OUT OF THIS WORLD Did you know that the film they use to shoot IMAX movies is strong enough to pull a truck? I don’t know why but that blows my mind, though I have a few filmmaking friends out in California who would probably appreciate the beauty in that. This weekend, attempting to find some solace from the dog they call Memphis summer (yeah, I know, it wasn’t even that hot…was it the humidity?) I decided to head over to the Pink Palace and check out the offerings at our local IMAX theater. Itt being the season in which everything slows down except for the speed of the sweat pouring off the old back, this serves as a great escape. Wouldn’t you rather be in a cave in Greenland made of solid ice? Or hey, how about space? If so, this summer’s line-up is the perfect place to escape for an hour. The theater offers a choice of two films shown on a four-story screen beneath the Pink Palace lawn. Apparently, they decided to build the theater underground so as to avoid obstructing the view of the Pink Palace from the street. This summer’s offerings include the now “B-list” Journey into Amazing Caves, and the newest feature, which is Space Station. Though I’m a devout cave fan, listing a sojourn into New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns as one of the all-time highlights of my life thus far, Space Station definitely blew Amazing Caves away. So if you have to choose between the two, that’s your best bet. Besides, it’s a bit longer, and if you’re using the excursion to hide away from the oppressive heat you’ll buy yourself a few extra minutes of air-conditioned entertainment. One of the coolest things about Space Station is the fact that a large percentage of the film was actually shot in space. Sure, there have been video clips of earth from afar before, but to see our planet on three-dimensional film from a vantage point outside our invisible boundary with the rest of the heavens is truly quieting. It puts things in perspective really, although that perspective is certainly too obtuse to grasp for more than a moment. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if everyone could carry that image in their heads as they walked through life? To see a world without demarcations and more importantly to remember that no matter what the socio-political context of a time or age that these demarcations are always, ultimately, pretty much arbitrary. But maybe you don’t want to hear my entire philosophy on that issue. The station itself is the ongoing project of 16 nations, orbiting at 17,500 miles roughly 220 miles above our little globe. It’s amazing to watch the progress that a collective of international intelligence and technology can propel, and to think that we are on the verge as humans of having created a “permanent” place where we can convene away from this planet. Granted, it’s the universal equivalent of stepping out into the front row of our own parking lot, but still, it awes me. One of the primary research projects for the station involves a machine that tests human responses to different situations in space, and presumably will provide some of the answers that we will need before we desert our home base as a species, and head into the great beyond. To be honest, though, I had a bit of an Orwellian feeling when they showed that little contraption, imagining all sorts of horrible possibilities for the selection-process of said machine’s subjects. I’m going to make sure that I behave myself from now on. Aside from the in-space footage, most of which is truly breathtaking, the take-off shots shown in Russia and in Florida were also astounding. Four full stories of billowing smoke and flame have a lot of impact, especially when you know that’s it’s real. That is, unless you are one of those people who think that the whole space thing is a grand publicity stunt staged someplace in the desert. For those of you reading, it was an excellent foray into the frontier of pyrotechnics. But let’s get back to earth for a moment. Journey into Amazing Caves, which has been at the Palace for a while, follows two women on a hunt for “extremophiles” in some of the world’s most exotic caves. Why somebody doesn’t tell them to just come down to Memphis on a Saturday night I have no idea. No, seriously, Caves focuses on the vast potential that might be tapped from the microbacterial life forms that thrive in extreme environments here on earth. Due to the unthinkable conditions in which many of these creatures are found, they are given the name extremophiles, and many scientists hope that they may hold the key to curing some of the world’s worst diseases. The film highlights the work of Hazel Barton and Nancy Aulenbach in this endeavor, which brings them to such locales as a million-year old cave near the Grand Canyon, a glacial formation at least 1000-feet deep in Greenland, and an enormous underwater cave system in Mexico. This is not a film for those who cringe at the idea of a person hanging from a rope with a few-hundred feet wide open beneath them. As for myself, I was wildly jealous. Overall, both films provide an eye-opening escape from those summer doldrums, and if you haven’t checked out an IMAX film yet, then go do it now. One of the bonuses of living in a city is having access to things that people in less metropolitan areas have to travel to enjoy. Why not take advantage of it?


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