Why Jurassic World will be the best “Jurassic” since the original

Jurassic-World-Comic-Con-artwork

San Diego Comic-Con Jurassic World Poster. 2014.

For months we’ve been teased by Jurassic World (coming June 12, 2015). From the San Diego Comic Con poster – to the trailer that arrived two days early – it’s become clear: Jurassic World is going to be the best entry in the franchise since the original Jurassic Park (in 1993)!

Before I begin, here’s the trailer:

Significant factors:

1. The trailer depicts a serious tonality akin to the original Jurassic Park - meaning this installment should be instantly better than that abhorrent thing known as Jurassic Park 3 (which boasted a great deal of stupid comedy). And so far, no dinosaurs have been shown in Los Angeles, so it should be better than The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

2. Owen (Chris Pratt) shows concern over a genetic hybrid created by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a team of geneticists – which might include Henry Wu (BD Wong), the only character from Jurassic Park included in Jurassic World. Owen’s concerns regarding the animal’s functional intelligence echo the original concerns of Dr. Grant (Sam Neil) and Dr. Sattler (Dr. Sattler). Not to mention, these two actors are really quite good and should have some really great moments/chemistry.

…and from what I’ve seen, Owen appears to be following the Dr. Grant formula!

3. Jurassic World is fully-functional – with lots of visitors. This will undoubtedly lead to the exploration of “Chaos Theory” as described by Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park.

4. The score and visuals have been contemporized – and so far, the dinosaurs look incredible – and the music sounds a-maz-ing!

5. Jurassic World is set on Isla Nublar, 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park – and is as John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) originally envisioned the park – meaning this movie is totally connected to the original!

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World (2015).

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World (2015).

I’ve deduced all of this from the two-minute trailer. If you love Jurassic Park as much as I do, none of this is really surprising. You may have even noticed the fossilized mosquito in amber (another homage to the original) and the introduction of aquatic dinosaurs! I may not be Sherlock Holmes after all, but I can tell you – from the small amount of comedy in the trailer and the serious tonality – it would appear as though the filmmaker wants this to be a serious movie – as it should be!

I should also mention that director/screenwriter Colin Trevorrow, is a relative newcomer. With Jurassic World set to be his mainstream, blockbuster debut (he’d previously directed 2012 indie film Safety Not Guaranteed), Trevorrow will have something to prove. The possibility of a franchise – and his success as a big-budget director – will be dependent upon Jurassic World. He’ll be out to make a name for himself – to offer something new to the sci-fi genre – like Steven Spielberg (who serves as Executive Producer here) did with movies like JAWS (1975) and Jurassic Park (1993).

I’ve been waiting to return to Isla Nublar and now…it’s happening – and I can’t freakin’ wait! Time “Must go faster!”

Visit the Jurassic World websites (awesome graphics!)

My comment on Ferguson

It’s easy to blame Darren Wilson for the death of an unarmed black man named Michael Brown – because it happened.

What seems to be more difficult for everyone – from the media to the violent demonstrators – is to hold Michael Brown accountable for his own death. As stated in last night’s decision, evidence shows (and a jury agreed) that Michael Brown had committed a crime prior to his encounter with Darren Wilson. Brown is also believed to have assaulted Wilson upon their initial encounter.

This is not a case of an unarmed black man being shot because he wouldn’t move out of the road – as was an early media narrative. Nor is this a case of an innocent black man’s death. Michael Brown is not the victim of a hate crime – nor is he the face an equality movement deserves.

Certainly, my opinion will be unpopular – but how much commentary have we seen about “the age of entitlement?” Apply that to this situation. Michael Brown doesn’t get a pass because he was black and the officer is white. He committed a robbery and assaulted a police officer. Those two criminal acts have nothing to do with the color of his skin. He is responsible for his poor decision-making prior to – and during – his death. He is not a martyr and might still be alive today if he’d thought about his actions.

The media, whom I believe have acted irresponsibly, have fed people a sympathetic narrative. They’ve run front-page stories about racial disparities in law enforcement (in predominantly black communities) and have provided editorial upon editorial about Michael Brown and what it means to be black in the United States. The media – and many people on social media – have spent too much time being politically correct instead of accurate.

For example, when the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran the front-page story about racial disparities in law enforcement, they highlighted the percentages of the forces that were black and white. One predominantly black community’s police force was 93% white and 7% black. Instead of investigating the story further – the Post ran with it, in timely fashion. As a reader, I found that article frustrating because, yes, it says there is a huge disparity in that force, but it never explores why. I want to know what percentage of applicants were black and what percentage of black applicants were hired (relative to whites). I want a complete story – not a propaganda piece.

