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Jurassic Park Tag

noconcessions1Though the competition is great, I vote the sequence where the T-rex emerges from the rain and the darkness in Jurassic Park as the best directed and most suspenseful action sequence in all of Steven Spielberg’s movies, including my beloved Jaws. My girlfriend gripped my hand tight; the audience around us screamed and laughed, at the little humorous beats slipped seamlessly into the breath-holding dinosaur action. I had a different reaction.

Tears.

I wasn’t crying, exactly. These were

Don’t think of an elephant. Now you see an elephant, don’t you?

Star Wars. Harry Potter. Jurassic Park. Jaws. Now you’re hearing the music of John Williams, aren’t you? Williams turns 79 today and yet is still turning out music for his most prominent collaborator, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s adaptations of Herge’s intrepid character Tintin and the novel War Horse will both have Williams’ musical touch, as has every theatrical movie in his career except for Twilight Zone: The Movie (which was handled by Jerry Goldsmith) and The Color Purple, via Quincy Jones.

You can’t have a website devoted to pop culture, or a column called The Composers for that matter, without honoring Mr. Williams’ unmistakable mark on modern filmmaking. Happy birthday, may you have many more, and may there be more music in all our collective future.

As someone who has been a regular moviegoer most of my life, I love movie trailers — but as much as well all love movie trailers, we must acknowledge that sometimes they have a tendency to show us too much. Generally though, that’s never a problem with teaser trailers. In many cases they don’t even show any footage from the movie. As in the case of the recent teaser for J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, some are in theaters before principal photography has even begun.

Superman (1978). One of the very first trailers I remember seeing that didn’t actually show anything from the movie was this one for Richard Donner’s big screen version of the man of steel. It’s a simple concept — one continuous shot soaring through the clouds, with the names of the actors whooshing by (somewhat similar to what would become the title sequence), ending with the Superman shield bursting into the frame.

King Kong, from King Kong (1933). In terms of special effects, the big ape in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake might look better, but it’s hard to top the badassity of Kong 1.0, who leaves people flopping about like squished bugs after he steps on them. This Kong has no time for ice-dancing excursions. Pioneering stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien’s work is still an impressive sight after all these years.

Badassitude Level: Eighth wonder, people.

Godzilla, from Gojira (1954). A prehistoric mutant creature accidentally created by radiation from a nuclear explosion, Godzilla might be the most iconic movie monster of all time. As the series of Godzilla films progressed, he went from menacing threat to hero, and thus less badass (though in later films he was more of an antihero). But in director Ishiro Honda’s original film (not the “Americanized” re-edited version released here in 1956), the allegorical elements warning of the dangers of nuclear testing are much more prominent. Godzilla has admittedly never looked realistic — it’s all too obviously a guy in a lizard suit stomping on unconvincing miniature sets — but he’s never looked as menacing as he did in the original, in glorious black and white.

Badassitude Level: Two words — atomic breath.

The Ymir, from 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). A list like this wouldn’t be complete without something from stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen, creator of animated skeletons, giant crabs, and many other exotic beasts. (One of my favorite Harryhausen creations isn’t a creature at all, however — it’s the spinning saucers from 1956’s Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers.) The Ymir, which comes from Venus, “runs amok on Earth,” according to the trailer for 20 Million Miles to Earth, and partially lays waste to the Roman Colosseum, hurling large slabs of stone onto the soldiers trying to bring him down. I can always appreciate a monster that destroys monuments.

Badassitude Level: Doubles in size every night!

I’m not a fan of the Ice Age movies. OK, I like the little squirrelly guy who continually risks severe bodily injury in search of a nut, because I can relate to that. But it seems to me the minute Ray Romano and Denis Leary open their animated mouths to earn their paychecks for a day and a half’s work, the air drains out of the entire enterprise.

This week marks the opening of the third film in the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which — in a signal of the level of desperation among the marketing specialists herded into a room to come up with these movies — adds the aforementioned dinosaurs to the mix, despite their extinction 25 million years before the Ice Age movies take place.

Now, I don’t expect cartoons to be realistic, necessarily; I know most prehistoric sloths didn’t talk like John Leguizamo either. But this seems particularly bald-faced: Why not add in a contingent of robots and space aliens while you’re at it? (That sound you just heard is a marketing specialist belching out a draft of Ice Age IV.)

With that in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit five films that earned their inclusion of dinosaurs honestly, by making no bones (bones – get it?) about being completely historically inaccurate, or terrible, or both.

Godzilla’s Revenge, a.k.a. All Monsters Attack (1971): I will grant you that Godzilla is not, technically, a dinosaur; scientists have yet to discover a species of dinosaur that bloated and rubbery, and with such large thighs. But he’s close enough for government work.

If you’re going to revisit a Godzilla film, I think it defeats the purpose to choose one with even an air of respectability, like Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956). That’s the American version of the original Japanese Gojira (1954), in which Raymond Burr (as American journalist Steve Martin, the wild and crazy guy) is inserted into every other scene to look all authoritative and white.

No, seems to me you’re better off with an installment like Godzilla’s Revenge, in which a little boy falls asleep and dreams he’s gone off to Monster Island, where he helps Godzilla teach his son Minilla to blow cute little smoke rings. Eventually there is some fighting, and the boy’s Godzilla training winds up enabling him to foil two bumbling robbers, confirming my theory that Home Alone 3 is one movie that actually would have been a lot better with dinosaurs.