Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights – Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) – are in the middle of a trade dispute and narrowly escape a hostile blockade by the Trade Federation army. Making their way to the desert planet of Tatooine, the two Jedi warriors find a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who may be the one prophesied to bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon takes an interest in freeing the boy from a savvy gambler named Watto (Andy Secombe), but meanwhile the threat of the Sith is rising – with a vicious Sith lord, Darth Maul (Ray Park), hot on the heels of the two Jedi.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to have hand-me-down action figures from my uncle. They came in a carrying case shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet and I would play with them for hours. So, naturally – when this movie came out during my high school years – back in 1999….I was more than excited. I’d seen previews where Darth Maul was speeding across the desert surface of Tatooine, only to leap from his speeder and attack some Jedi and it gave me goosebumps. Darth Maul truly looked like a badass.

The real experience in the theater wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. There was a certain quality to it that I didn’t like. Everything was too clean – even in the dirty, rundown slums of Tatooine. The CGI looked out of place for the Jim Henson style Star Wars experience I remembered as a kid. Everything was bright. The ships were polished and sounded like high-end vibrators. (Not that I’d know about that or anything)

In short, it didn’t feel real. Despite the excitement of the initial ambush sequence and the eventual podrace – I fell asleep in the theater. This is, to date, the only movie I’ve ever fallen asleep to during the time it was showing on the big screen. This hasn’t changed fifteen years later. The film boasts one of the best fight scenes in Star Wars history between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon – but other than that it’s a lot of politics and talk of trade embargoes and underhanded dealings. Jar-Jar Binks is MUY ANNOYING and seeing Darth Vader as a youngster is sort of a letdown. And don’t get me started on Midichlorians.

Recently, I’ve reverted to watching the Star Wars films in the “Machete Order“. I recommend you do the same, which enables you to skip out on Episode I entirely. As snarky as some hardcore Star Wars fans are about the prequel films – there is actually some decent stuff in them. When combined into a single narrative with every film aside from Episode I – it actually makes a lot more sense and is more enjoyable to watch.

In any case, after all the hype – Episode I just has way too many problems as a film – let alone as an installment of a beloved franchise. So, while I may watch it once in a while (mostly for the fight scenes), I will usually avoid this Lucas offering altogether.

PS – In case you didn’t know – I cosplay as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Exhibit A

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I was recently at Super Megafest 2013 in Framingham, Mass last November and I ran into Ray Park (the actor who played Darth Maul in Episode I) at his booth. He was only doing one photo per person, but after finishing with mine (I let him use my lightsaber) he told me to pretend I was being impaled so he could get his “revenge” on me. Exhibit B

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

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JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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Otto’s Pizza – Portland, Maine

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Street Address: 225 Congress Street (Munjoy Hill Neighborhood)
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am (Note: Other Locations May Be Different)

I was first introduced to Otto’s Pizza one night after I attended a show at the Port City Music Hall. I was semi-new to the Portland city night life, and one of my friends, who was more familiar with the area, texted me and told me to try Otto’s on upper Congress since they were open later than most other places in the area. I did, and I am so glad I did.

Otto’s has one passion, and it is pizza – using a host of fresh ingredients and combinations that will leave not only your hunger satisfied, but also that of your taste buds. The price is pretty average for a pizza joint, but is also cheap compared to other establishments. One can get a slice of pizza for around $3.50 if you’re not that hungry, or a 12″ pie for $10.00 and a 16″ pie for $15.00 if you’re really famished.

I was at my girlfriend’s place on Forest Ave and her brother was visiting so I decided to pay a visit to Otto’s for a late-night pizza party and also decided to use my experience there for my first ever food review on my blog. Keep in mind – I did not have a sit-down meal while there, aside from a slice I enjoyed while waiting for my pies to be baked in the oven. My review, this time, is for the take out version.

When I arrived, the lobby was semi-packed with folks waiting for their food, and all of them seemed in good spirits. Two men and a young boy waited for one of the employees to be finished with her shift at the counter and two women waited separately for their own food.

“Hi,” smiled the girl at the counter. “What can we make for you? Are you here to get a slice or some pies?”

“Actually,” I said. “I’m going to be getting two pies. The 16″ Chicken and Basil ($19) as well as a 16″ White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake ($21).”

She rang me up for my purchase and then I also added a slice of Pepperoni pizza ($3.50) to munch on while I waited. She finished ringing up the order promptly and then warmed the slice for me and placed it on a paper plate to hand to me. “Here you go,” she said.

I took the slice and enjoyed it at a table near the wall. The waiting area is a bit drafty in cold weather and so I was glad I had my coat on. The main dining room is a much more suitable place to enjoy your meal if you’re not just stopping in for a slice, but I was only getting take out this time. The pepperoni was crispy and not too greasy. The cheese was, as usual, very springy, delicious and not too melty. The dough was just the balance needed between really crispy and really soft. I took my time enjoying the slice and after around fifteen or twenty minutes, my pizzas were finished being made.

When I arrived at my girlfriend’s place, she and her brother were happy to see me with the pies and they dived in right away. We all tried one of each slice to start. The White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake had virtually no grease and had just the right amount of spicy finish with the mild sausage and the chili flakes to mesh really well with the creamy white sauce (you can choose red or white sauce for this particular pizza) and the delicious blend of herbs and cheese. The Chicken and Basil was delicious, with generous dobs of what seemed to be a sort of pomodoro sauce on top of the cheese along with a happy amount of fresh strips of basil. The chicken seemed to have been marinated and had a great flavor that could stand on its own. However, because the sauce is loaded with lots of olive oil and the cheese has a bit of grease, the crust’s integrity in the middle of the pie didn’t hold up as well as the White Bean’s. This didn’t detract in much of a negative way to the eating experience, however, because the flavor was so spot-on.

