Book Review: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn


Author: Timothy Zahn
Title: Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2020)
Summary/Review:
Favorite Passages:
Recommended books:

Timothy Zahn introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn as the Imperial antagonist to the New Republic in his 1990s trilogy of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  A more recent trilogy gives us a Thrawn origin story of sorts as he is found by the Empire, presumably in exile, and then rising up the ranks of the Imperial navy in Thrawn, Alliances, and Treason. Chaos Rising begins a new trilogy of books that go even further back in Thrawn’s life to his rise in the military of his own people, the Chiss Ascendancy.

The novel tells two intertwined stories.  The main narrative set in the “present day” deals with a new threat to the Chiss Ascendancy. Thrawn is tasked with rooting out the new enemy.  His tactical genius is impeccable but Thrawn is not skilled in dealing with the internal politics of the isolationist Ascendancy and the infighting among and within its Nine Ruling Families.

Thrawn’s ventures into the mysterious region of space called the Chaos bring him in touch with the old Republic during the Clone Wars.  In fact, a scene from Thrawn: Alliances is retold from a different perspective. Chiss ships navigate space with the help of force-sensitive girls who are known in the Chiss language as “sky-walkers” (a funny coincidence). This novel introduces former sky-walker, Thalias, now an adult, becomes the caregiver for the sky-walker on Thrawn’s ship.  Thrawn sees Thalias’ talent and their collaboration on the mission is a central part of the story.

Chapters entitled “memories” tell the story of the early days in the military of Thrawn and his mentor Ar’alani.  Both stories tie together in a captivating adventure and thriller, and Thrawn remains one of the most interesting characters in the Star Wars universe.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Luca (2021)


TitleLuca
Release Date: June 18, 2021
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar Animation Studios
Summary/Review:

Pixar’s latest release is part Pixar formula, part innovation.  The story is a coming-of-age comedy mixed with fantasy elements that is similar to other Pixar films.  The animation veers away from the more photo-realistic style of recent Pixar releases with more cartoonish character designs and a fairy tale rendering of the Italian Riveria.  The biggest disappointment is that Disney chose not to give this movie a wide theatrical release because I expect it looks amazing on the big screen.

The story centers on Luca (Jacob Tremblay), a young teenaged sea monster who is curious about the human “land monsters” and their artifacts that fall into the sea, but his strict parents warn him to keep away.  Before he can get all moody and start singing “Part of Your World,” he is accidentally scooped up onto land by Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), an older teenage sea monster who has made a home for himself in an abandoned tower. The sea monsters take human form on dry land, the transformations being a great visual effect used throughout the movie.

The boys bond in friendship, and dreaming of exploring the world on a Vespa, they go to the local town.  They meet Giulia (Emma Berman), an adventurous teenaged girl and misfit, and the trio work together to earn prize money in a triathlon of swimming, past eating, and bicycling.  The movie tells a story of young people forming friendships and finding a place where they feel like where they belong, while dealing with bullying and prejudice.  As you can expect from Pixar, there’s a lot of humor, charm, wonder, and tear-inducing heartfelt moments.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline


Author: Eric H. Cline
Title: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
Publication Info: Princeton University Press, 2014
Summary/Review:

The Late Bronze Age civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean met with a catastrophic collapse in the 12th century B.C.E. Historians commonly attribute this to an invasion of people called the “Sea People” overwhelming Egypt’s military in 1177 B.C.E. In Cline’s evaluation of the evidence, the Sea People may have actually been refugees of war, natural disasters, and/or a climate crisis.  Evidence exists for a cluster of earthquakes, droughts, and internal rebellions at the time before the arrival of the Sea People.  The combination of the multiple catastrophes could have lead to the collapse.

The book is sprawling in both time in place as Cline sums up several centuries of history leading up to the collapse of several civilizations including the Greeks, Myceneans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Cypriots, Canaanites, and Egyptians. Along the way Cline explores the historic origins of the famed stories of Exodus and the Trojan War.  Cline is good at explaining what we can learn from written records and archaeological finds, and how both of these have to be interpreted.  He’s also good at noting that there typically isn’t enough evidence to know what happened precisely and how historians develop theories based on the facts we know.

Other interesting facts I learned from this book:

  • Hatshepsut, who ruled as Pharaoh upon the death of her husband, wore a Pharaonic false beard and men’s clothing and was addressed as “His Majesty.”
  • Kings of different nations who were not related used kinship terms like “father” and “son” when addressing one another, creating an artificial family relationship.
  • a new type of glue was invented for archaeologists recovering copper ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck to allow them to bring the artifacts up in one piece.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***

Classic Movie Reviews: L’Avventura (1960)


Title: L’Avventura
Release Date: 29 June 1960
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Production Company:
Cino Del Duca
Summary/Review:

Anna (Lea Massari) is a long-distance relationship with Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and meets up with him for a yachting trip in the Mediterranean with her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) accompanying her.  The yachting party stops at a small, rocky island in the Aeolian chain.  Anna and Sandro have an argument and later Anna disappears.  The rest of the film is Claudia and Sandro searching for Anna even as everyone else in the party seems indifferent.

