Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Last Jedi Review: I've Got A Bad Feeling About This!




I will be spoiling EVERYTHING about The Last Jedi, so if you haven't seen it yet (and if you haven't, GO AND WATCH IT ALREADY!) now is the time to leave; but PLEASE come back and read this once you have! 

Ok, you've been warned.  Continuing on.....

Just like before, to make writing this easier for me, I'm going to be using a lot of acronyms.  Here is a list, to help anyone who is unfamiliar with them:

TPM= The Phantom Menace
AOTC = Attack of The Clones
TCW = The Clone Wars
ROTS = Revenge of The Sith
RO = Rogue One
ANH = A New Hope
ESB = Empire Strikes Back
ROTJ = Return of the Jedi
TFA = The Force Awakens
TLJ = The Last Jedi
EU = Expanded Universe

Read HERE for my The Force Awakens review.

This has proven to be the most divisive Star Wars movie to date.  People are either loving or hating it. The unfortunate part is that on social media, if you don't like it, you are viciously screamed at by others who claim that because you don't like the movie, you're no longer a Star Wars fan.  Ridiculous.

After seeing The Last Jedi the 1st time, I left not knowing what to think, or how to feel about it.  I've never been conflicted before when I left the movie theater, let alone after seeing a Star Wars movie.  I've now seen The Last Jedi 3 times, and I have NO IDEA where to start with this review.  Guess I'll start with the opening crawl and go from there!




The following YouTube video explains the plot, and a lot of the problems better than I ever could:



Now that you know the basic plot, here are my opinions.  There are A LOT of short video clips throughout the rest of this post, so grab some popcorn, and get ready to laugh either at me, or with me, or to completely disagree with me!

OK.  You need to know that I did NOT enjoy this movie...and you have NO IDEA how much it HURTS MY SOUL to admit that.  I have spent the past two weeks trying to figure out reasons to love, or even like this movie, and I just can't find any.  I've spent over a week writing this post because I've had so much trouble formulating my words!

Rian Johnson (the director) took what JJ Abrams established in The Force Awakens and threw it out the window, not caring about the next movie in the franchise, or those that had come before it.  Johnson flipped the fans, and JJ, his middle finger and took a hard right turn in the direction he took this movie.  It's completely fine that this wasn't as much of a fan movie as The Force Awakens, but the choices that Johnson made regarding the story line, and characters were ridiculous at almost every turn.  Don't get me wrong; there were definitely great scenes in this movie, but overall, the bad far outweighed the good.


HUMOR



Star Wars has always had humor. Some of the greatest lines of dialogue that are repeated by people and TV shows world wide have come from ANH, ESB, and ROTJ.  The difference is that it was subtle.  The humor in The Last Jedi became more like the slap stick humor you see in a Marvel movie, which is OK when it's not a Star Wars movie!






See....subtle.  The humor often occurred during serious moments of the movies, but the humor fit the moment.

One of the most frustrating "comedic" moments in The Last Jedi came during the first scene of the movie.  The character of General Hux, who was established as an over-the-top, crazy, Nazi-like leader in TFA, was reduced to comedy relief when Poe Dameron basically prank calls him while flying his X-Wing towards the RIDICULOUSLY LARGE First Order ship during the huge battle going on between the First Order and the Rebellion.  The moment I watched the encounter, this line immediately came to mind:



The humor just didn't work.


NEW CREATURES

Star Wars has ALWAYS had a plethora of creatures.  They always seemed to fit the atmosphere, even in the prequels (except those in AOTC...those were just stupid!).  For some reason, the creatures in The Last Jedi just didn't work for me.  I think I feel this way because they're usually just in the background, like in the cantina scene in ANH, Jabba's Palace in ROTJ, or even those in Maz's place in TFA.  The creatures in this movie have more screen time, are distracting, and are clearly only there to sell toys and make Disney money.


I have NO IDEA what the name of this creature is, but I wanted to THROW UP when I saw what Luke did to it.  Watching LUKE SKYWALKER milk this creature was the nastiest thing I've seen in a long time.  Maybe if it didn't have 4 boobs, need to be pushed on so hard to get the milk out, or maybe if it didn't make noise when he milked it I wouldn't be so flabbergasted by this creature.  It was just DISGUSTING


These creatures were referred to as the caretakers of the island.  Apparently they'd been there a very long time, keeping up the Jedi temple.  They look like monks, or nuns the way they are dressed, and were really only there to serve as comic relief.  Rey dropped stuff on them a few times, and they were an unnecessary addition to the movie.  


Once again, I have no idea what the official name of these camel/horse creatures are, but they end up being more important than the orphan children who are taking care of them. Rose and Finn release them since they're being abused, letting them run through the town, destroying it in the process.  The dumb part about this scene is that it's very likely the creatures were just rounded up and captured again.


Porgs.  WHY? What is their purpose besides being the cute new toy that Disney can sell?  These are the Ewoks of The Last Jedi. The only difference is the Ewoks served a purpose in ROTJ. Porgs did absolutely nothing. When I first saw this thing in the trailer, I cringed.  The noise it made...oh, that ear piercing noise. Another creature native to Ach-to (the island), it served as another joke when Chewbacca attempted to eat one.  I'm guessing they'll show up in the next movie, because they were inside the Millennium Falcon, nesting all over the place. Han Solo is probably rolling in his grave knowing this is happening!


NEW CHARACTERS

Unfortunately, the new characters don't add much to the movie.

