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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

Contains some spoilers…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second film in Disney & Lucasfilm’s sequel trilogy of the Star Wars franchise. Since purchasing Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion in 2012, Disney has released The Force Awakens in 2015 and the standalone movie Rogue One in 2016. Taking place almost 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens introduced new characters such as Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, General Hux, Captain Phasma, and Supreme Leader Snoke. As with many Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens ended with a cliffhanger (and as Mark Hamill would say, it’s a literal cliffhanger on an actual cliff!).

As many would suspect, The Last Jedi begins where we left off. Right off the bat, I believe this movie improved where many had issues in The Force Awakens. Plus, you’re already invested in these characters and the story’s pulled you in even more since last time. I’m convinced! So let’s see what you can look forward to.

Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a complex character. While some fans expressed frustration with her proficiency in “everything”, you’ll see the growth of her character all throughout The Last Jedi… it isn’t a walk in the park! Trained by Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), the two train and go deeper into the Force. Meanwhile at the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis) is up to no good with his apprentice Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). The balance between these duos is an epic battle you won’t want to miss!

On the Resistance side, General Leia (Carrie Fisher), Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) are all fighting the good fight. As debuting characters, Holdo and Rose bring something new to the table. And it’s refreshing to see the dynamic between Finn and Rose. We get to see new vehicles and new weapons – including a long awaited fight between Finn & Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie)!

As expected, The Last Jedi reveals some clues to the overall story of this sequel trilogy, but many mysteries are left in place to be (hopefully) solved by Episode IX (releasing in December 2019).

I really enjoyed watching Luke Skywalker’s return. Wait until you hear his first words!It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for since December 2015. And after hearing how director Rian Johnson threw off Mark Hamill with a couple character adjustments, I was pleasantly surprised. I think you will be too! And, of course, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without the droids. Every Episode (and even Rogue One) has shown C-3PO and R2-D2, and now the legacy continues with BB-8 and newbie BB-9E.

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon for some BB-8 lovin’ in 2015, without even knowing for sure what role he’d play. It didn’t seem to matter! Now to seal the deal we have an “evil” BB-8… BB-9E. While cool, I’m not sure it was completely necessary – but I totally understand why they added him. BB-8 may be Poe’s “one of a kind” droid, but surely the First Order had to have something cool of their own… Remember the mouse droids?

And the Porgs… Yes, the Porgs! They’re not 2017’s Ewoks. They’re definitely not Gungans/Jar Jar Binks. They are this year’s equivalent of the hyped BB-8, and justly so! These guys were the sprinkles on top of an already amazing movie. Yes, we have new destinations (Crait & Canto Bight) and other new creatures (Vulptex/Crystal Foxes), and they’re all unique and significant in their own ways… but Porgs! They’ll make you laugh and smile with joy!

SCORE

Story: 9 – Rian Johnson is not only responsible for the directing but also the writing in The Last Jedi (so yes, that means he’s also responsible for Porgs). There’s a lot of weight to carry for a middle Episode, but the story was really captivating, well-paced, and wasn’t a rehash of Empire.
Acting: 9 – Everybody’s performances were amazing. In terms of the legacy characters, I’d be surprised if Mark Hamill doesn’t walk away with some sort of nomination. Carrie Fisher’s last performance was heartfelt and so good. The sequel trilogy cast delivered some great acting as well. Specifically, the transformations that Rey and Kylo go through are epic.
Soundtrack: 10 – I’ll admit, it took me a while to get used to the score in The Force Awakens. It was John Williams but it took me a second to admit that there was new Star Wars music coming! But this time around, I was ready for it. My special edition soundtrack is nearly delivered and I can’t wait because John Williams does it again! After what I found to be lackluster music for Rogue One last year, The Last Jedi is a breath of fresh air! Be prepared for some great homages to his other compositions.
Production: 9 – The use of digital animation and practical effects on the big screen was great. ILM knocks it out of the park every time for Star Wars. There weren’t too many locations in The Force Awakens but we got to explore SO many places in The Last Jedi, which were all done so beautifully. And lightsabers… so many lightsabers…
X-Factor: 9.5 – X-Factor is always the aspect of the movie that stands out that normally wouldn’t. In this case, it’s the humor. There were several “haha” moments in The Force Awakens (which some die-hard fans hated, but I welcome with open arms) and even more in The Last Jedi. Comedy is always evolving and there are things you can laugh at in the Original Trilogy – so of course the style of jokes will change in the sequels. I still enjoyed them!

