In Honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars–Top Ten Reason that it is the greatest movie ever made.

Star Wars is 40 years old today.

That makes it sound old and therefore me. But I don’t care. I love this movie.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, this is an updated version of a post I did last summer.

Star wars came out when I was four.

According to my parents it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I’ll let you figure out how old I am based on that information.

And when I say Star Wars, I mean the first one, A New Hope. When I first saw it wasn’t called A New Hope, it was just Star Wars.

Star Wars is a great movie.

Star Wars became my childhood.

Star Wars became my birthday and Christmas for years.

It became visits to my grandmother. She would regularly have a new action for me. It was always wrapped in a brown paper bag.

It became playground games—lightsabers verses lightsabers.

It became card collections.

It became Halloween costumes.

Now it hangs on my Christmas tree.

The music made my four-year-old chest just stick out. I grew muscular and taller listening to opening music. Star Wars was the world I was in.

Yes.
We all know the cultural phenomenon that it has become. And the huge intellectual property that it has become to Disney.

5 Billion dollars to be exact. (That’s what Disney paid to George Lucas for the franchise.)

But it wasn’t just me. An entire generation of boys and girls, who are now middle age with children of their own who are into Star Wars. We are passing down the world to another generation of movie lovers.

But there has to be reasons why it is so good…

In honor of the 40th anniversary…

Here are the ten reasons why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

1. The opening.
Beginning a movie with loud music and a title crawl was ripped directly from the Flash Gordon serials of decades previous.

But they weren’t done nearly as well as this. Then flew in the ship in. But it flew in FROM OVER HEAD! And not just one ship but two!

This is now the standard opening for all Star Wars movies, until Rogue One changed it because it technically wasn’t an episode but a Star Wars story. The crawl was borrowed from the ol’ Flash Gordon movies. Lucas brought the 40s serials style into the modern world.

2. Darth Vader.
Five minutes in we are introduced the greatest villain we have ever seen. And here is the thing, he doesn’t say one word. But you know, you need to be scared of him.

And in many ways the prequel movies took away the mystique of the character, but on the other hand we refer to him as Darth Vader and not Anakin Skywalker.

3. The Music.
Let’s face John Williams is the Master at cinematic music. There is John Williams, and then everyone else. There are John Williams concerts around the country through out the year, there was one here in my own town of Richmond, VA a few months ago. He is in his 80s and currently scoring the next Star Wars movie, talk about commitment to your craft. (There’s a lesson there as well.)

Most people copies of their favorite band releases. I have different CD copies of different releases of all the sound tracks. I have issues.

4. Lightsabers.
They were described originally as laser swords and they’re such an obvious invention, but I know of no other place before where laser swords existed in a movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know what a lightsaber is and the sound it makes. When a new trailer comes we always look for the sight of a lightsaber being ignited.

5. Ralph McQuarrie.
The average movie watch does not know who Ralph is. The hard-core of us do. And we know that it was him who took George’s words and turned them into beautiful illustrations. For the average viewer, they’ve never heard his name. But he may have had more influence on the look of Star Wars than any other person. He designed the world.

6. The Toys.
Lucas made a seismic shift in how movies were promoted. The toys were just awesome. I got new toys every Christmas and birthday from 1977 to 1984. Have toys allowed children to replay the movie. (Remember kids, this was before DVDs.)


This is really how Lucas became a billionaire. The toys also change the contracts of all following movies. The studios released that they were really in the Intellectual Property business.

7. Sound Effects.
Without Ben Burtt there is no laser blast, no lightsaber sound, no roar of a tie fighter, no growl of Chewbacca, no rumble of the trash compactor, no explosion of the Death Star. In other words, no Star Wars.

Star Wars earned an Oscar for its sound, and rightfully so.

8. Industrial Light and Magic.
Lucas needed special effects that had never been done before. In the process he created a company that is used by most of Hollywood.

40 years later, ILM is stilling working and creating movie magic.

