Tag Archives: Dinosaurs

The Trinity Killer & My Unborn Child

6 Dec

How did this happen?

Thank you smart aleck, I get how Adi got knocked up (with a little help from me), but how did movie/TV obsessed Boaz react when his wife suddenly showed him an 11 second video of John freaking Lithgow announcing that she was pregnant?!

Our story starts the previous day, October 14th, 2017. ‘Twas the night before Adi’s sold-out Friends of Sheba gala, and she wasn’t quite feeling right. Our friend Farnaz just a few days earlier INSISTED that she was probably pregnant (“You’re totally pregnant….I’m SURE of it…trust me, you’ll see I’m right, just you wait, you’ll seeeeee…”), but both of us laughed it off because she wasn’t even “late” yet, and besides, with Adi’s Ulcerative Colitis, feeling “off” is often par for the course.

So here she was, Saturday night, 48 hours later, trying on her gown for the next day, worried like so many wives out there that it “won’t fit”, and unbeknownst to me, also peeing on a stick. I was in the next room entertaining friends, “Boaz, can you come in here a minute?” She showed me a PLUS (+) sign and I needed no further catch-up…the second came soon after, and had a solid line through it, and the 3rd and final idiot-proof test said the word PREGNANT in big letters. For the time being, my boot-camp going wife’s “not fitting the same” into a dress would be the cause of smiles instead of frustrations.

Cautious micro-celebrations ensued, we discussed it, and my EXTREMELY cautious nature kicked into overdrive…between friends and siblings just about everywhere we looked, someone had suffered a miscarriage (or two). Our friend Chari had even written a short but powerful graphic novel about her traumatic experience which went viral 5 months earlier (I strongly recommend you check it out here).

We were not going to assume anything, this was a first-time experience for each of us, and we didn’t want to tell ANYONE for a bit, not even our parents. But Adi definitely had some extra pep in her step going into the gala, replacing some of the usual jangled nerves she has each year as her organization’s big night unfolds.

Then I spotted John Lithgow. This guy is huge. Not just 6 foot 4 inches, but everyone from every age group knows and loves him. For cinephiles he’s the wonderful early Transgender character from The World According To Garp, for kids he’s the memorably evil voice of Shrek‘s Lord Farquaad, for action junkies he’s the bad guy hamming it up in Cliffhanger, for Netflix binge-watchers he’s a perfect Winston Churchill in The Crown, and for everybody and their mother he’s the zany alien patriarch in 3rd Rock From The Sun; but for me he’ll always be the Trinity Killer, the very best part of Dexter, and right up there with Hannibal Lecter as one of the best/creepiest depictions of a serial killer ever. What an acting legend!

I asked Adi to PLEASE tell me if there’s a good time to get a photo-op with him. I told her that my dream idea was to get one photo with him trying to murder me à la Dexter, and another with him looking totally goofy, reminiscent of not only 3rd Rock From The Sun, but also his hilarious new show Trial & ErrorNever heard of that one? It just happens to be created by our talented friend Jeff Astrof, who also wrote a key part of Lithgow’s presentation at the gala, and between getting rave reviews and my own opinion, it’s hilarious! Adi told me she’d see if there was time for me to meet him later, I was left hoping.

Here’s where people and events started to collide. Another highly talented actor was present, by the name of Stuart Pankin. My favorite roles of his range from being the star of Dinosaurs, to the best friend in Fatal Attraction. I had worked with and befriended him years earlier, and enjoyed introducing him to Jeff Astrof who was a huge fan of his from watching Not Necessarily The News ; Pankin in turn asked me to reconnect him with Lithgow who he’d worked with ages ago. Are you with me so far?

So here I was, as you can see below, having just reconnected these great actors, and this is where the story comes together…

closeup

Boaz – Mr. Pankin, Mr. Lithgow, they’d like to take some photographs of you two please.

(Both of them are laughing and crying and truly enjoying seeing one another after many years.)

Pankin – Happy to, Boaz. (Walks to the camera backdrop.)

