Jurassic Park

SH S5E18: Best Practical Effects in Film

SH S5E18: Best Practical Effects in Film
Screen Heroes

 
 
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Visual and special effects in a movie can make or break it. A movie with solid acting that looks terrible might one day become a cult classic, but most of the time, if there’s bad special effects, people are turned off. This week, we take a look at our favorite practical effects in film. What are practical effects? These are special effects created with real, physical objects and no CGI or animation. Practical effects include puppets, robots, scale models, giant moving sets, prosthetics, and more.

What are some of your favorite practical effects? Did we miss anything you think deserved to be on our lists? We want to know!

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Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

A Heroes Podcast Network Production

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rae Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer & Editor
Derreck Mayer

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Flying Killer Robots

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SH S5E18: Best Practical Effects in Film

Age of Reptiles – Review

With all of the fanfare that DC and Marvel are getting these days, sometimes it worthwhile to take a step back and appreciate all the variety that there is to be enjoyed. I admit it, I love a good yarn about Supes, Bats, Deadpool and all of the rest of the “A-listers” but when we get right down to it, I am a creature feature guy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla, Devil Dinosaur…those are my favorites. So enter Age of Reptiles by Ricardo Degalo and published by Dark Horse.Age of Reptiles Vol. 1

This series, which Degalo has painstakingly fleshed out, is an anthology of stories about life in the Mesozoic Era (that’s the time period affectionately known as the “Age of Reptiles/Age of the Dinosaurs” for those who could have spent a little more time paying attention in middle school). At the time of writing this, there are currently four stories out, and each one has been something of an indie comics event.

So what makes these stories worth reading? Well, for one, the art. It is the main reason that you crack one of these open after seeing the cover. Each panel is loaded with detail and you could probably spend an hour looking over each issue. Each page is drawn and colored in fantastic detail, and at the times they have been released, they have reflected the most accurate scientific data on dinosaurs and the world that they lived in.  The other reason that make peak your interest is there is no text.

That’s right, there is no text in these comics. This is not like Homeward Bound, where you can hear the animals’ thoughts. Degalo doesn’t set the stage like that. Dinosaurs obviously did not speak, or think using words, so all of the story, all of the action and personality comes from the reader’s own imagination. Granted, you are lead through a story (more on that in a bit) and this is a testament to what is once again incredible art, but also what could be considered an incredible narration.  This has not gone unnoticed, with the series winning Eisner awards for its creativity. To give an idea of how special this is, the second story in the series was nominated and stood toe to toe with DC’s Kingdom Come in the “Best Limited Series” category. It didn’t win that one, but Degalo did, however, win the award for “ Talent Deserving Wider Recognition”.

Age of Reptiles

 

So what kind of stories can one expect from this collection? Well, going down the line chronologically, the series started with “Tribal Warfare”. In this story, which is a bit more stylized than what came after it, two feuding groups are fighting over a hunting territory. The stars of this story? None other than tyrannosaurs and deinonychus (think Jurassic Park raptors). The first romp is a really fun foray into a project that clearly is a work of passion. The two families are constantly at odds, and this makes for some great action sequences as well as a few moments of dark humor as well.

The second story, called “The Hunt”, revolves around a classic revenge story. For those familiar with their dinosaur names, an allosaur is orphaned after a group of ceratosaurs kill its mother. Luckily for us, the protagonist is no Little Foot, and grows into a monster. What makes this story fun is that our hero dinosaur is chased through his life by a pack of color-changing, horned devil dinosaurs. When he finally comes of age, his tormentors realize that they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

In the third narrative, dubbed “The Journey”, we take a step back from a predatory existence and follow a heard of herbivorous dinosaurs as they travel through the ancient world. I will admit, of the series, this one lags the most – but that is probably because there is less action. This entry could, however, be a bit of a relief from the other entries which are much faster paced. What I will say, however, is that it has arguably the best finale in the series staged between creatures of the land and sea.

The latest story in the series, which has actually just wrapped up is Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians”. In this story Degalo has created a narrative that rivals that of his second in terms of narrative and stakes. Where as in “The Hunt” we followed a predator growing up into a monster, in Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians” we see a fully grown spinosaur acting out on his own. The story, which in my mind reads like Samurai protagonist in a Western plot is fantastic and the art, which in this issue features a lot more interaction around water, is superb.

Age of Reptiles - Ancient Egyptian

At this time, all four collected works are available in a great softcover anthology from Dark Horse that also features a load of extra art. And you can probably request the single issues as well since the run just finished up. Both the first and second stories in the series have had stand-alone softcover treatments, and these are getting scarce.

So there you have it, Age of Reptiles is a great series with a long track record of success. For someone who wants something a little different, or if you are like me, looking for that hidden gem of a creature narrative that does not involve ridiculous plots with monsters chasing people it could very well just what the doctor ordered.