Overall: 9.3

Remember, there’s still a cloud covering everything (as Master Yoda would say). Not everything has resolved but you definitely feel the momentum in The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson did an amazing job with the story and directing, easily making this one of the best Star Wars films yet! It’ll take me a couple more viewings (starting with a 4D showing in a couple days) to determine how it rates with the rest of the saga, but it’s definitely worth watching over and over again in the theater! But now… it’s time for this review… to end.

P.S. I watched Episode VII seven times in theaters…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is rated PG-13 with a running time of 152 minutes and hits theaters December 15, 2017.

Directed by Rian Johnson.

Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, and Laura Dern.

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The Jim Henson Exhibition (Museum of the Moving Image)

This was our first time visiting the Museum of the Moving Image!

In such a historic location, the Museum of the Moving Image is in Astoria (Queens, NY) and is found in the former building of Astoria Studios. After intensive renovations, it reopened in 2011 and is still an amazing spot for learning about the history & significance of various mediums including, but not limited to, film and television.

Currently, one of the permanent exhibitions found at the museum is The Jim Henson Exhibition, celebrating the life and legacy of Jim Henson with more than 300 pieces!

I grew up watching various Muppets programming, Sesame Street, and Star Wars, so Jim Henson’s work had a huge impact on my childhood. It was so amazing seeing some of these classic characters up close. Here’s one of my favorites (and one of my favorites to do impressions of)… Kermit the Frog!

As you can see, next to the Kermit puppet is the special headpiece that Jim Henson would wear when puppeteering him. It’s so crazy to see how well inanimate objects can come to life with the right hands!

Even something that appears to be a slinky/tube, named “Java” below, was a blast to see on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966:

But, of course, we had to see some of our favorite Muppets like Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Statler & Waldorf, and Miss Piggy!

But what’s fantastic about the Jim Henson Exhibition is that it not only teaches you about his work, you get to be a part of it too!

My favorite kinds of museums are the interactive kinds, and thankfully this exhibit is one of them!

Step right up and try your “hand” at puppeteering a couple characters on-screen! You have to get low and build a scene from scratch, and then you’ll see a live playback! (Check out the video at the end for more)

In addition to this booth, there’s also a station to build your own puppet! This is for demonstration purposes only so you don’t get to keep it. But feel free to customize the look of your very own Muppet! Here’s our take:

What will yours look like?

But as I mentioned, one of Jim Henson’s biggest involvements was of course Sesame Street. For any Sesame fans, you’ll be very pleased with this next area! No introduction is needed:

And last, but not least, one of the final displays for the Jim Henson Exhibition was for his non-Muppets projects like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal.

There were puppets, animatronics, diagrams, videos, and so much more going on here!

(And don’t forget, Dark Crystal returns to theaters for 2 days only in February!)

It’s just a thoroughly detailed exhibition and I highly recommend it for fans of Jim Henson or the movies/TV shows mentioned earlier. His work and legacy continue to ripple into today’s franchises… Star Wars’ Yoda (Frank Oz), for example, and even Nien Nunb (Mike Quinn) in this week’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi! (Who’s ready for it??)

Which leads us into the rest of the Museum of the Moving Image.

The whole museum is filled with rich history and beautiful displays of vintage toys, collectibles, arcade games, film & TV props, and more.

So be sure to walk around and explore the techniques used in soundtracks, dubbing, sound effects, and visual effects. You might even be able to make yourself into a flipbook/GIF!

The Museum of the Moving Image is open to the public (starting at $7) Wednesday-Sunday. Free for Museum members & children under 3, and admission is free every Friday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Visit the site for specific hours & holiday closings.

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (Baltimore, MD)

Tucked away in Baltimore, MD and hidden from plain sight is Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Opened over 11 years ago in September 2006, Geppi’s is a moderately sized pop culture museum. Special exhibitions are constantly rotating but inside you’ll always find a collection of over 60,000 amazing items including retro posters & artwork, collectibles, and rarities.

Tickets are reasonably priced and there are also memberships available.

The only way up to the museum is with an elevator spammed with pop culture decals… Random meters and dials, comic book character logos, and other references are plastered all over its walls:

And once you’re upstairs, you’re greeted by none other than the bounty hunter himself, Boba Fett!

Before you even pay for your ticket, you get an idea of the vibe awaiting you inside the museum. Vintage posters, framed art, things you’ve only seen on Google and Pinterest:

In no particular order, we began to wander the halls of this 16,000 square foot museum. And by chance we entered the massive room filled with old comic books and magazines… Amazing!

