In ‘Jurassic World,’ a Dino-sized Animal-rights Parable 

The dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park” are many things. They are special-effects wonders. They are unruly house guests. And they are some of the biggest, most foot-stomping metaphors around. 

Since Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original, the dinos of “Jurassic Park” — many of them not light on their feet to be begin with — have been weighed down with meanings that sometimes shift movie to movie. If they look a touch tired in the latest “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” it could be from all the allegorical baggage they’ve been carrying. 

Twenty-five years ago, the dinosaurs — wondrous and horrifying creations at once — stood for the magical but fearsome power of genetic engineering. In 2015’s “Jurassic World,” they were focus group-approved theme park attractions that doubled for Hollywood blockbusters themselves. 

Now, in “Fallen Kingdom,” the scaly ones — again threatened with extinction — are pursued by poachers and others who wish to capture and capitalize on an endangered if dangerous species. The theme appealed to Colin Trevorrow, the director of 2015’s “Jurassic World,” now serving as co-writer with Derek Connolly, and as executive producer, alongside Steven Spielberg.

“We have a relationship with animals on this planet that is tenuous and is strained. They suffer from abuse and trafficking and the consequences of our environmental choices,” said Trevorrow. “To find a way to build essentially a children’s franchise about how we have a responsibility to the creatures that we share the planet with felt like a worthwhile thing to do.”

If the previous “Jurassic World” was fashioned as a meta-blockbuster, it made good on its intent. “Jurassic World” blew away expectations, setting a new opening-weekend record and stomping its way to nearly $1.7 billion worldwide. “Fallen Kingdom,” with J.A. Bayona taking over as director, has already taken in $370 million overseas (including $112 million in China) before opening in North America on Thursday night. 

That takes some of the pressure off “Fallen Kingdom,” which was made for about $170 million by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment. But expectations remain high for a 25-year-old franchise that has grossed $4 billion in ticket sales. And the animal-rights gambit of “Fallen Kingdom” — in which the dinosaurs leave the island in cages — has found a mixed critical reaction. Variety called it “a liberal pulp message movie” and “the first cautionary dinosaur-trafficking movie.” 

“We looked at real animal trafficking in the world and what that process is,” says Trevorrow, who’s writing and directing the third “Jurassic World” film. “First there’s capture and then there’s going to be an auction of some kind, a sale. We were following something that felt grounded in the reality that we know. It’s a rule that we have that we don’t want the dinosaurs to do anything that real animals wouldn’t or couldn’t do.”

The action takes place three years after the melee of “Jurassic World.” A soon-to-erupt volcano on Isla Nublar has sparked public debate, complete with Congressional hearings: Should the dinosaurs be saved? An aid to John Hammond, the Jurassic Park founder, has convinced Dallas Bryce Howard’s Claire Dearing (now a dino-rights activist) and Chris Pratt’s former raptor wrangler Owen Grady to help get the dinosaurs off the island.

The more cloistered second half of the tale most interested Bayona, the Spanish filmmaker known for “The Orphanage” and “A Monster Calls.” 

 “The first time Colin told me about the story, he told me that the second half was going to be a haunted house story,” says Bayona. “I thought that was going to be a lot of fun.” 

For anyone who recalls the frightful kitchen scene of “Jurassic Park,” “Fallen Kingdom” doubles down on the suspense of dinosaurs in tight, domestic quarters, while channeling the franchise’s contemplation of science into animal rights. Bayona traces the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” to the kaiju of movies like “Godzilla.” 

“There’s one line that I love at the beginning of the film when Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) refers to nuclear power. Nuclear power is the moment when man makes a pivotal change in history,” says Bayona. “For the first time, man is over nature. That idea, which means crossing a red line, provokes monsters. The image of the atomic mushroom is very similar to the T-Rex.”

“Fallen Kingdom” also had more human issues to tackle. The high heels that Claire traipses through the jungle with in “Jurassic World” sparked criticism from many who derided the film for playing with outdated gender tropes. Trevorrow emphasized that that reaction was not worldwide. 

“All that stuff was very domestic but that didn’t make it something that didn’t deserve to be listened to,” says Trevorrow. “So we thought about it. We thought about how that imagery and iconography was affecting certain people and where those responses were coming from. And we definitely applied that when we thought about the next movie.”

Trevorrow had numerous conversations with Bayona and his producers about the issue. Now prepared for the jungle, Claire wears more appropriate footwear in “Fallen Kingdom,” though Bayona playfully re-introduces her with a shot that opens on her heels.   

“There’s some irony in the way we introduce Claire because there was such a big controversy with the heels that I just wanted to start with a shot of the heels,” says Bayona. “It was trying not to take the whole controversy too seriously.”

