Category: Movie Reviews and Movie News

The Prehistoric Animals of Jurassic World – Mosasaurus

The Mighty Mosasaurus – A Little Too Mighty!

With around 120 days or so until the premier of the long-awaited film, “Jurassic World”, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, we thought that it would be a bit of fun to comment on the various prehistoric animals and other critters that are likely to feature in this movie.  In this occasional series, we shall take a look at the rather eclectic range of cloned creatures that inhabit the theme park based on the tear drop shaped island Isla Nublar.

First up, one of the attractions at the centre of the Jurassic World theme park, and a new addition to the catalogue of prehistoric animals featured in the franchise, is Mosasaurus.

Mosasaurus Feeding on a Shark

Come and see the Mosasaur.

Come and see the Mosasaur.

Picture Credit: Jurassic World

Clearly, with a nod towards the Killer Whales seen at the Sea World theme parks, InGen part of Masrani Global, have added giant marine reptiles to their genetic portfolio. Quite how they have managed to get hold of the DNA of a Mosasaurus remains a bit of a mystery, but hey ho, it’s only pretend.

The tank housing the Mosasaurus (a female), contains 11,000,000 litres of presumably sea water, since the majority of Mosasaurs were marine animals.  That is the equivalent of 2.4 million imperial gallons, an impressively sized aquarium, but around half the size of the existing Killer Whale pool at San Diego Sea World.  Sea World has received a lot of criticism over the size of their Orca aquaria and recently it was announced that plans were in place to build a much bigger habitat at San Diego.  The plans include a number of ideas to enrich the Killer Whale’s environment, the larger brained Cetaceans would require much greater stimulation than the Mosasaurs with their close phylogenetic affinity to snakes and lizards.

That’s right, Mosasaurs belong to the Order Squamata (snakes and lizards), Mosasaurus was named and described back in 1822 following the scientific study of fossils found in a chalk quarry near Maastricht, Holland.  A number of species of Mosasaurus have been described and scientists believe that the Mosasauridae evolved from land-dwelling lizards sometime in the Late Cretaceous (estimated to have evolved around ninety million years ago).  They thrived for twenty-five million years with a number of species becoming apex marine predators, the largest of which could have exceeded eighteen metres in length.  This group died out in the End Cretaceous extinction event that also saw the demise of the dinosaurs.  As far as we at Everything Dinosaur know, the Mosasaurs, as part of the taxonomic Superfamily Mosasauroidea, are the most recent Superfamily associated with the Order Squamata to have become extinct.

The Mosasaurus as Depicted on the Jurassic World Website

The Mosasaurus from Jurassic World

The Mosasaurus from Jurassic World

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the information provided about the “Mosasaurus Feeding Show”, this creature is fed every two hours, that’s a lot considering that, like their living relatives the Monitor Lizards, these reptiles were probably cold-blooded and could  have survived for long periods without eating much at all.   The feeding time must be more like “snack time” for the Mosasaurus, although in the much viewed Jurassic World trailer, the Mosasaurus is depicted leaping out of the water to swallow whole what looks like a Great White Shark!

As for the size of the Mosasaurus in the movie, there has been a lot of comment about this already.  The animal looks enormous in the trailer, but like a number of other marine reptiles, palaeontologists have got their shrink rays to work on the fossil material.  Previous estimates for a number of marine reptiles have been re-sized downwards in recent years.  In the picture in which Mosasaurus is seen leaping out of the water to feed on a shark, if we estimate the size of the shark at three metres long, then the Mosasaurus is easily upwards of twenty-five metres in length.  So far as the fossil record goes, the biggest Mosasaurus could have reached lengths of a little over half this size.  Other types of Mosasaur, the likes of Hainosaurus may have been bigger, but even at thirteen metres a Mosasaurus would have been a frightening prospect.

Estimating the Sizes of Extinct and Extant Marine Predators

A "rough guide" to size.