I’ve long been a fan of Otto’s up to this point and this visit ensured that I would definitely be back. For those of you not near Munjoy Hill, there are other locations as well in Maine and even in Massachusetts (their Cambridge/Brookline location is especially nice as it’s right near Harvard).

If you’re craving pizza and you want to enjoy a nice, solid experience – check them out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Check Out Otto’s Website Here
http://ottoportland.com/

Check Out Otto’s Website For This Location Here
http://ottoportland.com/225congress.html

Check Out Otto’s WordPress Blog Here
http://ottopizza.wordpress.com/

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Sorry to have been away for so long.

Sorry to have been away for so long.

So, I’ve been sort of sporadic about updating the blog because not only have I been busy with school (I get my Master’s Degree in June, hopefully!) but also….it has been Halloween/Comic Convention season during the past couple of months.

If any of you know me, you know what this entails: Lots and lots of time and money spent costuming.

So, I went to Coast City Comicon in Portland, Maine (where I live) and also to Super Megafest in Framingham, Massachusetts. Both were really fun, with Coast City Comicon being a true comic convention while Super Megafest was more of a pop culture convention.

I dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi for all of the events and was able to meet some really cool people. Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) stabbed me with my own lightsaber. I taught Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) the ways of the Force. I also got to meet Lee Weeks (Artist from Daredevil) and J.K. Woodward (Dr. Who/Star Trek).

Here are some of the pics to show you how busy I’ve been. 🙂

Me with my friends Spencer Doe (Snake Eyes) and Nicole Marie Jean (Shredder)

Me with my friends Spencer Doe (Snake Eyes) and Nicole Marie Jean (Shredder) at Super Megafest

Me with some other Obi-Wan cosplayers of various ages at Super Megafest

Me with some other Obi-Wan cosplayers of various ages at Super Megafest

 

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Sergeant Slaughter at Super Megafest! He was one of my childhood heroes!

Me with Sergeant Slaughter at Super Megafest! He was one of my childhood heroes!

Lots of other talented Super Megafest Star Wars Cosplayers.

Lots of other talented Super Megafest Star Wars Cosplayers.

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

Me with Slave Leia at Super Megafest

Me with Slave Leia at Super Megafest

Me with Chewie in Salem, Mass

Me with Chewie in Salem, Mass

Me with Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper in Portland, Maine on Halloween

Me with Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper in Portland, Maine on Halloween

Me squaring off against Vader in Salem, Mass

Me squaring off against Vader in Salem, Mass

Me with Strawberry Shortcake in Salem, Mass

Me with Strawberry Shortcake in Salem, Mass

Me promoting artist J.K. Woodward's site as Obi-Wan at Coast City Comicon

Me promoting artist J.K. Woodward’s site as Obi-Wan at Coast City Comicon

The Mandalorian Mercs finally got me as Obi-Wan at Coast City Comicon

The Mandalorian Mercs finally got me as Obi-Wan at Coast City Comicon

Assassin’s Creed III (2012 – PS3)

Assassin's Creed III (2012 - PS3)

Release Date: October 30, 2012
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

In Assassin’s Creed III, players assume the role of Connor Kenway, a Native American brought up in hard times and trained to be an assassin during the 1700’s. Throughout the game, you will experience historical battles such as the Battle of Breed’s (Bunker) Hill and the Battle of North Bridge where the shot heard ’round the world occurred in Concord, Mass. You will also experience other historical events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.

You will be able to enjoy roaming historically and visually accurate (for the most part) portrayals of Boston, New York, Concord and Lexington. (Though, I couldn’t find The Old Manse while I was near the Old North Bridge, in the game).

Despite a lot of historical things, the game also, of course, is historical fiction and they take liberties (ha, no pun intended) with some of the events in order to facilitate their own sci-fi-themed storyline…which also takes place simultaneously in a near-future where you are a modern day assassin looking back via the Animus. (A device which makes this sort of “time travel” possible)

The game is immensely fun and I really enjoy traipsing over the rooftops of Boston, seeing as I know the area fairly well. The time period is also not done very much in games nowadays, and so it’s nice to see a playable, non-boring representation of combat from that era. (Can we maybe do one during Civil War times, PLEASE?!)

The multiplayer modes are super-fun as well, but a lot of the novelty is lost on many folks who just want to run around and avoid the challenge of trying to blend in with the crowd. This doesn’t happen in every game, but it happened in enough of the matches that it sort of made me move onto other multiplayer gaming options, though I still re-play the hell out of the story.

The best part of the game, in my opinion, are the naval battles you can take part in with your ship (once you complete the missions to get it). It’s really well-done and very fun.

There haven’t been a ton of glitches, (at least, I hear, compared to the Wii U version) but I did run into a cart that was half in the ground (vertically) so the driver was facing the sky, but with no horses.

If you liked the previous Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll like this too…and you’ll especially like it if you’re a history buff, or have been to Boston. It’s really fun to be able to walk around the Freedom Trail in-game.

Check it out!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For Assassin’s Creed III