In fact, I’m sure there could be a discussion of the media’s influence in the Michael Brown narrative since August. A sympathetic attitude has evolved in the media, yet people seem split on the issue – and the only community that will suffer is the black community. Time and time again, we’ve seen “peaceful” protests – but on the next page, or in the next clip, we see footage or read stories of burning buildings and cars, shot officers and looting.

Such violent demonstration will not advance the cause – it will only further the divide. From these incidents, stereotypes will be reinforced and new racists will emerge – from both communities (white and black).

I was reading an article in the Post Dispatch yesterday (from Nov. 22) titled, “Coffee, reality TV and Michael Brown.” In the article, entrepreneur Jason Wilson discusses his failed attempt to open a coffee shop (Chronicle Coffee) in a black community and the cancelation of a reality TV show by Lifetime. Wilson said he “envisioned a space for civil discourse and community engagement.”

Wilson also stated that had the coffee shop remained open, he could have hosted forums discussing Michael Brown – and had the reality TV series not been cancelled, he could have had a national platform to discuss the issue. I found these notions frustrating. To think that an entrepreneur, like the media and many of the violent demonstrators, would use Michael Brown’s name to boost a business – a TV program – or a message. Where’s the outrage for that? There’s outrage because Michael Brown is dead; but not because people want to profit from his death?

In that same article, Jason Wilson said he had plans to re-open Chronicle Coffee, closer to St. Louis University (a predominantly white university) because, “The reality is we need white people for this to be a success.”

This was frustrating because that statement alone presents a double-standard. Is race not what the past three months have been about? Is it not why people are being killed and businesses being burned down? Why is it acceptable for a black entrepreneur to “realize” he needs white people? For a business to operate successfully, you need people. Stop thinking in terms of if you’re going to serve whites or blacks – and start thinking in terms of people in general.

If we did this more often, this race discussion would eventually become obsolete.

For some reason though, we don’t – and this Michael Brown case is one of many reasons why we don’t. When we look at this case, over and over we see that a white cop shot an unarmed black teenager. That’s the face value of it – and that superficiality is used to justify violent demonstration.

Following the Grand Jury’s decision last night I read reports of – and saw images of – domestic terrorism. I condemn these actions – in fact, did we, as a nation, not involve ourselves in a decade-long war in the Middle East because of similar actions? We did. Yet, where was this loud outcry for the innocent men, women and children who died then? Where was the outcry for the discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans? This is no different. Burning buildings and cars – the destruction of life and property. Terror is running rampant in and around Ferguson. People are being shot and dying. Livelihood is being taken away. This is not progress.

Again, Michael Brown is not the face an equality movement deserves. He is not a civil rights leader or activist that belongs in a discussion with names like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. He was not persecuted because of his skin color – that’s something that’s evolved to be the issue for this case.

I’m frustrated – because this situation’s being presented as black against white – not as a situation of people. Jason Wilson was right in his assertion that “we need white people.” I believe that. I believe that for racial disparities to disappear blacks need whites and whites need blacks. We need to stop seeing color – and start seeing people. It’s never been totally white against black – look to the abolitionists in the 1700-1800s – or to the activists of the 1950-1960s – we accomplish more together.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Lawrence soars as the Mockingjay in Part 1

Mockingjay Part 1Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do? It’s no secret I love The Hunger Games franchise and Lawrence’s work as Katniss Everdeen. In this franchise I believe she’s been her strongest, ever. Forget Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle – neither movie has given us the emotional range, character depth, or beautiful restraint The Hunger Games has. I honestly believe the Academy gets it wrong every year they nominate her for the David O. Russell “indie,” over this highly successful franchise.

Why can’t she be nominated for a blockbuster?

As Katniss, Lawrence has consistently delivered riveting performances – and in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, she does it again. Whether she’s acting as the beacon of hope for the people of Panem – or if she’s caught in a close-up – or reacting to Peeta’s messages from the Capitol – or [surprisingly] singing, she’s on-point. Her work deserves recognition – and in the absence of a David O. Russell collaboration this year (she and David O. Russell have Joy coming in December 2015), hopefully she’ll finally get the nod for giving Katniss life!

I can’t say I’ll be surprised if she’s overlooked, though – in favor of an actress from a quieter, more perceptively “artsy” movie – but I think it’d be a mistake. It’s been widely discussed online that leading roles for actresses – and strong performances filling those roles have been scarce this year. Yet, here we have Jennifer Lawrence – giving us a character that eclipses her celebrity. When you look at that screen – despite her huge success – you don’t think, “That’s Jennifer Lawrence.” You convincingly say, “That’s Katniss Everdeen.”