DJ


His contribution to The Last Jedi?  Betraying Rose and Finn to the First Order while they were on Snoke's ship trying to get the hyperspace tracking device turned off so the Resistance could jump to hyperspace and away from the First Order. I'm trying to figure out if he was written to create a new Han Solo like character, or was he just created to get Benicio Del Toro into the movie?   The most annoying trait of this character is his weird stuttering and the fact that he's only in the movie for about 10 minutes.


VICE ADMIRAL HOLDO


Vice Admiral Holdo took over while Leia was in her Mary Poppins coma.  (I'll get to that one soon!) She will forever be remembered for her purple hair, and the fact that had her character simply told Poe Dameron what her plan was when he asked, there would've been NO NEED for the pointless Finn/Rose subplot that ended in failure anyway!  Apparently there is more information about her in one of the new canon books.  That's great.  However, I shouldn't have to read a book to find out information about a brand new character in a movie. Tell me what I need to know.  Her character also dies, and although she helps the fleet get to the planet Crait by using the rest of the fuel to jump to hyperspace while crashing into Snoke's ship, which was an INCREDIBLE explosion, I feel like she was a forced female character who was there to fight with Poe and send a message that women can be in control and can tell men what to do. I was also really annoyed when she called Poe "fly boy".  That is the name Leia calls Han when they first meet in ANH.  Having it used here just bugged me.


ROSE


Her sister was the pilot in the opening battle who had to slam her legs against the wall to get the bombs to drop on the First Order ship.  The sister died in the process.  The character of Rose was there to give Finn something to do.  It looks like she's attracted to Finn, and instead of letting Finn sacrifice himself during one of the scenes at the end that was intense and fun to watch, she stopped him because she likes him, and let the First Order continue to close in on the Resistance while they were on the planet Crait.  She's an OK character, but again seemed to only be there to accompany Finn on the boring, unneeded subplot.

Now onto the characters that I actually care about!


LEIA



Unfortunately, Leia just seemed "there".  It was bittersweet watching this performance, since it ended up being the last time we'll see Princess Leia in the Star Wars universe.  Carrie Fisher had completed filming all of her scenes before her passing away, so many people wondered where her character arc was going to go.

Early in the film we have a brief, but effective emotional scene between her and Kylo.  He isn't able to shoot down her ship, but she is blown out of the ship and into space when the bridge is destroyed by the First Order. We see her floating in space, pretty much frozen, and not moving.  Just as we begin to wonder if this is the end for Leia, her fingers suddenly start moving, and her eyes open up.  She then begins to pull herself back to the ship using the Force, "Mary Poppins" style, as it has been dubbed.  Not only is it horrible CGI, but ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY KIDDING ME??  Leia has rarely used the Force.  We've seen her hear Luke when he calls to her in ESB, and she's felt that he was alive at the end of ROTJ, but we've NEVER seen this. Are we seriously supposed to believe that Leia used the Force to pull herself back to the ship without dying in space?  I don't know, or care much about the science of it all, but I've heard that the moment those inside the ship opened the airlock to let Leia back in, there should've been some sort of vacuum effect that sucked all those around the door into space!

I suppose she could've learned about the Force over the past 30 years, but this isn't something I would believe even Luke could ever do!  It's just a part of the movie that completely pulls you out of the seriousness of the moment and slaps you in the face with how stupid it is!  For almost the rest of the entire movie, she's in a coma, recovering from her outer space adventure. It's a pity that this is Leia's swan song.



SNOKE


Throughout the movie TFA, Snoke was built up to be an important villain.  We're told that he's the reason Ben Solo turned to the dark side and became Kylo Ren. Fan theories began to run wild about who Snoke really is, where he came from, how is he so strong with the Force, etc.  Fans looked forward to the answers to the questions TFA planted in our minds.  Well, we were greatly disappointed.  After all the build up of Snoke, Kylo Ren cuts him in two (literally) without him even sensing it was about to happen!  REALLY?  Abrams lays the foundation for this character and The Last Jedi takes him out like a PUNK half way through the movie?  Thanks again for the slap in the face, Rian.


PHASMA


After only spending about 9 minutes on screen, Captain Phasma had been put into a trash compactor at the end of TFA, which was a call back to ANH.  Apparently she found her way out before the Starkiller Base exploded, because she once again returned...for even less screen time.  She and Finn briefly fight, and where she should be able to easily take him down, he hits her a few times and she falls into fire.  Who knows, she still may show up again.  Two years ago I called her the Boba Fett of the new trilogy.  I'm going to update that statement.  She's even MORE USELESS than Boba Fett!  What exactly is the purpose of this character?  She looked really cool in the beginning of TFA, and when she came marching out of the fire in The Last Jedi to fight Finn I thought that maybe we were going to finally see her do something. But by the end of the movie she was a joke.  She has become the most ridiculous, pointless Star Wars character of all time.


YODA

I absolutely LOVED this cameo.  It was completely unexpected, and by the time Yoda showed up in the movie, it was a much needed surprise!  I saw his ears pop up on screen and jumped for joy.  This time around Yoda was created using the puppet that was used in ESB.  The original puppet was found, and there was no CGI at all.

Yoda was the same funny character we first met in ESB. He was still giving Luke a hard time about the choices he had made in his life, and was the perfect character to help jolt Luke out of his stupidity. Burning down the Jedi temple was a great way to prove a point to Luke that he didn't need it and to get him to see that it was time to stop feeling sorry for himself and take action.