Have you read any  of Ricardo Degalo’s Age of Reptiles series? Comment below with your thoughts!

Age of Reptiles – Review

DragonCon – From a First-Timer

DragonCon, the cosplay convention of the year, or certainly one of the biggest cosplay-centric conventions in the USA. For those who don’t know what it is, DragonCon is a massive, 70,000+ people comic convention held in Atlanta, Georgia with a heavy focus on two things: cosplay and partying. This year’s DragonCon, held last weekend, was the biggest to date, breaking ticket sales records from previous years plus who knows how many other people joined in on the non-official happenings. Now, I’m no noobie to comic conventions. I’ve attended several including my local Planet Comic Con and Blizzard’s BlizzCon in California. With that said, I’m certainly no veteran of the country’s largest shows, having never been to SDCC, New York Comic Con, or C2E2. So please, keep this all in mind as you read my take on DragonCon 2015.

Thor and Star Lord at DragonCon

 

My Expectations for DragonCon

I’m a cosplayer and a nerd. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Futurama, Tron, and DC Comics. So, my hopes were to spend most of the convention cosplaying. I had three cosplays lined up: Green Lantern, Rocketeer, and I was debuting Star Lord. I also wanted to check out the creators, artists, and vendors. I love getting things signed, purchasing prints, supporting small, Indie, or local publishers, and I’m big on swag and collectibles. If time and money allowed, I wanted to meet a few celebrities, specifically those from Star Trek and The CW’s various DC Comics universe shows. I also wanted to check out the parade which features tons, probably hundreds of cosplays, among other exciting features. Finally, there were a couple of parties I was excited to check out in the evenings, especially one at the Georgia Aquarium after hours.

DragonCon Positives

Wasp and Black Widow at DragonConThis convention has so many talented and dedicated cosplayers, truly. I saw some amazing builds including sewing jobs, armor crafting, and unique ways of creating the illusion of a character’s power… like floating on a cloud, for example. It was great seeing so many characters, so many incarnations, and so many unique concepts. DragonCon also hosted some amazingly talented artists and creators. I was lucky enough to meet Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Such fantastic people, and incredibly talented. I was pumped to get my books signed by both of them, plus a couple cool prints. Then, there’s the vendor area, which takes up two floors in America’s Mart. So. Many. Vendors. Seriously, it took hours to walk through it all and all of my willpower to not max out my credit card. You could get everything from action figures and statues, to prints, bookmarks, buttons, pins, replica weapons, clothing, and, of course, Funko POP Vinyls.

Outside of the convention itself, I was able to attend the DragonCon Georgia Aquarium night. Imagine a massive cosplay party with a costume contest, all held in a cool aquarium after hours. Ya-Ya Han hosted the costume contest which was display on a big screen for all to see. Meanwhile, all of the exhibits were open so we were able to see the penguins, dolphins, and even the octopus came out to play, which is apparently rare. Atlanta also has some great food. We hit up the Hardrock Cafe, of course, along with Ted’s Montana Grill (since the one out in KC closed), and Pacific Rim… just in case my sushi was going to be delivered by giant Jaegers. It was not. But still, fantastic food.

Convention aside, being in Atlanta means some sight seeing. We took a ride on their big Ferris Wheel called SkyView and also took the self-guided tour of the World of Coca Cola museum. It was a decent tour that ended with a lot of soda tasting. My personal favorite was Inca Cola from Peru.

DragonCon Negatives

Some Lanterns at DragonConAlright, so I had fun. Truly. It was a good weekend and I’m glad I attended. With that said, I doubt I’ll be back. Why? I just don’t think it’s my scene. My issues break down into the following categories: physical size, population size, primary attendee focus.

Let’s talk about the physical size of this convention. It takes place across half a dozen different hotels. We spent time in the Marriott, the Hyatt, the Hilton, America’s Mart, and didn’t even make it to the others like the Winston. Ever have trouble finding a vendor or panel in a giant convention hall? Try hunting something down when you don’t know which hotel hosts which things or where the hotels are in relation to each other. In retrospect, I should have done a lot more research from a mapping perspective and memorized locations. On top of that, I would not have used the skywalks to get around. Too complicated. City streets are much easier. But due to the straight size of the convention, I never saw the Walk of Fame nor any panels. Additionally, so many guests, creators, vendors, artists, etc. were there that I missed tons of people I would have loved to see or I didn’t realize they were there and didn’t bring things to have them sign.

