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Posts tagged “pop culture

Gripes, Likes & Theories: Rogue One

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, consider yourself warned… ***SPOILERS***

Pardon the stream-of-consciousness post; it may get a bit messy. I’ve seen Rogue One five (yes, 5!) times in the theater now. The latest was on my 13th wedding anniversary (yes, 13th!), which happened to be the same sad day that our favorite Princess passed away.

Though I never had the honor of meeting her, Carrie Fisher always felt like a friend. It never occurred to me as a child that she was old enough to be my mom—she was Princess Leia, and she was my friend. As an adult, of course I appreciate the many facets of her career, advocacy and person. Her biting sarcasm and quick wit balanced with sincerity, something I will always admire. Watching Rogue One hours after learning of her death was harrowing (ironically, my 4th viewing was just hours before her heart attack). The public display of emotion got a bit uglier than I had hoped, what with the heaving shoulders and snot snorting. On the bright side, the Vader bit is impressive even with tear-blurred vision.


Things I loved about R1:

Literally everything in the last hour or so of the film. The battle, the tragic ends*, VADER. Seriously, when the lightsaber illuminates Vader in that dark corridor…ugh, I love it all so hard. That scene is everything I’ve ever wanted from Vader. And it all makes me cry. A. LOT.

*yes, even my Imperial sympathizing heart hurt over that. That said, this should lay to rest rumors of Jyn being Rey’s mom.

For me, the part in which the film really starts feeling like a Star Wars story is as they’re escaping Jedha. From there, I find myself far more engaged in the plot and connecting more with the characters. I really thought at least one of our heroes would make it out, but this ending was much better from an urgency and storytelling angle. That last scene with Jyn and Cassian is soul-crushing in the best way possible. Their chemistry was a brilliant mix of platonic and maybe-could’ve-been-more. I LOVE Cassian! I thought he was as well written as he was acted, which is impressive for a complex character. I would be compelled to watch anything with Diego Luna in it now. Really enjoyed Donnie Yen’s performance as well.

I so appreciate how Gareth Edwards worked it into a piece that’s so layered and nuanced that it feels like a sort of love note to Star Wars. The many thoughtful, lovely references in this feel less nostalgia-gimmicky than TFA (which I also loved but still). It’s a beautiful bridge between the prequels and original trilogy that makes both Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope better.

I think subsequent viewings really do make a big difference for this movie since there just so much to absorb. The first time around, I was delighted to see the original Red Leader and Gold Leader (if you haven’t seen how they made that happen, read this)…though I’m not sure I needed to know how/why Luke inherited the Red Five call sign. I also got a kick out of the complete-fanservice-but-still-fun cameos by Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba. Took me until the third viewing to finally notice the blue milk in Galen & Lyra Erso’s hovel. I think the CG is also less bothersome after the initial shock. Is ‘shock’ the right word? Whatever.

Except for the vaguely cartoonish mouth movements, I thought the CG on Tarkin & Leia was surprisingly good. My only complaint is that there was perhaps too much full-face Tarkin; it took away the “is it really him?” intrigue and turned it into “oh look, CG!”

K2-SO is probably my favorite droid now (he and BB-8 blow the originals out of the water for me). Not only is K2-SO better than C-3PO, but Alan Tudyk knocks the socks off of Anthony Daniels.


Things I didn’t love about R1:
Saw Gerrera/Forest Whitaker. His existence beyond rescuing Jyn as a child seemed overly contrived and almost entirely unnecessary. Every scene that he’s in makes me eye-roll, and I wasn’t sad when he ‘sacrificed’ himself to the imploding planet. In fact, I would have been glad that he bit it, except that I was eye-rolling so hard from his over-the-top acting that it really just annoyed me. Maybe part of the reason I didn’t like him was the way the character was written, but Whitaker’s melodramatic delivery of the lines didn’t help. His “save the dream” line was arguably the worst in the movie, too—even worse than Vader’s pun about choking on aspirations. And the “truth monster” was just awful. That was definitely the parallel to the rathtars in TFA that should’ve found the cutting room floor.