But the real-world connections that most motivated the filmmakers had more to do with stories like that of the northern white rhino. The last male of the species died in March , a victim of poachers seeking its horns. Debate has followed over whether a “Jurassic Park”-like revival of the rhinos should be carried out.   

“It has rendered a species extinct and it’s horrifying. And it’s our fault as mankind. We did that,” says Trevorrow. “It brings up a similar question that the movie brings up. If we did have this technology, if we could bring back the white rhinoceros, do we have a responsibility to do it? I don’t personally know the answer to that.”

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AFI Highlights Clooney’s Life of Acting, Activism and Pranks

George Clooney’s Hollywood career spans more than three decades, with memorable roles including fighting vampires, playing Batman and drifting through space in “Gravity.” But Clooney’s other accomplishments, including directing, screenwriting and activism, led to him becoming the latest recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.

 

Clooney, 57, was honored at a star-studded tribute gala earlier this month at the Dolby Theatre, where he has been a frequent guest because of the Academy Awards, including in 2006 when Clooney won for best supporting actor. TNT will air the tribute on Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

 

The star was all smiles during the tribute, where he was honored by stars from Jennifer Aniston to Bill Murray, along with his parents and his wife Amal. Photos of him playing his most memorable roles overlooked the stage as the celebration unfolded, and Clooney told his own story through video vignettes.

 

Here are some of the highlights of the gala:

 

The Early Years

 

During his acceptance speech, Clooney spoke about when he was new to Hollywood.

 

“When I was a young, broke unemployed actor, not only did I not have a job, I didn’t have an agent, I couldn’t get auditions,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be able to do a few short films for some up-and-coming young directors at the AFI.”

Laura Dern was the first to mention one of Clooney’s early films, “Grizzly 2,” which was never officially released. Dern and Clooney both had a short sequence in the film in which they climb a mountain and get eaten by a bear. Dern reminisced about how the two were stranded in Hungary after the film ran out of funding.

 

Clooney accrued more TV and film gigs with shows such as “ER” and “The Facts of Life” which eventually led to his major film roles in “From Dusk ‘Till Dawn” and “Batman & Robin.”

 

Global Activism

 

Amal Clooney, a distinguished human rights lawyer, noted her husband’s Kentucky manners and tendency to stick up for the most vulnerable, even on the film set.

 

The actor’s social justice work was cited even early on in his Hollywood career.

 

Actor Richard Kind said Clooney once convinced him to help clean up East Los Angeles after the LA riots in 1992. He also joined in the fight for same-sex marriage and more recently, helped raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey and mentored survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

 

When Clooney tried to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan in 2012, he was arrested for crossing a police line with his father, a moment he said he’s proud of. He was also the U.N. designated Messenger of Peace from 2008 to 2014.

 

“Look, if the cameras are going to follow me where I go, then I’m going to where the cameras should be,” he said in one of his vignettes.

 

“A Celebration of Life”

 

Apart from his activism, Clooney is also known far and wide for his eternal trickster spirit.

 

Jimmy Kimmel called Clooney “the world’s most diabolical prankster” and told of the actor’s biggest pranks. He once filled Bill Murray’s luggage with gravel and Chris O’Donnell’s car with popcorn. He also ended his film “Monuments Men” with a memorial dedication to his father, who is still alive.

 

But the actor himself wasn’t immune to the comic relief. Murray quipped about how Clooney was receiving the award at such a young age.

 

“I know that all of you thought the same thing that I thought: George is dying,” said Murray. “So, this isn’t really a lifetime achievement award. It’s a celebration of life.”

When the time finally came to receive his award, Shirley MacLaine gave Clooney a tongue-in-cheek lecture, encouraging Clooney to keep preserving his talent and ethics against time.

 

“Please mix your comedy, your humanity, your serious need to help us understand who we are,” said MacLaine. “Please direct more.”

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Artist Christo Floats Tomb of Barrels in London’s Hyde Park

A 20-meter (22-yard) high sculpture of an ancient Egyptian tomb, made from 7,506 red, white and mauve barrels, has taken temporary residence amid the aquatic wildlife on a lake in London’s Hyde Park.

The floating installation — featuring two vertical sides, two slanted sides and a flat top — was unveiled on Monday by Bulgarian-born artist Christo.

“For three months, The London Mastaba will be a part of Hyde Park’s environment in the center of London,” he said. “The colors will transform with the changes in the light and its reflection on the Serpentine Lake will be like an abstract painting.”

Work started in April to stack the 55-gallon barrels into their cut-off pyramid shape on a floating platform 40 meters long and 30 meters wide. Thirty-two anchors hold the structure in place.

