hit in Illinois (including my own past haunt home of  Skellington Manor) I’m going to keep this list narrowed to the greater Chicago area. So without further adieu…

 

 

4.) Realm of Terror

(Round Lake Beach, IL)

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This is one of those haunts that, every year, gets consistently great reviews by the general public and critics alike. Stellar sets, and actors who are really on point… it is no doubt  a staple of haunts one in/around the Chicago-land area must visit.  Do note though, this isn’t for the faint of heart (well, really none of these haunts on this list are.) The actors are high energy and really invade your space. A general sense of unease creeps over you as soon as you line up in the que.

 

3.) Basement of the Dead

(Aurora, IL)

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Yep, this was on my list last year folks. Why again? BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS FREAKING AMAZING, that’s why! These guys continually build and put on one of the best haunts I have ever had to pleasure of experiencing. High energy acting, amazing sets, and full throttle scares from every direction. This place, no matter the night, usually has an insane line qued up at the entrance, and for good reason. They’re one of the best in the state.

 

2.) HellsGate

(Lockport, IL)

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Kicking up a lot of speculation this year is the infamous Zombie Army Productions latest haunt- HellsGate. Inspired by the urban legends of a haunted house found only in the forest that is multi leveled and so scary that if you make it all the way through… your ticket is free! This attraction is found the woods, is multi-storied, but you can only get your money back if you find a special key. Challenge accepted! While my opinions of Statesville range, there can be no doubt that I am excited about this haunt. Woods? Several floors of scares? Amazing sets and makeup?  SOLD.

 

1.)Fable’s Fright Nights

(East Dundee, IL)

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Topping our list again is Fable’s Studios. Last year their amazing experience Project Chaos was cut criminally short. If it’s any indication of what this group can do with an entire theme park, I’m stoked. For the past several months they’ve been doing a Zombie experience at Santa’s Village that has garnered a lot of praise. This haunt season they are turning the entire park into a nightmare with three haunts, and street experiences, and a chance to meet the legendary Krampus himself (all in all, this is very ala Halloween Horror Nights/Howl-Scream/Knott’s.) Super psyched to see what the talented and passionate creators at Fable’s have in store for us.

 

 

That’s it for my list this year! What haunted attractions are you dying to attend?

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WB films/ DC Comics

 

As always, MAJOR spoilers.

You were warned.

 

When the first trailer hit for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice I was just as game as anyone. As a lifelong Batman and comic book fan this was a film I have been dreaming of for years. But as the subsequent trailers and TV spots were released, and more details of the film were spread I started lowering my expectations. I’m glad I did, because I think it actually allowed me to enjoy BvS.

Personally I think BvS was okay. Not great, and not bad- just okay. Which, to some, it might as well be bad- and I understand that ‘lukewarm- spew you out’ mentality. The flaws of BvS are obvious: rushed story and some weird character choices. When some of the things get to being cringe-worthy in the film it makes you wonder how a film can simultaneously have some of the best comic film moments ever. For all its flaws, this film has some amazing moments in it that the audience as well as fans will enjoy. But those moments make the bad sting just that much more, because you know that really… this could have been a really good film

 

The basic synopsis can be found everywhere now, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it. Basically we pick up nearly two years after where Man of Steel leaves off. The world is still

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WB films/ DC Comics

recovering from Zod and Superman’s battle (although… they seemed to have rebuilt Metropolis pretty damn fast) and people are torn on if Superman is friend or foe. Even Superman for the entire length of the film, until the end, is torn on if he feels like saving the world anymore. Batman/Bruce Wayne sees him as a threat though, a threat that must be dealt with before more innocents are killed. Ensues is their fight, but there is another force (Lex Luthor) that wants to see the world be rid of both of them.

 

 

Overall, as I said before, the film feels rushed. It literally follows the same pacing as Man of Steel, which is unfortunate. The first half, in my opinion, is actually great. Well-paced, and sets up a lot and had me invested. Besides one character (which I will get to soon enough) I was really in to this film for the first half and was actually wondering why it was getting all of the hate. Then the “Knightmare” sequence  happened and you’ll know right then that there is a sudden shift, you can feel it.  Something happens that is both cool and confusing and you know right away that that is how the rest of the film is going to play out then. And that’s how it starts. The confusion… the cramped story, that turns a good movie… cruel.

The rest of the film you really have to fight at times to keep straight. I mean, sure, you still understand what is happening: Batman wants to actually kill Superman, Luthor is [kind of] the overall puppet master and doing evil stuff, and there are other metahumans out there. Got it. But the why’s just seem to either get glossed over or left out completely sometimes. Which makes the resolutions to the problems happen seem less cathartic. You’re left thinking “this really could’ve been easily avoided if-”, or “wait, when did they find that out?” or “wait, why was this a thing again/how did that happen?” instead of focusing wholly on what is actually going on screen.  Great example: as much as I loved the actual battle between Bats and Supes, all we were really given before it was a brief training montage of Bruce in the cave- which I didn’t mind. But him creating the kryptonite gas he’ll use on Superman or any other type of planning he does for the battle is never really explained. It’s showed, somewhat, but unless you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns and KNEW that’s what he was probably making, you’d have no real clue what he was doing and then later when he uses it against Supes you’d be left thinking “wait, when did he make that?” More importantly, how? We’re never given any explanation to is this Batman is

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WB films/DC Comics

good at chemistry, or manufacturing, or… really anything other than fighting, being awesome, and some detective skills. I guess we’re supposed to already “know” that Batman can do anything, but it just doesn’t play out that way. When does Clark figure out Batman is Bruce, or Luthor figure Supes is Clark? Or how exactly is Doomsday created? I know it deals with using some of Zod’s body and Luthor’s blood and the genesis chamber… but, seriously, how? It just comes across as lazy story telling when certain things are glossed over. There are tons of other examples, sadly, that I could go on about but I don’t want to meander on the point.

 

The characters really suffer for the rushed second half. Relationships develop, plot points are revealed, and problems are resolved too quickly and in the end while hitting every major beat it just doesn’t feel… complete. What baffles me is the choice of what was included and what wasn’t. There are just some sequences that, while fun, didn’t need to be in the film and I feel like there are probably some that were cut (for crying out loud, there is another 30+ min being added for the BluRay release)  that would have served more of a purpose. Case and point, the Knightmare sequence. While cool I could tell that everyone in the audience who wasn’t comic book savvy didn’t have a clue what it meant. Yes, it serves as a key moment for Batman to decide that he needs to deal with Supes. But it was just all too much. In one scene it introduces us to Darkseid (without actually introducing

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WB films/ DC Comics

him,) and Flash and his powers, AND (kind of) the story of Injustice. It just didn’t serve any other purpose than to look… ahem, flashy and really bulk up a really non-existent side plot. Really it was a post credits scene in the middle of a movie. Actually, come to think of it, I feel like most of the second half of the film was just cut together post credit scenes. That’s the way it plays out. Cool, exciting eye candy that are just really cliffhangers that set up a bigger picture with no real explanation. All these cameos and winks are cool to see, but you’re left confused most of the time and wanting some actual substance.

 

 

 

Now, the characters.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes. This is the one, single character that I didn’t find myself liking through most of the film… and not for the right reasons. The sad thing is, is that like the movie itself, there actually are moments that he nails it. They’re subtle, and very few, but when he does get it you know, and it’s wonderful. But then it’s all very fleeting and waving goodbye as it moves on. I don’t quite know what was the though process with this depiction. He plays out like a mad scientist half the time, which… in the very early days of Luthor in the comics, that’s actually exactly what he is. But it just doesn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and seems weird. Eisenberg is a great actor, and like I said- when he gets it, he gets it. My hope is that if he’s in future films he finds that center more than doing the twitchy mess we got. I will say, despite everything, this Luthor as some very evil moments.

