MR. F – #20



Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – A Movie Review (No Spoilers)

So, if you’ve been keeping up, you know getting to this movie was a bit of an odyssey for me.  Finally, though, Sunday night, I got to view it for the first time.  (And yes, there WILL be a second time … probably a third as well.)

I’m NOT going to spoil anything for you, so don’t be worried.  I’ll say this, through the first half of the movie I felt a bit … fidgety.  I’d heard great things from friends, people I trust completely, and the film simply wasn’t living up to their hype.  I started to wonder if I perhaps missed something vital that they appreciated.

And then the second half of the movie happened.

And it was perfect.

As a Star Wars fan, Rogue One’s finale did everything I hoped it would do and even more.  It exceeded my expectations.

You see, it did this funny little thing some stories do called “pacing.”  By the end of the movie, I realized it felt a bit slow in the beginning because they were establishing character, motive, plot … you know, the kind of stuff we’re not all that accustomed to experiencing from big budget movies anymore.  When the credits rolled, I realized I cared deeply for each and every one of the main characters from Rogue One because it took its time and gave each of those characters defining moments to make us relate to them, care about them, and appreciate them.

Rogue One also felt unique because, more than any other Star Wars movie, it really felt like an actual war unfolded before our eyes.  We saw the real repercussions of the battles, we witnessed atrocities committed by both sides, we watched as idealistic sacrifices unfolded.  From an emotional standpoint, I think Rogue One is perhaps the most potent of all Star Wars films.  I don’t know – I could still just be caught up in the moment.

I also want to say that there are so many GREAT moments in the last fifteen minutes of the movie – no Star Wars fan will go disappointed, I promise.  I wish I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to spoil anything.  Let’s just say this: Rogue One may be a standalone story, but it is far more relevant to the overall mythos than I ever expected.

I had a lot of issues with the prequels.  One such issue dealt with the fact that everything looked so sterile, glossy, and clean.  It did not match the griminess of A New Hope.  Well, let me tell you, Rogue One definitely “looks” like A New Hope.  It’s pretty amazing, in fact.  With even the smallest details, Rogue One absolutely fits A New Hope’s universe, more than the prequels ever did.

Though it feels a little slow in the beginning, Rogue One completely satisfies by story’s end and exceeded my already lofty expectations.  Though the action and special effects are mesmerizing, the real magic of this movie is the story and the characters.  This is a far more emotional tale than I thought possible.  Be patient as you watch it – it takes its time and it delivers.  Oh, man, do those last twenty minutes deliver.


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A Daddy’s Dilemma: The Story Of Star Wars, My Daughter, and a Christmas Recital

Little has tested my mettle as a father like the recent decision made by my four-year-old daughter.  This daughter, whom I love with all my heart, has never before been willing to participate in any kind of recital, play, or even–until mere months ago–photographs.  Imagine my utter panic when she announced that this year would be unlike any other in that she would like to take part in her daycare’s Christmas recital.

I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, I said “utter panic.”

Ordinarily I would be overjoyed at the prospect of my four-year-old defeating her reluctance to appear in public performances, especially those captured by photographic means.  Normally I would encourage her, support her, and champion her every step of the way.

Unfortunately, there is one small, minor, miniscule, tiny, minute problem.  You see, her star debut happens to coincide with Star Wars: Rogue One.  To be more precise, it occurs at the exact time printed on the advance tickets I bought for Rogue One’s opening night.

I am something of  Star Wars fan.  I grew up with the original trilogy, made lightsabers out of wrapping paper tubes, and nearly lost my sanity when I somehow misplaced my Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.  You know, the one in the black outfit with the green lightsaber.  (My father found him several months later in the garden.  To this day, I blame my older brother [but don’t tell him I said that].)  I have been looking forward to Rogue One for an eternity.  When tickets were announced, I stalked my favorite theater’s website waiting for them to go on sale.  This theater has reserved seating, so they tend to release their tickets sporadically, one day at a time.  It can be maddening.  However, my efforts were rewarded.  I eventually got the seats I wanted at the time I wanted.  Ah, the benefits of patience resulting from middle age coupled with a credit card …  Life was good.  So good.