A “rough guide” to size.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above provides an approximate size guide for a number of marine predators.  Killer Whales range in size from 5-8 metres.  Size estimates for Great White Sharks vary and the same can be said for Carcharodon megalodon as well as the marine reptiles depicted.  However, whichever way you look at it, the Mosasaurus as shown in the Jurassic World trailer is oversized.  Perhaps those geneticists at InGen simply grew a bigger Mosasaurus who knows?  Even on the Jurassic World promotional website size estimates for their attraction vary, there is one reference for fourteen metres in length, another for eighteen metres.

A number of palaeontologists now contend that Mosasaurus had a tail fluke.  The model makers CollectA created a modern interpretation of a Mosasaurus in 2014, with a tail fluke added.  Safari Ltd have a beautiful Mosasaurus model in their Wild Safari Dinos range as well as a Tylosaurus replica in the company’s Carnegie Collectibles series.

To view the CollectA range of prehistoric animals including the Mosasaurus: CollectA Prehistoric Animal Models

Comparing Different Mosasaur Models (including Tylosaurus replicas)

Comparing different models of Mosasaurs.

Comparing different models of Mosasaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the CollectA 2014 Mosasaurus replica with its wonderful colouration and that tail fluke (top), the Wild Safari Dinos Mosasaurus model (middle) and the Carnegie Collectibles (bottom).

To view the range of Carnegie and Wild Safari Dinos models available from Everything Dinosaur: Safari Ltd Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

We are not sure how big a role the Mosasaurus is going to play in the Jurassic World movie, but we are delighted to see the addition of marine reptiles to the film franchise.  They are most welcome.

Jurassic World – Official Trailer

Jurassic World – The Official Trailer

So it has finally arrived, Universal Pictures have released the official trailer for Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the JP franchise.  We had been aware of the plot details for some time, now we can see the trailer.   When this film is released (June 12th 2015), it will be 22 years since the first Jurassic Park hit the screens – gosh, we are excited.

The Official Trailer – Jurassic World

Video Credit: Universal Studios

Remember, the Park opens June 2015.

We at Everything Dinosaur can’t wait although the marine reptile looks a little oversized.  Perhaps it has been genetically altered, not the only thing on Isla Nublar to have been genetically modified?

Jurassic World Trailer “Expected December 2014″

Jurassic World Trailer Delayed

Film buffs and dinosaur fans alike have been keen to hear news about the eagerly awaited release of the Jurassic World film trailer.  The movie itself, is scheduled to premier on June 12th 2015 and a number of formats will be available including 3-D and IMAX but rumours circulating indicate that the trailer is being delayed for a few more weeks at least.  Why all the interest in the trailer?  The answer is simple, Universal Pictures and director Colin Trevorrow  have been careful not to disclose any information about the actual prehistoric animals that will feature in the summer 2015 blockbuster, the fourth in the “Jurassic Park” cinema franchise.  So far only stills showing some of the actors and a few carefully managed pics hinting at the prehistoric animals in the film have been released.

The movie moguls are not daft, their intention is to squeeze every last penny out of the film and the merchandising spin-offs.  They know that despite the strong cast list that includes Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider Man 3, The Twilight Saga), child actor Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3), it is the dinosaurs that people want to see.  In terms of the Mesozoic cast list, the film makers have been keeping their cards very close to their chests.  However, Everything Dinosaur reported back in June that one of the super-predators to be seen in the film will be “Diablo rex” a mutated dinosaur which had elements of Tyrannosaurs, Velociraptors and the ability to camouflage itself thanks to chromatophores from borrowing the genes extracted from Cephalopods.