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WB films/DC Comics

Next, Ben Affleck’s Batman. Holy. CRAP. This was, hands down, the best part of the film. Every scene he was in he just ate up. It’s sad that there wasn’t more. I can’t quite decide if I like this Batman more than the TDK/Bale Bat but… man it’s a close call. This Batman in every way was epic. Brutal, fierce, cunning, and just an overall bad ass. Now, here is the thing that I will bet a lot of people will be divided on: Batman and his “one rule.” Do we see Batman kill in this film? Yes. And… no. Defiantly in the Knightmare sequence we see Batman killing.  But the rest of the film I would argue that Batman doesn’t kill any more in this film than the Nolan Bat-films (with two exception.) The BvS Batman really follows that “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you logic.” In some instances he causes things to happen in which it’s possible bad guys would die but a.) that happens in the comics, especially the Frank Miller-verse (which this film is inspired HEAVILY by) and b.) once again, happens in the TDK films (watch ANY of the Batmobile chase scenes.) There are two exceptions. One possible exception is at the very end, where Batman causes a flamethrower tank to explode, but even then one could argue that maybe the guy is just badly burned, but if you argue that I feel like you’re grasping at straws. But as much as I love my non killing Batman… I have to admit, whether he killed the Lex flamethrower goon or not, that moment was amazing. And anybody who’s read The Dark Knight Returns knows exactly how it’s going to play out. “I believe you.” The other obvious (and probably most problematic) one is that he’s trying to straight up murder Superman. In the comics Batman has made contingency’s to kill Superman, so it’s not really like this hasn’t happened or could never happen in the comics. But it’s still kind of shocking to see, and a part of me wonders if he’s doing this to save people why hasn’t he killed to Joker yet… but you obviously shouldn’t be wondering too much about these things, right?

 

Another awesome surprise is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I know when she was cast a lot of people were skeptical, but man is she amazing when she’s on screen. The problem is  her inclusion is seemingly secondary and an afterthought that, while enjoyed and does tie in to the grand scheme of things, was obviously just thrown in there so that the film can

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WB films/ DC Comics

have that broader scope. While she might be ultimately unneeded she certainly isn’t unwelcome by any means. Her and Batman make this movie.

 

Now, for Superman. This is probably the character I’m most torn on. I think Henry Cavill does a fine job, really. The problem is that in a movie where they are trying to fit so much Superman’s story just gets lost and he’s left seeming really whiny and wishy washy. It’s just… not very Superman-like. Which was also an issue in Man of Steel. That nihilistic, brooding tone is great for Batman and something director Zack Snyder does well… but it’s not Superman. And his evolution goes way too fast. He goes from helping people, to kind of being pissed at people not being thankful, to not sure if he wants to help people anymore, to all of a sudden willing sacrifice himself for humanity. And while that seems like a typical hero arch, it all happens in, like, the second half of the film; a very short amount of time. And it’s this quick turnaround (along with some other aspects) that leave the ending, which I will discuss in a minute, feeling rather hollow.

Other mentions:

Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane, but I think they used her in distress one too many times. It just got old.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred.

Diane Lane is great as Martha Kent again. AND we get a surprise return of Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) that I actually think is one of the best Superman scenes in the film. Felt the same way about his scenes in Man of Steel…

 

Now… on an overall note about geek/fan service of the film.  It’s there and it’s not, just like the rest of the film. There are aspects that comic fans will love, appreciate and are on point. Then there are others that just come out of nowhere and tamper with the lore. I could go on and on about my opinions on what they tampered with, but at the end of the day… I just think that comic fans have been a tad spoiled with what Marvel has done. I’m not saying we should expect less, I’m saying that… well, look at the Burton Bat-films. They don’t follow any comics, yet we love them (well, most do.) Try and be a little open minded. I’m not forgiving all aspects where this film diverges from the lore (I actually really hate how Doomsday was handled in this film)  but some you can see they were inspired by something in the comics or another movie and decided to try and do something new. If you want to discuss this note further I’m always happy to talk comic books and movies!

 

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WB films/ DC Comics

Now… the ending. The ending is actually something I called happening back in August when the first Suicide Squad trailer hit and have discussed with several people. Superman dies. I’m both happy that they stuck to the source material and a bit perturbed. Like I said before, Superman’s arch in this film was just really rushed and because of that I don’t think the impact of his death- his self-sacrifice is fully felt. Furthermore he and Batman’s sudden friendship and Bruce’s mourning and wanting to honor him feels rushed and weird as well. I get it but it doesn’t make it feel any less weird. In the comics Batman is so devastated by he doesn’t even appear at his funeral. While he attended the funeral here, they tried to give him the same level of grief I feel and I just… don’t get it. Literally, like 48 hours before you were trying to kill each other.  It, just like most of the rest of the film, feels a tad forced and rushed. If they just wanted to tell Superman coming to terms with being a hero then they just should have told that story ending with his sacrifice, instead of doing all this other side stuff with Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

 

 

 

In the end while messy, I actually think Batman v. Superman  is enjoyable. I’m actually going to say the most recent comparison in terms of comic book films would be Amazing Spider-Man 2. So if you liked that film you’ll probably like Bvs. If you didn’t you probably wont, and if you thought it was okay (as I did) you’ll… well, you get the picture. A lot is shoehorned into this film making it feel busy and cramped. It’s not the second coming of hero films like I think a lot of people were expecting, but I also think a lot of people (especially critics) wanted to go in hating this film or certain aspects of this film. If you do that, really with any movie, you’re going to hate it. It defiantly is a film to go in to with few expectations and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are some really, really good moments in this film that shine through. It’s not comparably bad to films like Catwoman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, or last summer’s Fantastic Four. But it’s obviously no The Dark Knight or Avengers either. It’s obvious that, despite what they’ve said, WB/DC feels the pressure from Marvel/Disney and wants to catch up. The problem is they tried to fit what Marvel’s done in seven years, across countless movies and show in two movies over the past three years.  I think that the feedback from this movie will result in a few changes in how the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is handled, and hopefully for the best. If  BvS ends up being kind of the bottom film out of it all… I actually think I’ll be comfortable with that.

 

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have a different DC film I’m actually really anxious for to come out in a few months…

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WB films/ DC Comics

Man, how I wish I had this book two years ago when I was writing my senior thesis in college! I did my SI on the evolution of horror as a theatrical art form (a paper I have revised many times, and am now attempting to publish) and I devoted a whole section of the paper to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.

This book was just released, and I knew right away that I needed to get my hands on a copy. I couldn’t resist a text solely dedicated to the history of HHN. Although I have only attended the event twice (this upcoming season I will actually be attending for my third time) I have been a fan of the event since around its thirteenth year. I’ve followed the event online, chat on the forums, watch countless videos, and am even working on my own short webseries based around this year’s event. I’ve known that the history of HHN has had a very interesting past, and that the amount of work that goes in to each event is overwhelming… but I wanted to know more. Thankfully Christopher Ripley and his new book gave me exactly that.

The book starts off describing Universal’s history with its monsters, as well as the original Horror Nights that originated in Hollywood years before Orlando took a stab at it. Horror Nights died, and when Universal Orlando opened it was met with many technical problems. So, in order to make money, the creative team at the park had to think of something. Enter Fright Nights (the first HNN before HHN was the title.) While I was aware of this history, the way that Ripley describes it so in depth and with rich facts and statements from newspapers and archives really adds so much more to the story. It also really hammers home the interesting parallel between how HHN really saved Universal Orlando much like the original classic horror films saved Universal Pictures.

Subsequently, with Fright Nights being as much of a success as it was it soon became a staple for Universal Orlando. The name was officially changed to Halloween Horror Nights for the second year, and has been that way ever since. The rest of the book outlines each year in its chapters. The chapters are broke down [basically] with some quick preproduction info for the year’s event, then production, and finally opening and closure of the event. There are obviously more layers to each one, such as many interesting facts about how marketing changed from year to year, as well as facts on various problems the creative team had to overcome. For instance, one of the main ones, is the well-known changes Universal made to its event post 9/11 in 2001. The book really describes in depth what was indented for that year and then goes on to describe what was changed and how the creative team went about doing this.

It’s also interesting to read about Universal’s evolution through the years and the subsequent effect it had on the event. You essentially relive the growth of Universal from the 90’s to now when reading this book and also get a great sense of how HHN grew during this time. It’s easy to see how the event had grown (I mean, for cripes sake, this year we have NINE houses!) but we overlook a lot of the internal workings and growth the company had to have gone through throughout the years to stay ahead of the curve. All of that is laid out in this book.

The book is actually quite fun to read. While it is a factual history book on the event, Ripley writes it very personable and I got a real sense that the he cares for the event just as much as I do. My only complaint is that I think the book maybe should have been proofed one more time before publishing, since there are noticeable typos and some odd sentence structure- but all in all it isn’t a huge hindrance. The text comes from the mind of someone who’s passionate for the event, and it reads that way. The information is golden and really insightful and that’s all that matters.

I also do also wish that there was some more focus on the HHN Hollywood event, as well as more of a satisfying closing chapter- but it’s just a me being greedy an wanting more. Hopefully in the coming years someone will write a separate book containing all of that (or… possible future revised editions?!)

