Friday, June 03, 2011

An Andrew Breitbart Story Not True? That's Unpossible!

MC posted this link in my comments section, and I just want to make sure this gets out to more people: Weiner Story Another Breitbart Scam. It's a simple but elegant destruction of Breitbart's claim against Rep. Anthony Weiner, a man that the Right has a hard-on to discredit in any way they can, no matter how clumsy, stupid, and obviously false.

Do your jobs, media.

UPDATE 6/4: James Urbaniak had a good theory, too:

My Weinergate theory as of today is that @patriotusa76 (the original RTer of the famous crotch tweet) is an intimate of an intimate of Weiner’s privy to private data and bent on revenge. He used this data to post an actual photo of Weiner’s crotch onto Weiner’s Twitter/yfrog account. I don’t necessarily think PatriotUSA76 knows the young lady to whom the tweet was ostensibly directed; I think he knows someone else who had previously privately received said crotch shot from Weiner. Which is why both Weiner and PatriotUSA76 are acting like they’re hiding something.

It does make sense.

As of now, I think my official theory is I don't give a shit. Everyone just get back to work.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian 1928-2011

Okay... Dr. Kevorkian died, and you're going to read a lot of religious and right-wing bullshit today about "Dr. Death" and how he was some sort of evil murderer. And though I've never bought into the extreme position of Dr. Kevorkian as a hero, I did respect him as a humanist. This guy's biggest crime was daring to suggest--and put into practice--the idea that people who are lingering in terminal pain should have rights over their own bodies and be able to decide when enough pain is enough. I resent the idea that the government or the medical industry has the final say over how long a terminal patient's life should be. That is a fundamentally personal decision, and the case against Dr. Kevorkian is simply another reminder that government and religion don't want you to think you own your own body. So on that score, Dr. Kevorkian raised some important questions that we still have yet to answer. And that's a service.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

My 20 Favorite Star Trek Characters

Doing this list, I see now that I'm far less attached to the Star Trek universe than I thought I was. Whether that makes this list more interesting or not, I have no idea, but Becca suggested this one, so here we are.

20. Porthos. I haven't seen much of Enterprise, but based on what I have seen, he's by far my favorite character.

19. Saavik. A potentially fascinating character that unfortunately got derailed by a change to a far less interesting actress (your fault, Shatner) and then just dropping her altogether.

18. Captain Garrett. It's a shame she was a one-off. I really thought she was interesting and wanted to know more about her than I ever did about Janeway.

17. Gowron. This character had all of the edges I always wanted Worf to have. Unfortunately, the TNG writers loved having troubled characters instead of interesting ones...

16. Commander Kor. The only truly great Klingon rival for Kirk.

15. Lt. Uhura. What a doll. I wish they could've done more with her, in the show and in the films.

14. Pava. My favorite character from the all-too-short-lived Marvel Starfleet Academy comic book. She was fantastic, though she had a real anger problem. The Trek universe needs more Andorians.

13. Kahless the Unforgettable. I always want to like the Klingons more than I do. Maybe when I rewatch TNG it'll click this time for me. Since there are few Klingons on this list, there's obviously something there.

12. Commander Riker. A stalwart.

11. Lt. Barclay. I could relate to him.

10. I-Chaya. You know I love my sehlats. Shame we never got to see more of them. And I guess with Vulcan destroyed in the new series, we'll never get to. Ah, well, I have the only episode of the animated series I remember liking.

9. Khan Noonien Singh. Crack all the jokes you want, this guy is pure, epic, scenery-chewing magnificence. Not just the best Star Trek movie villain, but one of the best movie villains ever.

8. Sulu. A delight, but extra points for the fun Captain Sulu audio adventures.

7. Number One. She was always intriguing as a character, but she's this high because of the short-lived but very good Marvel comic Star Trek: Early Adventures. I don't care if it wasn't canon, she was a great character and I enjoyed the hell out of the book.

6. Dr. McCoy. Always the voice of passion.

5. Sarek. I just appreciate the Vulcans so much. I always liked Sarek, but he places so high because of that great Peter S. Beagle-written TNG episode.

4. Q. It's probably a cliche now to talk about what a great character Q is, but come on, Q's a great character!

3. Captain Kirk. Well, come on. He's an icon. A more thoughtful approach to the science hero of the 1930s, but still an action hero.