To read more about this and see some pics: First Glimpse of the Real Stars of Jurassic World

The official movie poster “Park Opens” shows a tyrannosaur skeleton in outline but film fans were hoping that the trailer would provide them with more information of the real film stars – the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

The Official Poster for the Forthcoming Film “Jurassic World”

Jurassic World Poster

Jurassic World Poster

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

Earlier in the summer, Everything Dinosaur posted up pictures of one of the movie props showing the layout of the theme park that is a location for this new dinosaur film.  The prop, which was a map of the attraction, contained an intriguing list of the prehistoric animals that could be viewed at the park.  However, fans are eagerly awaiting the trailer to see if they can get a glimpse of the dinosaurs as they will appear on the silver screen.  It had been planned to launch the trailer to Jurassic World in cinemas at the end of October, accompanying other trailers and advertisements prior to the showing of the Warner Bros movie “Intersteller”.  The trailer, although completed, has been re-scheduled for a December release to accompany the third part in the Hobbit trilogy.  The reason for the delay has been cited as purely a strategic reason.  Jurassic World is currently in post- production and due for global release in June 2015, but the powers that be when it comes to films, know that the longer they can keep the dinosaurs a mystery, the greater the hype there is going to be.

Everything Dinosaur will post up  the trailer when it is available.  All in good time…

First Glimpse at “Jurassic World” Dinosaurs a New Angle

Director Colin Trevorrow teases via Twitter

There may be a year or so before the premier of the new Jurassic Park film (Jurassic World), but already there has been intense speculation about which sorts of prehistoric animals are going to feature in the fourth movie in the JP franchise.  Visitors to Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page will have seen snippets about “Diablo rex“, a genetically modified, super-predator which is going to feature, look out for a general release date of around June 12th, 2015.  In the original Jurassic Park film based on the Michael Crichton novel, frog DNA was used to complete the genome and DNA sequencing that led to the creation of the dinosaurs.  It seems in the forthcoming, “Jurassic World”, this work has been continued further, leading to dinosaur DNA being mixed with the genes of other reptiles and Cephalopods to create a fearsome predator with chromatophores in its skin, giving this beastie the ability to camouflage itself amongst its surroundings – nasty!

Director Colin Trevorrow has been adding to the fervent speculation as last week he tweeted a picture of the silhouette of a huge set of jaws onto his Twitter account.  Apparently, during a break in the filming, Colin took an intriguing snap shot of the shadow cast by the huge, teeth-lined jaws of one of the dinosaur stars.  The picture, simply entitled “Nights” seems to show a shadow cast by street lights.

A Glimpse of a Dinosaur Movie Star

Tantalising glimpse of dinosaur in forthcoming movie.

Tantalising glimpse of dinosaur in forthcoming movie.

Picture Credit: Colin Trevorrow/Twitter

The conical shaped teeth of what evidently is a carnivore can be clearly made out and although the photograph is deliberately misleading (good old Hollywood PR machine in play), our dinosaur experts have been trying to shed some light as to what the picture actually reveals. Firstly, the photograph gives the impression that the two jaw bones are of very different sizes, with one jaw looking three times thicker than the other.  Such a difference in jaw thickness between the dentary of the lower jaw and the maxilla is not unknown in the Dinosauria.  Both the abelisaurids and the tyrannosaurids exhibited such characteristics with the lower jaw (dentary) being less thick than the upper jaws in many cases.  There are certainly a large number of teeth depicted.  The teeth in the thin jaw are almost Crocodilian in shape and number, or should we describe the dentition and their numbers resembling an example from the Spinosauridae.  Spinosaurs had long, pointed conical teeth very similar to today’s Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).

On first impression the jaws don’t look very much like the typical jaws of a Tyrannosaurus rex that’s for sure.

Interestingly, when the picture is rotated through 180 degrees, the thin jaw element becomes the lower jaw.  The shadow cast looks almost Crocodilian.

The “Teaser” Photograph Turned Upside Down

The image rotated through 180 degrees.

The image rotated through 180 degrees.

Picture Credit: Colin Trevorrow/Twitter

In this view the photograph reminds us of the head and jaws of the Triassic carnivore, Postosuchus, a reptile but not a member of the Order Dinosauria.