Black Widow with Mr. DNA at DragonConThen there’s the population size. Yes, I get that this convention does not have a cap on tickets and, yes, I get that’s kind of the point but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Many places are impossible to walk due to too much traffic. People are literally walking into each other. No one wants to bend or move. I was strong armed on multiple occasions because people were just rude or frustrated. The patron to convention official or security ratio also seemed way off. Except when entering a badge-specific area, convention officials were no where to be seen and it’s tough to ask them questions at entrances when they are constantly telling you to keep moving, don’t stop… even when you are clearly walking. There were lines wrapped around buildings with people waiting to get into who knows what. I would cross streets out of my way because entire blocks were completely filled with people in line.

Finally, the convention focus. Now, this does not go for everyone, honestly, but the majority of people at DragonCon are there to party more than anything. Thousands of people were just standing, drinking, in areas that don’t even require a badge. Every night was party after party, people walking back to their rooms to replenish their alcohol, etc. In fact, you could do almost everything I did without a badge. The only times my badge was required was to see the creators and the vendors. The hotel lobbies, streets, and parties don’t require a badge. So how many people were there without a badge just to party and cosplay? Who knows but I’d estimate in the multiple thousands.

DragonCon Conclusion

At the end of the day, I had a good time. I bought tons of art and collectibles, got some stuff signed, and cosplayed. With that said, DragonCon is just not for me. I’m not a party-er. I don’t like to drink, especially while in costume, and definitely not in an atmosphere that warned me on several occasions about badge and wallet thieves. I’m not a fan of the multiple hotel situation where I spend more time walking place to place than I do actually being in those places. I think I’ll focus on attending some more Comic Con-focused conventions like C2E2 or Emerald City Comic Con. With that all said, if you love to cosplay, if you love to party, if you love the absolutely massive crowd, and don’t wish to stick to a schedule to get certain things done, then DragonCon might just be the convention for you. If so, you might want to book your room now. Oh, one bright side to driving from Kansas City meant a quick stop in Metropolis, IL to see the home of Superman. They’ve got some great Man of Steel stuff there including a giant statue and a museum.

Have you ever been to DragonCon? Tell us your thoughts below.

DragonCon – From a First-Timer

Jurassic World – Review

Overview:

Disregarding the events of The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World is a film that takes place over 20 years after the Jurassic Park incident. During this time period, InGen Corporation has regained control of the island and has now opened the park to the public. Despite the success of the park, InGen has tasked their geneticists with creating a bigger, scarier, “cooler” dinosaur called the Indominous Rex. It is believed that this dinosaur will increase park attendance and gain worldwide acclaim.

 

 

 

The Good:

Dr. Wu & Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park

  1. The previous sequels unfortunately relied on characters from the first film to sort of be a “root” for the film. What would happen instead is that that character, or characters, would overshadow the new characters and make the viewer not care about the new characters. In Jurassic World, there are no main characters from the original movie, save for the head geneticist who had only a minor role in Park. This allowed the plot and the new cast of characters to breathe and become their own.
  2. Since Park, every single film has featured animatronic dinosaurs in addition CGI ones. This has most certainly helped the actors give better performances, as well as made the films have a more realistic look. World is no exception, also using animatronics. That being said, CGI has come a long way in the past 20 years. The marriage of CGI and animatronics is nearly flawless, making this one of the best looking Jurassic Park films to date.Injured dinosaur in Jurassic World
  3. Michael Giacchino does a fine job with the musical score, not overly relying on the previous themes established by the legendary John Williams. The original themes are used sparingly and in a meaningful fashion. One particular music cue is used very well toward the beginning of the film.
  4. With a good look and a good sound, this film also proves to have a pretty good plot as well. Coming up with a new dinosaur might seem trite, but it is actually handled quite well and draws the viewers into the movie. In addition to the plot, the characters and their relationships with each other come across as fluid and realistic. You actually care when you see them being chased down by dinosaurs, which is a testament to creating likable characters.Owen and his Raptor gang.
  5. As demonstrated in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt proves that he is a fine fit for action flicks. Pratt plays Owen, a raptor trainer who imprints on the raptors when they are born and serves as the “alpha” raptor. This relationship with the raptors (named Blue, Echo, Delta, and Charlie) is both intriguing and fun, as each raptor seems to have a personality of its own like a dog or a cat.

The Bad:

Jurassic World actually has a couple of plot holes that are fairly minor. In one instance, an InGen head honcho executes a plan that he most likely knew would fail. Then again, corporate executives are rarely portrayed as being very bright. So it is possible that the film was merely reflecting that aspect. In another instance, the two boys’ parents are undergoing a divorce. The film emphasizes the divorce throughout. However, it never really resolves, though it did serve as a decent way for developing the relationship between the two brothers.

Zach and his little brother Gray in Jurassic World.

Conclusion:

It seems the years have been kind in allowing the Jurassic Park franchise to simmer. World has pretty good plot with a good cast. There is plenty of humor, which is surprisingly not too reliant on Chris Pratt. All in all, Jurassic World serves as an entertaining and fun summer blockbuster.

Jurassic World – Review