Cue the bomb dropping.  We were actually on the way to my eight-year-old’s Christmas recital when my four-year-old proclaimed from the backseat that this year she too would espouse the merits of Christ, Rudolph, and jolly old Saint Nick.  “What?” I cried.  “That’s wonderful!”  My wife joined in, exclaiming, “We’re so proud of you!”

I then asked my wife what date the recital would occur.

I then asked my wife at what time the recital would occur.

“Are you sure, honey?” I erupted.  “I mean, you know, you’ve never wanted to do it before?  Are you positive this is the year?”

My wife slowly said my name.  This was meant as a hint.  I totally picked up on it.  But that didn’t stop me.

“I mean, we don’t want your daycare to plan on you being there and then you back out on them, you know?”

My wife calmly asked me at what point I’d lost my mind.  “See,” I whispered to her, “it’s just that, you know, I’ve got Rogue One tickets that night.”  Her face told me she failed to comprehend the issue.  “Not just that night, but at that exact time,” I enlightened.

My four-year-old overheard me and said, and there is not an ounce of embellishment added to this, “I don’t want to do it if Daddy isn’t there.”

Well, shit.

So, guess what I’m doing right now?  That’s right, I’m stalking my favorite theater’s website, waiting for those weekend tickets to go on sale.  Yeah, I know opening weekend can’t compare to opening night, but I can’t be the guy who skips his daughter’s first Christmas recital to go see Star Wars.  I wish I could tell you that my heart is swelling with love and that I gave up those tickets without a moment’s hesitation.  I wish I could tell you that I can’t wait to sit through forty-five minutes of babies, toddlers, and four-year-olds singing Christmas songs.

The truth is, if I’m being honest, I’m really disappointed that I’m not seeing Rogue One on its opening night, especially considering that I scored tickets for it.  I know I’m supposed to play the good dad and say it’s not a sacrifice, that I’m happy to give up my own wants and desires for the sake of my children’s happiness.  I’m supposed to say that, but my hypocrisy would know no bounds if I did so.

In reality, I’ve got perspective enough to realize that the story of dad skipping his daughter’s first Christmas recital to see a movie would follow both of us for the rest of our lives.  It would be funny to most, but I can’t risk the impact that could have on our future relationship, even subconsciously.  And, let’s face it — I also don’t want to be judged.  So, yeah, it’s mostly shame and fear of being judged getting me to that Christmas recital.  Just let me know when and where I should appear to receive that “Father Of the Year” award.

I’ve also got perspective enough to realize that this article will serve as a confession of sorts to my daughter.  One day I’m sure I will play the martyr and bring up the fact that I gave up opening night Star Wars tickets to see her sing for five minutes.   I will play the guilt card and shamelessly use it to win every argument, every squabble, every petty disagreement.  And she can then refer to this blog post and politely tell me to stop being an asshole.  I also extend that invitation to my other daughter as well.  Print it off and keep it in your pocket, girls.

I love my daughters in ways I didn’t know existed.  They are my everything, and I will sacrifice anything and everything for them.  I strive to be that good dad, but it’s not always easy.  Actually, it’s rarely easy.  But you know what?  There will be other Star Wars opening nights.  I only get one first Christmas recital with my four-year-old.  I only get one year with her as a four-year-old.  She’ll be fourteen before I know it, and then twenty-four.  One day I will be gone and I won’t get any more time with her at all.  Whenever I feel selfish and small, I try to remember that fact: one day I won’t have any more time with my children.

So, yeah, I won’t see Rogue One on opening night.

Life is still pretty good.

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Regarding The Castle Theatre, Penny & Sparrow, and Delta Rae

A few years ago I discovered a cool video with a great song called Bottom Of the River.  I tracked down the artists to find they were a young band out of North Carolina called Delta Rae.  I followed them casually for a few years while listening to their music intermittently.

A few weeks ago I saw through a Facebook post that Delta Rae would soon perform at The Castle Theatre, a local venue located in Bloomington, IL.  Though I’d heard fantastic things about The Castle from friends, I’d never personally visited.  I decided I’d probably never have a chance to see Delta Rae again, so I immediately bought two tickets for reserved seats.

