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In Search of... (1976)
Fun Exploration into the World and Mysteries of the Unknown
Shows exploring the strange phenomena and cases of the supernatural have been produced with as much regularity as such cases themselves have been reported throughout the years. We can all probably name a few off theses shows off the top of our heads, even if we're not believers ourselves. One such example is the classic "In Search Of". Hosted by the great - and now sadly deceased - Leonard Nimoy, it was the type of show that later such shows would copy in one form or another; the type that investigated the unique mysteries of our planet. This could be not only anything from investigating claims of ghosts, hauntings, UFOs, Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster, reincarnation, past lives, Atlantis, Bermuda Triangle (which are the things the show is most famous for) but also things and events as diverse as the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the subsequent theories on what happened to her, DB Cooper and his infamous airline hijacking, ransom, and daredevil escape; as well as exploring such varying subjects like earthquakes, tornadoes, killer bees, Oak island, lost Viking colonies, and Voodoo on the island of Haiti! And it was hosted and narrated by the wonderful Mr. Nimoy, who, with his trademark intelligence, eloquence, great voice, and display of logic, brought much legitimacy to the show's subjects, no matter how outlandish they might appear. Also included were interviews with witnesses, experts - both believers and skeptics - police officers, scientists, historians, and anybody who could shed some light on the subject at hand. Add some unique - and at times spooky - music, and you have yourself a fun, interesting, campy at times, TV Classic. The show might seem a bit dated in some areas, but that doesn't mean it's no less compelling today than it was then. After all, it's been over thirty years since this program was on and we're still contemplating many of these subjects. For that reason, "In Search Of" is the type of show that has a little something for everyone, regardless of whether you're a believer or not. A lot of the episodes are available on you tube and the whole show is available on DVD. Check it out sometime, and go on a journey with Mr. Nimoy in search of something.
P.S. Rest in peace Mr. Nimoy
The Beast of War (1988)
One of the Most Profound and Underrated Movies You Will Ever See
"War is hell", as the old saying goes, and as long as has been possible, Hollywood has tried to show what war's really like, sometimes succeeding, other times not so. It's probably fair to say that only a select few war pictures really achieve the grittiness and ugly realism of war, and if you know your films, you probably know which ones ("Full Metal Jacket", Apocalypse Now", "Platoon" , etc.). Yet there is another picture that deserves to be included in this list, a film that although American made, tells a war story that is probably one of the most unlikely ones to be told on the American screen. The film is called "The Beast of War". Made in 1988, it tells the seemly simple story of a Soviet tank crew who gets lost in the middle of the unforgiving wilderness of Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and bloody war that occurred there. Cut off from the rest of their forces, they are mercilessly pursued by a group of Mujahadeen fighters, or Afghan guerrillas, in revenge for a massacre carried out by the crew in their village, all shown in horrific, graphic detail that grabs the viewer in the opening. Leading the pack of the crew is the tyrannical and hard charging officer Daskal (George Dzundza in a terrific performance) a veteran who fought at Stalingrad and who is determined to maintain the honor of "the motherland".
The soldiers below him, though, are far more likely thinking a question most soldiers in wars through out the ages have probably asked: Just what the hell are doing here? That's certainly the question being asked by the young soldier Konstantin (Jason Patric in another great performance), who slowly begins to become a thorn in Daskal's side with all his questioning, especially as Daskal grows more paranoid and unjustly distrustful of the crew's Afghan liaison officer Samad (wonderful character actor Erick Avari). Eventually, Konstantin is tied to a rock and left to the mercy of the savages by the increasingly unstable Daskal but unbeknownst to him, fate has other plans. But the movie doesn't just show the workings of the tank crew, it also intimately shows the Afghans who are following them, showcasing the conflicts of interest and power dynamics within their group, and their hunt for "the beast", as they call the tank. Leading them is their newly minted village chief, or Kahn, Taj (played by Steven Bauer of "Scarface" fame in a most convincing performance) who, like the Russians, is under pressure to uphold the values and expectations of his people.
