At The Movies: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Oh, you “Jurassic Park/World” movies. So many stupid, stupid moments. So many cardboard characters. So many action sequences that go far beyond the limits of reason or patience. So many repeated bits. So many plot holes.

But I love them dinosaurs SO MUCH.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the sixth film in the franchise, and the second since the successful reboot of the series back in 2015. The action quota is high, the logic quota is low, the leads are still charismatic, the dinosaurs are plentiful but don’t get enough screen time.


A volcanic eruption is about to destroy the Central American island of Isla Nublar, home of the former Jurassic World theme park and the cloned dinosaurs that were its major attraction. When the island goes up in flames it will mean the second extinction for dinos.

Trying to head that off is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), former theme park manager who is now a dinosaur rights activist. When the U.S. government fails to intervene (although I’m not sure why the U.S. government would have any say in what goes down at a private island in Central America), Dearing is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell).

Lockwood is the former partner of John Hammond, creator of the original Jurassic Park. Funny how we’ve never heard of this person before now, but he wants to rescue whatever dinosaurs he can and take them to his own private island. To do so, he requires the assistance of Claire and her former boyfriend/co-star from the previous film — dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

But Lockwood’s business manager, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), has other plans for the prehistoric creatures.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” delivers everything you’ve come to expect from the franchise:

  • People making really, really dumb decisions (I think I’ll crawl in bed instead of running away from the dinosaur; I’m going to open this cage with the killer carnivore and try to extract one of his teeth — I’m sure he won’t wake up). I could go on…
  • Our heroes being saved at the last minute from a dinosaur by a bigger dinosaur (or a smaller but more aggressive raptor)
  • Genetically modified super-dinosaurs. Because real dinosaurs aren’t cool enough
  • Cartoonish bad guys eaten by dinosaurs. Good guys surviving so they can cash another check for “Jurassic World 3.”

If you’re good with that, you’ll be good with this.





On Stage: Diana Krall

The latest stop of the “See Them Before They Die Tour” that we are currently embarking on featured jazz artist Diana Krall. Now, you may think that Krall isn’t really old enough to worry about her dying any time soon, but then that’s what we thought about Tom Petty — so better safe than sorry.

For those of you who are not jazz aficionados — and judging from the amount of blank stares I got from people when I told them I was going to see Diana Krall, there are a lot of you out there —  Krall is a jazz singer/pianist who has won a lot of awards and sold a lot of albums and you should really be ashamed of yourself if you’ve not heard of her.


She’s also married to Elvis Costello, which is neither here nor there, but it’s what I bring up when I get the blank stare, in the hopes that the person I’m talking to isn’t totally culturally inept. If you give me the blank stare when I mention Elvis Costello, then I really want to punch you in the face — but then I realize that going through life unaware of the music of Elvis Costello is really punishment enough.

The concert was Friday night downtown at the Peabody Opera House. Rather than make Laurie drive back to St. Charles and then back downtown we decided, since Bob was already watching Andrew for the day, to just let him keep watching Andrew through the evening and I would take the MetroLink downtown and we’d have a nice, leisurely dinner and a show. As opposed to the usual scarf down a Little Caesar’s pizza and rush off to the show.

Bob and Laurie were concerned about me taking mass transit (people get shot on MetroLink on a regular basis) but I figured it was daylight and there was a ballgame going on so I would be safe. Laurie would take me back to the car after dark. The train ride was uneventful.

We had a nice, leisurely dinner at Bailey’s Range — a burger joint with a unique atmosphere. It also had a winding staircase that I didn’t care for, but the food was good. We then made our way to the Peabody. I had never been there before. It’s a lovely venue with far too many stairs, especially when your seats are in the mezzanine. I don’t mind the mezzanine, but I do mind the climb. The seats were uncomfortable and there was no leg room but that seems to be the curse of all entertainment venues in St. Louis that are not movie theaters.

Hey concert venue owners, movie theaters have begun a trend of ripping out their crappy seats and replacing them with leather recliners. Take a hint. Maybe if people had comfortable chairs they wouldn’t feel compelled to stand during the show and obstruct everyone’s view.

The show started promptly at 8:12 (it was supposed to start at 8) and Krall and her impressive 4-man band played an energetic, captivating set filled with standards and more eclectic stuff. In standard jazz fashion, Krall would sing a verse or two and then things would meander musically between the five players. They did a blistering version of Tom Wait’s “Temptation” that went on forever. (Literally. I think they’re still playing it as you’re reading this).

The highlight of the show (at least for Laurie, as it’s her favorite Krall song) was a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which somehow managed to incorporate Scott Joplin’s “Solace” while making perfect musical sense. It was accompanied by a neat lighting effect that really made the staging stand out.