2. Captain Picard. I guess this is the side of the Kirk/Picard debate I fall down on. I just always found Picard a richer, more thoughtful character. It's for a variety of reasons--the different TV landscape in the 80s, Roddenberry being older (hey, on TNG, Kirk is basically first officer, and the captain is more mature). As fastidious, repetitive, and tiresome as TNG could get, I always loved Picard.

1. Spock. Was there any doubt? He's always been the Trek character who resonated with me the most, from the very beginning. Not because I'm emotionless and logical; quite the opposite. I know what he's struggling to keep in check. (Ooh, that sounds overdramatic.) But Spock is probably one of my top 5 favorite fictional characters of all time.

The Other M Stands for Mope

Metroid: Other M would be a thousand times more fun to play without the exhausting cut scenes. They are just Samus moping through a dystopia and narrating long flashbacks about her problematic relationship to men in authority. Dude, I just want to play the fucking game and fight some aliens, alright? I don't need your wannabe Resident Evil narrative.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

If Those Nude Pictures Aren't of Blake Lively...

...then how can she legally demand that every website in the known universe take the pictures off the internet?

I mean, first she says they are "100%" not her, and then she threatens legal action against any website that publishes the pictures.

But, if they aren't pictures of her, she has no legal claim to them.

So... which is it?

My best guess? Another case of a celebrity needing a quick infusion of edge and attention.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

It's cute. It's harmless. These kinds of movies are never as much fun as they should be anymore, but Jay Baruchel's charm makes up for a lot. And I liked a lot of the Disney nods. *** stars.

DJANGO (1966)
Fantastic Spaghetti Western that took me way too long to finally see. This one pulled me in and captivated me. Not necessarily groundbreaking, but very cool. ***1/2 stars.

I liked about half of this horror anthology. "The Telephone" and "The Drop of Water" are very chilling and effective, but the big centerpiece, "The Wurdalak" with Boris Karloff as a vampire, really drags. It's too bad it takes so much time to get going; a little less set-up and I would've been riveted to it, since it's the kind of vampire story I tend to like (a revenant returning to his home after death). But I'm still going with *** stars, because what works works very well. (For me, anyway.)

Interesting docudrama about the 2008 economic collapse. It makes some interesting points--including that we've simply set ourselves up to watch it happen again--but as with most docudramas, it's long on docu and short on drama. Basically, it's an industry full of assholes out to save themselves and their bonuses, and their positions, and casting Hank Paulson as the tragic figure at the center doesn't really resonate for me. (Though William Hurt is good in the role, but he's good in everything.) Still, a very interesting movie. *** stars.

Unwatchable. No stars.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

100 Movie Things

Once I saw this over on Byzantium's Shores, there was no way I couldn't do this. It's not a Top 100 list, but just a collection of 100 things I've loved about movies and experiences I've had, specific and non-specific, for no other reason than just doing it. Right off the top of my head.

1. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book will forever be the first movie I ever went to see with Becca, on Christmas Day in 1994. We had been together for all of five days.

2. Another Disney movie with Becca: The Lion King at a second-run theater. At the time, it was playing with a preview of Pocahontas. Afterwards, Becca said "We'll have to go see that one, too." I was skeptical, having gotten out of a horrible relationship before her. But in the summer of 1995, we did go see Pocahontas, and we've seen many others in the 16 years since.

3. "Water? No thank you, fish make love in it." -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

4. Incidentally, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was the last movie I saw with both of my parents, just before their divorce became final. The only time they both went to the movies with me again was in 2001, when we went to see the unfortunately awful Planet of the Apes remake for my 25th birthday, just three months before I moved.

5. The way my Mom and I used to walk down the aisle at the Fox Valley Theater and look at the posters for upcoming movies.

6. Seeing Patriot Games at a packed theater with a predominantly black audience. When Harrison Ford threatened to destroy the IRA if they had anything to do with his daughter's accident, the audience burst into applause.

7. My first movie memory: Maleficent turning into a dragon in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I've loved animation and dragons ever since.

8. "What color are their hands now?" -- running gag from The Great Muppet Caper

9. Howard Shore's scores to The Lord of the Rings.

10. Many, many summer days as a teenager spent in my room, watching three rented movies a day, back when you could still rent movies somewhere for 49 cents. (Now kids have Netflix. Become film-educated, kids!)

11. Seeing the preview for Independence Day and thinking "This looks like the biggest bullshit ever!" Then seeing it and loving it. And still loving it the other 10 times I saw it.

