Day 295: Expectations

I was talking to a few of my buddies last night about the Star Wars movie when I realized that the only way The Force Awakens is going to live up to the hype is if it blows everybody away.

I contained my excitement before giving in to it when the trailer was released, but after a few days I’m back to I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mode. What pulled me back?

I recalled the anticipation for Episode I was just as high (or at least as high as it could be in a pre-social-media world). People were going to the movie theaters, buying tickets for the main feature, and leaving after the Star Wars trailer.

Yes, this actually happened.

Thankfully, now we can avoid paying admission to see a two-minute clip, instead watching it endlessly on youtube in the comfort of our own homes. The Force Awakens trailer is perfect in that it gives us just enough to quell our Star Wars cravings without giving too much away. We’re introduced to the main characters, our nostalgia is sated with the appearances of the Millennium Falcon, Han, Leia, and Chewie, and it’s all beautifully tied together with the always brilliant score from John Williams.

The other day I mentioned how I hope director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan don’t rehash too much in order to satisfy the audience’s appetite for the original trilogy. In the poster and the trailer we get glimpses of a Death-Star-like orb and a long trench in the snow.

As much as I hated all of the CGI in the prequel trilogy, this was Lucas at his best: pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with special effects. After the prequels were released it seemed as if the entire movie industry’s special effects departments had grown by leaps and bounds. The biggest benefactors were all of the my favorite superheroes that could finally get on the big screen, thanks to CGI.

Ultimately it was the weak stories of the prequel that doomed them. No amount of political intrigue, midichlorians, or tragic love story was going to get the audience to enjoy what amounted to a special effects show.

Abrams has said that he wants to capture that sense of awe from the original trilogy. He’s using more practical effects and less CGI.  Sure, he’ll still have his trademark lens flares, but that’s fine with me.

This is my (guarded) hope with The Force Awakens: that Abrams lives up to half of what he’s said and shown so far. I can’t expect him to pull an Empire Strikes Back right out of the gate, can I?

Something that my buddies reminded me about was how much we all loved Abrams’ Star Trek movies. He’s used to dealing with unrealistic expectations from a diehard fanbase. Since I’ve already enjoyed the Star Wars teasers and trailer more than the prequel trilogy, though, I’d say he’s halfway home to meeting those crazy expectations.

Day 247: Force Friday

Force Friday

#ForceFriday!

I’m enjoying the cold weather this morning on #ForceFriday, the hashtag day created by Disney to shove new Star Wars merchandise down the public’s throats.

I shouldn’t be so cynical. I’ve been trying not to get too excited about Episode VII. Thanks to social media, though, the hype has been even more insane than when the first prequel was released in 1999.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been trying to temper my expectations; the let-down of the prequels punched a hole in the franchise’s invulnerability. Fans learned that George Lucas was not infallible and neither was everything associated with the Star Wars universe. While we could laugh about Mark Hamill’s whining in the original, we couldn’t forgive Hayden Christensen for his portrayal of Anakin (and we were shocked to see Natalie Portman be so flat-out bad).

For the record, I did enjoy Episode III, despite the horrendous acting and dumb moments like this (although it did inspire this piece of Internet brilliance).

So, I’ll pass on the Star Wars merch for now. I’ll continue to ignore every Star Wars-related news online. I’ll keep my wallet closed until December 18th, 2015.

And I expect my bank account to be empty on December 19th, 2015.

Day 141: Next Binge

The X-Files

The X-Files

My wife has never watched the X-Files, so we’re starting with the pilot and she’s leaving it up to me to pick-and-choose the best episodes to binge. It got me excited again for next year’s limited series and I’m going through articles with titles like “Best X-Files Episodes to Watch Before Next Year” and “Scariest X-Files Episodes Ever.” I’ll introduce her to Eugene Tooms next, then perhaps cool things off with Jose Chung.

I hope she takes to the show like I did so many years ago. It’ll give us another excellent series to binge together … and I definitely don’t want to watch Home by myself again.

Day 131: I Want to Believe

image

It’s true: The X-Files is back! Well, not until next year…and only for a six-episode limited series. I’m excited and then some; the X-Files was one of my favorite shows of all time. Before the digital age made binge-watching my go-to mode of watching television, I looked forward to Sunday nights for my fix of the monster of the week or the growing Byzantine conspiracy in the X-Files world.

I’ve watched a few episodes on Netflix for old times’ sake and the show holds up well (some of it is hilarious: fax machines and old cell phones!). I’m looking forward to seeing Mulder and Scully in a more contemporary setting. Yes, this happened during 2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe, after sitting in development hell for six years. I enjoyed it, but it was a day late and a dollar short.

I want to believe that this new limited series will be what we fans have been hoping for: a return to glory for Mulder and Scully.

Day 125: Star Wars

Star Wars

Star Wars

(This is part of my ongoing series on my quest to watch all 100 of AFI’s Greatest American Films of All Time)

 

13. Star Wars

Yesterday I live-tweeted Star Wars, in honor of Star Wars Day. I had no idea how tough it would be to live-tweet a movie I’ve seen countless times. Even though I did a bit of pre-writing, it still wasn’t enough to prepare me for the task. It seemed like every time I tweeted something, there were two or three other things happening that I missed. I tried as best I could to include trivia and witty remarks, as well as references to all of the Star Wars parodies out there, but it was a Herculean task. Kudos to those who manage to do these type of things.

