Tag Archives: Star Wars

Back on Tatooine with Old Ben

More Star Wars, more Tatooine.  I say yet again, this planet is so important in the galaxy that I don’t know why the Republic or the Empire don’t keep it constantly staffed with masses of troops.

And Disney+ brings us back, this time to follow in the footsteps of Obi-wan Kenobi in order to fill in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, because the company is sure we don’t want any NEW adventures in the galaxy, just an ongoing attempt to fill in any possible gap in the Skywalker narrative.  What did Obi-wan get up to while waiting for Luke to grow up?

More Star Wars because more is better

Ten years down the road from the rise of Darth Vader, Obi-wan is living in a cave in the desert and making ends meat by working at the local Hormel meat processing plant where they are stingy with wages, but don’t seem to mind him cutting off a slice at the end of the day to feed his mount.  Maybe it is in the union contract.  He doesn’t really hide what he is doing.

He tries to keep an eye on Luke, but uncle Own isn’t too keen on that, so Obi-wan becomes a creepy middle age guy with binoculars.

Then there is Leia, a precocious 10 year old on Alderaan, who is living the good life while her twin brother helps eke out life on a moisture farm in the desert.

And, finally, there are the inquisitors, under the command of Darth Vader, who spend their time tracking down Jedi because, as I have suggested elsewhere, the success of Order 66 seemed to be mostly imperial propaganda.

All three of these intersect and Obi-wan has to dig up his lightsaber, leave Tatooine, and get mixed up with the empire again.  He and Darth Vader meet up, Obi-wan discovers that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, which I guess could have been a thing… though Anakin getting left for dead and a week later the Emperor has a powerful new Sith Lord by his side seems like it would raise at least a few “so where did he come from?” question in the tabloids… they fight, and then part ways because the beginning and end states of the stories were already set in stone.

Some interesting characters pop up, a few people die, but in the end Obi-wan is back on Tatooine hanging around waiting for Luke to grow up while desert life changes him from 51 year old Ewan McGregor into 63 year old Alec Guinness… I guess that age gap kind of works, which kind of worries me because I am the middle of those two ages… while Darth Vader… I guess completely forgets this whole episode?  I don’t know.  Again, in his place I might have kept a closer eye on Tatooine going forward given how much shit seems to just happen there.

Was it any good?

Sure, it was fine.  I enjoyed it.  There were some very good performances.  It was originally slated to be a movie, which is how I suspect it got such a good cast… though maybe just being in a Star Wars series is enough.  The story kept my interest despite being bound within the constraints to the overall story arc.  There were a few insights into the characters that might have been worth the effort.

It didn’t grab me like The Madalorian, where a new and interesting character led us through a different aspect of the Star Wars universe.

But it was much better than The Book of Boba Fett, where we spent four episodes being force fed a dull, and eventually inconsequential, backstory before The Mandalorian came in and dragged the story away from bacta tank flashbacks into the present day.

Anyway, if you’re into it you’ve probably already watched it as well.  I mean, the next season of Westworld didn’t even start until the last episode was already live.  But, if you decided to give it a miss, you can get the summary with some good visuals from the Honest Trailer.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll watch the commentary for that as well, where they dive into discussing the series.  I wasn’t engrossed enough to watch the weekly episode discussion videos, but an overall run through I was good for.


Vader and DALL-E

If you’ve been around some parts of the internet lately you may have run across a recent obsession with DALL-E, and AI art generation program that takes prompts you feed it and attempts to generate output based on it.  Specifically, a variation called DALL-E Mini, which pulls data from the internet to create art based on prompts has been quite the sensation on Twitter for the last couple of weeks.  There are several accounts on Twitter that repost images.  I follow Weird Dall-E Generations to get my fix of the strange.

The whole thing lends itself to the creativity of people who come up with prompts like The Demogorgon from Stranger Things as a guest star on Friends or The Crucifixion as a Fortnite Event or Smurfs being teargassed in Portland that generate some interesting output.

My daughter and I text each other some of the examples we find fun.

But my own initial plan for DALL-E was to take one subject and play with parameters around them.  One of the things you can do is specify a style, like courtroom sketch or fisheye lens or CCTV, which is where I started.  My subject was, for no particular reason, Darth Vader.

Courtroom sketch of Gandalf suing Darth Vader

Then I saw people were specifying artists, which sent me off on another path.

A can of Goya beans painted by Francisco Goya

I went down that path for a while.

A dumpster fire drawn by Norman Rockwell

Each prompt gets you a panel of nine output images.  In the DALL-E Mini app you can click on the panels to get a slightly larger version, though they are not very high in resolution.  But given the speed of the output and the number of people using the tool, that isn’t unreasonable.

Eventually I got back onto Darth Vader and having him rendered by various artists.  The natural starting place seemed to be Dali… because DALL-E and all.

Darth Vader painted by Salvador Dali

I actually liked a couple of those panels.  They were at least worthy of avatar images.

The persistence of Vader

Then I went to Picasso.

Darth Vader painted by Picasso

And that got me off on a whole riff of artists.

Fransisco Goya.

Darth Vader painted by Francisco Goya

Johannes Vermeer.

Darth Vader painted by Vermeer

Is panel eight supposed to be Padme?  Leia?

As a New Yorker Cartoon.

Darth Vader drawn as a New Yorker cartoon

Darth Vader as a cave painting.

Darth Vader as a cave painting

Darth Vader drawn by Al Jaffee of MAD Magazine.

Darth Vader drawn by Al Jaffee

That got me off on a tangent for a bit.

Darth Vader and Alfred E Newman smoking weed

I did a whole range of “x smoking weed with Snoop Dogg” including Snoopy.

But then it was back onto artists.

Darth Vader painted by Grandma Moses

Some artists worked better than others for me, though I think the subject of Darth Vader was limiting.  I couldn’t get much out of other MAD Magazine artists, and Norman Rockwell Darth Vader just seemed like Darth Vader mostly.

Darth Vader painted by Norman Rockwell

Monet was okay, though nothing special.

Darth Vader painted by Monet

And Jackson Pollock didn’t exactly break new ground… though I don’t know what I was expecting at that point.

Darth Vader painted by Jackson Pollock

And then I hit on Roy Lichtenstein.  Now that had a style.

Darth Vader painted by Roy Lichtenstein

And then I was off on a Roy Lichtenstein phase for a while.

Margaret Thatcher invading the Falklands by Lichtenstein

Revisiting some previous options.

A Dumpster Fire by Roy Lichtenstein

And finding some new avatar worthy output.

Mark Twain painted by Roy Lichtenstein

All of which is really just a summary of how I wasted a bunch of time over the past week or so.  If you follow me on Twitter you no doubt saw a few of these already.  But I put some there I didn’t use here and vice versa.

And, honestly, having done this, now I think I might have to explore more of Mark Twain.  He has a unique and more elastic look than Darth Vader I think.

Mark Twain painted by Salvador Dali

Of course, not everything is a success, mild or otherwise.  Firiona Vie isn’t, for example, popular enough to be a guest star on friends.  I thought Bananarama eating bananas at the cinerama was destined for glory, but ended up rather disappointing.  And I have yet to get a decent viking in a spaceship.  But I persist.

