Sometimes shows get so overhyped that if you don’t watch them right away, you can’t help but be disappointed. After weeks of hearing great things about Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show, I figured it wasn’t going to be as wonderful as everyone had been exclaiming.
But it’s actually a damn fine show.
The series centers around Dev—played by Ansari—and his friends navigating jobs and single life in New York City. That sounds like pretty well-worn territory—and it is—but Ansari’s take on it is his own, and the result is a series with a unique perspective.
Over ten episodes, MoN tackles topics from immigrant parents and their entitled children, sexism, and the under representation of minorities in movies and television—not exactly standard sitcom fare. But the tone never gets preachy or condescending, and these weighty issues turn into extremely funny scenarios.
The main story arc throughout the season is Dev’s relationship with Rachel. Their coupling has an auspicious start, and through its ups and downs, it always feel authentic. Ansari and Noël Wells, the actress who plays Rachel, have great chemistry together. Neither character is perfect, and when they argue, it’s not always clear who is right and who is wrong. It’s complicated, especially when they get into serious issues of commitment. I won’t give anything away, but I personally found it to be a gritty and compelling look at modern love.
The show is funny, dramatic, serious, and silly. The acting by some of the supporting characters leaves a little to be desired, but overall the series is extremely entertaining. And yes, it does live up to the hype.
This isn’t about what I thought of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I already wrote that post. This is about one of the greatest days of my life.
This post is dedicated to Eli on the occasion of his sixth (!) birthday.
But before we get there, we have to rewind the clock a bit, back to October, 2012. (And you’ll have to forgive me if you’ve heard this one before.)
There are plenty of people who had it much worse than we did after Hurricane Sandy. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, and families were uprooted. So it may seem petty to complain about the fact that we didn’t have power for two weeks. But the fact is that it was pretty uncomfortable living in a house without electricity or heat. It was particularly cold that fall, and we could see our breath inside the house. We were all miserable, and I was especially cranky.
One day, I got a text from my friend Adam asking how we were holding up. Then he asked if I had heard that Disney bought Lucasfilm, and that Episode VII was coming out in 2015. I politely told Adam not to mess with me—I was cold, frustrated, and not in the mood. He texted back that he was serious.
My cell phone was about to die, and I had no way to charge it. I should have conserved the battery for an emergency, but I had to know if it was true. I looked it up and saw that the news was real.
For the first time in days, I smiled.
I looked right at Eli and did some quick math. He’d be 5 years old in 2015. The perfect age to watch a new Star Wars movie.
I realized that Eli and I were going to see a brand new Star Wars movie. Together.
I went from being completely miserable to feeling utterly giddy in under a minute.
Jump ahead to 2015. When each new trailer came out, I’d wait to watch it with Eli. He had become as obsessed with Star Wars as his father, and we could not wait for the new movie. I came up with a plan to see it that sounded crazy to others but made perfect sense to me: The movie was coming out on a Friday, but since Eli was too young for a midnight screening, he’d have to miss school that day and I’d take off from work. We’d go to the first morning screening we could find—probably around 10am—go somewhere for lunch and to talk about the movie, then go back to the theater and watch it again.
The perfect plan!
Or it might have been.
Before the final trailer debuted, the poster and new details about the movie’s release also were revealed. As I had been doing, I waited until I was with Eli to look at the one-sheet and read the information. We analyzed the poster, then I read the release details out loud. Advance tickets would be on sale soon. Though the movie was officially coming out on Friday, December 18th, there would be sneak previews the night of Thursday, December 17th. And on that Thursday, some theaters would have a Star Wars movie marathon, where they’d show all six previously released films followed by The Force Awakens.
Eli stopped me as I read that last part.
That’s what he wanted to do.
Being a sensible, responsible parent, I told him that was way too much for a kid his age. He’d have to get up super early, and that’s more visual stimulation than one kid should endure in a single day.
Besides, we already had our kooky, movie-lunch-movie plan. We could still do that. Right?
Wrong. Eli was insistent. I think he associates the word “marathon” with something good because Nick’s Marathon means lots and lots of video-games. I explained that the word refers specifically to a very long race, and generally about an act of extreme endurance. Most marathons aren’t fun; in fact, they’re usually quite difficult to finish.
Try as I might, I couldn’t convince Eli that this Star Wars movie marathon was a bad idea.
The kid was determined, and ultimately, I gave in.