POE



I like the direction Poe's character was taken.  He was originally supposed to die early in TFA, but Oscar Issac, the actor, convinced Abrams to keep the character alive.  That left Poe with not much to do in TFA.  Here we see him take over the role of the hot headed, show off pilot who thinks he's able to lead the Rebellion.  Poe makes some questionable decisions that result in the deaths of many people, but his character progresses and he learns how to be an effective leader.  I found myself enjoying his character a lot more in The Last Jedi.


FINN



Finn went from one of the new "core three" characters, along with Kylo and Rey, to a side character with really nothing to do.  I like his background story as a Stormtrooper who basically defected to the Resistance.  At the end of the movie, he was ready to sacrifice himself to save everyone else, which I thought was awesome.  I thought that they would finally have a character death that meant something, but nope, Johnson decided against it.


REY 


I really don't have much to say about Rey for this movie.  People's biggest complaint about her in TFA is that she is a Mary Sue, which is someone who can do everything without any kind of training. I was able to justify some of that two years ago because I figured we'd get answers to these questions with TLJ.  Unfortunately, now I agree with them.

Throughout the course of the Star Wars movies, we've learned that a Jedi trains A LOT.  We don't know exactly how long Luke was on Dagobah with Yoda, but we know that it was a WHOLE LOT LONGER than Rey was with Luke. The timeline for TLJ is only a few days.  Rey has only THREE LESSONS with a hesitant Luke and yet she can once again do even more...perfectly.  She can wield a lightsaber like a Jedi master, besting Kylo Ren in TFA, and she can fly the Falcon almost as well as Han Solo without having EVER FLOWN IT BEFORE.  Heck, she was even able to take Luke Skywalker to the ground, but I think he did that on purpose! I was able to justify her abilities when there were questions about who her parents were.  Maybe she was related to the Skywalkers, or to Obi-Wan.  She may have even somehow been related to Emperor Palpatine.  But now that we know they are no one special; just two people who sold her into slavery for drug money, NONE OF HER ABILITIES MAKE SENSE! 

I also don't appreciate HOW we were told about her parents.  Once again, TFA planted this question for us to wonder about for two years.  I don't have a problem with her parents being regular people, except for the fact that it now makes Rey a Mary Sue.  I'm upset about how it was a throw away line from Kylo, and was just glossed over.  If you blinked, you may have missed it.  Do I believe that Kylo told her the truth?  I don't know.  I almost hope he was lying, but I don't think they're going to change that one. 

I like that she will be the next Jedi, I just don't think she earned it.  Everything seems like it was given to her, which doesn't follow the hero's journey arc.  During the journey the hero looses something, and has much to learn (as Yoda would say).  I'm not seeing that in her situation.


KYLO


Presented as a brat in TFA, we see him in the beginning of The Last Jedi struggling with the decision he made to kill his father, which was refreshing.  Kylo also shows that he has a heart when he chooses to not shoot his mother's ship out of the sky.  He clearly loves her.

I enjoyed learning more about him throughout his conversations with Rey.  We get a little more back story regarding why he burned down the Jedi academy.  If my Uncle was standing over me in the middle of the night with his lightsaber on, I might go a little crazy too.  That being said, we still don't know how Snoke found Kylo, and why he hates the rest of his family so much.

I was floored when he killed Snoke half way through the movie.  I was hoping that he would join Rey.  It would've been a nice change to see them join forces against the First Order, but I realize that the movie still needs a central antagonist, so he had to stay bad.


REY & KYLO


The interaction between Rey and Kylo was BY FAR the most enjoyable part of the movie.  Being able to talk to each other through the force, learning more about each of them, that was entertaining.    

JJ Abrams was given A LOT OF CRAP for "copying" ANH.  Well, Rian did THE EXACT SAME THING!  The story of Rey and Kylo parallels, and almost copies, that of Luke and Vader at the end of ESB and ROTJ. Through their force conversations, Rey believes that there is good in Kylo and she believes, STUPIDLY, that he will turn back to the light if she just goes to him.  Hmmm, wonder where I've heard that one before? Oh yeah, LUKE SAID THE SAME THING ABOUT VADER!!!  Just like in ESB, when Yoda and Obi-Wan try to tell Luke not to run off to Cloud City, Luke tells Rey to not run off to Kylo.  She doesn't listen, and when she lands on Snoke's ship, Kylo takes her straight to see him, even though she was SO SURE he wouldn't.  LIKE WE DIDN'T KNOW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!

Kylo and Rey have an elevator conversation on their way up to see Snoke that is almost this EXACT same conversation from ROTJ, right down to the dialogue.  The first time I watched this scene unfold, I was stunned by the similarities:



Once inside Snoke's throne room, the conversation continues to practically mirror that from ROTJ. Snoke shows Rey how the First Order is destroying the Resistance ships, and Rey gets angry, just like Luke did with the Emperor.  The lightsaber is being held by the Emperor, just as Rey's was held by Snoke:



Snoke wanted to simply kill off Rey, without trying to bring her to the dark side, which I thought was a different spin.  While he's torturing Rey, Kylo is in the background watching all of this.  I wondered what he was going to do, and wasn't surprised by his next move, since it was also COPIED FROM ROTJ:



Antagonist saved Protagonist.  Got it.


The Praetorian Guard fight was INCREDIBLE, and I hoped that it would be the turning point for the movie.  Visually stunning, it was so fun to watch Rey and Kylo fight side by side in a way that we were able to follow and understand what was going on the entire time.  The prequel fights would often be all over the place.