"The Beast" is probably one of the most unique war films ever made, in that here you have an American made movie that deals with a foreign war that we were not fighting in at the time - though we were giving significant support to various groups within the Afghan Mujahadeen - and one that was being fought by our arc rival at the time, the Russians or Soviets. And yet, somehow, the film transcends these barriers and under the superb direction of Kevin Reynolds, creates characters and a story that somehow seem universal from time to time or conflict to conflict. Even though the soldiers are Russian, the films is able to show them as soldiers that can be found in any army, be it here in the good old, US of A or anywhere else for that matter. Granted, part of this is due to the fact the guys speak American English rather than English with a Russian accent. But it somehow, it all just works. As for the actors playing the Afghans, everyone of them must be congratulated, not only acting wise for their individual characters but also for convincingly speaking the Pashto language, something that must have had its own challenges involved. "The Beast" truly is one of those rare films that manages to not only show the ugly reality of war and dark side of man but also something universal about humanity, human connections, and culture, all of it enhanced by Mark Isham's majestic and hauntingly beautiful music score.
The Afghans fight for what their culture holds dear, as do the Russians. But the funny thing is, if race, ethnicity, or ideology didn't separate them, many of these characters might have made good friends. Sadly, though, "The Beast of War" is a movie that managed to fall through the cracks, perhaps because of the unique subject matter of the film, which is a shame, for as the United States tries to bend Afghanistan to its will and bring it into the modern age, "The Beast" is able to fully show the hopeless situation the Soviet Union found itself in, and why we, my fellow Americans, probably won't have much luck there either, when all is said and done. Funny how man fails to learn from the past, isn't it folks? For this and other reasons that I simply cannot put into words at the moment, "Beast of War" is a film that should be seen at least once in your life, not only because of its story but stellar acting, be it Patric, Don Harvey, or Steven Baldwin of the Baldwin brothers! Watch and observe, and ask yourselves was there ever a war that wasn't rotten? For my money, hell no!
Lost Tapes (2008)
A Fun Show for Fans of Monsters and Things That Go Bump in the Night
All over the world people have reported seeing and encountering strange creatures or monsters that cannot be explained. Are they a figment of our imagination, or, do they live among us? That's the question posed by Animal Planet's mockumentary series "Lost Tapes". Airing for three seasons, it showcased supposedly found footage of people who encountered any sort of varied cryptid or legendary monster, from Bigfoot to werewolves, and while it may not have been the most artful production ever made, it was entertaining for us monster fans. The standard episode would usually go something like this: a person or persons would be going about their routine (they just moved into a house, they're going on an expedition, they happen to be making a documentary or news report about something crime-related, etc.), they would just happen to have a video camera with them for one reason or another, and then they'd encounter one of things that haunt men's dreams! These usually ranged from some unusual, strange creature like Bigfoot or megaconda, or it could be something more supernatural, like ghosts or the Skinwalkers of the American southwest.
The monsters would be created through a variety of tricks, whether through sound effects, quick shots of the monsters, some creepy music, some interviews with cryptozoologists and general information about the supposed entities spliced in with the footage, and just the unnerving atmosphere that caused us to think, maybe, just maybe, this isn't beyond the realm of possibility. And that last part is really what made "Lost Tapes" as fun as it was; just that ability to fire up the imagination and make you wonder if some of the mysterious disappearances or savage murders you heard about in the local news were the work of something unknown. Even today, in parts of places like Africa or Asia you still hear about people being killed horribly by some type of animal, an animal that is never caught. Is it something known - lion, tiger, bear, wolf - that was just lucky to never have been caught, or is something else? Who knows? True, some of the actors in the footage weren't always the most convincing and some episodes were better than others, but the overall production usually was enough to overlook any faults. And hey, it's all part of the fun; the show isn't meant to be taken seriously. Regardless of whether one believes in things like Bigfoot or not, "Lost Tapes" is a fun way to kill some time for those who wonder what lives in the shadows. P.S. Episodes are available on YouTube
Excellent Blend of Action and Fantasy and A Worthy Follow Up to a Classic
Few television series' that are based on movies live up to the original version, either because they simply don't have right qualities that made the movie great or they the people making the show just don't give a damn. "Highlander: The Series", however, is one of those rare exceptions. Based off of the original 1986 fan favorite and produced by same the executive producers William Panzer and Peter Davis, it continued the saga of the immortals, a race of beings destined to fight one another in sword fights in a centuries long event called the game and who can only be killed by decapitation, with the opponent taking their head and their power. In particular, the show centers around one such immortal named Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul in his best role) of the Clan Macleod, a descendant of Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert who reprises his role for the pilot) from the first film. Born in the highlands of Scotland in 1592, Duncan has roamed the world for 400 years, seen many different events, and has fought in many different wars and many battles with other immortals. And that last part is one of the things that made the show great. You could count on almost every episode to feature a spectacular sword fight with the villain of the week, a battle of life and death, with Duncan Macleod emerging victorious from yet another trying ordeal and even more spectacular quickening.
