Author Archives: Jeff Howard

Star Wars Rise Prep: The Phantom Menace| Yippee!


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the countdown is on!

WEEK ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE

source

Thoughts….

  • The 20th Century Fox flourish followed by the opening notes of John William’s score still impresses and excites.
  • Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are a terrific pair.
  • The CGI does not hold up well… it is surprising how primitive it looks.
  • I always forget Keira Knightley is in the movie!
  • R2-D2’s introduction is very well handled.
  • Darth Maul is a GREAT name (and a great character).
  • As good as the casting of Neeson and McGregor is, the casting of Jake Lloyd is … not.
  • Natalie Portman is really, really young in this film.
  • I tend to forget the midichlorians (mercifully).
  • This movie is really, really, really intended for children.
  • There is a certain visual grandeur to the beginning of the podrace scene as the flags take the field (then it’s completely undercut by an actual fart joke).
  • The last appearance of puppet Yoda is… nice.
  • Yoda’s “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” line is one of the best in the entire saga.
  • Darth Maul’s full reveal in the Naboo hangar is a Top 25 moment in the saga’s history.
  • The lightsaber battle is the best directed sequence in the film – no, it’s the best sequence in the film. The music, the action, the acting, they all work.
  • I had forgotten that the Darth Maul action figure came in torso and leg pieces joined by a powerful magnet.

Retro-Reaction

The Phantom Menace is… not great. 20 years ago, I tried to will it into being great then. That didn’t happen. I tried to see it for what it is now, and that helped. It’s a kids’ movie, made by a big kid for little kids. There is nothing wrong with that. It didn’t ruin my childhood. It doesn’t make me like Star Wars less. It doesn’t offend me.

It’s just not very good.

The Schedule 

  • Week One – 8.25 – 8.31: The Phantom Menace
  • Week Two – 9.8 – 9.14: Attack of the Clones
  • Week Three – 9.22 – 9.28: Revenge of the Sith
  • Week Four – 9.29 – 10.5: Solo
  • Week Five – 10.6 – 10.12: Rogue One
  • Week Six –  10.13 – 10.19: A New Hope
  • Week Seven – 10.20 – 10.26: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Week Eight – 11.3 – 11.9: Return of the Jedi
  • Week Nine – 11.17 – 11.23: The Force Awakens
  • Week Ten – 12.1 – 12.7: The Last Jedi

May the Force Be With Us!

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The Lion King – A Movie Review


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MV5BMjIwMjE1Nzc4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg4OTA1NzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_The voice cast is amazing. The music remains some of the best ever composed for an animated film. The story continues to be compelling.

Why are many so worked up about The Lion King.

After hearing the mantra of “who was asking for this movie” on Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wondered why many care so much. My theory: if you do not want to see a movie, do not see it. Why some seem to get personally offended by this kind of thing is very, very far beyond me.

2019’s The Lion King is a perfectly charming return to the 1994 original. While it is not a beat-for-beat recreation of the classic, it hews very closely to the source material which results in a comfortable, easy experience. The movie is not a revelation. It doesn’t uncover a ton of new ground. Rather it puts one at ease as it entertains. That seems just fine to me.

The cast (no one save James Earl Jones is a holdover from the original) brings gravitas and star power to their work. Billy Eichner and John Oliver are particularly good in their roles as Zazu and Timon, respectively and, while Chiwetel Ejiofor cannot sing a lick, his Scar is an impressive creation. Beyonce and Donald Glover are wonderful as the adult Nala and Simba and the new song Beyonce composed for the film fits seamlessly into the narrative.

Some of the themes are a bit updated and the circle of life gets a visual shout out in a new scene that illustrates the power of the life cycle. Director Jon Favreau knows what he is going for and he pulls it off.   

Much more appealing, to this viewer anyway, than a re-release of the original would have been, The Lion King took me back to a place and time in my life decades past while charming me with new images and energy and a new interpretation of the story.

I am still trying to figure out what is wrong with that. 

THE LION KING receives THREE PASSING CRAZES out of a possible FIVE

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Link’n’Blog – 8.16.19 | Sorkinisms West Wing and More…

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Are you an Aaron Sorkin fan? Have you ever wondered watching a Sorkin television show or movie if you have heard something in his characters’ dialogue somewhere else? Do you worry he might be stealing?

He is.

From himself:

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – A Movie Review


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MV5BOTg4ZTNkZmUtMzNlZi00YmFjLTk1MmUtNWQwNTM0YjcyNTNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_I cannot think of a movie I have recently seen that left me with one immediate impression upon leaving the theater that morphed into a different impression within a few days. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the strangest, weirdest most self-indulgent movies I have ever seen. I defy anyone who has seen it to describe the plot of the movie in one sentence. 