Boaz – Mr. Lithgow, I just want to tell you what an honor and pleasure it is to meet you after all these years, I’m a HUGE fan.

Lithgow – That’s very kind.

Boaz – By the way, my wife is Adi Hepner, she’s told me how great you’ve been to work with.

Lithgow – OH! Adi’s your wife? CONGRATULATIONS on the great news!!!

Boaz – (Wondering what the heck he could be referring to, it couldn’t be what I’m thinking of, right?) Thank you but I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Lithgow – I don’t understand, I thought I just filmed a video with her about it…

Boaz – I think you’re mixing us up, Adi is also known as Adina, she…

(Nina Lieberman, Adi’s Executive Director hearing our rather loud conversation, leans in and interjects, “The cat’s out of the bag Boaz, Adi told us, congratulations on the baby”)

Lithgow – (Smiling broadly) See?!

Boaz – (In the loudest whisper of all time) OH MY GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP, MY PARENTS DON’T EVEN KNOW YET, AND ARE RIGHT OVER THERE – WE JUST FOUND OUT YESTERDAY, BE QUIET!

To be fair, considering I had just cursed out an A-list actor in a state of utter panic, his reaction was adorable… he simply smiled, and pantomimed someone zipping his mouth sealed.

I then walked him to Stuart Pankin where a series of awesome photos were taken including this one below, a moment after the “incident”.

10-15-17 - Sheba Gala (57)

I was praying nobody else heard that very loud conversation, and it appeared to have been kept under wraps thanks to the many other loud conversations all around us. Later that night I cornered Adi and said, “Is there something you want to tell me? Is there a reason John Lithgow knows you’re pregnant?!”

And to that she simply smiled, and said, “He told you? Damn, I was really hoping to show you this as a surprise in a few months when we tell people, but here’s a gift for you”. And she had an ear-to-ear grin as I watched the following:

Well played wife, well played…

Baby GIRL Hepner due June 21st, 2018, already having caused quite the splash.

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Jurassic Park (3D) (“My Research & Adulation About The Masterpiece”)

30 Apr

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Synopsis: “During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.” (Rated PG-13; 2 hours, 7 minutes)

Steven Spielberg is a God. Is that too sacrilegious a statement for an observant Jew to make? Fine, I’ll clarify it and say he’s just a god among men. How else to describe the fantasy that he has helped bring to life SO many times over the years with movie spectacle after movie spectacle.

It’s not just his budgets that create wondrous blockbusters, because numerous directors get hundreds of millions of dollars to play with, and their movies may be cool and fun, but they sure aren’t magical (I’m talking to you, Michael Bay). And he certainly doesn’t exclusively choose Oscar-bait material, because many of his movies would have been second-rate in other peoples’ hands. Imagine Jaws directed by anyone else. What are the chances  that the LACK of seeing the shark would be what scares the bejesus out of us. (I was one of countless kids who for years still had lingering twinges of fear when I’d dip my toes into a swimming pool!) How about Saving Private Ryan; do you think anyone else would have given you the terrifying sense of “being there” that you had during its initial 20 minute D-Day scene? In my opinion that scene escalates the film so much, that I consider it to be the greatest war movie ever made. I could honestly go on and on about my all-time favorite director, but let’s focus my attention on the brilliant blockbuster at hand, Jurassic Park. Oh what an awesome movie it was. And I’m happy to report that it stands the test of time. Seeing it on the big screen once again was exhilarating;  it was as scary, thrilling and (yes) funny as ever.

I need to mention the fact that Adi went with me to see the movie in 3D. For anyone who is unaware, I am incredibly critical of the 3D experience in movies, and my feelings generally range from hatred to mild apathy. Whether it’s about the distractions of the glasses constantly slipping off my nose, or how they feel pressed against my own glasses underneath, or the dulled tones and colors that result from the 3D effect…I despise the format. But for the sake of this particular blog post, I will write about the movie and not mention the 3D aspect again; one of these days I will revisit the topic and address/attack it as its own article.