A Model of the Triassic Predator Postosuchus

A model of Postosuchus from Safari Ltd.

A model of Postosuchus from Safari Ltd.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the upside down picture, two triangular bumps can be seen on what would be the top of the upper jaw. Could these be nose horns?

Is Colin really toying with us, is the picture he posted actually a clever shot that when turned the other way up reveals more about this prehistoric animal?

Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D Reviewed

“Patchi” and Friends in a Coming of Age Saga Set in the Cretaceous

Just in time for Christmas comes the release of the long-awaited “Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D” a film that features an array of Late Cretaceous prehistoric animals (dinosaurs mostly) with the narrator of our story being Alex an Alexornis, an ancient bird* who via a segue that manages to link the present day to the Late Cretaceous of North America, is introduced as our guide to the adventures of a horned dinosaur called “Patchi”.  The fact that there were many different types of prehistoric bird around, is just one of the snippets of information that can be gleaned from seeing the film.  The movie is a collaboration between BBC Earth and 20th Century Fox and although it shares the same title as the BBC’s ground breaking television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” that first aired back in 1999, this is a very different “beastie”.

In the six part BBC television series, each half hour episode was narrated by Sir Kenneth Branagh, (although he wasn’t a Knight at the time), these programmes combined the BBC’s tradition for making excellent nature documentaries with ground-breaking computer generated special effects.  Back in 1999, seeing a dinosaur come to life on the screen or to view a prehistoric habitat was something very memorable.  After all, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park may have resurrected the Dinosauria and shown for the first time how powerful CGI could be, but the back drops to the fearsome dinosaurs were all modern day locations.  In the BBC television series, the programmes managed to create the effect that here was an actual nature documentary shot in the Mesozoic.

Much the same look is achieved in this cinema offering, the background scenery (the location shots were taken in New Zealand and Alaska) is breath taking, however, fourteen years on, we are so used to CGI that the effects seem to have lost some of their impact.  With so many fantasy films, computer programmes and in the Youtube generation, perhaps our senses have been dulled somewhat.

The story seems to follow the typical plot of a film aimed very much at young viewers.  An underdog, the runt of the litter gets into all sorts of scrapes and adventures before finally growing up to become a hero.  There is even a love interest, yes, romance in a film all about dinosaurs, but more of that later.  ”Patchi” and his big brother (“Scowler”) are Pachyrhinosaurs, horned dinosaurs that are distantly related to the more famous Triceratops, but lack the impressive nose and brow horns.  Thanks to an encounter with a speedy, carnivorous Troodon, “Patchi” gains a hole in his frill, which is very distinctive, a useful cinematic device to make him distinguishable from all the other Pachyrhinosaurs in the herd scenes, helpful for very young viewers so that they can follow the story line more easily.  The film has been described as “infotainment”, as periodically the action is frozen and the Latin names of the prehistoric creatures and other supporting data is displayed on the screen, perhaps this is a nod to the grown-ups who can take solace in the fact that this film might have some educational value.  The film is very reminiscent of Disney’s offering “Dinosaur”  (released in 2000), the dinosaurs even have American accents – apt, as the action does take place in North America.

The characters depicted in the film may be largely reptilian (there are mammals and birds too), but all of them have been anthropomorphosised and often they come across as mere caricatures although it is hard to consider how human-like, a two tonne, extinct Ceratopsian might possibly have been.  The story jogs along at a merry pace and covers ten years in the life of the herd, time enough for “Patchi” to prove that brains are sometimes better than brawn.  The dialogue can be a bit grating at times, there are all sorts of modern-day references, (as if dinosaurs, knew anything about chew toys or ninjas) and the film makers seemed to be passionately concerned with ensuring that there must dialogue for every frame of the film.  For animals capable of only screeches, bellows and roars, the dinosaurs certainly do talk a lot.

“Patchi” – The Runt of a Litter of Pachyrhinosaurs

Do animals that lay eggs have a runt in the litter?