Not only did they have Superman’s first appearance, Action Comics #1 (1938), but also Batman’s first appearance, Detective Comics #27 (1939)! I’ve never seen these up close and in person before, so this was truly a one of a kind experience. Plus, this year Superman and Batman both released their 800th issues, so that’s something!

Not to mention all the other fantastic and iconic covers throughout the decades!

I thoroughly enjoyed each room, which housed its own era or theme. One room in particular was home to a very cool Daily Planet display case, surrounded by Superman artifacts and clippings. Toys, certificates, games, and art were all present here.

Check out this 1943 issue of World’s Finest #9 featuring Superman, Batman, and Robin throwing baseballs at the heads of the Axis alliance:

Other rooms pay tribute to popular television icons like sports teams, Howdy Doody, or the Three Stooges.

But one of the coolest rooms was the one that honored everybody’s favorite caped crusader… Batman!

Inside was a life-size statue of the Dark Knight, along with the iconic red 1960’s Bat Phone and Shakespeare bust with moveable head (see the video at the end for more)!

(Don’t worry if Superman is more your thing… Geppi’s has 2 lifesize statues of the Man of Steel!)

When I visited, Geppi’s was also running a special exhibit, “The Dark Knight Through The Decades”, which featured many rare collectibles and photos throughout the years. Autographed pictures, one of a kind art pieces, and more! It was a pretty hefty room, but here’s one part of it:

But with The Last Jedi releasing in one week (AHH!!), I’d be remiss not to mention all the great Star Wars items on display.

From vintage toys to vintage comics, Geppi’s has Ralph McQuarrie art, AFA graded Kenner figures, a CBCS graded Marvel Star Wars #1, and even the original folded 1977 27″x41″ movie poster!

As a huge Star Wars fan, this was a lot to take in!

So much eye candy and so little time!

I couldn’t believe how many spectacular pieces this place had acquired… But it’s important to note that while many of the exhibits are Geppi’s, many are also on loan from dedicated collectors all over the world.

It’s what allows the museum to have such pristine condition collectibles displayed, like these Transformers toys of Grimlock, Hot Rod, and Bumblebee:

Or like-mint condition boxes of Nabisco DC Super Heroes cookies and Mr. T cereal!

All in all, for the low admission price, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is just that: entertainment. If you’re a collector, pop-culture pundit, or just love watching reruns of Pawn Stars or American Pickers, you have to check out Geppi’s!

And as if all of that isn’t enough, as you exit the museum you’ll walk through a very extensive gift shop! You’ll find modern collectibles both cheap and not, as well as an impressive selection of comic books. (If you’re looking for any back issues, be sure to ask!)

Try to walk out empty-handed!

So check out Geppi’s Entertainment Museum! It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm and closed on some holidays. Check out www.geppismuseum.com for contact or more info.

Louis Vuitton Exhibition: Volez Voguez Voyagez #NYCVVV

We got to check out the brand new pop-up exhibit by Louis Vuitton in New York City during its opening week. Volez Voguez Voyagez is in NYC for a limited time: October 27, 2017 to January 7, 2018. Admission is free but timed reservations are recommended. There’s also an interactive app you can download for the exhibit, plus feel free to check out the audio guide tour and guided tour options as well!

Above: The Trunk of 1906…

The line to get in wasn’t too overwhelming but it wasn’t moving swiftly either. But time goes by rather fast, and it’ll all be worth it once you step inside and learn all about Louis Vuitton’s history. Plus, some great Insta-worthy photo ops (video at the end for more)!

Volez Voguez Voyagez is a multi-floor exhibit ranging from classic trunks from the 1800’s, to fashion pieces, retro advertisements, and even collaborations. Here’s a cool collab between LV and skateboarding brand Supreme:

The beginning of the exhibit is a huge history lesson which is really interesting because LV didn’t start off right away with high-end bags.

As you can see, the Vuitton empire is massive. You learn how LV started as a box-maker and developed unique and revolutionary trunks that paved the way for modern luggage… The Trunk Of 1906 is still used as inspiration for luggage today!

In addition to the trunks, many relics and artifacts were on display – tools used to build LV products, photos of LV’s start, and (one of my favorites) even records that keep track of numbered keys after the invention of the tumbler lock in 1890:

As you’ll see, the iconic monogrammed canvas was used from a very early time. This set Louis Vuitton’s creations apart from the rest and allowed him to stand out as the brand we all know today.