Anna is not missing for even 12 hours before Sandro begins aggressively making sexual advances on Claudia.  Because this is a movie made in the 60s in Italy, Claudia doesn’t kick Sandro in the groin as he deserves but instead gradually begins to reciprocate the attraction. And so their journey through Italy following hints of where Anna may have gone is also a romantic fling.

The film has a strong technical aspect filmed on location in stunning natural and human-built landscapes as the backgrounds and unique cinematographic approaches to filming in them.  I was glad that Claudia ended up being the main character after first thinking it would be Anna because Vitti is a much better actor.  Or to be more charitable, Claudia appears to the be the only female character in the film who is written as a complete human and Vitti seizes the opportunity to make the most of it.  Several times in the film Claudia and other women are surrounded by man who ogle them.  It seems to me that a theme of this movie is that men treat women as objects who are disposable and easily replaced.

Critics who favor L’Avventura tend to play up its influence on the visual language of cinema. Others say that it is pretentious and dull.  I tend to lean in the latter direction, but I also sense that this is one of those movies that can only be fully appreciated on the big screen.

Rating: **1/2

Movie Review: Sorry We Missed You (2019)


Title: Sorry We Missed You
Release Date: 23 October 2019
Director: Ken Loach
Production Company: Sixteen Films | BBC Films | BE TV | BFI Film Fund | Canal+ | Ciné+ | France 2 Cinéma | France Télévisions | Les Films du Fleuve | VOO | Why Not Productions | Wild Bunch
Summary/Review:

Sorry We Missed You documents one working class family’s struggles with the modern economy in Newcastle, England. Ricky takes an opportunity to become a self-employed delivery driver although in reality he’s under the strict supervision of Maloney (Ross Brewster) and suffers steep penalties for not hitting benchmarks. He has to sell the family car in order to buy a delivery van, forcing his wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) to take the bus for her work as a home care nurse. Abby is a deeply compassionate person wanting to spend time with her elderly patients but having too tight a schedule for anything but the bear necessities. The family’s children react to their parents long absences and stressful jobs in different ways. Teenage Seb (Rhys Stone) retreats from the family, skips school, and posts graffiti with his friends. Preteen Liza Jane (Katie Proctor) suffers anxiety and takes on more responsibility than she should at her age.

Things spiral out of control for the family as setbacks affect their work performance. Their story is a grim reality for many under the uncaring guise of capitalism. This movie pairs well with Nomadland, although unlike that film, Sorry We Missed You does not offer any idea of freedom or escape in any of this, which is probably more honest.
Rating: ****

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 270-261


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

500-491 400-381 300-291
490-481 390-381 290-281
480-471 380-371 280-271
470-461 370-361
460-451 360-351
450-441 350-341
440-431 340-331
430-421 330-321
420-411 320-311
410-401 310-301

Artist: Kacey Musgraves
AlbumGolden Hour
Year: 2018
Label: MCA Nashville
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Happy & Sad”

Thoughts:  While I’m not a country music fan, I do remember really liking “Follow Your Arrow,” one of Kacey Musgraves singles from her debut album in 2013.  I haven’t followed her career since then, but I’m happy for her that this album made the list since she seems to be a talented pop country artist.  While this music isn’t my thing, it’s clear that this is an exemplarily work of the genre.


Artist: Kanye West
AlbumYeezus
Year: 2013
Label: Roc-A-Fella
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Black Skinhead”
  • “New Slaves”

Thoughts: I never got the big deal over Kanye West.  The man seems incredibly full of himself and the nonstop critical acclaim only encourages him.  I’ve got to admit that there’s a lot of great beats and grooves here, though.


Artist: Randy Newman
Album: Sail Away
Year: 1972
Label: Reprise
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Political Science”
  • “Burn On”

Thoughts: I’ve been reconsidering Randy Newman over a long period of time.  For the long time I didn’t like his music at all because of annoying hits like “Short People” and “I Love L.A.”  But becoming aware of his vast output of film scores (film-scoring is something of a family industry for multiple generations of the Newman family).  So I’ve come to appreciate Randy Newman a lot more.  But I’m still not there, because I didn’t really enjoy much on this album, although I didn’t hate it either.