Last night (November 30th, 2016) marked what I believe to be their second stop on the Winter Acoustic Tour.  My wife and I could not be more glad we attended their show.

First, let me offer a few words about The Castle.  I have to be honest, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the staff.  The Castle had some very large men working, but they were all incredibly polite and friendly.  Granted, I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side because some of them were the size of small mountains, but they went out of their way to make us feel welcome and even showed us to our reserved seats (which turned out to be stools).  The Castle itself is a historic theatre, and while its age showed, it also oozed charm.  We had front row balcony seats, and though the stools weren’t terribly comfortable, we had a straight view of the stage that couldn’t be beaten.  We definitely plan to visit The Castle again.  If you live in the BloNo area, make a point to take in a show.

You can check out their upcoming shows HERE.

The opening act featured a duo called Penny & Sparrow.  Truthfully – I’d never heard of the guys.  They got up on the stage wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.  One of them had nothing more than a microphone.  The other wielded a guitar with his microphone.  That was it.  No lights.  No props.  Just two microphones and one guitar.  Furthermore, these guys, frankly, did not exactly exude performers, musicians, or entertainers at first glance.  They looked a lot like guys who might be sitting in a booth next to me at a coffee shop.  Well, the minute they started singing, they proved they were supremely talented.  Their voices were powerful, they harmonized seamlessly, and their songs were absolutely beautiful.  It became apparent very soon that their tempo and pace moved slowly, but the lyrics and the melody haunted my wife and me, and I mean that as a compliment.  As a final unexpected act, between songs, they had the audience rolling.  These two men were hilarious.  They said they were best friends, and the way they bantered with each other and the audience, I believe it.  They played off of each other as only real friends can.  It proved really fun to have your soul wrenched during the music and then find yourself laughing uncontrollably when they addressed us.  Get ready for some serious deadpan when you see them.  Make no mistake, you definitely need to see them.  My wife and I immediately downloaded their album on the way home.  We found that we much prefer their “live” sound compared to their recordings.  Again, that’s meant as a compliment.

Oh, and their Christmas music?  (Don’t forget the sweaters.)  Their Christmas songs were a true pleasure.  They even have a new album aptly titled Christmas Songs.

You can visit Penny & Sparrow HERE.

As for Delta Rae – they were amazing.  The folks can flat-out sing.  Though their performance was far more “produced” than Penny & Sparrow with lights, blowing fans, and multiple instruments, those things did not overshadow their magnificent voices.  In fact, my favorite song of the night, O Come O Come Emmanuel, did not utilize a single instrument and showcased the true beauty of their voices.  While they played some of their more popular songs such as Bottom Of the River, they also performed some unexpected works including a little snippet of I Want To Dance With Somebody.  Though they were a little more stiff than Penny & Sparrow and lacked some of their opening act’s spontaneity, Delta Rae absolutely entertained the audience, and, in my case, even awed.  To have such talent – such virtuosity with instruments along with flawless voices – they were inspiring.

I also want to add that this show occurred on a cold, Wednesday night.  The Castle wasn’t even half full.  My wife and I were but a handful of people in the balcony.  I can’t imagine what runs through a band’s mind, especially one that is nationally known, to look out and see an already cozy venue only half full.  But you know what?  To Delta Rae’s credit, they performed as though thousands watched.  Though low-key, even a little awkward, between songs, these talented men and women were explosive when singing and playing.  They practically crackled with energy.  I’m not saying they were slamming into walls and smashing guitars, I’m saying they were clearly giving it everything they had.  I appreciated that kind of passion, respect, and work ethic regarding their art, their performance, and their audience.

You can visit Delta Rae HERE.

If you have a chance to see Delta Rae, along with Penny & Sparrow, I completely recommend you do so.  My wife and I had a wonderful experience with these bands.  They made us completely forget we had work the next morning.  We were absolutely content to listen to them for as long as they wanted to play.

Here’s a little picture I took with my phone.  I wasn’t sure if it was proper etiquette or not, but I wanted a physical memory, you know?

My deep thanks to The Castle, Penny & Sparrow, and Delta Rae for a delightful night.