“Star Wars” — My Overall Thoughts

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WHO’S EXCITED FOR THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE?!?!?!?!

Actually, I think a better question would be: who’s NOT excited?

Well, as much as I’d like the answer to be “nobody,” I have slowly begun to accept that not everybody likes Star Wars (or has even seen it). It’s hard. But I’m learning to live with it. *sigh*

Regardless, the new Star Wars film is coming in less than a month! So, in preparation, I’ve decided to write a post describing my thoughts on the saga so far, one episode at a time.

So, let’s hop into it!

I saw the original trilogy first, and I still think every newcomer to the films should do the same. I vividly remember seeing the first one (now called A New Hope) when I was about five years old. I was completely and utterly mesmerized. Everything about it — how it looked, how it sounded, the story, the characters — my mind was blown. It was unlike anything I had ever seen or could have imagined at the time.

In fact, as soon as the movie was over, I remember going absolutely nuts. I ran upstairs shouting “THAT WAS SO COOL!” And then I proceeded to run around pretending to shoot things, going “pew pew!” until my parents insisted that I and my siblings go to bed.

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To this day, I still think the original film is one of the very best (#2 on my list, as a matter of fact). Sure, it’s not perfect, but that doesn’t stop it from being a rousing, funny, laser-brained adventure that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.

I saw the first film when I was five, but I didn’t see the next — The Empire Strikes Back — until I was about eight. Honestly, I don’t really remember the first time I saw it. I don’t remember my reaction to the big reveal (you know the one). What I do remember, though, is that Empire Strikes Back was never one of my favorites of the films when I was younger. Oh, sure, I liked it — it was Star Wars, for crying out loud — but it just wasn’t my favorite.

Then I got older.

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And now, Empire Strikes Back is my personal favorite of all the films so far. I think it’s the most well-constructed and well-plotted, improving on the original film in many ways. Also, despite being the darkest of the original trilogy, it’s also probably the funniest (I blame Han and Leia’s banter and C-3PO’s whining for most of that).

Next up is Return of the Jedi. I saw it not too long after I saw Empire Strikes Back, if I recall correctly. In contrast to that film, I actually like this movie a little bit less nowadays than I did when I was younger.

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Oh, it’s not bad. Not by a long shot! It’s a satisfying conclusion to the original trilogy, with plenty of action and humor as well as some emotionally intense scenes (particularly the climax of Luke’s battle with Vader and the Emperor). However, I do think it suffers from cheesiness, sometimes in the dialogue but mostly due to those darn Ewoks. They’re fine, but I really just can’t take them seriously anymore. (Please don’t hurt me.)

Also, the second Death Star was a bit . . . lazy to me. It’s still exciting to watch them blow it up and all, but still. Couldn’t they have come up with something a little bit different? Anyway, despite its flaws, Return of the Jedi is a good film, even if it is the weakest of the original trilogy.

Now on to the topic everyone loves to argue about: the prequels! Whoo boy. Well, I don’t think I need to elaborate on why there’s so much conflict about the newer trilogy, so I’ll just get right into my thoughts on each of them.

I think I saw The Phantom Menace fairly soon after Return of the Jedi, and I remember having a little difficulty explaining to my dad that it was “Episode I” but not the first movie they made. It was one of the “new ones,” which he and my mom were unfamiliar with. Thankfully, he brought the correct VHS tape home from the video rental store (blast from the past right there), but it was late at night, so I and my siblings needed to wait until the next day to watch it. Even when the next day came, though, I remember my mom insisting that we spend a certain amount of time outside before watching it (it was a rather gorgeous day). So we drew with chalk on the driveway for a while (maybe an hour), and it was probably one of the longest hours of my life. I was that excited to watch a new Star Wars movie.

And when I watched it (cue drumroll), I was not disappointed. Not in the least. In fact, for a while, Phantom Menace was one of my favorites of the Star Wars movies.

*collective outraged gasp*

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Well, can you blame me? I was younger then. I easily looked past the wooden acting and wonky script. I thought Jar Jar was funny. I loved the battle droids. I loved the podracing. I loved seeing the younger Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon was cool. I loved Darth Maul (and I even dressed up like him for Halloween when I was six — three years before I even saw the movie). It was awesome!

In fact, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally realized it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it being. I saw it when it was re-released in theaters in 3D a couple of years ago, and that was when I was first really bothered by the acting and script.

To this day, I still don’t hate the movie like a lot of people do. I acknowledge that it’s flawed, of course, and I think it’s the weakest of the movies. But I still enjoy it for what it is.

Now, strangely enough, the next one I saw was Revenge of the Sith, not Attack of the Clones. I forget why exactly. I was ten years old, and I thought it was awesome — one of my favorites.

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Even to this day, it actually still is! I rank it at #3 for the six movies. I think it does an overall good job of portraying the tragedy of Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. It’s got less awkward writing and acting than the other two prequels; sure, it’s not phenomenal, but it’s better. I can think of just one scene with cringe-worthy romantic dialogue between Anakin and Padme, although I might be forgetting other scenes. And while Hayden Christiansen’s performance as Anakin could definitely have been better, I thought he generally did well (although some lines here and there feel off). And the “Execute Order 66” scene hits me with the feels every time.

