Shouting at the STAGE – The Lion King Musical!

I’ve never been much of a theater buff. Sure, I was in my high school’s Thespians club for a couple years, doing bit roles when homework didn’t interfere with rehearsals, and I would watch the plays if my friends were acting and/or my brother was playing guitar for it, but I didn’t exactly go out of my way to find a professional theater show.

However, studying abroad in England meant I had to adapt. I’d been living in London’s West End and taking a Readings in Dramatic Literature course, so I was subjected to so many plays! I enjoyed some (Much Ado About Nothing at the impossibly gorgeous Minack Theatre in Cornwall), slept through significant chunks others (Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon), bailed midway through one (Our Country’s Good at the Olivier Theatre in London), and left a few thinking they were alright (War Horse at the I-Can’t-Be-Bothered-to-Remember out on the West End). Overall, it was a whirlwind, and it took a while to get used to it

(By the way, as awesome as it is to watch Shakespeare in the Globe Theater, the acoustics are not that great and so the old English dialogue is even harder to understand. We’ve also had to stand up to watch the three-hour shows. And it’s an open ceiling, so we’ve been rained on.)

No wonder they burned this place down in the 1640s. (Okay, that joke is awful and the Globe’s a world treasure, but you try standing through Measure After Measure!) (source)

But one day, out of nowhere, I had a stroke! Um, a stroke of luck! One of those companies that help college kids backpack around Europe, which holds periodic raffles for free tickets to shows around London, sent out an email saying I’d won a free ticket to The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre! I couldn’t believe it! And all I had to do to be placed in these raffles was give them all my personal information, including my email. So worth it.

I waited with increasing impatience for weeks. If you asked me at any point in my life (well, any point where I could speak and consciously think) which theatrical production I would want to watch, I’d have definitely said this one. The Lion King, released a scant four months before my birth, was extremely important to my childhood, perhaps more than any other single film, and had a staggering influence on my development. To this day it remains one of my favorite films. Naturally, I’d long wanted to see the play version with the weird costumes and you can totally see the people working the puppets.

Guys, it’s like you’re not even trying. (Source)

Once inside the Lyceum, I took my seat and looked around the theater. I noticed, off both sides of the stage, two balconies lined with African drums. I soon learned that besides the pit orchestra (which had a wicked cool electric guitar for “Be Prepared” and ’90s adult contemporary synths for “He Lives in You”), there were two percussionists for extra power. The show hadn’t started and I was already digging it.

Then, the lights went off without so much as a “please turn off your cell phones.” The noisy theater hushed as all went dark. We knew what was coming.

NAAAAAAAANTS INGONYAMA BAGITHI BABA!”

An ebullient, bizarrely dressed woman who turned out to be Rafiki and two guys with crazy loud voices and water buffalo skulls on their heads chanted as a fake sunrise came up. I looked to the aisle and saw a massive elephant made of four guys and an adorable baby elephant played by one little girl, and in the other rows were other animals making their way to the stage. Pride Rock emerged from the side and spun to show Mufasa and Sarabi walking up it. The song blares.

Rafiki moves her hands around the infant Simba. Mufasa’s headdress looks awesome atop that man’s head, and his outfit makes him look like a lion-themed samurai. There’s a man with three antelopes sticking out of his head, and another guy with a giraffe neck protruding from his scalp and walking with stilts attached to his arms and legs. The baby elephant actress’s smile is huge. The orchestra swells as Rafiki lifts a wiggling robot puppet lion baby …

It’s the CIIIRCLE OF LIIIFE!” (Source)

After that final iconic bass drum smash, the audience roared their approval (heh) and I clapped as tears ran down my eyes. Then I teared up when Mufasa died. Then I freaking cried again when Simba took his place as king. This show was so freaking good.

… Well, almost entirely good. You already have an idea of how much I loved it, so let’s get to the funny stuff and talk about the more questionable creative decisions. For starters, there’s a dance number where a pack of lionesses hunt, gang up on, and absolutely mutilate a gazelle. It actually happened onstage, twenty seconds after I devised that joke in my head. I get that it was probably done to show the Circle of Life at work, and because the gazelle was a puppet it’s not like it was ultraviolent, but I really didn’t see that coming!

I immediately feared for my next joke idea, but to my relief, there was no evil hip-hop number from Scar and the hyenas (hyenaz? Hyenizzles?). No, there were just sexy shirtless men in hyena pelts … dancing disco. And this happened in the climax of “Be Prepared.” Remember when Scar yells with emphasis, “YOU WON’T GET A SNIFF WITHOUT ME!” and a hyena falls to its doom and everything goes red and you know that Scar has unleashed hell on Earth? Yeah, in the play, between the lyric and the unleashing hell part, the music suddenly turns into a disco breakdown and out come a quartet of … I can’t retype that, or even copy and paste. I swear it happens! Broadway, man.

To pad out the time, a couple of extra scenes are included. While they quietly change sets behind the curtain, Mufasa expresses concern to Zazu about how Simba’s apparently a thrill junkie, and Zazu reminds Mufasa of another royal cub with a rambunctious streak (whoa, Zazu is old). Later on, Timon finds himself hanging from a tree branch over a waterfall with hungry gators waiting for him, and because it’s portrayed so similarly to his own peril that led to his father’s death, Simba freezes and even calls for Dad. It’s never explained how Timon got out alive, even though it clearly shows him falling into the pit due to Simba’s inaction. Strangest and most amusing of all is the presence of a cut subplot where Scar, in need of a way to fix his image after the Pride Lands become a wasteland, decides to find a queen … and then Nala comes in. As if he wasn’t creepy enough.

You can see a cheaper performance of the musical number here (hey, they don’t let you record in the theater) and the storyboard version here, but I prefer this really impressive fan animation that looks just like the movie. Disney, hire Eduardo Quintana, here is his application:

On that note, the original film only has time for five musical numbers, but musical theater always has time for as many songs as they can come up with! Honestly, I didn’t really care for any of the non-film ones much. Oh wow, the hyenas get their own song, I always wanted to hear them sing instead of having to watch them be threatening. Whoa, look out, Nala has a cookie-cutter ballad! But hey, they included “He Lives in You,” the best song in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, as an inspirational anthem for Simba’s connection to his father. And man, is it just great to see all the classics performed live in such a unique environment.

(Interestingly, despite originating from the stage version and appearing in animated form in the ’00s DVD rerelease, “Morning Report” wasn’t in the production I watched. Guessed they realized it wasn’t that great.)

If you get the chance, whether it’s on Broadway or the West End or another of the apparently million cities that have seen productions of this musical, go watch it. The story is wonderful, the acting was excellent all around, the set design and costuming were ingenious, and the whole show proved to be the most engrossing I’ve yet seen here in England (so engrossing, in fact, that it made me forget I was only halfway through a midterm paper due that very night!). It’s little wonder that the show, in its twenty-year history, has won so many awards and grossed over six billion dollars, making it the most financially successful entertainment production ever.