So, to sum up: Didn’t die on the train, fine dinner, excellent show, nice venue, too many stairs, not enough leg room. I can cross “Diana Krall” off my list although I suspect we will be going back to see her again the next time she comes to town.



At The Movies: Incredibles 2

I’ve seen pretty much all the Pixar movies (I did draw the line at “Cars 3”) and my favorite of the bunch is “The Incredibles.” Brad Bird’s loving take on superheroes is funny, clever, touching, beautifully animated and action packed.

Fourteen years later, Bird and company are back with “Incredibles 2.” While it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, it’s still funny, clever, touching, beautifully animated and action packed.

Picking up where the original left off, the super-powered Parr family —  Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack — face off against the evil Underminer (John Ratzenberger). The villain escapes but not before doing substantial property damage. The family is quickly arrested because, you should recall from the first film, operating as a superhero is illegal.


The Parrs are given a slap on the wrist and sent home, where their government handler tells them he can’t help them anymore and they will lose their home in two weeks.

Things are looking bleak until Bob and Helen — along with super friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) — are invited to meet with siblings Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener). The Deavors want to make supers legal again, and they are rich enough, connected enough, and media-savvy enough to do it.

The plan hinges on Elastigirl, the most appealing and least destructive of the three, to win back public confidence in superheroes. But while Helen is busy stopping train wrecks and fighting the mysterious Screenslaver, Bob faces the incredible task of dealing with new math, a heart-broken teenager, and an out-of-control super baby.

“Incredibles 2” is another family friendly wild ride. The action scenes rival anything live-action superhero movies can pull off. The train sequence with Elastigirl is, well, incredible. And you can always clearly see what’s going on, unlike your typical DC fight scene.

The movie also has plenty of humor and heart, as usual. It’s lost a little of its freshness, 14 years later, and the plot isn’t as strong. If you haven’t figured out who the villain is long before Elastigirl does, you’re just not trying.

But the criticisms are minor. “Incredibles 2” may not be as incredible as the first one, but it’s still incredibly entertaining.

Oh, the movie is preceded by the short film “Bao.” It’s the strangest and kinda creepiest of the Pixar shorts.

At The Movies: Hotel Artemis

Every couple of months a movie comes along that’s heavy on violence, heavy on style, light on substance and a fair amount of fun. If that’s what you’re looking for this weekend, check into the “Hotel Artemis.”

The story is set in a dystopian near-future where the city of Los Angeles is in a constant state of rioting. The one oasis of calm in this raging storm is the heavily fortified Hotel Artemis.

But there’s a catch. It’s not really a hotel, it’s a hospital. And it doesn’t serve the general public, it serves criminals. Criminals with membership privileges.


The place is owned by L.A.’s top gangster, The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), and run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster, looking far more ragged than ever before). Her top assistant and enforcer is an orderly named Everest (Dave Bautista).

Much like the hotel for hitmen in “John Wick,” the Artemis survives by adhering to a series of strict rules. The movie covers an unusually hectic and possibly climactic night for the hotel. During the course of which many of the rules will be broken.

Among those seeking medical assistant this night are a pair of brothers whose robbery just went bad (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry), a highly skilled assassin (Sofia Boutella), the Wolf King himself, oh, and a cop (Jenny Slate).

I did mention that the rules would be broken.

“Hotel Artemis” is harmless, violent, goofy fun. It’s not a great film and it’s not as flashy or clever as it wants to be — but it’s a decent diversion. It’s helped immensely by the team of Foster and Bautista. She’s compelling as the shuffling, weary healthcare provider and he’s equally entertaining as her helper.

The movie clocks in at a wonderfully brief 93 minutes. In these days when everything seems to be a bloated 2-hour-plus blockbuster, it’s nice to see that people can still make movies that get to the point and move on. There’s not a lot of plot here, so there’s no reason to drag things out.

Lewis & Clark Meet The Star-Lord

Dear Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau:

I’m about to give you a multi-million dollar idea. You’re welcome.

I would’ve written earlier but I didn’t find out about this until last week and last week I was busy writing about other things.

Are you aware that Peter Jason Quill, aka Star-Lord, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, was born right here in beautiful St. Charles, Missouri? I wasn’t aware of it myself until recently, and since I don’t know what the nerd quota is on the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, I figured I should make you aware.


This is BIG. We can’t ride on Lewis and Clark’s coattails forever. It’s past time for St. Charles to get its tourism mojo out of the 19th century and aim for the stars.