You can call me a bad dad. Say that I should have put my foot down. Tell me that I spoil Eli. Maybe you’re right. But here’s my son, so enthusiastic about something that I’m passionate about, and he loves it because I love it. How could I say no?
Besides, I laid out some ground rules. If we were really going to do this, then he had to follow them all. First, when he came home from school the day before the marathon (Wednesday), he’d have dinner and go straight to bed. Like, immediately. On Thursday he’d be waking up 5 hours earlier than normal, so the night before he’d go to bed 4 hours earlier. When we were at the theater, he’d have to sleep at some point. If the chairs weren’t comfortable, we could go for a ride and he could nap in the car, or worst case we could come home. It wouldn’t be ideal, but I wanted Eli to understand that I would pull the plug on the whole thing if it got to be too much.
I called the theater several times to get all the details ahead of time. Episode I would start at 3:30am, Episode VII at 7pm. It was going to be a long and exhausting day.
On Thursday, December 17, 2015, my alarm went off at 1:45am. I jumped in the shower, packed up a ton of snacks, and woke up Eli. We had a little drive to the theater, so I told him he could go back to sleep in the car. But he couldn’t. He was too excited. I couldn’t blame him. I had barely slept the night before, but I was totally wired. It was Star Wars Day!
I was worried that the theater would be packed by the time we got there, and we’d end up with crappy seats towards the front of the theater. That’s never good, but it’s especially awful when you’re going to be staring at the screen for 18 hours. But we lucked out—we were able to grab two seats in the middle of the back row. Our spot claimed, we checked out the “swag” we got as we entered the theater. It wasn’t much—lanyards with the names of the 7 movies, and a piece of paper that detailed the “special offers” we were entitled to. Two dollar coffees and Red Bulls. Specials on snacks and hot dogs at the concession stand. A collectible 200 oz. bucket of popcorn that came with free refills.
Wait—two HUNDRED ounces? That had to be a typo, right?
(We got ours after Episode I and refilled it after Episode V, if you were wondering.)
Eli and I stayed awake through Episode I, but I definitely nodded off for a bit during Episode II, and I’m pretty sure Eli did, too. After that movie, the theater served a special breakfast buffet at a mini-restaurant/snack bar they have next to the concession stand. It wasn’t gourmet, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.
Throughout the day, Eli made friends with the guy dressed up as Lando, the people in their Chewbacca onesies, and various other Star Wars enthusiasts. All of these people were impressed at how Eli was able to hang in there for such a long day. And I had to agree—it was impressive. He was able to sit still for almost an entire day (quite a feat for a 5 and a half year old boy), he listened when I told him it was time to stop with the snacks and eat real food (like hot dogs and pizza), and he never once complained. Yes, he loves movies and Star Wars in particular, but this marathon still required a healthy amount of stamina, and Eli handled it beautifully.
We both slept again towards the end of Episode V, when the fatigue was definitely too much to fight. We missed the climactic “No, I am your father” moment, but we’d seen it before, and it was worth it to make sure that we were wide-awake when Episode VII started.
And when the opening crawl started on The Force Awakens, Eli and I had enough excitement, joy, and adrenaline to carry us through a movie that we had both been waiting years to see.
We stayed in that one building from 2:30am to 9:30pm that night. In the car ride home, we discussed everything we loved about the new movie. After one of my questions, there was silence. Eli was tired, and who could blame him? Besides, we’d have plenty of time to analyze every little thing about the flick for weeks to come. We’ve seen the movie two more times since that day, and yes, we’re still talking about it.
When I ask Eli about the marathon, he says his favorite parts are a few choice parts of The Force Awakens and eating the popcorn cheese topping without the popcorn. It’s hard for me to pick specific moments, because I was euphoric throughout the entire day. I know that December 17, 2015 is a day I will always cherish. I truly hope it’s something that Eli remembers, too.
Happy Birthday to my little Star Wars fanatic!
To call Star Wars: The Force Awakens the most anticipated movie of all-time sounds like an overstatement, but it’s really not. For 32 years fans have wanted a sequel to Return of the Jedi. Yes, we got the prequels, but us die-hards have wanted to see the further adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han up on the big screen. Since the 2012 announcement that Episode VII was coming, the wait has been pretty unbearable. But now that the movie has (finally) been released, does it live up to the massive expectations?
In a word, yes.
