Wednesday, June 17, 2015

tiny beautiful shells ...

... keep washing up on the beach. Happily my eyesight is still sharp enough to find them.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

jurassic world's not-so-hidden messages

There is no denying what a huge hit Jurassic World is — certainly the blockbuster of the summer, possibly of the decade. It delivers on all counts. It's thrilling, terrifying, fun, funny, and even a tad romantic. It's also a movie buff's dream, with nods to King Kong, Romancing the Stone, and even its progenitor Steven Spielberg's Jaws and Jurassic films.

Everyone in the audience and long lines waiting to get in to see it knows exactly what they're in for. There will be dinosaurs and there will be blood. The dinosaurs will look very cool. Kids will be threatened. There will even be a few "ooh" and "ahh" moments between scenes of carnage. There will be good guys — Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. There will be cartoonish bad guy(s) — Vincent D'Onofrio and BD Wong. There will be a plot thread left dangling to make way for another sequel. In other words, pure summer popcorn entertainment.

Whose idea was it to use real dinosaurs again?

Safari fun - until somebody dies

Yeah, he's a movie star

While Jurassic World delivers on all these counts and then some, I couldn't help noticing that there were a few other messages floating through the mayhem.

Why are we so bored and spoiled? Jurassic World is presented as the ultimate theme park, but we are told that attendance is down because people just want bigger and better thrills. There is no actual evidence of this from the people who are visiting the park. They all seem to be having a grand old time, kids and adults alike. But the corporate sponsors want more danger, more excitement, and the park feels pressured to provide that, in the form of a deadly, new dinosaur.

Theme parks are dangerous and expensive. How much exactly would it cost to visit Jurassic World? You have to fly to a remote island and stay on-site at a costly hotel. Park admission would not be cheap, certainly with hidden costs for special animal encounters. And all of the food, souvenirs, and shopping would be bound to be ridiculously expensive. Sort of like going to Disney, but with longer, sharper teeth.

Technology is killing us. No matter how thrilling the park might be, the majority of its attendees spent a lot of time experiencing it through their smart phones, either taking photos, or ignoring what's around them altogether. This point is made most strongly through the brutal demise of Claire's (Howard) assistant (Katie McGrath), who is attacked by no less than three dinosaurs, all while never dropping her damn product placement phone. The two main kids' (Claire's nephews) phone is crushed and discarded by the big bad dinosaur, rendering Claire's own phone useless as a way to contact them. And does our hero Owen (Pratt) even have one? Claire doesn't or can't call him, but has to drive out to his Luddite's dream of a shack to find him, far away from the high-tech lab, offices, and park where she resides. No wonder he is the only one to trust when the going gets deadly.

And about that product placement. No one in movies has embraced product placement perhaps more than Steven Spielberg. But here that impulse is turned on its head, with all the Starbucks cups and boutique stores lining the shopping area of Jurassic World seeming crass and over-the-top. A little too reflective of our consumerist present, perhaps. How did we get here and why do we need all of this stupid stuff?

Whether you are looking for the subtle critiques of our modern lives, or just in the mood for some slam-bang action, Jurassic World definitely delivers. And Chris Pratt proves that Guardians of the Galaxy was not a fluke. He's this generation's Harrison Ford and then some.

Monday, June 15, 2015

game of thrones ... well, we all saw that one coming, didn't we?

Lots o' spoilers ...

Whether you are a reader of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books or not, you probably could have predicted the closing shot of "Mother's Mercy," the final episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. Jon Snow, lying on the ground, stabbed by his own Night's Watch men, bleeding out on the ground in the snow, left for dead. Or is he? It is the same quandary that Martin left his readers in, at the end of the super-long A Dance With Dragons. Almost everyone believes that Jon is not truly gone, but how he might come back is what is entertaining the fans until we find out for sure — and there are a number of possibilities. We have seen the dead rise on Game of Thrones — as White Walkers, wights, sightly altered versions of themselves (Beric Dondarrion and the Knights without banners), a certain stone-hearted lady in the books, and even as hideous science experiments (hello, Franken-Mountain). And the Red Woman did just conveniently make her way back to Castle Black ...