9. The spaceships.
The x-wing, tie-fighter, and of course the Milineum Falcon. The Falcon itself is a character in the movies. The Falcon is such a character than when I saw The Force Awakens the crowd cheered when the Falcon finally appeared on screen. Personally part of the reason that Return of the Jedi is not my favorite of the series partly because no scenes really occur in the Falcon.

In The Force Awakens, the Falcon is introduced as a character in the movie when Rey rightfully says, “The garbage will do!”

10. The Force.
Everyone wants to have the Force. The Force is the spirituality behind the story. It is with the Force that the movie goes to a different level. We all want the Force. We are all interested in that sort of power.

It’s hard to believe that it is 40 years old. But I guess that is part of getting older.

But through this movie, I can regularly visit my childhood.

That is why it is the great movie ever made.

SING–Movie Review–A nice solid family outing.

 

I am a dad of a five year old.  These are the types of  movies that I see.

And SING is a good one.

Buster Moon is a  Koala Bear is wanna-be successful theater producer.  We are introduced to him when he is six years and his parents take him to the theater.  He falls in love with theater, and his six-year-old mind decides he doesn’t want to be an astronaut anymore, he wants to produce theater.  And we are with him.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we find that Buster is a failed theater producer.  So much so, that the bank is about to foreclose on his property.

He begs for money from his best-friend and business partner, a sheep named  Eddie Noodleman, whose parents are wealthy.  But this time Eddie, turns him down.  Buster’s recent plays have flopped.  Flopped.

Buster’s Big Idea to get people back into the theater is to run a singing competition.  Eddie quickly points out the obvious, that nobody wants to see a singing competition made up of only locals.

Buster ignores him.

In a silly and stupid plot point, Buster’s secretary, Ms. Crawly an aging iguana, accidently turns the $1,000 prize into a $100,000 with a typo, and then within 30 seconds thousands of the flyers are blown out into the town, where the townsfolk begin to read about the $100,000 prize.

Consequently, more people show up to Buster’s talent audition than he expected.

From here we are connected with several enjoyable characters.

Rosita, a pig, who is mother to 25 piglets.  Her dream of being a famous singer abandoned to raise a family.

Ash, a teenage punk rocker who is forced to break-up with her boyfriend, when she is allowed in the competition and he is not.

Meena, a teenage elephant, who has a gifted voice, but is crippled by debilitating stage fright. 

Johnny, a teenage gorilla, whose family is a gang of bank robbers.

Mike, a mouse, is the Frank Sinatra clone.  He gets into trouble with women and the mob.

Gunter, a German-accent pig, is Rosita’s dance partner.

The story continues as Buster tries to get the singing competition off the ground.  The movie continues through obstacle after obstacle, each more over the top than the next.  Until finally the theater itself is destroyed.

Buster hits his low, and goes into hiding.  But those that were going to sing in the competition pull a singing performance off in the end.

Overall

The movie is funny.  But there is nothing groundbreaking here.

Plot points are obvious and silly.

But we can relate to characters that have given up on their dreams, but find hope and joy when the chance to finally live those dreams happens.

And for Generation Xer parents and Baby Boomer Grandparents there are some great musical numbers here.  The writers knew who would be bringing the children to see this.

And my five-year-old got up to dance during the movie, which makes me recommend the movie.

 

Image credits:

Several of the images came from here.

 

Rogue One Review–Treading Water Til Episode 8

 

Rogue One Movie Poster

 Star Wars is in many ways unreviewable.

People will go to see it, no matter what is written about it. People will see it just to be a part of the cultural aspect of it.

But, still here I write.

Rogue One is a prequel. Not the infamous Prequels that Lucas made, but a prequel none the less, and that leaves it with problems from the get go. You already know how the movie is going to end.  We know that the Rebels at the start of A New Hope had gotten stolen plans on how the Death Star worked. It was in the opening the crawl. This entire movie is an introduction to another movie.

Because this isn’t an episode, there is no opening crawl. Which makes sense, considering that this movie is the opening crawl for the next movie.

