Monday, April 16, 2018

A Galaxy of Toons and Porgs

Rain was coming down in buckets when I woke up this morning. There was even a rumble of thunder. I called Dad for a ride even before I had breakfast. Turns out, he had a hospital appointment. Everyone else had work.

Good thing the rain was slowing down, even as I made corn meal mush and a grapefruit half for breakfast. Started off the second season of Tiny Toon Adventures with "Pledge Day." The Toons parody PBS pledge season by trying to get pledges for the show. The shorts work out better than their efforts. Babs tries to amuse her grandmother in "It's All Relative." It's "Lifeguard Lunacy" when Arnold gives Calamity Coyote all the hard work at the pool, including avoiding Elmyra. "The Kite" is a touching, largely dialogue-free short about a moth who befriends a kite Hampton lost.

Started packing up for work as the Toons went on a school trip in "Going Places." They visit a fire station in "When You're Hot" and get to demonstrate what they've learned when the Looniversity is set on fire. "That's Art, Folks!" moves onto a museum. Babs is bored with art that doesn't move, until she dreams that the art tries to teach her a lesson. We finish at Montana Max's meat factory in "Slaughterhouse Jive." A meat factory probably isn't the best place for a class that features two rabbits, two ducks, and a pig, among others...and after they're nearly turned into sausage, they have to show Max why not everyone is into cutting up critters.

By the time I left, the rain had slowed to a light shower. It was almost done when I rolled into the Acme, though the clouds and gale-force winds remained for the rest of the day. Pretty much the same deal as yesterday - it was quiet when I came in, busy when I left. I spent most of the first half of my shift doing returns and gathering trash and baskets and the second half rounding up carts. There was a nervous moment when I got stuck in a register because it was so busy. I hate it when they just throw me in a register. I don't have the chance to mentally prepare to deal with all those people.

(And the toons weren't the only ones on a class trip today. We had two classes of preschoolers who came in to see what people do at a grocery store. They were even allowed to say "thank you" over the intercom. One boy waved to me when I was passing them as I did returns. They were too cute.)

As soon as I got home, I changed, then made "Merlin's Magic (Baked) Chicken," which is basically chicken in a flour coating and baked in the oven for an hour. Worked on writing while they cooked. Luke and Leia awaken in Henry's arms, just as the sun is rising in their window. Luke hugs the prince, glad that they were able to help him, then rushes downstairs before he regains his unicorn form. Maz calls him Your Highness, but while he doesn't mind Henry, he doesn't like being reminded of his titles. Leia's more annoyed at the mention of a Princess Amilyn who had been engaged to him. Han says he'll explain her and how he ended up in Palpatine's clutches over breakfast.

Had the chicken with leftover cabbage and potatoes around quarter of 7. Continued the Tiny Toons set with possibly the series' most controversial episode, "Elephant Issues." Go-Go Dodo introduces three cartoons that discuss serious issues and are meant as parodies of "issue-of-the-week" sitcom episodes of the time. (The first short even references The Facts of Life, which was notorious for its "issues" episodes.) "Why Dizzy Can't Read" is he's too busy watching television. Babs and Buster get him unplugged and show how much fun reading can be. "C.L.I.D.E and Prejudice" introduces a robot who is bullied by Montana Max, at least until he figures out his own way to deal with him. The extremely unsubtle "One Beer" has Plucky, Buster, and Hampton parodying "don't drink and drive" ads by getting so wasted over one sip of beer, they steal a cop car and go off a cliff.

(And despite showing that the trio was fine in the end, this episode was banned by the networks for 20 years due to that "One Beer" short. It's on this DVD and it apparently has turned up on Discovery Family, so I'm guessing people have softened to it somewhat. I can understand the complaints - honestly, this whole episode is kind of weird and uncomfortable, and the beer short just seals things.)

"Hog-Wild Hampton" has the Toons a bit more in-character. We meet Hampton's parents (who would later turn up in the Summer Vacation movie) for the first time when they ask him to watch over the house. Plucky smells an opportunity to have a wild party (in a parody of similar party scenes in 80's teen movies). Egghead Jr, the little chick who lives next door, doesn't like the noise and retaliates...and Hampton has to explain what happened when his parents come home to find their house blown to bits.

Moved onto Wii Sports after dinner. Had a great boxing bout - I did KO the guy, but not until the end of Round Three. Also worked on hitting balls in golf and tennis and power throws in bowling.

Finished the night with The Last Jedi. We pick up right where The Force Awakens left off, with former scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at Atch-To. Luke is more interested in hiding from the world than helping his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher), although he does finally agree to train Rey in the ways of the Jedi. Meanwhile, the First Order hasn't backed down after the loss of Starkiller Base and pound the Resistance even harder. When Leia is hurt, she's replaced by brittle General Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), to the frustration of Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac). Poe and Maz Kantana (Lupita N'yongo) sends former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and shy mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to the glittering casino city Cantino Bight to find a master code breaker who can get them into the First Order. What they find is TJ (Benicio Del Toro), a shady thief with his own agenda. He does manage to get them off the planet, but lands them right in the First Order with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Meanwhile, Rey, who has been chatting with tormented Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) via the Force, believes there's still good in him. Angry with Luke after he reveals his part in Kylo's fall to the dark side, she goes off to prove that he can change. But as Luke says, "this is not going to go the way you think"...

I still don't understand the backlash surrounding this movie. Ok, so it's not a masterpiece. Like all Star Wars movies, it's too long. A lot of its two and a half hour run time could have been trimmed, especially in that saggy middle part. As much as I enjoyed Finn and Rose's ride through Cantino Bight, it's clearly padding and doesn't really have a lot to do with the plot in the long run. Some of the characters could have been written better, too. Holdo comes off as cold as a block of ice until she finally reveals what she's actually doing; her being more specific about her plans could have made her a tad more sympathetic. Others, like TJ and Phasma, are barely in the movie.

The positives far outweigh the negatives. Driver and Ridley come off well in their confrontations and Force chats, making Ren's refusal to change all the more heartbreaking. Hamill gives one of his best performances as a very different Luke Skywalker; Fisher's final performance is also excellent. A lot of the complaints fell on Tran as Rose, but I think she was fine and people were just pointing fingers. The special effects are incredible, especially in the opening space battle and the finale in Crait. And yes, I thought the Porgs were oddly cute and one of the funniest parts of the film. (Speaking of the humor, I don't know why people were fussing about that, either. A few jokes failed to land, but most were actually pretty funny.)

I suspect, like Empire, people will be a little bit more understanding about this one after Episode 9 comes out next year and we know where it fits in the overall story. It's more likely it was a victim of way, waaaaaaaaayyyyyy too much hype and far too many expectations. If like me, you're open to a different take on "a galaxy far, far away" and aren't a purist or expecting it to be the be-all and end-all of everything, you may enjoy it as much as I did.

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