DID YOU READ

A “Star Trek” theme park ride wish list

A “Star Trek” theme park ride wish list (photo)

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My phasers are officially set to stunned: Time reports that a full-on “Stark Trek” theme park is set to open in 2014, in Jordan of all places. That sounds like a most illogical location for a monument to all things “Trek,” but it turns out the country’s king, Abdullah II, is a hardcore Trekkie who’s investing $1.5 billion into the “Red Sea Astrarium” project, which also includes “hotels, theaters, fine dining and shopping on site as well as the chance to learn about Jordan’s history and what it’s doing in terms of harnessing green energy.”

That sounds nice, but let’s face it: I wouldn’t be writing about this if the big draw was a presentation on future environmental strategies. As a recovering “Star Trek” nerd (yes I went to a convention — just one, though!), what I want to know about is the “Star Trek” component. Time‘s article says the park will include a licensed “Trek” “space-flight adventure” that “will deliver a variety of multi-sensory futuristic experiences, culminating with a state-of-the art space-flight adventure that takes real-time immersive entertainment experiences to bold new heights.”

Sounds good to me. But one ride alone isn’t going to convince me to renew my United Federation of Planets passport and travel all the way to Jordan. If this “Star Trek” park’s going to draw geeks from all over the world, it’ll need a whole lot of cool (and by cool I mean intensely dorky) rides. Like, for example, stuff like this:

1. Captain Picard’s Phaser Funhouse
There’s a great ride at Disney’s California Adventure park called Toy Story Midway Mania! You and a friend each get a little pull-string cannon to shoot at video screens inside this giant funhouse. You wear 3D glasses and fire at various mini-games inspired by old midway entertainments: throwing darts, breaking plates, and so on. You try to rack up points and beat your partner. It’s a simple idea but the interaction between your real gun and the digital CGI is stunningly effective and surprisingly immersive. Applying similar technology to the “Star Trek” mythos seems like a no-brainer. Create a basic storyline — say, you’re Starfleet Academy recruits being tested on your skills with a weapon — give everybody a realistic-looking phaser and some 3D glasses and away we go. Instead of midway games, the ride’s themed like a shooting gallery, with pop-up Borg cut-outs to shoot at and innocent Talaxians to avoid.

2. Shuttlecraft Spaceflight
Here’s another impressive Disney attraction that feels equally tailor-made to “Star Trek” applications: Mission: Space at Epcot. The ride creates the convincing illusion of interplanetary flight by sticking guests inside a giant centrifuge disguised as a prototype spaceship. As your “shuttle” launches on a mission to Mars, the centrifuge begins to spin at incredible speed, eventually inflicting 2.5 Gs on riders (barf bags are provided in arm’s reach). A trip on the Starship Enterprise would be far too smooth and peaceful for this sort of experience, but it seems perfect for a “Star Trek” shuttlecraft, those little spaceships the crew take to land on planets or survey temporal anomalies. The “Trek” version of the ride could even adapt Mission: Space’s clever button mechanics, which instruct guests to press buttons to detach rocket boosters or activate manual flight, so that you get to play with the awesome touch-screen consoles that Data and the rest of the crew use on “The Next Generation.”

3. Space Jump Freefall
One of the most memorable scenes in J.J. Abrams’ recent “Star Trek” reboot featured Kirk, Sulu, and an ill-fated redshirt making a dangerous space jump from a shuttlecraft to a giant drilling platform hovering over the Planet Vulcan (I find this stuff easier to read, by the way, when I say it in the Comic Book Guy’s voice). Now we can’t very well throw theme park guests out of a spaceship (as much as we’d like to when they fail to keep up with the person in front of them in line). But today’s modern tech has to offer a way to approximate that experience better than, say Stuntman’s Freefall. Maybe some sort of combination of video screens and those indoor skydiving rooms?

4. Star Trek: The Experience – Klingon Encounter
This is a real but defunct attraction that was housed in the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, but now needs a new home. I never got to experience it myself, but it got high marks from Trekkies for its impressive recreation of iconic “Trek” elements: guests were beamed up from the Hilton to the Enterprise and then got to ride in the Turbolift and hang out on a 1-to-1 recreation of “The Next Generation” Enterprise bridge, populated by actors playing Starfleet officers (you can watch a fan’s video of the attraction on YouTube). The Vegas Hilton’s “Star Trek” experience eventually added a second attraction, a 3D ride involving the Borg, and also featured a replica of Quark’s Bar from “Deep Space Nine” I’d say they should just haul the whole thing out to Jordan, but after plans to relocate the exhibit fell through in 2009, most of the props from The Experience were sold at auction. They now live long and prosper in nerds’ basements all over the country.

5. The Trouble With Tribbles Petting Zoo
Your amusement park’s got to have something for the kids. How about a big room full of lifelike, adorable tribbles? They were specifically designed by the writers of the original ’60s “Trek” to be easy and cheap to make, so it shouldn’t be too hard to build some relatively inexpensive high-end versions complete with some basic movement mechanics and cooing sounds. Getting them to asexually reproduce on command for the tourists might be a little bit harder though.