Artist: Minutemen
Album: Double Nickels on the Dime
Year: 1984
Label: SST
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “One Reporters Opinion”
  • “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing”
  • “Corona”
  • “The Glory of Man”

Thoughts: Minutemen is a band that I have absolutely no prior knowledge about.  It’s a but stunning to see an album with 45 tracks on it! But mostly true to their name, Minutemen songs are all very short, in the 1-2 minute range.  Their musical style seems to be in the transition from Modern Lovers to Pixies and Fugazi.  I like it.


Artist: The Beatles
AlbumHelp!
Year: 1965
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Help!”
  • “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”
  • “Ticket to Ride”
  • “I’ve Just Seen a Face”

ThoughtsHelp! is The Beatles fifth studio album in a little over two years made to accompany their second film in just over a year (this one, in colour!).  The band could’ve put out an album of filler and still had a massive hit.  Instead they are innovating musically and lyrically, setting the stage for the string of creative albums that would come in the following years.  The songs feel mature, and in the lyrics of “Help!” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” they seem to have moved from teen heartbreak to dealing with more intense pain and depression.  The Dylan-esque “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” remains one of my favorite songs by The Beatles.


Artist: Pavement
AlbumWowee Zowee
Year: 1995
Label: Matador
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again? :No
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: This is the second of three Pavement albums on this list.  And for the second time I feel it’s generic 90s rock.  There’s nothing wrong with that but there’s also nothing here that makes me want to come back and listen to it again.


Artist: Pink Floyd
AlbumWish You Were Here
Year: 1975
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Wish You Were Here”

Thoughts: Pink Floyd are better than most, and I like some of their songs, but I really have a thing against 70s prog rock.  There’s only so many masturbatory guitar solos and synth stabs I can listen to before I reach my limit.  Does this album really need two different suites of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” that clock in at 13 minutes each.  The title song is nice, though. And the album cover is pretty cool.


Artist: The Beatles
AlbumHard Day’s Night
Year: 1964
Label: United Artists
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “A Hard Day’s Night”
  • “I Should Have Known Better”
  • “If I Fell”
  • “And I Love Her”
  • “Things We Said Today”
  • “You Can’t Do That”

Thoughts: There are two Beatles albums in this week’s post and they from the two movies the Beatles starred in as fictional versions of themselves (this one is in black & white).  The album is significant for being the first album where every single song was an original composition.  It’s also the peak of the early Beatles sounds before their later experimental periods.


Artist: New Order
AlbumPower, Corruption, & Lies
Year: 1983
Label: Factory
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Age of Consent”
  • “586”
  • “Leave Me Alone”

Thoughts: I knew the music of Joy Division and I knew the music of New Order from the mid-to-late 80s, but I’d never before listened to this album that is a transition between the two.  Although “Age of Consent” does sound familiar. The “danceable synth-rock” as Rolling Stone describes it is emerging nicely from the post-punk sounds of Joy Division.  It was a new sound for the 80s that is among the best musical innovations of the decade.


Artist: Beastie Boys
Album: Check Your Head
Year: 1992
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Jimmy James”
  • “Finger Lickin’ Good”
  • “So What’Cha Want”

Thoughts: My freshman year in college when I was a greenhorn DJ at the college radio station, my friends called up and requested “Professor Booty” by the Beastie Boys.  Turns out the song is filled with profanities.  I commited a FCC violation. My friends knew this and they set me up.  Luckily, the FCC was not listening to college radio that day or I wouldn’t be here writing this.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485. Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483. Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482. The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477. Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469.Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465. King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464. The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462. The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457. Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456. Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455. Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451. Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448. Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446. Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443. David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440. Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439. James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438. Blur, Parklife
  • 437. Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435. Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431. Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429. The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427. Al Green, Call Me
  • 426. Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425. Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424. Beck, Odelay
  • 423. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421. M.I.A., Arular
  • 417. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416. The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415. The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414. Chic, Risqué
  • 413. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409. Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408. Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405. Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402. Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401. Blondie, Blondie
  • 400. The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398. The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392. Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388. Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387. Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386. J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385. Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384. The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 380. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378. Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375. Green Day, Dookie
  • 374. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373. Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371. The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365. Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363. Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360. Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358. Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356. Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354. X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351. Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350. Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349. MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347. GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344. Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342. The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341. The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
  • 338. Brian Eno, Another Green World
  • 337.  Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
  • 335. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
  • 334. Santana, Abraxas
  • 333. Bill Withers, Still Bill
  • 332. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  • 330. The Rolling Stones, Aftermath
  • 329. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing…
  • 328. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • 326. Prince, Dirty Mind
  • 323.The Clash, Sandinista!
  • 320. X, Los Angeles
  • 319. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 317. Billie Holiday, Lady in Satin
  • 316. The Who, The Who Sell Out
  • 310. Wire, Pink Flag
  • 309. Joy Division, Closer
  • 308. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
  • 307. Sam Cooke, Portrait of a Legend
  • 306. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You
  • 304. Bill Withers, Just As I Am
  • 301. New York Dolls, New York Dolls
  • 299. B.B. King, Live at the Regal
  • 297. Peter Gabriel, So
  • 294. Weezer, Weezer
  • 293. The Breeders, Last Splash
  • 292. Van Halen, Van Halen
  • 289.  Björk, Post
  • 288. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
  • 287. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
  • 283. Donna Summer, Bad Girls
  • 282. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours
  • 279. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York
  • 278. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
  • 276. Radiohead, The Bends
  • 275. Curtis Mayfield, Curtis
  • 274. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
  • 273. Gang of Four, Entertainment!
  • 272. The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat
  • 267. Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
  • 266. The Beatles, Help!
  • 263. The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night
  • 262. New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies
  • 261. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

