Archive for June, 2015

TOMORROWLAND Podcast

Posted: June 10, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BMTQ4OTgzNTkwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzI3MDE3NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_The folks at Reel World Theology were kind enough (or crazy enough) to have me back on another episode. This time, we talked Tomorrowland. It was a fun and edifying conversation, and you can check it out by clicking here.

Trailer Tuesday

Posted: June 9, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Trailer Tuesday

In keeping with the Jurassic Park theme this week, I’ve got two trailers for you today. One is a throwback, and the other is hot off the press!

 

MV5BMjM2MDgxMDg0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2OTM5NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_There are a number of reasons as to why Jurassic Park is a modern classic; and since Jurassic World releases later this week, I figure it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the the movie that started it all. So, I’m going to briefly highlight one way in which I think Jurassic Park succeeded, and then relate that to one of my fears about Jurassic World.

One reason that Jurassic Park has enjoyed (and will likely continue to enjoy) such tremendous staying power over the years is that it is fundamentally more than a dinosaur thriller. Hear me out: dinosaurs eat, escape, smash, and scare in Jurassic Park, which is but another way of saying that it is not less than a dino-thriller. But at its heart, Jurassic Park is a character-centered and character-driven film.

It is character-centered insofar as it fundamentally tells a story in which characters undergo change. Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), who is first introduced to us as a curmudgeonly, kid-averse paleontologist, learns that children are people too. Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) discovers a newfound respect for the power of nature. Richard Hammond (David Attenborough) finds out that he just might have been a little wrong about being able to control an island of dinosaurs, and Dr. Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) learns that you don’t run from the T-Rex.

Moreover, Jurassic Park is a character-driven film in that the vast majority of the dino-action that takes place is focalized through a main character. In other words, the dinosaur-y bits in Jurassic Park work—evoking fear, wonder, amazement, and terror—precisely because they place the audience in those situations with the main characters. Consider, for instance, the encounter with the Brachiosaurus early in the film. Spielberg’s camera stays on Dr. Grant in a closeup, as he marvels at the off-screen creature. This same slack-jawed look is passed from person-to-person, the camera lingering on their gaze, refusing to show us what we want to see. Then, as John William’s iconic score swells, Spielberg cuts, and the dinosaur looms large in front of us. It is an amazing scene, and I posit that it has maintained its staying power because it is rooted in Dr. Grant’s reaction. The special effects are nice (and were groundbreaking at the time), but ultimately it is the audience’s identification with a man who has devoted his whole life to digging up the fossils of these creatures that imbues this moment with such cinematic magic.MV5BMTk1MTIwNDY1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTg4OTI3OA@@._V1__SX1391_SY669_

Through this character-centered and driven action Jurassic Park avoids one of the most common pitfalls of modern action movies, namely meaningless and ungrounded mayhem. Everyone (apparently) thinks mass destruction in movies is, like, totally cool; but when said entropy is not situated in a concern for characters, it becomes little more than eye-candy and thus loses its power to stay with us long after we leave the theater. My initial fear is that Jurassic World will fall prey to this trap. However, I remain hopeful that Colin Trevorrow will follow in Spielberg’s footsteps by giving us some characters that make it worth a trip to the park.

Mad Max: Fury Road PODCAST

Posted: June 3, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

mm000I recently had the opportunity join in with the crew over at Reel World Theology as a guest on their weekly podcast. We talked Mad Max: Fury Road, and it was a blast. Click here to listen, and go ahead and subscribe to their podcast while you’re at it.

Trailer Tuesdays: The Good Dinosaur

Posted: June 2, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

Check out this new trailer, hot off the press!

A Brief Defense of Tomorrowland

Posted: June 1, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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MV5BMTQ4OTgzNTkwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzI3MDE3NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_At one point in The Incredibles , a weary Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) drives home from work and finds his little neighbor boy staring him down curiously. “Well, what are you waiting for?” Parr groans. The thing is, I feel like Parr when I read these incredibly negative reviews of Brad Bird’s latest film, Tomorrowland. Said critics are clearly not like Mr. Incredible’s inquisitive neighbor; for if they were simply waiting for “something amazing,” they would have left the theater satisfied, mouth agape, ready to return for more. Of course, the really fascinating and ironic thing about the all-too-prevalent panning of Tomorrowland is that many critics, through their reactions to the film’s optimism, substantiate the very claim they attempt to refute, namely that the modern obsession with dystopias may be doing more cultural damage than we realize.

What if an insatiable, unbridled hunger and thirst for bleak post-apocalyptic literature affects in society a pessimism that, if left unchecked, leads to fatalism? This seems to be a central question of Tomorrowland, but a plethora of film critics intimate that it is a forbidden question. Indeed, a cursory glance at reviews featured on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes makes it sound like Tomorrowland is Hallmark-esque, replete with pseudo-optimism and cheesy sentimentality, when nothing could be further from the truth. You would think the realization that children are a primary audience of Tomorrowland would be enough to satiate the critics’ fury, but I contend that these responses are an indicator of a two cultural phenomena: an increasing predilection for dystopian hopelessness and a dismissal of narrative optimism as fundamentally childish.

If anything, however, Tomorrowland is child-like in the way that Christ and C.S. Lewis used the term. IMV5BMjAzNjI1OTE3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE2NzQ3NDE@._V1__SX1391_SY669_t was the latter who says that “[c]ritics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves.” Bird’s film, then, can be seen as an ode to childlikeness that seeks to reinstate some of the wonder and joy in life that we’ve lost and forgotten. It is—and I do not make this comparison lightly—something like Terrence Malick for kids. And even in its weakest moments, Tomorrowland is so adept at awakening its audiences’ imagination that it makes naysayers look like yet another character from The Incredibles: The Underminer, who “wages war on peace and happiness.”

That such an original, charming, and, yes, optimistic film has been deemed naive—even juvenile—is one sign that we may be marching closer to dystopia than we realize. It’s time that, as Lewis says, we “put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” And it’s time to go see Tomorrowland.