Halloween 2017

Happy Friday everybody! Can you believe this warm weather we’re having? Yesterday morning, I walked to the metro seeing my breath in the cold air, and I walked home in spring. I wish we could have crisp autumnal days but I’ll just take what I can get, I guess! Don’t forget Daylight Saving ends Sunday so get ready to fall back and get that hour back!

I hope you all had a fun Halloween! Halloween in the middle of the week always throws off the week a bit. At work, we all dressed up in costumes, and it was a fun and silly atmosphere in the office, but it was a Tuesday and there was work to be done. It felt weird to go back to work the next day… and the next day… and the next day…

Last year, my team at work did a group effort by showing up in adult onesies. This year, we split into 3 sub-teams, so we set out with the ambitious goal of having a large team-wide group costume with more specific sub-team costumes. (My original suggestion was we do a team-wide Harry Potter theme, with each sub-team choosing a different Hogwarts house or all being Death Eaters or Hogwarts professors, etc.)

Here’s the result:

Group Star Wars costume!

And for each sub-team, we split by trilogy! I claimed the sequel trilogy for my team, despite only one movie from that trilogy having been released. (Also, yes, one of my teammates trolled us by dressing as Spock from Star Trek. Classic troll.) (And on the far right is an Angry Birds Vader. The troll force is strong with this team.)

I originally had different plans for Halloween, and compared to my crazy lofty 3-costume goals from last year, I was very derailed and very off-schedule this year. My Rey costume, while seemingly easy enough to make, was just a costume-in-a-bag option that was pretty inexpensive but turned out, in my opinion, better than I thought! (Minus the belt+bag thing that was just… drawn on? In the future, I’ll be replacing that first.)

Rey costume
“I think I can handle myself.”

It was a bit of a relief to just get a cheap big store costume from a bag, and people still thought I put a lot of time and effort into putting together my look! (Which I still did as  my arms were so sore from attempting to get my hair to stay in Rey’s dumb triple hair loops with my hair being about twice as long as hers…)

Fun story: We went to dinner in costume on Tuesday night and found out the restaurant was actually hosting a costume contest about half an hour after we arrived. The manager stopped by to ask if we’d like to participate as one of the few parties in costume, but when the time came, we were – I believe – the only people who agreed to participate. So we won by default! I didn’t even have to get up and be judged by a restaurant full of strangers or stop watching the world series.

Did you dress up for Halloween? If so, what did you wear?
What were your favorite costumes you saw this year? I think I’m a sucker for a good meme costume, despite how poorly they age, because they just transport me back, you know? I also love crossover pun costumes. (E.g. “Dumbledora the Explorer” or “Edgar Allen Poe Dameron”, those are my FAVORITES)

Also, do you get trick-or-treaters? I’ve seen the number of kids at my house take a sharp decline to zero over the past few years. I heard that parents now take kids to shopping malls and centers for trick-or-treating now, but when did that become a thing? And why do stores still sell candy to us civilians then?

Ghosts of Halloween past: 2016 | 2014 | 2013

P.S. NaNoWriMo anyone?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

There were a lot of expectations coming into Rogue One. It is a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy and it is a standalone film; it is not part of the sequential story and is the first standalone Star Wars movie. It is not Episode VIII; if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next installment in the story that is ongoing, you’ll have to wait one more year.

Here’s what I knew going into this movie:

  • The events of Rogue One immediately precede the events of the first Star Wars film: A New Hope.
    • It provides the backstory that gives a reasonable explanation for the long-persistent fan question: Why was the Death Star so easy to destroy?
  • This was the most ethnically diverse main cast of any Star wars film, with specific actors being the main draw for me to go see it, as a more casual and recent Star Wars fan.
  • The main protagonist is a female lead.

The basic premise of the movie is this: At the end of Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star, a hyper-advanced weapon capable of annihilating entire planets, by blowing up the reactor via the thermal exhaust port. It’s a tight shot, but even so, many fans wondered why such a powerful weapon would have such a fatal flaw. Rogue One seeks to answer that question while sort of almost bringing in the backstory for the line, “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” (Just minus the Bothans… I do not recall seeing many Bothans at all in Rogue One.) There is no opening crawl after “In a galaxy far, far away…” because the events that take place in Rogue One ARE the events that are described in these opening crawls.