That deserves recognition – at the very least, a nomination.

Effie Trinket - MockingjayAs for the movie itself. I liked it. I really did. The continued work of Lawrence’s co-stars keeps me intrigued and interested. There’s never a spare moment wasted with this group of talent. Just as I’ve been vocal about Jennifer Lawrence’s performances, I’ve also championed Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. I love her. The way she presents the character is magnificent – especially in this installment with a more restrictive color and costuming palette. She adds just the right amount of humor and seriousness – and I think she too is overlooked – like much of this franchise has been.

From the start, The Hunger Games has presented an intriguing concept – and it’s ignited a “what if” discussion about the future and the possibility of this type of life. That premise has resonated with people – and in turn we’ve grown attached to these movies and characters (or, as least I have). The films have been exquisitely made and on various technical levels (especially costume design, score and editing) they excel. This movie is quieter and more brooding – to prepare us for what should be an adrenaline-inducing and emotional conclusion to The Hunger Games.

Mockingjay Part 1 serves the purpose of getting us there – and that’s okay. It’s nice to take a break from the action and to explore the characters in the wake of the Quarter Quell. For an example of this, look to any scene with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Hutcherson was good before – primarily because of his interactions with Katniss, but without her, the character’s propelled to the next level. Something’s wrong – he’s notably darker – and now, Peeta is his own entity. In some form, he can exist without Katniss.

I’ve skimmed over some of the reviews for Mockingjay Part 1 – and the reception’s been a little more mixed than positive (like the first two films) – and all fingers seem to be pointing to the lack of action. I, for one, am entirely fine with a story taking precedence over explosions in a big-budget feature film. I commend director Francis Lawrence for providing us with an opportunity for that. Surely he had to know it’d be a less popular, but necessary, decision.

Francis Lawrence has certainly added his signature to the franchise, earning more critical acclaim. Unlike the first installment, Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 look and feel big-budget, polished and more well-made overall. Though I feel like Gary Ross’ initial interpretation – though it was a little grittier, shakier and in your face – was stylistically more appropriate for the franchise. Honestly, I would be in favor of more close-ups and less wide shots in the second and third movies. The way Ross did it makes it feel a little darker; the way Francis Lawrence does it makes it feel more cinematic – more beautiful. I’d prefer an in-between – and that’s almost exactly what is delivered with Mockingjay Part 1. Perhaps Mockingjay Part 2 can be The Hunger Games we’re all craving!

Grade: B+

#ThanksMichelleObama: Why it’s a stupid trend.

I wasn’t going to bother writing something people probably weren’t going to read anyway – that’s how it goes with political opinions or comments – but I just couldn’t resist.

For two days, I’ve noticed the trending hashtag “#ThanksMichelleObama.” Behind the hashtag are pictures, of school lunches that look less than appetizing, backed by sarcastic commentary about Michelle Obama championing healthier school lunches. To those of you posting your pictures and “thanking” Michelle Obama, I ask you the following questions:

1. Is it better to have food – or no food at all?

2. If you’re unhappy with what’s being served (is there not a lunch menu?), then can’t you pack a lunch from home?

3. What does the First Lady’s effort/push for healthier food have to do with the food’s preparation and presentation?

These are three very basic questions that come to mind when I see this type of complaining. I won’t even touch the “Just wait until 2016″ commentary either. As if a school lunch should be the basis of your voting two years from now. Then again, it goes without saying – if you’re basing your ballot on smashed peas or a bad picture, then …

Perhaps you (or your kids if you’re a parent reading this), in this age of ultra-criticism and entitlement, would rather eat a highly processed frozen disc called a cheeseburger – or maybe you’ll settle for some frozen “chicken strips.” Obviously you would, otherwise food chains like McDonald’s wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars. Then again, maybe you would like something that looks appetizing – and is nutritious. That’s more than fine. I understand that point – when I cook/bake, I make it point to present (after all, that’s half of eating!).

Though, if the schools spent time presenting food for hundreds of teenagers – it’d go largely unnoticed and be met with no gratitude. Well, it might end up on Instagram, facebook or twitter and get the #FoodPorn hashtag instead.

Are you getting this (and agreeing with me) – or are you reading this wanting to slap me because you’re stupid?

We live in a world with millions of hungry people. There are places where people are dying from starvation – hell, it’s happening in/around our neighborhoods everyday – and all you can do is sit on your privileged asses and post sarcastic remarks “thanking” the First Lady for your “disgusting” food. It’s food! It’s a first-world problem – and at the end of the day, you have the choice to not eat it.

