Movie Review: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Title:  Return of the Jedi
Release Date: 1983
Director:  Richard Marquand

And so we conclude introducing the children to the classic trilogy of Star Wars films.  The kids enjoyed this and certainly got a lot more laughs than the previous two installments.  Return of the Jedi certainly does have more humor and a positive spirit of bonhomie that is a big tonal shift from Empire Strikes Back. On the other hand the Luke-Vader-Emperor scenes have an undertone of menace I didn’t catch as a child (although at least one of my kids was spooked). The portions at Jabba’s palace really creeped me out as a kid, and they’re still pretty creepy (I didn’t recall just how gruesome it is when Leia chokes Jabba to death)

Over the years, Return of the Jedi has gotten a bad rap, but I loved it as a kid and I think it still holds up.  . People criticize the Ewoks, but dammit, I love the Ewoks.  Not only are they cute, but the whole success of the Rebellion hinges on the fact that the Emperor is too narrow to foresee that a small, non-human species will ally with the Rebels and turn the tide of the battle.  Of all the changes made for the Special Editions, this one fares the worst in my opinion.  Give me back my Ewok celebration song and the ghost of Sebastian Shaw! All things considered, it was a delight to revisit this series of childhood memories with my own kids.
Rating: *****

New Panoramas from the Mountain

Happy Leap Day!

First, I just want to brag a bit that I’ve managed to put up at least one post every day for three consecutive months!  That may not seem a lot to some bloggers, but for me it’s like a record of 91 consecutive days and counting (and 131 posts in that time).  The blog had been fallow for a while, and I’m happy I could find the time and energy to breathe new life into it.

Second, you may have noticed a lot of movie and tv reviews lately.  While I never got around to actually announcing what I was doing, I had challenged myself to a 35 Days of Movies challenge for the last week of January and all of February.  While I didn’t reach the goal of watching and reviewing one movie a day for 35 straight days, I did watch a lot more movies than I’d had in the past few years.  Going forward, reviews of movies, tv shows, and any live entertainments will be published on Wednesdays.

Finally, I’m going to introduce a new feature in March called Music Discoveries.  The basic idea comes from my friend’s blog Desert Island Mix Tape when he listened to the entire back catalog of the Bee Gees and then wrote it up. While I don’t plan to listen to the Bee Gees, I do plan to seek out bands & artists that I’ve heard good things about (and maybe familiar with a limited amount of their output) and do a deep listen of all their albums and write up my thoughts.  Music Discoveries will be a regular feature on Mondays.

For a full schedule of Panorama of the Mountains posts, see the About page.

I’m hoping that with more regular posting that more people are reading and enjoying my blog.  If you are one of my four or five readers, please let me know what you think.  Leave a comment below, tweet me, and feel free to share your own blog!

Podcast of the Week: “Music of the Civil Rights Movement” by Sound Opinions

Show 534 of WBEZ Chicago’s music show Sound Opinions combines some of my favorite things: music, history, and social justice!  Hosts Jim and Greg discuss the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and play uninterrupted tracks of brilliant songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

This is a brilliant episode of a consistently good radio program.

Listen here:

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Black Harbor Stout

Beer: Black Harbor Stout
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: Draft
Rating:  **** (8.3  of 10)

Poured in a brandy glass, this beer is the color of black velvet.  The scent is candied cherries or raisins, while the flavor is kind of a mulled wine crossed with coffee (in a good way).  A delicious alternative to the same old.

From the same brewer:


Beer Review: Long Trail Sick Day

Beer: Sick Day
Brewer: Long Trail Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: **** (8.5 of 10)

A copper-colored beer with a solid head, Sick Day offers up a piney nose with a nicely balanced flavor of pine, nut, bread and citrus with a slight bitterness.  There’s a luscious lacing left behind on the glass.  Long Trail does it again!

From the same brewer:

Movie Review: The 1964 World’s Fair (1996)

TitleThe 1964 World’s Fair
Release Date: 1996
Director: Rich Hanley

The World’s Fairs in New York have long fascinated me, growing up hearing the stories from my parents and playing among the ruins in Flushing Meadow Park as a child.  This light documentary narrated by Judd Hirsch captures the wonder of the fair through rich archival footage and interviews with people who were there.  It is not an uncritical film, as the Fair did have many contradictions:

  • It claimed to be a vision of the future yet it more reflected the recent past of the 1950s than the changing times of the 1960s, completely ignoring environmental and racial justice issues.
  • It was the last World’s Fair to take place in a major US city, yet it was designed to emulate and accommodate suburban sprawl.
  • The fair welcomed representation of newly independent nations, but also was dominated by corporations that would recolonize them.
  • The fair failed to attract the expected number of visitors, yet was often crowded with long lines.

I think the movie could’ve used more interviews with a more diverse group of fair participants.  For example, there are lots of Black fairgoers in the archival footage, but none were found to interview.  Similarly, they could’ve looked for someone who worked on the fair or protested against it for a less rosey-eyed view than the interviewees who remember having a good time there as a teen.

Still the World’s Fair had a lot of charms, and though the planners did not intend to cater to teenagers, I can see how it became a popular hangout.  There are also amusing bits like the quote about the fair being designed by “Michelangelo and Disney” and the unexpected popularity of Belgian waffles.  There are also many shots of the early days of my beloved Shea Stadium.  It’s a good view of fleeting time and place in New York history.

Rating: **1/2


TV Review: BoJack Horseman (2014)

TitleBoJack Horseman
Release Dates: August 2014
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 12

This is a show with a big premise, a world in which anthropomorphic animals live and work among humans.   One of them,  BoJack Horseman, was the star of a popular 1990s sitcom in which a horseman adopts human children.  In the current day, BoJack is a washed-up drunk, living in a Hollywood mansion and trying to regain his relevancy by writing his autobiography.  In the first episode Diane Nyugen is introduced as his ghostwriter, and their relationship is the core of the season.

The show is deeply satirical and is reminiscent of The Simpsons, 30 Rock, and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show! for it’s combination of satire, spoof, sight gags, and sensitivity.  There are a lot of gags and it’s funny when a anthropomorphic animal character acts on their animal instinct.  But there’s a lot of serious undertones to this show as well, and it’s often just as heartbreaking as it is funny.
Rating: ***1/2

TV Review: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015)

TitleWet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Release Dates: July 2015
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 8

Gonna try something new here.  Since I’ve been binge-watching tv shows on Netflix and elsewhere, I may as well post a few thoughts here.  Thus this is my first TV Review!

This tv series is a prequel to the 2001 movie, with the same actors returning to play teenagers even though everyone is 15 years older and looks it (especially the men).  This is played for a good gag at the end of the series. Like the movie, the show is a loving spoof of 1980s movie tropes, not just camp movies but across genres.  And like the movie, a lot more happens than could possibly happen in a single day.  Surprisingly, I think the tv series is actually funnier than the movie, perhaps because over several episodes they’re able to build up the characters and scenarios to make the gags pay off.

It’s not perfect, but if you’re looking for some dumb fun, here it is.

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman

AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 24: Life and Death
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)

This volume continues the ongoing story of survivors at various communities working to make something close to a normal life while working through the emotional devastation of the zombie apocalypse. They also have to deal with threats such as the Whisperers, an insurgency at Hilltop, and an imprisoned Negan’s mind games.  Then there’s a shocking conclusion!  It’s a good, nuanced story, and one of the better installments in the series.
Rating: **1/2