Love the prominence of Jyn on this poster

The most accurate summary of Rogue One I read in the weeks leading up to the movie’s release was that Rogue One puts the “war” in Star Wars. We don’t really get a feel for the sheer personal cost of war in the original trilogy. (I have heard that the prequels is a lot of politicking, but the war between the Empire and the Rebels has not begun at that point.)

War is ugly.
War is senseless.
War is devastating.

Image result for rogue one explosion

Rogue One isn’t just a space opera; it’s a war movie. Let me warn you now about getting attached to some of the characters: War doesn’t discriminate and people die.

And I appreciate that Rogue One doesn’t really sugarcoat it. Characters die. Even if they’re likeable?! Yes. Even if they’re not bad guys? Yes. Even if they’re on the movie poster? Why should that mean they survive? In fact, I think the only thing I found a little hard to swallow was how one of the villains survived as long as he did in the movie.

Image result for rogue one

I really enjoyed the new cities and planets we were able to explore with Rogue One. Star Wars has been a successful franchise largely because of the fantastic world-building, and I think Rogue One continued to expand the Star Wars universe with places like Jedha, a sandy desert planet that Anakin would have hated with a holy city, and Scarif, a tropical planet that is the scene of a beachfront battle at the climax of the movie.

Image result for rogue one scarif

The new characters were also pretty good. Everyone really loved K-2SO, the former Imperial droid voiced by the inimitable Alan Tudyk. In contrast to droids like R2-D2 and BB-8, who only communicate in beeps and whirs, and C3-PO, who is uptight and not particularly hands-on, K2 has a much more direct flavor of sass and proves himself (itself?) to be a doer.

Image result for rogue one K2

And yes, of course, I was excited to see Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in their roles in this movie. Donnie Yen is a huge star (you might know him from Ip Man, if you are into international martial arts film hits) so I’m always happy to see Hollywood embracing Asian talent. Plus, their characters played off each other very nicely.

Image result for rogue one baze

After seeing the movie and the trailers, I’m left to wonder how hastily they had to do rewrites and reshoots. There are a lot of discrepancies (spoilers in this link) as far as scenes that are in the trailers that not only don’t make it into the movie (iconic trailer lines like “This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel“) but don’t make sense with the progression of the story (characters being in settings that they don’t survive to see in the movie). I was a little bit disappointed with the development of the new characters, and I wonder if that is a result of the reshoots or just more poor planning and screenwriting or decision-making as far as what to keep and what to cut. I know that this is a standalone movie and, in the grand scheme of the entire saga, these characters don’t really matter since they don’t appear in any of the core story movies. There were a lot of  I did feel that they wasted a lot of talent by doing such a disservice to these characters. Some specific issues I took:

  • Diego Luna as Andor Cassian was supposed to have some kind of dark, brooding past. I got the impression that I was supposed to know he knows the things he did for the Rebellion don’t really differentiate him from the Empire, but I didn’t get a good sense of that at all. I just saw Diego Luna, a great actor who I haven’t seen in a while, scowling through most of the movie. Obviously, war doesn’t breed many smiles, but he just seemed to be trying to be a character carrying a heavy emotional burden… that he doesn’t know what it is. There is a line that Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe says to Andor: (paraphrasing because I don’t have the exact line)

    “I’ve been in cages worse than this one. You carry yours in your heart.”

    But I just don’t believe it. It felt like the screenplay really didn’t give Diego Luna much depth, other than his brief moment of indecision as to whether he should assassinate someone. And then it was over, and his character’s depth taken away.
    Image result for rogue one andor