As for the film itself, we all know what it’s about, right? A long time ago … etc. Even though I consider myself a hardcore Star Wars fan, I don’t own a copy of the original film; I refuse to spend money on any special edition version of the film. Actually, that’s not true. I have the original trilogy on VHS somewhere in the garage, but no VCR to play it on.

For my Star Wars Day live-tweeting, I borrowed the original theatrical release DVD from the library. This is also the same version that’s included in the Blu-ray set, but neither has been remastered and I won’t buy it until it’s been remastered and unaltered. It’s a shame that George Lucas wouldn’t release the film without tinkering with it, but hopefully Disney will see the light (aka $$$) and give the fans what we’ve wanted for years.

As I live-tweeted the movie, two things stood out during my umpteenth viewing:

1. Sir Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford were miles above the rest of the cast in terms of acting skills. Luke is nearly unwatchable in certain scenes, Leia’s accent is all over the place, and some of the Empire cronies are awful (except for Christopher Lee and James Earl Jones, of course).

2. The lack of CGI special effects is a major plus. When J.J. Abrams announced that Episode VII would not rely on all of the over-the-top CGI of the prequels, I knew that Disney had hired the right director. Nearly 40 years later and the special effects in Star Wars still hold up, for the most part.

I’m sure I’ll notice other things the next time I watch this masterpiece. And I’m sure it will be before next May 4th.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Day 124: May The 4th Be With You

Light saber chopsticks

Light saber chopsticks

It’s great seeing how popular Star Wars Day (May 4th, as in “May the Force be with you”) has become over the years. Not that I need an excuse to wear a Star Wars shirt, discuss Star Wars, or use my light saber chopsticks to eat a meal. It’s the movie that defined my childhood, as it did millions of others, and I’ll never grow tired of it.

I made it a point to watch the original film today. I rented the DVD from the library, which is the non-special-edition version of Star Wars. It’s a shame that this (and the Blu-Ray version) is the only available version of the movie; no alterations were made, but no restoration was, either. Not until there’s a remastered high-definition copy with no special edition extras will I throw more money into the Disney coffers.

I used this inferior DVD for a live-tweeting session tonight. I kept my snarkiness to a minimum and learned a few things; mainly, live-tweeting a 38-year-old movie is tougher than it sounds. It was more fun than a farm boy shooting womp rats, though, so I’ll probably do it again for the sequel. Perhaps tomorrow, the Revenge of the 5th?

Day 106: We’re Home

Chewie, we're home.

Chewie, we’re home.

When I woke up this morning, I had something that I wanted to blog about. I don’t remember what that something was, because this happened:

Wow. This second teaser is even better than the first one. J.J. Abrams certainly knows how to tug on the collective Star Wars fanbase’s heart strings: Luke’s narration, Vader’s mask, Leia’s hand, Artoo, then BANG! Han and Chewie!

I believe the Internet’s reaction went something like this:

ZOMG!!!

All of us fanboys/girls were blubbering idiots today.

Tonight I showed it to my parents, who took me to the see the original so many moons ago. Their reactions as we watched:

[Vader’s mask] Mom: Uh oh, not that guy.
[R2-D2] Mom: Yay, R2-D2! He’s my favorite.
[Han and Chewie] Mom: Harrison Ford looks old.
Pop: Chewbacca looks the same.
Mom: Let’s go see it this Christmas!
Pop: Better get in line now.

Is it December 18th yet?

Day 73: Ready Player One

image

I started a new book tonight, thanks to a pleasant surprise from my buddy Kevin. After the first chapter of Ready Player One, I’m hooked. A novel set in the future with references to 80s video games, music, and pop culture? Yes, please, may I have another?

Obviously, Kevin’s an old friend who knows my tastes well. If we still lived in the same town, I’d buy him a beer as a thank-you for the book, but for now an Internet shout-out will suffice …

Kevin, best wishes to you and your family. May you never be caught in a Sharknado without a chainsaw, my friend. Cheers!

Day 71: Star Wars Music, Words

Reading and Listening to Star Wars

Reading and Listening to Star Wars

For lunch today I read The Last Command, the final book in the Thrawn Trilogy, and listened to a Star Wars playlist on Spotify. I struggled to get into this book when I first started it; I felt that I’d waited too long after reading the first two. I even thought that it might join the list of books that I start but don’t finish.

Thankfully, things picked up around the 100-page mark and I can see why this trilogy by Timothy Zahn is so well-regarded by Star Wars fans. He captured a lot of the spirit from the original trilogy while introducing new and exciting characters; so much so that sometimes the original characters (Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Chewie, Threepio, and Artoo) seem stale in comparison. Thrawn, in particular, is a stellar bad guy in the Star Wars universe. I’m nearly done with the book and I’m curious to see how it all ends.

One thing that’s been consistently good throughout the Star Wars series? John Williams. I listened to the music from the films (yes, even the prequels) as I read each book in this trilogy. Reading and listening to Star Wars might not be as mind-blowing as the films, but it’s the best we can do for now … at least until December.

Day 58: Live Long and Prosper

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy passed away this morning. I loved Star Trek as a kid, especially Mr. Spock, and watched the reruns on Channel 13 in Los Angeles. My dad introduced me to the series and he owned a few of the wonderful Fotonovels, which were pseudo-graphic-novels featuring stills from an episode with captions and text superimposed over them. Since this was before our home had a Betamax or VHS, it was my only way of enjoying Star Trek On Demand.

I’m sad as I read all of the tributes and remembrances of Mr. Nimoy on social media, but I’m happy that he lived long and prospered: he seemed to be well-loved by all.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Nimoy.