Based on that, you might expect a show centering on such a plot to become boring or same old, same old, and the show might very well have become so. But, the truth is the show managed to constantly entertain and thrilling for most of its run in large part because of the talent the show had. Adrian Paul was more than capable of carrying a show, bringing not only charm and charisma to the role of Duncan but also a strong sense of honor and chivalry, thus making Duncan Macleod one of the great television heroes. But it wasn't just Adrian's acting that made the show great; it was also due to the well blending of strong supporting actors, guest stars and villains, writers, and set designers and directors. You had Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch), a young man who becomes a part of Duncan's world in a way he never imagined; Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) a member of a secret society of mortals called the Watchers who dedicate themselves to watching and recording the deeds and actions of the immortals; the always enjoyable Methos (the wonderfully charismatic Peter Wingfield), a 5,000 year old immortal and the oldest living of his kind; Amanda (Elizabeth Grace), an immortal who's had an on again, off again relationship with Duncan throughout the ages and who's not put off by an occasional high-value heist or two to make a living, and a slew of guest stars, villains and other supporting actors that added to the show every week.
Plus, one must also give credit to behind the scenes people, who not only managed to make things interesting in the present, but the past as well. Every episode featured dazzling historical flashbacks, flashbacks that were so good there isn't one where you didn't believe the characters weren't where the show said they were, be it World War I France or British Colonial India. It was also a show that, like the original film, caused the viewer to wonder what would it be like to live indefinitely and witness the changing of the times? What kind of person would you become if you witnessed your time, your religion, possibly even your entire culture disappear into the mists of time? All this must be credited to the writers, led by creative consultant David Abramowitz, who had a lot to do with the magic of the show. Not to say, of course, that weren't imperfections. Some episodes dragged, and one or two of them were pretty bad (cough, cough, "The Zone"). However, that being said, the show did far more for the Highlander franchise than any of the sequels ever did, which, as a whole, weren't particularly great. For that reason, it's a show that all fans of action and fantasy should check out, especially before Hollywood subjects us to yet another remake! And remember, "There can be only one!"
The Night Strangler (1973)
A Very Worthy Sequel to a TV Classic
Horrible, mysterious murders start occurring around town. The police are tight-lipped, keeping certain details of the murders from the public, and the more anyone tries to dig further into the details, the more it looks like the killer is no ordinary man. Sounds like another case for investigator reporter Carl Kolchak! The late, great Darren McGavin returns for another crack in the role of Kolchak in the 1973 sequel "The Night Strangler". Written by legend Richard Matheson once again, and this time directed by TV legend Dan Curtis, the film finds Kolchak, that disheveled, smart cracking, get-to-the-truth-no-matter-what reporter in the Seattle, WA. Still trying to get people to believe him about the vampire he battled in Las Vegas, he runs into his former, tortured editor, Mr. Vincenzo (the delightful Simon Oakland also reprising his role from the first film) at a bar. Feeling sorry for his former employee, Mr. Vincenzo gives Kolchak a job at the city newspaper, not realizing he's setting himself up for more headaches and heart ache on the part of Carl! It's not long before Kolchak discovers that murders of young women are occurring around town, strangulations to be exact. And that in all the cases, a single needle mark was made in the back of their necks where blood was drawn moments after the time of death. Soon, the reporter discovers this isn't the first time murders like these happened in Seattle. Every twenty-one years the same murders happen and then disappear, the police never catching the culprit. In typical Kolchak fashion, Carl continues to dig until he discovers it's all the work of an immortal 144 year old mad scientist living beneath the city and killing woman every twenty-one years for to the reverse the aging process that occurs every twenty-one years, when he must re-make his elixir of life. Can Carl destroy the immortal madman's reign of terror for good or is his neck next on the chopping block?