And my current all-time most popular tweet is Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace painted by Pablo Picasso, but only because Kai Ryssdal retweeted it to his followers.  So a shout out to Kai and Marketplace!

Anyway, if you want to waste some time with this, you can find the version of DALL-E mini I have been using here.


Binge Watching in a Dusty Shade of Yellow

Are we still watching television?  Yes we are!  So it is time for a few recaps once more.

In Montana, not Wyoming

Some friends kept recommending this, calling it the “Cowboy Sopranos,” but I think it is more like “Cowboy Succession.”

The first problem was finding a way to watch it without paying $1.99 an episode, because there is no TV series on earth that is worth that kind of money.

We found that the NBC streaming channel, Peacock, had the first two seasons of the show and that we didn’t even have to pay to see it.  It was one of those things that if your local cable service had the channel, you could use the streaming app.  You have to watch some ads, but not nearly as many as you would on live TV.  The only jarring bit is that the show is cut into acts so ad breaks can be inserted between them and the Peacock ads DO NOT get injected into those transitions.  Dumb, but what can you do?

Anyway, the show is about the Dutton family, headed by John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, who is as Kevin Costner as he always is.  Some actors can become characters, other actors have the roles become them… he and Tom Cruise are in the latter category.  The Duttons own a giant ranch in Montana called Yellowstone, which is close by the boarder of the national park of the same name.  The park figures into none of this save for a tangential mention now and then, and a sly reference to the “zone of death” related to the park.

John Dutton has four children all in various states of relation to him, either rejecting him, trying to please him, doing his bidding, or working against him, depending on the situation.  He manipulates them all with disappointment or praise as suits his plans.

The ranch is threatened by various real estate developers as well as the adjacent Indian reservation, the residents of which can’t go half a dozen sentences without reminding everybody with ear shot that the ranch used to be their land.  The Duttons and their ranch hands handle problems in the cowboy way, which generally involves violence when the law won’t suffice.  They beat people, threaten them, and murder now and then.  They pretty much had to bring in a worse group in season 3 because the Duttons were very much shaping up to be the bad guys until then.  They look more sympathetic against straight up kidnappers and murderers.

Meanwhile, their dysfunctional family and complicated relationships, as I noted above, remind me of Succession.  And since somebody said Succession is pretty much a billionaire version of Arrested Development, I guess they are really the “Cowboy Bluths,” though missing the mediating presence of Michael.  Like the Roys, I am not really sure who to root for because they’re all problematic in their own ways.  But the show is still entertaining in a way that Succession has fallen away from.  Lots of daily antics and arguments to amuse.  Also, it has normalized drinking Coors beer, which is my old man brew of choice.

And then came season four, which is NOT on Peacock, but on the Paramount Network, which has its own app with the same deal about your local cable service and ads.  However, our local cable service doesn’t carry the right channel, so we’re locked out until the season comes to Peacock or something else we can watch.  But the first three seasons were worth the time, so we’ll wait for the fourth to come around.

It is the school mascot, nobody gets stung

We picked up Showtime for a month to watch something else.  Then, with the time left on the clock, we hunted for something else to watch, landing on Yellowjackets, which had just wrapped up its first season.  We got hooked immediately.

The story revolves around a girls high school soccer team in mid-90s New Jersey that goes to the national championships, which are being held in Washington state.  They board a chartered flight, but crash somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, where they have to survive for a year and a half before finally being rescued.

The story splits between modern day and the events on the ground after the crash, weaving the two parts of the story together very successfully.  A lot of shows do this, but I haven’t watched one do it this well in a long time.

At the crash site, most of the team survives, though only one adult makes it through the crash, and they are badly injured.  The team has to figure out how to survive as it becomes more and more obvious that immediate rescue isn’t in the cards.  The radio beacon on the black box is on the fritz and it is 1996 and nobody has cell phones with a GPS in their pockets. (Also, nobody watched Gilligan’s Island, because there were at least half a dozen things they would have picked up from that show about getting rescued.)

Then there is modern day, where it is quickly obvious that there are a lot fewer survivors who made it back than who were alive after the crash.  The baggage of those events weighs on the adults we see.  They agreed on a basic “we survived” story and have otherwise remained quiet about events in the woods, though they remain local celebrities.  But somebody is suddenly interested in what happened.

Meanwhile, back in the woods in 1996, you can see a Lord of the Flies scenario starting to emerge as the very competitive and athletic girls work out how to survive.  There is something strange in the woods as well.  But we only get glimpses of it before the season wraps up, leaving lots of questions and angry looks at the calendar knowing it will probably be a year before we get any more details.  It was a good show, with a tight story and good acting, leaving you hungry for more even after ten episodes.

Another brother Ray

Three items in and I have already fallen off the color theme.  Whatever.  And I am not here to endorse this item really, but figured I would bring it up as this was the reason we picked up Showtime for a month and ended up watching Yellowjackets.  Backstory.  You like backstory right?

I wrote about the six seasons of Ray Donovan previously, a mixed bag of a show.  But we went the distance with it, so the finale, the movie wrap up of the series seemed to be a must.

It wasn’t, really.

The series spends a lot of energy hinting at what happened back in Boston when Ray was a kid and why he and his father Mickey are at odds so often.  If you were paying attention, they pretty much laid out all the key points about their past, so I wasn’t really worried about it.  I wanted to see the current day resolved in some way.

But the people making the show really felt we needed a ride back to the 70s to go through, in detail, what happened back then, all as a flashback from the current day.  Unlike Yellowjackets, this isn’t two stories being twisted together in parallel, this is more like a “remember when…” clip show, only the clips are brand new.

So, if you wanted to see the family history played out, how Ray got where he ended up, why Mickey went to jail, the story of Ray’s sister, and a pack of other details, you are set.  I was there for the 70s cars and styles, but didn’t walk away thinking, “Now that is how you end a series.”  It was fine fan service, and filled in some details, but didn’t thrill me.

Let the Star Wars spin-off multiply and conqueror

If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.

-Luke Skywalker, wrong as usual

I am going to have to do an inventory of how many of the Star Wars films and shows spend at least some time on Tattooine.  If as much stuff went down there as I recall, either the empire or the republic should have a much more serious presence close to hand.  And it is sandy, and sand is yellow, so back on the color theme, right?

Anyway, the last season of the Mandalorian introduced a bevy of characters set for spin-off shows, and the first of those to land was The Book of Boba Fett.

Of the seven episodes, the first four are basically setting the scene for the post-Mandalorian era events, telling parallel tales of how Boba got out of the sarlacc pit and where he went and what happened after he ran into Mando and him setting up shop on Tattooine.

Again, in comparison to Yellowjackets, this was an attempt to twist to timelines together.  The problem here is that I just didn’t care.  I was never a fan of the Fett,  I wanted to be Han Solo, not some background bounty hunter whose costume looked like low rent cosplay.  But he was popular beyond the extent of his roles in the original trilogy, and Han Solo shouted his name Return of the Jedi, so he has a fan base.  I’m just not in that crowd.

