movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

I began typing up my reaction to TLJ and I couldn’t stop and now I’m up to two pages of notes in Google Docs and still have so much more to say. So rather than posting a TL;DR length ramble, I’m going to break it up into chunks. Consider this part 1 of whatever haha.

Spoilers, obviously, though this post is relatively vague compared to what is to come.


I will start by saying that I know it was not a perfect movie – it ran a bit too long, I felt the timeline didn’t quite add up, among other things that I will mention under the cut. But overall, I loved it and the more time I have had to think about it, I really appreciate all of the stories being told.

I always say that the power of the original trilogy came from the fact that Lucas drew on classic myths and legends from cultures all over the world and the reason the prequel trilogy faltered so much was that it tried to pull from Star Wars, which wasn’t enough to sustain the story. But this new trilogy proves me wrong – if you know what you are doing, you can use Star Wars as your myth and create something that is more than the sum of those parts. The real problem with the prequels was clearly Lucas and his confusion about what made Star Wars resonate with so many people. I feel like Abrams and Johnson are far more aware because they are fans, but they also know that, to paraphrase Faulkner, you must kill your darlings.

For many of us, the original trilogy defines our childhood, with epic heroes and stories of adventure and family, both blood and found family. We still clung to these stories as we got older because of that sense of innocence around them, but we also started to realize that very rarely are these kinds of stories so clear cut, that the world is filled with shades of gray. I think the TFA trilogy taps into that more adult sensibility, and actually a reality that I feel, more and more, people are trying to instill in their children earlier on – that the world isn’t so easy to understand, that sometimes the villains have a point and the heroes act like jerks. Because we are all people, even our heroes, even our leaders, they are just people with their own flaws. This idea was presented in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ but I think most of us overlooked it, focusing more on the Father/Son story than the fact that we had a fallen hero and one who was teetering on the edge.

I think for some fans, this rubbed them the wrong way – they wanted their heroes to remain spotless. I won’t lie, when I first heard that TFA would feature the original cast, I panicked – I said it was because I didn’t want to see old versions of Luke, Leia and Han but now I’m realizing that what I didn’t want to see – didn’t want to know – was about their life after RotJ. Because anyone who had ventured into the EU books in the 90s knew that life goes on and life gets messy. Perhaps, deep down, that was my fear.

But I actually liked finding out about their lives and their mistakes. Han and Leia were together, they had some happy times. Luke tried his best to set an example as the last Jedi. Life went on, as it does – there are no happy endings because nothing ends. To think that evil could be wiped out, could be removed from the galaxy was naive. Plus, as The Last Jedi makes clear, The Force isn’t about good vs evil, but finding a balance between darkness and light – neither of which are inherently good or bad.

More specific thoughts later…

movie thoughts: Eight Days a Week (2016)

movie thoughts: Eight Days a Week (2016)


I’m a pretty hardcore Beatles fan. Or, at least, I used to be. In middle school and high school I pretty much eat/sleep/breathed the Fab Four. I hung out in the library so much looking for their albums and books about them, I credit them with my career choice. I hadn’t really done anything Beatles related in awhile, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about this film coming out. Luckily, it was streaming on Hulu so it was pretty easy for me to sit and watch it.

Within the first few seconds, I could feel the fangirl in my awakening. The sheer emotion I felt at hearing that music, watching the clips – it surprised me! And as a fan who enjoys talking with other fans, I really liked the clips from the different celebrities sharing their own Beatles memories.

But after the first 45 minutes, the reality set in – I knew all of this already. In fact, I had seen most of these concert clips before and a lot of the Beatles quotes were lifted from the Anthology (though Paul and Ringo did participate but they really didn’t say anything new). Now, the audio remastering was impressive, especially the Hollywood Bowl concert clips (the complete concert is available now in audio and it will be a bonus on the blu-ray release). I’m not sure how those sound engineers managed to find the Beatles’ voices in that din of screams, but they pulled it off (you can listen to the album right now on Spotify if you want to hear it).

There was one factoid I didn’t remember from before – probably because it is more a reflection of U.S. history rather than Beatles history – which was about the Jacksonville concert and The Beatles supporting integration, commenting that such a thing was ridiculous. That never came up in the Anthology (it doesn’t really try to connect The Beatles story to the rest of the world) and having it appear in this documentary with everything else going on right now, it feels like history is somehow stuck in a loop and I’m not really convinced we’ve learned anything. Or maybe we have but we keep forgetting (“And once every five years, everyone chooses to forget what they’ve learned. Democracy in action.”)