This book is an absolute must have for HHN fanatics. It’s also a great read for anybody interested in haunted houses, theme parks (especially Universal) or just loves a good factual read on entertainment. It’s chock full of interesting information and facts you probably have never heard/read anywhere else. As someone who lives in Illinois and doesn’t get to visit each year and wasn’t even aware of the event pre-2003 (I was young, what can I say) the author does a brilliant job of taking the reader back to each event by painting eloquent pictures of Horror Nights past. Do yourself a favor and nab this book, especially since there is only 10 days left until HHN 25.

Halloween Horror Nights: The Unofficial Story and Guide (2015) is available in select stores, as well as on Amazon.

List price: $18.99

Eskdale & Kent Publishing

Southpaw was honestly the first dramatic film of the year that I was really looking forward to. I’m a sucker for stories such as these, and with some great talent behind it I was  anxious to see it. On Monday I had gotten an email from AMC Stubs for a free ticket to see an advanced screening last night, so I jumped at the opportunity!

The story follows undefeated boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal). Undefeated that is until his anger gets the best of him and, during the middle of a brawl (outside of the ring,) a rival boxer’s body guard shoots and kills his wife (McAdams.) This drives Hope to an extreme depression, and in the midst of his sorrow the rest of his life begins to crumble around him (you know what they say about glass houses…)
Hope’s daughter is taken away from him by child services (a system that Hope himself was raised in,) and Hope is completely abandoned by most of his “friends.” It’s up to him, with help of  trainer Tick Wills (Whitaker) to pick himself back up from the bottom and become the man he truly needs to be in and outside of the ring.

If the story sounds similar or redundant to past boxing films… that’s because it really kind of is. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before about how a champion becomes an underdog through various happenstances, and then has to rise back to the top to defeat his demons. What sets Southpaw apart from other films like it is how brutal and unflinching it is in terms of emotional and physical brutality. The drama and emotions are truly present within the actors, and the fights are some of the most intense I’ve seen in a while on film.  Seriously, I think the last time that I’ve ever flinched at an onscreen punch was during Bane and Batman’s fight in The Dark Knight Rises. Every single punch is heard and felt by the audience when watching this film.

The emotional connection is really there as well. Gyllenhall not only physically owns this role (I mean… jeeze, just look at him) but he taps into the charter’s feelings the way I’ve come to expect him to be able to do. This character takes us on a ride unlike anything you’d see in a Rocky film. There are moments of this film that you will hate Billy Hope, but obviously there is going to be a redemption point where you start cheering for him again. It’s truly his performance that raises this film above others like it.

McAdam’s does a great job of portraying a worried wife, who really wants her husband to give up the sport while he still can (I.E not “punchdrunk” or worse,) and young Oona Laurence does a phenomenal job as Hope’s daughter who goes through the same roller coaster of love, hate, and love for her father as the audience does. 

As great as this film is there are some finer plot points that I wish had either been elaborated or finished better. One being Tick Wills’ obvious drinking problem. It seems to have no purpose only than to set up a single laugh in the film. From the moment we’re introduced to him he’s very against swearing and drinking (which is not explained at all, but then later he’s revealed to be a Godly man… which I feel would should have been out in the open once we met him and would have explained things better.) But then all of a sudden he’s drinking, like, a lot. It’s a trait never explained, and there isn’t any consequence to this like there is with the characters in the 2011 film Warrior. I felt like it was supposed to, in some way, tie in to a kid’s death later on in the film, and whom Tick feels responsible for- but it never is connected. Also, the kid’s death just felt off, and there was seemingly no consequence to it being done.

And speaking of no consequence… it seems like there are an awful lot of people who knew that Ramone’s bodyguard Hector is the one that killed Billy’s wife. I mean, Billy even finds out where this guy lives. Why is this guys NEVER arrested? Why did nobody ever turn this guy in? Billy’s bodyguard got arrested. This is probably the most infuriating thing that happened in the whole film that was never explained in any way. I was really hoping that, by the end of the film, Ramone or someone from his team would have ousted this guy.

Even with it’s small, somewhat nonsensical flaws Southpaw is a pretty weighty underdog story with some splendid acting and really hardcore fight scenes, It’s a brutal and emotional film, with some real heart backing it up. If you’re in to inspirational stories like Rocky, The Fighter, and Warrior then Southpaw is a film for you.

Southpaw is rated R for language throughout, and some violence

                                                                      Universal Pictures

I’ve now seen Jurassic World three times, and have enjoyed it every time. It’s a fun thrill ride of a film, and now is the film with the second highest grossing weekend at the box office of all time!  While I really enjoyed the film and think it’s a great addition to the franchise, there are some thoughts and questions that have been keeping me up at night that I had along the way while watching it.  I thought that maybe I’d highlight a few of them here.

1.) The opening is awesome and a nice homage to Alien I feel… but I really would have liked a flashback for the opening instead I think. All of the JP films have great prologues and I feel like it would have been cool to see some of the post-1993 incident clean up or even the recapture of the rex or something.

2.) The bird in snow shot is wonderful, and is actually the only reference we get to the dino-bird relationship in the whole film.

3.) Okay, JW is open and it looks spectacular- everything I would want and expect in a Jurassic Park. But why? I mean, know why because I followed the online marketing but it’s not actually explained in depth in the film past John Hammond willing JP to Masrani. Last time we saw Hammond he had gone from “capitalist to naturalist” and was more concerned about protecting the animals. Now he thinks the park is a good idea again? Also… after all the incidents and deaths of the three previous films combined, how did they actually convince anybody that this would be a good idea again?

4.) The I. rex introduction is amazingly perfect.

5.) The innovation center is breathtaking. It’s like the Discovery Center at Islands of Adventure on digital roids.

6.) I actually don’t mind the raptor training at all… but why breed them in the first place. Even if they are for this military experiment who thought it was a good idea to take the most dangerous, human hating animals created at JP? The animals that are responsible for the most deaths in the series, and try and train them. Did anybody think that maybe, for once, you shouldn’t breed raptors?

7.) Why is the rex CGI? Also, I wish I could have seen more Jurassic World carnivores in captivity other than the  rex (albeit briefly,) and raptors.

8.) I feel like it’s now a statistic for kids of divorcees to end up on Isla Nublar or Isla Sorna. That should be in an ad: “Our park is sure to make your kids forget about your separation, because they’ll be too busy running from dinosaurs!”

9.) Speaking of Sorna… what the hell happened to it? They are acting, once again, like Nublar is the factory floor (like they did in the original film.) Is there nothing going on on Sorna? Or is it just so overrun by dinosaurs that they were like “screw it, we only need the one island” ?

10.) Zach is probably a bigger dick than any other human villain in the JP series.

Universal Pictures

11.) Mosa is awesome. Period.

12.) We really haven’t seen all of I. rex yet so when her actual reveal happens I really would have wished they did more of the JP rex full reveal and roar from the first film rather than I.rex suddenly blocking Owen’s escape and we only see half of her. It’s like they can’t decide if they want to show us I. rex or not.

13.) Why not have a access door at… both side of the paddock for people?

14.) The moment where I. rex searching for grady is super suspenseful and well done. Plus the I. rex looks beautiful.

15.) Petting zoo is cute and the riding of the baby trike is a nice reference to a cut scene from the first film and the novel.

16.) I’s so glad Wu is back. All of his scenes in this film are gold- mainly because it follows his character from the novel to a T.

17.) I’m already kind of “done” with the amount of comedy in the film. It’s just a personal thing, although I realize that they need to offset the amount of violence in the film. But does every film have to be so “funny” now? Age of Ultron had the same issues. I get some of it, but a lot is unneeded and out of character for some. It makes me really happy they cut the poop scene with Claire later.

18.) The moment when Claire walks in to control and everyone is quiet is awesome. Wish there were more moments like that in the film. It’s really effective.

19.) The I. rex coming out of hiding via camo is one of the most amazing things I have seen in the JP series, and something I’ve been waiting for since Crichton’s The Lost World. Also, the moment it takes out the ACU unit is a great nod to Aliens.

20.) Also, love the blood on the wrist. “Which way is the drop going to roll off?”

21.) Yay! Fallon mention’s dilophosaurs! So… wait, they’re in Jurassic World? Why haven’t we seen them yet!?

22.) The gyrosphere ride is awesome, and leads to a great “It’s a dinosaur” scene.

23.) Why are the stegos nearly dragging their tails here but weren’t earlier on when they were at the river?

24.) I’m going to assumed I. rex broke the gate open that the boys enter the restricted zone through… but if so, why is the I. rex still in the jungle and not rampaging through the valley yet towards the park?