What rides would you want to see at a “Star Trek” theme park? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jurassic Park Cast

Park Rules

5 Lessons Modern Blockbusters Could Learn From Jurassic Park

Catch the Jurassic Park movies this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Jurassic Park wasn’t the first blockbuster that set out to appeal to everyone, but it is arguably the most successful of its kind. Adults, kids, boys, girls, nerds, jocks, and lawyers love it. (Okay, maybe not lawyers). With a script from David Koepp, direction by Steven Spielberg (who also had the Oscar winning Schindler’s List the same year) and groundbreaking special effects that still thrill modern CGI-addled viewers, Jurassic Park was the most ambitious film project of its time. And as we see with dreadful early-’90s megaflops like Waterworld and Showgirls, the bigger they were, the harder they were apt to fall.

Jurassic Park faced the impossible scenario of having to appeal to everyone, and the end result is one of the very few examples that actually succeeded. So what lessons can we take from the shining beacon of both mass appeal and being smarter than the competition?

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Source Material

Nedry

An adaptation of Michael Crichton’s hit novel, Jurassic Park changes a lot from page to screen, but the most significant changes are in the characters, in that they actually exist. Crichton’s primary interests were scientific morals and philosophy, not character and story, so the characters end up more as vessels for the action and ideas rather than, well, characters. Adding dimension to the characters changed a great deal of the material, since the material flowed more organically not just from ideas and philosophy, but character action.

Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the well-meaning, impassioned lover of science and possibilities, is a much more compelling character in the film than the corporate, grandchild-hating jerk who is poetically eaten by dinos in the book. Nedry (Wayne Knight) isn’t just in the story for some corporate espionage — there’s a genuine “daddy issue” undercurrent in his relationship with Hammond, and his desire to subvert his father figure goes horribly awry.

Tim and Lex (played by Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards) aren’t just whiny nuisances who are kids for kids’ sake, but are given interests and agencies that pay off later in the film — Lex with her computer skills, and Tim with his basic dinosaur knowledge. The movie gives Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) a character arc by getting him to connect with children, whom initially make him uncomfortable, which helps solidify his relationship to Ellie Satler (Laura Dern).


2. Avoid useless characters.

Jurassic World

Often in movies we see half-baked young characters (kids, teenagers) who get jammed into the film for no other reason than to appeal to a wider demographic. For example, the child characters in Independence Day are borderline comical both in their narrative non-purpose and how much they don’t act like children.

Last summer’s mega-blockbuster/franchise extender Jurassic World was guilty of this, too. Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) have no skill, except for (apparently) some world experience from That One Time They Fixed A Car, a skill which was not set up nor ever referred to again. After the kids are rescued, they’re basically fleshy backpacks for Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard to foist around for the rest of the movie.

Lex and Tim not only aid in Grant’s growth, but also use their skills to further the plot. Sure, it’s a little goofy how Lex uses her knowledge to save the day, but this was 1993. Nowadays people know a bit more about UNIX systems (and, let’s face it, most people learned about UNIX systems from other people joking about how Jurassic Park got it oh-so-wrong).


3. You can include complex concepts…but keep it simple.

Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum

Part of the brilliance of Jurassic Park isn’t that it involves complex philosophical concepts, but all of the different ways it disseminates complex information. It’s like a sampler platter of ways to both world-build and sew in theme.

Jurassic Park grazes over complex concepts like Chaos Theory, but that is not to say that it only pays them lip service, and moreover, the characters don’t just stop the action to explain things to the audience in an inorganic way. As a writer of prose, Crichton is guilty of this. These ideas are present in the original novel, but in the film, they are distilled, focused and sharpened to a fine point. The theme of chaos in an unpredictable environment is shown both implicitly (after Nedry’s meddling throws the trip into chaos) and explicitly, where Malcolm exposits repeatedly, betwixt a uniquely suave mix of “ums” and “uhs” and other Goldblum-isms.

The overarching theme of the movie is not so much that man should not play God (as Malcolm argues), but that man cannot, with perfect accuracy, predict all outcomes. That is a much more complex and satisfying conclusion to come to than simply “man play God, man go too far!”. The “don’t play God” aspect is certainly there, but it doesn’t end there. There is a genius simplicity in Jurassic Park‘s complexity.


4. Exposition should be actually motivated!

Jurassic Park Chaos

Since all of our main characters are experts in different fields, talking to each other about their respective fields is a great and easy way to let the audience in on things the characters already know in a natural way. Some of the scientific concepts are imparted by way of a cartoon in the Jurassic Park visitor center, because it is a theme park, and it is an educational “ride,” as Hammond says.

