Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Cloudy Menace

I was jolted awake this morning by hard rock music blaring downstairs at quarter of 9. It got so noisy, I ended up Charlie to turn it down. I also reminded him that it was Wednesday. He said he'd bring the new air conditioner up on Monday. I had not yet seen him or an air conditioner.

Ran The Backyardigans when I finally got up for breakfast. Tyrone and Pablo are going "In the Deep" to capture mermaids...on film, that is. Mermaids Tasha and Uniqua think they're after their garden and do everything they can think of to get rid of them.

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. After leaving the Enchanted Woods, Vader returns to Bast Castle and his master. The wicked King Palapatine has his own plans for the Black Knight's children. He orders Vader to triple taxes in the Kingdom of the Empire and take everything they can, including treasure and precious jewels. He wants to use the money to lure the Rebels...and in turn, bring Leia and Luke with them.

Vader has more than a few reservations. His encounter with Arthur reawakened a lot of old memories...especially those of his beloved late wife Padme. He remembers how much she loved him, how she wanted to raise their children free of tyranny. He let his lust for power override his feelings for her and desire to be a father...but now he's wondering if there might be some hope left for him after all...

Meanwhile, Luke, Leia, Cecil, and Arthur have come to Ben Kenobi's old hut to forge Luke's sword. Leia's getting restless. She wants to get back to the Rebels...but even more, she misses Han something horrible and wants to go after him. Luke wants to reforge his sword first...but they find something in Ben's old trunks that may be helpful...

Charlie and his boys finally showed up with the air conditioner around quarter of 1. I was shocked at how small the thing was. It didn't take up anything resembling the room the old one did. Even my old air conditioner was smaller than the one that came with the house. Now I'm wondering just how old that thing was. Miss Ellie said it was fairly new when I moved in, but that was ten years ago. (This is also my first air conditioner to come with a remote control. I've never seen that before.)

Ate quick, then headed to work. It's probably just as well that I was bagging today. Work was dead for most of the afternoon. I gathered the indoor trash and did returns when I came in. After break, I rounded up carts, bagged, and cleaned out the woman's bathroom. There were no really major problems (besides some grouchy evening managers), and I was in and out.

When I got home, I made Thin Chicken Cutlets Poached in Lemon Sauce with roasted broccoli and cauliflower and fingerling potatoes for dinner, then whipped up some Mint-Mini-Chocolate-Chip Meringue Cookies for dessert. Watched The Phantom Menace while I ate and baked. Yeah, since I've done all of the other Star Wars movies (and the Rebels cartoon) in the past five months or so, I figured I'd do this one, too.

 Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) are a Jedi master and pupil (padawan) who think they're just being sent to the planet Naboo for a routine matter. They discover on arrival that the Trade Federation has blockaded the planet, and the people are starving. They do manage to escape with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), but their ship is stranded in Tatoonie. There, they meet 9-year-old slave Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who turns out to be an expert podracer. Despite his youth, he manages to win them the money to get them off the planet and set him free. Qui-Gon wants to train him as a Jedi, but the Council, including Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) sense something very dark in the kid. Meanwhile, the Trade Federation's blockade is still causing trouble. The Queen, the kid, and the Jedi have seek the help of the frog-like Gungans, including one especially clumsy one, to help them defeat the droids that have invaded Naboo. And then, there's the scary guy with the black and red face paint who seems to have a score to settle with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan...

So, yeah, overall, I'm not real fond of this one. There's a reason this is the first time I've watched this since I found it about five or so years ago. (I bought it at a yard sale, still in its plastic, for a quarter.) It's by far my least-favorite Star Wars movie. My problem isn't the things most people usually point fingers at - the kid and Jar Jar, the overly clumsy and obvious Gungan. Jar Jar doesn't bother me, and I thought Lloyd was fine, given the circumstances. The plot is overly complicated and really very dull. I know a lot of people like the podrace, but I'm not a racing fan, and it doesn't do much for me. The heavy reliance on then-cutting-edge CGI means that many of the effects look dated now. The dialogue is the series' worst, stilted and wooden, and it does no one any favors.

There's only three reasons this is even watchable today, and two of them are Neeson and MacGregor. Neeson brings such a wonderful gravity to his role as the maverick Jedi master who discovers Anakin and has so much chemistry with MacGregor that I really wish he was in more of the series. Darth Maul may not be much of a character (you learn absolutely nothing about him here), but that "Duel of the Fates" in the finale is still a wonder to behold. The third reason is some of John Williams' best music, including the aforementioned "Duel of the Fates."

Unless you're a huge fan of Star Wars or the cast, there really is no reason to come here. You're probably better off digging around for the soundtrack online, watching the lightsaber duels on YouTube, and skipping the rest.

Finished the night with more Backyardigans. The Gungans aren't the only ones who learn about the importance of helping others. In "Pablor and the Acorns," Tasha, Tyrone, and Austin are Acorn Scouts trying to earn their badges. Pablo and Uniqua are galactic war lords who want to find the Crystal of Power. When the crystal lands on Buttercup Mountain, Pablo has to rely on the Acorns to get him there...and discovers just how nice it can be to help others and learn new things.

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