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25.) The I. rex looking at the boys ala JP rex style should have been a practical effect…

26.) Dying apatosaur scene is a near tearjerker. It’s seriously right up there with the sick trike from JP.

27.) Old park scene(s) = BEST moments in the whole film. Just wish we could have stayed there longer. How did the boys end up here anyway? Also… why is the norther side of the island “restricted” if it seems like any ol’ JW employee can trounce around there at any time? Are there supposed to be wild dinosaurs around? What haven’t we seen any? And if so is that what killed the JW worker whose helmet Gray finds, or was that supposed to be I. rex again?

28.) AH! Pterosaur beak killing ACU. GREAT reference to he cut final sequence of The Lost World.

29.)  Masrani dies and it’s sad… but still would have liked to had more time to get to know him. It’s not as sad as if, say, Hammond was to have died in the first film. Also… the trailers totally ruined it.

20.)Why do the pteros look so different… again?

21.) Jesus, what are these pteros MADE OF!?

22.) I can deal with almost everything these pteros can do except for it lifting a baby trike off the ground. Cool shot but… no.

23.) The pteros diving through the water is actually probably one of the coolest things they do in the film.

24.) Zara’s death is OVERKILL. Man, I mean she wasn’t a horrible person. Also the mosa’s appearance seems kind of the same as the one we’ve gotten before.

25.) Why are Owen and Claire kissing? Pteros… still flapping around everywhere. Not really the time or place.

26.) You’re going to tell me they tranquilized all the pterosaurs? All of them?

27.) It gets dark fast in Jurassic World.

28.) Really wanted Claire to either punch Hoskins instead or after Owen.

29.) Raptors turning on humans is probably one of the best moments in the whole film. It’s scary and is a really great mixture of the tall grass scene and Muldoon’s death. Also a little bit of Aliens thrown in again.

30.) YEAH, ROCKET LAUNCHER! Just like the novel. Man, I’m loving all these small nods to Crichton’s work.

31.) Okay, so Wu is cool using dinos for military. He wants to innovate because God complex. I get it. But damn it, now we’re going to be wondering what happens with those embryos now.

32.) Still… no BioSyn.

33.) Really Hoskins wasn’t a bad guy, he just makes some seriously bad judgement calls and is a dick. His intentions are good though. … … Still loved his death though.

34.) You know… we never do find out everything that is in I. Rex.

35.) YAY! DILOPHOSAURUS!!!

36.) Blue siding with Owen all of a sudden reminds me of Hiccup and Toothless…

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37.) Rexy emerging from the darkness is AWESOME AS HELL.

38.) Epic final fight is epic. Although they missed a chance to have it in the rain.

39.) Pretty sure Colin Trevorrow, when shooting the last scene, had a Spielberg JP moment and said “I think the star of  this movie is the mosasaur” then threw it in as the one being heroic and killing I. rex. Because… let’s be honest. Rexy and Blue were gonna have their hides handed to them.

40.) Okay, totally get animals teaming up to take out a common threat- okay. But I really REALLY think the rex should have roared/chased Blue away instead of having that “good job bro” look at each other. I mean, at one point Blue uses Rexy as a springboard to pounce on the I. rex. That means her claws dug into Rexy’s back… I’d be pissed. Those claws are sharp- as the scars on Rexy’s neck can attest to. Her chasing Blue away would have saved us that Owen nod to Blue as well…

41.) Also unless you saw the scars and put two and two together and/or followed the marketing for the film you would totally not realize that this was the same rex from the first film. There should have been a scene explaining it or showing her recapture. Also, wish more of her was practical effects instead of CG.

42.) I really don’t like the love story. At least I don’t like a lot of the moments that involve it. I would have much rather Owen and Claire looked at each other like Ellie and Alan do in the end of JP that the whole “for survival” bit.

43.) Yeah, I see some straggling pteranodons. Who’s gonna keep them from getting off the island? Also… once again, unless you follow the marketing for the film you wouldn’t know what happened to the pteros at the end of JP3.

44.) Epic emotional final shot is epic and really emotional.

The park is open! Run, to go see Jurassic World in cinemas now!

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Universal Pictures

Fourteen years. Fourteen years of a constant up and down, “it’s happening” then “it’s dead” from those who brought to life this film series to fruition. Fourteen years of waiting for the next film, and then finally it’s released. Words can’t express how excited I was for this film to come out. The last time I was this amped up was when The Dark Knight was released in 2008.  And after months of build up from one of the most intensive marketing/viral marketing campaigns in recent history (which is actually continually happening throughout the films release right NOW,) the park was finally opened to an anxiously awaiting public. I sat with friends in that cinema, and when the lights went out I could feel my heart beat faster, and when it began I allowed myself to be transported back to Isla Nublar once again in Jurassic World.

It’s twenty two years since the closure of the original Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Twenty two years since John Hammond’s dream came to a screaming halt. But a new empire has arose: Masrani Global. They have taken control of International Genetic Technologies (InGen) as well as all of their subsequent… assets. So out of the ashes of Jurassic Park (and apparently all the other subsequent incidents that happened in 1997 and 2001) Masrani has created Jurassic World, and John Hammond’s dream is now a reality. Jurassic World brings in over twenty thousand people each day, and each guest can now come face to face with the most fascinating creatures to ever roam the planet… well, fascinating for a period of time it seems. The novelty of dinosaurs living again seems to be fading, Dr. Henry Wu and his team are cooking up something that’s sure to excite everyone: Indominus rex, a genetic hybrid with the base genome of Tyrannosaurus rex with some other “classified” species thrown in to the mix (that are revealed throughout the film.) The problem is… it suddenly excites everyone in all the wrong reasons. During a inspection of the I.rex enclosure by Owen Grady, one of the resident JW animal behaviorists who is currently working with the park’s velociraptors, the I.rex escapes. Chaos ensues, as the monster rampages though the island killing everything and everyone in sight. Vic Hoskins believes that he and his InGen ACU unit can capture the creature, by using some very radical means. These radical means end up backfiring and even more chaos ensues as even more creatures on top of I.rex are now fanning out across the island. Is there any hope for survival for the people left on the island?

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I’m going to try really hard not to let my passion overshadow my judgement right now. ANYBODY who know me knows that Jurassic Park is “my thing.” It’s my Star Wars, my Star Trek, my whatever you want to say. It’s the movie [series] that inspired me and so many others. As silly as it sounds, they are the films that made me the person I am. But I’m also a huge cinema fanatic in general, as well as a paleo-guy. So there are several conflicting thoughts, impressions, and emotions flying around in my head right now.

I’ll be frank: liked this movie, a lot. It’s a fun ride, and director Colin Trevorrow delivered some astounding fan service while also bringing a lot of originality to the table. The film does have it’s issues, which I’ll discuss, but overall I left the cinema with an extreme sense of pleasure mixed with just enough wonder to make me feel like this film was a good breath of fresh air in a once extinct franchise.

Warning: from here on out there will be plenty of spoilers… you’ve been warned.

The plot to Jurassic World is probably a story that many have thought of in some way shape or form (I can name at least two videos games off the top of my head where JP is reopened after the events of the first film- the original JP Arcade and JP for Sega Game Gear (and then there is Operation Genesis where you can open your own park)) I remember playing with the toys when I was a kid and playing out what it would be like for the park to actually open.  I don’t feel like it’s super original. The way that it’s portrayed and handled by Colin Trevorrow is however. Everything that we saw at Jurassic World seemed like something I would totally expect to find at a world renown and SUPER expensive theme park.  And while I can recall many many people and die hard fans of the franchise rolling their eyes and groaning at the fact that we’d be getting a hybrid dinosaur I loved and understood Colin’s reasoning. I went to the zoo a few months ago with my family and saw so many people on their phone texting and not taking in all of the animals. Same thing happens in museums, so after Jurassic World has been open for ten years I would totally expect that people would be getting “used” to it, and when that happens at any theme park a new attraction has to be built. In this case it was the Indominus rex.

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I. rex was a wonderful antagonist I felt. Do I feel like it could have just been a normal dinosaur: yes. But as I said I totally understand why it wasn’t. Plus this was actually supposed to be a monster. When rewatching Jurassic Park 3 before hand (I had a marathon of all the films before seeing JW) I couldn’t help but think that a monster is exactly what the spinosaur was- and it irritated me. Yes, the rex(s) and raptors had their monster parts as well in the previous films but at least most of the time it was explainable as to why they were hunting the humans or tracking them (be it territory, food, or otherwise.) The spino had no reason to hunt the humans. The I. rex does. It is not a dinosaur, as Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady points out- it is a monster. It kills for sport, not to eat.  It’s scary looking, it’s big, and it kicks some major tail in Jurassic World. Also it has an ability I’ve been waiting to see in a JP film since reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World: chameleon/camo skin. Technically it’s cuttlefish skin, but none the less I. rex has the ability to camouflage itself into it’s surroundings. While I really would have loved (and still would love) to see carnotaurus in Jurassic World with that ability like in the novel it looks amazing and is effective none the less. Plus, according to the official Jurassic World website I. rex does have some carno DNA in her so… that’s something I guess.