As such, I wasn’t really invested in what he did before or after his appearance in The Manalorian, and the show plodded along with the assumption that anybody watching would think this was key to the Star Wars universe.  Four episodes of that was too much.

Then for episodes five and six we left Boba Fett behind and the show became The Madalorian again, and was much more interesting to me.  I really liked Mando on the ring habitat.  I was having Ringworld flashbacks.  Good times.

But Mando has to find his way to Tatooine, because of course he does, it is the literal bright sandy center of the Star Wars universe, drawing all plot lines to it, and hooks up with Boba to help solve his gang lord turf battle, with the final fight playing out in very predictable fashion.  I don’t mind playing to the western theme, but when I know something mentioned in a previous episode has to come up in the final fight to turn the tide before it happens, then they might not be working hard enough.

Anyway, it was fine.  So not great, nor as enjoyable as the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, but it was probably better than the last three films.  Jon Favreau is probably channeling the best post-Lucas look into Star Wars we could reasonably hope for.  Meanwhile, Amy Sedaris channeled many fan thoughts when she told Baby Yoda… because of course he shows up again… that Grogu is a horrible name and we’re not calling him that.  #TeamBabyYoda

This being a Star Wars series, there are some other opinions on the series out there if you prefer:

Films I Have Watched at least Seven Times

I am once again asking you to read a post where I write about some minor meme that sprang up on Twitter… meme in the classic, viral sense rather than the current “funny picture” sense.

The meme going around was asking people to display films they had seen at least seven times via an animated GIF.

Lots of people posted a GIF of a specific film while I, being me, posted a thread of several films and sat and thought about how many titles would actually be on that list, akin to that “games you have played for at least 500 hours” meme about which I wrote a few weeks back.

Here is the thing.  While I am not particularly prone to watching films more than once… or TV shows or mini-series or YouTube videos quite frankly… I am also getting along in years so that the opportunity for me to have seen a film more than once factors into this.

I also grew up in an era when, once they left the theater, were elusive.  This was pre-VHS, even pre-HBO, as I grew up with what one might jokingly call “wireless TV” as everything we watched was pulled in by a mast antenna sticking up from our house.  So movies were kind of special.  NBC used to show The Wizard of Oz every Thanksgiving weekend.  A local station, KTVU channel 2, used to hype up the fact that they were going to show Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Yellow Submarine for weeks in advance.  Another, KGSC-TV, on the UFH band at channel 36, seemed to have several films, including Duel, The Flim-flam Man, and Charley Varirck on some sort of monthly rotation.

I am wandering a bit, but the point is that TV back then, even with only a dozen channels available to us in the San Jose area (which was a bounty compared to many places) still had the problem it has today, which is that there are too many hours in the day and not enough new content to fill them, so they ran movies all the time, in the afternoon with Dialing for Dollars, in the evening, late at night, on the weekends, for special events, and whenever else they had some time to fill.

And then there was the video store era, where we used to rent films every weekend because seeing films on demand was such a freeing experience after having grown up with the tyranny of the TV broadcast schedule and the limited movie show times.

Which means that I have seen a lot of movies.

But to have seen a movie seven or more times, that takes some effort.  People will say they have seen a film a bunch of times, when the reality is likely three or four at most in many cases.  We exaggerate in our heads, thinking we must have seen something many more times than we have, due to the importance or emotional attachment we have to a given work.

So I have set out, as far as is possible, to list out films where I can at least remember enough occasions watching them that I can safely says that I met the required number.

Disney live action

This is could be the film I have seen the most in the actual theater.  This was in an era when Disney would push titles back out into the theaters multiple times in order to maximize.  This was also my favorite movie around age 5.  I managed to wheedle parents and grandparents to take me to see it repeatedly over a two year period.  I remember going to see it at a theater twice where they had a VW Bug painted up as Herbie in the lobby.  I also recall renting it once from the video store in college just to see it again and watched it once on cable many years later.  Oddly, in writing this my wife pointed out that this was one of her favorite films as a child as well.  I did not know that.

Arthur and his knights

This falls into the category of films I saw in the theater because I somehow got my grandmother to take me and a friend to see a double feature of this and Jabberwocky.  Being the first grandchild and tall for my age let me get away with a lot when I was a kid.

The film would occasionally come up on PBS for a special event like a pledge drive, and I always watched it.  It was also the first film that I saw with the director’s commentary audio track, something that was part of the Criterion laser disc release.  I also own it on DVD where I have watched the movie a couple of times, including with my daughter, as well as watching through both of the audio commentary tracks available and the version subtitled entirely with lines from Henry V.  This might be the film I have seen the most.

Born to kill

This falls into a category of films that I will throw on when there is nothing on and I am sitting around with nothing to do… a situation that was much more common before high speed internet, MMOs, and YouTube were a thing.  Other films in this category have included Hot Fuzz, The Worlds End, Megamind, The Emperor’s New Groove, and LEGO Batman Movie.  In the late 80s my friend Bill would come over and we would pop it into the VCR and watch from the opening to at least the line “You got girlfriend Vietnam?” while we figured out what we were going to do with our day.  Later, when I had a DVD copy, I would put it in the player and swap to the French language track with French subtitles because I knew the English language track so well that I could follow along in French.  Cadence shouted in French is never not funny.  This is almost certainly the film I have started watching more than any other.

Yeah, it was just that back in 1977

Or, as it is now styled, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.  I saw this four times back in 1977.  It was the first huge box office film I remember going to see, with lines and sold-out shows.  We once went to see it, found it was sold out, bought tickets for another movie, then walked into the Star Wars and on the floor in the aisle to watch… and didn’t even get caught or kicked out.  It was like nothing we had ever seen before.  This might be the film I have owned in the most formats, as we have VHS, DVD, and BluRay copies around the house.  I went back to see it whenever it was re-released in the theaters.  This is easily my most watched Star Wars film, and probably science fiction film.

Darth Vader lives

The only other Star Wars film I know I have seen at least seven times.  I own all the films on some disc format, have seen them all at least twice and… basically… I like the first two a lot and kind of enjoy the others, but mostly wish they brought me as much joy as this pair.

TESB is such a dark turn, where the rebels are in retreat and the empire looks to be having things going their way, it evokes a mood that none of the subsequent films quite manage.

bump bump bump bummm

Ah, the summer of 1984, no cable TV, no internet, not even a modem attached to my computer yet, and all the spare time of youth on summer break with a car and a part time job.  We went and saw this at the Meridian Quad, a cheap set of theaters long gone from the valley, half a dozen times because what else were we going to do?  We got in trouble once and nearly got ourselves kicked out of the theater when, for one showing, we sat up front and shouted out the dialog just before the actor would say it on screen.  Misspent youth.  I’m now the guy that complains to the manager about that sort of thing.

I actually like Terminator 2 better as a film, but I have definitely seen this more.

Multipass for multiple viewings

This is the first movie that my wife and I went and saw together.  This is our film, and we watch it whenever it comes up on cable or when we hit an anniversary and we have nothing else going on.  Bruce Wills and Chris Tucker make this film.  They had a 20th anniversary showing back in 2017 and we showed up to find a full theater.  We got seats, but clearly we’re not alone in enjoying this film.