  • Forest Whitaker as Saw Guerrera was also a wasted talent. Although his role in the trailer was fairly prominent, he only has a few brief moments of screentime. Although Mon Mothma talks about how Saw is an extremist who is a source of concern for the Rebel Alliance, we don’t really see any evidence of that other than his rough treatment, fueled by paranoia, towards the defector Imperial pilot. He is just… old… and raspy… and justifiably worried about the Empire sending assassins to take out one of their biggest threats. His relationship with Jyn is also explored within the span of a 1-minute conversation and that’s it? And after all the fighting he supposedly does, he puts up very little fight by his last scene, which came much sooner in the film than I thought. I just had no sense of what his character… was? What he stood for? What motivated him? Who he was in any sense. It was very disappointing.
    Image result for rogue one saw gerrera
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso, who is the architect that designs the Death Star and its fatal flaw, is a small role but, again… underutilized. I don’t mind seeing Mads play a non-villain for once, but I felt like the movie wanted us to make assumptions about his character that they didn’t give us the grounds for making. Everyone seems a little unsure about whether or not they could trust Galen Erso, who is a hostage of the Empire but has, in fact, built this terrible weapon. We are told that it’s difficult to know where he really stands, but we are not shown that.
    Image result for rogue one galen erso
  • Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, the defector cargo pilot, was so underutilized. Riz has a Golden Globe nomination for his amazing work in The Night Of and I just don’t understand how his character was just this nervous guy. That is the defining characteristic of Bodhi: nervous. As happy as I am about the South Asian representation in this movie, with a South Asian character playing a crucial role in defeating the Empire, we still have a bit of a ways to go. (See: the Asian guy playing a mystical monk.)
    Image result for rogue one bodhi

IN FACT, that is one of my biggest criticisms of this movie: Rogue One tells you things that it should show you, that it should let you learn on your own. One of my least favorite exchanges in the movie goes:

Jyn: “I’ve never had anyone come back for me before.”
Andor: “Welcome home.”

Ugh. I get it, Jyn is forced into exile when her father is taken hostage and he never makes it back to her, Saw takes her in but one day leaves her behind. She hasn’t had a home or something/someone to fight for since the last time she saw her parents. Okay, sure. I actually do buy that.

Image result for rogue one jyn
But show us, don’t tell us with this cringe-worthy cheese-ball dialogue. You don’t have to spoon-feed your audience. This is something that should be in the liner notes for the character in this scene: Jyn looks around at the Rebel fighters and back at Andor, smiling. No one has ever come back for her before. He smiles back and she knows that she has finally found home. This is not something that has to be spelled out and it takes away from this small but significant emotional moment for Jyn.

Image result for rogue one jyn
I just wanted to show you how much of a BAMF she is, by the way.

This is a common problem in a lot of movies: it’s easier to have characters do story exposition through dialogue and to say things that maybe viewers wouldn’t pick up on otherwise. But I rolled my eyes at that scene, not least of all because it began to hint at a wholly unnecessary romantic subplot between Jyn and Andor. I’ve said it a hundred times and I will continue to say it: Romantic subplots are not necessary to make a story more compelling or emotional and, in fact, they often distract from a very compelling and emotional story. Stop romantic subplots.

Image result for rogue one jyn andor

I have a lot more to say about Rogue One, but I’ll let you go before the spoilers start, below the jump after the trailer. TL;DR I enjoyed the movie, its more honest portrayal of war, and the great Easter eggs showing how it fits into the existing Star Wars universe and films, but I was disappointed by the underutilization of great actors.

This is the post-reshoots trailer, so these are scenes you will see in Rogue One.

Read More »

Disneyland: Before Dinner | Spring Break 2016

A lot of crazy and terrible things have been happening, and while I want these posts to mark good memories for me, I am not blind to the injustices and cruelties that are happening to other people this week and in weeks past. Do not take all of this sitting down. I want to let you know that you can do more than just hashtag and repost things on social media. It requires a bit more work to find out what legislators are doing to help you change the world, but I think it’s worth it. Black lives matter.

Last time on Spring Break 2016, Ben and I arrived in Anaheim for one magical day at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure (DCA). After running around trying to see as much of DCA with minimal line-waiting time as possible, we finally had to answer the call of our rumbling tumblies. So, off to Disneyland’s New Orleans Square it was!

DISNEYLAND! Celebrating their Diamond Anniversary with 60 years of magic.
The “dinky castle”, as Annie dubbed it

I reviewed a handful of roundups of best food to eat at Disneyland, as it seems that a lot of my vacationing revolves around eating, even at the happiest place on earth. (One that I looked to for reference often was this one at Local Adventurer, which is a compilation based on their own personal experiences and other people’s lists.) We still had a fair amount of time before our lunch reservation, so I thought we’d be able to split one of the much-touted Monte Cristos, as it’d be a nice between breakfast and lunch type of sandwiches. Unfortunately for us, the line into Cafe Orleans was just too long and we hadn’t planned on visiting Blue Bayou at all. Off to Mint Julep Bar for Mickey beignets it was!