Do animals that lay eggs have a runt in the litter?

“Patchi” with his brown eyes meets “Juniper” a female Pachyrhinosaurus from a neighbouring herd (she has blue eyes), eye colour in Ceratopsians is something that we at Everything Dinosaur haven’t actually considered.  ”Patchi” and his brother get separated from their herd after a forest fire, they join up with another group of migrating Pachyrhinosaurs and “Patchi” is thrown together with “Juniper”.  When these young dinosaurs get lost again, thanks to an attack by a gang of Gorgosaurs (Tyrannosaurids similar to T.rex but smaller and lighter), another set of adventures begins and the love interest with “Patchi” falling head over his Ceratopsian heels for “Juniper”.  The three animals have to find their own way to the winter feeding grounds.  This part of the film has echoes of the “Incredible Journey” another Disney offering about three pets trying to make it back to their owners.  The original “Incredible Journey” came out in 1963 with a re-make thirty years later starring the voice over talents of the likes of Michael J. Fox, Sally Field and Don Ameche.  From this perspective dogs and cats seem easier to anthropomorphosise than dinosaurs.

The film carries a “U” certificate, although parents of particularly young children will need to be mindful that this film does depict predators attacking,  it is very much a case of nature “red in tooth and claw”.  At eighty-seven minutes, the film is fractionally shorter than the “Walking with Dinosaurs” stage show, but unlike the live event there is no fifteen minute interval.  To the delight of the young viewers the humour has lots of scatological references, our hero “Patchi” literally gets “dumped on from a great height” at one point.  No doubt the film will do very well which then could bring about the prospect of a sequel, or indeed an entire franchise of these dino-inspired, infotainments.  For us, we can always put on one of the BBC “Walking with Dinosaurs” episodes from that ground-breaking television series, which in our view are far superior.

Blue-Eyed “Juniper” – Romance in the Late Cretaceous?

A blue-eyed, horned dinosaur.

A blue-eyed, horned dinosaur.

Note about Prehistoric Birds from the Late Cretaceous

*Alexornis is a member of the Enantiornithines, a clade of prehistoric birds that were relatively abundant towards the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.  Something like fifty different species of Enantiornithines have been named so far.

A Model of an Adult Pachyrhinosaurus (P. canadensis)

A Pachyrhinosaurus Model.

A Pachyrhinosaurus Model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the model range that features the Pachyrhinosaurus replica shown: Papo Dinosaurs and the Pachyrhinosaurus Dinosaur Model

Updates on Jurassic Park IV – Marine Reptiles and All

Jurassic Park IV Due for Release in 2015

With problems over the filming now resolved it seems there has been new life breathed into the once extinct Jurassic Park IV movie and a new release date has been proposed.  Originally scheduled for June 13th 2014, the world-wide release of this long awaited film, the fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise, is likely to be summer 2015.  Although, there have been a number of leaks relating to the storyline the plot is a closely guarded secret.  However, it does seem that the action will mostly take part on the island of Isla Nublar, this was the location used largely for the first film in the franchise, the site of John Hammond’s dinosaur-themed safari park.

A source claims that the prehistoric animals shown in the movie will include marine reptiles for the first time.  There will be dinosaurs that had appeared in the previous films, the fearsome, over-sized Velociraptors and the monstrous T. rex, for example, but giant carnivorous sea monsters will make an appearance too.

Isla Nublar is now a fully operational theme park, a tourist attraction on a huge scale.  Theropod dinosaurs roam but they are muzzled.  In one sequence, a giant marine reptile will perform in a Sea-World like attraction, a sort of prehistoric version of Shamu the Killer Whale.  The huge beast leaps out of the water to devour a strung up Great White Shark, all for the pleasure of the tourists.  Looks like the shark from “Jaws” is put in its place in terms of the prehistoric pecking order.