The uncola of Bond films

Again, my wife and I are fans of the Bond films, and I have written about them before.  We own them all on disk, and have been through the whole series at least twice for our own mini-Bond film festival, save for the latest outing, which is not yet available on video.  We have also seen many of them in the theater, even some that we were probably too young to go see at the drive-in, thanks to parental negligence.

But Live and Let Die is the only one I will swear to having seen at least seven times.  Goldfinger might be there, but only LaLD is a sure thing.  It is my favorite in the series, and is the film we put in any time we have some new audio or video hardware addition to our home TV setup.

Trivia: We bought a Bose sound system and watched it when my wife was 9 months pregnant.  After it ended, just past midnight, we went to bed and then fifteen minutes later her water broke and we were up again and off to the hospital.

Yossarian, Tappman and Danby

There is a dichotomy in film between seeing more films, to expand the breadth of your experience, and re-watching films in order to get to know them better, to discover the nuances.  There are films that just are not digestible on the first pass.  I tend towards breadth these days, in part because my wife favors that, but this is one I will put on to watch to discover new things.  Filmed in a era before digital effects, in an era where WWII surplus was still readily available, they assembled 17 flying B-25s as part of its production, something unimaginable today.

The use of lighting and color and the casting and the dialog… it did not do well at the box office, and was an initial disappointment because it wasn’t a literal translation of the book… is magical at times.  The copy I have includes a director’s commentary that has Steven Soderbergh talking to director Mike Nichols about making the film that is a class in and of itself.  While an imperfect vessel for Joseph Heller’s novel, as are all film adaptations, it probably suffered more from releasing the same year as M*A*S*H and Patton.


I saw it when it came out in theaters and have pretty much watched it every time it has come up on TV or cable for years.  The original Alien was a good horror film, but this was an excellent action film.  Oddly, this stands out on the list as being one of two films that I do not own in any format.

Lots of things roll down hill

I had to go look at the videos we have to help spark some memories, and this was the first thing that jumped out at me where I clearly had seen it at least seven times.  In the theater, on HBO back when it was a microwave broadcast service, on VHS, on DVD, and on cable a bunch of times.

The movie montage

Maybe the film I have seen the most versions of.  It is another film where the story… I am not all that invested in.  But the images of the future, the way it looked up on the big screen… that had stuck with me for decades.  We went and saw the original, voice over version a few times, then the version cut for television, then the director’s cut release in the theater, then again on video, and at last the final cut.  I was actually fine with the voice over version back in the day, but I’ll sit and watch any of them just for the way the film makes me feel.

I wrote about this up top, then forgot to put it on the list initially.  I have easily seen this seven times, probably by the time I was 13.  You have to have worked at avoiding this film in order to be my age and not have seen it at least a couple of times.  An iconic film and an amazing early use of color.  Also a film I bring up whenever somebody starts going on about Hollywood running out of ideas for films, this version being the fourth, and certainly not the last, time the story was brought to film.

From the comments, Bhagpuss reminded me of the Marx Brothers, I can stipulate that I have seen Duck Soup at least seven times, though how many it really is might be a bit vague.  In the days before VHS I made an audio recording of the film on a 90 minute cassette and used to listen to it a lot.  I don’t know if that counts as watching, but I also watched it whenever it came up on TV and own a copy on disk.  While I have seen most of the Marx Brothers films, this remains my favorite. (Coconuts is probably in second place.)

  • Unverifiable

No, this isn’t a film.  Rather, this is a secondary list of possible candidates that might have made the list, but I really can’t pin down enough showings in my head to declare for them.  Some of these are in the “I just feel like I have seen this a bunch of times, but maybe not quite seven times” category.

  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • The Lion King
  • Toy Story 2
  • Die Hard
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance
  • School of Rock
  • High Fidelity
  • The Wild Bunch
  • Patton
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Brazil
  • Hot Fuzz
  • The Worlds End
  • The Matrix
  • The Sting
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen
  • Dangerous Liaisons
  • Life of Brian
  • Take the Money and Run
  • The Great Escape
  • Goldfinger
  • Goldeneye
  • A Fish Called Wanda
  • Sleeper
  • Casablanca
  • To Have and Have Not

Anyway, that is a list, along with an extra bonus list.  This, of course, is making me think again about a series of posts about television and video and how I experienced it growing up, how it has changed over time, and how different it is today.  We’ll see if I get to any of that.

Similar posts were done at Contains Moderate Peril and Tales of the Aggronaut, and it probably speaks to our relative ages, but the one film all three of us have in common on this front is Aliens.

More Thrawn from Zahn

I track my reading progress over at Good Reads and, as a reward, they occasionally tell me something I don’t know already.  Just last week I got a surprise from them as they let me know that Timothy Zahn is returning to the Star Wars Universe and the main character of his creation, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

With more Thrawn to come

Back in 2011 I wrote a bit about the original Thrawn novel from Zahn, Heir to Empire.  It was the 20th anniversary of the book and I was interested to see how I felt about the story two decades down the road.

As I noted, 1991 was a very dry time for Star Wars fans.  We bitch now about too much Star Wars diluting the impact of the series, but back then we just had the original three movies, that Ewok TV series, and bootleg tapes of the Star Wars Holiday Special.  You used to have to find some guy in a small booth in a shady corner of the dealer’s room at a con to get a copy of the latter and, as awful as it was, it was Star Wars canon you could cling to.

And on to that parched ground Zahn dropped Grand Admiral Thrawn and we were grateful to have him.  He was a well written nemesis for the New Republic and no doubt the peak of the early Star Wars novels.  It was the first entry in a trilogy that among other things introduced Coruscant as the capital planet of the Old Republic and Galactic Empire and introduced characters like Mara Jade, who gained fame despite never being in the movies.

And even twenty years down the road Thrawn seemed crisp and fresh, different from Vader or the Emperor, and blazing a path towards restoring the empire.  If there were problems with novel it came from the flat and predicable character from the movies… Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, and Chewie… and some regrettable in hindsight plot points.  But Thrawn, he was a force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, the two follow on novels, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, did not hold up as well when I returned to them.  Thrawn became predictable and manifested an obvious character flaw that you could see would be his downfall a few hundred pages ahead of the climax.

Still, back then Thrawn was good and Zahn ended up penning two more Thrawn prequel novels before they were all thrown out of the Star Wars canon.

However, Thrawn was too big to keep down.  He forced his way back into the Star Wars canon when he showed up in seasons 3 and 4 of the Star Wars Rebels animated series, which coincided with start of a new Thrawn trilogy from Zahn.  The last entry in that dropped in 2019, but demand for Thrawn remains and so a new trilogy is coming.

I have the first book in the Thrawn trilogy in my Audible.com library, but I honestly have little recollection of having read it.  Was that the one where it was all recollections with himself as the outside narrator?  I suspect that forgetting it does not bode well for the series.  But it did well enough to spawn more Thrawn.

