Tag Archives: Star Wars

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?

Honest Trailers – Rogue One

Just because UltrViolet’s post about Rogue One at End Game Viable reminded me how great this Honest Trailer was.  I supposed I could have just put this in the comments at his site, but whatever. Both his post and this video contain spoilers.

I still enjoyed the movie… I actually just got my BluRay copy of it… but as with all Star Wars movies, there are issues you just have to deal with.

Also, the How It Should Have Ended video about Rogue One is pretty spiff too.

Random Thoughts about The Force Awakens – Spoilers

Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

Are we clear on that?  If you read further, I will likely spoil key aspects of the movie for you.

SFTFAThe movie is still playing in theaters just about everywhere, so go see it first.


Everybody’s view of the film is influenced by their past experience with the franchise.  I have yet to read a review that wasn’t in somewhat tainted by the relationship the writer already had with the series, though I have seen more than a few that refused to own up to the baggage the author brought with them.

I will try to explain my own baggage.  I didn’t mind the prequels.  I wasn’t one of those people who raged about how George Lucas had destroyed my cherished childhood memories.  Yes, there was a lot to dislike about the prequels.  But I had already had my moment of hate when it came to GL, because I felt Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was the big betrayal.  After Star Wars: The Muppet Movie, I was never as big a fan of the series.  So midi-chlorians were a kick in the nuts, but not the deal breaker it was for a lot of fans who had no problem with Ewoks defeating Storm Troopers with bows and arrows.

General Statement

I like it.  I liked it a lot, enough for my daughter and I to go back and see it a second time.

That isn’t to say I liked it uncritically.  There are aspects of the movie than make me shake my head and groan, choices that I clearly would not have made.  But in the totality of the film, I liked a lot more than I disliked, it far exceeded my low expectations, and I had a lot of fun.

I’d go see it again.

I will admit that having watched the George Lucas prequels and remastered original trilogy, where the added CGI bits get more annoying with each viewing, in the run up to this movie helped set up a situation where The Force Awakens was going to sit favorably with me.

After the cut, some more specific thoughts.  Last chance to avoid spoilers.

Continue reading

Why Not This George?

The day has arrived.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens kicks off the dominion of Disney over the Star Wars empire.  Here on the west coast, operation Box Office Domination officially kicks off at 7pm, when theaters are cleared to roll the first sitting.   A long and profitable reign it will likely be.  The movie has made more than $100 million already.

Seriously, who throws $100 million at something that isn’t even released yet?


I mean, I barely saw any ads for the movie itself on television… there wasn’t any room for them with all these other companies throwing money at Disney so THEY could do a Star Wars commercial featuring their products.  It was a bit difficult to tell exactly what, for example, Dodge cars had to do with Star Wars, though I did like the black and white cars representing Vader and Storm Troopers version they ran at one point.

We’re caught up in the excitement at our house… somewhat.  We are fans, though not perhaps huge fans.  I own three versions of the original trilogy (VHS, DVD, and BluRay), which represent, if nothing else, three different Han and Greedo encounters.

Part of the warm up for the new movie has been to go back and watch some of the previous ones.  We skipped the first two (the Cinema Sins review of Episode I and Episode II were enough for me), opting for what is arguably the best of the prequels, Episode III –  Revenge of the Sith.  Also, probably the most difficult to script, since it had to start where Episode II left off and end with everything lined up nicely for the original Star Wars.

But it was watching that classic, Episode IV, so called, that I started to cringe a bit.  The extra additions, the CGI pasted on to the original movie, really hasn’t worn well with me.  I was “meh” on it when I first saw it, and it grates a little harder with each time I see it.  Even my wife said that she didn’t remember the movie having quite so much bad green screen in it.  I could see cleaning up the frames and where you could see the matting, but the extra dirt on the storm troopers or having them ride fat beasts that somehow leave no tracks in the sand, that just seems like a waste.

All the more so since there are some things in the movie that really make it show its age.  Why couldn’t George Lucas have gone after that?  No, I am not talking about the horrible range of side burns that seemed to be so popular in a galaxy far, far away.

But on you it looks good!

But on you it looks good!

Bad taste transcends time.

I am more on about the computer graphics effects.  I can attest that the read out of the death star plans was the state of the art back in 1977, but by the time George Lucas decided to wreck remaster his originals, he could have done a lot better.  I am especially surprised he did not opt to change the targeting computer readouts during the attack on the death star.  You know, this bit:

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

I could see that maybe redoing the horrible old “the death star approacheth!” table display might have been some challenge, what with people being on screen and the angle changing, but the targeting computer readout is literally on screen by itself.  Something super up to date and swishy could have been injected into there.  Yes, the die hard fan boys would have screamed about that, but given what else George was bent on changing, I think this might have been forgiven.  Instead we have CGI road traffic in Mos Eisley trying way too hard to be comedic.

Anyway, that was my heretical thought for this day.  And it is all in Disney’s court now.