12. "All the world will be your enemy, Prince-with-a-Thousand-Enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you." -- Watership Down

13. Taking Becca, my mother, and my sister to see the Special Edition of Star Wars and suddenly realizing "Holy shit, I'm going to see Peter Cushing on a movie screen for the first time in my life!"

14. Becca getting very excited like a little kid and grabbing my arm in Lost in Space when the Robot declares "Robot will help his friends."

15. Being so bored that I actually fell out of my seat at Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, then went out into the hall and walked around for a while to combat the numb feeling in my brain.

16. Being so bored during Lara Croft: Tomb Raider that I was actively willing myself to fall asleep.

17. Becca actually screaming in the theater when you see Orlando Bloom's pubes in Troy. People laughed!

18. The Book Light Lady. This wonderful older lady who would sit and read with a book light before the movies started. For several years, Becca and I always used to see her at the movies--and then, mostly fantasy movies and cartoons. I wonder whatever happened to her.

19. Being genuinely surprised when Back to the Future, Part II ended with a cliffhanger.

20. The packed audience laughing when it saw Luke Perry's name in the opening credits of The Fifth Element.

21. Waiting in line with Becca to see The Phantom Menace.

22. Taking my little sister Ellen to see Hercules when she was five. She sighed and tried to put her head on my shoulder, but she was too short. It was very cute.

23. Gizmo.

24. Dakota Fanning in Cherie Currie's corset.

25. Building the Thunder Road in Explorers.

26. The emergence of Darth Vader at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

27. "She will remember you when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits." -- The Last Unicorn

28. The way movie popcorn tasted when I was a little kid. I don't know if it tasted better or if I'm just imagining that it did, but what a treat I used to regard it as.

29. That first wordless half hour of WALL-E. Some of the best establishment of an eerily non-human world I've ever seen.

30. The hype and anticipation leading up to the release of Batman in 1989. I don't think I'd ever been aware of that kind of hype leading into a movie before, and I don't care, I loved it. It was like the 12 year-old version of looking through the Sears Wish Book in the month before Christmas.

31. The moment I knew Jennifer Lopez was going to be a star (however briefly): when she's writing in her journal on the boat at night in Anaconda, and then, hearing the door knock, turned her back to the camera to walk away. Her butt in pajama pants made every single male in the theater audibly gasp.

32. When everyone at our showing of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas walked out, except for one other guy... who was asleep.

33. Dr. Grant putting his head to the triceratops' chest to hear it breathe in Jurassic Park.

34. The dance in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

35. Drew Struzan. And Richard Amsel.

36. "Quick impression: Kaw! Kaw! Bang! Fuck, I'm dead!" -- The Crow

37. Finding the original screenplay Charles Edward Pogue wrote for Dragonheart, and being incredibly disappointed in the movie that was made.

38. Warwick Davis. I just love the guy.

39. Susan Sarandon's liquid heaven voice in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

40. Stop-motion.

41. Phil Tippet, Dennis Muren, and Ben Burtt.

42. Every time Kristen Bell smiles.

43. "Now they will learn why they are afraid of the dark. Now they will know why they fear the night." -- Conan the Barbarian

44. Movies from the 80s. It's the most overlooked decade of filmmaking, but I also think it's underrated. I know, I know, art went home, whatever, there's still a lot of distinct classics from the 1980s.

45. Artoo Detoo.

46. Superman. Still the most perfect superhero movie ever made. And the most sincere.

47. John Williams. Until the mid-nineties, anyway.

48. Steven Spielberg before he died inside--Jurassic Park and almost, almost, everything before.

49. I'm the only person in history that I know of, but I love Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy movie. I loved the insanely ridiculous hype and merchandising, the character posters, the McDonald's game, and the movie itself. It's incredibly flawed, but I've never been able to stop loving it.

50. When movies I hate inspire me to read books I end up loving. (Fight Club is a prime example.)

51. "Mr Homolka: stop eating my sesame cake!" -- Congo

52. Actually managing to run down copies of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II at a video store way back before Anchor Bay made them more widely available. Remember the days when you really had to go and physically search for obscure movies? Long, long before torrents. And I was doing it in the days of VHS! I didn't have to search out revivals or midnight showings!

53. Midnight showings!

54. The moment when Christina Ricci shrugged off her blanket in The Ice Storm and Carl and I shared a look that just said "Holy shit!"

55. When I was 8 and my friends and I used our sisters' jump ropes to tie swords to our backpacks so that we could play Ghostbusters.