I’ve been a defender of the prequels, but it’s hard to argue that those movies didn’t have the same magic of the original trilogy. TFA recaptures everything that made Episodes IV – VI classics. There’s humor, warmth, adventure, suspense and drama all perfectly mixed together, and bottom line: it’s simply an amazingly *fun* film.
Now I’m going to start getting into specifics, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, a) you really need to immediately, and b) you might want to stop reading now.
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So, right off the bat I should say that my theories about the movie were wrong (or at the very least they remain unconfirmed) , and I am completely fine with that. I’m still convinced that we need one new character in this sequel trilogy with the last name Skywalker, and I think that could be Rey. Yes, I’ve heard the theories that she and Kylo Ren are brother and sister, but that doesn’t seem right to me. How could neither Han nor Leia say anything to her about it? To me it’s more likely that she’s the daughter Luke never knew he had.
And speaking of Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo, I liked the fact that they didn’t save that reveal for the very end of the movie—getting it out in the open early helped the film maintain a brisk pace. Of course there are still many questions about how Ben was lured to the dark side by Supreme Leader Snoke, and why he resented his father so much. But I’m confident that we’ll get that backstory filled in, either by the next movies or through expanded universe stories. And as for THAT moment, when Kylo Ren kills one of the most beloved movie characters ever, it stung even if it wasn’t a complete shock. The line was definitely drawn—Luke refused to kill his father as he rejected turning to the dark side, but Kylo Ren committed patricide as his final step away from the light. While I’m sad to see Han go, the baton needed to be passed to a new generation of heroes.
And you just gotta love Rey, Finn, and Poe, right? They’re instantly relatable and likeable heroes, and they all have great chemistry together. (Though to be fair we didn’t get to see Poe and Rey share the screen yet.) The groundwork has been established for a Rey-Finn romance, and I loved that Rey was never the damsel in distress—in fact, she came to rescue Finn a few times. They both appear to have a connection to the Force, though Rey is clearly more in tune with her growing powers. And while I would have liked to have seen more of R2-D2 and C-3PO, I absolutely adore BB-8.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically talk about Luke. As mentioned earlier, my theory on Luke’s absence from the movie’s poster and trailers was off-base, but I appreciated that his disappearance was the very first line of the opening crawl. I’m extremely curious to see what kind of man Luke has become, but I am also amazed at how Mark Hamill is credited as one of the movie’s stars, when he only is on screen for a few seconds and doesn’t utter a single word! Remember the photo of the cast at the first script read-through? How must Mark have felt when they got through the entire script and he realized that he didn’t have any dialogue? Poor guy…
If I had to complain about anything with TFA, it’s how closely the plot mirrors that of A New Hope, specifically with Starkiller Base. I get that it’s an evolution of what came before, but the ability to blow up a planet—or even an entire planetary system—is beginning to feel like well-worn territory. That said, I’m confident that episodes VIII and IX will be able to deliver unexpected twists and turns.
And, not surprisingly, I can’t wait to see them!
It’s that time of year when Americans spend an entire Thursday gorging ourselves silly on turkey, stuffing, and pies. (And, no matter what some people try and tell you, vegetables are COMPLETELY OPTIONAL and TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.)
And somewhere in the middle of all that gluttony, we’re also supposed to spend a little time reflecting on what we’re thankful for.
So, without further ado, here’s a few of the things that have my gratitude on Thanksgiving in 2015:
So by now, we’ve all seen the official poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and wondered to ourselves (or, who are we kidding, aloud): “Where is Luke Skywalker in all this?”
In the latest (and final) trailer, we only get one shot of Luke’s robotic hand on R2D2. In a previous trailer, we heard his voice, but never saw his face.
This seems to be a deliberate choice. So let’s review what we know.
Director J.J. Abrams is a huge advocate for secrecy surrounding his movies, and he goes to great lengths to avoid having big spoilers hit before his movies are released.
We also know that Mark Hamill is in the movie.
Not only that, but Abrams’ desire to explore the character of Luke was why he signed on to direct the movie, even though he was reluctant at first.
Hamill showed off his new bearded look, and many fans assumed Luke would be a wise old Obi Wan type in the new movie.
But what if that’s not the case?
What if, after the Battle of Endor, the wars in the stars just kept going and going (as suggested by this new, officially canonical story):
During the Clone Wars, there were many Jedi to help keep the peace.
But in the era of the original trilogy, there was just Luke.
(Technically, there is another, Leia, but we never actually saw her pick up a lightsaber or use the Force, and she may opt to use her skills as a diplomat and politician when it comes to rebuilding the Republic.)
