Monday Morning Movie Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Saturday evening my neighbor invited me over to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) on his outdoor inflatable screen.  My neighbor, his wife, his son, and I had a blast watching this classic under the stars.

Raiders is one of those films that has so many iconic scenes, I sometimes forget the actual order of events.  I experience the same sensation with the original Star Wars (1977) film, which I also watched outdoors with my neighbor and his family:  I know the broad strokes of the story and all of the memorable moments, but I am always amazed by how much I have forgotten between viewings.

I don’t know if anyone else experiences this sensation when watching these modern classics, but I think it accounts, in part, for their enduring freshness (even if Star Wars looks like the 1970s in a samurai-western space opera).  Every viewing feels, in a small way, like seeing the film for the first time.  I suspect it’s due in part to the young age at which I first saw these flicks, and the marked but incomplete impressions they left upon my young mind.

But enough navel-gazing!  Raiders stands the test of time, and I was reminded again how great Hollywood blockbusters used to be.

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Phone it in Friday XXXVII: Heroes of Endor

LEGO has gone woke.  Actually, they’ve been woke for awhile, but they released an “A-Z of Awesome” of fan-built sets to push wacky gender ideology on their consumers.  A host of LEGO fans with alphabet soup “identities” built the sets (which I doubt will be made available as purchasable sets, because most of them are not that good or creative).

If child grooming among the LGBTQIA2+etc. community isn’t a thing, as our pedophilic elites insist (methinks too much), why are these queer activists pushing so hard to market “alternative lifestyles” to children?  In the past we could at least isolate this indoctrination to public schools.  Sure, a four-year old might see their teacher put a condom on a banana (it’s hyperbole, folks, to prove a point), but they weren’t going home and building the “4K Sex Ed Classroom” LEGO playset.

Nothing, it seems, is sacred, even my beloved LEGOs.

Now, some might say, “Tyler, you’ve gotsta stop feeding the beast.”  Honestly, the sheer expense of LEGOs—which have embraced inflationary pricing and jacked up the prices on their sets even further—is probably the bigger reason to scale back the hobby.  I can avoid a great deal of the LGBTQIA2+etc. foolishness, at least for now.

Honestly, though, I’m just a hypocrite.  What can I say?  I like LEGOs.  If I avoided every product from every company engaged in civilizationally self-destructive behavior, I’d be living an ascetic life without Internet access.  Naturally, there’s some happy middle ground between those two extremes, but as much as I abhor their policies, I can’t resist the the sweet, sweet hit of those little plastic bricks.

Which brings me to the real point of today’s post:  I had the pleasure of building the LEGO set Battle of Endor Heroes (40623) in their popular Brickheadz series.  It MSRPs at around $40, which is typical for a Brickheadz set, which charges around $10 per figurine, or $15 or a regular-sized figurine and a half-size one.  This set consists of three full-size figurines from Return of the Jedi (1983)—Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Lando Calrissian—and two half-sized ones—R2-D2 and Wicket, the feisty Ewok.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Best Films: #1: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

As far as I can tell, the very first installment of Monday Morning Movie Review—simply “Monday Movie Review” back then—was a review of The Empire Strikes Back (1980).  I wrote it on 28 September 2020, which seems like just a few days ago.  Pretty crazy to think it’s been almost three years since this blog started running movie reviews on Mondays.

Indeed, in the interest of saving time (today is my school’s big Spring Concert, and I’m chaperoning a trip to Washington, D.C., later in the week, so time is at a premium), I’m quoting extensively from that original review.  Work smarter, not harder, eh?

Growing up as a chubby kid in the 1990s, I was a huge Star Wars fan.  That was long before the new trilogy retconned/soft-rebooted everything and destroyed the legacy of classic Star Wars, and even before the prequels made the flicks even more cartoonishly ridiculous.  I’m not even a huge critic of the prequels—they were never going to live up to the perfection of the original trilogy—and I enjoyed some of the fun world-building and thorny trade blockades of Phantom Menace (1999; although that’s all a bit too technocratic for a space opera).  But the magic of the original trilogy is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s based on rich storytelling and exceptionally strong character development, with nearly every major character growing and evolving over the course of the three films.

