Saturday, February 25, 2017

What order should I watch the STAR WARS films?

Today, let’s talk about one of the great philosophical debates that many of us wrestle with on a daily basis.  I’m not talking about minor trifles like what is the best moral system, or can we really experience anything objectively, or even if there is a God?  I’m talking, obviously, about that greatest of all philosophical dilemmas.

What order should I watch the Star Wars movies in?

It was a little easier to choose a few years ago, when there were only six movies in the saga. But now that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney and a new Star Wars movie is going to roll out annually, it gets more complicated. I get asked by others my opinion about what order they should watch the saga for the first time. Like my opinion matters, but I appreciate your trust in my opinion.  Just as well, since I’ll be forcing my daughter to watch them with me, I’ve actually given the matter a lot of thought.

Now, just in case you’ve never seen this legendary series of movies before----with it’s space ships and robots and jedi knights and imperial stormtroopers and aliens and pirates and glasses of blue milk----I’m going to do my very best not to spoil anything for you. 

Here’s is the original release order:

1.  Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope)  -  1977
2.  The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) – 1980
3.  Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) – 1983
4.  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – 1999
5.  Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – 2002
6.  Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – 2005
7.  Star Wars (Episode VII): The Force Awakens – 2015
8.  Star Wars: Rogue One – 2016

Okay, technically, the three-part pilot for the CLONE WARS animated series was released as a theatrical film. And even though it’s in canon, let’s not complicate this discussion further by including that one.  Let’s stick to the live-action films, shall we?
So what do we have here?

THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY  (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)

These are, obviously, the first and the greatest of the entire saga.  If you were going to decide that you only have the patience to watch only three of these movies, these would be the three to watch.   When it first appeared on the scene, audiences had never seen a film as audacious and expensive looking as Star Wars.  (At least, not in the science-fiction genre.)  A rag-tag collection of rebels against a cruel empire, aliens, droids, a pirate, a princess, and an old wizard introducing us to something called The Force.  I’m so thankful I was a child in the seventies!

THE PREQUEL TRILOGY (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith)

The prequels get a lot of hate, especially when compared to the classic trilogy.  If you ask me, they’re still great movies. Hey, it’s still Star Wars. But there’s no questioning that they aren’t as good as the original films.   They’re flawed by wooden dialogue and stiff acting, and the romantic scenes are just painful to watch.  Seriously, watching Anakin and Padme roll around by the digital cows on Naboo is just excruciating. But Ewan McGregor just kills it as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, you get fierce lightsaber battles that the original trilogy has none of, full-scale war sequences that are just popcorn-munching fun, and you get to see Yoda throw down.

THE SEQUEL TRILOGY  (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and whatever Episode 9 is going to be called…)

These is the current trilogy of films.  Will it be just as good as the original trilogy? Obviously, it’s too early to tell. But it’s off to a hella good start with THE FORCE AWAKENS.   At least the placement of when to watch these is pretty obvious.


The Star Wars Anthology stories are separate from the major trilogies, and are just intended to tell specific stories that begin and end in one easy film.  Okay, actually, it’s a way to make a bit more money as some of us slavishly wait those two long years between chapters.  But as long as they’re as cool as ROGUE ONE was, you won’t hear any of us complaining.

So let’s talk about it.  Which is the best way to watch these movies?  You’ve got three choices really, and it depends on your tastes.

CHRONOLOGICAL TIMELINE ORDER  - 1, 2, 3, Rogue One, 4, 5, 6, 7

    By this, I mean watching them in the order of when they take place, not in the order of when they were theatrically released.  You'd watch the Prequel trilogy first, Rogue One, then the classic trilogy.
    If you’ve already watched all of the Star Wars movies before, I actually think this is the best way to re-watch the series the next time you’re in the mood for a marathon.  The drama and stakes rise and fall nicely, and it makes for an enjoyable saga.
     But if you’ve never seen any of these films before, believe me, this ain’t the way to watch them.   Among many other reasons, there is a massive reveal towards the end of EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.   Not gonna spoil it in case you’ve been living under a rock.  But it rocked the world in 1980 when the truth about who killed Luke’s father was revealed, and fanboys everywhere just lost their shit.
     The point is, if you watch episodes 1, 2 and 3 first?  You’re already going to know this big reveal before it happens. And a lot of things in the original trilogy will lose its dramatic impact because you saw what happened along the way. Do yourself a favor and enjoy it like the rest of us did.  Try one of the other options instead….