Also, I’m so grateful to Somewhere New for giving me the opportunity to check it out for free! (Source)

By the way, while researching for this post, I stumbled upon something odd. In an effort to milk even more money out of this property, Disney’s making a new show for Disney Junior called The Lion Guard. It’s about Simba’s son (he already has a daughter, but since when did people wanna see creative fiction starring women?) forming a team of animal kids to defend the Pride Lands, and I shit you not, Disney Junior general manager Nancy Kanter described it as The Lion King meets The Avengers.” Not very high hopes, to be honest – how good could such an obvious cash-in be?

Evidently, freaking Lion King good. The animation is impeccable … and the music is kinda in the original film’s style … and jeez, they really called him Kion the lion? … But my god, that ending!

The_Goddamn_Lion_Guard

“Let … him … GOOOOROAROAROAROAROAR”

Jesus Christ, Simba couldn’t roar at that age – or pull off cool red punk hair! And the first movie only had like one lion in the clouds! I – what – how –

Okay, I’m gonna watch it. What can I say? Hail to the king.

Writing on the Pages – O Captain Underpants! My Captain! A Tribute

The last Captain Underpants book came out about six months ago.

Yes, that’s three Georges and three Harolds on the side. This series got really complicated. (Source)

First off, for those of you who haven’t been following the series in recent years, let me, a guy two weeks away from being legally able to drink, assure you that this is indeed the twelfth book in the series. Crazy, right? This series may be a staple from the childhood of my generation, the kids born after the Cold War’s end and Kurt Cobain but before 9/11 and mp3s, but it can be easy to forget that this is a staple of the childhood of the generation since. Dav Pilkey’s been writing (riding?) this franchise since freaking 1997. In the time between the defeat of Dr. Diaper and The Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot, kids have learned to walk, stumbled through puberty, and graduated.

And all that’s over now. After Pilkey said he’d always planned to write ten, after numerous jokes within the text that this one was the last when it actually wasn’t, it’s really the end. Pilkey confirms it on his website: in the page for The Tyrannical ReTaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000, he states that the one after (Sir Stinks-A-Lot) is “the LAST and FINAL Captain Underpants book (and I really mean it this time).”

(But underneath that he also writes on the subject, “You probably shouldn’t believe me. I wouldn’t.”)

I was introduced to the series in 2003 by a friend in my 3rd-grade classroom named Ben, and I was reluctant at first. The series was often featured in Scholastic book flyers – you know, those old leaflets you could use to learn about and buy kids’ books?

The best gift a book-devouring elementary-schooler can get, and it was a gift that kept on giving. Tell me they still do these! (Source)

Anyway, I’d seen these books in the Scholastic flyers … and thought they must be foolish. I distinctly remember telling my mom, “I mean, come on: a talking toilet?” No, I don’t know what was wrong with me.

But Ben suggested I give it a whirl, and he gave me a slightly battered copy of what was then the newest in the series: The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman. I was hesitant to start out with the fifth epic novel, which is why I’ve always been grateful that every book opens with a handy-dandy comic summarizing the series up to that point. That’s how I knew that Mr. Krupp was a jerk to children, that’s how I knew he was hypnotized into being Captain Underpants, and that’s how I knew that the Waistband Warrior got superpowers from an alien juice. By the time it was over, I was a convert.

Some scattered memories I have of Captain Underpants:

  • This series inspired me to draw comics, which became a strong passion for several years after. It began with a superhero book of my own, detailing the adventure (alas, only one and not a series) of Dino Boy, and in tribute to George Beard’s fourth grade reading level I made the widely-questioned stylistic choice of including misspellings. It’s really not an excuse, I knew perfectly well how to spell the words I used in the story, but that’s how I chose to do it. In this and other comics I also employed the “Flip-O-Rama” animation technique, which I thought was really bold and original.
  • The series went on hiatus twice in a row: it took three years for Pilkey to follow up The Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers with The Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People, and then it was six whole years before we got the long-awaited Terrifying Re-Turn of Tippy Tinkletrousers (it’s only annoying to write out these long titles if you’re not a fan!). I held up well and gradually pushed the series to the side as I went through middle and high school. Then I learned that the author took so long because he was caring for his terminally ill father up until his death. Dang.
  • Getting old enough to realize that there was a lot of satire and commentary in these books – or maybe that really was mostly in the later books. Sir Stinks-A-Lot’s dastardly plot is an outright parable for how quick people are to diagnose kids with ADHD and overmedicate them for what could just as likely be normal child behavior (Pilkey himself has been diagnosed with it and gets really personal about the issue). An earlier book shows an empty school library, a reference to the banning of certain books in schools – to which Captain Underpants, about a grown man fighting toilets and booger monsters while running around in tighty-whiteys, is no stranger. Perhaps the most interesting is the newest one’s casual reveal that Harold Hutchins has a husband in the future. It’s just one scene-setting sentence and a few drawings of them standing/sitting with each other, but some Amazon reviewers still complain that they wish they had a warning.

They’re the happy family on the left. (Source)

Mostly, what I remember and admire most about Captain Underpants is that it was just so darn creative, and perhaps boldly so. It dared to push the boundaries of just what kids should/could be exposed to in children’s literature, and it turned out that elementary-schoolers are more willing to read books if some of them have pictures on every page, feature comics and flip animations, and base their stories on potty humor.

Better still, it turned out that these books could contain all these gimmicks while further installments developed increasingly and impressively complex storylines, including time travel paradoxes and carefully reusing plot details/devices from way earlier in the series. And even better still, all this can inspire children to not just read books, but to write some of their own. Just look at my example, with Dino Boy! Sadly, it seems this comic is lost, so you can’t actually look at it, but still!

In fact, when did I start reading these books? Third grade? Goodness, I just realized: this series may have been a bigger influence on me than I thought. Dav Pilkey got into children’s books because he would draw comics and share silly stories with his elementary classes all the time (to the chagrin of his uptight teachers). He created Captain Underpants in second grade. Maybe I thought if a kid can entertain other kids with great stories, then I could too. Maybe this was how I realized that I didn’t just have to read other people’s stories and could actually make up and share my own.

My desire to be a fiction author, my whole life path, may have been influenced (at least in small part) by a cartoon man in briefs.

Also featured here: characters named Super Diaper Baby and Ook and Gluk, the Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future. (Source)

 newest Captain Underpants is a great closer to the series, and I recommend reading it and any others you may have missed. It has all the goofy humor and surprisingly intricate plotting that the series is known and loved for, and it even has some touching moments. The end is understated and a bit melancholy, and it’s a bit sad to know that George and Harold won’t shout in panic, “Oh no! Here we go again!” but it really is quite nice.

And even if it really is the end of the series, every book is still around for us, and kids in the future, to reread and giggle at and enjoy. (Plus, the pair will return as a framing device for Pilkey’s next graphic novel, Dog Man)

So hang your underpants at half-mast today and don’t forget how much fun reading can be.