The score. I will say my frustration with this has diminished a bit with each additional screening. My understanding is that Giacchino had very little time to compose, and for that I am in awe with how relatively good it is. Nevertheless, it lacked a lot of the emotional weight of a John Williams score. It felt particularly lackluster in the title sequence after the prologue.

Speaking of the title sequence, I really missed the opening scroll and classic Star Wars theme. I do understand that Lucasfilm is trying to make it clear that these are not Skywalker-centric stories but I’m not sure how chopping out the expository scroll and iconic strains are supposed to do that.

R2-D2/C-3PO cameo. I guess I didn’t really dislike this, per say, but I think that scene felt really shoehorned on Yavin. Had we seen them on the Tantive cruiser, it would’ve made (more) sense. It seems Threepio has worn out his welcome with me.


Outstanding questions about R1:
Do Death Troopers speak a different language, or were they just suffering from Bane unintelligible syndrome? Friends have speculated they utilize a spy-code that scrambles their transmissions outside of their helmets. I’ll buy that, but I also would’ve liked to hear them speak actual words instead of garbled zombie sounds.

Just how did Evazan & Ponda get off Jedha so we could eventually meet them at the cantina? I assume they were already headed to their departing ship.

Also, why didn’t they show the Mustafar planet ‘tag’ like all of the other planets? Probably just trying to surprise everybody with Vader’s lair but the inconsistency bugged me ever so slightly. Regarding Mustafar, I LOVED seeing Vader’s castle and half expected it to be Hayden Christensen’s head in the bacta tank!

During Jyn’s flashback aboard the U-Wing, we saw her family enjoying drinks with Krennic. Did the view out the apartment windows look like Coruscant to anybody else? Started reading the “Catalyst” novel today and it mentions Galen & Lyra marrying on Coruscant so I think we can assume it was supposed to be.

I want to know more about the relationship between Krennic and Tarkin—I’m currently reading “Catalyst” and hoping to find out more about this. It seems a nice parallel to the dynamic of Kylo Ren and Hux in TFA; almost like a sibling rivalry.

And I guess that about sums it up for the moment…largely because my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work. What say you? Did you love Rogue One, hate it, feel conflicted? Let’s chat in the comments!

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Thanks, Twilight!

I’ve battled a chemical imbalance for years, and I consider myself an “informed patient.” What I mean by that is I tend to be aware of instances when I’m being illogically moody. I typically don’t know what triggered it or precisely how to deal with/overcome it in that moment, but I’m increasingly cognizant. On the one hand, I’m glad I have progressed enough in treatment to realize when the grouchiness manifests; on the other hand, I think it would be easier sometimes to be oblivious to it. Don’t know where I’m headed with this? Well, read on, friends.

I consider myself an “informed patient” with regards to my enjoyment of Twilight as well. I realize it’s dumb and, with few exceptions, I can appreciate the arguments for how horrible the franchise is. Because let’s be honest, it is pretty horrible.

Stephenie Meyer and Muse make a good case for vampires liking baseball, so let’s go with that terminology for a minute while describing some of the worst aspects. Edward, eternally age 17, is a vampire who’s been around the block for nearly a century longer than Bella (strike 1). Movie Bella can hardly make it through a scene without her mouth agape (strike 2). They have a hybrid vampire-human baby that they *choose* to name Renesmee (strike 3)…who is essentially betrothed to a shapeshifter/werewolf who used to be in love with Bella (yer out!).

So, yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous; I won’t deny it. I will, however, continue enjoying it in spite of itself. The initial love and danger and angst and whatnot all make my inner 15-year-old giddy. Plus, there are an awful lot of great things that have resulted from my exposure to Twilight.

(image from stepheniemeyer.com)

(image from stepheniemeyer.com)

My first encounter with Twilight was as a major skeptic library clerk in 2007. I was relatively certain it was a skeevy premise for YA fiction, and I couldn’t fathom why so many people were checking it out. First teen girls (even a few boys) kept it in constant circulation, then their moms started getting in on the act, too. Seeing it cross my desk over and over and over again piqued my curiosity, but I had my pride.