There were certainly many very large and dangerous marine reptiles in the seas of the Mesozoic, Pliosaurs and Mosasaurs for example.  Tylosaurus (T. proriger) a Mosasaur whose fossils have been found in North America, may have reached lengths in excess of fourteen metres.  The Pliosaur, known as Liopleurodon (L. macromerus), may have been even bigger, perhaps twenty metres in length, although estimates of a weight in the region of 150 Tonnes in our view are a little excessive.

A Mosasaur Attacks a Pteranodon (P. longiceps)

Fearsome marine reptiles to feature in Jurassic Park IV

Fearsome marine reptiles to feature in Jurassic Park IV

Picture Credit: BBC Worldwide

Insiders claim that there will be a new type of dinosaur villain in this film, one that has not appeared in the previous three movies.  This dinosaur breaks out of its cage and rampages across the park, killing and eating a number of people that get in its way.  We at Everything Dinosaur have speculated what this new dinosaur might be – an Abelisaurid such as a Carnotaurus or a member of the Carcharodontosaurids (Great White Shark Lizards – back we go to “Jaws” again); a predatory dinosaur such as Carcharodontosaurus or perhaps a Giganotosaurus.

We shall have to wait and see.  Roll on 2015.

New “Scariest Dinosaur of All” to Feature in Jurassic Park IV

Hyperbole about New Jurassic Park Film has Started – Which Scary Dinosaur?

With a release date for Jurassic Park IV already announced (June 2014) and a director already on board (Colin Trevorrow), it seems that the rumour mill has started in earnest.  With some filming having been completed already and more location work in the swamps of Baton Rouge (Louisiana), under way, it seems the question as to which dinosaurs will actually appear in the new feature film has raised its ugly head.  The CGI teams are keeping their creations under wraps for the moment, but the new film, the fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise; has some way to go to beat the scary dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals featured in the first three movies.

Jurassic Park, released in 1993 had T. rex and the man-sized Velociraptors as the scariest dinosaurs, although a case could be made for the Dilophosaurs and their habit of spitting poison at their victims.  We all know that the movie makers departed somewhat from the known fossil record, but the first film was truly scary in parts, with lots of “jump out of your seat moments”.  In the sequel, “The Lost World” the T. rex and the raptors were prominent once again.  The Tyrannosaur and its baby even made their way to America for the finale of the film.

Which New Scary Dinosaur for Jurassic Park IV?

Candidates for scary movie dinosaur wanted

Candidates for scary movie dinosaur wanted.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

For Jurassic Park III, released in 2001, a new super predator was introduced, a Spinosaurus which promptly attacked and killed a T. rex before causing havoc amongst the human actors.  Although very few fossils of Spinosaurus have been found, those associated with the holotype having been destroyed in World War II, palaeontologists believe that Spinosaurus may have been the largest, terrestrial carnivore that ever lived.  Some scientists estimate that this monster could have been more than seventeen metres in length and weighed more than twenty tonnes.

With possibly the largest land living carnivore known to science featuring in the third movie in the franchise, how will Colin Trevorrow and his team trump the previous Jurassic Park outings?  In an interview given this week, John (Jack) Horner, one of the palaeontologists that has advised the franchise makers, stated that Jurassic Park IV will feature a new dinosaur species one that is more scary than anything else seen in the previous three films.  But which type of dinosaur could the American palaeontologist have been referring to?

Since 2001, there have been a number of new Theropod dinosaur discoveries so there are plenty of candidates.  Could the new “scary” dinosaur be the man-sized Tyrannosaur known as Raptorex, or could the bizarre Late Cretaceous meat-eater with its double-sickle shaped killing claws known as Balaur bondoc be the new star?  With B. bondoc, think Velociraptor but a more robust, heavy-weight version.

The Fossilised Remains of the Left Foot of B. Bandoc

Candidate for scary dinosaur.