You've got friend in me - Jon and Sam

But before Jon got what has been foreshadowed all season — particularly by the outrageous amount of close-ups young Olly kept getting — there were a few other interesting things happening in Westeros:

Arya — In Braavos we found ourselves back with the beyond-loathsome Meryn Trant, who likes to hit little girls. C'mon Arya, finish him off. She did so, in a most brutal way. But everything one does in her world has consequences. And a girl who is still Arya Stark is not no one, as Jaqen was quick to remind her.

Jaime — Myrcella may be as clever as her uncle Tyrion, but unfortunately for her, Allaria's goodbye kiss for the girl was a poisoned one. A bit obvious, like everything connected to Dorne this season. Sorry Sand Snakes et al, but you just can't measure up to Oberyn, who is still truly missed.

Cersei finally confesses (sorta)

Tyrion — Dany and Drogon left the boys behind in Meereen to lick their wounds and scheme how to get her back. And then all my prayers were answered. Varys showed up (!) to help Tyrion rule Meereen while Dany is ... somewhere in the wilderness with a cranky and wounded dragon, and surrounded by hordes of Dothraki. But will they like her as much as Khal Drogo did?

Meereen: where the boys are
Cersei — She finally broke down and confessed (some of) her sins to the High Sparrow. He told her that she could see her son and return to the Red Keep — but of course there's a catch. Her atonement must consist of the ultimate walk of shame. Her long blond hair cut off, she marched, naked, through the city. I was impressed by how upright and dignified she held herself throughout the ordeal (character and actress), with filth and curses hurled at her with every step. She didn't break down until she reached the city walls, where Franken-Mountain, her new champion, was there to greet her.

Stannis — Already there were effects from last week's horrific burning of sweet and innocent Shireen. The snow had started to melt, but also ... Queen Selyse hanged herself, and half of Stannis's men had deserted, with the horses. Oh, and his #1 cheerleader, the Red Woman, had taken off, too. I guess not everyone was supportive of the whole God of Light burning little girls gambit. Stannis, being the hard-ass that he is, decided to proceed as planned. He took the rest of his army on the march to Winterfell. It was a slaughter, with Ramsay running rampant over Stannis's men. Before the twisted Ramsay could finish him off, however, Brienne was finally able to exact her revenge for Renly's murder. So long Baratheons. Except for Gendry (remember him?), who may still be rowing somewhere to safety. Back at Winterfell, Reek finally stepped up to protect Sansa. See ya, Myranda. Your weaselly little face will not be missed, except, maybe, by Ramsay. And we have a new Game of Thrones dream team, Sansa and Reek, on the run.

At The Wall, Sam asked Jon to let him go to Old Town to train to become a Maester, and to take Gilly and the baby with him. Jon didn't want to lose his only friend (and Sam is truly his only friend), but, being the inherently good guy that he is, he let him go. As Sam left the Red Woman came back, to Castle Black, alone. So much for Stannis. So who will Jon and the Night's Watch look to for assistance or support now? All a moot point, as Olly came to tell Jon there was news of his long-missing Uncle Benjen. And then the "Et tu, Caesar" scene happened. As each man stabbed him they all said, "For the Watch." I expected Olly to be the first strike, not the last. Not a shocking development for book readers, or, as I said before, anyone paying attention this season, but still ... hard to watch.

It's an ominous ending for the season, as our handsome hero — and Jon Snow is truly the closest character Game of Thrones has ever presented as a potential hero, apart from perhaps Daenerys — is left to die, at the hands of his own men, alone. And where was Ghost? But with all the shock of the new that has happened for loyal readers this season, this episode was also the closest to the books, showcasing some of the biggest scenes from A Dance of Dragons. And now ... we wait a year. But will the next season of Game of Thrones start before Martin finally finishes The Winds of Winter? That's anyone's guess.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

throwback summer vacation thursday

We are now in our first full week of summer vacation, which has me thinking about summers of the past ...

Lucy on the beach
No castle this, the kid helps make a sand fortress
By the sea, Spring Lake
Three generations on the beach

Ann & John and sand sculpture
Loving cousins

Elizabeth & John at the pool at the Avon Inn
At the Avon Inn