I just wonder if it is worth reading now.  My own tastes have changed.  I’d like to think they’re more sophisticated, but it is more likely I just won’t put up with the same shtick I would when I was younger due to the proliferation of entertainment choices now available.

Maybe I’ll go watch Star Wars Rebels to see if Thrawn in season three sparks any interest in me.

Friday Bullet Points about Playable Worlds and ManaWorks and Other Things

Another Friday with just some tidbits to share.

  • Playable Worlds

Raph Koster announced his latest venture yesterday.  Called Playable Worlds, it got $2.7 in seed capital to start making it a thing.

As jaded as I am, $2.7 million doesn’t seem like a lot of money.  Thanks Star Citizen!   But it is seed capital, so the team has to make some progress before they will get any more I suppose.  At least it is not being crowd funded. The description though… that is wide open.

As you might guess, with the online world, we are going to build a massively multiplayer world where all sorts of players can come together and find ways to regardless of whether they like exploring or adventuring or socializing or player-versus-player (PvP). It’s a sandbox world that supports many ways to play.

-Raph Koster, VentureBeat interview

All things to all people much?  It won’t be a themepark I guess.  But what will it be?  Possibly` another MetaSpace, Raph’s previous venture, where you got tools and had to make your own content.  That did not end well.  But there is a solid team signed up to give it a shot, and Bhagpuss has run down the backgrounds of some of them already.  Massively OP also has a post up about it.

As for when it will show up, you had best find something else to occupy yourself for a few years, this is going to take some time.  But you can sign up for the email list on the Playable Worlds site.  Or follow them on Twitter or Instagram or whatever.  You can also apply for a job there.

Also another article over at Games Industry Biz about MMO lessons learned that may be applicable.

  • ManaWorks

Another new studio was announced this week, ManaWorks.

Good for those looking for something from a new studio, but perhaps bad news for fans of GuildWars 2.  As Kotaku notes, the lead of the new studio is Mike O’Brien, who was up until now president of ArenaNet and quite possibly involved in whatever would come next from the studio.  With his departure, along with other members of the GW2 team, the future of ArenaNet projects is very much a matter of speculation.  There are posts up about this at Massively OP, Inventory Full, and Nerdy Bookahs that are worth reading if this topic is of interest.

  • EverQuest Show Daybreak Teaser

The EverQuest Show traveled to San Diego to talk to the Norrath team and has promised to share the interviews in the next episode of the show.  Until then there is just a teaser video up featuring a short chat with executive producer Holly Longdale.

  • Norrath Soundtracks

Daybreak has announced that the original soundtracks for EverQuest and EverQuest II are now available for purchase from Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and maybe Pandora.

Sound Tracks for Both

I’ve not been a big fan of the Norrath music myself.  It tends to run between too brassy and too few strings on the lute for me.  But I barely like anybody’s soundtrack and generally turn the music off and listen to my own while I play, so Norrath is hardly an outlier for me.

  • Skywalker Speculation

And, completely off the video game topic, a new Star Wars movie is coming this December, the third film of the third trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker.  I am sure it will make many people angry and/or happy, while making Disney just that much more wealthy.  Not a lot is known about the story, or even the meaning of the title.  Over at How it Should Have Ended on YouTube they have put an episode of Villain’s Pub that speculates on what is really coming for this entry in the saga.

It is as least as good as any of the fan theories you’ll find on Reddit.

Winter Movie League – Denouement

The last week of our Fantasy Movie League is now in the rear view mirror of life and it is time, as the title suggests, to wrap up the tale of the season.

This thirteenth and final week should have been a dramatic one.  The gaps between the top six players should have been enough for some changes to occur.  The problem was that as far as the week went, there were not a lot of surprises in store.  Upsets only come with surprises, films exceeding, or failing to meet, expectations.

There were some new films on the list, but Black Panther was expected to dominate still into its second weekend, and so was split into three days again, leaving the lineup looking like this.

Black Panther (SAT)  $534
Black Panther (SUN)  $395
Black Panther (FRI)  $334
Game Night           $201
Peter Rabbit         $167
Annihilation         $154
Fifty Shades Freed   $100
Jumanji              $87
The 15:17 to Paris   $62
The Greatest Showman $55 
Every Day            $45
Early Man            $26
The Maze Runner      $17 
The Post             $16
The Shape of Water   $15

I think it was pretty universally agreed that a screen or two of Black Panther was the safe pick.  Game Night seemed to have some potential, but you had to be a bit of a contrarian to run with it.  Likewise, if you hoped against hope, Annihilation might have seemed viable, though the reviews out before screens locked seemed to make that unlikely.

I went what seemed to be the safe route and rode on Black Panther, anchoring on two screens of Friday, slotting in a screen of Game Night, and then back filling with Early Man in my ongoing mistaken belief that everybody has fond memories of Wallace and Grommit and that this will make Early Man succeed during a time when even the title seems to be working against it.

I tinkered with various other options, but kept going back to that, locking it in on Friday.

My Winter Week Thirteen Picks

That turned out to be the most popular lineup for the week, and in the Meta League, with four of us going that route.

There was some variation across the league, and some radicals went with four screens of Game Night, but most of us anchored on Black Panther.

Black Panther turned out to be the anchor for the perfect pick of the week, but it was a pair of Sundays that were needed, coupled with a screen of Fifty Shades, a screen of Every Day, and four screens of The Post, a set of picks I wouldn’t have touched.  A set of picks a lot of people wouldn’t have touched I guess, since only six people got the perfect pick.

Winter Week Thirteen Perfect Pick

If somebody in the Meta League had gone that route, it could have changed the final lineup.  Corr could have come in first.  I could have been bumped out of third.  But none of our picks were all that radical as the scores for the week show.

  1. Kraut Screens (T) – $85,854,487
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $85,388,127
  3. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $85,206,009
  4. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $84,648,305
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $83,454,901
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $83,454,901
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $83,454,901
  8. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $83,454,901
  9. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $83,213,170
  10. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $80,631,400
  11. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $80,085,924
  12. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $80,005,525
  13. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $79,299,436
  14. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $78,049,648
  15. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $71,219,616
  16. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $71,219,616

The Meta League Legend:

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Kraut Screens took the week, but overall there is barely a $15 million gap between first and last place, and the gap between the upper half of the scores this week is a mere $3 million.

That left the overall scores for the season looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,353,892,212
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $1,346,243,354
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $1,297,477,638
  4. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $1,280,673,691
  5. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $1,277,791,402
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $1,257,578,055
  7. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $1,253,528,836
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $1,215,941,564
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $1,193,133,908
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $1,173,221,457
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $1,121,506,158
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $1,115,224,163
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $1,105,530,778
  14. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $1,082,946,408
  15. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $1,080,494,353
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $1,066,304,533

The only change in that list over last week was Vigo Grimborne overtaking I HAS BAD TASTE.  Everybody else held their spots.

And so it goes.  For comparison House Harkonnen, who won the Season Showdown, clocked in with a total of $1,469,103,137 over the last thirteen weeks.

Congrats to Ben for winning the Meta League as well as the MCats Mulitplex League!

