I am sojourning into new territory today and beginning what I will call my infrequent movie review portion of this website.  While walking my dog this afternoon I sensed the slightest hint in the air, think of Mary Poppins detecting the change in the wind (note: my editors suggested I try to make a more conscious appeal to my gay constituents), and I believe that our best days of summer are behind us.  Fall is a brewin’ and not far behind that comes Old Man Winter.  This is a round-about way of saying my grizzly bear blood is telling me that hibernation season is fast approaching and there isn’t much that I like more than curling up on my couch rocking a hooded sweatshirt and a movie to get through the chilly months. 

As of this writing I don’t necessarily have a plan for this new forum.  I think I’ll take the artistic approach and write about movies that “speak to me.”  These reviews won’t be exclusive to sports movies nor new releases; pictures neither foreign nor snuff; I don’t have any rules, I assume they’ll just kind of happen.  So bear with me, feel free to submit your own suggestions and comments, and welcome along for the ride. 

*Mom & Dad – here’s the big payoff for four years of tuition.  This and syphilis that is.

A general rule of thumb in life I’ve discovered is that the people who run the American Movie Channel (AMC) are pretty good at their job.  In fact they’re better at their jobs than you are at yours.  What I’m looking for in television is quality programming and minimal commercial interruption.  AMC?  Check and check.  This week the fine people of AMC have deemed it a good idea to bring animatronic dinosaurs back into my living room, so I decided to go along for the ride and become twelve years old again going on “An Adventure 65 Million Years In The Making” once more. 

Generally speaking anything made in 1993 is just waiting to be torn apart at this point as it’s been a pretty remarkable twenty years in terms of fashion and technology.  It’s the dreaded “DATED” label that get affixed to just about any media that depicts life that is not from this exact moment in time (note: going forward in time comes off as cliché which is just as bad as dated.  In Back To The Future II they guessed we’d have flying cars by 2015 – what a bunch of idiots they were).  As a frame of reference, in 1993 Czechoslovakia broke into two separate and distinct countries (apparently it was known as the Velvet Divorce); Bill Clinton took office, and the World Trade Center bombing occurred – each for the first time.  There’s also a very good chance that you dressed like this in 1993.  See what I mean by dated? 

If you think about it, Jurassic Park was rather ahead of its time as far as movies and culture go.  For example there is a heavy reliance on computers in the movie to control park security and functionality.  The graphics on the screens aren’t as bad as you might imagine them to be considering the film was made in the age when directors would tell the actors things like, “Just mash all the buttons on the keyboard as quickly and loudly as you can.  Don’t worry, it will appear on camera like your character is a genius.” 

Similarly the whole premise is based upon scientists who extracted 65 million year old DNA from a mosquito that was frozen in amber.  This was a year prior to O.J.’s fateful drive through Burbank and two years prior to his trial.  You’re telling me that everyone was ok wrapping their minds around dinosaurs being cloned from fossilized mosquito sacks but couldn’t put O.J. at the scene of the crime despite his blood being all over the murder weapon?  But I digress.  You know what, I don’t digress.  In fact I gress(?). I’ve read multiple reports about how the prosecution wasn’t able to convict O.J. due to some of the new technology used in the case, with DNA being the primary example.  They spent more time teaching the jury about exactly what DNA was than they did convincing them O.J. was directly involved in the double homicide.  Couldn’t they have just told the jury, “It’s like in Jurassic Park.  If we were to make clones from the blood we found at the murder site we’d have made a little O.J. by now.”  I think that would have worked.  It’s safe to say O.J. watched Jurassic Park in his jail cell at some point (who didn’t?  It grossed over $914M worldwide) and consciously hoped that the jurors weren’t watching the same channel in their sequestered hotel rooms to make the connection.

The real and lasting value that Jurassic Park has brought into our lives however was the introduction of computerized images in the cinematic realm.  If the movie was made ten years prior, I would guess that the T-Rex would have an eerie similarity to E.T.’s bigger, meaner brother.  If it was made twenty years later we’d all be sitting in I-Max theaters with ridiculously oversized glasses on watching dinosaur drool fall into our lap.  The lineage of blue Avatars, Gollum, and Jar-Jar Binks can all be traced back to our fascination with Velociraptors in the summer of 1993.  And keep in mind at $914 million worldwide, Jurassic Park was all encompassing.  Kids had lunchboxes at school for an amusement park they’d never been to.  An NBA team appeared in Toronto named after the movie’s antagonist despite south central Ontario lacking any paleontological significance.

Now one would argue the character development is, how would you say… lacking.  And the story arc is less than ideal but we’re here to see dinosaurs right?  And to that Spielberg did not disappoint.  For proof that the producers were sharing this line of thinking, I would note the fact that there are fourteen credited characters in the movie.  That’s a pretty small total for an indie pic, or even a student film for that matter, let alone the biggest summer blockbuster in history (to date).  Everyone was all in on any spare change found lying around in the sofa cushions was being put towards the special effects department and a new server and not into “the talent.”  In fact, watching the movie again I’m quite frankly appalled at some of the casting choices. 

Laura Dern.  Laura freakin’ Dern!?  She is easily the most perplexing actress of my lifetime.  I can’t think of one role she’s had that if I were her, I would be proud of.  She’s absolutely dreadful in everything she touches.  Look at her filmography.  It’s a mix of just straight up bad movies and thrown in are a few good films that she did her best to ruin.  She’s not hot, but somehow managed to dupe Ben Harper into marrying her.  She’s not cool, but she’s friends with a lot of people I’d imagine myself to be friends with if I were famous.  What gives? 

Almost as bad as Ms. Dern is Jeff Goldbloom starring as Doctor Sexual Predator.  Seriously, who brought him to the island?  His character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, knows nothing about dinosaurs but does appear to have access to a cache of sleazy pickup lines and tricks for luring children into vans.  I’m still very foggy on the reasoning he was there at all let alone why John Hammond (the rich guy that financed the  place and looks like Santa Claus on vacation) was in such a hurry to have his pre-pubescent grandchildren join them on the adventure.  To his credit, Goldbloom nailed the role.  It’s almost as though he wasn’t acting…

So put all the characters aside, and get over their wardrobes (I don’t care what year it was nor the character’s depicted profession, the neckerchief per capita in that picture is out of whack.  Also, guess which of them would most likely appear on a court-ordered website in 2011).  Jurassic Park is and was an excellent ride.  You can explain away the fact that they don’t have cell phones (they wouldn’t have service on the island anyways.  TV shows re-watchability from this time – particular “Seinfeld” – are ruined today by this fact) or a Garmin.  This is a survival story of man versus nature and I’m fascinated.  The special effects hold up and the thrills are still there.  Much like one must pay homage to Citizen Kane for the revolutions in storytelling and cinematography it brought to motion pictures, Jurassic Park is equally responsible for introducing computerized images and technology to the summer blockbuster.

I’d encourage each of you to flip over to AMC this evening and see for yourself just how Jurassic Park has held up over time.  For an adventure 65 million years in the making, we shouldn’t be suprised that another eighteen years doesn’t tarnish the end product.