I meant from a flagpole!

I meant from a flagpole! (source)

Writing on the Pages – The Maze Runner #4: Chapters 10-11

#01: A Little Background
#02: Chapters 1-5
#03: Chapters 6-9

Hey, you! Finally back to this book. Yes, I’m still reading it, even though it’s been two years since I got it and if I weren’t doing this blog on it, I’d be able to polish it off in two, three days tops. Now let’s see, where was I?

CHAPTER 10

Moving as fast as he could, Thomas crashed through the heavy foliage, thin branches slapping at his face.

… All the while, his eyes stayed riveted on the beetle blade scuttling across the forest floor.

Oh yeah! At the end of Chapter 9, Thomas found a beetle blade – a buglike robot that, according to Alby, is used by whoever set up the Glade to spy on its residents – and decided to go after it. How long does his chase go on? It doesn’t even last to the end of the page.

He’d lost the sucker.

“Shuck it,” Thomas whispered, almost as a joke. Almost. As strange as it seemed, the word felt natural on his lips, like he was already morphing into a Glader.

I’d make yet another snide comment ridiculing the forced usage of this childish euphemism, but something’s changed. Since I started doing this blog and thinking in-depth about this book …

I’ve caught myself using the word.

Dear god, I’m going native! Quick, book, remind me that you’re silly!

A twig snapped somewhere to his right and he jerked his head in that direction. …

“Who’s there?” Thomas yelled out, a tingle of fear shooting across his shoulders. …

“Anybody there? … It’s me, Thomas. The new guy. Well, second-newest guy.”

There we go, thanks, dear! And before you say anything about me being too critical, even Thomas thinks he, and I quote, “sounded like a complete idiot.”

What’s going on now is that Thomas heard a few sudden sounds and started walking towards the point he believes they came from. Without meaning to, he finds himself at the graveyard.

Thomas is already aware of some of the possible dangers of his new existence, and now he is at the one place where this awful truth can be made truly clear. Our protagonist, the new Glader (well, second-newest), is walking over the graves of teenagers, the poor souls who died well before their time without ever learning the truth of the land that ultimately killed them! If handled right, this scene can be a chilling and emotional turning point. What’s Thomas’s next move?

He leaned closer to the first cross. It looked fresh and bore the name Stephen …

Stephen, Thomas thought, feeling an unexpected but detached sorrow. What’s your story? Chuck annoy you to death?

Have some goddamn respect! Guys, if you’re not reading this book, you don’t understand just how irritating this is. Dashner is actually really competent at description and build-up, and the way he described the graveyard itself before this garbage happened strongly evoked a mood of somberness, silence, and reverence. But when he brings his protagonist face-to-face with a reminder that he can die here – and the grave is fresh – he makes the lad crack a joke at the expense of another character.

Is this meant to be comedy relief? This is the precisely wrong moment for comedy! The kid’s in a cemetery made by other kids for other kids, and you, you just – why?!

So he checks out the other graves and sees one smaller than the rest. Taking a closer look, Thomas finds that it contains only the head-and-torso half of a corpse. Etched on the window is a marker …

Let this half-shank be a warning to all:
You can’t escape through the Box Hole.

Thomas felt the odd urge to snicker – it seemed tpo ridiculous to be true.

What did I just say what did I just say?! Is Thomas just devoid of empathy? Was he not raised with respect for the dead? That’s probably one of the most horrific events in the history of the Glade and he freaking has to resist from laughing – have some decency! “Odd urge” doesn’t begin to describe how out-of-place this is!

Okay, two strikes. I try to be patient and forgiving, and I’m not giving up on this reading session just yet!

… He had stepped aside to read more names of the dead when another twig broke, this time straight in front of him, right behind the trees on the other side of the graveyard.

Then another snap. Then another. Coming closer. And the darkness was thick.

There we go! What follows is an extremely one-sided fight between Thomas and an unknown attacker, brilliantly described as “a relentless jumble of skin and bones cavorting on top of him.” This ambusher even manages to really hurt Thomas, driving him into one of the grave markers and biting his shoulder like a freaking zombie! After all the strikes in this chapter, this is a single-base, maybe even double-base hit. And the attacker?

It’s Ben!

… You know, the screaming guy from the infirmary!

… The guy who’s really sick and stuff?

Well, even if you can’t remember him, it’s him!

CHAPTER 11

Thank goodness we’re done with that trainwreck of a chapter, and this one’s already off to a good start with our hero getting pounced!

Ben crouched, ready to spring for another attack. At some point a knife had made an appearance, gripped in his right hand.

Excuse me, Dashner, did you just say that a knife manifested from nowhere? Was it too hard to edit the previous chapter so that he was holding one the entire time? Okay, forget it, I just wanna see a fight. Give me the fight!

“Ben!”

Thomas looked toward the voice, surprised to see Alby standing at the edge of the graveyard, a mere phantom in the fading light. Relief flooded Thomas’s body – Alby held a large bow, an arrow cocked for the kill, pointed straight at Ben.

“Ben,” Alby repeated. “Stop right now, or you ain’t gonna see tomorrow.”

Aw yeah, the stakes just got raised!

The rest of this scene is just awesome. Ben suddenly tells Alby, “If you kill me, you’ll get the wrong guy,” and goes on to make vague, frightening statements about how Thomas is bad (more accurately, “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad”) and wants “to take us home … out of the Maze” – which is apparently terrible. Ben gets increasingly fidgety, Alby starts counting to three, Thomas is on the verge of flipping out, and then:

There was the sound of snapping wire. The whoosh of an object slicing through the air. The sickening, wet thunk of it finding a home.

Ben’s head snapped violently to the left, twisting is body until he landed on his stomach, his feet pointed toward Thomas. He made no sound.

This story’s reached Lord of the Flies territory, with Ben being the first (I expect more) kid to be killed by other kids – fittingly, in the graveyard. Who knows how many of the other Gladers buried there went through this mysterious “Changing” like he did? How many also died from another Glader’s hand? What was up with the whole “He’ll wanna take us home” thing? Is it a delusion that others before him had? Oh, how nice it is to be critically thinking about this book again instead of sitting there with that 4chan George Costanza face.

Thomas does a little critical thinking of his own: after understandably hurling, he has a realization about all the crap he’s been through.

He’d now been at the Glade for roughly twenty-four hours. One full day. That was it. And look at all the things that had happened. All the terrible things.

Surely it could only get better.

Let’s recap the last 24 hours of Thomas’s life. He:

  • Woke up in a dark hole, trapped in a cage with no memories of his life
  • Found himself in a freakish weird new world while strange kids poked him
  • Got hassled by almost everyone on his first day for no good reason
  • Learned that they’re all trapped in the middle of a maze with robot spies watching them and giant monsters lurking within the maze itself
  • Got suspiciously denied any answers to any of his questions about their situation
  • Was attacked by a psycho with a knife
  • Watched said psycho get arrow’d in the face and freaking die

And these are the first eleven chapters of the book … out of 62. Poor guy.