Overall, I think Revenge of the Sith does more right than it does wrong, which is why I think it’s easily the best of the prequel trilogy.

And that leaves Attack of the Clones. A definite improvement over The Phantom Menace, but still not without problems. The number one offender, of course, is the love story for Anakin and Padme. While the concept of it is intriguing — you know it’s doomed from the start — the execution is, well . . . not great. Often laughable, actually. There’s not much real chemistry between the two, so their romantic scenes often feel forced.

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On the plus side, though, there’s plenty of action to go around! The speeder chase through Coruscant is pretty cool, as is the whole arena scene. Seeing Christopher Lee as Count Dooku was neat. There’s also better humor at work here than in the previous film, mostly from Obi-Wan (“You don’t want to sell me deathsticks”).

Oh, and Yoda’s fight with Dooku cracks me up (in a good way) every time. Sure, it’s over the top, but it’s awesome.

So, Attack of the Clones is one of the weakest of the movies, but there’s still plenty to enjoy about it.

So what’s next? The Force Awakens, of course. I don’t know about you, but I am beyond psyched for it. I haven’t watched the trailers, but I’ve seen some screenshots here and there, and I read an interview with J. J. Abrams that made me really hopeful. He really sounds like he knows what he’s doing. And everyone I’ve talked to has told me that the trailers look incredible.

Just to whet my appetite a bit, I actually found the music from the trailer on YouTube. Just the music. And just listening to the music made me more excited than I’ve ever been!

Anyway, time to wrap this up. I love Star Wars. I hope you do too. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the saga. And I really hope you’re as excited as I am for the new movie!

Just a few more weeks, guys. We can make it. We’re getting close. As Obi-Wan would say: “Patience!”

See ya in about two weeks! I’ll be posting my hopes and expectations for The Force Awakens then.

“The Peanuts Movie” — A Film Review

***This review contains spoilers. However, I will mark them — that way you can still read my thoughts without me giving anything away. How convenient!***

This movie could have been a complete and utter failure.

This movie could have taken the beloved Peanuts characters and dressed them up to fit our modern culture, complete with smartphones and the Internet. This movie could have been a poorly-written cash grab. This movie could have been filled with unfunny pop culture references and crass humor. This movie could have made Charles Schulz roll over in his grave.

This movie could have been or done all of those things at once.

But . . . to my complete and utter joy, it does absolutely none of those things. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In Blue Sky Studios’ The Peanuts Movie, Charlie Brown is still the Charlie Browniest. The gang is still the gang. Snoopy is still Snoopy. Peanuts is still Peanuts.

And that is a very, very good thing.

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Seeing this movie brought me joy. Not just for the nostalgia factor, mind you. Yes, I have pretty much always been a fan of Peanuts, especially after discovering the comic strip. But The Peanuts Movie does not merely rely on nostalgia to make a quick buck from audiences. It was clearly made with great care and respect for these characters and their stories that we all know and love.

Oh, sure, it’s been given a visual upgrade. But it’s still clearly and proudly Peanuts.

Okay, if I still haven’t made it abundantly clear, I will now. I loved this movie. I had a big stupid grin on my face through just about the entire thing.

It’s wonderful.

So, to get into a bit more detail. The story, as you probably know from seeing the trailers, centers around the Little Red-Haired Girl moving into the neighborhood. Our hero, good ol’ Charlie Brown, finds himself enamored with her, and he wants to get up the nerve to talk to her and befriend her. The only problem is that he, in his own words, suffers from “a severe case of inadequacy.”

“I’m nothing and she’s something,” he tells Lucy at her famous psychiatrist booth.

“If you really want to impress her,” Lucy tells him, “you need to show her you’re a winner.”

Yes, Charlie Brown may make a lot of mistakes. He may not be very popular. He may not be very good at . . . well, anything. But he’s not a quitter, so he resolves to do just that: become a winner.

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Now, I don’t want to give too much away here. But suffice it to say that while this story sounds rather simple and cliche, I think it plays out rather beautifully, and in classic Peanuts style to boot. A lot happens that ties into the main plot, and it’s all incredibly well-done. There are bits and pieces taken directly from the old strips and/or specials, sometimes as a fun little nod or reference and other times as an integral part of the story. But instead of feeling like a boring retread, it all feels fresh despite some familiar elements, which I was quite happy about.

I’ll get back to the story later. For now, though, I want to briefly address the visual style of the film. I think it’s brilliant! It’s a gorgeous translation of traditionally two-dimensional drawings on a page into three-dimensional computer animation. It’s almost paradoxical. It’s 3D, but it feels 2D, which is helped along by the little hand-drawn details sprinkled throughout the film (sound effects written out on screen, thought bubbles that look like the black-and-white comic strips, etc.). The framerate is also lower than usual, which (not unlike The LEGO Movie) gives the film a more handcrafted feel than your typical CG-animated movie. Huge kudos to Blue Sky Studios for pulling off the look of the film! It’s colorful, vibrant, and whimsical, and I personally feel that it couldn’t have looked better.