Christo, whose full name is Christo Javacheff, was joined at the launch by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, chairman of the Serpentine Galleries.

Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, are known for such works as “The Gates,” a 2005 installation in New York’s Central Park, and the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995.

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Refugee Crisis Prompts Student Art Project

Discarded life jackets on a beach in Greece inspired artwork by a teenager who wanted to learn more about the refugee crisis.

Achilleas Souras, the 17-year-old creator of the artwork, titled SOS: Save Our Souls, hopes his project prompts others to learn as well. 

Souras was 15 and living in Barcelona when the flood of refugees from places that include the Middle East and Africa landed on the beaches of Lesbos, Greece, and created a humanitarian crisis. 

The idea for the project came to him after he learned about the crisis in school. 

Souras reached out to the mayor of Lesbos, the first stop for thousands of seaborne migrants who undertook their desperate voyage in the Aegean Sea. The island’s beaches were littered with debris from their journeys.

“It culminated in me reaching out to get actual life jackets,” Souras recalled. The mayor of Lesbos responded. 

Souras said the vests still had the smell of the sea. “When I touched them, I realized that every one of these life jackets represented a human life.”

Searching for a theme, Souras, who is of Greek-British heritage, was inspired by what the migrants were seeking – shelter. He used the vests — to build igloo-shaped enclosures modeled on the temporary homes indigenous peoples build of snow and ice in the far north.

The installation struck a chord, and Souras has been invited by museums, design fairs and refugee organizations to show his work around the world. Different versions of the project have been displayed in Spain, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand and Canada. There is now an installation in Byblos, Lebanon. 

Souras brought a small version of the installation to Los Angeles for the four-day LA Design Festival that ended June 10. The exhibit consisted of miniature life jackets made with fabric from the real ones.

He said the point of the exhibit is not political, and “isn’t really meant to influence somebody’s point of view. “It’s really just meant to make somebody feel more inspired to explore more about the crisis like I did,” he said.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 65 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes, and more than 22 million are refugees – people forced to flee because of conflict or persecution. 

Souras said that is something he wants those who see his art to think about. 

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Baseball Making Inroads Into Myanmar

No member of the Myanmar national baseball team is quitting their day job any time soon.

Made up of players in their 20s, 30s and 40s, the club includes maintenance workers, a teacher, as well as a cook.

The coach, Toru Iwasaki, is the founder of a private primary school in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. He is originally from Japan and started the baseball program 18 years ago.

“Of course in Myanmar, football [soccer] is the most popular sport,” Iwasaki said. “My passion is to introduce baseball, which is my most favorite sport.”

The team gets very little financial support from the national sports ministry and depends upon money from Iwasaki’s own pocket to stay afloat.

You won’t find baseball bats, balls and gloves on the shelves of sporting good stores in this country. Most of the team’s equipment has been donated by the Japan High School Baseball Federation.

Many of the players Iwasaki recruited had experience playing in softball games organized by the American Embassy. So while they understood some basic rules, Iwasaki had to explain to them a lot of the mechanics and necessary skills. He also taught them about strategy and field positioning. Iwasaki knows a little Burmese and his players have picked up some English as well as Japanese.

Between the mix of languages and Iwasaki’s hand gestures he gets his messages across. 

“Sometimes all it takes is the happy or angry tone of voice to make my point,” he said with a grin.

Kyaw Thuya Tun, 33, is the team’s first baseman. He drives a taxi to support his wife and two daughters.

“I drive the car to work for my family and I play baseball because I love it,” he said.

The team plays on the site of an old horse race track. The field is a combination of weeds, overgrown grass and hardened dirt, or mud depending upon the weather. The scoreboard is changed by hand.

On a cloudy afternoon with intermittent rain, the Myanmar national team narrowly beat a rag-tag squad of expatriates from the U.S. and Japan by a score of 7 to 6. It’s one of several games the Myanmar team played this year against teams made up of local expatriates.

“I like coming out with the guys and the camaraderie that comes out of it,” said Mick Amundson-Geisel, who played first base for the expatriate team.

He’s 46 years old and played high school baseball in Colorado. Amundson-Geisel now works as a guidance counselor at an international school in Yangon. On this day, he’s competing against the Myanmar team. On other days he practices with them.

“It’s definitely an American game, but it certainly has Asian aspects here like the language that they use and the cheers that they do,” Amundson-Geisel said.

But you get a sense of how little is known about baseball in Myanmar when you notice there are only about 25 people in the stands during the game. The team prepared a printout in the local Burmese language with some of the basics of the sport to help fans follow along. Few people understand baseball in this country where football/soccer is king.

