Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Pony and Solo Stories

Began a beautiful early fall morning with a quick breakfast and the first episode on the horror-themed My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set. Rainbow Dash has been pranking everyone around Ponyville - including her friends. "28 Pranks Later," and even Pinkie Pie is tired of it. Rainbow comes up with a huge scheme to give everyone cookies that'll turn their mouths rainbow-colored. Pinkie eats a box and seems to get sick. Rainbow still assumes the prank went well...until she discovers that the cookies have turned everyone into rainbow-mouthed zombies! Or have they?

Worked on writing for a little bit after I ate. The group must dodge a series of booby traps intended to keep all but the Guardians of the Force and the Jedi away from the weapon. Luke, Harry, and Leia leap over and under the steel blades and sharp spears...but small and lithe Yoda merely walks around them or jumps over them. Even he can't walk around the three boulders that are suddenly unleashed and chase them down three separate halls! When he sees a chasm, Harry comes up with a way to get rid of the boulders without having to outrun them.

Broke for lunch around 11. Finished "28 Pranks Later" and went on to "Campfire Tales." Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Rarity have taken their little sisters Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle on a camping trip. They're attacked by a swarm of flying spiders and duck into a cave to avoid them. In order to cheer up the fillies and calm poor Scootaloo, who is afraid of the dark, the older ponies relate their favorite legends. Applejack tells of a pony who dug a trench to save his people from flowing lava. Rarity reveals how a unicorn sorceress gave up her beauty to help a friend. Rainbow Dash eagerly explains how a Pegasus warrior rescued his companions from two dragons with a magic shield.

Headed to work right after the episode ended. Work was once again quiet for most of the afternoon. I spent the majority of it outside, doing carts, especially early-on after the morning bagger went home sick. In fact, I asked to do carts. No wonder we've been dead since last week. It's been too nice to go shopping! It was sunny, dry, and warm, in the upper 70's-lower 80's, with a lovely, cool breeze. Other than doing trash and recycling (and trying to figure out how to, since we're still out of trash bags for the store), I was out all day and happy to be so. I did take over for someone in the register, but we were so dead, they pulled me after 15 minutes.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. That may not have been smart. The traffic was really bad, all the way down the street. I dodged not only a lot of cars, but several other bikers out to enjoy the day as well. It got a lot easier once I turned on Atlantic. I waved to those other bikers and admired goldenrod and wildflowers dancing in that soft breeze as I headed over the bridge and into Oaklyn.

Had a quick leftover dinner while watching more Friendship Is Magic. Thorax, the kindly changeling from season 6, returns in the season 7 episode "To Change a Changeling." Starlight and Trixie are called to the Changeling Kingdom to help gentle Thorax convince his fighter brother Pharynx to adopt to the hive's more peaceful ways. When the duo can't reason with him, the other changelings opt to banish him. Starlight tries to lead a huge monster to them in order to get Pharynx to defend his sibling, but he's already left. It'll take some brotherly memories - and learning to work together - to make Pharynx realize that he does still have something to offer the hive after all.

Switched to cleaning the bathroom while finishing out the disc. It wasn't really that bad, likely due to my having not been here for part of last month, but it needed to be done. The tub was the worst of it, likely from the baths.

Finished out the Friendship Is Magic set while I scrubbed. "Shadow Play," the two-part seventh season finale, reveals that all those "legendary" characters the ponies talked about in "Campfire Tales" are real. A thousand years ago, they, along with Star Swirl the Bearded, a famous sorcerer, sacrificed themselves to seal away a pony who drew dark magic to become an evil shadow monster. Twilight wants to learn from Star Swirl, so she and the other ponies gather relics that will allow her to cast a spell to free them. The spell works...but it also frees the monster. It's Starlight who realizes the truth about the so-called "monster" and what he really wants.

Finished the night with Solo: A Star Wars Story. Young Han (Aiden Ehrenreich) escapes his home planet of Corellia after fleeing the crime lord he worked for, but is forced to leave his sweetheart Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) behind. He joins the Imperial Navy, but is kicked out of flight school and ends up in the infantry. He encounters a group of thieves, including crafty Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who turns him in before they can snitch. Han's officers toss him to "The Beast"...who turns out to be a wookie named Chewbacca. He's astonished that Han knows his language and agrees to help him out.

The duo join Beckett's crew for a train heist, but it goes wrong and they lose their cargo. It was supposed to go to the boss of Crimson Dawn, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), but now they have to pay. Han tells Vos at his yacht that they'll find another shipment. He also finds Qi'ra, who now works for Vos. They track down dandy Lando Calarissian (Donald Glover), and his droid L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who own the Millennium Falcon, known as the fastest ship in the galaxy. Beckett gets Lando to help them pick up another shipment of fuel...but it's dangerously unstable and may explode! Han manages to get them through the Kessel Run all right (yes, that famous Kessel Run), but they still need to deal with Vos and the Marauders when they arrive, not to mention treachery from several members of their group.

I enjoyed this when I saw it in the theater on Memorial Day, and I liked it just as much at home. As good as Ehrenreich, Harrelson, and Clarke are, it's Glover as a pitch-perfect Lando who really steals the show. He's so much fun, you really wish he was in more of the movie. I also like what Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) and her Marauders actually turned out to be.

The special effects were downright stunning. Major shout-out to the botched train heist and the finale with Enfys Nest and Vos. Oh, and Han wins a shoot-out in the end that definitely won't be re-edited anytime soon.

The movie does have several major problems, many of them likely stemming from all the backstage drama with the changed directors. Three of the film's best characters, including L3, are killed off after barely 20 minutes each of screen time. A lot of the cinematography is dark and murky, especially in the first half. Oddly, most critics complained that the first half was too slow, but after they left dreary Corellia, I found it to be the most interesting. Things get a tad too complicated once the whole plot with the fuel kicks in. Plus, like most Star Wars movies, it's at least a half-hour too long. Some slow sections in the finale could have been trimmed with no one the wiser.

Honestly, I think this movie's biggest problem was a bad release date. It came out just weeks after Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 (both of which were a lot more anticipated) and less than six months after the much-contested and fussed-about Last Jedi. Lucasfilm should have moved it to Christmas or later in the summer. Nobody had any confidence in it, including Lucasfilm - it was barely marketed. Not to mention, many Star Wars fans already know Han's original origin story from the Expanded Universe novels and wouldn't dream of seeing anyone but Harrison Ford in the part, while others are more interested in the current movies he no longer figures into.

As with the rest of the Star Wars series, I think you know if this one is for you. While not my favorite of the series, I did enjoy it more than the previous "Star Wars Story," the dour and depressing Rogue One. If you're a fan of Han from the Original Trilogy or The Force Awakens and are willing to give a different side of the character a shot, this is highly recommended and deserves far more than it got at the box office this summer.

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