Archive | January 2016

Why I LOVE The Force Awakens

I’ve written before that I am a giant Star Wars fan. I use Yoda’s wisdom in my life perspective, and I fanboyed so hard when the trailers came out for Episode VII. It came from it in December, while I was in Boston. I decided against watching it on opening night. I decided that I would go home and see it with my family. We quote all the movies regularly and have discussed the merits, faults, and details of the Star Wars saga to no end, and can launch into such discussions at any time. So I wanted to watch the movie with my parents and experience it with them. I went to see it back on December 23 with my family and we loved it. It was fun, well written, brilliantly acted, smartly shot, and a fantastic movie going experience. I had fun at the movies for the first time in a long time.

As the break went on, I reached out to a high school friend and asked if he wanted to catch up and hang out, offering to catch a movie of his choice. He hadn’t seen Force Awakens yet, so he chose that. I obliged and went to see it again. We caught up and saw the film. I loved it even more the second time. The story still gripped me and drew me into the world of Star Wars in a way that no film has before. It made me feel like these characters, spaceships, droids, lightsabers, and strange worlds were all real. After the film, we had to talk about it. And we did that over some ice cream, like real New Englanders would.

 I have to admit though, it’s not a perfect movie. I did have some issues with the film. Such as,

SPOILER ALERT!! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then stop reading this post and go see the movie then come back and read the post. SPOILERS!!!

a comparatively subpar John Williams soundtrack. Seriously, the best new piece of music is Rey’s theme and the soundtrack as a whole doesn’t beat out the soundtrack of the originals or even the prequels. I’m going to attribute this to John Williams’ poor health for that and be happy with a good soundtrack but not a great one.

Yes, the “Death Star” is overdone. Three out of the seven movies so far have had a planet sized base with the capability to blow up a planet. It’s stretching the idea a bit far and only a little much. But I can forgive that problem just enough because the Starkiller base has enough differences, what with it being built into a planet and with the horror and destructive power of the base being on full display. In the original movie, Alderran got blown up and the empire committed planetary genocide, but the only reactions were from Leia and Obi Wan, with only Obi Wan’s reaction hitting the viewer with any real force. In the new movie, the residents of the planet that’s getting blown up watch their death come at them, and the people on other planets watch in horror. Their reactions are loaded with emotion and make you feel like these are real people getting killed. So on that, I can allow the retread. I just hope that there isn’t another “Death Star” in the next movie.

And there were a few too many references in lines and attitude to the original trilogy. Many lines were a little too cute and self-referential for their own good. Many of them worked, but when Han had the line “Is there a garbage chute? Trash compactor?”, I felt like that was hamming it up a little bit. There is a good way to be self-referential, and most of the film did that. By the end though, it was a little much.

Aside from that, I didn’t have any problems with the movie. I loved everything else. The characters were entertaining, perhaps more entertaining than any Star Wars film not named Empire Strikes Back. Finn was lovably foolish, but had a good heart throughout. Poe is a fun bad ass who brings swagger and attitude. Rey is an impressive leading lady that makes the transition from lonely scrapper to Jedi well. Actually, she is kind of an OP (overpowered) Luke, but she is at least not a whiney kid the way Luke and Anakin were. She is quite entertaining, and her arc is an excellent transition. Han is a wise man, and his veteran guile shines in the movie.

The filmmaking and effects were excellent. The use of light to show the internal fight inside of Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) is subtle but smart film making. The look and sounds of the lightsabers was infinitely better this time. It sounded like a more powerful weapon, it hit with more force, and the viewer felt the power of a hit from the blade much more than in prior movies. The CGI was still not outstanding, but still improved over the prequels, and the use of practical effects made a much needed return for the space battles, which brought the feel of the old Star Wars films back in a big way.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I was watching a Star Wars movie in theatres. That’s a big deal because the first films of the franchise I saw in person were Attack of the Clones  and Revenge of the Sith. I maintain that Sith is a pretty good movie with some outstanding sequences that doesn’t quite hit its mark due to some flawed moments and some painful dialogue. I also maintain that Clones is a horrid movie with awful dialogue, terrible CGI, and the worst character interactions in the entire franchise, mainly caused by a bad script and equally bad acting by much of the cast, especially Hayden Christiensen. So I hadn’t seen a truly great Star Wars film in theatres to this point in my life. Now that I have, I understand in much more detail why this is the most popular science fiction franchise in all of cinema. It’s a complete world with fun characters and an exciting fight between good and evil in its most clear form. It makes the idea of space adventure fun and unendingly romantic, in the sense of the adventure being exciting and making the viewer want to join the adventure.

I loved The Force Awakens, and I am excited that the energy of the Star Wars franchise is back and we will get at least two new main series entries to the franchise and the Star Wars Anthology series too.

May the Force be with the makers of the new films.