Once they'd killed all the guards, it didn't surprise me that Kylo tried to convince Rey to go with her.  He wanted to be in control, just like Anakin Skywalker did at the end of ROTS when he told Padme that he could overthrow the Emperor and create HIS new Empire.


THE FORCE


The Force turned into it's own character during The Last Jedi.  Luke had such an issue with it, claiming that the Jedi of the Old Republic were arrogant and thought they knew everything.  He completely shut out the Force.  If there's one thing the prequels did, they made the Jedi look like IDIOTS who really thought they were the be all to end all.  The lore of the Jedi we'd learned about in episodes 4 - 6 was destroyed by the prequels.  I was just disappointed to see Rian take this same direction with it.

I understand that by saying Rey's parents were no one special they were saying that you don't have to be special to be important.  I just always loved that not everyone could be a Jedi.  You had to have something different inside of you, otherwise EVERYONE could be a Jedi and there should be no contention in the galaxy!




LUKE SKYWALKER


Finally, we come to the character that almost EVERY Star Wars fan had been waiting 34 YEARS to see!  We had been teased throughout all of TFA, only to see him in the last minute of the movie, where I still believe he stole the show.  Now we were going see Luke actually doing things.  Our Jedi was back!  TFA does a great job of setting up the cliff hanger that kept us all dying to know what would happen next.



 So, the stage had been set and our anticipation was overwhelming.  After waiting about 20 minutes to finally get to this scene, we once again watch Rey hand Luke his old lightsaber; the one that he lost on Cloud City when Vader cut his hand off.  Sitting on the edge of my seat, I waited to see what Luke would say.  He takes the lightsaber from Rey, looks at it, and without saying a word he THROWS IT OVER THE CLIFF!  Once again, are you ABSOLUTELY KIDDING ME? It was at this moment that I knew this wasn't the Luke Skywalker we'd grown to love over the past 40 years.  This is the hero from the Rebellion?  No, no it is not.  Apparently I wasn't the only person feeling this way.  Mark Hamill, the only man to ever play this character, the man who knows this character better than any of the fans, agrees.



I give Mark Hamill a TON of credit here.  He wasn't happy with the way Luke was portrayed, but he put his heart and soul into it.  And he's right; this isn't the Luke Skywalker that George Lucas created; BUT IT SHOULD BE!

When Rey first arrived, she told Luke that Leia had sent her to find him because she needed his help.  He wanted nothing to do with it, and told Rey to leave!  WHAT???  The original trilogy was all about Luke helping those who were in need, ESPECIALLY HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  Why wouldn't he help his sister?  I suppose he could be ashamed of almost killing the son of his sister and best friend, but she WANTED HIS HELP, so GET OVER YOURSELF AND GO HELP YOUR SISTER!


After making Rey chase him around Ach-to, showing her how he's learned to milk a creature with 4 boobs, and catch the largest fish on the planet, all the while telling Rey that he came to Ach-to to die, Luke discovers that Rey has the ability to use the Force and he is unwilling to help her, despite her pleas.  This I can understand.  His nephew turned to the dark side, destroyed the Jedi Academy, and killed many of his students.  His confidence has clearly been shot, but he decides to give her 3 lessons on about the Force, even though we only see him give her 2 of the lessons.

My next HUGE problem with the direction Luke's character was taken, was when it's discovered that he almost MURDERED HIS NEPHEW!  We're supposed to believe that because Luke sensed Kylo had already turned to the dark side, Luke was going to KILL HIM?  Luke Skywalker, the man who sensed good in the SECOND MOST EVIL MAN IN THE GALAXY, (Darth Vader), the man who knew his father could be redeemed, and almost lost his life trying to prove it, decided he was just going to kill Kylo without trying to intervene?!?  He couldn't just pull Kylo aside and have a heart to heart with him? This would've been a FABULOUS time to talk to Kylo about how Grandpa Vader TURNED BACK TO THE GOOD SIDE, and he could too!  The moment Luke sensed ANY evil in Kylo is when something should've been done!  I will not believe that when Luke went to confront Kylo in the middle of the night, he actually turned on his lightsaber while Kylo was  ASLEEP, and for a brief moment was ready to KILL HIM.  This act turned our Jedi master into a coward which FUNDAMENTALLY changed EVERYTHING Luke Skywalker stands for!   I'm all for character development, but Luke Skywalker would NEVER do this!



Why exactly did Luke die?  Did the blaster shots end up actually hurting him?  When Kylo stabbed him with his lightsaber, did it really puncture Luke?  When they cut back to Luke on Ach-to after the fight, he looked wiped out, like he'd just run a marathon that he wasn't in shape for.  A Force projection shouldn't have killed him.  He wasn't 900 years old, like Yoda.  His death seemed out of the blue.  I knew that Luke would eventually die, but I figured it would be in the 9th movie.  Why did Luke become one with the Force?  If he comes back as a Force ghost in episode 9, what was the point of killing him, to watch him haunt Kylo?