I felt like the film lost steam near the end, trying to find a way to wrap up a story in the middle, because the end of the touring years is the start of the studio years, and those albums are more memorable than the previous because they start experimenting and branching out. So it just kinda ends then jumps ahead to give us a clip from the Let It Be roof concert.

I’m guessing most people don’t have The Anthology memorized the way I do (I watched that special at least 3 times and I have the CDs, which I also listened to over and over) so maybe the repetition won’t be as noticeable to them. I mean, that documentary is several hours long while this clocks in at about 90 minutes so the non-Beatlemaniac can enjoy it.

All in all, a fun watch for a Beatles fan and probably interesting for the uninitiated too. I can only hope that there is another kid out there, like me, looking for something to watch to kill time and they might turn on Hulu and see this special and decide to learn more about The Beatles. Give it a watch, but don’t expect any revelations.

3 1/2 stars

What I watched in July

What I watched in July

Hot summer days means more movies than the rest of the year. Sitting in the nice cool basement of the house with the lights low is the only way to beat the heat. Nice mix of first time viewings and rewatches here.

Show Me a Hero
Historical dramas are tough, even when you are doing a miniseries and especially when you are dealing with more than just one person’s story. But I do applaud the filmmakers behind this miniseries for trying their best and creating an engaging enough piece that I just watched the whole thing over the course of a few days.

The saddest/scariest thing is that these issues still exist in our country, these attitudes still prevail in the way we think about low-income housing and the people who use it. Even though it takes place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, if you told me this was happening in 2016, I would not have blinked an eye, except to hold back the tears.

I saw this movie in theaters and had a lot of fun laughing with a crowded room of people. I don’t feel like it was quite as good the second time, maybe because the shock value had worn off of some of the gags, but I still found myself giggling a lot. You cannot deny the power of Poehler/Fey! And who knew that John Cena was so freakin’ hilarious!

If you get this on blu-ray, make sure you watch ALL THE OUTTAKES! There are some great moments with Fey and Cena. That man has a career in improv if that whole wrestling thing doesn’t pan out.

Finding Nemo
Had to rewatch this classic before heading out to see the sequel. It still holds up well and I love it to pieces. Everyone is cast so perfectly.

Finding Dory
While I was blown away by the sequels to ‘Toy Story’, Pixar’s recent returns haven’t left me as enamored. It was fun to go back and hang out with Marlin, Nemo, and Dory again while making some new friends but this one didn’t quite hit the same level as Nemo for me. But it was close and much better fair than anything else in the theater at that moment, especially for families!

This movie was so well done on so many levels. It managed to stay light and fun while dealing with some very real issues of prejudice and stereotyping. Using animals might seem cute, but it also gave a great way to show inequality and other obstacles while managing not to be heavy handed (pawed?).

So, after watching a movie like ‘Zootopia’ that was relatively edgy for family fair, I found the well-reviewed ‘Brooklyn’ to be the safest movie I have seen in a long time (yes, that INCLUDES Finding Nemo and Dory!). While the movie was well acted and well directed etc. there is just absolutely nothing new. No surprises, nothing bad happens to this naive Irish girl who makes it on her own in the U.S.. It just made me want to watch ‘An American Tail’…which I think might have had more controversial issues in it!

A League of Their Own
We ran this at the library and had lots of “Oh that is such a great movie!” comments when I told people about it. It really does hold up pretty well. One of the best sports movies I’ve seen and I still find it inspiring.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
It had been a LONG time since I had watched this one. It is so freakin’ weird. I still prefer it to the mess that was the Tim Burton movie. Though there is something hilarious about watching Charlie attempt to force Grandpa Joe to take his money to buy tobacco. Still, classic. I love Gene Wilder.

10 Cloverfield Lane
I still can’t decide if I love or hate the last 20 minutes of this movie. The rest of the movie was great, edge of your seat tension, waiting to find out what would happen next.

Also, whoever designed the DVD box art should be fired. The back of the box contained MANY spoilery images! COME ON!

The Sure Thing
I hadn’t seen this one since my John Cusack obsession in 1999 was in full swing (thanks to Grosse Pointe Blank, one of my all time favorites). Andy mentioned it on his blog a few months ago and let me borrow the blu-ray. I feel like it holds up really well, even if it is a bit cliche. I know I was laughing out loud at a few moments.

Ghostbusters (1984)
CLASSIC! Still funny. Though the effects look extra cheesy on a blu-ray LOL. But that doesn’t matter because no one watches this movie for the ghosts, it’s all about the guys.