We do get the iconic “A long time ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…”

The opening scene we are introduced to Galen Erso, Lyra Erso, and the main character Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones. It during this scene that I believe we get the first Star Wars Meta reference. A Death Trooper picks a Stormtrooper doll. I enjoyed that touch.

Soon after Jyn’s father is capture and mother is killed we skipped ahead apparently 12 years or so, and we find Jyn is in prison. Now, why she is in prison, like a lot of plot points, in this movie is never mentioned. And this prison cell is dirty, unlike Leia’s prison room in the Death Star in the original Star Wars. We also hear prisoners being tortured from a far.

This is Star Wars with the emphasis on the War part.

Soon after, for whatever reason as we are never told why, Jyn is being transferred to a labor camp planet, and here we find the most honest detail in a Star Wars movie—an exhausted Stormtrooper. He sits there looking at the floor, his elbows on his knees.  The Stormtrooper is clearly a dude who is exhausted and just doing his job. And in a few seconds he is going to be killed, as Jyn is rescued by Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO. That is part of the job description of a Stormtrooper—getting killed.

The forced humor

The Humor isn’t Jar-Jar Binks level, not even close, but it is still forced.  And it comes only through droid K-2S0. You have to ask, why is a droid the only one around with a sense of humor? While everyone else is walking around with depressed and angry. Who was the clever person that programmed K-2? Was he or she killed? Why isn’t he or she around?

The problem with a prequel is that you already know where the story is going.  You may not know exactly what is going to happen on the way, but you do know where the story is going, and takes some the of the interest away.

Yes, Vader is in it.

But he didn’t need to be.  Why does Crinnic need to travel to Mustofar to visit with Vader one on one?  Doesn’t this universe have long distance holographic communication?  Wouldn’t that be safer for Krinnic, because he wouldn’t be inconveincing Vader?  And yes, there is a very intense scene at the end where Vader kills several rebel soldiers.  This where the story changes differ from the original Star Wars.  In the original movie, Leia says that she is a part of a diplomatic mission.  Kinda hard to make that lie now, when Vader actually watches you rip your ship away from his ship.

A better movie would have used Vader in the background, not put him out front.

Star Wars brings back cutting edge technology.

Bringing Peter Cushing back with the combination of an actor and CGI was landmark work. Being a Star Wars nerd I clearly knew that this was CGI. I knew that Cushing has passed away  in 1994, so anytime his character Grand Moff Tarkin. It really was great, and the reason I know that is that other people, i.e. non-Star Wars fanatics didn’t realized that the character was CGI, they didn’t know any better. That’s the goal. The only reason we know that Tarkin is CGI, is because we know the actor is dead

Even the young Carrie Fisher scene was beyond belief. Why do I think this? As I walked out the movie I heard one parton explain to who seemed to be his mother, that it wasn’t a look alike actress. It fooled regular movie goers. That is mind-blowing.

Overall, Rogue One is clearly an exercise in treading water while we wait to see Episode 8 where the story will continue to a place where we don’t know what is going to happen and that is much more interesting.    

 

Cover for my next book–Irving Williams and the Mystery of the Lighthouse Ghost

 

My newest book Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost is coming soon.  

Here is the cover.

I got the cover from a designer I found on Designcrowd.com.  It was the first time that I used Designcrowd, here designers send you the designs first and then you select the winning design.  You can even purchase several designs, if you have the budget.  There were a couple of other designs that I liked, and I wanted to reward the designers for working on the designs.

I posted what I thought I wanted.  But this designer read between the lines and came up with something I never would have thought of.  My wife said that it looks like a classic children’s story.  So, it won the contest.

The book will be ready soon for prerelease.

How to dream it all up again–a lesson from U2

Rolling Stone informed me today my favorite album is 25 years old today.

Crap.  I’m officially old.

Achtung Baby is my favorite album of all time.  

I know that because of the airtime it gets in the car CD player.  I know it because any fantasy of being a rock star involves playing on a ZOO TV stage and strumming the chords from Zoo Station and Even Better Than The Real Thing. I know it’s my favorite because I keep coming back to it.