It stands to reason that ole Luke would have picked up more than his share of battle scars over the years.
Anakin Skywalker survived a horrific injury with the aid of a great deal of machinery.
Maybe his son has also had to rely on similar technology to stay alive.
In other words, the Luke we meet in The Force Awakens may look less like this:
And more like this:
Luke is tired. He is battle weary. He can’t save the galaxy all by himself anymore. And so, somehow, he “awakens” the Force to find a new generation of Jedi.
Unfortunately, doing so also stirs the dark side, thus creating a man obsessed with the legacy of Darth Vader.
When Kylo Ren says he wants to finish what Vader started, maybe he means ruling the galaxy with an iron fist (and a badass cross-guard lightsaber).
Or maybe he means that he wants to be the one to finish off Luke.
Regardless, Luke’s new look, “more machine now than man,” may be a big reveal in Episode VII, which is why we haven’t seen his face in the poster or trailers.
Hey, it’s just a theory. Watch the trailer again and comment with your theories about Luke!
This past Saturday, the Mets won the National League East for the first time in nine years. And while making the playoffs is always an accomplishment, it means even more in a year when no one expected them to.
Well, almost no one.
At the start of the season, the Washington Nationals were the favorites to win the division. Hell, lots of professional prognosticators predicted they would win the 2015 World Series. And the Mets? They were lucky to be considered an afterthought.
When Sports Illustrated made their predictions, the Mets weren’t mentioned as contenders at all— every one of their writers has the Nationals winning the division.
Over at ESPN, the Nationals were also heavy favorites, with only Pedro Gomez being bold enough to say the Mets would win the second Wild Card berth.
An article published at MLB.com said:
“Our experts concur that the Nats are a heavy favorite to win their division a second straight year, with the Marlins a distant second.”
Over at Grantland, six writers made six different predictions, and not one included the Mets even making the playoffs. A full third of their experts had the Marlins winning the wild-card, NL pennant, and the World Series. Though it should be noted that though Mallory Rubin didn’t include them in his picks, he did list them as his “Surprise Team.”
The Guardian went in-depth on the Mets’ struggles, and while writer David Lengel said that the Mets could actually do some damage this year, he still predicted the Nationals would take the division, “no problem.”
But one man had true vision. Sportswriter Bill Madden of the New York Daily News—way back on April 4—foresaw a world where the Mets would win the division, thanks mainly to the team’s starting pitching, bullpen, and above all else, their depth.
If I was Bill Madden, I would be yelling, “I told ya so” at the top of my lungs every chance I got.
It’s been an amazin’ season so far, and hopefully us diehard fans will get to celebrate three more times before all is said and done.
For this year’s summer vacation, we took the family to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And despite the long journey there and back, we all had a wonderful time.
We’d never been to the Outer Banks before, and that was kind of the point. Courtney mentioned that we have fallen into something of a routine with our trips, going back to the same places time and again. And there’s a reason for that—there are spots we like and family members we regularly want to visit. That will always be the case, but it’s also fun to mix things up and explore new destinations. We’d heard good things about the Outer Banks, so we resolved ourselves to rent a house down there with some friends. (Unfortunately one family had to back out, which meant less little playmates.)
The roughest part of vacationing in the Outer Banks is actually getting there. We decided to drive because even using the nearest airports would still have required legnthy car trips. So we bit the bullet, and left for North Carolina at 3:30 a.m. In the morning.
Yeah. That sucked. There were definitely stretches that felt a lot like this, and I think the next time we want to do a similar vacation, based around a beach and a house rental, we’ll stay closer to home.
That said, we were all thrilled once we got to our destination. The house was beautiful, complete with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and a hot tub on the balcony. There was also a pool inside the residential community, and Eli loved going to “the clubhouse” for a swim.
The kids really got a kick out of the beach, which was very different from the one we usually go to. See, we typically frequent North Shore beaches, which—because they’re on the Long Island Sound and not the ocean—don’t offer much in terms of real waves. That’s not always a bad thing, especially when you’ve got small kids. But both Eli and Grace really got a kick out of the tide. Eli loved jumping in, over, and even under the waves, and had his first taste of boogie boarding. Grace was a bit more hesitant, but she liked sitting on the sand as the tide rolled in, and jumping over the waves with a little help from me.