My favorite example of this is the scene where Malcolm gives Ellie a primer on Chaos Theory in a discussion which could’ve be really pretentious and boring. He gives the elevator pitch in the form of trying to describe the Butterfly Effect, but she doesn’t get it, leading to a more practical (and flirtatious) lesson that she can actually follow. Whereas in old sci-fi B-movies of yore it would have been just a bunch of guys standing in labs, explaining things to each other, here it is motivated.

Ellie and Malcolm didn’t have any kind of a “thing” in the book, but adding this now famous moment to the film not only gives us a little philosophical discussion, it allows for integral character development as well — Ellie egging on Alan by being receptive to Ian’s flirting, and Alan showing his difficulty committing to her by not engaging. It’s subtle, but all of these character traits come in and are built upon later.

Finally, if you learn nothing else from Jurassic Park, remember:


5. Dinosaurs Eat Man, Woman Inherits the Earth.

Jurassic Park Women Inherit

Just sayin’.

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Weird Al Hidden America

Keep America Weird

Watch “Weird Al” in the Trailer for Hidden America With Jonah Ray

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: SeeSo

Jonah Ray, Nerdist podcaster and future resident of the Satellite of Love on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot, is motoring across the country as part of a new travel parody show on SeeSo. And “Weird Al” is coming along for the journey.

Hidden America with Jonah Ray takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to tourism travel logs as the comedian visits and fumbles through cities like Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Denver, and Austin. Along the way, Ray will meet up with Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader “Weird Al” Yankovic, Randall Park, David Koechner, and more.

Check out the trailer below. For more “Weird Al,” be sure to catch the premiere of Comedy Bang! Bang! season five on June 3rd at 11P.

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Back to the Future Jaws Parody

Swimming with Sharks

10 Hilarious Jaws Spoofs

Catch the Jaws movies during IFC's Memorial Day Shark Half-A-Day Marathon.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

How much is Jaws a part of our culture? Over 40 years after its release, it’s still prompting parodies that get laughs. To get you ready for IFC’s Memorial Day Shark Half-A-Day Marathon, check out our favorite spoofs of Jaws from across pop culture. Want more? You’re gonna need a bigger list…

1. “Mr. Jaws,” Dickie Goodman

Released just a few months after the movie’s debut on June 20th, 1975, this novelty record spent ten weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #4. In one of the earliest examples of sampling, comedian Dickie Goodman spliced in snippets of pop songs to answer interview questions with the Great White himself.


2. Jaws II (Land Shark), Saturday Night Live

It took only the fourth episode ever of SNL to establish one of its iconic recurring bits and play into the hysterical fear of sharks that Jaws prompted. A big punchline of this sketch: A sequel to Jaws! Who in 1975 could imagine such a thing??


3. “Jowls,” The Carol Burnett Show

Exactly one week after SNL spoofed Jaws, Carol Burnett and company did their take. Looking back now, what’s most amazing is that network TV allowed a sketch to go on for eleven minutes.


4. Mad Magazine

Mad Magazine Jaws
Mad Magazine/DC Comics

Even Jaws wouldn’t want to take a bite of Alfred E. Neuman in this issue from 1976. The comic inside spoofed the movie with a musical version -– an idea that took off over 30 years later.


5. 1941

How many times has this happened to you? You make a legendary movie, you see people parody it, and you want in! That’s the unlikely scenario that led to Jaws director Steven Spielberg making his own spoof as part of his 1979 war comedy 1941. How authentic did Spielberg get? Yes, that’s Susan Backlinie, the original lady in the water from Jaws, meeting up with trouble in the moonlight yet again.


6. Airplane!

One of the greatest disaster comedies of all time sets the tone for hilarity with its opening sequence. Even before the title appears, you know you’re in for a movie that winks at its place in film history.


7. Back to the Future Part II

1989 brought us this blockbuster sequel making fun of blockbuster sequels, as Marty McFly finds himself in a futuristic 2015 showing Jaws 19. While the actual 2015 came and went with Jaws only having three sequels, Universal treated fans of both movies to a trailer for the film that might have been…


8. Clerks

Kevin Smith was one of a generation of filmmakers influenced by Jaws. Many of his films contain references to his love of the original film, but only Clerks has the salsa shark.


9. Giant Killer Shark: The Musical

Mad Magazine Jaws

Why should live theater be without a spoof of Jaws? Just because of the risk of a massive lawsuit over intellectual property infringement? That may help explain the please-don’t-sue-us title of Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which debuted in 2006. Just to drive the point home: the action takes place on and around Copyright-Protected Island. Scary!


10. Bill Murray’s Jaws Love Theme, SNL 40

The star-studded SNL 40th anniversary special marked four decades since the debut of SNL and of Jaws. It featured not one but two references to the movie, with Bill Murray as lounge singer Nick Ocean singing the love theme from Jaws we never knew we were missing. (He reprised the song at the event above.) Later, the Land Shark himself appeared on “Weekend Update.” Jaws: The gift that keeps on giving laughs.

Spend Memorial Day with IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Marathon featuring “fin facts” from “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander!

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