From a Jurassic Park canon standpoint, for the most part, all the dinosaurs looked great. A lot of the old guys are back and have some shining moments- including the original film’s Tyrannosaurus rex. There are some new guys as well, including the Apatosaurus (which interestingly enough was the sauropod in both of Michael Crichton’s novels but has never been in a previous JP film.) The one animal I would have loved to have seen more of… Dilophosaurus. We get one great moment, but it’s SUCH A TEASE. Oh well, even that one short moment answered an age old question in the canon: yes, the dilos in the first film were juveniles.

I’m going to keep my paleo-analytic critiques to a minimum here, because most of anything I have to say about inaccuracies in the animals of the film have been said by many paleontologists already. From a paleo-perspective the film’s dinosaurs are kind of “meh.” Inaccuracies have been in the JP universe since the first film (well… even since the novel.) To fan of the series they’ve always been able to be explained through the genetic modification that occurs during the “de-extinction” of the animals, and that’s even explicitly said in this film. But I will say that with them having a new park for this film and actually going back from “scratch” on many of these animals, it was kind of a missed opportunity to have some really accurate representations of dinosaurs on screen. While I was able to stomach a lot of the inaccuracies the biggest one I have a hard time dealing with is whenever a pterosaur tries to make off with a human, or even a dinosaur.  That and a near tail dragging stegosaurus.

My biggest complaint, above all, concerning the dinosaurs was the over use of CGI. In the first two JP films there was a perfect marriage or CGI mixed with practical effects- it was seamless. In JP3 it leaned more towards CGI, and the practical effects that were there for some reason didn’t seem as good as in the first two films. In this film nearly every shot of the dinosaurs was CGI. Now, a LOT of it looked good- I can’t lie. There was some really great computer animation work going on in this film. But there were plenty of scenes that they could have used practical effects on, and didn’t. But when they did, it was breathtaking. Like the dying apatosaur scene, it had me in near tears.  It was almost as emotional as the ick triceratops scene in the original Jurassic Park. It looked alive. It was wonderful, and I wish that we could have seen more practical effects- especially towards the end…

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The acting was good. There were several kind of “cheesy” and forced moments, but I never found myself getting annoyed (in the wrong way) with the characters like I did in JP3 or even some in The Lost World.

Chris Pratt actually goes into some more serious territory with Owen Grady. While the signature charm we associate with Pratt  pops up from time to time, for the most part his character is more akin to Muldoon in the first film with a no-nonsense and practical approach to treating, training, and caring for the dinosaurs.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing goes through some good evolution through the film, and becomes kind of a Ellen Ripley of sorts. I think I would have liked to seen more from her in this regard, she does have an amazing and key moment in the end of the film. The one point I really disliked in the film was how Owen and Claire’s relationship just kind of sprung from nowhere. It felt really forced and I disliked it.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays, I guess, the human villain of the film. It’s all in the eye of the beholder really. But he does make some really bad judgement calls and his comeuppance is as good as Dieters in The Lost World. And I am SO glad we got to see some more from BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. A lot of his material is straight from the original novel here and it’s stuff I, as a Jurassic Park fan, have been waiting to see and hear for a long time. He does a great job of playing Wu, like to a T and I really hope we see more of him if the series continues. 

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson do a great job of being… well, the kids of this film. Their relationship feels plausible, although for the most part they were just kind of “there” in the film and didn’t offer a lot of support the way children in previous films have.

Irrfan Khan as Masrani did a great job but we really didn’t get to learn much about the guy before he goes down in a fireball. I knew I liked him but his death wasn’t as powerful as if it would have been if, say, Hammond was to die in the first film. If he was given more time I feel like that would have helped.

Other talent like Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, and Katie McGrath offered some variety in the supporting cast but we all knew they’d pretty much be fodder or just help the story along and have a few great moments.

Along with all the new, Colin Trevorrow does an outstanding Job of bringing back the old. We have a wonderful moment where we get to see the old Visitor Center again from the first film. The only problem, the scene(s) only last a few minutes and we move on. I really would have liked it if we slowed down the film when we got in to the “restricted” area of Nublar, which is almost the entire norther half of the island. There are still some unanswered questions, more locations I wanted to see. On top of it all, there were some thing that unless you’ve been following the marketing you wouldn’t really know. Like the rex. I’m sure few people actually realized that the rex in the film was the original (via interviews or websites, etc) the average viewer wouldn’t realize. I wish they would have shown or discussed the roundup of the rex and possibly more of the original animals from the first Jurassic Park. And damn it!- I wanted more dilophosaurs! Sigh… But really JW really has some super nostalgic moments.

The film also has a lot of inside jokes/nods towards the other films in some really clever ways. Take the ptero attack on the chopper. The pteranodon’s beak breaking through the bubble and into the chest of the ACU member- that’s taken directly from a cut sequence from The Lost World. Also that blood dripping on ACU member Hamada’s hand when he’s searching for I.rex… reminded me a lot of when Malcolm is trying to explain Chaos Theory to Dr. Sattler in Jurassic Park. “Which way is the drop gonna’ role off?” Moments like that, and many others in the film just left me tickled as a JP fan. Trevorrow goes above and beyond with the fan service in the film, and for that I thank and applaud him.  He also adds in some really tense moments very akin to the Alien franchise, and you’ll know them when you see them. These moments and Colin’s willingness to show gore actually make Jurassic World the most violent of any of the Jurassic films.

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The fan service goes even into the soundtrack of the film. Composer Michael Giacchino is back for is third turn in the JP franchise (originally scoring the soundtrack to the The Lost World and Warpath: Jurassic Park PlayStation video games.) For JW Giacchino brings a lot of originality to the plate but really pays homage to nearly all the work done before for the franchise. Not only are their call backs to the classic motifs of Jurassic Park (and The Lost World theme at one major point) composed by John Williams but we get a lot of music that is similar to the themes heard in Operation Genesis, from Jurassic Park; The Game, and even a hint of the PlayStation games. It’s nice, and really brings some added emotion and nostalgia.  The new Jurassic World theme is majestic, and while it may not be as iconic as the classic JP, it’s exactly what this film needs, and the I. rex theme is creepy as well. There are a few moments in the film where I feel like the soundtrack is a tad much, and over the top- but it’s defiantly not as obnoxious as the JP3 soundtrack gets at points.

Some moments of the film really dance a fine line of being exactly what you didn’t know you wanted to see and absolutely overkill. The two main ones being the death of Zara and the death of I. rex. Zara’s death was just… crazy. I personally would have liked to have either had it be the mosasaur or just the ptera and not both, but I can’t like… it looked cool. And I. rex’s death… I actually won’t spoil. I saw it a mile away before it happened during the final encounter, and when it actually happened the cinema erupted in applause- and I was a part of that roaring audience. It was a bad ass death for a pretty bad ass monster.

In the end… to be honest, my head is still spinning. I caught the 7 pm showing (Central Time) of Jurassic World and it’s now almost 1 AM and I’m finishing this review. My thoughts are still jumbled, “but, uh… well there it is.” Jurassic World, while having some zany moments, and some nonsensical plot points about militarized dinosaurs… is pretty much everything I wanted in a sequel. I do wish it was a tad longer, taking more time to explain some things and slow down at some moments, but the pacing wasn’t bad really. I’m super interested in if there will be some deleated/extended scenes in the BluRay release. All in all though, after a fourteen year wait that came after kind of a very bitter bitter sweet third film I feel like this film is a great addition to the franchise. While it’s not as good as the original it’s defiantly a very worthy sequel.

Jurassic World answers a lot of questions I feel, while opening a whole new door for future teams to go down should they choose. If not, I’m actually not concerned. While there are plenty of loose strings it has an ending more akin to The Lost World and not super open ended like Jurassic Park 3. And that makes me as both a fan of this wonderful franchise and a movie goer satisfied. And those questions, along with the ones have have yet to be answered are still out there for future teams to tackle (oh please, let one of those teams include me! … I can wish….)