THEATRICAL RELEASE ORDER  - 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7, Rogue One

Even though the chapters are in a mixed order, this is a great call. As long as you don’t mind jumping back and forth around the time line, it’s a just a rewarding way to watch it.  You’ll be enjoying it like the rest of us fans did, without having any surprises ruined, and still bypassing the two to fifteen year wait between episodes that we had to endure.  Each new movie adds on layers that you fully appreciate from seeing the previous movies, and you really can't go wrong.

But my personal opinion?  If you really want a great experience, and you only plan to watch the movies once, and if you’re brave enough, I like to suggest what’s come to be known as the Machete Order.   Or, as I call it, the Quentin Tarantino order.

MACHETE ORDER   -  Rogue One, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7

You begin with the recently released ROGUE ONE.   It’s a phenomenal movie, and it doesn’t ruin anything.  It's an enjoyable prologue that feels very different in theme and presentation than any of the movies.  Plus, it just neatly and smoothly leads into the original STAR WARS movie.   

Then, you have STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, possibly the greatest films in the series.  They end on a stunning cliffhanger, and you’re left wondering how the hell will any of our heroes have a happy ending?
Then, if you don’t mind interrupting the narrative flow a bit, watch the Prequel Trilogy.  Just treat the prequel trilogy like an extended flashback sequence, giving us a bit more insight into Darth Vader…and especially, the Emperor.   The surprises of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK won't be ruined by watching the prequels at this point.

Then you’re ready for RETURN OF THE JEDI, which brings the original saga to a close.

After that, you’re free to go on to STAR WAR: THE FORCE AWAKENS, which takes place 30 years later.

I realize that I’ll have to amend this when the Han Solo movie comes out in 2018,

But at least we safely know when to watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi when it comes out at Christmas.  So, if you’ll pass me the popcorn (or better yet, some of your opinions?) I’m going to camp out in front of Best Buy and wait for ROGUE ONE to get released.  May the Force be with you all!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

John Yeo Jr. is the author of Mama Sauveterre's Curiosity Shoppe, and The King's Tournament.   Both of his books are available at Amazon.  His new book,  The Infinite League, will be available in October 2017.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I've finally watched GONE WITH THE WIND.


Happy Monday, everybody!  When I’m not writing novels, I loves me some movies!  I’ve have about nine hundred titles in my DVD collection, thanks to constant visits to used DVD stores and a steadfast refusal to fully embrace streaming technology.  (What can I say?  I like looking at the DVD box art.) 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, every week I’m going to take the time to break out a film in my collection and screen it.   I decided to pick the oldest movie in my collection, which happens to be from 1939.  Next week, I’ll move forward to 1940 or so, and choose a movie that either (A) I’ve never seen before or (B) I’ve haven’t watched in years.

This weekend, I watched the oldest movie in my collection.  I've enjoyed GONE WITH THE WIND for the first time.  I’ve never seen it before, and I feel a little guilty calling myself a movie fan when I haven’t even watched the most sweeping epic of the 20th century.   It’s been sitting in my collection for about a year now, and I thought it was time to give it a view.

Although I wrote a film review column back in high school, I’m not going to attempt to make a film review of my movies here in my blog.  This movie has already been extensively covered by wiser and more eloquent reviewers than myself in the past---hell, whole books have been written about the movie.  So what would be the point?  Instead, I’ll just share all the passing thoughts and observations I had while watching this interminably long movie for the first time.   

1.   So the movie starts with an overture?  I believe that’s French for “You have time to get more snacks and soda before the actual movie starts.  Yowza!”

2.   George Reeves, the actor who played Superman in the 1950s television series, sure looks strange with red hair and pantaloons.  I’m not kidding, that’s him as one of the Tarleton twins in the opening scene.  It was literally the only reason, as a kid, I was remotely interested in checking this film out. 

3.    I have to question whether or not the house servants, even the ones as apparently well treated as slaves on the O’Hara plantation, were really that jolly and happy in their jobs.  We could get into a whole ‘nother deeper debate about that…let’s just move on.