I had my pride until I started seeing tv spots for the movie, that is—Edward’s “I feel very protective of you” got to me and I was forced to admit that I wanted to see it in spite of my shame. So I did what any other self-respecting person would do:
I rationalized.
As a distinguished member of the library community it was my job civic responsibility to actually read this book. And I needed to do it before darkening the doors of the local cineplex. After all, I’m nothing if not a model employee.

Within two days, I was done reading the first novel, irrationally ravenous to get my hands on the second in the series. With a little hacking on the library’s system, I put myself next in line for the title. Such shame I feel in admitting this unethical behavior to you fine people. Remember what I said before about being a model employee? It was true except for this isolated instance. Rest assured I’m a different person now. Or maybe I’m not, but I no longer have access to the circulation computer, so you’re all free of my ordering manipulation. 🙂

The librarian and I went to see the film adaptation of Twilight in November 2008. It was then that a stupid vampire story began to change my life.

From the books I discovered the movie. From the movie I discovered the soundtrack. From it and subsequent soundtracks, I discovered a love of Paramore, Muse, Florence + the Machine, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent and many other artists I might not have heard otherwise. The Twilight station on Pandora is fantastic, by the way.

My style owes a teeny bit to Twilight as well. All of those cool kids motivated me to up my game (ever so slightly) in the fashion department. I still dress more like early Bella than any of the couture Cullens, but it’s something of an improvement over the frumpiness rut I’d fallen into during the mid 2000s. Moreover, Ashley Greene and Nikki Reed provide real-life fashion and hair inspiration. Call it lame if you want, but my hair has never looked better.

Additionally, each new Twilight film provided a fun social opportunity. One of my dearest library friends and I took off time to go see each release on opening day. We had little movie marathons at home in preparation, we brimmed with excitement while waiting in line and we gushed with feedback over lunch. Those were fantastic days!

Perhaps most importantly, though, the franchise helped introduce me to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Most of the first movie was shot in Oregon, and it looked divine. At one point, Bella and Edward are standing in the top boughs of a towering evergreen when Bella says awestruck, “This isn’t real. This kind of stuff just doesn’t exist.” Edward replies, “It does in my world.”
He’s right, that kind of stuff absolutely does exist in the Pac NW. Apart from actual vampires and standing in the treetops, anyway; I can’t personally vouch for those.

I’d wanted to visit the Seattle area since high school but had never done it. When the opportunity arose for cheap airfare a couple of years ago, we decided to venture toward the coast to check out Forks and La Push. Even in the dank gray of February, it was some of the most beautiful scenery nature has to offer. I committed then to visit the filming locations in Oregon. It may have been dumb initial motivation to travel somewhere, but I will be forever grateful that we did. I feel energized and in my element when I’m out there, especially along the Oregon coast. I intend one day to call it my home.

So while my intellect affirms its awfulness, I have to admit that Stephenie Meyer’s vampire love story has enriched my life beyond just a series of mediocre books and movies. And it can enrich your life, too, even if it’s nothing more to you than an annoyance. For you, I offer its virtue as fodder for snarky videos. After all, you can never have too many snarky videos.


Recognizing Anakin

One of my favorite things about traveling is checking out the toy sections at multiple Target and Walmart stores…a really good trip includes a Toys R Us!

While in Washington last week, I happened upon this fun display on one of our Target stops—I like to think my Anakin post has something to do with the “Hot Toy” recognition.

IMG_7639
Vacation pics coming soon. I’ve winnowed down from 1400+ to about 450, so I’ll try to half that again over the next couple of days.


Under-rated Anakin

I’m less than impressed with Hasbro’s latest take on the Star Wars franchise. The Black Series is fantastic—or so I assume based solely on my Fett/Han Carbonite SDCC exclusive, as my Toys R Us preorder still hasn’t shipped. The lower price point of the most basic figures is welcome, too, but the overarching line is disappointing.

The team that worked on this year’s packaging and design style guide did little to flatter the waning SW image. Harsh yellows and oranges may hearken back to volcanic Mustafar but Darth Vader looks, well, like a bad cartoon. I wasn’t impressed with the last wave of packaging either, which placed heavy bets on Yoda’s popularity. Not being much of a Yoda fan, it fell flat with me.