Candidate for scary dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Mick Ellison, Zoltan Csiki, Matyas Vremir, Stephan Brusatte, Mark Norrell, American Museum of Natural History

There are certainly a number of other potential movie monsters in the dinosaur fossil record.  Given the liberties taken by the franchise in the past it is difficult to predict what new horrors they may invent.  One of the longest and most established rumours concerning the making of a fourth film is that there are going to be dinosaur/human hybrids featured.  Drawings of such dino-man creatures were made many years ago and we at Everything Dinosaur have been lucky enough to have seen some of these fearsome creations.

One of the Abandoned Concept Drawings

Dinosaur Human Hybrid

Dinosaur Human Hybrid.

Picture Credit: Total Film

Other potential new stars for this fourth film include the likes of Giganotosaurus and Mapusaurus from South America, ow how about the USA’s own home-grown super predator, the Early Cretaceous Acrocanthosaurus (A. atokensis).  This hump-backed, fearsome carnivore was probably the apex predator in the southern part of the United States in the Early Cretaceous, there is some evidence to suggest it hunted in packs and the movie series has not featured large Theropods hunting in packs, so why not include some footage in the new movie?

Will the USA’s very own Acrocanthosaurus be the New Star?

A new dinosaur film star?

A new dinosaur film star?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We would welcome comments and suggestions, we have not touched upon the Ornithischian dinosaurs or considered prehistoric crocodiles, marine reptiles or indeed the Pterosaurs.  If you were making a dinosaur film and had to include a scary dinosaur which ones would you choose?

Dinosaurs at the Movies

Dinosaurs at the Movies – Spotting the Anomalies in Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park was released in 1993, directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay based on the novel by Michael Crichton, who sadly passed away this time last year. This movie showcased the developments made in CGI (computer generated images) and depicted dinosaurs and pterosaurs with a new realism and accuracy.

However, the film makers did not let the palaeontology get in the way of a great storyline. For several types of prehistoric animal shown in the film and the subsequent sequels, their appearance and behaviour stretched plausibility to a great extent and some sequences and dinosaur scenes were given what might be termed the “Hollywood treatment”. For example, an adult Tyrannosaurus rex able to chase down a speeding jeep, Dilophosaurs having venom and being able to project it in a similar way to a spitting Cobra. These attributes, whether it is giving T. rex tremendous speed or empowering Dilophosaurus with poison glands are simply not legitimised by what is seen in the fossil record.

Take for example, the Tyrannosaurus rex chasing Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill et al in the jeep chase scene.  Recent studies using advanced computer modelling techniques from scientists at Manchester University has calculated a T. rex top speed to be around 18 mph, about as fast as a professional footballer.  That is still fast for an animal in excess of 13 metres long and weighing 5 tonnes or more, but hardly fast enough to catch a speeding jeep.  Even on wet, slippery ground a four-wheel drive jeep could speed away from a Tyrannosaurus in second gear.

To read the article on the running speeds of dinosaurs, based on the studies undertaken by the University of Manchester team: So Tyrannosaurus rex could chase down David Beckham

Perhaps the best known, anomaly regarding how dinosaurs were depicted in the Jurassic Park films concerns the main monster villains of the movies – the “Raptors”. Velociraptors are depicted in the film and these creatures appear about as tall as a person and more than 3 metres long. Velociraptor mongoliensis is one of the better known Dromaeosaurs, it was much smaller, standing no more than one metre tall, and an estimated 1.5 metres long, the tail making up a considerable proportion of this animal’s total body length. It may have weighed less than 15 kilogrammes, the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park were scaled up and as a result they looked all the more fearsome and ferocious. Fossils of Velociraptor have been found to date in Asia, the United States does have its very dinosaur candidate for a 3-4 metre long fearsome, “Raptor” movie star – Deinonychus. Known from several specimens, this fearsome hunter was similar in size to the Velociraptors shown in the film, there has even been fossil evidence found indicating that Deinonychus hunted in packs, a behaviour frequently illustrated by the Velociraptors in the Jurassic Park trilogy. Deinonychus was named and described by the American palaeontologist John Ostrom in 1969. It was Ostrom who was largely responsible for re-writing scientific thinking and portraying certain types of dinosaur as active, agile, warm-blooded creatures. Ironically, John Ostrom was a mentor and close colleague of Dr. Bob Bakker who acted as one of the main scientific advisors to the movie makers.