Jurassic World is a wild romp through the island of Isla Nublar that is not to be missed. It chaotic, fun, terrifying, and exhilarating. This movie is the definition of what a summer blockbuster should be and is defiantly not to be missed. If you’re a fan of the franchise though, bring some tissues- because the nostalgia train is gonna’ hit ya’, hard.

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I saw this film last Thursday, so sorry this has taken so long for me to post. My mind has JUST NOW stopped racing about it!

Action is a genre I have a love hate relationship for. It seems as though for every film that comes out there are about six more that are utter crap. And I’m talking traditional action, not mixed genres. Furious 7 upon further reflection left me with a bitter sweet taste for action films. While I did, and still really enjoy the film overall (especially for the ending,) when I started to think about it a few days after seeing it I actually realized exactly how much sexism was in the film. Now, objectification of women happens in ALL the Furious films, but it seemed to be REALLY pushed on the viewers in F7 and that made me think twice about not only how much I liked that film, but how much such things happen in action films in general. Think about it: action is a genre typically aimed at male audiences, and what do [a majority] or men like in their action films? Violence and women.

With actions films being so successful, why would anybody attempt to break that mold? Well, because it’s old and it needs to be broken. Action films can star strong female leads now, and the films can be more than just mindless violence. They can actually, gasp, have character growth and a story. ALL of this is present in Mad Max: Fury Road. 

Now, I’ll admit- when I saw the first trailer for this film I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see it in the cinema. I already had Furious 7 on my list of mindless action films for the year and wasn’t sure I wanted another one. But then the film started to gain some major buzz the weeks leading up to it’s release. So I decided, what the hell- I’ll go and see it. I had little expectations for what I’d be in store for. What I did expect was a two hour ‘splosion filled romp through a post apocalyptic wasteland. While that’s mainly what the viewers of Fury Road will get there is so much more that goes on with our characters.

We open on Max, who’s alone (as always.) He’s a man troubled by his past and not quite “all there.” He’s quickly picked up by  a gang of “War Boys” who follow the orders of the tyrant Immortan Joe who rules over The Citadel. Joe is a god, of sorts, to his people. Many worship him, while those who hate him stay silent. That is except for one. Imperator Furiosa is tried of Joe and his sadistic leadership. Along with restricting his people’s water supply and other resources, he has kidnapped many women over the years and uses them for his personal breeding purposes. His newest batch has had enough and wants to be freed. So Furiosa takes them in secret (while she’s supposed to be going for a fuel run) and plans to escape to her homeland where she was originally taken from as a child. She doesn’t get very far before Joe finds out exactly what has happened, and he sends a war party out after her. Max is now a War Boy’s blood bag, and has to be strapped to the hood of one of their cars. But through a series of events he manages to escape and hitches a ride with Furiosa and her “shipment.” While he starts out really not caring about what happens to Furiosa or any of the other women (as long as he’s able to escape) Max starts to form a bond with these women (and Nux, a War Boy who begins to understand how evil and untrustworthy Joe really is.) Can Max and Furiosa escape Joe and his horde, and at what cost?

6 Insane GIFs from the New 'Mad Max' Trailer

It may be weird to start off a pros list for an action film with how visually stunning it is, but DAMN- this film is BEAUTIFUL. Miller proves yet again that he can make a fantastic and visually pleasing action film. From the moment it started to when the credits rolled I was complacently consumed by this film and never taken out of it. The color palate is warm and chaotic, like a fireball engulfing you. Action is amped to utterly fantastical quality, and framed perfectly so that you never miss a moment of it in all it’s splendid glory. Obviously many of the moments in this film need a massive amount of suspension of disbelief, but is you kind of went in to a Mad Max film expecting realism then… well, you’re silly.

The action is also really well paced so that it revved up to get your heart pounding, but also will allow for ebb and flows so that some of the smaller action moments can happen. We have car chases but then on top of that you have gun gun battles, fist fights, and explosions. A lot of times in action films everything is framed of edited so that you’re really only focusing on one of those things happening. Not here. Every bit of action gets its moment in this film, ensuring that the viewer never misses a moment of any of it. It’s quite literally (and I know this is a cliche analogy) like being on a roller coaster.

I feel like the ebb and flow of the scenes is extremely complimented by the wonderful scoring done by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL.) It’s a super charged score befitting of such an action film that has super intense moment while also having very contrasting feeling moments that get you to feel more than just adrenaline. I have to say though, some of my favorite moments in the score go to this guy:

The acting is splendid. I mean first off you have Tom Hardy as Max, taking up the iconic role from Mel Gibson. Hardy does an amazing job, as always. He not only brings back the isolation of the character that we’re familiar with but also adds more heart than we’ve ever seen before. We can see more of what’s ticking in Max’s head than before, and over the course of the film Max actually gains empathy for other characters and realizes that maybe he doesn’t always have to be alone and that maybe there is a road to redemption. 

Then you have Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is honestly one of the most amazing action hero/heroines ever created in any kind of medium. She drives the soul of this film from start to finish. Her struggle to free Joe’s captive “wives” and return to her home pushes her forward, even when things are looking bleak. It’s her compassion, rage, and drive that hooks us. That and the fact that she can kick some major ass!  The fact that film actually focuses on Furiosa and less on Max has a lot of people talking. Miller brought us a new Ellen Ripley of sorts with Furiosa. . We’re ready for more characters like her in action films. And she isn’t the only female hero in this film. We get a whole fleet of them by the ending. It’s wonderful, and Miller proves to us that women aren’t

just eye candy or “help.” I can’t wait for more films from him that feature such strong female leads, and hopefully more directors will take notes from this as well.

The makeup effects and visual effects in Fury Road were flawless as well. While there are moments from time to time during the epic battles that you can see some CG manipulation, it seems to fit with the overall visual style I think. The makeup and costumes of all the characters on screen fit the desolate world around the characters. Be it to show how diseased, and decrepit the characters are, or to have an intimidation factor the costumes and makeup all have a purpose and feel organic. Same goes for all the sets and, probably most importantly, the vehicles. The vehicles are war machines seemingly designed for one reason- to kill (or, you know, to seriously maim. ) All of these elements fit together like some sort of demented jigsaw puzzle for the final product.

I have a few final notes on the film. Overall I was stunned by how the violence was handled. In a R-rated film, which contains almost nonstop violence and action throughout, most of the worst stuff happens off frame, or it’s somewhat out of focus. I could probably only count a handful of times in the whole film that I saw real bloodshed or dismemberment. It was all… very tasteful. Which seems really weird to say, especially in a world where many of the R rated action films have no qualms about showing disembowelment, or blood squirting wounds this film. It was a welcomed change, and I’m someone who doesn’t really mind that. It shows that you can have a really good action film without having to have obscene amounts of gore.

Probably my only qualm with the entire film is that out of the cast I only noted one character that was not Caucasian (that being Zoe Kravitz.) There was a real lack of racial diversity, and I’m not quite sure why that was… but it was kind of obvious.

Overall though Mad Max: Fury Road is a film that I HIGHLY recommend to anybody who loves a good action film.  While the movie defiantly gets the blood pumping and is unrelenting on the action throughout, it does allow for some genuine character development and growth. The violence, while not overly gory (with the exception of a few scenes) does get pretty intense at time. Visually stunning, well acted, and directed Fury Road is defiantly a film you should treat yourself to see on the big screen. Overall it is an action film that has re-written what it means to be an action film.

With Jurassic World release right around the corner (only a little more than a month away!) I’m sure you’ve already begun to see the onslaught of JW gear arriving in local stores! Toys, food products, games, and even limited edition Barbasol Shaving Cream cans. On top of all of that you can expect there to be a plethora of books based on and inspired by Jurassic World. It’s only fitting since the franchise began as a book, right? While most of the books will probably tend to focus on the story of the film, there are some exceptions to that rule- one of which being the newly released Jurassic World: Dinosaur Field Guide.

Now this book is actually a revised/updated (as the cover suggests) reprinting of the Jurassic Park: Institute Dinosaur Field Guide, which was originally published in 2001 coinciding with the release of Jurassic Park 3. Jurassic Park: Institute was started as an endeavor to bring the latest scientific knowledge about dinosaurs via the Jurassic Park franchise. JPI included a incredibly interactive and informational website, an interactive tour in Japan, and several book publications- one of which being the original Dinosaur Field Guide.

The original Dinosaur Field Guide is an exquisite book, perfect for dinosaur enthusiasts of any age as well as Jurassic Park fans. It’s full of [at that point in time] up to date facts thanks to Dr. Thomas Holtz and Dr. Michael Brett-Surman, and exquisite artwork by Robert Waters. It also included a large poster listing various dinosaur species, and had special notes that contained behind the scenes facts of the Jurassic Park films.

