November Writing Challenge Day 29: Attack of the Clones

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Earlier during this challenge I announced my next challenge: watching all of the Star Wars movies and TV series on Disney+ in chronological order before watching Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker on December 19th.

I jumped right in, watching Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the first time in years (and I think my third time overall). The passage of time did nothing to change my opinion of the movie (it’s terrible) and I wondered how Episode II: Attack of the Clones would fare. I remember seeing this one in the theater and actually enjoying it. It’s diminished over the years, though, to the point where I can understand why people think this is the worst Star Wars movie of them all.

Of course, Anakin’s “sand” speech is laughably bad, but one thing that made the prequels unbearable for me is the overabundance of CGI. At the time, this new generation of special effects was set to change movie making, but I feel the same now as I did then about the prequel special effects: just because you can show all of these amazing details like a planet full of spaceship traffic doesn’t mean you HAVE to.

I may have mentioned this before, but I remember reading Liam Neeson talking about his frustration with acting in front of green screens all of the time, with Lucas’ special effects teams filling in the background later. Although Neeson and Ewan McGregor are just fine in Episode I, almost every other actor wasn’t and Episode II has some forgettable performances by Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman.

So, I made it through Episode II and thankfully The Mandalorian was available to get the first two prequels’s taste out of my mouth. I appreciate that a whole generation of fans got into Star Wars through the prequels and I’m certainly not one to gate-keep Star Wars fandom or keep people from enjoying what they enjoy. Just know that I’ve given the first two episodes multiple chances, still think they’re awful, and realize they’re not for me. I’m done with them.

Continuing the action chronologically, I started watching the Clone Wars series. I liked the first Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network back in the day and was bummed when I learned it was no longer canon. I’ve watched a handful of the “new” Clone Wars series so far and they’ve been okay. I’m not a fan of the animation style and it’s definitely skewed toward a younger audience with characters like the Padawan Ahsoka, but at least they seem like they’ll be more entertaining than the first two movies.

If not, then I’ll skip the rest of the series and amend my original challenge to include only the movies.

November Writing Challenge Day 27: The Irishman

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock (10428408cl) Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel ‘The Irishman’ film premiere, Arrivals, 57th New York Film Festival, USA – 27 Sep 2019

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

If you haven’t see The Irishman yet, this is your one and only warning that there are spoilers below.

Like most of my friends and family, I’m a big fan of Martin Scorsese’s gangster films. From Goodfellas to The Departed, they’ve entertained us for years. Many moons ago when I lived with two of my good friends it seemed like there was always one of Scorsese’s movies playing on TV.

I was excited for The Irishman, especially when I heard it was being released straight to Netflix after a limited theatrical run. The cast shown in the previews was like Murderer’s Row of my favorite gangster actors: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel. This had all of the makings of another classic Scorsese movie.

I watched it tonight and it’s good, really good. But not great.

As seen in the trailers, Frank Sheeran is a mob hitman who eventually finds himself becoming friends with union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Framed as a look back at a life of crime, there are elements of Scorsese filmmaking throughout the nearly three-and-a-half hour runtime. There are tracking shots, sudden bursts of violence, and men being MEN. There are scenes that make you laugh. And there are loads of fantastic performances, highlighted by DeNiro, Pesci, and Pacino.

But after my first viewing, I didn’t get the immediate “Wow, what a movie!” feeling I got from other Scorsese films. The last half hour or so is different than his other gangster movies and, for me, it was the most interesting part of The Irishman. DeNiro’s character is coming to grips with his mortality, his non-relationship with his estranged daughter, and the crimes he’s committed. It’s a more meditative tone and fits in quite well with the rest of the film.

So although I had a lukewarm response to it, I’ll watch it again, just like I do with most of Scorsese’s movies. Perhaps my opinion will change after another viewing or two. I remember thinking Casino was basically just Goodfellas in Vegas until I’d watched it a few more times.