During the filming of the first Jurassic Park, scientists discovered the fossilised remains of the largest known genus of Dromaeosaur in the fossil record. In 1991, the fossilised remains of a fierce hunter, perhaps measuring as much as 6.5 metres long were unearthed in a quarry in Utah. This animal was formerly named and described in 1993, it is called Utahraptor.

Despite the exaggerated size of the Velociraptors and other anomalies seen in the Jurassic Park movies, they are immensely enjoyable and broke a number of box office records. Strange things do happen in nature, no one has ever seen a dinosaur and the technical consultants on the film such as Dr. Bob Bakker remain highly respected and admired palaeontologists. After all, it has recently been proven that the largest lizard on Earth, the Komodo Dragon has a venomous bite.  So if reptiles around today can still startle scientists, you can bet the fossil record of the Dinosauria has a few surprises buried beneath our feet.

Land of the Lost Movie Review

Land of the Lost Movie Review

Summer holidays must be here and the schools broken up as this time of year sees the release of a certain genre of film designed to entertain families and hopefully while away an afternoon.  The Land of the Lost straddles the science fiction/screwball comedy genre and if you are keen to spend an afternoon out of the rain at the cinema then this film delivers a number of nice comedy moments.  It doe not really hang together as a cohesive story though, it gave us the impression of a number of sketches and bizarre situations rather stitched together, but it does have its funny moments.  Most of the amusing lines are delivered by the film’s main star, Will Ferrell who plays Dr. Rich Marshall.  The cast includes Anna Friel, playing a somewhat smarter research assistant and Danny McBride as a sort of American version of Ray Mears.

Our trio of unlikely heroes end up proving Dr. Marshall’s theory of time travel correct and ending up in a strange parallel universe populated by early hominids, lizard people, Pterosaurs and of course dinosaurs.  The chase scenes with T. rex at least allow Will Ferrell the chance to test some of the theories scientists have regarding this large predator.  For example, how fast could T. rex run, was this dinosaur able to turn swiftly and such like.  We enjoyed the references made to some of these theories and concepts, but in parts of the film the CGI did not look very realistic and overall the look of the movie was quite disappointing.

If you like the bumbling humour of Will Ferrell then you won’t be too disappointed.  The film is based on a old American TV series, none of us can remember the original and we suspect that this film will also soon slip from our collective memory.

Review of Ice Age 3 – Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Review of Ice Age 3 – Dawn of the Dinosaurs

With a release timed to coincide with the start of the school holidays, the third film in the Ice Age franchise is definitely written with the need to keep the kids entertained in mind.  Manny the mammoth, his friends Diego and Sid find themselves in a lost world with dinosaurs to contend with as well as the imminent arrival of Manny’s first child, with his heavily pregnant partner Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah).

The animation is up to the high standards of the previous two movies, but this time the movie is shot in 3-D, whether this gimmick adds anything to the enjoyment of the film is debatable, perhaps the film makers thought it best to add a novel twist to freshen up the franchise.

There are some particularly funny moments and some subtle jibes at parent hood, epitomised by the increasingly anxious Manny as he tries to “baby proof” nature prior to the arrival of his baby.  New characters are introduced, a romantic love interest for Scratt, the acorn chasing prehistoric squirrel and a strange, swashbuckling weasel character called Buck voiced by the English actor Simon Pegg.  Buck reminded us of Ben Gunn, the character in Treasure Island (the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), that was left on the island and craved toasted cheese whilst awaiting rescue.

An enjoyable and light hearted film, that kept the children entertained.

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