Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The True North Strong And Snarky

"Come now, gentlemen. We must all stand together. Look to what's happening south of our borders. That's what happens when you have a weak federal government. Do you want to go down the path to reality shows about the Jersey Shore and 24 hour newscasts and yelling at each other to no end? I know I don't. No, George, I don't know what a newscast is. The word hasn't been invented yet." ~ John A. Macdonald, at the Charlottetown Conference, September 1864

"Sorry." ~ uttered by every single Canadian at least five thousand times in the course of a lifetime

"We have a reputation for being overly polite. I don't know where that comes from, and I'm sorry if you were offended by our reputation." ~ Wilfred Laurier, 1898

"You are a big country. You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab." ~ Robin Williams

"....and then there was the time my grandfather's ghost told me I should go back into politics. Hmmm, I should probably make sure this journal is burned upon my death. Wouldn't want anyone to think I was eccentric." ~ from the journal of William Lyon Mackenzie King

"You can't buy happiness, but you can live in Canada, and that's pretty much the same thing." ~ old Canadian proverb

"What I felt they should have done for our first public works project is build a giant wall, across the entire border of Canada, because that's where the cold air comes from." ~ Lewis Black 

"Things are pretty good in Canada. We weathered the recession pretty well. And of course we're watching American news and we're constantly saying, 'wow, it's not as bad as it is in the United States.'" ~ Rick Mercer

"You're not a true Canadian until you've apologized for saying sorry too much." ~ old Canadian proverb

"I had tracked him through the canyons. Around the bogs. Up through the cold rapids of the mountain rivers. Along ridge lines and down in valleys. At the summits of high country passes. Every step of the way I could feel his panic as I closed in. Finally, there he was, cornered in Tombstone Canyon, nowhere to go. He turned, saw me, started shivering in fear. I advanced on my quarry, the man I had spent five days in pursuit of. He was an entertainment reporter with Access Hollywood. And the whole pursuit had all started with him asking why Metallica had skipped out on the royal wedding.  It ended with him in a body cast in hospital for the next six months." ~ from the journals of Lars Ulrich

Tomorrow is Canada Day here north of the border. It has been my habit in recent years to spotlight specific places in the country on Canada Day, one from each province and territory. Some I have been to, others are yet to come.

The Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, Nova Scotia

St. Dunstan's Basilica, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Fort Howe National Historic Site, Saint John, New Brunswick

Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse, Quebec

Woodside National Historic Site, Kitchener, Ontario

Nopiming Provincial Park, Manitoba

Batoche National Historic Site, Saskatchewan

Qaummaarviit Territorial Park, Nunavut

Tuktut Nogait National Park, Northwest Territories

Coal River Springs Territorial Park, Yukon

Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta

Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Dragon Boats Upon The River

As I am busy over at my photoblog with a series on Doors Open, I have a post here today on last weekend's Dragon Boat Festival here in Ottawa. In its twenty fifth year, the event takes place down at Mooney's Bay, a wide stretch of the Rideau River where the river and the Rideau Canal part ways for the last time as they both head through the city core towards their end. This view of the bay is from the bridge crossing to the north- dragon boats were being rowed into position after a race.

This is a regular feature here at the bay, a pirate boat which goes out sailing regularly and hosts, among other things, children's birthdays.

The park area was busy, with many teams under shelters in between times out on the water. Spectators were taking in the events, and parents had their children out in the large playground that is here.

Here we have some of the teams at rest. This is a big event, raising money for charities, and bringing in  teams from near and far for the weekend.

Here we have a view of the bay. One of the teams was rowing their way upstream to get into place.

The calm before a race. This was as far as I could go- I imagine the fellow on the dock was an official photographer with the organization that puts this event together each year. This is thought to be the largest such event of its kind in North America, with over two hundred rowing teams involved during the course of the four day event.

And they were off, rowing their hearts off down a two hundred metre stretch to the finish line.

With one race done, another set of dragon boat racers were heading off towards their place at the start line.

There were some unusual characters out and about in the park, including members of a local Star Wars cosplay group- Imperials in this case.

The park is dominated by a large hill overlooking the water. I went up to the top and got in views of the bay and the surrounding area. A stage is set up for concerts in the evenings during the festival.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Pleasant Excursion To The Island

“These creatures were here before us. And if we’re not careful, they’re going to be here after. Life cannot be contained. Life breaks free. Life… finds a way.” ~ Ian Malcolm

“The man who proved raptors can follow orders. You never thought how many millions a trained predator might be worth?” ~ Eli Mills

“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur? First time you see them, it’s like… a miracle. You read about them in books,  you see the bones in museums, but you don’t really… believe it. They’re like myths. And then you see… the first one alive.” ~ Claire Dearing

“If I don’t make it back, remember, you’re the one who made me come here.” ~ Owen Grady

The fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, and the second in a planned Jurassic World trilogy, has hit theatres. The film series, about science stepping over a moral line in resurrecting dinosaurs through cloning, has been a thrill ride ever since, weaving between reptilian terror and the ethical question of where the line between right and wrong is. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom reunites the stars of the previous film for another round of dinosaur mayhem, while bringing in a fresh director to handle the project.