Out of sympathy for our friend here (and because I was able to write so much on these 1.5 chapters alone), I think I’m gonna cut off this post here. I’ll finish the rest of Chapter 11 in the next edition of Writing on the Pages.

Sincerely,
RADDman

Shouting at the Screen – Testing the Limits of Rule 34 (SFW-ish)

Hey, everyone! Today is an incredible day: it’s the 75th anniversary of the release of one of my favorite films and one of the most important in film history, Disney’s Fantasia!

Yay! But more importantly for us at the moment, it’s the day of the epic return of Space Cadet Glow, back from a long hiatus and now coming in weekly installments! And on a day as doubly special as today, what better thing would there be to talk about in this first post in ages than porn?

(Note: Danny and I are planning something very special for Fantasia and need more time, so please don’t be too disappointed and enjoy my adventure through internet porn)

A long time ago, a collection of 4chan drafted a list of rules on the internet (naturally it was 4chan, much of the internet’s great memes and stuff come from that community of whackjobs). It seems that these are mostly laws that explain how people behave online rather than enforced mandates for how people should behave – it’s the difference between the Laws of Gravity and the laws of San Diego. Here’s a picture courtesy of KnowYourMeme, the best site for understanding the often incomprehensible culture of the internet:

rules.jpg

A larger version, with a link to the KnowYourMeme page, can be found here.

There is some disagreement about the veracity of a majority of the rules, and there are probably a few on the list that you don’t agree with yourself, but the one rule that just about everyone online accepts as a bonafide fact is Rule 34: “There is a porn of it. No exceptions.”

Most of you reading are probably digital natives, meaning you’ve grown up your whole lives knowing about the internet and how it’s an amazing world where you can find anything. That means anything – especially more lewd, salacious content. Just as it allows people to post videos showing their personal experiences and original artwork only they could have conceived, it also allows people to make pornographic films and lurid illustrations based on fictional characters or even real people such as celebrities. Some people find it gross, plenty of people get off to it, and sociologically-minded folk probably think the proliferation of sexy stuff online is both an intriguing insight on the minds of mankind and … entirely unsurprising.

Rule 34 is considered a fact, but has it ever been effectively proven? Maybe it isn’t as true and undeniable as everyone says! Maybe there is something in existence that doesn’t have a porn based on it. But tough questions need tough people to answer them, and this quest to answer this questions may destroy the childhood of anyone who dares undertake it. So I volunteer to do this, just so none of you have to put yourselves at risk, and I’ll put up my findings here, exclusively so you can laugh and say, “Did this guy really do that?”

Here’s how this is gonna work:

  1. I will look up five different things that I absolutely do not think has porn about it online. I promise I have no knowledge beforehand about whether or not something I search up has porn of it. If I find something, I will write that I did, and if it’s interesting enough to write about, then I’ll write about it.
  2. I’m not actually gonna put up nudity or pornographic imagery on here. If anything, I’ll censor it with black squares, which may very well mean posting up an entirely black image. That’s why this post is explicitly labeled as SFW (though you should probably not read this at work anyway).
  3. However, for those who are curious and brave enough to see what I talk about, I’ll include an absolutely 100% NSFW link to the image itself. I repeat, do not click the link under an image I post while I talk about Rule 34 imagery unless you want to see uncensored porn.
  4. This is for the entertainment of anyone reading this, and also for science. So please don’t freak out if you’re reading this, Mom and Dad, it’s just to be funny.
  5. If you’re under eighteen then get off this page at once, it’s for grown-ups only, blablabla the hormonal teenagers here probably already scrolled down to the porn.

So. You ready? Last chance to leave.

Okay, here we go!

1. The Maze Runner (book series and film series)

Considering that I have been writing a sort of reading companion to it (that I need to get back to, whoa!), this book, and its film adaptation, was the first thing to pop into my mind. So I looked “maze runner hentai” up on Bing Images, which is supposedly better for finding porn than Google (wait, Bing is better in some way than Google? Yeah, right), and …

Found nothing about The Maze Runner. Seems it only understood to look for the word “hentai” and gave me an intense image of anime sex, pictures of My Little Pony characters with female bodies (but still pony heads), and most baffling of all, a SFW image of Norm the Genie from The Fairly Oddparents holding a floating lava lamp.

For some reason, it’s tagged as “Fairly OddParents hentai,” which means people have probably drawn Timmy Turner’s ten-year-old genitals.

Gotta try a little harder. Recommended additional searches at the top included “maze runner porn,” and that was … a hit!

It gave me two pieces of artwork. The first was Teresa, the token female of the cast, getting double-penetrated, but I refuse to link it because her face looks terrified and (call me soft) I don’t like the implication that this is a rape. Buuut I found a one-panel comic of Thomas, the protagonist, and Minho, the leader of the Runners, talking after the former gave the latter what was clearly an explosive blowjob. It’s pretty hilarious (probably unintentionally).

So far, defeat for me.

2. The Police (band)

I’m aware that there’s plenty of slash-fiction for rock bands out there, including One Direction (duh), Blur, and Franz Ferdinand. But most of those bands are from the ’90s onward, and I’m pretty sure most people my age (the primary content providers online) don’t listen to the Police. So let’s find out if the band behind “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “Message in a Bottle” has any fans with dirty minds and artistic talent. Does anyone wanna … fuck the Police?

Turns out, they don’t! Or at least, not that I could find. But I acknowledge that looking up “police porn” or even variants like “police band sting porn” probably wasn’t specific enough to filter out porn about police officers (which there is a shocking amount of!), so this one won’t count for the experiment.

3. Of Mice and Men (book)

It’s John Steinbeck’s classic novel about the hardship of migrant workers in the 1930s Dust Bowl and it’s a common choice for teaching middle schoolers to hate literature. Most of you, at least through pop culture osmosis (“Tell me about the rabbits, George”), are probably aware of the tragic adventure of George and Lenny. Question is, is there a porn of it?

God, I don’t even know, this search was a disaster. How was I supposed to know there’s a popular rock band with that name? All I got was a perplexing and disheartening collage of images of the band, porn with men, and hentai with mice. I don’t know why, but I’m so frazzled by these results, I’m actually kinda upset. Okay, maybe if I instead look up “lenny george porn” …

Shit, it’s just porn pictures featuring guys named Lenny and/or George. I should have seen that coming. Let’s get out of here.

4. Calvin and Hobbes (comic series)

Perhaps the most famous image about Rule 34 (meaning not an outright example) is this comic from zoom-out.co.uk:

I can assume that this comic was made after its creator found out that Calvin and Hobbes porn exists, but I’m putting this on here both to test that hypothesis and to see just how someone would do it. The comic centers around a six-year-old boy (extremely illegal) and an anthropomorphic tiger (extremely bizarre). How can you make porn with that?

