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Previews of upcoming releases and special screenings

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STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media

Jurassic World

Are you titillated by the prospect of getting up close and personal with a bunch of prehistoric dinosaurs? By pandering to such sensibilities, Steven Spielberg turned “Jurassic Park” into an international blockbuster.

Before Michael Crichton even published his novel of the same name, a quartet of studios succumbed to a bidding frenzy for the screen rights. Eventually, Spielberg, in tandem with Universal Pictures, landed them for a cool $1.5 million.

Crichton was paid an additional $500,000 to adapt his tome. Eventually, David Koepp was hired to provide a final screenplay. He jettisoned much of the original exposition and significantly revised the book’s characters.

“Jurassic Park” was set on the fictional island of Isla Nublar, off the Pacific Coast of Central America. There, billionaire philanthropist, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), had organized a cadre of geneticists. He had a vision of a wildlife park, full of cloned dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong with that innocuous little idea?

The film benefitted from an evocative score by John Williams, top notch C.G.I from Industrial Light & Magic, and the sheer spectacle of seeing full scale animatronic dinosaurs, courtesy of Stan Winston and his crew. It should be noted that post-production work was supervised by Spielberg even as he was shooting daily footage for “Schindler’s List.” Talk about multi-tasking!

“Jurassic Park” received a predominantly positive critical response and garnered numerous awards, largely for its impressive technical achievements.

“Jurassic Park” became model of an effective marketing campaign. It included licensing deals with more than 100 different companies. The marketing campaign for “Jurassic Park” turned a film with a $65 million production budget unto a vehicle that grossed $900 million worldwide in its original theatrical run. This exceeded Spielberg’s prior 1982 mega-success, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Ultimately, “Jurassic Park” became the most commercially successful film in history until “Titanic” came along in 1997.

On its 20th anniversary, “Jurassic Park” was theatrically re-released in 3D. This enabled it to cross the one billion dollar box office threshold, one of seventeen films to ever do so.

“Jurassic Park” spawned two sequels, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III.” Although the critical reaction to the pair of follow-ups was tepid, both films were successful at the box office.

Now comes “Jurassic World,” the fourth film in the series. It’s set twenty-two years after the original “Jurassic Park.” With visitor rates plummeting, the facility comes under scrutiny by corporate honchos. What crazy scheme will they introduce to boost attendance? What will be the consequences?

B.D. Wong plays the only character returning from the prior films. Look for Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, and Judy Greer to round out the new cast.

Opens wide on Thursday night, June 11 on IMAX and 3D. PG-13 (for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril) 124 minutes. Universal Pictures

Live From New York

Since “Saturday Night Live” recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary on television, it is only natural that a documentary about the show would emerge. Taking its title from the program’s opening line, “Live from New York” provides a retrospective assessment of the show and its considerable impact on society.

First time feature film director, Bao Nguyen, has persuaded plenty of cast and crew members to be interviewed for the project. To discuss the show’s early days, creator and long-time producer, Lorne Michaels; early staff writer, Ann Beatts; and original cast member Chevy Chase are on hand.

In addition to show insiders, such pundits as Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, and  Brian Williams offer their observations. Were the filmmakers tempted to excise Williams from the final cut in the wake of the revelations about his unfortunate lapses in verisimilitude? Does the film really need acerbic ideologue, Bill O’Reilly, to introduce an apolitical segment, featuring the late Gilda Radner as Rosanne Rosannadanna? What is the logic to that?

Conspicuously missing from this documentary are Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray, two of the biggest stars of “Saturday Night Live.” While I am not surprised by the absence of the former, I would love to know the reason that the latter didn’t participate.

How will the documentary do at capturing the show’s original anarchic spirit? Will it address the prevailing castigations about the lack of diversity in the show’s cast and writing staff? How about the controversies that arose from some of the show’s most controversial moments? Will it steer clear of Sinéad O’Connor’s celebrated shredding of the Pope’s picture?

How can a film with such an abbreviated running time do justice to a cultural phenomenon that lasted for four decades? Despite these quibbles and the egregious absence of both Murphy and Murray, there are plenty of other talking heads and vintage footage to make this flick worth a gander.

Opens on Friday, June 12 at the Ritz Bourse. No MPAA Rating. 90 minutes

Behind the Line Productions

 

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.

 

 

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