(Yes, we were well aware of the reports of shark sightings in North Carolina, which is why we never ventured too far out into the water and were always extremely vigilant.)
The kids had played mini-golf before, but Eli became borderline obsessed with it this trip. We went to a course by the house, and he immediately wanted to go again. There was another dinosaur-themed course, and with his recent fascination with all things “Jurassic” (which began when he played LEGO Jurassic World at The Ronald McDonald House), stopping there became a must. I also took Eli for his very first non-Mario go-kart ride, which he loved (of course).
There was also an aquarium where we did actually come face-to-face with sharks, as well as some adorable turtles. We went crab fishing, and man, those buggers seem nasty. There was a great deal of ice cream consumed. We climbed 200+ stairs to the top of a lighthouse. Naps were taken by everyone. And I like to think that we all got the relaxing vacation we all needed.
A few miscellaneous thoughts:
It’s happening! It’s finally, really happening!
At this past weekend’s D23 fan conference in California, Disney chairman Bob Iger confirmed what had long been suspected: that Disneyland and Disney World are getting massive, new, Star Wars-themed expansions.
Called Star Wars Land (obviously), these areas will each be an astonishing 14 acres, which makes them the largest “land” expansion for any Disney park anywhere. The biggest question right off the bat is what kind of rides these lands will have, and so far, only two have been announced: one that lets you pilot the Millenium Falcon, and another that puts you in a battle sequence from the ST era. (The sequel trilogy, starting with this year’s The Force Awakens.) Of course, with 14 acres to work with, it seems fairly obvious that more attractions will be coming down the road.
Iger also said that the entire Star Wars Land experience will be “in story,” meaning that the people who work at the stores, restuarants, and the cantina will all be in character. Which sounds, quite frankly, totally freaking awesome. I mean, SOME PEOPLE already have had their picture taken with R2D2, but now everyone can meet droids, Wookies, Ewoks, tauntauns, Twi’leks, and maybe even a Kowakian monkey lizard!
(Also somewhat lost in the shuffle with this huge news was the fact that Disney also announced a Toy Story Land will also be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. As I mentioned after our visit to the California Adventures park in Anaheim, having large theme lands based around a popular franchise is a great idea, and allows for a more immersive experience than just a single ride.)
There’s no timetable on when these new Star Wars lands will open, but in the meantime Disney is revamping the Star Wars features they currently have in their parks, with a new “Landing Bay,” an update to Star Tours, and by rebranding Space Mountain as Hyperspace Mountain. (Get it?) That’s also great, but it pales in comparison to the huge new expansions coming… eventually. Whenever that day comes, I know at least two Noahs who will be foaming at the mouth to be some of the first people through the gate of Star Wars Land.
As far as cult classics go, you really can’t do much better than 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. The film featured many alumns of MTV’s The State, an absolutely brilliant sketch comedy show, and it centered on the last day of summer camp, set at a Maine camp in 1981. In some ways, it’s a sendup of other summer camp flicks like Meatballs, but it’s also just really bizarre and amazing. The movie was barely released in theaters, but it found a following on DVD, and director David Wain talked about doing a prequel for some time.
The idea of that actually happening seemed tough, mainly because many of the actors in the original movie have gone on to superstardom, including Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Bradley Cooper. Would all of these big names really commit to doing a follow-up to a project they did when they were first starting out?
It turns out they would.
The entire cast of the original, and many other big names like Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, and Weird Al Yankovic (!) signed on for the prequel series: 8 episodes of TV genius, now streaming on Netflix.
Many of these actors were far too old to be playing teenagers in 2001, and now they’re playing slightly younger versions of themselves 15 years later. It’s preposterous, but it works, in part because they all still look pretty youthful. Yes, there is one actor who stands out because he looks different, but honestly, can we blame the guy for, ya know, aging like a normal human being?
Not only are all of the original actors back, but so is the spirit and sensibility of the movie. This time around, the focus is on the first day of camp, and we get some backstory on the characters from the movie. How did McKinley and Ben get together? Has Gail always been so quick to fall in love? And how did there come to be a sentient can of vegetables? Sure, these are not burning questions that fans had been clamoring for answers to. But the series handles them in stride, and never takes a single origin story too seriously. I’m not sure how much people who haven’t seen the movie would appreciate these things, but if you’re able to commit to watching 8 half hour episodes on Netflix, you can also watch the 97 minute movie, also available on Netflix.
And yes, you should watch the movie and the series, as they are both damn close to comedic perfection.