From room to room, a different theme or layout is used to match the historic pieces. One of the more popular rooms was called The Rise Of Yachting (see it in the video at the end). As you step inside, it feels like you just stepped aboard the Titanic! A giant mast & sail greet you as an imitation deck displays the invention of the steamer bag by LV:

Another popular room was Aviation which featured a 3D airplane displaying early 20th century bags:

The following room, Trains, reminded me of the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios! The windows were changing scenery as you’re transported to another time & place. Here you’ll find new modes of travel with the invention of narrower trunks that can be tucked away in the train and a very particular fashion style for transportation.

The last room before the gift shop is “Louis Vuitton Loves America”! This is the most modern of all the rooms and showcases many pieces of Louis Vuitton from today. (Think: Red Carpet Premiere)

After going through this exhibit, all I can think of is “my, how times have changed!” Isn’t it crazy how easy it is to travel today? Wardrobes are easier to carry, bags come in all shapes and sizes, and we get from place to place faster than ever.

There may be times where you’ll find this exhibition a little dry and slow, but if you’re interested in learning how Louis Vuitton became the company it is today, I highly recommend checking it out before it closes its doors on January 7, 2018! It’s free, it’s informative, and you’ll get some great photos to remember it by too.

On your way out, be sure to see if there are any souvenirs you want to pick up at the gift shop. I even saw some people purchasing customized luggage tags that get stamped in the shop. And don’t forget to pick up your free #NYCVVV pintrill:

Protect Your iPhone X!

The iPhone X (10/”Ex”) is being branded as the “most breakable iPhone”. With glass on both sides of the phone, your $999 investment (or $1,149 for the 256 gb) will be the most fragile phone you’ve ever held. And if you have a tendency of dropping your phone, the X may not be the phone for you!

But as always there are some ways to protect it.

Now, I haven’t drop tested my phone with or without the following case + screen protectors, and I don’t recommend it either! I’m sharing this post completely from a practical, affordable, and reliable sense. In fact, these items are the iPhone X versions of what I used on my iPhone 7 last year.

Here it is, fresh out of packaging and without any protection. You could’ve asked to see the phone but I would’ve had you sign a waiver!

I was a little late to the iPhone X party because my upgrade wasn’t quite eligible yet and the availability of this specific iPhone was difficult to lock down. But after a little quick research, I found this Spigen case and this Maxboost screen protector (3 pack) on Amazon. They were affordable, reviews were good, and they were the same brands from my iPhone 7 – so why not!

The case boasted some kind of “Air Cushion Technology” with a “Military Grade drop test”… I hope it won’t come to that because I’m generally careful with my phone and even more so with my iPhone X!

The case is very nice. It’s got a clear back with no branding, which makes your Apple logo clearly visible. The camera hole doesn’t protrude and protects the raised lenses of your iPhone. And the matte sides give it a nice grip, while matching the color too:

Once I peeled both sides of the protective film, I got the screen protector opened and ready. Pretty standard stuff like the dust removing stickers, wet & dry wipes, but also:

This time around, Maxboost provided a frame to use as a guide while applying the screen protectors. I decided to try it out since it seemed to fit the shape of my iPhone X pretty well.

My recommendation (if you buy these products) is to not use the guide! I had to redo the screen protector because the guide wasn’t 100% lined up with my phone. I did a much better job just eyeing it. You probably will too.

Here’s the final product. I feel much more comfortable holding this phone in my hands. Much less slippery / good grip, I barely feel the phone heat up, and the cutout of the screen protector leaves the sensors & front camera perfectly alone. (By the way, can we talk about Face ID for a moment? Wow, it’s amazing!)

I do think both of these products are improvements from their iPhone 7 versions. I’ll be curious to see if my case will work well with a Qi Wireless Charging Pad. I’ll be sure to update this post once I try. But if you guys have any case/screen protector favorites, I’d love to hear what you’ve tried in the comments section!

Rhode Island Comic Con 2017

Following the great time I had at Rhode Island Comic Con last year, I decided to attend the “The Biggest Show In The Smallest State” again!

While last year’s RICC had it’s ups & downs, it was still a well-put-together event given its venue restrictions. And even though some of its faults carried over into this year, it was still jam packed with amazing guests, fun panels, and cool vendors (feel free to peruse last year’s post to supplement the look & feel of RICC). Let’s photographically travel to Providence, RI together:

Of course there were many vendors who had the latest collectibles, ranging from plushies to statuettes, from cards to comics.