"The Night Strangler" is one of those rare sequels that matches the magic and suspense of the original. Darren McGavin is a blast to watch as Kolchak once again, wise-cracking to cops, making a nuisance of himself to authorities, and giving poor Mr. Vincenzo an ulcer! McGavin and Oakland are an even more joy to watch, the two going at it even more than they did in the first one, making the movie all the more comedy driven than the first one. Plus, the film includes a few cameos from some legendary stars of classic film and TV, such as Margaret Hamilton - the wicked witch of the west herself! - Wally Cox, John Carradine, Al Lewis, and Scott Brady. The film also makes effective use of Seattle's underground for the setting of the killer's lair, played to the hilt by Richard Anderson. The whole thing is a joyous affair to watch, so much so it makes one wish TV still had as much story telling as it did then. Dan Curtis and co. really deserve praise for being able to make a sequel that is as compelling as the first one. So children, lock all the doors, gather around, and watch a spooky, TV classic! Also starring Jo Ann Pflug.
The Car (1977)
It's Black, It's Sleek, It's "The Car"!
I remember seeing "The Car" as a kid many years ago on the old Sci-fi Channel, and although I didn't get a chance to see again for a number of years, I never forgot it. The plot is pretty simple one, a killer car stalks a small town in the southwest, killing whoever is unlucky enough to come across its path. Nobody knows where it came from or who or what is driving it, only that it strikes without warning and no one is ever able to get a look at the driver because, as you can probably guess, there is none! Made in 1977, "The Car" is arguably one of the best of the killer car/vehicle genre. True, the plot might sound cheesy if someone described it to you. And yet, like a number of horror films made back in the day, there's something about the film that makes the plot believable, that what you're seeing is possible, distantly perhaps, but possible none the less. A big reason for this is due to the level of acting. All of the actors take their parts seriously, be it James Brolin as the deputy sheriff who must lead the fight against the car after his boss is killed by the black fiend, or RG Armstrong as wife beater Amos who also just happens to be guy to go to if you want some explosives, or Ronny Cox as Brolin's friend on the force and one who struggles with alcoholism. Then there's director Elliot Sliverstein, who does a commendable job of pacing the story while making us feel a little something for the characters. But none of this would matter if it weren't for the real star of the show, the car itself. Designed by car customizer legend George Barris, the car has a sleek, sinister look to it, something that might not look out of place on the road but at the same time, you can tell it didn't roll off the line at General Motors! It all makes a fun, entertaining combination to watch on a Friday night or in the month of October. Like the poster said, "Is it a phantom, a demon, or the devil himself!" I don't know, but whatever it is, it's something that you won't forget. So watch and enjoy the little wonder that is "The Car". Honk honk!
Brilliant Show that Really SHOULD HAVE Lasted Forever
Immortality. It's a subject that has fascinated man from the beginning of time, be it in the tales of the ancient Greek gods and demigods or people's obsession over vampires. Naturally, Hollywood and television have gotten into the act many times over, from 1986's "Highlander" to the latest incarnation, ABC's amazing but sadly short lived "Forever". It stars Ioan Gruffudd as Dr. Henry Morgan, chief medical examiner for the New York City crime lab. Henry is just like you and me; he goes to work, pays his bills, and has a charming attitude about him. Except, he is immortal, born roughly 200 years ago, his immortality seemly beginning with a mortal gunshot wound and being thrown overboard from a slave ship after he tried to intervene in the brutal treatment of a slave. Now every time Henry is killed, he always comes back in water and always naked. The only person who knows about Henry's condition is Abe (Judd Hirsch), Henry's long time friend, business partner, and, despite Abe looking considerably older than Henry, son. Together they run an antique shop, while Henry goes out, solves crime, and picks up clues that no one else seems able to. But this idyllic life comes to a halt when Henry learns that someone else with his ability is in town, someone who, unlike Henry, does not live by the same morals (Burn Gorman in a tour de force performance as Adam, a 2,000 year old immortal). From there on, it's a cat and mouse game between the two while Henry also must solve crimes and maintain relationships with his co-workers at the precinct while also making sure they never learn his secret. A charming, well-written story that had plenty of action, suspense, and a certain magic about it. All the more reason why it should be canceled after one season!