After Yoda showed up to kick Luke in the butt and tell him to help, I was certain we'd see Luke again.  When he showed up on Crait, the salt planet that looked EXACTLY like the ice planet Hoth in ESB, I almost screamed in the theater.  FINALLY, our Jedi was going to help!  I didn't catch on that he was a Force projection until after Kylo had the walkers spray him with bullets.  Even then, I wasn't quite certain. Sure, Luke looked different. His hair was shorter and his beard had less gray in it, but I was hoping that even though he'd cut himself off from the Force, he'd learned a new trick.  The fight with Kylo and Luke looked cool, but it was ridiculous, and way too short.  If Rian Johnson was just going to kill off Luke Skywalker, WHY NOT HAVE HIM SHOW UP IN PERSON?!?  He still would've been able to distract the First Order while the Resistance escaped, and he wouldn't have looked like a coward, but instead, it would've shown us that he learned how to deal with the mistakes from his past and grow as a person. It would've been a MUCH MORE dignified send off for our beloved Jedi Master.

As Luke's theme music, titled "Binary Sunset" began to swell in the theater, and we watched Luke once again look at out at the sky like he did in ANH, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  When Luke Skywalker disappeared, and his Jedi robes blew away, I actually had to turn to my son, Brandon, and ask, "Did I just see what I think I saw?"  I was so STUNNED that I didn't know what to say, or how to feel.  Almost 2 weeks later I'm still trying to figure it out.



I wasn't upset about everything that happened with Luke's character.  I LOVED when Luke simply brushed off his shoulder as he came through all the initial blaster shots the First Order shot at him. It made me smile as it was Luke's way of saying, "Come at me, bro!".  At the end of their "fight" when he simply told Kylo, "See you around, kid", I smiled again.  That line was a direct call back to ANH when Han said it to Luke as he was leaving with the money he earned from saving Leia.



Since Luke had cut himself off from the Force, I loved when Chewbacca shoved the door in on Luke.  That entire exchange between Luke and Chewbacca when he found out about the death of Han was sweet.  It also should have convinced him to GET HIS BUTT INTO HIS X-WING AND GO TO LEIA, but oh well.  My other favorite part was when Luke went back onto the Falcon for the first time in years. The ONLY TIME IN THE WHOLE MOVIE where I felt that the real Luke Skywalker was back was during his encounter with R2-D2.  He had a heavy heart, but smiled when he saw his most trusted droid.  And when R2-D2 played the original message that Leia sent to Obi-Wan Kenobi years earlier, it was the perfect "cheap shot", as Luke called it.  That also should've convinced Luke to GET OFF THE ISLAND, but again, oh well.  I also enjoyed watching Luke reconnect with the Force and call to Leia, which helped wake her up from her coma.

It's been almost two weeks since I first saw The Last Jedi and I'm still reeling over it, not able to accept what this movie has done. Han and Luke are dead, and Leia will have to be killed off since Carrie Fisher is dead. Our core 3 are gone.  Sure, Chewbacca, 3PO and R2 are there, but barely.  There's no remaining original cast to return for in episode 9.  The hero's we've grown up with and idolized for 40 years are gone.  I realize that this trilogy is all about passing the torch to a new generation, but I'm still not invested enough in Kylo and Rey.  I'm only a little curious to know what happens, because Star Wars has been a HUGE part of my life for over 30 years, but I left the theater with my love for Star Wars having been SIGNIFICANTLY SHAKEN.  When I got home after that first showing, I instantly put in ESB to help remind me what Star Wars is supposed to be!

The Last Jedi has left me wishing that Disney hadn't brought Star Wars back.  I enjoyed The Force Awakens A LOT, but TLJ has made parts of that movie look ridiculous now that it didn't answer the questions that were set up by Abrams in The Force Awakens, or gave us STUPID answers to those questions!

-HOW DID MAZ GET LUKE'S LIGHTSABER?
Still don't know.  Probably won't ever know.

-WHO ARE REY'S PARENTS?
Apparently no one of importance, even though TFA teased the entire movie that they were.

-WHO WAS SNOKE? WHY DID HE WANT LUKE DEAD?
Besides the fact that he was an easily killed character, we still don't know.  Probably won't ever know.

-WHY WAS THERE A MAP TO LUKE WHEN HE WENT TO ACH-TO TO DIE???????
Still don't know.  Probably won't ever know, especially now that LUKE SKYWALKER IS DEAD!

I was angry when Disney took all the Star Wars stories (formerly known as the Expanded Universe) that had been canon for over 20 years and wiped them away to make room for the new movies.  I got over it, but now I'm ready to reconsider those as MY PERSONAL canon and wipe TFA and TLJ from my mind.


I've been continually reminding myself of this since I saw The Last Jedi.



I don't know how JJ Abrams is going to wrap this up.  The fact that Rian threw out so much of what JJ wrote and planted makes me hope that JJ will do the same thing to Rian in episode 9.  Oh well.

With the originals there was a basic idea for the beginning, middle, and end of where the story was going, even though 3 different people directed them.  It feels like JJ wasn't given free reign on what to do with TFA, where we have been told that Rian was allowed to do whatever he wanted.  You can see the disconnect between TFA and TLJ.  Who knows where episode 9 is going to go.

Disney is going to drive my beloved franchise into the ground, bleeding every drop of blood from it on the way.  I'm not interested in the Han Solo stand alone movie that comes out in a few months, and word is spreading that it's a train wreck.

You can't catch lightning in a bottle twice.  Episodes 4 - 6 are lightning in a bottle.  The prequels are disasters.  I think the reason they don't bother me more is because the characters I love aren't in them to begin with.  They're horrible movies, but I just don't care.  Rogue One...needless.  The Force Awakens was a fun reboot for the new generation.  The Last Jedi is just horrible.  I will buy it when it comes out, because...it's Star Wars.  Maybe as the years go by I will like it more.  That didn't happen with the prequels, so I'm heavily doubting it will with this one.