And this is totally legit. Historians argue about whether or not L&C really began their journey in St. Charles. No one is questioning that when Peter Quill was sucked up into a spaceship as a child, he was in St. Charles when it happened.

How can we cash in on this pop culture gift from Marvel Comics? Pay attention.

1. We Need A Statue

Aren’t you tired of living in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch and all that bragging about it being the “Gateway to the West?” St. Charles is now the “Gateway to Knowhere,” baby. That is so much cooler.

And aren’t you tired of St. Louisans always acting like they’re better than we are?  You know who the native son superhero of St. Louis is? The Whizzer.  That’s right. A character so lame that he appeared as a crazy person for about 10 minutes in “Jessica Jones” season 2 before they killed him.

In pop culture terms, we are totally kicking St. Louis’ ass now. But only if we act on it.

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Look, that Lewis, Clark and Seaman statue in Frontier Park is great. It’s huge, people flock to it and have their photos taken with it. It’s a landmark you put in all the brochures. I’m sure it was worth every cent we paid for it.

Now, imagine if we put up a statue of someone people cared about.

A giant-size Star-Lord statue would bring in the masses. Have you been to Comic-Con? Have you seen the crowds? People would love it. Plant a tree next to it and name it Groot. Find a friendly taxidermist in town and pay him to keep up a steady supply of life-like Rocket Raccoons. I’m practically giving you a license to print money.

You may be thinking, “A statue to honor a fictional character? How stupid is that?”

Have you been to Metropolis, Illinois? Or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the Rocky Balboa statue? Or Fargo, Wisconsin, home of the Marge Gunderson statue? Or Detroit, Michigan, home of the Robocop statue? And do I even have to mention that Star-Lord’s movies have probably made more at the box office than all those other characters combined? (well, at least Fargo and Robocop)


2. Star-Lord Fest

By last count, St. Charles hosts 600 festivals a year on the riverfront. Why not one more?

I guarantee you, “Guardians of the Galaxy Days” would draw far more people to St. Charles than Lewis and Clark Days. Or the Irish Festival. Or Oktoberfest. Or MOsaics. Or the Ice Carving festival. Maybe not as many people as the Festival of the Little Hills or Christmas Traditions. But who knows? It might.

Aren’t we a little tired of all the olde tyme stuff? Who doesn’t want to see Main Street filled with women painted green? Or men with blue skin and red fins on their heads? Or furries in raccoon suits? The possibilities are endless.

You could even make it partly a music festival. Bring in some classic rock cover bands to perform on the stage in Frontier Park (You could probably get KSHE to sponsor it). Or heck, get the original artists if they’re still alive. Many of them would probably appreciate the exposure.

And who knows, maybe you could get Chris Pratt to come to town for the festival. James Gunn might be up for it.

OK, St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the ball is in your court — because God knows nothing I write here is ever going viral — so make this happen.

cc: St. Charles Chamber of Commerce





Duet: A Star Wars Story (kinda) III

Episode 3: More Margaritas

It’s long been established that I have a pretty great family. Any normal family would’ve tossed me in a sinkhole on the back 40 and covered it in brush many years ago and simply moved on with their lives.

So when the word came down that Chris would not be taking me to the comic book shop in Oklahoma City on Free Comic Book Day because his son had a T-Ball game (If you don’t appreciate the irony here then you don’t know the players involved), the rest of the family offered to step in and get me there.

But you know me. I don’t want to inconvenience people. I’d much rather complain. Plus, it’s already been a too long weekend of traveling and I don’t want to add a drive to OKC to that, especially since I don’t know where it is or how long it will take to get there and back. I figure let’s just get to Bartlesville where we’ll be spending the night and maybe there will be a comic book store there I can hit up.

“Oh, but first we’re going to stop in Pawhuska for a late lunch at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile.”

Wait. What?

I did not sign up for a side trip to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile. This is not — in any way, shape or form — how anyone should be spending Free Comic Book Day. I’m confident that the Pioneer Woman Mercantile does not offer comic books — free or for sale. Did they even have comic books in pioneer days? I doubt it. It’s the reason all those pioneers were so unhappy.

Another 4-to-6 hour trek in the van and we arrive in Pawhuska. The plan was to get there around 3 p.m. and there would be no line. The plan went awry. There was a line out the door to get into the restaurant. The wait for a table was 2 hours. I don’t eat lunch at 5 p.m. so we agreed to just continue on to Bartlesville. But not until we had shopped first, of course.


I did a quick search of the building, did not find comic books, and went upstairs to the couches until the shoppers were finished. My wife found a lovely container with a cow drawn on it that we now keep our coffee in.