Many people don’t have that choice. Remember that the next time you say “Thanks Michelle Obama.” Bon appetit!

 

 

A Very Bobby Christmas. Vol. 1.

ChristmasWell, it’s been a while since we’ve last spoken – or since you’ve last had something to read (from me anyway). Now, the holidays are upon us – and if you’re like me, you’ve been bitten by the Christmas spirit. I’m excited! I can’t wait! I’m ready for Christmas lights, hot chocolate, holiday parties and warm nights by the fire while snow falls just outside the window.

That means I need a lot of Christmas music in my life – so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite holiday songs by some of my favorite artists. You’ll notice that I wanted to combine powerful instrumentals with beautiful vocals, drama with fun – and most importantly, I wanted the compilation to flow – to quite literally be music to your ears.

I’ve carefully selected each track and artist and arranged them in a way that should leave you feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzy – just in time for Christmas cheer. The playlist has been anchored with Lea Michele (“O’ Holy Night”), Celine Dion (“Ave Maria”) and Josh Groban (“Chestnuts Roasting”). It begins heavily with the unique sound of a capella group Pentatonix and ends with a fun influence. You may also notice, my love for movies and television is sprinkled throughout!

If you like what you see, build this list and burn it for yourself (or get in good with me and I’ll burn it for you!)! Happy holidays and happy listening!

Here’s the 25 song track listing of “A Very Bobby Christmas. Vol. 1″:

1. Vuelie – Frode Fjellheim and Christophe Beck ft. Cantus – from Frozen 

2. White Winter Hymnal – Pentatonix

3. What Child Is This? – The Canadian Tenors

4. Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

5. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix

6. Believe – Josh Groban – from The Polar Express 

7. Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People – Jonathan Groff – from Frozen 

8. Where Are You Christmas? – Faith Hill – from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry

10. The First Noel – Connie Francis

11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

12. O’ Holy Night – Lea Michele – from GLEE 

13. Ave Maria – Celine Dion

14. Chestnuts Roasting – Josh Groban

15. You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft – from How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

16. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

17. Carol of the Bells – Celtic Women

18. Frosty the Snowman – Ella Fitzgerald

19. Text Me Merry Christmas – Straight No Chaser ft. Kristen Bell

20. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

21. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel ft. Michael Buble

22. Let It Be Christmas – Alan Jackson

23. What’s This? – Danny Elfman – from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas 

24. Deck the Rooftop – GLEE Cast – from GLEE 

25. Holly Jolly Christmas – Michael Buble

BONUS! Here’s the lyric video for Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell’s new song, “Text Me Merry Christmas.”

New Art: Endanger Cancer, not Elephants

I created this piece, Endanger Cancer, not Elephants, because I love and am passionate about saving elephants – and because I know several breast cancer survivors. I want this to be a symbol of hope for them. On the surface, elephant poaching and cancer may seem like vastly different issues – and you’d be right to say they are, but there exists a commonality between the two: Poaching, like cancer, steals the lives of thousands – and affects many more – each year. Mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, wives and companions die in great numbers – but they don’t have to. At least in an ideal future they don’t.

So, I hope.

I hope for a day when the group of women I know – a group comprised of family, friends and public figures I admire – doesn’t have to live in fear, or with the constant reminders of an aggressive disease. I hope for the healing of their emotional scars – and for their joy in life. With some of these women, I’ve created lasting memories that cannot be destroyed by cancer, or death. But, these are women, and stories, I could miss every day there isn’t a cure.

So, I cling to hope.

Statistics estimate that breast cancer will steal the lives of approximately 40,000 women in the United States (per year). Similarly, in the past four years, over 100,000 elephants have been victims of poaching. Their ivory was stolen. Elephants, a keystone species, are a necessity to their ecosystem – and it’s entirely possible that their ecosystem houses the cure for cancer. The reality is, we’ve identified [some] causes, we’ve evaluated the emotional and monetary impacts and we still work to end these devastating losses – but we don’t know the cure.

But still, I hope.

I hope you view this piece as a symbol and bridge between two very devastating issues. Yes, the face value of what I’m proposing may be a reach, but we can’t afford to stand idly by while a species and ecosystem vanishes. Our inaction could see the disappearance of a cure before it’s even discovered. So I’m taking a step to “Endanger Cancer, not Elephants,” by making equal donations to Susan G. Komen – in honor of those I know – and to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – for elephants.

I invite you to join me and use the hashtag – #EndangerCancerNotElephants – to say you will. This is my hope. Now, I present:

Endanger Cancer, not Elephants

view more of my art here

(c) 2014. Bobby James.

(c) 2014. Bobby James.