First, let me state that I understand having a discernible and clear plot is not the point of the movie. I do get that. There were, however, multiple times – especially during the first two acts of the movie – where I wondered just what in the hell was going on. And, upon reflection, I understand, too, that that is part of Quentin Tarantino’s point.

I am not a Tarantino aficionado. No expert in his movies (I’ve not seen his classics), I came to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood not knowing what to expect but excited by the story (I am interested in the Manson story), by the director’s renown for brilliant use of music (and the soundtrack is so very well composed and evocative) and by actors assembled for the movie. What a shockingly stocked set of performers Tarantino had with which to play. 

The cast does not let one done. Leonardo DiCaprio has been labeled the last real movie star in America for all kinds of reasons – from his acting choices to his image to his talent. He is a towering presence in the movie in a role that requires far more bravery from him than one might gather watching the previews. Paired with Brad Pitt, whose Cliff Booth is just as an indelible creation as the actor’s Rick Dalton, DiCaprio shines even as his character is supposed to be fading into the background. His friendship with Pitt’s Booth – the character I loved best in the film – is the through line of the picture, and it’s a good one. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is at its best when the two are on screen together, although Pitt’s solo scenes – especially as tension mounts as he tours the infamous Spahn Movie Ranch – is commanding.

Rounding out the trio of mega stars is the ubiquitous Margot Robbie. Playing the ill-fated actress Sharon Tate with a light, comedic and blissful air, Robbie is captivating. As pressures mount towards the end of the movie, the mind juxtaposes this beautiful creation of Robbie’s with the end that is coming. Robbie’s work here is a love letter not only to the actress, but to a time in Hollywood that has passed by and will never return.

And this, clearly, is one of the themes on which Tarantino built the movie. In 1969, Hollywood was being blown apart by forces within and without and actors like Rick Dalton were discovering they no longer had a clear role to play. One wonders if Tarantino in this age of CGI and superhero franchises and re-cycled concept after sequel films wonders if his time is almost up.

I believed this was on his mind right up until the last act of the movie. In that last act, Tarantino through his 3 lead characters issues a most visual and visceral middle finger to the idea that his time is up. And the last act is simply stunning. 

The more time that passes the more I want to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood again. It is a lyrical sledgehammer that remains with the viewer far after the brilliant closing credits wrap.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD receives THREE AND A HALF SPAGHETTI WESTERNS out of a possible FIVE

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: June 26 – July 1, 2019

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 3.56.34 PMThe Best Comic I Read Last Week Was Flash #73

Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artist:  Howard Porter

I have been completely hooked by the Flash Year One storyline playing out in the characters’ eponymous title over the last few months. This Barry Allen is fun, on point and engaging – the perfect distillation of the character for the time. Williamson’s handle on his gets better with each passing issue and, while I have not been in love with the Turtle (really, ever) as the main adversary, one cannot deny that Williamson has a plan playing the Flash off him. I am also very much in love with the older Barry Allen both in terms of characterization and in terms of his overall design.

This leads directly into a conversation about penciller Howard Porter. He is back at the top of his game with The Flash and it is wonderful to see. His cartooning is perfect for super-speed antics and Williamson seems to be writing to his artist’s strengths. I love the resonance I (and others of my age) must feel with the classic Grant Morrison/Howard Porter Justice League

This Flash is terrific and terrifically fun. 

 

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Link’n’Blog – 6.28.19: Signed, Sealed, Delievered

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Apparently, researchers have taught Grey Seals to sing the Star Wars theme and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star… Exactly why the did so is unknown.

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: June 19 – 25, 2019

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

Screen Shot 2019-06-24 at 1.31.53 PM

The Best Comic I Read Last Week Was Batman #73

Writer: Tom King

Artist:  Michael Janin

Yes, it looks like Batman will be the pick of the week from now until the end of the King run. And that is as it should be. Reading this latest arc underscores what King has been doing all along – that is telling one story, one coherent narrative about Batman. It’s a magnum opus and it is increasingly brilliant.

King decided – as Grant Morrison did before him – that all Batman stories were “true” and that all should be considered part of the continuity of the character. Then he set out to tell a story that brought some of the most disparate and interesting elements together: Thomas Wayne Batman, Kite Man and the list goes on.

As he and his best (in my opinion) collaborator Michael Janin continue to wind up in the run, the reader is the beneficiary of some of the best Batman stories in the last 10 years. If rumors are true that DC cut the planned 100 issue King run short because of criticism by fanboys, that is a shame and a regrettable decision.

Make mine King. And Janin.

 

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