Against my own prediction, in which I declared that Pak and Po Huit would put me to shame this time around, I managed to eke out the win in the TAGN league and held third place overall in the Meta League.

Overall, weekly wins were fairly spread out.  Corr and Ben both won three weeks in the MCats League, but only one person there did not win at least one week.

Likewise, in the TAGN league only one person who was in for the whole season did not win a week, with SynCaine winning three of those weeks.

That pretty much wraps up the season.  The front end was dominated by Star Wars, while the back end was owned by Black Panther.  But I think the film that surprised me the most was Jumanji, which has been in the running for week after week and is carrying on into the first week of the Spring season.  I have to give The Greatest Showman in nod in that regard as well.  I don’t know how it keeps hanging on, but there it is yet again alive for another week as other contenders have come and gone.

Star Wars, while it opened strong, was a bit of a disappointment over time at the box office.  You cannot argue with the money it made initially, but it did not last as long in the hunt as the two I mentioned above or Wonder Woman or Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. II from the summer season.  Fans of Star Wars had to see it… once.  But it seemed to leave what I would consider the core fan base a bit underwhelmed, which led to the usual arguments over to whom the series should cater; kids or the long time supporters.  I think the How It Should Have Ended episode of the film sums things up quite nicely… especially the little bit after the end credits.

There were a some cool things the movie could have done, or should have done, but avoided.  Oh well, at least there was no pod racing.

As for next season, I am mostly in favor of carrying on posting.  I was a little bit worried about the poll I took last time, not because it came out against the idea, but because it garnered so few votes.  That seemed like a sign that, at best, people were not reading the posts and, at worst, they were actively driving people away.

However, the poll I took the next day about an actual MMORPG got about the same number of responses, so it looks more like I have about 40 regular readers, having driven everybody else away already, though it could still be possible that various forms of ad block and browser filtering could be eating the polls.  I mean, it doesn’t take much to click on two freakin’ buttons, does it?  People wouldn’t read the poll and say, “I don’t feel like I have enough information or experience to answer that” would they?  That seems like behavior completely contrary to the ethos of the internet.

So I will likely carry on.  A few new people have signed up for the TAGN League, Pak and Po Huit are plotting my downfall, and the regular posting cycle keeps me going in its own way.  You can join the league as well.  I will provide a fresh link in the comments after this goes live.  Look for the post for the first week of the Spring Season on Thursday, just to get it into next month, which is a bit late, so don’t wait to do your picks until then.

Winter Movie League – A Great Showman Indeed

Week five of our Fantasy Movie League has passed and we are now into the cold, bleak reality of January.

This was the second four day league weekend in a row and way back at the end of 2017 it sure seemed like the viable anchor choices were either Star Wars: The Last Jedi or Jumanji.  The list of options looked like this:

Star Wars                  $610
Jumanji                    $588
Pitch Perfect 3            $242
The Greatest Showman       $143
Ferdinand                  $131
Coco                       $110
Darkest Hour               $93
The Shape of Water         $73
Downsizing                 $64
Father Figures             $48
All the Money in the World $40
Wonder                     $32
Molly's Game               $21
Best of the Rest           $21
Lady Bird                  $20

The pricing between Star Wars and Jumanji was close enough that I had to go with Star Wars for the week.  Clearly I was still not getting how big of an alternative Jumanji was for people who had already seen, or who had no plans to see, Star Wars.

Once I had chosen my anchor, then it was time to take a stab at what film might get the best price/performance nod.  There were several options down the list, but for some reason I was attracted to Molly’s Game.  It seemed to be on enough screens that it might turn out the way Darkest Hour had done the previous week.  I eschewed Best of the Rest again on the theory that it there is a movie priced below it, then it really isn’t a viable option, and Lady Bird was a buck less.

However, Molly’s Game left me with a lot of extra budget and I hate to leave that on the table.  Theoretically at least spending all of your budget ought to get you the best result, assuming the base pricing estimates were correct.  Of course, they rarely are so the real game is figuring out where they have gone wrong.  But still I took on a couple of screens of The Greatest Showman, which left me with only enough cash left for a screen of Lady Bird.  I spent my entire $1,000.  Go me!

My Winter Week Five Picks

Then came the New Years weekend.  With the coming of the Saturday estimates it looked like Star Wars was the safe choice, but that my other picks were non-starters, unlikely to get any bonus.

On Sunday things changed at it appeared that Jumanji was going to be the winning anchor, while All the Money in the World looked to be headed for the best price performance prize.  That situation remained through Monday and it wasn’t until the final results were in that the real perfect pick showed itself, six screens of The Greatest Showman and two screens of All the Money in the World.

Winter Week Five Perfect Pick

Still, it was a near run thing.  Five people in the Meta League went with Star Wars, The Greatest Showman, and six screens of All the Money in the World and ended up less than $6 million behind the perfect pick, which bestows a $5 million bonus.  The results for the week looked like this:

  1. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $143,009,764
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $143,009,764
  3. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $143,009,764
  4. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $143,009,764
  5. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $143,009,764
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $122,968,439
  7. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $122,968,439
  8. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $122,968,439
  9. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $122,968,439
  10. Kraut Screens (T) – $118,937,726
  11. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $116,784,975
  12. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $116,784,975
  13. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $113,254,882
  14. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $109,607,034
  15. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $104,277,319
  16. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $101,516,622
  17. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $99,835,373
  18. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $97,874,819
  19. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $69,413,601 (Did not pick)
  20. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $52,813,601 (Did not pick)

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Those five did very well this week even without the perfect pick, with Ben holding on to his overall lead in the Meta League.  My own pick was popular, with four of us in on it, plus variations on it that had Best of the Rest in place of Molly’s Game, which seemed like a coin toss choice to some, adding another pair.

Only one person did not anchor on Star Wars, Kraut Screens, and they secured a reasonable mid-pack finish going with Pitch Perfect 3 with four screens of The Greatest Showman helping them along.

And then we had two players who forgot to pick and who found out that, unlike other titles, Best of the Rest does not roll over automatically from week to week.  So Liore had only Star Wars and a $14 million empty screens penalty while Movies Movies Movies had Star Wars and Ferdinand and a $12 million penalty.

All of which left the overall Meta League scores looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $576,722,491
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $561,231,751
  3. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $531,131,417
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $529,218,248
  5. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $524,316,872
  6. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $518,517,190
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $504,318,127
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $499,795,318
  9. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $493,754,370
  10. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $493,388,292
  11. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $481,537,583
  12. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $467,236,290
  13. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $460,173,147
  14. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $450,535,039
  15. Kraut Screens (T) – $444,428,264
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $437,592,836
  17. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $429,550,797
  18. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $394,038,262
  19. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $221,529,264
  20. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $367,711,555

Five weeks in and Ben has a solid, if not insurmountable, lead versus nearly everybody save for Corr.