Now Achtung Baby is “Old U2”.  A phrase heard a lot over the years from U2 followers.  But in 1991 is was new.

Man was it new.

Three years before in 1988 they released Rattle and Hum.

 
In 1987 they released The Joshua Tree.  The album that shot them to super stardom.

And from The Joshua Tree they were on top of the of the rock world.  They graced Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, everything.  They were all over the radio.

(For those youngsters on here, the radio was where someone played music, but you couldn’t fast forward, replay, or skip.  And sometimes the jerk disc jockeys would talk over your song.  Seriously, this happened.  But I digress.)

They were on high rotation on MTV.

(See back then children, Music television played music videos.  Short movies with songs, much like you see on youtube, except only famous people got to be on MTV.  I KNOW!  HOW DID WE LIVE!?)

But instead of putting out another Joshua Tree, or an evolution on it.  Bono ended the Rattle and Hum tour by saying

 “It’s no big deal, it’s just — we have to go away and…and dream it all up again.”

Then out came Achtung Baby.  The album.

Bono himself said Achtung Baby was:

 “The sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree.”

So how do they follow-up their famous tour and album?

They chopped it down.

They threw it out.

And they did something completely different.

So different, they lost some fans over it.

So different though that it turned out to be amazing.

There are infinite reviews, from people much smarter than me.  So I won’t focus on the music.  I want to point out what I learned from the album.

AND this is the real reason why it is my favorite album of all time.

Sometimes you need to change.  Sometimes you need to do something completely different.

Personally I have been paid as a videographer, a youth minister, a YMCA counselor, a photographer, a third grade teacher, a first grade teacher, a fifth grade teacher, and now I write children’s books on top of that.

Life has forced me to reinvent.  And every time I am forced to reinvent, I come back to this album, and realize reinvention is a good thing.

And sometimes it’s even better than the real thing.

Achtung Y’all!

“We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set” Why the Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians World Series is needed now.

The Chicago Cubs are back in the World Series

I love baseball.  It’s a spring and summer game.  And it comes to fruition in the fall.

It has history.

The History

The Cubs haven’t won since 1908.

Two world wars have occurred since the Cubs last won the series.

The Cleveland Indians haven’t won since 1948.

Television has entered our homes and we put a man on the moon since the Indians won last.

No matter who wins a team that hasn’t won in decades will be the winner.

A perpetual underdog will win no matter what.

We know that 2016 has sucked so far.  Two people that shall not be named have taken up most of the news cycle here in the country.

Now we can hear about Lester, Kubler, Schwarber, that’s a nice change.

I admit it.  I want the Cubs to win.

Here’s why:

We’ve flown across the Atlantic, stopped Polio, and put a man on the moon.  It was a simpler time.  If the Cubs win we will get a connection to that simpler time.

We need that connection now.   We need to rally around the cities of Cleveland and Chicago.

We need baseball now.

Let’s connect with Walt Whitman:

 “I like your interest in sports–ball, chiefest of all–baseball particularly: baseball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports  take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen–generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race.”

It’s our game that will repair our losses.  Baseball will heal us.  Baseball will save us.

Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost-part 6

On an almost personal dare I wrote this story while also working on Dolbin School 4. I wrote this without an outline and put up the story as I finish each part on Steemit. 

Click here for part 1, part 2,  part 3, part 4, part 5

“My grandfather thinks he is seeing a ghost at the lighthouse, and I think he wants to show it to me,” said Irving to Alec as they both were getting their fishing rods ready. The grey of dusk had covered the sky. The breeze was still warm.

“That’s cool,” responded Alec.

“I guess. But if he sees something at the lighthouse, I guess something is actually happening,” Irving said.

Irving’s grandfather walked over to the boys and the boys stopped talking. “Okay are you two ready? Do you have everything you need?”

“Yeah, it looks like it grandpa,” Irving leaned back and cast his line out in the surf. He held onto his line.

“Nice cast,” he patted Irving on the back and walked back to his line, where Irving’s dad and Carrie had set-up their lines.