The first words to come out of my mouth were, “Oh dear god this is fucking horrible.” Yeah, I almost forgot that he has parents, a teenage female babysitter, and a friend-who-is-his-age-but-she’s-a-girl-so-hey-why-not-do-porn-of-her. I am actually really disgusted and disturbed at just how dirty the results are. I’m gonna suck it in and post up censored versions of a few of these images as I foolishly said I would.

Oh god, am I on a list now? Are we all on a list now?! I'm not linking the original image, fuck no.

Oh god, am I on a list now? Are we all on a list now?! I’m not linking the original image, fuck no.

How do these people live with themselves?! Who the hell looked at a little comic of a tiny child and his imaginary cartoon tiger and said, “Needs more sex”?! I wanted to know how they could do it, and I got exactly what I asked for and more. God help us all.

Okay, this one's actually kinda funny.

Okay, this one’s actually kinda funny. (Not linking to site because it “may use cookies” and has pop-ups)

Okay, now I gotta find something that doesn’t have a porn of it, to cleanse myself from this one. Something utterly outrageous and outlandish that absolutely no one could look at and think it could benefit from more genital-smashing. Winnie-the-Pooh? No, at least one of the cast has had sex (question is, who’s Roo’s father?). Seinfeld? Nah, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is quite attractive. Dammit, if the freaking Pillsbury Doughboy has hentai, who wouldn’t?!

Then I thought: it can only be Steven Spielberg’s dramatic, dreary film about the trials, tribulations, and horrors of a band of soldiers in World War II. If there is one sacred thing in this world that couldn’t have needless nudity slapped on it, it could only be …

5. Saving Private Ryan (film)

I concede. Rule 34 maintains its long-lived reputation … for now. Maybe another day, I’ll try another test in this experiment, but for now, I need a shower. For reading this far, and because I’m just glad to be back, have an innocent, jaunty, absolutely SFW Korean song.

Sincerely,
RADDman

Talking Over the Music – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness: 20th Anniversary Tribute, Pt. 2

(Hey, everybody! We needed some extra time to make sure the second half of our tribute to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins was perfect. But we needed time to make sure it was perfect. You can check out Part 1 here! So without further ado, heeeeere’s Danny!)

Before I get started with disc two, I’ll just bring up an interesting note about the album’s history: In the time leading up to the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Billy Corgan famously compared it to Pink Floyd’s double-length masterpiece The Wall, released in 1979. That album itself became an essential listen for teenagers of its era, with its insanely ambitious production and story-driven lyrics about a troubled, mentally scarred rock star. Mellon Collie, while not exactly aiming to tell an obvious story, definitely carries on its predecessor’s fondness for sheer scale and overblown theatrics, which I guess goes to show that the young generations’ tastes in pop culture don’t really change. If that wasn’t enough proof for me to say that, 2011 saw the release of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83, yet another two-disc epic that saw the French electronic group reaching new levels of success and devotion in very much the same way those two previous works did for their respective bands. Sure enough, frontman Anthony Gonzalez cited Mellon Collie as his main inspiration.

So there is a clear line to be traced across these remarkable albums, all aiming higher than everyone else in their time, spanning two discs and being released almost exactly 16 years apart. This was actually brought to my attention by the questionable minds at Pitchfork Media, of all places, whose review of the reissue of Mellon Collie is actually really well done. Maybe in 2027, another act will take the torch and make the same big leap the youth will desperately need.

Anyways, disc two, intentionally or not, has a very different feel from disc one. The lyrics are generally less direct, the energetic anthems are all but dropped and the tightness of the band performances is downplayed with both rougher, sludgier recording and electronically influenced arrangements. The distinct digital production, another important factor that sets the album apart from Siamese Dream, is further emphasized by these different sounds. The opening one-two punch of “Where the Boys Fear to Tread” (probably the weakest song on the album) and “Bodies” sets the tone for a generally darker, moonlit second hour, with hyperactive madness in place of blind optimism.

But sure enough, we’re faced with another complete tonal shift as “Thirty-Three” politely comes in. The arrangement is a lovely, genuinely quirky combination of graceful piano, country-esque guitars and an understated drum machine; it seems to have foreshadowed today’s dinky indie-pop sound. Far more gentle than most of the previous tracks, “Thirty-Three” is the first in a perfect trio that features some of the only truly adult themes on the album. The lyrics are poetic reflections on Billy’s troubled marriage at the time, as are those of the follow-up “In the Arms of Sleep”, a dreamy, quietly longing ramble of a tune rich with enchanting twangy guitar work.

And then, of course, there’s “1979”. A sentimental, vague recollection of Billy’s youth, this song is something of an inversion of Mellon Collie’s style, from recapturing those years of his life to looking back fondly on them. The magic is in the arrangement once again; it’s as though the entire backing track is a great big rush of childlike wonder coming back to you. In every detail this is probably the best example of a nostalgic anthem ever recorded. It’s only fitting that it ended up being the album’s biggest, most fondly remembered hit.

“Tales of a Scorched Earth”, the very next track, sounds like anything but a hit. It’s insanely manic and totally over-the top, taking the metallic sludginess of “Bodies” and “An Ode to No One” to its greatest extreme. The music and vocals are barely even discernible! That little bout of insanity is followed by “Thru the Eyes of Ruby”, a dark epic that somehow matches the sheer scope of “Porcelina” and mirrors it in tone. Billy returns to full angst mode here, but his lyrics and vocals manage the amazing achievement of making the youthful venom sound as seductive as it did in high school. As for the collective band performance, I believe it’s as good as anything the Pumpkins have ever done. The ambitious dynamics are pulled off to perfection, resulting in a dramatic whirlpool of guitars and charging drums. Jimmy Chamberlain’s jazzy, pounding drum work is particularly highlighted. For a gripping seven minutes, the album descends into its own world of irresistible darkness to reach an electrifying climax.

As if “Ruby” wasn’t dynamic enough already, it seems to start fading out in the last minute until it fades into… an unexpectedly quiet, calm ending that sounds lifted from a completely different song. At first listen one would question the purpose of this moment, but somehow, despite the contrast to what came before, it feels completely right. It brings to mind one of the most personal memories I have of listening to this album, which I experienced while this moment was playing. I’d rather not mention it…

Anyways, the song is a masterpiece. And that odd coda happens to lead quite nicely into “Stumbleine”, the album’s gentlest and most intimate track, played only on an acoustic guitar. Billy’s hushed vocals and delicate picking convey a romantic nighttime atmosphere that ends up dominating the rest of the disc, hence the name Twilight to Starlight.