Wild Card Mess

Last night, I came home from skiing with my dad, sat down with him and watched the Wild Card playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. I was hoping to watch a quality football game, and get some enjoyment out of a game I didn’t have much rooting interest in. As it turns out, I got that. I also got a terrible taste in my mouth after the end of the game. 

Early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals were down 15-0. They traded punches throughout the game, hit Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger hard all day, and ultimately forced him out of the game with a shoulder injury when linebacker Vontaze Burfict hit him hard and sent him down onto his shoulder. He left and was replaced by Landry Jones, and the Bengals promptly capitalized on Roethlisberger’s absence by stuffing the Steelers offense and scoring 16 points to take a 16-15 lead with just under two minutes left to go in the game. When the Steelers got the ball back, Jones threw a pass that was intercepted by Burfict. The Bengals had the lead, the football, and the game in hand as long as they held onto the ball. They were on the doorstep of getting their first playoff victory since 1990. 

And then, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill fumbled the football, giving Pittsburgh another chance. Better yet, Ben Roethlisberger returned from injury. He led the Steelers down the field to try a game winning field goal. They converted a fourth down to keep the drive alive with only a few seconds left in the game. Roethlisberger then threw deep to Antonio Brown to try and get into field goal range. The pass sailed high, and as Brown came down, Vontaze Burfict let his emotions get away from him, and hit Brown square in the head, sending him to the ground and likely giving him a concussion. Cincinnati was hit with a 15 yard penalty. When the players were trying to plead their case, the officials called another penalty when the officials were pushed and shoved by Bengals defensive back Adam Jones. The Steelers got 30 yards out of those penalties, kicked a field goal, and won 18-16. 

I didn’t have a rooting interest in the game, but I am happy that the Steelers won. The Bengals lost control of their emotions, committed stupid penalties, and went out of their way to hurt the opposition. I’ve written here before on my experience with the NFL being a bit soured with a rash of unnecessary injuries and poor mentality by players. The Bengals summed that up very nicely with their behavior last night. They played like thugs and deserved to lose. To make it look worse, when Roethlisberger got hurt, the Bengals fans cheered his injury and threw debris on the field. The behavior of many Bengals fans matched the play on the field. 

I went to bed with a bad taste in my mouth, and actually happy to not fully call myself an NFL fan after last night’s game. The team was disgraceful, the fans were jerks, and the players were fools. To be fair, Steelers assistant coach and former linebacker Joey Porter did not help matters when he went on to the field, and the Steelers contributed to the hostile atmosphere of the game. But the more egregious actions were committed by the Bengals. 

Head coach Marvin Lewis deserves to be fired after that game. He has been the head coach of the team since 2003, has not won a playoff game, and lost control of his team at the most crucial point. The Bengals would do well to hire Hue Jackson as the new coach if a change is made. Burfict should be suspended and fined by the league, and so should Jones. I just wanted to watch a good football game. Instead, I watched the dark side of sports rear its ugly head. Hopefully the Sunday NFL games wash that taste out of my mouth! 

New Year, New Look

The last time I posted anything on this blog was in November. Since then, 2015 ended, Christmas came and went, my penultimate collegiate semester ended, and numerous other interesting events happened. With the start of a new year, I felt I needed to change a few things. One of them was the look and purpose of this blog. I took time away from writing here to do other work, and also because I wasn’t sure what I should be writing about, if at all.

I started this blog in March of 2014 after a few friends presented me with the 100 Happy Days Challenge, in which the participants take pictures of things that make them happy for 100 consecutive days. I created this blog to track the challenge. I’m pleased to have done the challenge. It helped yield some excellent memories and keep me reminded of how many good things there were then and are now in my life.

After that challenge ended, I created a new blog and had some good writing there, but not enough for me to continue managing the site. I returned to this site and redid the 100 Days challenge when things didn’t go my way for bits of the fall and winter of 2014. I kept writing on this blog, and completed that challenge again. Upon completion, I kept it titled 100 Happy Days of Chris and tried to keep producing content with the premise and intent of making it a normal blog for my own work and thoughts about various things. When the end of the semester rolled around, I got hit by a giant bit of writers block. I couldn’t find the inspiration to write about anything, and got tired of blogging. I took the semester off, and backed away from blogging.

Now that the calendar has switched to 2016, I’ve decided to completely change the formatting, color pallet, typeface, and title of this blog. I’m turning the blog into an opinion and observations blog. I have opinions and stories to share from time in school, broadcasting games, traveling, seeing and meeting people, and being in interesting places. I hope that someone sees this blog, reads the posts I have here in the future and enjoy what I have. I still have all my old posts from when this blog was entitled 100 Happy Days of Chris, and I hope people see and enjoy that content too.

New year, new content for a new look blog. Let’s see how the year goes!