Alec leaned back and cast his line out into the water. He placed the rod into paint bucket to keep it anchored. He sat down on the ground. “Why don’t you put yours in the bucket?”

“I like to hold my line in case something bites early.” Alec shook his head,

“Okay.”  Suddenly Alec’s rod took leaned forward and the line took off like a sprinter.

“Whoa! I got something!” screamed Alec.

He jumped up to grab the rod, but he tripped over the bucket. He fell face first onto the ground. But he held onto the rod. The bucket fell forward and the rod came out of the bucket. The Alec held onto the rod with both hands. Irving laughed at the top of his lungs. Then the fish on the end of the rod pulled the rod and Alec across the sand towards the ocean. For some reason Alec held onto the rod.

Irving’s eye lit up. He quickly put his rod into the bucker and chased after Alec. Irving landed on his friend. Irving’s grandfather seeing the scene ran over and grabbed the rod from Alec. He quickly pulled back on the line, but it snapped.

The catch got away.

Irving and Alec laid on the edge of the water.  “Well, that was embarrassing,” Alec said. Irving rolled off Alec, sand covered his hair. He stood and brushed the wet sand off of his clothes. Mr. Williams helped Alec get up.

Mr. Williams showed Alec and Irving the line. “I think it is a good thing you didn’t reel that in!”

He smiled. “I’m also glad that it didn’t eat us earlier today when we were on our boards,” Alec replied.

Irving’s dad came running over, “Everyone all right?”

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Irving replied.

Irving’s dad motioned to the two boys and Mr. Williams, “There is always trouble when the three of you get together.”

Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost part 5

I am experimenting.

I am working on a new book, while also writing this story.  I am writing this story without an outline and putting up the story as I finish each part.  I am enjoying getting to know these characters and setting.

Click here for Part 4

Click here for part 3.

Click here for part 2

Click here to begin at part 1 

 

“I see that you have found Alec,” said Irving’s grandfather. Who was reading a tattered spy novel paperback, his head covered by his sun hat, round sunglasses covered his face.

Irving and Alec walked back to Iriving’s family’s settlement. They were exhausted from riding waves. Their cheeks were pink from the sun, and knees skinned from wiping out on their boogie boards.

Irving’s grandfather was manning the settlement of towels. Carrie was a sleep on her towel. Her hair wet after taking a quick dip in the water.

The rest of the family was in the water playing with Lucas.

Alec waved, “Hi, Mr. Williams.”

“Hi, Alec. Where is your family?” Irving’s grandfather replied.

“Down there, the blue tent.” He pointed. “My mother sunburns easily, so we bring the tent.” He pointed to a blue tent hundred feet away.

“Your grandfather told me you would be here for the week.”

“Yes, sir that is correct.” Grant Williams sat up in his chair, pushed his hat back and lowered his sunglasses down his nose.

He waved Alec in closer with his tattered paperback, “Come, here.” Alec took a step closer. “I have something to show you and Irving this week at the lighthouse,” a gleam was noticeable in his eye. The lines in his cheek grew deep from his smiling.

Alec turned looked at Irving and then back at Mr. Williams, “Yes, sir. What is it?”

Mr. Williams guffawed, but then leaned in closer and lowered his voice to a whisper, “I can’t tell you that right now. There are too many prying ears around.” He made a circular motion with his paperback.

Alec put gave a thumbs-up, “Understood.” Alec stood back up, and stepped next to Irving, “I’m starving I’m going to go get some Gatorade and chips.”

“Come and see us in an hour or so when the sun gets lower. We’ll be getting ready to fish.” Alec waved, “Yes, sir.” He jogged off to his parent’s tent.

Irving put his board down and sat down next to his grandfather. He reached into the cooler next his grandfather, and pulled out a bottle of water, and a turkey sandwich. He started eating.

“So what exactly is it you’ve seen at the lighthouse?” Irving asked.

His grandfather turned and looked at him. He looked at Carrie napping on the towel. He looked around to see if anyone else was listening, and he lowered his voice, “The original lighthouse keeper from 140 years ago is back.”