But a lot changes in fourteen years in the field of paleontology and the writers and artist teamed up again to revise their book and released it again under the Jurassic World title (since Jurassic Park: Institute is no more sadly.) So how does it compare to it’s predecessor, and what can you expect? Well, let’s take a look!

The opening page is a note from the authors asking and attempting to answer the age old question: Why are dinosaurs so popular? It was a powerful opening in the 2001 original and it’s just as powerful now, going on to theorize that unlike other movie monsters, dinosaurs were once real and their sheer size and imaginable power will always fascinate us and our culture, One part has been revised from the 2001 text, now stating we have over 1,200 species of Dinosauria and that the number grows by about 40 each year. It’s staggering to read. And the closing remarks of the note from the authors on the commercial selling and poaching of dinosaur bones is  incredibly poignant.

The next few pages briefly, yet cohesively, cover the basic facts of the history of the dinosaurs (eras, time span,) as well as some information on Mesozoic plant life, how fossils are found and classified, the differentiation between ornithischian and saurischian, and a great note on drawing dinosaurs/paleoartistry, Overall these pages are exactly the same with some as in the 2001 text, with only some minor (yet major revisions.) One such revision is the changing of the end of the Cretaceous from 65 MYA to 66 MYA. It’s an important new update to the science and one I’m really glad to see in this text (since many books, media, etc. are still saying 65 MYA.)

I’m also glad that the ornithischian vs. saurischian information was still left in. Those facts are sometimes absent in many children’s texts (or it’s referenced and never really explained.) Holtz and Brett-Surman give a really good and in depth explanation as well as a diagram on the difference between the two.) I do wish that a image of the two’s pubis was included instead of just an explanation but that’s really just a nit-pick.

The main body of the book is a guide to various species of Mesozoic animals (100 to be exact: 87 dinosaurs, 3 marine reptiles, 6 non-dino archosaurs, and 4 pterosaurs (each of the non dinosaurs also have a short preface about what exactly they are in relation to dinosaurs, and the Mesozoic.) ) The guide for the most part is exactly the same except for a few changes. The page includes the name of the species, the date it was named, the name meaning, and then lists diet, location, size, and trivia facts. The main body of the page for each species explains the history of the animal and past and present theories on the animals going on in the field of paleontology today.

Some dinosaurs have been removed and some dinosaurs are new. New dinosaurs include: Anzu,  Edmontosaurus, and Othnielosaurus (was Othnielia in 2001 edition,)

There has also been a massive overhaul on the artwork, with lots of new or revised images differing from the 2001 text. Many of the animals (mainly theropods) and feathered now- a very welcome update to the text. Some of the artworks differs in style from each other and I think this has to do with there actually being two artists on this book. Robert Walters is credited on the cover as doing the illustrations but apparently Bruce J. Mohn also lent a hand in doing some of the art work as well, which was then painted by Walters. Overall the artwork is great, but there is an obvious difference between the two styles present- which was not the case in the original text. It’s not a major issue but may set off some people’s OCD.

The facts for each species continue to be great and up to date. A lot of it is the same information as the 2001 text, but there are appropriate revisions to the dating, locations, sizes, and species of dinosaurs based on current information. I do wish that some new information and debates were included though (such as Trike vs. Torosaurus and the new theory on Spinosaurus, and several others.) Current debates such as these are really changing and setting fire to the paleo-community and I feel like the are important to mention.

Probably my one biggest issue with the entire book is the revisions to the “movie facts” on random pages of the text. In the original 2001 text there would be, on select pages (usually pages with animals actually featured in the JP films) there would be an image from the JP film along with (in a slap board) info on the dinosaur in relation to the film itself. It ranged from correcting the sci-fi depictions of the dinosaurs (such as dilophosaur in Jurassic Park having venomous spit) or discussing how Tyrannosaurus rex was depicted as a caring parent.

In this edition all of the previous “movie facts” are taken out and replaced with new ones that are… vary random and not anywhere near as satisfying.  First off many of them appear on pages where they shouldn’t be (like dimorphodon being in dilophosaurs page or an apatosaur fact being on the brachiosaur page when apatosaur has it’s own section in the book itself!) Now I assume that the reason why these edits are where they are is because these pages are where the “movie facts” were in the first edition so it was fairly easy to edit the text and just swap out the picture. But if you’re going to just edit the captions at least make it a little more interesting than ‘T.rex roars on to the big screen in Jurassic World!’ Nearly all the captions say something along those lines, offering up no real information or facts unlike in the 2001 text. It’s really the biggest disappointment out of the book. Even if the editors/Universal isn’t wanting “too much” shared on JW before it’s release I still think something more substantial than a constant “come see the movie” ad should’ve been allowed.

Overall though this book is still fantastic. It actually compliments the original text well I think, especially with it’s updated information and several new dinosaurs. While there is noticeable difference in art styles, and the “movie facts” end up being nothing more than a film promotion, the book itself holds up as a wonderful basic guide into the world of the dinosaurs. It’s great for younger dinosaur enthusiasts. The text is easily understandable and everything is well explained. While you may not want to start a five year old out on this, it’s defiantly something that the pre-teenish dinosaur enthusiasts will really enjoy and find useful. But really the book is a great guide for all ages. I still take my original copy out during field work, and this edition will probably be no different. It’s great to use to brush up on facts about dinosaurs you may be excavating, or seeing in museums.

Jurassic World: Dinosaur Field Guide has a price listing of $12.99, and is currently in book stores now.

It’s here. It’s FINALLY here. The sequel we superhero junkies have been waiting for since that final shawarma scene. The sequel that comes after an amazing second phase of films. The sequel we hoped would wrap up some loose ends and give us some hint at what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This film was in my top three most anticipated films of 2015, and I had no doubt in my mind that it was going to be awesome. Phase two has been fantastic as far as I’m concerned, with perhaps a few missteps along the way but nothing major. Phase two spans across two TV series, one Netflix Series, and four (so far) released films this was building up to be even bigger than the first Avengers film. And as a sequel to one of the most successful films in history… it rightfully should be. But could it live up to the hype? I’ll save you the suspense- yes, it can and it did I think for the most part. While not without faults Avengers: Age of Ultron was not only the best way to kick off of the Blockbuster season of 2015, but an overall satisfying semi-conclusion to phase two (semi-conclusive because we still have one film left to go technically.)

As always, spoilers ahead so… well, you were warned.

This film starts off with a bigger bang than Avengers and it fully keeps that momentum throughout. It centers on the fact that Stark has created, with the help of Loki’s scepter and the infinity gem (mind gem) inside of it, the ultimate AI- Ultron. Of course this is with the best intentions, which are to save and protect the human race. But Ultron can only see one way to peace- the extinction of the Avengers and ultimately the human race. I mean… it’s not like Nazi’s have been messing with Loki’s scepter or anything. Probably should have checked on that first. But anyway…

See, he's not an orphan! Oh, wait... wrong Quicksilver.Ultron enlists the help of Quicksilver and Scarlet-Witch, two mutants…erm, I mean two “enhanced” humans who have it in for Stark since his weapons made them orphans. But they soon realize Ultron’s plans to irradiate all human life and join the Avenger’s in stopping Ultron. But these heroes won’t be enough. No, a new hero has to be made, which is exactly what Stark does… even though that didn’t really work out the first time. It synthesizes a body for the Jarvis AI and out pops Vision. But will that be enough? Will the Avengers win!? …

Why is that even a question?

It’s all fast and furious, rough and tumble, and kind of jumbled throughout the film. But you get used to it and even through all the noise you’re still able to grasp the story that is spanning out in front of you. Whilst not to say that there aren’t any quieter moments in Age of Ultron they are scarcer than they were in the first Avengers film. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that director Joss Whedon feels comfortable with just picking up where everything left off in the films, and Agents of Shield (Age of Ultron picks up almost IMMEDIATELY after the events in this week’s episode of the critically acclaimed television series.) He doesn’t feel like he needs to backtrack and explain each character again because he knows the audience is there with him. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time because while we don’t necessarily need to know about who Stark or Rogers are, or how Banner became the Hulk I feel like some details about newer characters are kind of glossed over.