56. Digging my own Sarlaac Pit in my Mom's garden.

57. "Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable." -- The Wizard of Oz

58. Brian Henson's Jack Pumpkinhead puppet.

59. The time Becca and I went to see Jurassic Park III on the actual date of my 25th birthday, 17 July 2001. My Mom was out of town and I had my freshman orientation at NIU that day; when I made it back home, Becca and I went to see the movie and had a great time. But the best part of it was this junior high kid. A different kid was trying to open the exit door to let his friends inside for free, and when he went out to get his friends, this junior high kid rushed down the aisle and closed the door, locking out the little juvie. It was hilarious! The dumbass even knocked for someone to let him back in, but no one did. Half the theater was laughing at this dork. Somehow the kid got back inside and, seeing that no one had gotten to the island full of dinosaurs yet, went back to the emergency exit door to open it, walked out to get his friends... and the junior high kid rushed down again and slammed the door shut a second time! I loved that kid!

60. The time Becca and I got to the opening night of Mars Attacks! almost an hour early and decided to wait in the car and listen to music and talk... and then got out of the car only to hear a voice announce on a PA: "MARS ATTACKS! IS SOLD OUT!"

61. The time Carl and I were at a movie, waiting to get in, and I explained that Becca--at the time my new girlfriend--had borrowed my cassette of Danny Elfman's Music for a Darkened Theatre. The young man manning the ticket booth said "Your girlfriend has your tape? It's not yours anymore, son."

62. Seeing Dances with Wolves on Christmas Day with my Mom and sister, beginning a movie tradition that lasted up until 2004.

63. My favorite movie poster of all time.

64. Return of the Jedi: the first movie score album I ever owned.

65. "Jim... your name... is Jim." -- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

66. The Disney logo screen from the 80s and 90s, and the excitement I always felt as it began.

67. The final stand-off in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

68. "This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me!" -- Princess Mononoke

69. My favorite score ever: Conan the Barbarian, by Basil Poledouris.

70. The "I Bring You a Song" segment from Bambi.

71. Willow's song in The Wicker Man, and Christopher Lee's recitation of Walt Whitman.

72. "Love me, fear me, do as I say, and you can have everything." -- Labyrinth

73. "I just want to know... that it's really happening." -- Close Encounters of the Third Kind

74. When I'm watching a horror movie in the comfort and occasional distraction of my own home, and it still manages to scare me. There's a moment in The Descent that actually made me scream in my living room.

75. When the audience burst out in applause at the title of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. It was the most enjoyable moment in an extremely shitty movie.

76. When a trailer fills you with delicious anticipation. Even if the movie ends up being terrible, there's nothing like the excitement of a movie trailer. Currently, that's how I feel about Green Lantern.

77. The opening credits of Watchmen. And the performances in Watchmen... basically, every single thing about Watchmen.

78. The word of mouth on Pulp Fiction. That movie was allowed to build and build and build its audience. A small movie that came seemingly from nowhere, I went to see it on the strength of Roger Ebert's review, and I absolutely loved it. So did a lot of people. Every single time I went to see it in the theater, it was packed. And it was still out in theaters months later. It used to be so very different. Can you imagine a movie coming out in August today and still packing in audiences in January? Today it would be out on DVD by October.

79. That Terry Gilliam refuses to give up, despite how little Hollywood cares about backing him (even though they rip him off endlessly).

80. Roller Girl.

81. Kat Dennings, the perfect ideal of the high school girlfriend, in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

82. Gandalf's description of the white shores and far beyond, a green country under a swift sunrise.

83. "Lo there do I see my father. Lo there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they do call to me, they bid me take my place among them, in the Halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever." -- The 13th Warrior

84. The best part of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves being released: TBS playing a 24-hour marathon of the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood.

85. The screen's longest attempted trip down the stairs in Laurel & Hardy's Block-Heads.

86. Seeing a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Billy Joe's Pitcher Show in Des Moines, IA, a theater that served food and alcohol at tables long before the idea of premium theaters became as big as it is now. I was 16 years old. There was only one guy in the place who knew all of the audience participation bits, and he totally freaked out my cousin. I asked her if we could come see Heavy Metal the next week, but she said no.

87. My Dad taking me to task for wasting my time and money seeing Jurassic Park at the movies 13 times, only to have my Grandma say: "Oh, you're just like your Dad was when he was 16! I think he must've seen Billy Jack 13 times! We drove across the country to California to go to Disneyland, and then the very night we got back the only thing he wanted to do was borrow the car so he could go to the drive-in and see Billy Jack!" I miss you, Grandma.