4.    Scarlett O’Hara says “Oh, Fiddle-dee-dee” so often, I wanted to make a drinking game out of it.

5.   Wow.  Scarlett O’Hara changes her mind about men more than she says “Oh, Fiddle-dee-dee.”   Fickle tramp.

6.   Rhett Butler seems to chuckle at anything.  Seriously, Scarlett could be calling him a filthy whore mongering alcoholic, and he would just laugh it off.  New drinking game rule!  Take a shot every time Rhett chuckles at something she says.

7.   So…yeah.  Scarlett marries Melanie’s brother Charles, and then he immediately dies from pneumonia, like, a few seconds later into the film.  Even Goldie Hawn’s short marriage in Private Benjamin lasted longer than that.

8.   I’ve never lived in Georgia, so I don’t have a particular affinity for the Confederate states and how they lived their lives.  But a half-hour into the movie, as we come to the ball where Rhett bids on a chance to dance with Scarlett in a charity auction, even I have to admit there’s a certain charm and beauty to the genteel folk of the Civil War era.  I'm starting to appreciate the film at this point.

9.    Okay, straight up? Prissy’s voice makes me want to bang my head against a wall.  She’s a great character, but her screechy voice?  Gah!

10.    When I first started watching the movie, I saw Scarlett as a fickle, self-centered young girl.  As I got to the end of the first act----the delivery of Melanie’s baby, the death of Scarlett’s mother, the annihilation of both Atlanta and Tara, the rows and rows of dead Confederate soldiers in the streets, the attack by the rogue soldier, and the scene where Scarlett sadly munches (and gags) on the turnips in her destroyed fields----I saw Scarlett convincingly grow from a spoiled girl to a determined woman.  Vivien Leigh totally deserved her Oscar.  I’m hooked now, let’s grab a snack and head on into Act 2!

11.   I had to pause the movie and run to Google to refresh my memory on what a Carpetbagger was.  History class seems like it was so long ago.

12.  Oh, Scarlett?!  I know you swore to never go hungry again, but you flat out stole your sister’s fiancĂ© to pay the taxes on Tara?  That’s cold, girl.  That would get you and your sister Suellen a guest spot on Jerry Springer.

13.    I really could have lived without seeing Bonnie’s accident towards the end of the movie.  It’s going to be a long time before I let Cameron get on a horse now.  Or at least, allow my elementary-school-aged daughter jump fences!

14.   My favorite character was probably Melanie, played by Olivia de Havilland.  Sympathetic, kind and pretty, she was the one who deserved the most happiness.  GONE WITH THE WIND is a 75-year-old movie.  Imagine my surprise to discover that this actress is actually still alive at age 100!  Seriously, look it up!  More than any of the others, she truly did discover that tomorrow is another day!

15.   Hattie McDaniel fully deserved her Oscar award for her portrayal of Mammy.  But seeing snippets of GONE WITH THE WIND televised when I was a kid, I was always convinced that she was also the woman chastising her cat in the original Tom and Jerry cartoons.

16.   All kidding aside, I’m glad I watched it.  For a film from 1939, I was constantly surprised at the sumptuous details, cinematography and costuming.  Plus, now that I’ve seen Scarlett O’Hara destroy her curtains to make a suitable dress to attend a fancy party, I finally get the joke from that old Carol Burnett sketch.  So it’s a relief to get that mystery that’s confused me for twenty years finally resolved.

Now, can someone just give me the cliff notes for the follow-up novel SCARLETT?
I’m just not up for watching a sequel featuring the warrior chick from Willow and a former James Bond.   Cheers, y'all!

John Yeo Jr. is the author of Mama Sauveterre's Curiosity Shoppe, and The King's Tournament.   Both of his books are available at Amazon.  His new book,  The Infinite League, will be available in June 2017.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dwelling on my next project...

    I'm sitting in my office on this chilly Thursday morning, waiting impatiently for the spring weather to finally embrace us, thinking about what my next project is going to be.

    Actually, I know what the next project is going to be.  That's THE INFINITE LEAGUE, about the single mother / former police officer who ends up investigating the world of costumed super-heroes after a freak accident leaves her responsible for the death of someone very important to the entire world.   It's finished, I'll just be tweaking it this year for it's release in Autumn.

     And I'm already working on the project after that.   It's I LAUGH TOO MUCH, which is just a minor book filled with the dozens of funny stories and situations I've been party to in my experiences as a writer, a casino dealer, a soldier, a friend, a husband, a father and a human being.