In The Last Jedi, Kylo says, "Let the past die.  Kill it if you must".  I need to decide if the past is TFA and TLJ, or if the past is getting rid of the only Star Wars direction I've known for the past 40 years.

One final thing.  The running gag in the Star Wars franchise is the line, "I've got a bad feeling about this".  It is said in EVERY SINGLE MOVIE, including RO.  It wasn't spoken in The Last Jedi, and I caught it right after the movie was over.  I looked into in, and apparently it was uttered by BB8 in the very beginning.  The words have always been SPOKEN, not beeped by a droid.  It's just another middle finger by Rian.  Thanks, Rian.

Ending on a happier note; here is a clip of the famous line, "I've got a bad feeling about this".



Here's to hoping episode 9 doesn't suck as bad as The Last Jedi!!!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

West Jordan Madrigals

Image result for christmas singing images




There is a singing group called The Madrigals who travel around to schools each Christmas performing great songs, while wearing pajamas!  This is an amazing group, who also sing more traditional, and classical songs as well.  They've won awards in New York.

Each year they come to Navigator Pointe.  The assemblies were today and are broken down into two performances; 6th - 9th grade, and then K - 5th.

This first song was at the conclusion of both performances.  The director told us that since a highly anticipated movie is coming out in a few days that has something to do with Jedi, they decided to put a Star Wars spin on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Well, not only was I jumping for joy, smiling with anticipation, but a majority of the kids were all looking over at me and calling my name since they all know how much I love Star Wars!

The song was so much fun.  I approached a few of the performers, and their director, showing them my Star Wars lanyard and various trinkets attached to it. They all got a  kick out of my enthusiasm for the song.

 I was hoping to get it filmed during the second assembly, which was with the younger kids.  I was able to pull it off, and here it is.





Pretty awesome, right?

During their first performance, the ladies in the Madrigals performed the song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", while the gentlemen found a place to sit in the crowd.  In the first performance, one of my 6th graders was brought up on stage by one of the ladies, and they all began dancing with him.  It was hilarious to watch, and he was embarrassed!

While I was waiting for the Star Wars song during the 2nd performance, I was talking to our music teacher in the music room and I heard the ladies again singing the song.  I was curious to know if I'd recognize the boy they picked for this performance.  I poked my head in....AND BRANDON WAS WALKING UP TO THE STAGE!!  Needless to say, I booked it into the crowd and began filming!

This kid stole the show with his enthusiasm and ability to just have fun with it.  I think this boy was meant to be on the stage. The faces he makes when the ladies all pretend to kiss him are PRICELESS!





When this performance was over, I once again went up to the performers and director, only this time I told them that my son was the boy they picked!  We all got a great laugh out of it.

It was a great day!

On a side note: I realize that my blog hasn't been updated in MONTHS, and that a lot of the pictures are messed up.....oh well, I'll work on it during Christmas break!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

NeuroPace RNS Surgery Recovery: One Year Later



I can't believe that it's been a year since my RNS surgery.  If you're unfamiliar with my story, click HERE.

My last update was 6 months out of the surgery.  I would've done another update at the 9 month mark, but there was nothing to update.

A year later, and physically you wouldn't know that I ever had surgery.  My scars have completely healed.


This picture was taken when I was in the hospital and highlights the scar on the right side of my face where my sideburns had been. 


 This picture was taken the day I came home from the hospital




This picture was taken three weeks after my surgery.  You can still see the scar by my ear, and you can tell that my hair had begun to grow back.


This picture was taken today. Notice that you can only see the scar if you look VERY closely!  


Now to show you how the large scar across my head has healed.  This picture was taken the day I left the hospital.  I worried for a long time how this scar was going to heal.




This picture was almost three weeks later. The nastiest part about this scar healing was the fact that there were scabs of skin forming around the incision that were falling off....yuck!


A week later the scar looked A LOT less scary!




This picture was taken in October, 2016; about 5 months after surgery.


This picture was taken today.  My husband had to hunt through my hair to find the scar!  Needless to say, it healed very well.

Now on to show you all how my hair has grown back.  I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to loose hair during this surgery.  How much, I didn't know.  The only noticeable hair loss was on my right side, where my sideburns had been.


This was taken one month after my surgery.  You can see where my hair was shaved, and that it was already growing back.




Taken in October, 2016, you can see that my sideburns are growing back.


This picture was taken today.  You can see the hair closer to my ear is what had been shaved off.  It's grown back quite quickly, and it's not obvious that the hair closer to my eyes is longer.


I also had to deal with another section of my hair growing back.  This was a little more of a nuisance, simply because of where it was located.  Here's a picture of it from October/November, 2016.  Sometimes it would stick out like this all on it's own, which drove me crazy.  I had other layers of hair on top of it, but occasionally the new growth would pop out. Luckily, having long, thick hair made this easier to deal with, but once in a while I'd see it sticking out like this and I would have to laugh!




And this picture was taken yesterday of the same section of hair.  It no longer pokes out, and lays flat like the rest of my hair.


Physically, I've healed very well.  Emotionally, the story is different.



Up until last week when I had my RNS device adjusted, this picture was EXACTLY how I was feeling. I was having VERY mixed feelings about this surgery and whether or not it had actually done any good. A year later, and I am STILL having the same amount of seizures.  They are STILL keeping me from obtaining a full time teaching job. The only difference in the seizures is that now I'm much more aware of them. They are shorter in length, and I usually don't need someone to fill me in on what happened during the seizure.