 

Movie Review: Supernova (2020)


Title: Supernova
Release Date: 22 September 2020
Director: Harry Macqueen
Production Company: British Film Institute | BBC Films | Quiddity Films | The Bureau
Summary/Review:

A long-time couple, Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) make a trip to England’s Lakes District in a camper van. Tusker has been diagnosed with early onset dementia and this is a final chance to visit with family, while Sam, a concert pianist, also performs a recital. It’s a deeply moving movie about love, loss, and letting go when dealing with end-of-life issues. Some terrific acting, beautiful scenery, and some humorous moments help alleviate the deep feels this movie prompts.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn


Author: Timothy Zahn
Title: The Last Command
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2012) [Originally published April 1, 1993]
Summary/Review:

The finale of “The Thrawn Trilogy” is an exciting culmination of the shaky New Republic’s stand against the cunning plans of Grand Admiral Thrawn to reestablish the Empire.  It’s great to have Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, Artoo, and Threepio all working together.  Then there are wild cards like Mara Jade, a tentative ally who is sworn to kill Luke for her former master Palpatine, and the mad Jedi clone C’baoth who believes that he rules the Empire instead of Thrawn.  The book could be trimmed of some of the excessively talk parts, and I could do without all the subplots involving Talon Karrde and other smugglers, but it is a satisfying conclusion.

I still think this books could be the inspiration for movies set after the destruction of the Second Death Star.  They would have to be animated movies, because of the age and deaths of the cast members.  But I think you could make a good story with elements such as Thrawn, Mara Jade,  and the Noghri.  Things would have to be adjusted to fit into the Sequel Trilogy, such as Leia giving birth to one child instead of twins.  I’d also dispense with C’baoth and anything to do with cloning since clones were already central to the Prequels and Rise of Skywalker.  But there’s a good kernel here for a fun film trilogy or maybe a Disney+ series.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Lady and the Tramp (2019)


Title: Lady and the Tramp
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Director: Charlie Bean
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Taylor Made
Summary/Review:

The 1955 Disney animated feature Lady and the Tramp is a cute romantic comedy about jokes that attempts to derive humor through the aggressive deployment of ethnic stereotypes.  Of any movie to get a modern day “live-action” remake, I figured Lady and the Tramp would be bound to be improved, especially since my favorite maybe-they’re-a-couple celebrities Tessa Thompson (as Lady) and Janelle Monáe (as Peg) were involved.

The remake succeeds at it’s basic point of being a cute, family-friendly story about dogs.  It’s a movie that I expect parents will enjoy watching with their younger kids (although my kids were not interested in watching it). I’m not sure how much of the animals is CGI and how much is live animal actors, but the dogs looked like real dogs with animated faces.  The cats and the rat, on the other hand look totally fake.  The movie is overly long and seemingly didn’t have a director who could restrain himself from trying to make every moment magical.  The movie would be improved with some judicious pruning.

The story is essentially the same as the 1955 original without the racism.  In fact, the cast is racially diverse including a mix-raced couple as Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) and Darling (Kiersey Clemons). Hopefully no one will be watching a talking dog movie for a historically-accurate depiction of early 20th century America, but the fact that all the racial harmony is just as fantastical makes me feel a little sad.

Rating: ***

 

Book Review: Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2021 by Seth Kubersky


Author: Seth Kubersky
Title: Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2021
Publication Info: Unofficial Guides (2021),
Summary/Review:

My family is planning our first visit to Universal Orlando later this year.  Since the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World proved useful in the past.  Visiting a theme park these days is like planning a military offensive.  These guides are helpful in cutting through the overwhelming options with strong opinions and tips for making the best of one’s time in the park.  On the downside, almost all of the content of the guidebook is also available for free on the Touring Plans so there isn’t much value add to the book other than having all the information at your fingertips when you’re out of wifi range or your battery is running low.

Rating: ***