Mint Julep Bar
With a mint julep, of course!

I had actually been craving beignets for weeks leading up to this trip, and I can’t remember when the last time I had one before our trip to Anaheim was. (Had I ever had a beignet before this???) These were pretty freaking great, though. And the mint julep (non-alcoholic!) was super refreshing as the sun started to get really hot. (It was our first sunny California day!)

Tip: Mickey-shaped beignets are sold at Mint Julep Bar and Cafe Orleans, but if you aren’t able to stop by New Orleans Square, the lines are too long, or some other obstacle keeps you from this goodness, you can get traditional-shaped (aka square) (aka not Mickey Mouse) beignets from Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. Some folks say those taste better, despite not being Mickey-shaped!


The man behind me is just not having it with my selfie nonsense and, frankly, I can’t blame him

While we were letting the beignets settle into our tummies, we checked the Disneyland app to see if there were any rides in Disneyland that had shorter wait times before our lunch. On our way to Mint Julep Bar, we saw that Pirates of the Caribbean was unexpectedly closed for repairs, but they had reopened and the wait was 5 minutes! We got up REAL fast and power-walked over to PotC, which I honestly did not think I would get to experience on this trip. I didn’t feel too strongly about experiencing rides that had replicas over at Disney World, in light of having ridden them in Florida and wanting to experience completely new things in California, but this is THE original Pirates ride and it was a lot of fun to experience. It’s slightly different from the Orlando one, and it’s fun knowing that there are still real human bones in the attraction! Also, to wave at the Blue Bayou diners at the beginning of the ride. I love this ride a lot, and I’m so so glad that I was able to ride it.

Tip: This isn’t exactly a tip, but I was a little startled by the small drop that happens after you finish harassing greeting Blue Bayou diners. I remembered hearing some yelps as I was waiting in line, but be advised that your little boat will drop and splash a teensy bit! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! Also, despite what Youtube may tell you, I’d recommend not shouting “Throw me a roll!” at the diners.

After Pirates, we grabbed FastPasses for Indiana Jones, since that wait was very long otherwise and we had a FastPass opening! And then, before we knew it, it was time to head back to DCA for lunch at Ariel’s Grotto with Megan and Don. (Muahahaha they thought they could escape us!)Read More »

March DisneyBound Challenge 2016

You may have noticed it’s not Friday but a post is up! That’s because I have a surprise post here with the end of March but also a surprise review with a Q&A that I think you may be interested in hearing about coming atcha tomorrow! Who am I? I don’t even know…

Ah, March. You know what that means?

March DisneyBound Challenge month! (You did read the title of this post, right?)

DisneyBounding is a movement founded by fashion blogger Leslie Kay as a way for people to channel their love for Disney characters into every day outfits. This is especially popular in Disney parks because adults are not allowed to wear costumes (for fear of confusing guests). Usually this is done by incorporating a color scheme with some small details, rather than wearing a full-on costume. (As I mentioned last year, it’s the difference between wearing a mermaid tail with a purple shell bikini top and wearing a purple shirt and green pants to portray Ariel.)

I have been a big fan of DisneyBounding and put in a bigger effort to put bounds together for the March Disneybound Challenge, even though I never come close to doing the 31 days of outfits that many other folks in the community put together. (Those people are amazing! This year, a few of them are even doing #31bounds1movie, where all of their outfits for the month are inspired by one single movie.)

This year, I struggled at the beginning of the month because I wanted to put together some fresh outfits and not do any that I’ve done in the past. Of course, I picked easier characters in the past so I was reaching out of my comfort zone, so I’m glad that I was able to mix things up a bit!

I wore these throughout the month, but I didn’t photograph any of the outfits until the very end of the month OOPS here we go:

“The magic feather! Now you can fly!”
(Dumbo, Dumbo)

I rediscovered my love for Dumbo when I rewatched his movie last year with Ben (in my ever-present efforts to make him a Disnerd). It’s one of those older Disney films that makes not-that-much sense to me (“Pink Elephants on Parade” really freaked Ben out) and Dumbo doesn’t have any dialogue in hte movie at all. But if I ever watch “Baby Mine” without crying, you know that I’ve been replaced with a robot.Read More »