I'm STILL dealing with migraines and dizzy spells, and I'm STILL waiting to regain more of my freedom. Needless to say, I've been beyond frustrated as of late. After the surgery I'd been told that it would take about a year for this surgery to do its thing.  Let's just say that my expectations have been VERY different than the reality that I'm dealing with!

Last week, I went to have my device increased.  I expressed this concern with my neurologist and FINALLY received some information that made me feel MUCH better about my surgery!  From December 2016, to March of 2017 when I had the RNS adjusted last, it detected 100 instances of abnormal brain activity, or seizures.  Only 25 of those 100 abnormal instances actually became seizures.

Between March 2017, and June 2017, that detection went from 100 down to 47! In a three month period, the seizure activity in my brain decreased 50%! Out of the 47 that were detected, 29 became seizures. THAT IS THE INFORMATION I'VE WAITED AN ENTIRE YEAR TO HEAR!  If the seizure activity went from 100 to 47 in 3 months, I'm hoping that when I return to have the device adjusted in 3 months that the activity will be even less.

My neurologist also informed me that new studies are showing that it is taking about 2 years after surgery for the device to completely read the brain accurately.  That would've been great to have known last year, but I figure since I'm a year into this, one more year can't kill me.

As of today, I'm glad I had the surgery.  Like I said, the statistics I was given by my neurologist at my last appointment were exactly what I needed to hear.  This post would've been VERY different if I hadn't been given that information!  I'm hoping that this is the year that the RNS is able to completely sync with my brain and bring me the results I've been waiting YEARS for!

For any of you who are reading about my story and have questions about ANYTHING, please leave me a comment so that I can get in touch with you.  I would love to help in any way possible.



Saturday, June 10, 2017

New Kids On The Block: Total Package Tour in Salt Lake City






If you're familiar with this song it's PROBABLY because:
a) you are a girl who was in her early teens when it came out
b) are the sibling of the above teen
c) are the parent of the above teen

They are the original "boy band". They are the boys who made Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, and One Direction possible.  I don't consider The Beatles or the Jackson 5 "boy bands".

Since they arrived on the scene in 1986, I've been a DIE HARD fan of New Kids On The Block!  My late elementary, junior high, and early high school years were spent lining my bedroom walls with the posters that came out of popular teen magazines like Tiger Beat, and Bop. I had the buttons (both big and small) that we wore on our clothing. I listened to their music CONSTANTLY, and knew every dance move to EVERY song they created choreography for! I'm proud to say that I owned the poster of Jordan on the bottom right of this picture...and I loved EVERY MINUTE of having it up on my wall; yes, he is my favorite member of the group!




When I was twelve, I had the opportunity to go to a New Kids On The Block concert while living in California.  I had "nose bleed" seats in the highest and farthest section at the back of the arena, and don't remember much of it at all.  Those in charge of the event tried very hard to keep cameras out of the concert, so I have no pictures.  I do remember that it was an incredible show; especially since I was only 12 and obsessed with this group!  They broke up in late 1994.  Music had changed, the fans were growing up, and so we all thought that the era of the "hardest working boy band", a title that was absolutely appropriate for them, was over.

Enter 2008.  After a 14 year hiatus, New Kids On The Block joined up again, released a new album, and began touring again.  I was excited.  They toured with the Backstreet Boys (which was an INCREDIBLE show that I caught on YouTube!) and all the fans who loved them as teenagers once again found that love for them again!

Through the fabulous power of Facebook, I found out in December, 2016 that they were going to begin a new tour in May, 2017, and would be coming to Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 9th, 2017!  Needless to say, I was beyond excited because I live about 15 minutes away from the venue.  I started to wonder if I could actually accomplish this!  Since it was so close to Christmas, I asked my mom if she could help me out, and she did.  My Christmas present was two tickets to the concert!  I could hardly contain my excitement.  Sure, at that time it was still 6 months away, but after waiting 26 YEARS to see them again, 6 months was nothing!

As the time for the concert drew nearer, I began brushing up on their songs.  Turns out, they were still etched in my brain.  It was fun to discover just how much I'd remembered!  They released a new EP titled Thankful in May, so I began learning those songs.

Last Thursday, I prepared my nails.


And last night I wore my new shirt!


As my sister and I left for the concert, we were remembering that when I went to my last concert, she was only 9 and was deemed too young to go.  She's never been to a New Kids On The Block concert and was just as excited as I was.  Well....maybe not quite as excited, but pretty excited!!

When we got to the Maverik Center, we parked and walked to dinner.  It was hilarious because the majority of the people in the restaurant were attending the concert.  Women were wearing their New Kids On The Block shirts, you could hear conversations about the group, how long it'd been since they last saw them, etc. I've always been proud to be a New Kids On The Block fan, but this was the icing on the cake!

Walking back to the Maverik Center, I was stunned how many MEN, and young girls were there.  I figured it would be a bunch of middle aged women reliving their teenager years.  I'm guessing the men were dragged there by their girlfriends/wives, and the young girls were there because their AWESOME mom's indoctrinated them to the greatness that is New Kids On The Block!  Over the past few months, I've listened to them more in my car. Brandon has also become a fan of the group. He was VERY bummed to not be going with me!


My sister and I.  We're going to pretend that's NOT my hair sticking up in the back!  I hate pictures of myself!