Three years after the events of the previous film, Senate hearings are underway, as the abandoned Isla Nublar is facing impending destruction because of volcanic activity, and the question remains- should the dinosaurs be rescued? Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role) feels that nature is correcting the mistake made in cloning the animals. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), former operations chief at Jurassic World, has founded a group called the Dinosaur Protection Group and is advocating saving the animals. She is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his assistant Eli Mills (Rafe Spall); Lockwood was once partners with the late John Hammond, and offers a new island as a sanctuary for the animals. Claire must bring in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the former raptor wrangler, to aid in the efforts to save the dinosaurs. It doesn’t take long for volcanic eruptions and hidden agendas to assert themselves.

Director Colin Trevorrow took writing duties this time out, due to return for a final film in the trilogy as director. The story, crafted with Derek Connolly, who worked with Trevorrow and others on Jurassic World, continues the tradition of the franchise’s mixing of wonder, terror, and the ethical debate of science. It’s familiar ground by now, this being the fifth film of the series, and while it might seem dinosaurs living in the present might well have lost their sense of wonder by now, the story still maintains the tension and dread when things go inevitably wrong (as they always seem to do when you’ve got a plan involving dinosaurs).

Trevorrow and Connolly’s script not only works off that tension, but it uses the characters to frame that ethical debate. Just because we can do something, does that mean we should? Some of the characters are quite firm in their moral code on the matter, while others only see their own ambitions, driven by their own greed and self-interest. Those are qualities that often come back to haunt the individual in these films, and that certainly applies here. One might even say it’s a statement at the state of the world today.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona has come on board to helm this film. He would best be known to American audiences for his disaster film The Impossible, and some of his work at home includes horror. He has the experience then for something on this scale, an epic that still grounds itself in its characters. The CGI mix of dinosaurs with locations has already been well established in the franchise; the animals have a real look that makes them blend seamlessly in with everything else. We are a long way past the stilted awkwardness of Ray Harryhausen effects, and this franchise has been a big part of that push forward. Bayona paces the film well, with the first half coming across as a disaster film before weaving into what feels like a haunted house scenario with the second half.

The cast is diversely chosen, some returning from previous films, others new to the franchise. B.D. Wong has previously appeared as the geneticist Doctor Wu, the man most responsible for the cloning of dinosaurs in the first film. The actor plays the role as cold, clinical, detached, and amoral, a scientist who’s more concerned with his ego and his accomplishments than the wisdom of whether or not something should be carried out. Justice Smith makes his debut as Franklin Webb, a computer technician for the old theme park who’s become a specialist for the Dinosaur Protection Group. He is brought in on the endeavor, and the actor gets some of the comic relief of the story. Daniela Pineda plays the capable Zia Rodriguez, a former Marine who’s become a paleoveterinarian for the group. She’s tough and resourceful, and the actress plays to that in her performance. Isabella Sermon appears as the pre-required kid (there's always a kid in these films) in peril- Maisie Lockwood, granddaughter of the benefactor, and keeps her cards close to the proverbial vest in her performance, as there is more to her than meets the eye.

Rafe Spall is an English actor, the son of Timothy Spall, and he’s done work in television and film on both sides of the Atlantic. He gets to play the villain this time out, the ambitious executive with plans of his own and little in the way of ethics. Seemingly pleasant at first, he’s of the sort who keeps his agenda hidden and his malice concealed, but it’s there. The character seems to think he’s doing the right thing, which is an interesting angle in a movie. James Cromwell, the well-known character actor, appears as Benjamin Lockwood, a former associate of John Hammond who’s seemingly benevolent in his intentions, but hides secrets of his own and ignores the dark side of his associates. Cromwell has played both good and bad people before- this is a mix of both elements. Ted Levine, who's played many a nasty person in his career, gets to chew the scenery as the mercenary team leader Wheatley, throwing his weight around and serving the interests of his employer. And Toby Jones, the character actor, plays an unscrupulous auctioneer.

Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in the first two films of the franchise, isn’t as heavily involved this time out, but is still a welcome sight to see (perhaps Sam Neill might reprise his Alan Grant one more time?). Ian Malcolm is of course a chaos theory academic with some personal experience with dinosaurs from the first two films, and Goldblum’s take is much the same. Ian is older now, but still as charming, still as irreverent, and still as principled- he draws a line in the sand, adheres to an ethical code, and expresses most strongly the moral dilemma of the story.

Bryce Dallas Howard has already played Claire Dearing in Jurassic World, and returns with the character in a very different place. She has gone from being operations manager in a dinosaur theme park with all the responsibilities therein to seeing that all come apart in the previous film. The character has learned lessons from that, and changed her world view, heading a group dedicated to protecting the animals. She plays Claire as sympathetic, having had taken hard lessons to heart, and become more of a principled person because of it.

Chris Pratt returns as the affable, capable Owen Grady, once a trainer to the velociraptors in the theme park. Having had managed to establish a working relationship with the predators, the experience also taught Owen respect for their nature, and it’s that previous relationship that drives him to join the rescue effort. Pratt plays the character with a combination of laid back humour at times, focused dedication at others, but always resourceful. He and Howard have an easy going chemistry that builds on their character’s established histories, and the two make for likable leads.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom appears to be the second to last of the franchise, with one more film coming. It certainly leaves things off in a way that points to the future of the films, though I do think the studio would be wise to leave it at that afterwards. We’ve gotten ourselves so used to the wonder of the dinosaurs brought back to life onscreen that it all seems quite familiar. The film maintains that ethical debate of the morality of generating life without heeding the consequences, framing that debate with the terror of plans gone terribly wrong and the mayhem of dinosaurs on the loose. All in all, it’s an entertaining new chapter for the series.