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Oh, and the characters. The characters! THE CHARACTERS! All your favorites are here. Charlie Brown. Snoopy. Woodstock. Linus. Lucy. Sally. Schroeder. Pigpen. Franklin. Violet. Patty. Peppermint Patty. Marcie. And, of course, the Little Red-Haired Girl (whose name we still don’t know, true to the comics). And I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but these are the ones that get the most screentime — and, of course, some of the ones I’ve listed get more screentime than others. But that’s perfectly okay, because this movie absolutely nails each and every one of them.

That’s really all I have to say about them, actually. You know them, and the movie gets them absolutely right! And the kids voicing them are pitch-perfect! In fact, though it might seem like sacrilege to say it, I would say that they’ve never sounded better. And I love the fact that pretty much all of the kids voicing them are basically unknown (or were before this movie came out). Huge props to the casting department with finding these kids. They were excellent — all of them!

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Just because the characters are the same, however, doesn’t mean they’re dull and predictable by any means. They’re the same, but we do still get some surprises here and there. There’s a pairing I don’t recall ever being in the comics or the specials, for one thing. But I thought it worked well (and it wasn’t central to the plot anyway).

I think the biggest surprise we get, though, is that Charlie Brown is noticeably less downtrodden here than he is in the comics. While he’s definitely still down on himself in the movie and seems to fail at everything, he’s also more hopeful here than I’ve ever seen him. Purists may nitpick at this, but I didn’t mind it at all. I’m a huge fan of the comics, and even I have to admit that I think they could have benefited from just a tad more optimism. (And I do hope I don’t anger any diehard fans by saying that.)

***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SKIP AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE!!!***

And back to the story for a moment, this also ties into the one big difference from the comics that occurs in the movie. In the comics, Charlie Brown never ended up talking to the Little Red-Haired Girl. But here, he actually does, which genuinely surprised me — in a good way. Again, purists may argue that this shouldn’t have been done, but I’m actually perfectly okay with it. Yes, Charlie Brown finally does succeed at something, and it’s also nice that he succeeds in a way that’s different from how he was hoping. Instead of succeeding by changing who he is to become a winner, he proves to the Little Red-Haired Girl, and everyone else, that he is a good person despite his imperfections (and despite his own doubts). And I think that’s a beautiful message. Also, come on, give the kid a break! He can succeed just this once, right?

***END OF SPOILERS. YOU CAN KEEP READING NOW. SO YAY!!!***

Oh, yeah! In addition to the main plot, we also get this subplot about Snoopy imagining he’s fighting against — you guessed it — the Red Baron. It’s a fun diversion from the main plot, but if there’s anything about this movie I can actually complain about, it’s that I felt that switching back and forth between these two storylines kind of hurt the movie’s pacing a little. I’d get really invested in Charlie Brown’s endeavors, and then suddenly we’d be back with Snoopy versus the Baron again. These parts of the movie aren’t bad by any means, but I do wish they were cut down just a little more. For what they are, though, they are quite fun — and anyway, who doesn’t love Snoopy dressed as the World War I flying ace?

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Sound-wise, this movie really shines. The cast of kids are wonderful, as I’ve already said. The adults still talk with the “wah-wah” of a muted trumpet, which is still hilarious. And, to my eternal delight, a small handful of the classic Vince Guaraldi themes pop up here and there, “Linus and Lucy” being most prominent among them, of course. The score besides that, by Christophe Beck, works well.

This movie does, however, have a couple of pop songs in it. It appears I was misinformed about the director saying there wouldn’t be any in it. Unless he was lying. Meh, I was probably just misinformed. But in any case, one is by Meghan Trainor and the other by Flo Rida. Thankfully, though, these songs were written for a G-rated movie, so they aren’t problematic lyrically, and they actually don’t play in their entirety during the movie. They’re also more gentle-sounding, I guess you could say, than your typical pop tune of these days. So, while I do think the film could have done without them, I don’t think they hurt the film either. *deep sigh of relief*

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I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to. So, with that, let’s wrap this thing up!

The Peanuts Movie is a triumph. It’s an absolute delight from start to finish, sure to keep both kids and adults captivated (for different reasons, of course). It freshens up the look of the world and characters while still maintaining their integrity. It looks, feels, and sounds like Peanuts. It IS Peanuts. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and made with great care and respect. It’s good, clean fun that anyone can enjoy, and I think it’s safe to say that Charles Schulz would be proud.

Good grief, Blue Sky Studios. You did it. And this reviewer couldn’t be happier.

Four stars and two thumbs way up!

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SO GO SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, BY GOLLY!!!

Also . . . the world needs more good G-rated movies like this one.


I hope you enjoyed my review! If you saw the movie, tell me your thoughts in the comments!

See ya in two weeks!