The Irishman doesn’t have the “big” scenes of Scorsese’s other gangster films; there’s no coked-out Henry Hill frenzy or Nicky Santoro brutality. Instead, we get a more drawn-out and contemplative look at a life of crime. It’s one well worth watching, even if it’s not one of my favorite Scorsese films. Yet.

November Writing Challenge Day 21: The Phantom Menace

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Last night I started my latest challenge: watch all of the Star Wars movies and two of the animated series before The Rise of Skywalker debuts next month. I’m watching them in chronological order, which means I started with Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I never saw Episode I in the theaters. When it came out I was more interested in going out to the bars with my friends. I thought I’d get around to watching it, but before I knew it the movie was no longer showing. When I did finally get to see it on videotape, I was underwhelmed. I watched it a second time on DVD years ago and was bored by it.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to it when I logged into Disney+ last night. The opening scroll talks about a trade blockade and this is where I knew I was in trouble. Trade talks and politics? Not exactly the best way to kick off The Saga, right?

Within 15 minutes, or about the time Jar-Jar Binks made his first appearance, I was ready to turn it off. Jar-Jar was just as annoying as I remembered him. So was young Anakin Skywalker.

The podrace was cooler than I remembered, but it would’ve been better without the two-headed sports announcers. Did we really need this nod to modern sports?

Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor were the best parts of Episode I. Darth Maul was a menacing presence, but like most of this movie the best parts were too short and the worst parts were too long. I remember reading an interview with Liam Neeson years ago where he complained about having to act in front of a bunch of blue screens.

Neeson’s interview was on my mind when I saw part of the Star Wars documentary that’s on Disney+. In it, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford joke about George Lucas’ directing style: “Faster and more intense.”

I thought about that quote as I watched Episode I. For its time, the CGI was the latest and greatest in special effects, and it was obvious that Lucas was more enthralled with these than the actual actors or dialogue. You have all of these great actors in the greatest space opera of all time and all you get is a dull film? What a waste.

It’s no wonder I’ve been watching these films in Machete Order for years. After my challenge, I’m going back to it.

November Writing Challenge Day 3: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Has there ever been a more perfect teaser trailer than for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I still get goosebumps watching it, which I tend to do whenever a new Star Wars teaser, trailer, or behind-the-scenes trailer is released. In only 30 seconds it captured all of the nostalgia from the original movies and introduced us to this strange, yet familiar new world. Here, watch it again, then we’ll talk about The Rise of Skywalker:

I’ve loved all of the new Star Wars movies, including The Last Jedi and Solo, both of which haven’t been universally acclaimed by fans. The final chapter in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, hits theaters next month and I’m equally excited and sad to see it. Excited because it’s Star Wars. Sad because it’s the end of an era.

And while we all know Disney will pump out new Star Wars material in various formats for years to come, this is the end of a story that captivated me as a child and into my teen years.

The original trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first “big” movie I remember seeing at a theater, when my parents took me to the old Pasadena Academy, an old-school moviehouse that was converted into a multiplex many years ago.

I already have my tickets to The Rise of Skywalker, thanks to my local comic book shop’s special screening the night before the official release date. I’ve seen all of the new Star Wars movies this way, with members of the 501st Legion showing up for pre-movie photo ops, Star Wars giveaways, and the thrill of watching the newest film with my fellow Star Wars fanatics.

I’d probably be more sad about The Saga ending if not for my nephew and nieces. Knowing that there will be new characters and stories from this amazing universe for them to enjoy puts a smile on my face. I hope they get as much joy out of whatever Star Wars they get in the future that I’ve gotten from the Skywalker story.

Day 352: Action Figure

This figure is old. Must be worth a lot.

This figure is old. Must be worth a lot.

I’ve always wanted to take a picture in front of one of those backdrops made to look like a Star Wars action figure box. Last night I did, as I sported my Mace Windu haircut, Lando Calrissian mustache, and Chewbacca hoodie.

