Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – Re-watch

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It has been a little over 20 years since the much anticipated Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace hit theaters. I saw it in the theater, although not opening weekend. Maybe I saw it again, when it came to DVD, but I am not sure. I certainly have not watched in the last 10+ years. But! I did recently watch it via Disney+. This was probably because I had just read Master & Apprentice, which takes place just before the events of The Phantom Menace.

Like many were at the original release, I was very much turned off to the character of Jar Jar Binks. In the Star Wars Episode I: The Making of The Phantom Menace Documentary, George Lucas says “Jar Jar is the key to all of this. If we get Jar Jar working. Because he is a funner character than we’ve ever had in any of the movies before.”

When my nieces and nephews first started watching the Star Wars movies, which was a few years ago, I asked them what they thought of Jar Jar. They said he was really funny. I also recall seeing footage of Lucas with his kids on set, and the explanation that this new trilogy was meant for a younger generation. It sounds like maybe he succeeded.

For my re-watch, I found Jar Jar to be significantly less annoying than I originally did. Still annoying, but not to the point of wanting to just shut it off, or even to fast-forward. The acting delivery still leaves a lot to be desired, but if you watch the making of documentary, you can hear the editor gripe about how Lucas was constantly rearranging scenes, so performances were mismatched compared to how they were actually filmed. No doubt this led to at least some of the imbalance in the final version. I think Lucas is on record as being a meddler.

The pod race drags on for me. I think they do three laps, and you are literally there for all three of them. The grand light saber duel is also somewhat long, which still strikes me as looking overly choreographed. Obviously the scenes have to be choreographed, but ideally they would be in a way which didn’t look like it. Particular having watched Clone Wars, and Rebels, the use of the force in the on-screen duels is significantly diminished compared it delivered in the cartoons.

I don’t love this movie, but it is certainly tolerable. Which means my opinion of the movie has significantly improved since it was released in theaters.

The Mandalorian (Pilot)

There are literally at least 5 other websites that have done an article on the new Mandalorian Disney+ series, and I don’t want to repeat what they said. So here are the things all the other websites won’t tell you about the show.

  • If you go into this series expecting to see a mandolin playing Manchurian eating oranges, you will be disappointed.
  • Everyone claims that Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian, but that could be a lie. We never see the actor’s face, so it literally could be anyone, from Daniel Logan to Jeremy Bullock to Rebel Wilson.
  • One of the bounties collected by said title character says he was hoping to get home in time for Life Day, which means that is either a sick sick joke, or the end of Star Wars.
  • The Mandalorian starts out ba ba ba ba ba ba bad to the bone, but then kind of transitions into a less competent version. This means he is following in the footsteps of Boba Fett.
  • The two most important places to protect your body are your head and your shoulders, based on the placement of the special armor. This is taken from the book of Dredd.
  • It is a contractual requirement of every Star Wars property that there always be a desert planet in it. This is similar to the video game requirement that every Star Wars game must contain a Rancor.
  • The Mandalorian is a derivative work, in that it borrows, copies, or outright steals things from all the previous Star Wars movies.

Yesterday (2019) – A Review

IMDB’s description:

A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.

That description accurately sums up the premise of the movie. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) isn’t just struggling, after a ho-hum reception at a local carnival he decides to call it quits. That evening a global blackout occurs for three seconds. Jack happens to be riding his bike at the time and is struck by a bus. He wakes up in intensive care a few days later. After a lengthy recovery he is discharged from the hospital. His groupie/manager/romantic comedy love interest (one-sided) Ellie Appleton (Lily James) gives him a new guitar. He isn’t really interested in playing it, because he called it quits, but decides that “a great guitar deserves a great song” and proceeds to play “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

The song is deeply emotional for his friends, because they’ve never heard it before. He thinks they are pulling a prank on him. How could they know not who John, Ringo, George, and Paul are? He goes home and discovers all history of The Beatles has been erased. How can he use this for fun and profit?

From here the movie becomes your standard romantic comedy.  The science fiction element of the movie is only casually looked at again, throughout the movie Jack finds a few more things missing that he remembers, usually for laughs. Also some musician named Ed Sheeran is in this movie, my wife assures me he is someone of note in the music business.

Overall I liked the movie, nice lighthearted comedy, and what are apparently a bunch of Beatles songs, although I only recognized about half of them. This movie was probably made by people for whom the Beatles were a major influence, and believe their songs are just as meaningful today to the world as they were in their own time. But for even a so-so Beatles fan like me, the movie was enjoyable.

Men in Black: International a Spoiler Free Review

What can I say about this movie other than…Meh?

That pretty much sums the movie up for me. Everything about the movie felt pretty generic. It really adds nothing to the franchise. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are not nearly as charming or funny as they were in Thor: Ragnarok.

There are new aliens and old aliens and all the tropes we expect from a Men in Black movie, and the fate of the world is at stake (probably? Agent K said that was always the case) and… yeah. I mean, if you are a super Men in Black fan, maybe this movie is awesome, but otherwise, it isn’t particularly fun or action-packed.

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