In addition to the roster we know by now Whedon introduces two [kind of] new faces to the mix. We’re introduced to Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen )- the Maximoff twins. Their origins are discussed in the film but I feel they are rather glossed over. Now… I totally understand why that is the way it is… *cough*Fox*cough*X-men*cough*. But still I would have liked a little more character development on these two.  They suffer from the same fate as Hawkeye in Avengers. Half the film they’re bad then by the time they’re on the good side we can’t backtrack at all because, well big action is happening. I’m sure that in the future they (or, well, at least one of them) will be more flushed out like they tried to do with Barton/Hawkeye in this film but it still feels like the characters were just kind of there for convenience. Still, they offered some really spectacular moments of action and wit- a great addition. Age of Ultron does a fantastic job of opening up the universe even wider than it already was, which is something that I think felt left out of the first Avengers film. In the first film the MCU was all self-contained to the characters that already had their solo films (or two in Iron Man’s case.) All we really got was Thanos at the end, and that was it. In Age of Ultron they do introduce new characters and heroes like the Maximoff’s, Vision, the official inclusion of Wakanda and Ulysses Klaw. Then, to top it off, we have Falcon and War Machine (yep, we’re back to War Machine again instead of Iron Patriot) as well as Thanos again in the end credits scene and all of the infinity gems are kind of explained and wrapped up by the end of the film- setting up the next phase/next two Avenger’s films perfectly.

I also do love what little is actually added on to the characters we already know. This mainly happens after Scarlet-Witch makes each Avenger see/”experience” their worst fears with her powers. Some of them have flashbacks, some of them see visions, and others just kind of… well, Hulk out. But that leads to character development later on where Banner still is gripping with the monster inside himself, and… well, the monster is gripping with Banner. We see more of Black Widow’s backstory, and she has the most gut wrenching story out of any of them. The scene in which she tells all to Banner is moving, as well as heartbreaking and Scarlett Johansson knocks it out of the park. We also learn a lot more about Hawkeye and see more of him in this film than we did in the first film.  It’s wonderful because while he’s not the only human on the team (even though the film kind of makes it seem that way) he might be the most human one on the team. He has a family, a home, and we see him get wounded in the field, badly. We’re feeling for him from start to finish. That kind of brings me to my next point as well though….

Really, I only have two major complaints about the film. One is I actually thought there was too much humor. A staple in all of the Marvel films is the use of wit and humor. But literally  it got to the point that nearly every other sentence in the film ended with a punchline of some kind, even in the really serious moments. The jokes really start to undermine the situation/stakes.

I also really don’t like how much time is spent on building up the red herring that Hawkeye is going to die. From nearly the beginning of the film to the end it plays off the fact that Hawkeye is human, and that he has this family who loves him, and that he actually can get hurt because he did early on. It reaaalllly lays it on thick and it was just too much and it got to the point that one of two things was going to happen: one- he was going to die, and it would no longer be a shock or two- someone was going to sacrifice themselves for him, and therefor THAT wouldn’t be a shock. Either moment should be incredibly powerful but knowing that one of the two of them was going to happen ruined it. And when Quicksilver does give his life, it is sad but I felt way more for Scarlet Witch losing her brother and seeing her anger and grief than I did over seeing Quicksilver dead. The fact that his death is kind of glossed over in the, and that there was ALSO a joke slapped on by a still somewhat wounded Hawkeye once he lays down next to Quicksilver’s dead body doesn’t improve matters. I actually think he isn’t dead, to be honest. I mean… they have this amazing machine that can repair cells like crazy and essentially build an entire body out of nothing. That mixed with his metabolism, probably excelled healing… I’m sure he’ll be up on his super sneakers in no time.

Also as kind of a minor nitpick, I also wasn’t quite sure why Falcon wasn’t joining the final fight. If he’s able to join the Avengers team at the end… why wasn’t he allowed to be in the Ultron fight? I mean we all heard him talk about that “missing person’s case…” but really, the end of the world seems a little more problematic than Captain Roger’s best ex-best friend.

Some final notes: James Spader is absolutely FANTASTIC as Ultron. Something that’s been kind of missing from phase two of the MCU is a good villain. While there is Hydra, and each solo film has had a villain none of them, I think, have been very good. They’re all fairly basic, and one dimensional. Not bad by any means, but not really original. Ultron was menacing as all hell, and while his plan wasn’t necessarily new by any means his story arch, overall technique, and dialogue in the film was. It was refreshing to see.

The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster Iron Man was AMAZING. There were film angles and shots that seemed a bit off to me but visually it was amazing through and through and it offered one of the best fights ever in a super hero film.

Overall this film was great. I honestly can say I don’t know if I’d rank it above Winter Soldier or Guardians, but it is an amazing movie and is not only fun but is thrilling and engaging all the way through. A few hiccups are present, with the story feeling jumbled due to simply the amount of characters present but it’s all rectified by the satisfying ending that is everything we ever hoped for in an Avengers sequel.

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Jurassic World Alice Levin

The time had finally come! My family and I had been planning this trip for ages it seems and it had finally come: our trip to Jurassic World. I’ve wanted to go since 2005, but things didn’t pan out and we kept pushing it back because of various reasons until finally in early 2013 the hubby and I finally decided to go for it.  We had to rack in quite a bit of extra cash. At this point we have two boys, verses 2005 when we had none and both of them are super dino-crazy. I had always wanted to go because of the beauty of the island and how exotic the resort seems to be, the dinosaurs were just a plus! But now with our two boys we had more to think about. We wanted to make it the most memorable trip of their lifetime- and I think we succeeded!

We ended up going with the John Hammond Package, since that option seemed really geared towards dino-enthusiasts. My husband was worried that parts of it would be a bit tedious for the boys and we should have booked the Family Package since the website makes this particular package seem very factual/educational and geared more towards the adult dinosaur lovers and soon to be college students, but it wasn’t that way at all! Every moment of it was fun and action packed, while still being educational! My boys and even we were enthralled every day we were there (this package consists of three consecutive days.)

Highlights of the John Hammond Package:

– My favorite part had to be the behind the scenes tour with the resident paleontologist Brian Switek. This man genuinely loves his work, and was really engaging to listen to. As we went on our tour he gave us a kind of lecture on the Mesozoic as well as the science and making of Jurassic World (which also included a little history on the old Jurassic Park!) We learned about how the dinosaurs are made, and how they are cared for.  Then at the very end he gave our boys each a signed edition of one of his books. Fantastic!!

– My boys LOVED being present during a hatching. They had been expecting a “theropod” (a word Brian taught me!) of some kind, so when they found out they were going to see a stegosaur they kind of groaned. But you should have seen their faces once that egg started moving. They couldn’t take their eyes of it, and their jaws were hanging open. My youngest now says that his favorite dinosaur is now the stegosaurus!

-The guided gyrosphere tour was breathtaking, and definitely takes the cake. It’s different than the normal tour, and our special recorded guide took us closer to the herds and farther away from the normal trail than most guests get to go. It was outstanding.  I swear my husband, at one point, shed a tear. He’s not a super dino-fanatic but he loves nature. We take trips when we can out west and I swear half of the pictures we own are of different formations and landscapes. Seeing these animals really put him in awe.

Other highlights of Jurassic World in General:

–  The food! Oh Lord the food was amazing. Each night we ate at a new restaurant. Dave and Buster’s was obviously my kid’s favorite because… well, pizza and video games. How can you go wrong? But I personally loved Winston’s Steakhouse (GET THE LAMBCHOP!) and my husband really liked Nobu, but we also both really liked Margaretville (at night, once the kids were in bed obviously!)

-The Cretaceous Cruise was almost as breathtaking as the guided gyrosphere tour. It was such an amazing way to see the animals.

-The aquatic park was a great way to cool down. It got pretty humid while we were there, so we liked to cool down from time to time.

-The Jurassic World Hilton is literally one of the best hotels you will EVER stay at. Period.

In general everything was great about this vacation. We didn’t get to do everything we wanted in the three days that we were there and we’re already hesitantly planning our next trip (although it may be a while, unless we dip into the kid’s college funds!) The John Hammond Package was absolutely amazing, and worth every penny (which I’m super happy about because had it not been this would have been one expensive let down!) The only reason I didn’t give Jurassic World five stars was because around January I found out that in June Jurassic World is actually going to have a new attraction opening up, the Indominus rex and I really wanted to go then but unfortunately too much time had passed and we weren’t able to change our tickets. Oh well. My boss probably wouldn’t have let me change the date of my vacation anyway.

If you haven’t gone you’re doing yourself a disservice. Stop what you’re doing and go, right now.

PICTURES:

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“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park ///”, “Jurassic World” are Trademarks of Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, and Amblin Entertainment.

Based off Characters Created by Michael Crichton