The art was also amazing this year. New techniques are becoming very popular trends… Maybe it’s because of the influence of DC’s recent “Metal” series, but the metal art I saw at NYCC a couple years ago has now blown up to a whole new level! At RICC not only did I see metal prints but also metal trading cards, poster sizes, and even Michael Golden (co-creator of Rogue & Bucky O’Hare) is upping his booth with 3D/lenticular prints. (I was yelled at for trying to take photos/videos of them…)

3D printing has also started to become a dime a dozen.

The more and more I attend cons, the more vendors I see creating 3D printed props and figures. This Baby Groot took many hours to print but you can tell that given its size, the printer is creating him in high detail!

Even the 501st Legion got in on the action with a life size 3D printed K-2SO!

This year, the 501st had an amazing section upstairs in the Rhode Island Convention Center. In addition to their costume/helmet gallery & R2 Builders Club, they put up an Endor Shield Bunker & speeder bike for photo ops. And of course, fully costumed 501st members were present. (Check out my video at the end for more)

I scoped the tables, picked up a few 501st trading cards that I didn’t have yet, and made my way over to Scarif again where I ran into Cassian. We almost got the Death Star plans out of there but an Imperial surveillance unit caught us in the act!

Smile! You’re on Imperial Candid Camera!

I saw a lot of great cosplay at the con, including a Spider-Man Homecoming version of Vulture. Check him out in the video below! (I think he had to check his wings in at the door!)

There was also a life-size Gal Gadot Wonder Woman statue on sale at FYE. It’s a lot more convincing than their previous Batman, Harley Quinn, and Deadpool statues.

Speaking of Deadpool… While in the past Deadpool was a popular fan favorite for comic con cosplay, I’ve actually been seeing more Ricks from Rick & Morty these days! Regular Rick, armored Rick, Piccolo (Dragon Ball + Pickle) Rick, Ronald McDonald Rick, etc…

With their third season done, I recently binge watched all 3 seasons for the first time. This allowed me to actually get all the references around the con, including artists appealing to the ever-growing Rick & Morty fanbase:

In particular, Adam Soltys‘ table caught my eye with my favorite Rick & Morty charcter: Mr. Meeseeks (look at me!)! In addition to prints & t-shirts, Adam also had his zombified Disney Infinity and Nintendo amiibo figures.

Check out some of his designs, including Super Saiyan Rick:

Unfortunately, meeting Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland was no easy task. (We’re talking about 2 hours on a line to meet him…) Rhode Island Comic Con estimated about 100,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, and with last minute cancellations from many guests such as The Walking Dead cast, Mark Ruffalo, Val Kilmer, Jon Bernthal, and Freddie Prinze Jr., many fans were upset and had to “settle” for the remaining guests. My guess is that the long lines are due to the fact that TWD fans had to resort to their second, third, and fourth choices for meet & greets.

Justin Roiland, Jason Isaacs, Christopher Lloyd, Weird Al, Paul Reubens, and Robert Englund definitely had the longest lines throughout the con!

But I did manage to find time to meet some of the people I planned on meeting:

Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, was such a nice guy! The line was moving slowly but it was worth it because he spent time talking to each fan, getting to know them, and even asking what they do for a living. The guy in front of me must have had an interesting job because Paul asked his assistant to continue interviewing him! When it came to my turn, we talked about Pee-Wee (of course), his voice as RX-24 in the Disney ride Star Tours (and how he reprised the role in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon), and his role in Gotham.

I’m not a fan of getting my autographs personalized, so when I handed over my Pee-Wee comic and RX-24 figures he jokingly asked, “Are you going to sell these?!” We laughed and continued our conversation. The book above and the one below for Weird Al are currently on their way to CGC!

If you’re just tuning in, I got this Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 comic sketched by Creees a few months ago at Garden State Comic Fest. Hoping to meet Weird Al at RICC, I asked Creees to draw Al in his Saga Begins attire (a la live performance) along with the first line of the chorus. It was perfect! Be sure to check out more of Creees’ art if you’re interested in prints or commissions!

When I showed Al, he was in awe and wanted to snap a photo of it on his phone before he signed it for me.

The funny thing about Weird Al’s booth was that instead of being a table out in the open like the other Headliners, he had a closed off booth which was accessible through a curtained entrance. I felt like I was lining up to meet a fortune teller or the Wizard of Oz! Upon entering, I exclaimed “Hey, they told me Spatula City would be behind the curtain!” (A reference to his 1989 movie “UHF“)

So glad I got to meet him though. Growing up, Weird Al was an influence on me in many areas: musical genres, pop culture references, humor, and even his fashion (just kidding!)!