"Forever" was a neat, unique broadcast network show in a long line of such shows that was to meet a quick death at the hands of the ratings count. It didn't matter how good Ioan Gruffudd was in the lead, it didn't matter that he how much charm he had or how much he could make you feel for the character, nor did it matter how good everyone else was in the show, such as Alana De La Garza as Det. Jo Martinez, Henry's co-worker and love interest. Nor did it matter how intriguing the story was, or how much more it made you want to know the secret of Henry's and Adam's condition, and whether or not there were more people in the world with such a condition. Nope, none of that mattered, and as a result - no exaggeration - broke my heart. It still pains me to learn that I won't see Ioan Gruffudd as Henry Morgan, an actor who could more than fill the lead shoes of a show, nor would I learn what caused Henry's and Adam's immortality, nor what it meant for the human race. And those last tid bit's may be the hardest part about "Forever's" short run. Because you got the feeling from the last moment of the series finale, that the writers and producers had so much more planned for the series and the story, something that will never be realized now. And for that reason, "Forever" may be the final straw when it comes to me checking out new shows, especially on broadcast networks. Every new show seems to be the same, and every time something new does come along, it gets canceled. I no longer have the drive I used to when checking out new shows, I haven't checked out any new broadcast shows lately, and to be honest, I really don't know if I ever will. For it's short run, though, if you can bear having your heart broken for the sake of some good story-telling, "Forever" is something that should be checked out. And here's hoping that somewhere in another time and place, "Forever" really is lasting forever.
One of the Most Brilliant Yet Criminally Underrated Shows You Will Ever See....
Strong words, I know, but they're true; "Brotherhood" is the one most brilliant, well-written, intelligent shows you will ever see in your entire life. Sadly, it is also one of the most underrate shows you will ever see, so much so you'll spend hours pondering why. It's a show that SHOULD have been as big as "The Sopranos", as talked about and raved as much as "Breaking Bad" was, and followed as closely as "Sons of Anarchy" and other anti-hero shows were. But alas, it was not. Was it due to poor marketing? Charges of being a Sopranos rip-off? Who knows, but what I do know is the show was nowhere near being a carbon copy of "The Sopranos".
"Brotherhood" is a match up of politics and crime, centering around two Irish-American brothers in a Providence, Rhode Island neighborhood called The Hill. We have Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke), the young, handsome state Rep. from the Hill, and his older brother, Michael (Jason Isaacs), the charming but underneath brutal gangster, who's just returned from a seven year exile after a mobster he had a beef with is murdered. Surrounding them is a mix of family, friends, and associates: Rose Caffee (Fionnula Flanagan), the strong-willed matriarch of the family who is the one who really pulls the strings behind the scenes; Eileen Caffee (Annabeth Gish), Tom's seemly devoted wife who harbors forbidden desires of her own; Mary Kate Martinson, Tom's sister who must bear with the shenanigans of her family as well as the pain of not being able to have children; Freddie Cork (Kevin Chapman), boss of the Irish Mob in Providence, who must balance his suspicion of Michael with Michael's ability to bring in a lot of money; Kath Perry (Tina Benko), Michael's old girlfriend and married mother; Declan "Decko" Griggs (Ethan Embry), a state police detective from the old neighborhood who finds that doing what is right and doing what is necessary isn't really the same thing, and a whole slew of gangsters, politicians, and characters who I don't have the space for.
