Friday, May 04, 2018

May the Fourth Be With You!

Began another hot, sunny day with an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures (the second episode of the series, in fact) to celebrate Star Wars Day. Plucky is "A Quack in the Quarks" when he's duck-napped by alien exchange students. They believe his constant bragging and think he can stop Duck Vader from destroying their home planet. Babs, Buster, and Hamton go after him.

Worked on writing for a while after breakfast. Han finally punches Palpatine out and runs into his mother's bedroom. She's dying...and looks far older than her actual age. Palpatine has been stripping her energy. She tries to explain to her son what he's really up to, but she's too weak...and dies in his arms.

Broke at noon to have lunch, then clean the kitchen. Started Revenge of the Sith while I worked. Instead of doing the full trilogies, I thought I'd watch my favorite of the prequel and original trilogies today. (I'm saving The Last Jedi, my current favorite of the two sequels, for when Lauren visits.)

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) emerge from the Clone Wars as the hottest Jedi team around and the closest of friends. Anakin's having his own problems, however. The Jedi Council senses darkness in him and refuse to grant him the status of Master or a seat with them. They assign him to keep an eye on Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDermid) after he and Obi-Wan rescue him from Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). After he has a vision of his wife Padme (Natalie Portman) dying in childbirth, he's eager to hear Palpatine's suggestions that he may have powers that can make people live forever. Anakin's desperation to save his wife and show everyone that he's the most powerful person in the galaxy has tragic consequences for the Jedi Order, his family, and everyone around him.

This is by far my favorite of the prequel films, though it it still has its problems. Some of the dialogue remains clunky, and there's far too much Clone Wars and too little explanation. Anakin turns way too quickly to the dark side! I would have liked to have seen more of what made him change sides. This also has the same problems with an over-reliance on now-dated CGI as Attack of the Clones.

The movie benefits from a more interesting and less murky plot than the previous prequels and improved performances. While their romantic dialogue is still off, Christensen and Portman have better chemistry and sound more like a couple, especially when she announces that they're going to have a few additions to the family. MacDermid and MacGregor get top honors as the ultimate villain in sheep's clothing and the teacher who doesn't understand why his best friend suddenly turned on him.

If you can only see one prequel movie, make it this one. It's better-acted than the other two, more interesting, has a better plot, and has more bearing on the other films in the series. In fact, I consider this to be the most underrated film in the entire Star Wars franchise to date.

Headed out to work as soon as I finished in the kitchen. I wish I hadn't. While it wasn't bad when I came in, work picked up around 2:30 and stayed busy the rest of the day. I got stuck in the register most of the day, panicking so badly, my stomach was in knots and I was in tears when I got off. No one was really mean, but I just wasn't ready to suddenly be tossed on the register after I've barely been in them for two years. We're just that short-handed. Five people are out on some kind of leave or the other; three of those brand-new cashiers they just hired a week or two couldn't handle the job and quit.

I rushed out as soon as I could. Took the long way home to settle my stomach and calm down. Despite the traffic on Nicholson, it was still a nice day for a ride. At that point, it remained sunny, with a stiff wind despite the dry lower 90's temperatures.

Went for a short but pleasant walk around the neighborhood after I ate. Dark clouds and cooler winds were starting to roll in, even as I strolled down Goff Avenue. The trees are almost fully green now, their leaves growing bigger every day. Tulips and daffodils are giving way to azaleas and geraniums in gardens. Lawns show less and less brown and more emerald. The cooler night encouraged people to share a pint with friends at Tonewood Brewery and buy ice cream with their children at Phillies Yummies.

When I got in, I changed, then had dinner and made chocolate cupcakes for the Acme's spring employee luncheon. Did a few more Star Wars and sci-fi cartoon spoofs as I worked. Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater parodied Star Wars as "Cat Wars." Tuxedo Sam Skywalker has to get Princess Kitty past Darth Catnip to her home planet of Caturn, with the help of Grandpa Catnobi.

Daffy Duck becomes a more typical galactic hero in "Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century." He and his sidekick Porky go to Planet X to retrieve a precious metal, but Marvin the Martian arrives at the same time. The planet may not be big enough for the two of them...or strong enough to survive their back-and-forth attacks. (For a more obvious Star Wars connection, I've read that many theaters in 1977 showed this before New Hope.)

Finished the night with The Empire Strikes Back after a shower. This is not only my favorite of the original trilogy films, it's my favorite movie, period. Three years after they destroyed the Death Star, the Rebellion has been driven to the frigid planet of Hoth. While Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) receives a message from the late Obi-Wan (Sir Alec Guinness) to train with Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) on Dagobah, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is more interested in pursuing a reluctant Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Yoda may look like a goofy little green Muppet, but he proves to Luke that size and looks matter not when he puts him through a rigorous training routine. Fleeing the Empire, Leia, Han, Han's co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mahew), and perpetually worrying droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) end up in Bespin, run by Han's very smooth buddy Lando (Billy Dee Williams). Evil cyborg Darth Vader (David Prowse), however, is using the others as bait to trap Luke. Luke finds himself set against the darkest villain in the universe...and on the receiving end of a very startling revelation about his parentage...

New Hope may have the whiz-bang fun and Return of the Jedi the happy ending, but this one manages to take the series into far darker corners than anyone expected, including the infamous cliffhanger with Han and Vader's declaration. The performances are excellent across the board, especially James Earl Jones as the voice of the galaxy's worst boss, Oz as the alternately wise and wacky Yoda, and Fisher and Ford (reluctant though he may have been to return) as the lovers. The special effects are even better here, too, especially in Bespin and the Battle of Hoth. (And this is pretty much the only movie that was actually enhanced by the new effects added for the Special Editions.)

Widely considered by many to be a masterpiece today, you owe it to yourself to catch this one, not only for sci-fi fans, but for fans of good movie-making in general.

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