May 2nd, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett: I finally finished watching this series with the hopes that it would be getting better. From the first episode where we see the resurrection from the dead for the lead character, Boba Fett it was straining the levels of possibility. Boba Fett really was a minor character in the original Star Wars world and he died in one of the silliest ways, his engine packed being knocked by Han Salo (who can’t see well) and he jets off the side of Jabba’s Sail Barge and drops into the sarlacc pit. Weak. But we see how, incredibly, he emerges from this unpleasant death and is saved by the tuskan raiders. By the final couple episodes, this series, or ahem “book” converges with the Mandalorian to have he reintroduced. The Mandalorian announces that he needs to go somewhere and he jets off to another planet to track down Baby Yoda (aka Grogu). On this planet a very young looking Luke, all CGI, is meditating with the young Grogu. Grogu is cute and all, but it would be helpful if he could speak. I pause here to point out that in Luke setting up this Jedi School where he would be the teacher, he is revealing that being a Jedi is a learned skill. Contrary to the entire films surrounding Rey, where she had an inate ability with the Force, Grogu is learning the skills that he will require. The Mandalorian comes to visit to drop off a gift. A choice is provided to Grogu. What did this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Very little. It was an unnecessary side story trying really hard to find a thread of this nonsense and how it fits into the original series, since it is set almost immediately after Return of the Jedi. Ah, but then it has elements of spaghetti westerns with outlaws and gunfights with the local sherriff and a bad guy, as well as Dune, with some spice trade on planet (strange as it was never brought forward as an issue before while Luke was there) and Godzilla vs Kong with incredibly a Rancor. Go figure! So in short, it didn’t get any better. When I had heard that a young Luke was going to make an appearance, I wondered where they would take it. Now I know, and I wish I hadn’t. I never bought into Boba Fett as a gangster figure, vying to take over Jabba the Hutt’s territory. That was a central part to this. In the end, this isn’t must see Star Wars material. It reminds me of the cartoon Clone Wars that you can take or leave. Coming later this month is Ewan Mcgregor returning as Obi Wan Kenobi and the return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. I cannot recemmend this mess, and in fact I would actively avoid it if you are able.

Gaslit: Julia Roberts and an unrecognizeable Sean Penn star as the Watergate era couple John and Martha Mitchell in this new series on Crave. It surrounds the events around the 1972 Watergate break in, a turning point in American politics where the then-President Nixon resigned as a result of this botched attempt to break into the Democratic National Party offices to find dirt on the party for the upcoming re-election of Nixon Administration. John Mitchell was the Attorney General at the time of the break in. His wife Martha was a known socialite. My knowledge of Watergate largely comes from reading and writing on Blind Ambition by John Dean, and All The President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It is familiar territory in terms of the players, but this is showing in a different light. This is on Sunday nights and after watching the first episode I was googling these figures of the Mitchells to get some more background. It seems that Martha was an interesting figure who was a little unpredictable. The powers that be, like Pat Nixon kept her at arm’s length. But she liked attention and sought it out, and was uncomfortable when her husband was being secretive. The entire series hasn’t been released, and I have only seen two episodes but it is interesting to watch. I had always had a higher opinion of John Dean. Dan Stevens plays him here as a bit more of a kiss ass, bumbling wanna-be insider who was willing to do whatever was necessary for the President. He worked for Mitchell who pulled the strings. Meanwhile he meets up with flight attendant Maureen who is another of the intriguing characters who is politically opposed to Nixon and his administration, but likes the idea of being close to power. Dean pursues her with determination. She is played by Betty Gilpin of GLOW fame. I will continue to watch.

The Dropout: Amanda Seyfriend stars playing disgraced Silicon Valley fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos. I have only watched the first episode of this eight episode series. On the face of it, I am not sure that I can invest almost eight hours into this story. She went to Stanford briefly, her Dad back in Texas was part of Enron, and she wanted “to become a billionaire”. It seemed along the way that she wanted to skip the steps required to attain the end goal. But there were smarts, and unbridled ambition. She wanted to make something of herself. At the age of 19, she was looking to enter into graduate level programs while still an undergrad. This series will live and die on whether you believe the work of Seyfriend, and she is good. Kate McKinnon was originally slated to play the lead role but bowed out without any explanation. You can see the beginnings of her start with this first episode. She meets up with Sunny Balwali played by Naveen Andrews when she is learning Chinese in China, and he a much older successful business man who had sold his software company and wanted to learn Mandarin. I will continue to watch a couple more episodes to see if this can hold my attention. I would feel better about this if it was fewer episodes, but then again it may surprise. With the real life Elizabeth Holmes on trial at the same time this can provide some background into some of the details of this ongoing saga. The lessons to be learned obviously are that people and companies are not always what they seem, ironically she came from a family involved in Enron, but other companies like Bre-Ex, the gold fraudsters also come to mind. Caveat emptor when buying stock and investing money!!