As we follow the two brothers in the respective world, we begin to ask ourselves some troubling questions, such as who is more ruthless, the gangster in the street or the guy in elected office? Is there really much of a difference between the world of crime and politics or between the world of politics and crime? All of this is established through strong acting on the part of Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs. Jason Clarke is masterful of playing Tommy Caffee, a man who seems to really want to help his district but also desires more power in the world of state politics. How much of his soul is willing to sacrifice to make that a reality and is there anyone or anything he won't sacrifice to make it happen? Then there's Jason Isaacs's portrayal of Michael, the gangster who's returned from exile who must deal with a changing neighborhood while trying to re-establish his power in the rackets. With his steel eyes and cold demeanor, Isaacs more than easily plays the gangster role to the hilt. Of course, none of this would be possible without the intelligent writing of show creator Blake Masters and his crew, who masterfully blend two seemly different worlds until we realize the awful truth; there are no differences between the two, with the final moments of the series finale showing more about the reality of politics than anything else I have ever seen. Despite its short life and somewhat rushed ending, "Brotherhood" is a must see show for those looking for good story-telling and intelligent writing. Whatever you do, don't let this gem of a show pass you by.
A Fun, If Not Slightly Inaccurate at Times, Look at Attila and Late Roman History
Attila the Hun. It's a name that conjurers up the deepest feeling of fear in those who hold civilization in high regard, so much so the very name itself has become a by word for barbarian and brutality. With that said, what better character to focus on than in an exclusive two part mini-series, like the 2001 USA Network produced "Attila" does. Starring Gerard Butler in the title role, it's a film that dives into the late stage of Roman history, the rise and increasing strength of the barbarians who would eventually overtake her, and of course, Attila and his ferocious Huns. In the beginning of the film, we are told that Rome, "although weak, decadent, and corrupt", is still the most powerful nation on earth. Then a new people, the Huns, appear on the scene, to challenge the might of Rome herself (Shivers!). From this, we are introduced to Attila as a boy living with his tribe on the Hungarian plains, when one day, a raiding party murders his father and immediate family and it is only through his wits and refusal to back down that Attila survives. After being taken in by his Uncle Rua (Steven Berkoff), Attila grows up to be a master warrior and strategist, competing with his brother Bleda (Chibs himself, Tommy Flanagan) just as much as he is with his uncle's reluctance to take on Rome. He soon gets his chance, though, through a series of events that start with recently released Roman general Flavius Aetius (Powers Booth) coming to the Huns to ask their help in defeating a group of Goths, another barbarian group, who are threatening Gaul (Modern day France). While at first an ally of Aetius and Rome, Attila eventually gains enough power of his own to ransack and invade the Eastern Roman Empire and in time, the West as well. Everything leads up to a battle of wills between the forces of civilization and the barbarian horde, or so the Romans would have us believe. In truth, as history tells us, the Romans were just as savage and conniving in their own way and through this film, we are able to see that as well.
"Attila", although not a perfect film, is entertaining and a fun way to view some history. As far as acting is considered, Gerard Butler pulls the head role off without a hitch. Determined to lead his people to greatness, we never feel that Butler isn't giving it his all in the role, be he riding his horse into battle or acting with depth in the dramatic scenes involving his true love, N'Kara (Simmone Mackinnon). Believing it his destiny to conquer and rule the world, we feel eager for Butler's Attila to succeed, though it should probably be noted that the real Attila was someone who wasn't afraid to massacre people and even whole cities if it suited his purposes and to be fair, the film does show a little bit of that here and there. As to the other roles, everyone here hits their mark, whether it's Power Booth as the scheming but somewhat noble Aetius, Reg Rogers as the childish Emperor Valentinian, Alice Krige as his conniving mother, Placida, or Simmone Mackinnon in the dual roles of N'Kara and Ildico and many more who I don't have the space for. Another plus is the ability of the filmmakers to add a little bit of magic, prophecy, and intrigue to the history the film is depicting. Director Dick Lowry and writer Robert Cochran should be congratulated for making us, the audience, root for the "Scourge of God".
Even though this was produced on a television budget, "Attila" manages to do a reasonably good job of transporting us back in time, albeit with a few inaccuracies. Many of these you can find on IMDb's goofs page, but one prominent example is the Roman uniforms used in the film. By this time, the Roman Empire of Caesar and Augustus was but a distant memory. Rome at this time was broken into two empires - one in the east, the other the west - and was all but relying on barbarian tribes for its defense, which often involved pitting one group against the other. So one would not have seen the impressive legionaries uniforms during this time that you see here. Another big one involves the Huns themselves, who probably would have had Asian features instead of Caucasian ones (Interesting thing about the Huns, though, is that we're still not sure where they actually first came from and it's quite possible they may have intermingled with other peoples during their migration to and time in Europe). Still, mistakes aside, the movie boasts some decently done battle scenes, good action, captivating story telling, and a little bit of sex appeal. "Attila" may not be the most accurate look at the Huns and late Roman history, but why let that spoil a good story? And besides, at the very least, the movie may serve to inspire people to look into the real history of Attila the Hun, as it did me when I saw it as a young boy in my mother's living room all those years ago. And on that note, check out some historical fun and intrigue with 2001's "Attila".