Unlike most of my posts, the vast majority of people reading this blog will have seen the movie in the past, so I don’t need to convince anyone that it’s worth checking out. What I would like to do is remind people about some of the more brilliant aspects of the movie, and possibly offer some new information I’ve compiled from my research.

The Music

As soon as you saw the poster above, didn’t you start playing the music inside your head (or out loud for that matter)? If not, I welcome you to get in the mood and listen to it right here (at the start of the YouTube clip as well as the 2:25 minute mark). John Williams composed the score for all of Spielbergs’ movies, and has thus created some of the most memorable melodies in film history. He managed to somehow make 2 notes absolutely terrifying with his Jaws theme. He gave a platform to world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, who was forever immortalized in the beautifully haunting Schindler’s List theme. As Spielberg created another piece of cinematic history, so often John Williams followed. The melody for Jurassic Park was an instant-classic, and you would hear people singing it as soon as they’d leave the theater. To say it set the mood for the wonders on the screen would be a glaring example of understatement.

The Special Effects

It’s been 20 years since the movie came out. There have been so many advances in technology, computers and special effects, and nobody would even try to contest that statement. Then why on earth do these effects hold up as better and more “real” than the majority of big budget movies today? The amount of thought, care and dedication that went into the visual arts of this movie are astonishing. As fantastic as some of the CGI (computer-generated imagery) movies have gotten, so many film-makers have abused it to the point where it’s not uncommon to hear “CGI-heavy” as a descriptor for a movie – and it’s rarely meant as a compliment. (I’m looking at you Transformers!) Although Jurassic Park had plenty of CGI (and essentially revolutionized it), some of their key moments and characters were mechanical, touchable, animatronic dinosaurs – amazingly REAL ones I might add. When Sam Neill hugged the sick Triceretops? He wasn’t hugging a blue screen, the creature was created for the movie, and it was as if dinosaurs were alive and real…you can’t replace that realism! What about the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex that moved around snapping and snarling and darting rapidly? It was usually a robot. Holy cow-eating dinosaur! In fact it was SUCH a feat of brilliance creating the T. Rex that I invite you to watch these videos that were recently released here; they show the thought and genius that went into it, led by the world-famous special effects pioneer Stan Winston. There are 3 segments at 4 minutes apiece, and you may not understand all of the technical terms they’re using, but you will be amazed by their inventiveness! Are you curious to read a fun National Geographic piece about how the T. Rex from the movie compares to what we actually know about the monstrous creature? I am happy to provide you with a fun piece of reading material here!

Spielberg had originally hired Phil Tippett to use his go-motion animation technology to move the dinosaurs around. Tippett had previously created numerous famous go-motion effects, including the Imperial Walkers during The Empire Strikes Back. Spielberg wasn’t happy with the end-result’s lack of realism in Jurassic Park, and when they saw initial CGI footage of the T. Rex running around and hunting the stampede of other dinosaurs, he famously said to Tippett, “You’re out of a job”, to which the go-motion wizard responded, “Don’t you mean extinct?”. That witty exchange of course made it into the movie itself! As for the shots when the dinosaurs WERE computer generated? I have no explanation as to why they still seem more real than most modern day effects. They just do.

The Script

It sure doesn’t hurt when the author is also one of the screenwriters, and that’s what happened here. Michael Crichton was hired to adapt his own screenplay, and David Koepp came in later and made some very clever changes to its final product. For example, there had been a lot of exposition in the book (and Crichton’s screenplay) about the backstory of HOW it was scientifically possible to bring dinosaurs back to life. Koepp solved this by creating the cute cartoon that was shown to the characters that explains it all. This and other changes took the meat of the clever story, and made it flow so darn well in a 2 plus hour movie. He also took Richard Attenborough’s owner-of-the-island character and made him a sweet, misguided, well-meaning old man instead of a ruthless billionaire. Trust me, when you watch the movie again you’ll realize just how many lines are now classic, and the comic timing is hilarious, especially when Jeff Goldblum speaks. Although I must admit I was rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of the script where Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm asks Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) if she’s heard of chaos theory, and then later the butterfly effect. In both cases neither she nor anyone else is even familiar with the concepts. Seriously?! What the hell sort of schools did these other scientists go to? I was a lazy student in high school but even I had heard of both, c’mon! In spite of that slight lapse in judgment, the script was fun, memorable and well written by the author himself and Koepp. Other notable movies that Koepp has written include Mission: Impossible,  Spider-Man, and last year’s underrated popcorn flick Premium Rush.