“People don’t even know what this uniform is for,” said Kyaw Thuya Tun pointing to the clothes he was wearing. “In other countries people know this is a baseball uniform. But here it’s hard to explain what baseball is about.”

The Myanmar national team couldn’t beat most American high school baseball teams. But watching the squad in practice and compete in a game, it’s clear there’s no shortage of enthusiasm. The players say they love the sport and will keep swinging away.

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New Orleans Entertains Spanish Royalty

Following a red carpet arrival Saturday at the New Orleans Museum of Art, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain enjoyed music by a jazz group and a cultural performance by Mardi Gras Indians as they ended a visit to the city celebrating its tricentennial.

After a private lunch with New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and other dignitaries and officials, the royals departed New Orleans for San Antonio, Texas, which is also celebrating 300 years of existence.

“It was a great and amazing weekend for the city, our residents and the king and queen for them to come back to a former Spanish colony,” said Trey Caruso, a spokesman for Cantrell’s office.

Musical connections

Clarinetist, music historian and Xavier University Spanish professor Michael White said he and his Original Liberty Brass Band played two pieces with a connection to Europe and New Orleans at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The first piece was Panama, a march in the traditional European style.

“It was published in 1911, and all over the country it was played by and read by brass bands,” White said prior to the performance. “But in New Orleans they kind of threw away the sheet music and improvised, and therefore made it personal. I think it’s a good way to show the interaction between European culture and New Orleans culture.”

The second piece, Andalusian Strut, was one of White’s compositions. It combines a common flamenco structure and flamenco-type rhythms and melodies with classic New Orleans jazz style and improvisation, he said.

“That one went over really, really well,” White said after the event. “The king and all of the people there really loved it.”

White said their third song was When the Saints Go Marching In, which White described as “probably the most famous song in New Orleans history.”

“We surprised them by singing the chorus in Spanish,” he said.

The Mardi Gras Indians, groups of African-Americans who create elaborate feathered and beaded costumes in which they strut and dance through the streets on Mardi Gras, performed as well.

“Though the program was relatively short, I think overall it gave a good idea of New Orleans’ culture,” White said.

Arrived Thursday

Felipe and Letizia flew in Thursday evening to Louisiana, which was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802. They arrived at New Orleans’ airport at sunset and were greeted by several officials, including Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Cantrell.

They saluted New Orleans’ centuries-old Spanish heritage at an event Friday at Gallier Hall, a former City Hall opened in 1853 and renovated for the city’s 300th anniversary. That evening, they visited two buildings erected under Spanish rule: St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, the Spanish government seat in Louisiana.

On Monday they’ll go to Washington for a White House visit Tuesday with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

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Fire Again Devastates Scotland’s Mackintosh Building

A major fire has torn through one of Scotland’s architectural gems, the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art, for the second time in four years.

More than 120 firefighters fought the blaze during the night as it gutted the 1909 building and spread to a theater and a nearby nightclub. No casualties were reported.

“The extent of the damage is very severe,” Peter Heath, deputy assistant chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told reporters at the scene in Glasgow city center Saturday morning.

The fire “has reached from the ground floor right through to the roof,” he said.

By morning the fire was under control, but smoke was still rising from the building as firefighters sprayed it from tall ladders. Heath said the theater was still on fire and its roof had partly collapsed, but the blaze was no longer spreading.

The Mackintosh building had been scheduled to reopen next year after millions of pounds in restoration works following a fire in May 2014.

“My first thoughts tonight are for the safety of people, but my heart also breaks for Glasgow’s beloved School of Art,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter.

The Mackintosh building is named after its architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most influential designer.

The School of Art’s website says the building “heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture.”

Heath said fire crews were called about 20 minutes before midnight Friday, and by the time they arrived fire had spread to the whole building.

The area was quickly evacuated and cordoned off. It remained inaccessible to the public Saturday morning.

“This is a devastating loss for Glasgow, absolutely devastating,” Heath said.

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Technology Makes Soccer Training More Efficient

Among the millions of fans watching the World Cup are amateur football players who have dreams of being as good as their heroes, Now, they have a new way to compare their performance to the best professionals in the game, so they can build their skills. The help comes from a new wearable device that uses GPS and other sensors to track their movements. Faiza Elmasry has the story. Faith Lapidus narrates.

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Russia Hopes to Present ‘Fresh Face’ for World Cup Amid Global Isolation

The phrase ‘don’t mix politics and sport’ is often heard in Moscow these days. But it’s difficult to escape the unique circumstances of this year’s World Cup. As the tournament gets underway in Russia, the country remains subject to a range of international sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. As Henry Ridgwell reports from Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the World Cup as an opportunity to break that isolation and present a different image of Russia.

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