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3293233945?listId=ls025720609?ref_=ext_shr_lnk

January 3, 2022 (Happy New Year)

Happy New Year to one and all. As we here in Toronto head back into more restrictions from Covid and the ever-rapid spread of Omicron, it feels as though the optimism for early 2022 is dissipating from what we had in the Fall of 2021. The silver lining in a cloud of ugliness is that there seems to be less extreme symptoms and fewer hospitalizations. At least for those who have been vaccinated. The requirement for booster shots I can foresee coming in the very near future. But we can all hold our collective breaths and hope for the best.

Don’t Look Up: Recently released on Netflix, a viewer may wonder how so many mega-stars are part of this project. With the likes of Oscar winners Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and many others the impressive cast takes on the story directed by Adam McKay, who was involved in The Big Short. The story is really a tongue in cheek ridiculous commentary of life in 2021, about the end of the world. Scientists have observed a 9 km wide comet that is going to make a direct hit on Earth. This would be an extinction level event. The scientists are DiCaprio and Lawrence who then go through traditional channels (NASA, government) to try and get the message out. They are met with skepticism, questioning and a desire to put a positive spin on the story. The same occurs when the media is approached. The obvious metaphor for all of this is Global Warming. What is a scientific fact is then considered in the public eye to be conjecture and a conspiracy theory. In the US the camps looking to do something then get impacted by political and business interference. The story goes on. It’s a sad commentary on where we are today. Politicians waffle, the public considers everything to be one side versus another politically and a personal imposition on their individual rights. The rest of the world can’t seem to get itself organized as well. It is so tragic in a “fact” that is eventually capable of being seen from the ground, thus the campaign to “not look up” to see the actual comet as it hurtles towards Earth. Is it interesting? Yes. Like The Big Short, it signifies a failing in the social media, along with leaders who are incapable of leading, and a distrust in government, science and fellow humans which leaves us paralyzes to act; even when a collective action can actually save the planet. Worth a viewing when one understands the ultimate aim.

King Richard: Will Smith stars in this film about tennis’ Williams sisters rise into fame. The focus is on the father who was committed to his daughters becoming these stars in tennis when saw a professional tennis player earn $40,000 for a weekend of work. He made $52,000 at the time. He told his wife that it was time to make two new babies to play tennis. This is an over simplification of course. He was a determined (to say the least),committed father to these girls as he taught them dedication, attitude, and a goal-based approach to life to achieve what he predicted as their destinies, in much the same way that Earl Woods felt about his prodigy Tiger. Both men were right. Richard Williams was raised in Louisiana and took his life experiences in shaping his girls. He was raising the girls in Compton outside LA. Note that for this movie, Venus is more the focus as she was 14yo at the time. Serena was 12yo. Both girls look older. There are times when I wished that the Richard character would say less and listen more. It was especially true when having the coaches around the girls. But it was also in dealing with an endorsement deal for Venus. He turns out to be right, and had very good instincts but the message as delivered is harsh. Veins of truth run in the teachings. What is hinted at by the Mom, was that Richard had a previous wife and previous children in his life. But they are not a focus at all. Some take exception to that, since he basically abandoned them. As a movie, I feel as though much of it is sugar-coated. Venus and Serena are actually producers on the project. So there has to be a ring of truth, but maybe memories as a youngster fade as your success and fame grow. Certainly the ends justified the means in this case. It is worth a watch. I don’t see any awards, but that isn’t what all movies are striving for anyway.

The Book of Boba Fett (episode 1): I was skeptical from the beginning about this new series from Disney. As I think more on it, I don’t think that anything that Disney has added to the Star Wars universe has been very good, save Rogue One. The rest spin the Star Wars characters in ways that don’t work for me. This opening episode in a new series, following the success of The Mandalorian follows the original trilogy bounty hunter Boba Fett. We are introduced to Boba Fett who is tracking down Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back. He ultimately takes away a frozen Han to return him to Jabba the Hutt. He dies (let me underscore that!), he DIES, in one of the most lame ways in Return of the Jedi, off the Jabba’s Sail Barge. In a fight that Luke initiates, a Han Solo who can barely see from poor eye sight, turns and knocks the engine pack on Boba’s back and launches him into the barge, ultimately falling into the Sarlacc. The Sarlacc belches. That was the history. I wondered whether Disney would do a retrospective, and the back story to Boba Fett. This episode shows that they are looking to continue on the Fett story after the death of Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine. My eyes glaze over with the explanation that they use for continuing on with his story. It doesn’t improve either. I can still not imagine using the same actor that we were introduced to in 2002 (twenty years ago) in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. He (Temuera Morrison) may be well preserved in a Sylvester Stallone kind of way, but let’s be real. Perhaps this may get better, it really can’t be much worse, but so far Disney’s body of work doesn’t leave for much optimism. Sure The Mandalorian was okay, but there wasn’t much added. On some level, it is a universe, so perhaps we can expand on the characters to be explored further and the worlds to be worthy of further discussion.