Jurassic World (2015)
Dinosaur Mayhem with a little Nostalgia Here and There
Anyone who remembers seeing "Jurassic Park" as a kid for the first time knew they were going to see the promised dinosaur extravaganza "Jurassic World", no matter how good or bad it was. Luckily, I'm happy to say, the film was entertaining and it gave fans a little bit of what they always wanted to see: An opened and functional park that goes from being a dream to a nightmare! The story begins with two young boys - Gray (Ty Simpkins) and his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) - on their way to Jurassic World as special guests of their aunt, park curator Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). But, as you can probably guess, this isn't the best time for them to visit because soon, the park's new attraction, the genetically created Indominus Rex, will break loose and create, in the words of Dr. Malcolm, "the essence of chaos." With the the help of raptor whisperer Owen (Starlord himself, Chris Pratt!), does the group stand a chance?
Lets start with the good. As someone who loved dinosaurs as a kid, this film delivers some of the best dinosaur action in years! The Indominus Rex is awesome looking, and as you probably know from the previews, this isn't your grandfather's T-Rex. It's highly intelligent, can camouflage, see in fared, and is something you don't what to come across (All the more reason why we should just go ahead and create it!). As the main villain of the film, the Indominus works as a constant and credible threat to the characters. Another dinosaur plus is the introduction of the sea reptile, the Mesosaurus, something that was never included in any of the previous installments. As for acting, I'd say everyone here did a good job, though the human star of the show is Chris Pratt. Channeling the cocky energy of his character from "Guardians of the Galaxy", Pratt provides some of the humor relief as well as a center of sanity in an insane situation. So much so, Pratt does a good job making you believe his character is capable of actually training raptors. Bryce Dallas Howard also gives a decent performance of the uptight Claire (Some have said her performance was forced, but I thought it was okay) as does Vincent D'Onofrio as Hoskins, a man seeking to use the raptors and Indominus as military weapons (What do you think the chances are of that succeeding!). The two kids here are okay, and at least they're not annoying enough that we want them to get eaten. It also helps that the filmmakers include a little nostalgia here and there, whether it's the cameo of Mr. DNA in the visitors' center, the casting of B.D. Wong in the role of Dr. Wu (the only actor to appear from any of the previous films) or seeing the remains of the old Jurassic Park and one of those old Jeep Wranglers.
As for bad, there were some parts of the film that felt kind of forced, such as in the beginning when they were playing the theme music and trying to capture the magic from the first film but didn't quite succeed. Another issue concerns the level of CGI used. Anyone hoping for some animatronic action will be disappointed, as their is only one scene that features it. While some of the dinosaurs looked good in CGI, such as the Indominus and the raptors, on others it looks a bit cartoonish. Case in point, the T-Rex. Supposedly, this is the same T-Rex featured in the first film but you wouldn't know that by looking at it! The thing doesn't look anywhere near as cool and threatening as it did in the first one, particularly because its head looks a lot smaller and is poorly drawn. For all the money put into this film, you'd think they could have done a better job with it. Another issue is the lack of explanation as to how and why the park managed to be reopened. We know that the park has been open for about ten years but the film doesn't really give much background plot, something that I was really hoping to see. All in all, while "Jurassic World" is entertaining, it doesn't have quite manage to create that feeling of magic or awe that the first and even the second one were able to create, a magic you can still feel no matter how many times you watch them. Never the less, the movie is a big improvement over the third installment - which I don't think was quite as bad as some people said but no where near as good as the first two - and in the end, that's all we can ask. Either way, no matter how you feel about it, the movie's going to make a boatload of cash. If you're looking for some dinosaur fun and maybe even to capture some nostalgia of being a kid again, "Jurassic World" isn't a bad way to do it.