Friday, February 21, 2014

An Overview of Dinosaur Exhibits Part Three: The Field Museum

I think everyone has their favorite place in the world, a place that just restores their life, a place tied up with countless memories. It can be a house or a park, or a stadium, or a school.  For me it was the Field Museum of Natural History on the East Side of Chicago near Grant Park. I can’t remember when I first went. It might have been in 1991, or even as a baby.  You see, when I lived in Chicago, you could go to the library and get passes for the Field Museum, Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium or the Adler Planetarium. My mother didn’t have a job at the time, so she would take me, my mother, and our two cousins to the museums and zoos of Chicago. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Editorial: Godzilla and the dinosaurs of Toho

Today we’re not going to do a movie review, but we are going to look at a popular movie figure that has represented dinosaurs in his own way for decades. Yes, Godzilla. I’m a big fan of the Godzilla series-yes, only the first and maybe Godzilla vs Destoroyah can be taken with an iota of seriousness, but they’re entertaining sci-fi/fantasy movies that I enjoy watching. I’m an attendee at the largest Godzilla convention, G-Fest in Rosemont, Illinois, and I always have fun going.

The question always comes up; is Godzilla a dinosaur? Well, sort of. You see, the Godzilla script from Tomoyuki Tanaka’s first story outline to Ishiro Honda’s shooting screenplay never clearly defined Godzilla as a dinosaur. The name Gojira comes from the idea of the monster being a sort of gorilla-shaped whale. Godzilla, was in fact, very much inspired by King Kong as a monster itself. Tanaka, Honda, and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya all were huge King Kong fans, and simply made Kong bigger and a metaphor for horror of war and the devastation of nuclear weapons. So ultimately Godzilla has more to do with his gorilla archnemesis (at least in 1962) than with the dinosaurs Kong fought.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Movie Review: Planet of Dinosaurs

It’s Friday again, and this week I’m going back to bad movies. Yeah, not happy about it, but I went with a movie that’s bad in a very special way. Some movies are bad because they have talent but no character or action, like Lost Continent. Others are too cheap to have anything but an idea sank by trash, like King Dinosaur. Others are simply bad decisions about the direction of the story, like the 1960 Lost World. Some are good movies crippled by terrible executive decisions, like Walking With Dinosaurs. Others have too many characters and not enough time to flesh them out, like Dinosaur.  This week’s movie has all these problems combined, but in its own way has charm and not a little bit of potential.

The movie Star Wars had a huge impact at the end of the 1970s in terms of filmmaking. Unknowns could become superstars, and science fiction and fantasy were given new fresh life.  A lot of people didn’t have the talent to pull it off, and others didn’t have the budget. One team of filmmakers, James K Shea, Jim Auppearle, and Ralph Lucas didn’t have either, but they had a great deal of ambition, and made Planet of Dinosaurs.  It’s a bad movie, to be sure, but to understand why it failed and why it’s compelling is worth an in-depth look.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Species That Don't Get Enough Publicity #5: Anchiceratops

Triceratops is my favorite dinosaur. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s both a plant eater and intimidating. Maybe because it’s like a rhino or a bull. Maybe because it can stand up and defeat the greatest monster dinosaur in media.  It’s been my favorite dinosaur for a while, actually, although I’ve grown to know and love the rest of the horned dinosaurs.  Triceratops is by far the best known, but others have appeared in media.  The sister species Torosaurus managed to get a supporting role in Walking With Dinosaurs, while the spiky-frilled Styracosaurus has become second to only Triceratops in popularity due to its unique look and made its film debut in the 1933 Kong movies (albeit the scene was cut from the first).  Pachyrhinosaurus has surprisingly been popular-being a background dinosaur with Styracosaurus in Disney’s Dinosaur, playing a supporting role in documentaries like The Dinosaurs, March of the Dinosaurs, and Jurassic Fight Club, and finally being the star of the movie Walking With Dinosaurs. 

There’s several that have slipped under the radar, but are well known from science books and dinosaur encyclopedias, but have made occasional appearances. Chasmosaurus (or should I say Mojoceratops) was the only dinosaur in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Centrosaurus has appeared in the documentary Dinosaur!, the short Prehistoric Beast, and has been popular in dinosaur art (sometimes as Monoclonius). A lot of the most recent ceratopsians such as Xenoceratops, Diabloceratops, Medusaceratops and so forth are too new to become engrained in media and culture. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Documentary review: Jurassic Fight Club

I have a special connection to this week’s documentary being reviewed. When it first came out in 2008, I was eagerly anticipating it. You see, it reminded me of a series I was really interested in as a teenager. It was on Discovery, a show called Animal Face-Off, which discussed possible battles between coexisting species such as lion vs tiger, elephant vs rhinoceros, bear vs alligator, etc.  While the execution was terribly done, I liked the premise. When I heard what sounded like a dinosaur version of the show was coming to TV, I couldn’t wait.  
This is Jurassic Fight Club. When I did watch it, it wasn’t as good as I hoped, but still a very enjoyable show.  The premise is extrapolating from fossils about prehistoric conflicts. The discovery is first shown, then the species involved, the environment, and then a comparison and finally an action sequence showing the conflict. The host is George Blasing, a paleontology expert and teacher who has a roadshow in Texas, educating at schools on fossils and prehistoric animals. George is a great personality, dynamic and funny on the show, and with a vivid imagination he describes, blow by blow, the incidents implied by the fossil finds.  When my birthday came this past week, I immediately bought myself the DVD set for this review.