The Actors

I would have never thought Sam Neill could be such a great hero, but he really pulled it off. It’s funny, because I don’t associate him with roles like this, as he’s usually a bit stodgy or serious, but here he fit the hat of an Indiana Jones-type perfectly. And it’s ironic, because Harrison Ford was actually Spielberg’s first choice. As the director once reported, “My first choice was Harrison. I went to the art department and I had them do a photo-realistic painting of the T-Rex chasing Harrison… and I put Harrison’s face on the character of the archaeologist, and sent the script, the book, and the picture to Harrison. The next day I got a call and he said, ‘This is not for me, pal.'” So as often seems to occur with famous roles, it could have gone to someone else and now we can’t really imagine it any other way. (William Hurt was also considered for the role before Sam Neill turned up.) Laura Dern was an interesting choice to make since she was mostly doing indie flicks at the time. According to a recent Entertainment Weekly article, she got the script while working on Wild At Heart, and only accepted the role when Nicolas Cage told her that it was his dream to work on a dinosaur movie and she’d be CRAZY to turn it down. And don’t get me started on Jeff Goldblum, his unique delivery is an acting class in itself.

Did You Know?

Pieces of information I wasn’t aware of until yesterday include:

-At the start of their automated tour of Jurassic Park, Richard Attenborough’s character tells everyone, “”The voice you’re now hearing is Richard Kiley. We’ve spared no expense.” I assumed Richard Kiley must have been a well-known actor from the days of yore, but there’s more to it. In the book, Chrichton wrote that Kiley was the narrator of the tour, so fittingly Spielberg was able to get him to actually do it for the movie.

-When they showed dinosaurs entire bodies moving around, or more distant shots, it was usually CGI. Most close-ups of them were animatronic though, including the majority of the climactic velociraptor-kitchen scene, which most people falsely believe was CGI. In fact during that scene Joseph Mazzello at one point ran into one of them and got injured. The seamless blend of computers with fleshy animatronics works so darn well, and that scene was terrifying!

-During filming a massive hurricane hit Kauai, causing the entire crew to flee. The pilot who took them off the island was Fred Sorenson. Who’s that? He was the same pilot who flew Indiana Jones away during the opening scene of Spielberg’s own Raiders Of The Lost Ark!

The Director

This brings us full circle back to the genius himself, Steven Spielberg. Seeing the movie on the big screen after all these years, I was able to see countless details and moments that demonstrate his mastery of the film-making craft. I will give some examples of this from just one famous scene in the movie, the T. Rex encounter: The cup of water rippling each time the T. Rex took a step…iconic. The rear-view mirror vibrating out-of-focus during that same thunderous sequence…brilliant. The close-up of the side-mirror showing the T. Rex chasing their vehicle, and almost caught up, with a funny focus on the words, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”!

There were truly endless moments of masterful film-making throughout the film, and as Adi said to me, it did two things that most movies never achieve: It scared her, and it made her care. The animatronics and CGI were able to make these dinosaurs more real than it had seemed imaginable, and the script was able to provide a hell of a fun story; but it’s only thanks to Steven Spielberg that each moment was actually suspenseful, touching and highly effective. The movie fires on all cylinders, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the next chapter of his illustrious career.

The movie was better than its sequels, including the Spielberg directed The Lost World. That one was certainly entertaining, but never as brilliantly innovative as the original. It wasn’t as good as…geez, do I really have to pick a better movie than a classic? Sure, okay, technically it wasn’t as fantastic as his own Schindler’s List. Are you happy now? I need to go wash my hands after that dirty, dirty comparison…

Quality Rating: A+(After everything I’ve written here, was there ever any doubt?)

Boaz Rating: A+