As we continued on for the 45-minute-to-1-hour excursion to Bartlesville, someone realized that it was Cinco de Mayo, and maybe we should go to a Mexican place to eat. If someone had realized that earlier in the day we could’ve avoided the whole odyssey to Pawhuska. I don’t believe Pioneer Woman serves burritos, even if you could get a seat.

An hour later we were in B-ville where we found a nice Mexican joint that could easily accommodate the 11 of us. They even had the Kentucky Derby on the big screen TV.

“I’ll have a pitcher of margaritas. And a chimichanga.”

By the time we left the restaurant all the stress and anxiety of the weekend had been washed away. We even found a gaming shop in town that was participating in FCBD, so after dropping off the family at Sister1’s house, the sisters and I made the drive across town to Paper Games.

It was your typical gamer/comic shop. They had the free books out on a table. Since it was late the guy said take as many as you like. The Marvel books were gone but that was OK since I knew they’d be available online in a week or so. I got a decent stack and even bought a comic to show I’m not a total leech. Mission finally accomplished.

The next morning we ate some delicious breakfast pizzas and hit the road. In case you were wondering, my phone was indeed embedded in the recliner cushions. And the cats hadn’t gnawed on it.



Duet: A Star Wars Story (kinda) II

Episode 2: The Other Royal Wedding

The nuptials were to take place Friday night in El Reno, Oklahoma. Sister2 had rented a van so she and her husband, brother and his wife, and Laurie, Andrew and myself could spend the entire 4-to-6 hour drive together. I figured it was probably more 6 hours than 4 and that I was being given that range in an attempt to keep me from complaining. Like that would ever work.

32416441_10103783233242394_7793363590479609856_nBefore leaving home I put together a collection of harmless, classic rock CDs that I figured would appeal to everyone. As the trip began people wouldn’t stop talking, but I figured even this group couldn’t go 4-to-6 hours of continuous talking, and that all my hard work in putting my CDs together would not go to waste. We eventually discovered that our rental van had satellite radio and, after much searching, settled on the “classic rewind” station.


Now, when I travel, I don’t mess around. Get there, and then you can go to the bathroom. When you travel with others, you have to put up with their ways. We stop at a rest stop and as we’re getting back on the road, I realize I don’t have my phone. I go back in the rest stop and look around to no avail. I’ve probably left it back at the house where it probably fell out of my pocket while sitting on the recliner. Happens all the time. Still, I don’t know for sure so I’m going to worry about this for the next 2 days.

We arrive at our hotel in Edmond, OK. Everyone wants to go visit the family at Niece2’s house, but I figure after 4-to-6 hours in the back of a van, someone deserves some pool time.

It’s a 45 minute-to-1 hour drive from Edmond to El Reno, because we haven’t done enough driving for one day. As we go through the 45th toll booth of the day, I decide that when I return home I’m going to write to my state legislator and demand that we enact a new law require the state highway patrol to pull over every vehicle that comes through Missouri with Oklahoma license plates and fine them. A large fine. And every time an Oklahoman drives past a state trooper, they should be fined.

When we arrive it turns out the main drag is closed off and there is a loud rock band playing. Turns out the wedding is competing with El Reno’s annual Hamburger Festival. A Hamburger Festival. Now we’re talking. We have 600 festivals every year in St. Charles but not one is a Hamburger Festival. I need to talk to the Chamber of Commerce.

32458570_10103783249664484_7000252666152484864_nThe wedding site was decorated in a variety of nerd stuff — Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings…everything but superheroes. How can you be so nerdy yet leave out the greatest of nerdy things?

The Hamburger Festival had agreed to put the band on hold for the 30 minutes it would take for the ceremony. Of course, ceremonies never start on time so the band started kicking in the jams just in time for the minister (who happened to be the groom’s brother) to have to shout the final prayer.

It was a lovely, and very nerdy, affair. The little ones were dressed as hobbits, the minister was dressed as Dr. Who, pop culture references were abundant. I didn’t understand many of them but I suspect I was not alone.


The post-wedding dinner spread was pretty awesome. There was pulled pork and chicken, various fruits and vegetables, mac and cheese, and baked beans. And best of all, no waiting for your table to be called. Just get in line, eat, get back in line. The way God intended wedding receptions to be.

All in all, a good night. Nice ceremony, good food, enjoyable evening with the family. Yep, nothing could go wrong.

“Hey, sorry I won’t be able to take you to the comic book shop tomorrow. It’s George’s first T-Ball game in the morning so we gotta be heading home.”

Wait. What?

Coming Up:

Episode 3: The Pioneer Woman Menace