88. That moment in Foxes when Cherie Currie pukes blood into the oxygen mask... it destroys me every god damn time I see it.

89. "Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada." -- The Last Starfighter

90. The frog-dog. Thanks to James Woods in The Hard Way, I've put French fries on my hot dogs since 1991.

91. Hayden Panettiere's silly Southern accent in Lies My Mother Told Me: "'d'I bust in on sumthin'?"

92. An audience member walking out of There Will Be Blood literally 8 minutes before the end of the movie, yelling out "This movie sucks!" and Becca yelling back at him "Go fuck yourself!"

93. "I'll be right here." -- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

94. Tombstone: the perfect pulp B-movie Western.

95. The Battle of Normandy scenes in Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg's last great achievement, which makes a point he spends three unfortunate hours constantly reiterating with a half-baked rip-off of every Samuel Fuller movie he hasn't already ripped off up to that point.

96. Every courtroom scene in Inherit the Wind.

97. Haku remembering his real name in Spirited Away.

98. Rodney Dangerfield's obvious stunt double doing the Triple Lindy in Back to School.

99. My favorite Disney moment ever: Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles singing "The Three Caballeros."

100. Helen Mirren.

Again, 100 off the top of my head. I'm sure I could think of 100 more, but not right now. I'm exhausted!

Happy 50th Birthday, Lea Thompson!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Song of the Week: "Give Peace a Chance"

Why not, eh?

Jurassic Park

Friday, on a whim, Becca and I watched all three of the Jurassic Park movies. I don't think I'd really seen any of them in several years, but I was kind of excited about revisiting the first one.

Jurassic Park came out in the summer of 1993. That was the summer I turned 17, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and I was incredibly excited to see it. I had read the novel for extra credit in my biology class (a re-take; I missed some important parts of freshman bio a couple of years earlier when I got incredibly ill and missed almost an entire month of school), and was actually a big fan of Steven Spielberg at the time. Add to that the fact that I had loved dinosaurs since before I could say the word, and I was on pins and needles for the movie. I saw it 13 times over that summer.

Looking at the movie now, I can still feel some of that sense of excitement. The memories just sort of came flooding back at how much of an event this movie was. In a large way, it's the kind of event movie that doesn't exist anymore, and hasn't for a very long time. There was something mysterious about it, something you just had to experience. There was a pull to it that, sure, was largely hype, but for a 16 year-old, seeing Jurassic Park was less a decision and more of an imperative. In those days before the pervasiveness of the internet and the professional trolls shitting on everything and before DVDs and torrents it was something you just had to do, or else you'd just be left out of this cultural event.

I think the movie still holds up, for what it is. It's a lot less glorious to look at now that I'm 34 and can see a lot of the narrative weaknesses. They took a novel that had long passages of ethical debate and turned into an old-fashioned science scare monster movie. I tend to respond poorly to science scare movies; I think a lot of the points raised in Jurassic Park about ethics are imbecilic and poorly argued. The most egregious moment, for me, is when Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm takes Park impresario John Hammond to task because his team "didn't earn the knowledge for themselves" but simply read what others had done and expanded on it. Which is, for rational people, how professional science works. Otherwise, what is the point of a scientific conference? Malcolm, a scientist, certainly did the same in pursuit of his PhD at some point. The argument is so weakly constructed that Spielberg and company make me wonder if they're actually saying that every scientist must first discover the secrets of fire before embarking on a scientific career.

There are a lot of the Spielbergian weaknesses in the movie, too: the preoccupation with divorce, the accentuation of simple moralism over thoughtful ethic, the simplistic delineation of good and evil professions, the redemption of the well-meaning but unfathomable father figure. A lot of it is simply window dressing to the real point of the movie, which is the special effects. For the most part, the dinosaur effects don't look dated; they still hold up. That first look at the brachiosaurus is full of as much wonder as it was in 1993 (in large part because of one of the last John Williams scores that I truly love), and the velociraptors are just as terrifying. The tyrannosaurus rex is one of the great movie monsters, full of nature's power and fury. As a narrative on the ethics of science, it falls pretty flat, but as a suspense movie, it still works.

Jurassic Park is, to me, the last time Spielberg was really Spielberg. The Spielberg of my childhood, who made fun and touching and funny movies about aliens and Indiana Jones. After this, he basically crawled up his own asshole.