The problem with catching up at this point is that the big holiday weekends are now behind us.  Will this first, grim week of January be a bust?  The lineup looks like this:

Jumanji                    $369
Star Wars                  $336
Insidious                  $262
The Greatest Showman       $143 
Pitch Perfect 3            $126 
Molly's Game               $100 
Ferdinand                  $81 
I, Tonya                   $56
Darkest Hour               $52 
Coco                       $50
All the Money in the World $48
The Shape of Water         $32
Downsizing                 $30 
Father Figures             $28
Wonder                     $24

It seems to be the week that Star Wars will be dethroned, but what else looks good on this list?  There are only two new options on the list this week as we finally shed Lady Bird and have no need for a Best of the Rest option.

The first new pick is Insidious: The Last Key, the fourth installment in a horror franchise I had not even heard of up until now.  But the previous three seemed to do well enough in the box office previously to warrant a fourth entry.  However, isn’t facing the first week of the new year horror enough?

And then there is I, Tonya.  As much as I love America’s trailer park sweetheart from the 90s, I am not sure how much nostalgia there really is, comedic or otherwise, for reliving the battle of wounded knee.  After all, we already had Attack of the 5 ft. 2 in. Woman on Showtime more than 20 years back and all the cultural references along the way, from Seinfeld to The Simpsons.  Also, Margot Robbie is too tall to play Tonya.  She lacks the menace of that compact, muscular Mary Lou Retton frame that Tonya had.  But that might be my personal baggage.

So Jumanji seems like the safe anchor for the week.  You can get a two screens of that with plenty of room for filler.  And, with the way the holidays rolled out, a lot of kids are still out of school this week, and they’ve probably all seen Star Wars by this point.  Maybe Coco would be a good filler pick?  And what about Molly’s Game?  Is the Aaron Sorkin dialog good enough to be worth the price?  It is going into wide release this weekend.

Winter Movie League – Darkest Jumanji

The big four day Christmas weekend has come and gone for the winter season of our Fantasy Movie League.

The question of the week was really whether or not Star Wars: The Last Jedi would prevail as the best anchor choice or if one of the week’s new arrivals would take that spot. The options for the week were:

Star Wars                  $815
Jumanji                    $275
Pitch Perfect 3            $251
The Greatest Showman       $110
Downsizing                 $72
Ferdinand                   $67
Father Figures             $54
Coco                       $51
All the Money in the World $31
Wonder                     $28
Justice League             $17
Daddy's Home 2             $20
The Shape of Water         $23
Darkest Hour               $16
Best of the Rest           $15

It was a given that Star Wars would rule the four day box office, but pricing would allow players to pick but a single screen of that.  The other likely anchors, Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3, were both good for three screens.  Would three screens of either beat out one screen of Star Wars?

I went back and forth on that through the week.  Star Wars seemed like the safe play.  Pitch Perfect 3 was capping out the marketing side of the equation by a fair margin.  And then Jumanji, which opened early in the week, seemed to be coming on strong.  As the deadline for picks closed in I opted for safety and went with Star Wars as my anchor.

Meanwhile it was clear by Thursday that the pricing for Darkest Hour was really low and it seemed likely to be the price/performer of the week, so my initial inclination to pick Best of the Rest fell by the wayside.  There was still a fair amount of budget left behind so I put a screen of Downsizing in the mix since that seemed likely to do better than Darkest Hour, even with the bonus.  So my screens looked like this.

My Winter Week Four Picks

I settled on that with about 20 minute left before picks were locked.  And then it was time to see what the weekend would bring.

Saturday looked good, with Star Wars estimates marking it as the winning anchor.  However, I do not call it the “Saturday of false hope” for nothing.  Reality has often changed radically between the Saturday morning estimates and the final score.

Sure enough, come Sunday the balance had tipped in favor of Jumanji.  Star Wars was still strong, but not strong enough, and Pitch Perfect 3 faded and did not come close to being a viable anchor in the end.

The perfect pick for the week ended up being three screens of Jumanji, one screen of Greatest Showman, and four screens of Darkest Hour, a select worth about $191 $215 million.

Winter Week Four Perfect Pick

Nobody in the Meta League picked that.  Most of us anchored on Star Wars, so the four who anchored on Jumanji led the way.  The scores settled out like this:

  1. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M)$186,810,116
  2. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M)$186,810,116
  3. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T)$186,736,142
  4. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T)$171,511,156
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $154,230,311
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $154,230,311
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $151,781,915
  8. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $146,964,536
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $146,964,536
  10. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $120,913,670
  11. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $120,612,642
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $120,243,581
  13. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $119,841,779
  14. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $118,023,711
  15. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $117,892,261
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $117,668,287
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $116,225,055
  18. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $113,081,211
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $110,925,055
  20. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $109,357,237

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Aure got the win for the MCats league while Pak got is for the TAGN league.

Those numbers are not “official” because the Jumanji numbers are still estimates at this point.  Hollywood is mostly off this week, so some numbers take time.  But I can’t wait any longer so that is what I am reporting for now.  I doubt anybody will change in the lineup once the final numbers are in unless Jumanji is way over-estimated.

UPDATE: The final numbers for Jumanji are in and it did even better than estimated.  The ranking above reflects the final numbers.

We also have one new person in the TAGN league as of week 4, making the Meta League a total of 20 in size.

The stratification was those who went with Jumanji at the top, followed by those who went for Star Wars and Darkest hour, in turn followed by those who went with Star Wars and something besides Darkest Hour.  Nobody went with Pitch Perfect 3.

That left the overall Meta League rankings at the end of week four looking like:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M)$433,712,727
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $418,221,987
  3. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M)$408,162,978
  4. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T)$401,732,215
  5. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T)$401,348,433
  6. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $386,208,484
  7. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $383,010,343
  8. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $381,349,688
  9. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $380,133,410
  10. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $355,895,828
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $351,494,606
  12. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $344,267,851
  13. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $341,678,005
  14. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $338,997,819
  15. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $338,357,463
  16. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $331,395,978
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $325,810,538
  18. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $324,614,661
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $315,947,954
  20. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $120,612,642

The Jumanji gap and the bonus from Darkest Hour was enough to shake up the rankings a bit.  It wasn’t enough to shake Corr from the top of the tree however.

UPDATE: Jumanji final numbers shook up the overall ranking putting Ben out front.  The ranking above has been updated.

And now we are off to week five.  Star Wars still looks like a strong anchor while Jumanji looks to be getting punished a bit for exceeding expectations so much in week four.  Likewise for Darkest Hour.  The options for week five are:

Star Wars                  $610
Jumanji                    $588
Pitch Perfect 3            $242
The Greatest Showman       $143
Ferdinand                  $131
Coco                       $110
Darkest Hour               $93
The Shape of Water         $73
Downsizing                 $64
Father Figures             $48
All the Money in the World $40
Wonder                     $32
Molly's Game               $21
Best of the Rest           $21
Lady Bird                  $20

Justice League and Daddy’s Home 2 both fell off the list this week, the latter meaning SynCaine will have to find something else to pick to fill out his screens.  They were replaced by Molly’s Game and Lady Bird, which returns to the list at an odd $20 price, below the Best of the Rest pick. I’m not sure how that works out, but there it is.

The conservative streak in me at this point says Star Wars all the way as an anchor, but I know my mind has been changed on picks as late as Friday morning.  Still, the weekend estimate seems low.  My own informal polling over the holiday weekend ended up with most people I spoke to having not seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet but were planning to see it.  However this is also a dead week, so there was opportunity to see if before the weekend.  We shall see.