So it is that I would argue that The Empire Strikes Back is not just the best Star Wars film, but the best film of all time.

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Phone it in Friday XXXIV: Obi-Wan’s Starfighter

After my LEGO habit hit a fever-pitch in 2022, I’ve tried to cool off a bit.  I’m a grown man with important things to do!

… but the appeal of building a good LEGO set is hard to ignore, and I can’t resist a good sale.  So it was that I picked up LEGO Star Wars 75333: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi Starfighter:

This set appealed to me right away.  The prequel trilogy is obviously inferior to the original trilogy (and both are vastly better than the execrable sequel trilogy), but I always loved Obi-Wan’s little Starfighter, and his trip to that planet with the long-necked aliens.  I particularly liked that I’d get one of the long-necked aliens (Taun We) and a plucky astromech droid (R4-P17).

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Star Wars Fans

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

One of the highlights of my family’s recent trip to Disney World was the large Star Wars area in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Disney may have wrecked the franchise with the sequel trilogy, but the silver lining of The Mouse’s acquisition is that fans can now walk around an area that looks like the films’ dingy alleys and byways.

They also hosted two incredible rides, one which allows flight crews of up to six to operate the Millennium Falcon as pilots, gunners, and engineers; and another immersive experience that sees riders taken captive by The First Order (for old fans, this organization takes the place of the Empire in the sequel trilogy).

This area also attracts a lot of Star Wars fan.  Observing their behavior in this grown-up fantasy world was quite interesting—and humorous.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: #2: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

We’re nearly at the bottom, and my pick for this week—2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—probably is a bit of a giveaway as to my Number 1 pick.

The Rise of Skywalker is the final film in the Star Warssequel trilogy,” itself a bloated mess of plot holes, Mary Sues, wooden characters, and destroyed legacies.  It’s not the worst film in the trilogy, but it’s pretty dang close.

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Deposing Bib Fortuna… with LEGO

Remember Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt’s oily Twi’lek consigliere with the tentacles coming out of his head?  Thanks to the power of imagination and LEGOs, you can now roleplay his downfall!

Like any self-respecting man-child, I’d been lusting after set #75326, Boba Fett’s Throne Room, for some time.  To me, it’s Jabba the Hutt’s iconic throne room, just without the lovably disgusting, sluggish crime lord.

Unfortunately, this bad boy MSRPs for a whopping $100.  Fortunately, my brother found it at Costco in an example of mercantile serendipity—he didn’t even know I wanted it—for $60.  Finding any new LEGO set for 40% off is like, well, finding forty bucks on the ground—it doesn’t really happen.

I finally got around to building this bad boy over the weekend, and it was a pretty fun build.  It wasn’t as deeply satisfying as some other sets I’ve done, but it also didn’t become tedious.  All in all, it was pretty fun to put together, and I love the variety of mini-figures—especially the porcine Gamorrean Guard and the aquatic Quarren.

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Embracing the Dark Side… with LEGO

Regular readers will have surmised that, in spite being thirty-seven-years old, I am very much a kid at heart.  Often, I am also a kid in practice.

I was blessed to receive two incredible LEGO sets for Christmas:  the Imperial Shuttle (#75302) and the Darth Vader Helmet (#75304).  These sets are 660+ and 800+ pieces, respectively, and are probably the largest LEGO sets I’ve done.  I did have the legendary Black Seas Barracuda (#10040) as a kid, which is nearly 900 pieces, but I never built it—my older brother did.

Both of these builds were deeply satisfying.  I was sick with a low-grade fever and a sore throat (but tested negative for The Virus, no worries) the week after Christmas, and was generally enduring some low times besides the sickness, so I had plenty of time to dive into both of these kits—and was eager to do so.

Here, I’ll share some pictures of the builds, and discuss a bit of what it was like constructing them.

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