But not before the big mother of a song “X.Y.U.” charges in and threatens to throw the whole thing off the rails. Another lengthy epic, this time 7 minutes long, it’s not unlike the out-of-control jam “Silverfuck” from Siamese Dream, except with brutally straightforward fury in place of that track’s wildly irregular dynamics. The vocals and lyrics are completely bizarre; Billy hisses, grunts and screams incoherently for nearly the whole time, like the singing equivalent of a Nicolas Cage performance. Why does he launch into a demented riff on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” during the first breakdown? When will this lunacy end? What is even happening??

“AND IN THE EYES OF A JACKAL I SAY GOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Well. Thank goodness the rest of the album chills out, and I mean really chills out. Clearly, there’s no better way to follow that musical firestorm than with “We Only Come Out at Night”, a tongue-in-cheek campfire song for the outsider in us all, played on a zither of all things (look it up, it’s a real instrument). “Beautiful” is more unusual still, featuring looping electronic sounds and duet vocals from bass guitarist D’arcy Wretzky. Her sweet performance and the sensual arrangement do a better job of capturing teenage romantic longing than the actual songwriting does, and the track feels shallow as a result. Still, even though Billy himself mentioned this reservation in the liner notes for Mellon Collie’s reissue (which are great, by the way), I think there’s something revealing and oddly touching about the superficial expression behind “Beautiful”. Awkward, faded beauty is still beauty after all.

“Lily (My One and Only)” is a lighthearted detour, clearly informed by The Beatles’ self-titled album. It’s pretty slight, but it adds still greater variety to the album as a whole. The lyrics, funnily enough, are about a young Billy spying on a former crush through a window! “By Starlight” features a jaw-dropping fade-in, surely the album’s most gorgeous moment in terms of pure production. The rest of it, jazzy and downcast, is nearly as stunning in its heavenly atmosphere. It’s the last moment of dark romanticism in a double album full of just that, not to mention one of the best. Finally, James Iha delivers the closing sentiment with another Beatles tribute, “Farewell and Goodnight”. The odd but sweet lyrics are sung in turns by all four band members (even Jimmy!) before they sing the final refrains together in a stirring display of unity. There was simply no better way to close this epic journey than with this very literal lullaby, a moment so comforting and kind as to make you feel you’ll never need to hear anything else in your life.

Oh, and it ends with a reprise of the title track, bringing everything full circle. Pretty cool, right?

So… Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I think I’ve said enough. And yet I feel like I could keep going forever, such is its greatness and sentimental value. If I had been 16 going on 17 in 1995, a year when double albums, ambition and Beatles tributes were practically uncool, I’m sure I would’ve embraced it just as much as I did in 2012. Its appeal is timeless and utterly sincere, presenting a little universe of brilliant tunes and sonic wonders for anyone willing or desperate to get lost in it.

And boy, does writing about it bring back a lot of feelings and memories. Even though I didn’t dwell so much on those things, I avoided that knowing the album and its songs could represent different, equally special experiences for other people blessed with them. For me, it was the Christmas guitar concert of 2013… the cheerleader I could never approach… grad night… the drama of my senior year. Through it all, the Smashing Pumpkins were there when no other band was, just as they always will be for me and everyone else who wants their own small, personal moments like those to feel truly special.

Sure, plenty of other artists have this goal in mind. Then again, if the Pumpkins weren’t the cultural outsiders they always have been, there would probably be more double-length masterworks that dare to be ambitious, inspiring, ridiculous, embarrassing and awesome all at once. It’s safe to say that the band may never be in higher form or aspire to such a great purpose again, but I’m glad they reached their peak for just long enough to make their lasting statement, because it will always hold a special place in my life. And so…

To Billy Corgan, James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky and Jimmy Chamberlain, along with the future members who have kept the Smashing Pumpkins as they are…

Thanks, I guess.

“Believe in me as I believe in you… Tonight.”

(Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a really special album, for Danny, myself, and many others, and so we associate many memories with it. Danny said his, but I, RADDman, will share a few of my own real quick.

I watched our other brother and his band stun a crowd with a performance of “1979” in a dimly-lit high school cafeteria.

“Tonight, Tonight” reminds me of standing on the cliffs of Tintagel in Cornwall, feeling the wind and ancient energy of the place and believing I could do anything.

And sometimes, I get in foul moods where overdramatic lines like “I know the silence of the world” resonate fully.

Now that Danny has given us all this lengthy and lovely welcome back present, regular posts for Space Cadet Glow will commence once more starting Friday, November 13. In the meantime, even though this one’s from Side 1 again, have some “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”)

Talking Over the Music – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness: 20th Anniversary Tribute, Pt. 1

(Hey, everybody! Look, we’re back. Well, by “we,” I mean that I am back, and my brother Danny is here with his first post for the blog. It’s part of his latest project, a compendium of 26 album reviews, with one artist/group for every letter of the alphabet. While he knows it’s not called the SBC’s for a reason, he’s kicking it off with the Smashing Pumpkins and their double-stuffed masterpiece Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, just in time for the album’s twentieth anniversary today! In honor of its double-album status, the review is split into two parts, with part two coming tomorrow. So without further ado, happy 20th, Ms. Collie, and heeeeere’s Danny!)

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Review by Danny

“I fear that I am ordinary, Just like everyone…”

            Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is not the best album ever recorded. It isn’t even the best album the Smashing Pumpkins ever recorded. However, it could very well be the one for which I can say more than any other, whether it is praise, analysis, criticism or purely overjoyed ramblings about how awesome it is (and I won’t be able to say it all now). Whereas the band’s previous work Siamese Dream is simply perfect in my opinion, Mellon Collie stands as much more than that, and it decidedly shaped my life in ways few other albums or songs have. More specifically, it helped me embrace my teenage years and the experiences it brought to me. It was the soundtrack of a moment, just as it was for many wistful teenagers of the 1990s, and the memories I have attached to it are timeless.

            Even from an objective point of view, it is absolutely amazing. Within its double-length span, the Smashing Pumpkins embodied the teen state of mind through their boldest, most diverse music ever. And there is a lot of it: ever the outsiders, they proudly embraced excess and ambition in a musical era desperately short of both. The sheer quantity and quality of music testify to a band at the height of its powers, having just found the elusive sweet spot between artfulness and mass appeal. And what better point could there have been to bless the world with their teen-dream theatrics than 1995? The halfway marker for the postmodern decade… my birth year. I was born for it.

            But it’s not just about me. Looking from a broader perspective, Mellon Collie is one of many examples of coming-of-age fiction to be found in cultures all around. Whether they have been passed down orally for thousands of years, read to children from books or directed by John Hughes, they seem to universally acknowledge the personal significance and tentative excitement of that gray period between childhood and adulthood. From the perspective of American history, though, our culture didn’t fully turn its attention to its impressionable youth until around the 1950s, when the post-WWII kids grew up and quickly became the biggest audience for mass media, including, of course, popular music. From that point on, this hip new culture followed a fascinating path through many subversive movements that came and went, from Beatlemania to progressive rock to alternative rock to hip-hop.