As much as I still enjoyed--not loved, but enjoyed--Jurassic Park, I don't care much for its first sequel, The Lost World. In fact, I think I enjoyed it less this time than I ever did. It's just such an ineffectual movie that exists for no other reason than to make money. The book is pretty much the same way. I remember trying to read The Lost World when it was originally released. After reading Jurassic Park (and then The Andromeda Strain) in high school for bio extra credit, I ended up reading most of Michael Crichton's books after that. I was a fan of his by the time The Lost World came out, and I was working at Barnes & Noble by that time, so I took my copy right home the day it came out and... it was awful.

It was a terrible, ineffectual book that felt like a chore to read. It flew by, but nothing stuck. I was turned off immediately because the main character was Ian Malcolm, who died in the first book but not in the movie, and whose return to life was basically given no explanation at all. (At the end of the first book, it's explicitly stated that the Costa Rican government, who are holding most of the characters under a sort of house arrest, refuses to bury Malcolm's body.) At the time, it was pretty well-publicized that Ian Malcolm was going to be the main character in the book because Jeff Goldblum was the only actor willing to star in a sequel film. So Crichton gives us some guff about Malcolm mistakenly being declared dead several times, and winking that he was "only mostly dead" (ugh), and basically trying unsuccessfully to justify Malcolm's existence all the while knowing he can't, because the decision is purely commercial. The entire book, which is nigh unreadable, seems cynically designed to be a Steven Spielberg movie, right down to the plucky young people.

It's obvious both the novel and film exist because of commercial pressures. Crichton and Spielberg are both bowing to the great commercial idea that, if something makes scads and scads of money, you just have to keep dipping into the well. The thing is, neither of their hearts seem to be in it.

Ironically, despite Crichton bending over to tailor his novel to become something Spielberg would make into a movie, the film itself almost completely departs from the novel. It's cynical and commercial in its own way. It's got the usual Spielberg characters (although the inherently evil rich guy who wants to profit off of technology run rampant seems a little more self-loathing than usual), but completely misses the suspense of the first movie. Things just happen in a series of action set pieces punctuated by occasional wisecracks and half-hearted pronouncements about environmentalism, and there's also a mean-spirited parody of the great Dr. Robert T. Bakker (who didn't care for the first movie), and occasionally cinematographer Janusz Kaminski gets in some truly effective shots (like the velociraptors in the tall grass).

The scenes in San Diego, with a rampaging T. rex... well, I enjoy that part. It's really the only place the filmmakers can go at that point. It's the last untouched set-up for dinosaur action, and it seems to be the only time Spielberg is actually enjoying his movie. I know that's the most criticized scene in the film, but why? It's the only time the filmmakers let themselves go. It's the only cinematic segment of the damn movie.

That brings us to the third movie, Jurassic Park III. I actually like this movie best. First off, Spielberg didn't direct it, even though it does feature one of the most Spielbergian tropes of all time: the divorced couple who go through an improbable tribulation which only teaches them how important their marriage really was. All the genetically-engineered dinosaurs in the world are basically just there to provide object lessons about how awful it is that women want divorces. At least in Spielberg's mind...

But the lack of Spielberg's attachment to this movie means two things. First, that we don't have to see him in any more interviews gassing on about "scientific eventuality," trying his damnedest to flee the "science fiction" label. And second, that after two films ridiculously asking the kind of "Are there things in God's creation that man is not mean to change?" questions that would embarrass even Nathaniel Hawthorne, we can finally just relax and enjoy a chase film with dinosaurs.

Joe Johnston, a director I always like, just made a damn monster movie. Finally.

And yes, there's still the half-hearted imprecations of ethics in science, but here those are what they're supposed to be: background to make the characters seem more real while they try to get from point A to point B without being eaten by various species of dinosaurs. This movie even goes one step further and ups the stakes, as sequels are supposed to. The Lost World gave us two rexes instead of one; Jurassic Park III gives us the spinosaurus, which is bigger and deadlier than the T. rex (and, in a great moment, the filmmakers press the point home by having the spinosaurus meet the biggest badass from the first two films and dispatching him handily).

So, where the first movie was clumsy and the second movie was only made for commercial reasons, it's the third movie that I've always enjoyed the most. It's the only one that doesn't feel like it was made to showcase effects or make another truckload of money; although both of those factors certainly went into the decision to make a third film, it's the only one that feels like the filmmakers remembered that an audience would also want to enjoy the movie, too.

Jurassic Park III isn't a great film, but it's an awfully fun one.