The place was PACKED and our seats were even better than I hoped they would be! As we kept walking closer and closer to our seats, and discovered how close we were, I became more and more excited to the point that I feared I might hyperventilate!  The stage was directly to the left of us. Take note of the blue wood in front of us; it will become VERY important soon!

Of course, merchandise HAD to be purchased!  I got the shirt, concert program, and a key chain.




Paula Abdul was their opening act.  She was very entertaining, performing her greatest hits.  This woman can still dance like it's 1990.  And she changed her outfits in about 1 minute between each song!


And then, the moment I'd been waiting 26 years for happened. This opening is from the first concert of the tour, back on May 12th.  It's the exact same opening as last night, obviously.



Let's just say I was screaming bloody murder as the countdown began!







The next two hours were simply amazing.  Realize that these 5 men are now between the ages of 44 and 48! The way they perform, you'd NEVER know that.  Wow. Writing that they're 44-48 suddenly makes me feel old! The energy was constant, and there were no real breaks, intermission...anything.  As a life-long fan, I appreciated this so much. It shows me just how much they continue to appreciate their fans.

Okay.  On to the most AMAZING moments of the concert!  Remember this picture?



On the other side of the blue wood is an isle. I keep up with New Kids On The Block through their Facebook page, and I'm glad that I do.  Many people have posted pictures from the tour, so I knew a little about what to expect.

They have a song titled "Tonight" from the album Step By Step.  The song lyrics are a play on many of their songs, and the way they said thank you to their fans back in the day.  The video is completely CHEESY, but here it is for the lyrics.



Before the concert started, I wondered if they would come through the audience like I'd seen on the videos I found on Facebook.  Well, they did...during this song.  The following pictures are blurry, but I COULDN'T CARE LESS!!

When they began singing this song they left the stage to walk through the crowd. Jon and Jordan came down our way first. You can see Jordan further down towards the right, with Jon in the forefront.



As Jon got closer to us, the screaming got louder and louder.  We all stretched out our hands, hoping to touch a member of the group we'd loved forever.  I was, of course, one of the people joining in, and all of the sudden JON SHOOK MY HAND!  A member of New Kids On The Block, the group I'd only been able to see on TV, or from the "nose bleed" seats, touched me!! Katie wasn't able to get his hand, so she asked me to shake her hand! I couldn't believe what had just happened.

A few minutes later, Donnie came our way.  After sipping some beer from someone a few people away from me (which was awesome!), he came right over to us and DONNIE SHOOK MY HAND!  Once again, ANOTHER member of my group touched me!! This time Katie was able to get it on it!  I was ready to completely die!


Jordan was maybe 20, 30 feet away, and I kept PRAYING that he would come closer. As he began to climb up onto the wood, he almost lost his footing and got down.



After he got down he started walking back to the stage.  This was as close as I got to my favorite member of the group.  But hey, how INCREDIBLE is this?!?




Joe and Danny both came pretty close, but got down before they came over to us.  Trust me, we tried!! You can think I'm crazy, and laugh at me all you want. I don't even care!  Donnie Wahlberg and Jon Knight shook my hand!!



 Yes, that is Donnie standing on a grand piano using pyrotechnics to make it look like it's on fire!


I was pretty excited because Jordan was on our side of the stage the majority of the night!  It's like he KNEW I was there and wanted pictures of him!!!

At one point, they went down "memory lane", revisiting songs from their very first album, which was a trip! This video isn't from last night. Someone posted it on YouTube from a concert on May 21st.




Joe went to the stage towards the back of the arena to sing "Please Don't Go Girl".  I always knew he could sing, but oh my gosh, this man is INCREDIBLE to listen to when he sings solo!  He puts his heart and soul into it, making it all the more enjoyable to watch!



Towards the end of the night, they sang "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)", which is a "staple" for Jordan. Not only was it amazing, as he still has his FANTASTIC falsetto, but he became very emotional at the end. It looked like he was crying.




I will ALWAYS be a "Blockhead", as we've affectionately become known.  I can't think of ANY OTHER GROUP who came together, broke up, and then came back to find their LEGIONS of fans waiting for them!  We grew up with them. I've also always been grateful that they had decided that they wouldn't come back together as a group unless they all wanted to do it. Many "boy bands" will tour again without all of the original members (Backstreet Boys). It speaks to their bond as friends, and family.



This group of men have gone from this:



to men who can still do this 31 years later:



I left the Maverik Center with no voice, and hardly being able to hear.  I also didn't care one bit! The screaming never stopped, and it was the most FANTASTIC night! The following song is beautiful and one of my favorites. It was written for the fans showing how thankful they are for us. It's on their latest EP Thankful.



If you ever wonder why New Kids On The Block fans are so loyal, this is why:


Here's a list of the songs they did last night, and the order they were performed:

One More Night
My Favorite Girl
Dirty Dancing
You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Remix (I Like the)
Block Party
Tonight
Summertime
Games
Cover Girl
The Whisper
Stop It Girl
Popsicle
Be My Girl
I Wanna Be Loved By You
Didn't I Blow Your Mind
Call It What You Want
Valentine Girl
Happy Birthday
You Got The Flavor
Dirty Dawg
Never Let You Go
If You Go Away
Peace To The World
This One's For The Children
Hard (Not Lovin You)
Single
Please Don't Go Girl
Thankful
Step By Step
I'll Be Loving You (Forever)
Hangin' Tough / We Will Rock You