     And the next novel is going to be another supernatural adventure about an angel, a demon, and the adventure they have together when they quit their jobs.

      But there's something else I've always wanted to do, and I'm seriously thinking about tackling this as my next project.  Does anyone out there remember THE FIGHTING FANTASY books, mostly penned by Steve Jackson?

    These books were all the rage in the 1980s, back before we had mobile app games on our cell phones (or cell phones, for that matter.)   Essentially, it was a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game taken to the next level.   You built a simple character chart, grabbed a pair of dice, and read the story. The story was told placing the reader as the main character, and when you came to the end of the paragraph, you'd have to make a choice.   If you went into the red door, turn to page 12.  If you went out the window, turn to page 388.  That sort of thing.
     In these books, you would occasionally get into a battle, and you would use the dice to simulate a battle.  If you lost, you would close the book and try again another day.   If you won, you would read on and continue the story.  The point was to get through the adventure, and find the happy ending.

    I'm thinking about writing one of these myself.  A good spooky adventure with all the supernatural, fantasy and humorous qualities that I'm known for.

    So toss your opinions my way.  Do you think anyone would pay $10 for a book like this?  Should it be marketed towards an adult audience with a dark and seedy tone, because the majority of people who loved these books are grown-ups now anyway? Or do you think there are enough kids who actually read these days, and I should keep the tone clean and market this as a young adult book?

     I'd love to know what you think?  Have a great day, everyone!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Walking through time with my movie collection

Most of my friends know that I love writing.  But my close, close friends know that what I really have a passion movies.

I love going to the theater, and adding my favorite movies to my DVD collection.  One of my favorite hobbies is to go to a used video store and see what flicks I can add to my wall.  As of last count, I have about 900 assorted films, TV series and animated movies.

I've seen nearly every one of these movies at least once.  There are several, however, that I've never actually seen yet.  I bought them because they were (A) movies that, as a film buff, I felt I really should see before I die,  (B) I was mildly interested in the film and it cost less than four bucks or (C) Both.  As the film library grew, so did the number of movies I own but I haven't seen yet.

So I decided to do something this year, starting next week.  Because I have my entire collection catalogued on an Excel Document, I was able to sort them all in order of theatrical release.  So beginning next week, I'm going to set aside time to watch one movie every week.   I'll choose a film from the 1939 that I've either never seen before, or I just haven't watched in years.  The next week I'll pick a movie from the next year, and the next year, and when I catch up to 2017, I'll start all over again.

So this week, I'm going to set aside four hours to finally watch a movie that I own, but I've never actually seen.  And I feel guilty calling myself a movie fan when I've never actually sat down to watch Gone With the Wind.

It's not that I've been intentionally avoiding it.  Generally, I tend to gravitate towards comedies, fantasy, sci-fi and action films.  I haven't seen it yet, but I'm fairly sure there will be far less laser beams and exposed breasts than I generally enjoy seeing. But I bought a copy a year ago, it's time to have a look at this Scarlett and Rhett story.  I'll chat about it next time, so don't ruin it for me by telling me the South loses the war or something.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Here we go....

So, it's just after midnight, I've downed a generous portion of Ny*Quil to battle my annoying cold, and I'm trying to figure out the ins and outs of blogging.  Maybe this wasn't the best time of night to tackle a new format for reaching out to my readers, but I'll try to do my best.

For those of you who don't know me very well, my name is John Yeo Jr.   I'm the relatively unknown author of MAMA SAUVETERRE'S CURIOSITY SHOPPE and THE KING'S TOURNAMENT.   I'm starting this blog to keep my creative juices going, touch base with folks who might be kind enough to follow me, and to just talk about matters of import.  Well, matter of import to me, anyway.

I don't know much about sports or cars, and I don't like to spend a lot of time discussing, criticizing or defending religion or politics. What we will talk about in this blog are books, opinions about movies, theories about Star Wars, comics, the trials and tribulations of raising a child, sex and relationship topics, wild stories at my day job at the casino, answering questions you might have, or venting about things that piss me off.

But for now, the Ny*Quil is starting to kick in, and I think I'm going to need to lie down for a bit.  But I will try to visit at least twice a week and have something interesting to say.  Hope you're staying warm, staying safe, and having a great weekend.

- John Y