Voltron (2016)
Not a movie, this is actually a new NETFLIX series, only 11 episodes though and surprisingly solid! Great voice acting and the story was engaging. I had never seen any of the original show so I have nothing to compare it to on that front.

Ghostbusters (2016)
This was such a pleasant surprise! I won’t lie, I assumed it was going to be bad. Not because of the all female leads, but just because I felt the odds were against it. I’m not a huge Paul Feig fan and tend to find his humor too gross. BUT he managed (along with Katie Dippold) to keep this movie about as clean as the original (in other words, most of the dirty jokes will fly over the kids heads). On top of that, they managed to create a fresh, new world with new characters rather than just trying to copy+paste the original into 2016. I left the theater with a big ol’ grin on my face, already thinking of things I hoped would be in the second movie. Best surprise of the summer!

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Star Wars is about standing in line: The Force Awakens at The Senator Theatre

The internet is full of reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens right now, so I don’t feel the need to type up anything in-depth about that.  Instead, I wanted to talk about the experience, quite possibly the last time I am this excited about a movie ever again.

There is a movie theater in Baltimore, Maryland called The Senator Theatre.  It has been there since 1939.  I was not.  I was born in 1981, not in a galaxy far far away, but also not in Maryland. I didn’t see Star Wars in theaters (technically I saw Return of the Jedi but I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate it).  For me, the Star Wars Trilogy, my favorite movies of all time, had only existed on BETA cassettes, watched on my parents TV while playing with my action figures. I have no memory of the first time I saw Star Wars, the revelations about Luke and Vader and Leia were always known to me.

In 1997, Lucasfilm released the “Star Wars Special Edition” and I finally had a chance to see it on the big screen!  I’m really not sure why my parents chose The Senator – maybe it was the only movie theater in town showing Star Wars (the mind boggles) or maybe it was because they had a THX Certified Sound System.  Doesn’t really matter, because all I know was this experience was the start of a tradition.

In 1997, there was no online ticket ordering or advanced ticket sales. To see Star Wars at The Senator, we had to arrive early and stand in line. This was my first time experiencing this. I was a 16 year-old girl, a Star Wars fan (I had written the entire cast list on my history notebook because apparently knowing who played Admiral Piett was slightly more interesting than knowing about U.S. history…whoops) and I had always felt like I was the only one who really loved these movies.  Then I got to stand in line.

Star Wars fans and geeks in general love lines. There is a reason. When you find yourself standing in a line for a movie/book/video game or convention appearance, you know you have something in common with everyone there. Casual fans don’t stand in line, casual fans will get tickets later when the rest of us finally go home. I’m not trying to pull rank here, I’m just saying that you know you are on the same level as those around you. I remember my Mom striking up a conversation with the people in front of us in line, talking briefly about Star Wars and our family.  Nothing in depth, we didn’t become life long friends, but for that brief moment, we connected with random people. Then the ticket office opened, we paid our way and went in to find our seats and I got to experience Star Wars on the big screen. The crowd applauded when “Lucasfilm” came on the screen and then cheered when “STAR WARS” began to fly through space. I can remember hearing the Tie Fighters flying around my head, but not much else about that viewing experience.

But that bond that we formed, however brief, stayed with me long after the movie. When “The Phantom Menace” was announced, I knew I had to see it at The Senator. After much debate, Lucasfilm announced that they would allow advanced tickets sales for Episode I. On May 11, 1999, my parents let me skip school and I convinced a few of my friends to come with me to camp out for tickets.  My mom dropped us off outside the theater. We arrived “late” by Star Wars fan standards (we were 18! What did we know!) and the line had already wrapped around the corner of the theater and was down the street.  We ended up on some dentist’s front lawn.  I brought my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game and we all waited.  We had blankets and snacks and we slept outside on the grass, in lawn chairs, or kept ourselves awake sitting on the sidewalk. I remember the local restaurants handing us their menus then coming back for orders. I remember the news showing up and filming us playing trivial pursuit. I remember a guy showing us his brand new tattoo, featuring Darth Maul. I remember watching the guy from the box office come out and count heads, passing us and then going down the line a bit more, only to tell everyone behind us that they wouldn’t be able to get tickets to the midnight showing because they were too far back in line.

We're on the TVs! It was an amazing experience. I think remember more about that night in line than I do about seeing the movie for the first time. My friends thought I was crazy but they also loved the experience because there is no other movie that you would do this for. NONE. Tickets on sale now!