Having offered all of that criticism, though, I suspect I know how we ended up in this position. Working in the Creative Division at Hallmark for nearly 5 years now, I’ve learned that product lines run on a schedule set roughly light years ahead of what one would expect. Planning (and probably even execution) was no doubt well under way before “The Mouse” cut his check to Uncle George.
The Yoda-centric design was almost certainly set to coincide with the now-defunct 3-D release of Attack of the Clones, as the Darth Maul theme had been last year for The Phantom Menace 3-D. This new look—wretched though it is—would have complemented the 3-D release of Revenge of the Sith. I may be the only person on earth to admit this, but I would’ve enjoyed seeing it on the big screen once more.

Lack of shelf appeal notwithstanding, it’s awfully nice seeing new Star Wars toys in the marketplace. Their presence alone is enough to have me stalking the toy aisles again…which is exactly what I did Friday night.

Walmart’s lackluster merchandising touted a slew of $5.99 basic figures and about as many of the $9.99 two-figure packs. No Black Series to be found, so my interest dwindled. Where ships or larger format toys normally live, I saw it: a sad, pasty-looking Anakin nestled four ugly boxes deep. Anakin to Darth Vader

“2 Figures In 1” touted the editorial,  promising a color-changing lightsaber. With a dejected sigh, I prepared to leave empty-handed while Severus played with the figure’s ‘try me’ feature. After a number of utterly predictable phrases, the toy spewed my single favorite line of the entire Star Wars saga.

I’m not the Jedi I should be.

Why have people not utilized this quote more frequently? It’s catchy and wonderful and perfect. But was it worth the $25 price-point for a goofy plastic figure? Ordinarily, no. But this was no ordinary day; it was my half-birthday. One turns 30.5 only once in one’s lifetime.

And so, Anakin came into my possession. I tore into the package when we got to the car, and thus began a wild ride of emotions courtesy of our friends at Hasbro.

“What a piece of junk!”
This thing has a whopping 4 points of articulation. 4. On a 12.5″ figure. Head turns, one hand kinda-sorta turns, one elbow rotates a little, and you can move the arms up and down via shoulder rotators. He can’t sit down, he can’t walk, he can’t kneel before the Emperor or flex his biceps. It’s pretty pathetic.

I figured it couldn’t get much worse, so I set to ‘transforming’ Anakin into Darth Vader. I snapped on the breastplate and worked the cape/shoulder armor over his whiny, otherwise expressionless face. (Side note: The cape is felt and ever-so-slightly weighted in the corners to keep it from curling up too badly.) And then I snapped on the front plate of the mask.

“Thank the maker!”
The mask is just dang cool. Connect the helmet and…what was that?! That, friends, was the little squealing sound of the helmet being sealed on Anakin’s head (roughly 2:21 on video). With this revelation, I had a giddy fangirl geek-out moment. There will be no dramatized reenactment, lest I lose what little pride I have left.

The gimmicky color-changing lightsaber trick is surprisingly rad. It’s not hard to figure out the mechanics of it, but it’s fun to just pretend and revel in the “magic” that Vader is in command. AND the Vader movie lines are good selections with nice quality. AND it doesn’t just look like Anakin has some pieces of the suit strapped on. AND if you decided to take off the Vader armor—which I can’t imagine you would do unless you wanted to hear my favorite quote—there’s a sound effect for helmet removal as well.

I also discovered that the lack of articulation actually has a significant upside: the figure stands unassisted. For roughly the first time in the history of ever, the height and weight of this guy are perfectly proportioned so there’s zero wavering. In fact, you’d have to throw a pretty decent Sith tantrum to knock him over if he’s just chilling out, occupying shelf space.

Plunking down a Jackson and Lincoln for this one might be a bit steep for most people. But if it happens to be your half-birthday and you’ve got the money to spare, you might be pleasantly surprised like I was. This is a case where you have to be hands-on to truly appreciate it.
The moral of the story is don’t judge a toy by its box!