            Mellon Collie was probably the logical conclusion of teenage culture as we knew it in the 1990s. It’s huge in scale, adventurous, rich with detail, vaguely conceptual (?), alternative by design and very, very generous. And it panders… a lot… But I would argue that it’s never too obvious or insincere in wooing impressionable listeners. In fact, with all its sheer attention to craft and creative depth, it’s among a very narrow line of albums that dares to capture the complete mindset its young audience may share, in all its awkward glory. It’s for the kids who respected Nirvana and the hip alternative-rock movement they inspired, but felt left out just for wanting something that truly connected to them. And while that’s not to say others didn’t find comfort in the music of other contemporary bands, it’s safe to say only the Pumpkins made a point of uniting people around their ideals. They dared to provide a voice that not only rallied them together but also spoke sincerely and positively on their behalf. The results of this brave gesture are incredibly rewarding to this day.

Right from the beginning, with a cinematic piano introduction putting on all the airs, you know you’re in for a grand, sweeping journey. You aren’t just listening to a lovely, perfectly ornamented opening song of an album, but taking the thrilling first steps into an expansive fantasy world. Maybe my description is coming off as pretty overblown and corny, but not when the piece ends and the opening orchestral sweeps of “Tonight, Tonight” kick in. Every time this song comes on, I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. It’s the entire album’s defiant romanticism and ideals rolled into a four-minute mission statement, in which the mission is just to believe, at least for a couple of blissful hours, that anything you feel can move the heavens. Billy Corgan’s raspy voice never sounded more rousing or assuring, and the collective band performance, backed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, thunders with passion. How else can you react but to wonder if this could be the only album you’ll ever need?

Also, the song has the best music video of all time. Period.

The first disc actually manages the seemingly impossible task of carrying this momentum throughout. “Jellybelly”, the tightly wound pop-metal firework that follows, somehow alternates effortlessly between outrageous angst and exhilaration; it stands alongside the first two tracks to form one of the most exciting stretches of music I’ve ever heard. “Zero” definitely leans toward the angsty side, with particularly infamous lyrics, but it’s still great.

I guess this would be a good time to bring up the lyrics, which are often mentioned as the album’s biggest flaw. There’s no dancing around the fact that, especially compared to those on Siamese Dream, they can be over-the-top and inane. Whereas the songs on that album carefully punctuated Corgan’s impressionistic words with lines of powerful directness, here you get gems like, “I’m in love with my sadness,” and “A secret star that cannot shine” (ugh), and “Love is suuuiciiiiide!” not to mention a few entirely bizarre sections on “An Ode to No One” and “X.Y.U.”, among other tracks. Still, isn’t that part of the point? In what other way would a teen express his/her puffed-up emotions than through awkward, on-the-nose wannabe poetry? They’re definitely more intentionally broad and obvious than anything else Corgan has written before or since, but that’s just the way Mellon Collie communicates its messages.

And if you can stomach this lyrical approach, you’re in for an amazing ride, through the bouncy “Here Is No Why” to the timelessly angry “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and into darker, more subdued territory on the somber “To Forgive”. From then on it’s a musical grab bag, in which emotional extremes like the furious rant of sound “An Ode to No One”, the superficial lust anthem “Love” and the harp-driven romantic fantasy “Cupid de Locke” make perfect sense, especially when sequenced in a row. The latter has perhaps the strangest, most disembodied arrangement in the band’s catalog. “Galapogos” (I know it’s misspelled) is a gorgeous, understated ballad. I can’t imagine that “Muzzle” wasn’t released as a proper single, because it’s simply awesome, in a word; it rocks like a heavier, poppier “Tonight, Tonight” and has an incredibly satisfying finale.

“Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is a mini-masterpiece in itself. It winds through several different sections and dynamic shifts across its enormous length, showcasing the amazing production and the band’s newfound unity as performers. The lyrics, bringing to mind fantastic imagery like majestic ships and nautical adventure, collide with the digitally polished alt-rock backing to form what is essentially a pop version of steampunk, which is actually as cool as it sounds. The climax is one of the album’s finest, most accomplished moments.

Finally, to top off disc one, the band brings in an unexpected surprise in the form of a contribution from James Iha, the band’s second guitarist, “Take Me Down”. Iha’s personality as a songwriter is completely different from that of Corgan; this soothing country-esque ballad sounds like he wrote it half-awake, hoping to calm the listener down after all the previous excitement, and it works wonders. There couldn’t have been any better way to close off the first half of this epic journey.

I know I’ve already written volumes about how great and important Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is, but there’s still a lot more to say, and I’ll do the favor of saving the rest for the next part. If you haven’t gotten tired of me, stay tuned.

(RADDman here. Besides “Tonight, Tonight,” this is my favorite song. My brother definitely has a talent for description, but “incredibly satisfying” doesn’t do it justice. Singing along to it makes me feel so damn good and just so alive, no matter what mood I’m in. “And I know the silence of the world!”)

Shouting at the Screen – Jurassic World: First Reactions

Previously, on “Shouting at the Screen – Tribute to Jurassic Park,” I wrote about being on the verge of watching Jurassic World:

Guys. I’ve waited fourteen years for this. I’ve spent two-thirds of my life waiting for a film that, at many points, looked like it   would never happen. Now it’s finally upon us, and I can almost guarantee that no one you know is more excited than I am.

After that strenuous wait, it finally came: the night of Thursday, June 11, 2015. Entering a local movie theater, with a little over an hour to spare before a 10:40 showing, were a group of twelve excited teenagers – my brothers, plenty of friends, and myself (in my Jurassic Park tee).

Which, as those who have  seen the movie know, is taboo if you work there.

Which, as those who have seen the movie know, is taboo if you work there.

Despite an at-first jarring change of scheduling (some of us had to work early in the morning and theaters don’t really bother with pure midnight premieres), the night went off to a great start. Friends who hadn’t seen each other in a very long time cheered upon meeting again, and after learning that the showtimes we intended to see was already sold out, we quickly found an only slightly later screening at a different (and generally cheaper) theater. And once we finally got there, the hour passed quickly and we secured almost a full row for ourselves with the best seats in the house. The atmosphere was kinetic – you could feel the hype, the stirring and swelling of the crowd’s mood.

Despite what I wrote in my previous post, I tried not to get sucked into that very buzz. Even the most excellent films can be ruined by overly high expectations, and I was not about to let a film for which I’ve been unusually patient fall into that black hole. “Besides,” I figured, “it’s a Jurassic Park sequel. How good could that be?” But once the lights dimmed, the twenty minutes of trailers crawled past, and that familiar music started, I found myself perched at the edge …

Oh yeah. The movie was awesome.