When the movie night came, the crowd burst into cheers of delight as the yellow text scrolled up the screen, laughed when Obi-Wan mumbled that he “had a bad feeling about this” and you could hear the intake of break as Qui-Gon introduced his Padawan to Anakin Skywalker – it was a thrill like nothing else. A new Star Wars movie!  We had waited so long…and that is about all I remember about the TPM premiere.

Ticket Stub When “Revenge of the Sith” ticket sales were announced, thinking this would be the last Star Wars movie, I knew I had to get tickets. (I didn’t camp out for “Attack of the Clones” because Lucasfilm, in their wisdom, had the tickets go on sale while Celebration II was going on! My friend Paul stood in line for me, said that some guy took shots at them from his car, so he might not be as nostalgic about line standing as I am). The Senator still did not have online ticket sales in 2005 so I knew I had to camp out again. By this point, I had found a Star Wars club (DCSWCC) and had made friends with more awesome geeky people who were just as excited about the movie as me. Or maybe we were just excited about standing in line again? Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

It was a miserable, cloudy day out but we came bundled up and sat on the cold sidewalk.  Then the most amazing thing happened – the theater owner, Thomas Kiefaber, took pity on us and let us all inside the theater! He had his Star Wars memorabilia out for us to look at and brought us all some snacks.  We all sat around in the theater lobby, talking about life, the universe, and everything.

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre When the morning came, we all miraculously went outside and got back in line again (after eating bagels that Mr. Kiefaber brought for us from the local shop!) and bought our tickets for the midnight show. Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

I don’t remember much about that actual premiere night. After the other two films, I think we all knew that this wasn’t going to end well but we knew that seeing it with 800 other fans would be better than seeing it in a mall multiplex.

Jump ahead 10 years later.  I was unsure about this new Star Wars movie. After the magic of seeing the prequels at The Senator wore off, I tired of them pretty quickly. I loved my original trilogy but was worried about what direction this new movie would take. I tried to stay cynical and distant. And then I watched the official trailer…and I was that 16 year old girl again, writing actor names on my notebook.

I ran upstairs and immediately went online to The Senator’s website and I snatched up two tickets for the 10:30 pm showing (apparently midnight showings have gone out of style?).  So no need to camp out in line, it was all about bandwidth. Still, I anticipated that I would need to get to the theater early to get the good seats.

I requested to leave work early on Thursday, December 17. My husband of three months agreed to come along with me. We ate dinner and got to the theater a little after 7pm. There was almost no line out front.  I think we were among the first ten (I was maybe a little anxious since one of my friends who attended the 7pm showing had arrived around 2pm).


Of course, this is 2015 so we all had our smartphones. The group behind us was watching Robot Chicken Star Wars clips on YouTube. Would I get to enjoy the feeling of belonging one more time while waiting in line? I wasn’t so sure, then I started listening to the couple in front of us in line.  They were saying random names of actors and musicians. I couldn’t figure out the connection. Finally, I found a way in to their conversation when Jim Henson came up (I was in the middle of his biography so I was bursting with random facts) and discovered they were playing The Name Game. They invited me to join and a little after that, the person in front of them in line also started to play. Eventually we had a fun little group, including my friend who had seen the prequels with me back in the day.


Around 9:15, the previous showing started to exit the theater and there was my brother and his girlfriend.  They came up to me and gave me their spoiler-free reactions and we talked for a bit.  After he left, my friend Steve and his wife appeared and gave me hugs and their quick reactions. Imagine trying to do that in a giant, 24 theater multiplex?  Yes, this was WHY I went to The Senator (and my brother too).

And then it was our turn to head inside.

I had fun with my single-serving friends and once inside the theater I never saw them again. We found our seats and listened to a local music teacher play Star Wars melodies on his keyboard while we got our popcorn.


The new owners of the theater said a few words and then a single trailer ran (ONE trailer – I can’t imagine how many the people in regular theaters had to sit through).
And then silence. A black screen. The green letters begin to sparkle on the screen and there’s a smattering of applause. And then STAR WARS and cheers. And the magic was back. And we laughed together. We cheered together. We gasped together. It ended and we applauded.

I left the theater, giddy from the movie I watched but sad because I knew that was the last time this would happen.  The experience of camping out for tickets, standing in line to see a movie – it would be gone soon. It made me feel kind of special, and kind of sad because I think it was these experiences that made me into the passionate Star Wars fan that I am today. It was just about watching a movie, but seeing a movie with a room full of strangers who are, for those two hours, also your friends. Because you all love that silly little movie on the big screen, even if it was only for 160 minutes.


the stories are all true

We don’t have cable/live TV, we were watching a movie and when it finished I thought “Hey, wonder if the Star Wars trailer is on YouTube yet?”