Winter Movie League – Jedi Triumphant

The week we had all been waiting for finally arrived for out Winter Fantasy Movie League run.

The Star Wars: The Last Jedi premier weekend promised to be a high rolling weekend for totals.  The options for the week were as follows:

Star Wars - Friday           $823
Star Wars - Saturday         $501
Star Wars - Sunday           $422
Ferdinand                    $157
Coco                         $90
Wonder                       $40
Justice League               $35
The Disaster Artist          $45
Thor: Ragnarok               $25
Daddy's Home 2               $25
Murder on the Orient Express $21
Lady Bird                    $19
The Shape of Water           $18
The Star                     $17
Three Billboards             $14

As expected, Star Wars was split into three days to keep other movie picks viable.  But at that pricing and with the initial estimates the only viable anchor outside of Star Wars seemed to be Ferdinand.

Initially pegged to hit as much as $25 million on its opening weekend, Ferdinand was priced such that it was the obvious pick… if you believed that estimate.  I wasn’t buying it and my skepticism was reinforced by an decline in the estimates for the picture as the week went on.

At least when sites could be bothered to pay Ferdinand a moments notice.  That annoyance of the week was mostly the inability to get much news about other possible pictures in light of all the focus on Star Wars.

My initial, Monday afternoon at 5pm pick was two screens of Sunday Star Wars and six screens of Thor, a selection I did not budge from until Friday morning.  I have long harbored the bias that Friday was a sucker’s play, and the pricing for Friday for Star Wars did little to assuage that feeling.

Then on Friday morning I saw the Thursday night preview numbers come in for Star Wars.  The 7pm to midnight run of the movie brought in about $45 million.

As we learned previously, Thursday night preview numbers get added into the Friday total for FML, so Star Wars was going into Friday, its first full day, with $45 million on the books.  That was enough to get me to change my picks with less than an hour to go.

But then what should the filler be?  I could see that seven screens of Thor or Daddy’s Home 2 would be easy enough.  Biased against the latter, I went with Thor.  And then, seeing how much of my budget was left, I ended up injecting Justice League and The Star into the mix at the cost of two screens of Thor.

My Winter Week Three Picks

That was where I sat when time ran out and the picks were locked.

Then it was time to contend with FML.

For some reason they decided to update their user interface on the biggest week of the season, changing up how information was presented to the user and hiding away something that used to be easy to see; the picks of others.

You could still click on individuals to see what they picked for the week, but previously if would show the whole league listing for the week with all the picks.

That issue got addressed when they put in the first weekend estimates on Saturday morning, but that still left a 24 hour gap where you couldn’t easily eyeball your league’s pick as a whole.  I hope they will fix that before the coming week.  That is the first thing I like to do when the picks get locked, check to see what everybody went with.

And then there was the point in time when they updated the estimates and somebody keyed in $54 million instead of $5.4 million for Wonder and the rankings were suddenly upended.

Things did settle down though and as the results were updated it looked like anchoring on Friday might have been the best call.  My secondary picks however… not so much.  Seven screens of Daddy’s Home 2 were the winning add ons to the Friday anchor, the Perfect pick, which one of the Meta League players got.

Winter Week Three Perfect Pick

So the Meta League scores for the week looked like this come the final numbers:

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $150,374,259
  2. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $126,618,403
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $126,391,492
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $122,295,706
  5. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $122,200,948
  6. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $121,527,861
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $121,260,528
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $119,959,574
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $119,841,499
  10. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $117,530,074
  11. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $117,514,309
  12. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $113,954,953
  13. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $113,556,221
  14. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $113,556,221
  15. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $111,856,907
  16. Kraut Screens (T) – $108,270,492
  17. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $100,930,447
  18. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $92,035,164
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $92,035,164

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

At the top end was Corr with the perfect pick, with Elly in second place with what was my second to last pick… and then I decided I was leaving too much of my budget behind so swapped it out.  That put me in third.

After Corr the top half of the pack was pretty tight, with less that a $10 million gap.  There were a couple of empty screen gambles in that group, including Po Huit, who left two screens unfilled for his pick.

Then things start to tail off.  Overall the rankings followed the general pattern of Friday, then Saturday & Sunday, then Sunday & Sunday, then Saturday only, and finally SynCaine and Liore who both went all-in on Ferdinand.

That led to some changes in the overall season ranking.

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $263,991,676
  2. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $246,902,611
  3. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $239,243,948
  4. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $236,054,049
  5. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $236,045,807
  6. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $234,910,614
  7. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $233,602,345
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $230,221,059
  9. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $229,567,773
  10. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $225,903,099
  11. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $221,434,424
  12. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $221,352,862
  13. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $220,689,176
  14. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $218,314,767
  15. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $218,084,149
  16. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $214,612,291
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $209,585,483
  18. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $206,590,950
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $205,022,899

Corr’s perfect pick was enough to move him from 7th to 1st place overall in the Meta League, pushing ahead of Ben.  On the flip side, SynCaine’s opting for Ferdinand dropped him from 2nd to 14th spot on the list.  My betting on Friday was able to get me from 15th to 9th position, but the pack is still pretty tight.  Corr does not yet have anything like an unassailable lead and a good or bad week for people could still shake up the ordering quite a bit.

Which brings us to week four, the Christmas Holiday weekend which includes Monday in the results.  The options are:

Star Wars                  $815
Jumanji                    $275
Pitch Perfect 3            $251
The Greatest Showman       $110
Downsizing                 $72
Ferdinand                   $67
Father Figures             $54
Coco                       $51
All the Money in the World $31
Wonder                     $28
Justice League             $17
Daddy's Home 2             $20
The Shape of Water         $23
Darkest Hour               $16
Best of the Rest           $15

Star Wars sits at the top again, priced so you can only have one screen of that and some low priced filler.  Is the force that powerful?  I think it might well be and my Monday evening gut pick was anchored on it.  It did an all time top ten Monday take this week scoring $21 million.  Maybe I was sensing that.

But if you’re feeling a disturbance in the force, there are other plays available.  This coming weekend sees a lot of new titles showing up looking to cash in on holiday magic and vacation time.  Jumanji, Pitch Perfect 3, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, Father Figures, and All the Money in the World are new this week.

Meanwhile The Star, Three Billboards, Murder on the Orient Express, Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, and Thor: Ragnarok have all fallen off as options.  Having The Star go missing this week is a bit ironic I suppose.

Then there are the lingering few.  I clearly do not understand the movie going world if Daddy’s Home 2 is not only still on the list, but not even at the bottom yet.  Ferdinand and Coco also seem poised to pick up some kids out of school business.

And then there is the wild card, with Best of the Rest appearing on the picks for $15.  That means whatever other movie out there performs the best will take that spot.  Historically that play seems more likely than not to be the best/price performer since it rewards any film that exceeds a certain amount.  This could be the way The Star works itself back on the list.  A $2 million showing for it would make it viable.

So you have to ask yourself, is this going to be a Star Wars Christmas or not?