And I never doubted that it would be ... (besides that early script with the raptor mercenary baloney)

And I never doubted that it would be. (… Besides that early script with the raptor mercenary baloney)

The first thing I would talk about is the climax, but that ending must be seen to be believed, so I won’t talk about it. Instead I’ll start by saying I was genuinely ecstatic during the build-up to a full view of the park, featuring that classic John Williams theme, because at long last we got to see John Hammond’s vision finally come to life. Yes, the first movie was all about why that vision could never work out, but that just adds a layer of intrigue to seeing it happen – even if it’s slightly perverse, like watching a forest fire and knowing you can do nothing about it. And yes, we know it’s doomed, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Besides, just look at the place! Instead of taking a rail-guided Jeep tour through different paddocks in the jungle, guests can ride next to sauropods and stegosaurs in giant glass ball things called Gyrospheres. The Jurassic Park Visitor Center was replaced with a state-of-the-art Innovation Center, featuring moving hologram creatures and a digging site for little ones. Speaking of which, the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo is the cutest thing ever you can ride a baby Triceratops and hug a baby Apatosaurus why isn’t this real I don’t care if Velociraptors eat me alive as long as I can live out my childhood dreams like this cute.

cretaceous cruise

But anyone who’s been to Islands of Adventure knows this one is a bad idea.

It’s not just the park itself that’s thrilling: the movie was a lot more engaging than I expected. For starters, it was actually a bit scary. All we knew about the main monster going in was that it was a big meat-eater like the T. rex and that it was going to escape and wreak havoc, both par for the course in this film series. But as the movie goes on and we find out more and more about the Indominus rex, it gets more disturbing. This monster of a dinosaur, created in the lab specifically to be threatening, is a psychotic killing machine with a slew of hidden tricks. My youngest brother said he wouldn’t have been surprised if it sprouted wings and took off with the Pteranodons.

Oh yeah, those guys! Remember Jurassic Park III, when we first see those rats with wings attack? In that one, it was only one rat with wings. As you could see in the trailers, there’s hundreds of them, and they swarm the guests! What was not clear in the trailer was that it wasn’t just the regular Pteranodons, who were freaky enough but at least didn’t have nasty pointed teeth: there’s also Dimorphodons, which do. So you can either get picked up and tossed around by giant flying lizards or get your face bitten off by the same thing, except smaller and with freaking dinosaur heads. The actual attack scene is shocking, especially because it has the most egregiously brutal death in the movie.

Some parts are thrilling in a different way, a more “wow” kind of way. The scene where Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady (how did I go this long without mentioning you?), is first shown training the Velociraptors is so cool. Ever since 1993 we’ve known that species as the smartest, fastest, most vicious monsters on the island. Here we see a guy freaking tame them (kinda). He tells them to lift their heads up, and they lift their heads up! And they just get cooler as the movie continues.

Well, not quite like this.

Well, not quite like this, but you get the idea.

But my favorite “wow” moment, and my favorite scene (besides the climax, seriously, oh my god) was when Zach and Gray, the token children, find a deserted building in the jungles of the park’s restricted area. Having learned nothing from the last time they went somewhere in the park that they weren’t supposed to go (hint: they’re not in a Gyrosphere anymore), they enter and see a spacious room with staircases on the sides. Zach picks up a banner from the floor that reads … “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.”

jp banner

Chills.

They found the Visitor Center. They left Jurassic World and rediscovered Jurassic Park. And for all of us watching, this moment and the whole scene are nostalgically breathtaking.

This kind of reverence for the first film shows that Colin Trevorrow is a total Jurassic Park geek and clearly giddy to be involved in this project. Besides being ridiculously entertaining, his script (co-written with writing partner Derek Connolly) is overflowing with callbacks and nods to the previous films. It’s only been three days and massive articles listing all of them have already been compiled, but I’d just like to name a few personal favorites:

  • The tributes to both the late Richard Attenborough, CBE (a lovely gold statue of his character John Hammond stands in front of the Hammond Creation Lab) and the late special effects wizard Stan Winston (there’s a “Winston’s Cafe” in the boardwalk area)
  • In the beginning, Zach and Gray’s mom tells them to push the green button on their phone when they see it. In the first movie, as Hammond guides Dr. Ellie Sattler into restarting the power, he tells her something like, “Overhead there should be a green button. Push it.” How freaking obscure.
  • The scene with the dying Apatosaurus, a genuinely saddening scene that darkly parallels the introduction of the Brachiosaurus in the first one
  • It’s part of the climax so I can’t say much, but it’s clear where Trevorrow stands on the T. rex vs. Spinosaurus “debate”
That's how you know a true fan.

That’s how you know a true fan: taking this one-minute fight scene way too personally!

Just to prove that I’m not just a corporate stooge paid by Universal Studios to shill Jurassic World (meaning this whole blog was just an overly elaborate scam to convince its few readers to see a film that everyone was already going to see), I will tell you that this movie was not entirely great.

There was this one scene where Claire Dearing (is that her last name?!), Bryce Dallas Howard’s character and the aunt of the token kids, talks with their mother (who spends almost the entire movie weeping) about how she has to spend the day with her nephews. The mother tells Claire that she’ll know the importance of it when she has her own kids. Claire says she’ll never have kids, and her mother has the gall to tell her that yes she will someday. Lady, if Claire doesn’t want kids, she doesn’t want kids. The implication that every woman has a maternal instinct that will push them to have children is, well, prehistoric. And I get that her character arc is about learning to care, both for the dinosaurs in the park and her nephews, but it still bothers me that they had to include that.

Besides that nitpick, I fully accept that this movie is not as good as the first Jurassic Park. It really is yet another bloated, CG-heavy, summer blockbuster full of shameless product placement made solely so Universal could make tons of money off the JP name in this age of sequels and franchising. Every reviewer and critic saying this is so bold and original.

However, just how many movies can be as good as Jurassic Park? Okay, that’s not the best excuse in the world, but it’s clear that Trevorrow and the cast and crew didn’t half-bake this film when they so easily could have coasted on the brand name alone. It’s certainly not Jurassic Park III: these people cared about the property and did their best. It’s got awesome scenes, amazing dinosaur action, Chris Pratt’s magic touch, fun writing, fun acting, and overall it’s just enormously satisfying – at least for a fan like me.

Maybe that’s not a professional opinion. Maybe it is sketchy that the first film’s heroes are scientists and the heroes of this one are a grizzled ex-Navy man, a corporate lackey, and a couple of tourists, as the New York Times points out. Maybe it is a cheap cash-in that’s paid off tremendously. But I entered the movie theater as an eager twenty-year-old and left feeling like I was seven and spoiled, and that’s what matters to me. Those fourteen years of waiting paid off – for me, the people who watched it with me on opening night, the thousands worldwide who gave a total $500 million to the film’s box office winnings in the biggest opening weekend of all time, and, of course, to Universal. Roll around in your money, you greedy punks, you earned it.

Sincerely, RADDman

P.S. A quick public service announcement to the people who have sent snaps on SnapChat of the final fight in this movie: don’t.