By the way, I’m still not posting anything about Star Wars: The Force Awakens until after Christmas. And, yes, I have a very patient wife, who’s had to listen to me go on about …

Day 351: We Saw It

Opening Night!

Opening Night!

As promised, no spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Pictured above: my wife and I before tonight’s 7:30pm showing. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a movie on opening night — forgot how much fun all of the extracurricular stuff is. I’ll talk about the movie next week.

Day 345: Star Wars Piano

Star Wars Piano Medley

Star Wars Piano Medley

Although I’m now posting all of my Star Wars content to Lando’s ‘Stache, I couldn’t resist sharing the Ultimate Star Wars Medley here. It’s a brilliantly produced video featuring a supremely talented pianist covering five of the most popular Star Wars songs. The pianos themselves are also stars, as you’ll see in the video.

After watching this I was reminded of one thing: not everything in the prequels was awful, thanks to magic of John Williams’ music. Duel of the Fates is a classic Star Wars song and as arranged by Sonya Belousova, it fits perfectly into her medley below.

Day 341: General Cinema


Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s usually meant going to the mall to see movies.

This meant seeing films in the General Cinema multiplex, which always ran this before the feature presentation:

I may not remember all of the films I saw during my youth, but I recall laughing hysterically whenever this clip was on screen. My brothers, cousins, friends, and I howled with delight every time this was shown.

I’m still not sure why this tickled our funny bones back then. I’m assuming that after the first or second time, it became a Pavlovian response; it might not have been funny, but hearing that initial high hat guaranteed guffaws from all of us.


Day 305: Street Food Cinema

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

A few years ago my wife and I experienced our first Street Food Cinema in Hollywood. It’s a terrific event of live music, food trucks, and a classic movie shown outdoors in different parts of Los Angeles. I love the picnic atmosphere; it’s family friendly with a laid-back  vibe.

For Halloween last night, my wife scored tickets to the final event of the season at Exposition Park for one of my favorite movies: Shaun of the Dead. Since we’d already dressed as zombies this year, we decided to do a DC/Marvel crossover with my wife going as Spidergirl and myself as Clark Kent-changing-into-Superman (an easy costume for me since I already have the eyeglasses).

We arrived in time for the last song of the band, found a spot near the front to lay down our picnic blanket and beach chairs, then did a quick scan of the food trucks before deciding on our dinner: shish kebabs for my wife and a shrimp po boy and chicken/sausage/corn bisque for me. The food was delicious and we cracked open a bottle of a wonderful wine for the movie.

I was surprised that more people weren’t dressed as zombies or the characters from the movie, but there were some terrific costumes. I particularly liked the McDonald’s Hamburglar I was in line with for dinner.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the film as much as I always do. Shaun of the Dead is such a smart, funny movie, brilliantly versed in its zombie cliches as it pokes fun of itself and the genre. The weather was perfect last night and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Halloween.

Day 302: Rewatchable

Most Rewatchable Movie of All Time? Star Wars.

Most Rewatchable Movie of All Time? Star Wars.

After I posted my progress on my 2015 Goals list yesterday, I thought about why I haven’t been motivated to complete my goal of watching all 100 of AFI’s Greatest Films. I love watching movies and a lot of those on that list are classics. I should’ve been able to finish that list with no problem, right?

Well, I’ve tried to watch a few of them and either fall asleep or start doing something else. By the time I wake up or focus my attention back on the film, I’ve missed enough that I’d have to start over, so I just end up shutting it off.

Perhaps I should revise my goal to watch all of FiveThirtyEight’s 25 Most Rewatchable Movies of All Time. I’ve seen 24 of the 25 (Pride & Prejudice being the one I haven’t seen), so it’d be no sweat.

Of course, I’d probably get stuck on No. 1. Maybe I should just watch that 25 times? I’d reach that goal in no time.