2:37 later, I bought my tickets.  10:30pm at The Senator Theatre in Baltimore. #starwars #movies #forceawakens

2:37 later, I bought my tickets. 10:30pm at The Senator Theater in Baltimore.

And can I say, I am kinda thrilled how much of the trailer focuses on Rey.

That’s about as coherent as my thoughts can be right now…otherwise my brain is just going:


movie thoughts: Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is only the third movie I have seen in theaters this year. We debated going to see Jurassic World instead but we opted for this one instead.

We made the right choice. It was worth every penny.

This is Pixar storytelling at its finest, taking an abstract idea about emotions and feelings and turning it into a whole new world.

It was hard not to fall in love with Joy immediately because AMY POEHLER. Joy was very much a Leslie Knope type character, trying to keep the team at its best.

(I just lost like 20 minutes because I went over to tumblr and typed in “Inside Out Gifs” and then proceeded to save WAY too many of them…because this movie).

I’m not going to spoil it for you. This movie was beautiful. The characters were well written, the voice acting was top notch, and the story was classic, perfect, Pixar. It was truly a film for all ages, as a child, teen, young adult and adult could all watch this movie and get it in all the feels. I had tears rolling down my cheeks by the end, that same swirling of emotions that I got when I saw the final moments of Toy Story 3. (and Pixar knows you will be sniffling at the end, so they put some silly moments in as the credits start to roll to help you laugh the tears away).

Just go see it. Now. Go experience it in a dark theater with a group and hear them laughing and sniffling with you.

I give this movie all the stars. All the thumbs up. It will be a part of my collection as soon as I can purchase it on blu-ray.

movies you missed: Quiz Show (1994)


A big-money, high-stakes TV game show becomes the subject of scandal when a Washington investigator uncovers corruption behind-the-scenes – implicating both the current and former champs.

I saw Quiz Show when it was first released on VHS back in 1995 and I instantly fell in love with it. I’m not sure why – I was 14, why would a movie about a quiz show scandal in the 1950s resonate with me? There was no murder, no mayhem, no car chases, no lightsabers yet it held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, leaving a lasting impression as a film I enjoyed.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to show it to a friend. I hadn’t seen it in a long time, maybe since the 90s, but I still remembered it just being good. We sat down to watch it and for a moment I was worried it might be awful, that maybe I was the only person who remembered it because I was a teen when I saw it and glossed over any problems with the movie. Luckily, I was wrong.

The movie is still perfect and still scarily relevant. It deals with issues of racism, ethics, rich vs poor, the American Dream, television, politics, and the definition of entertainment. It’s about money, self destruction, our idea of justice and the reality of our justice system. It is about the invasion of technology and how it changes our culture. It’s about growing up and trying to earn the respect of your peers and the temptation to do whatever it takes to become famous.

Robert Redford directed this movie and he FILLED the cast with amazing actors, down to the random guy in the background. Every single actor in this movie is amazing. Rob Morrow as Richard Goodwin hits it out of the park as the Jewish lawyer from Washington D.C. who manages to straddle the two worlds that John Turturro’s Herb Stempel and Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren inhabit. He understands the prejudices that Stempel faces as a Jewish man from Queens and he longs for a life like Van Doren’s where being over-educated is respected rather than suspected.

These three men carry the weight of the movie on their shoulders, but then you have the rest of the supporting cast. Mira Sorvino plays Goodwin’s wife who spends most of her time trying to help him see both sides when he gets caught up in one of them. Hank Azaria and David Paymer play the two tv executives behind the fixed show “Twenty One” and they both manage to make these men into real people and not just caricatures of the fast-talking jerks they could have been. Paul Scofield as Mark Van Doren, the father of Charles, elevates the film with what little screen time he has, breaking your heart as he tries to support a son who just wants to get out from under his shadow. And Johann Carlo as Herbert Stempel’s wife, who loves her husband and her family, no matter how crazy they make her. And even the tiny role of the owner of Geritol, the sponsor of “Twenty One” is played by Martin Scorsese who gives a fantastic performance.

If you’ve never seen Quiz Show I highly recommend picking it up ASAP. Heck, if you saw it back when it was initially released, pick it up again. You’ll be amazed by how little has changed.