We talked about his VH1 Behind The Music special and how my friend lost my VHS recording of it… The “Remastered” version on YouTube just isn’t the same. Unfortunately he couldn’t help me there!

Weird.

A post shared by Andy (@lesdudis) on

The third book I’m sending to CGC is my first Neal Adams signature:

If you know Neal Adams, then you probably know Deadman, and vice versa!

This is a highly anticipated comic book series that just launched two weeks ago. Above is the glow in the dark variant cover. I was lucky enough to grab one from my local comic book shop before they sold out!

Neal explained why he signed at the bottom of the cover: the raised glow in the dark lines repel the marker ink! He said he ruined two books earlier because he didn’t know this. Glad mine wasn’t a guinea pig!

Lastly, I was able to meet the new Chewbacca actor, Joonas Suotamo:

Joonas is a Finnish basketball player turned actor. He played Chewie alongside Peter Mayhew in The Force Awakens. He’ll do the same for this year’s The Last Jedi. And he’ll be the sole actor as our favorite Wookiee in next year’s Han Solo movie!

I did have to wait a few minutes though because one of those “autograph service” companies had just stepped in line ahead of me. They had stacks and stacks of items to be signed with Post-it’s indicating where Joonas should sign… and with what color. Insanity!

But I absolutely love the way he signs his name, incorporating a little Chewbacca face into his autograph. I told him it looked a lot like the Chewbacca Dog, and he said that Chewbacca Dog is his favorite picture!

All in all, Rhode Island Comic Con is still one of my favorite conventions because they don’t skimp out on the celebrity guests. Navigation is still something that can be improved, but was definitely better this year than 2016. I do feel bad for the fans who bought tickets just for 1 star who ended up canceling, but unfortunately that’s to be expected once in a while from any comic con. But even if that happens, walk around the show floor! There are always amazing artists, actors in roles you never realized before, or a collectible you never knew existed!

Until next time, RICC! You know how to get in touch with me…

#IFoundLegoLuke And Won Lego R2-D2!

#IFoundLegoLuke and won Lego R2-D2! Sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it?

The brick-y Jedi Master in exile debuted at San Diego Comic Con 2017 (July 20-23, 2017) and then embarked on a tour of 5 Wal-Mart’s across the country! At 6 feet tall, this Lego statue is taller than Mark Hamill himselfAren’t you a little tall to be a Stormtrooper?

From July 26-31, he was at the Wal-Mart in Burbank, CA… then August 2-7 in Dallas, TX… August 9-15 in Vienna, VA… August 17-22 in Teterboro, NJ… and then finally August 24-28 in Saugus, MA.

The signage encouraged you to “Pose with Luke!” so that’s exactly what I did. Some normal poses and a couple silly ones – like me handing him a banana in the style of Rey handing him the lightsaber in Episodes VII & VIII… Hey, a Jedi’s gotta have a balanced diet too!

That’s when I saw the signage for this contest. It was a very unassuming sign with little to no information. All I knew was that (a) it’s custom made, (b) it’s actually from the LEGO Group, and (c) it’s Star Wars! So I entered.

Fast forward 2 months and, to my surprise, I received the notification that I was chosen as the winner! Fast forward another month and he finally arrives… the mysterious R2-D2 that I still know nothing about.

I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical at first. Not because I won the contest but because no one could tell me what a “custom brick built Lego R2-D2” would be. How big is it? Is it pre-built? Will it do anything or just stand there?

I opened the box and inside was a hand-drawn R2-D2 card and this personalized letter to me. I’ve whited out some parts for security reasons but it says:

What a wonderful way to find out how strong the force is with you! I heard that you were the lucky LEGO fan who was able to find Luke Skywalker in a local Wal-Mart Store! I know he has traveled far and wide across our country with fans eager to encounter him in stores; just like Rey in the upcoming movie!

In light of your obvious Jedi strengths, and for your participation in search of the legendary Jedi, please enjoy your custom LEGO Model of R2-D2 built by our professional LEGO Builders. Because it already sounds like you are a huge LEGO and Star Wars fan, I know this prize will be something iconic you can cherish and add to your collection.

Congratulations! You found Luke! We sincerely hope you enjoy your prize and have the chance to share this experience with all the LEGO and Star Wars fans you know.

You got that right! So here he is inside the box:

If you’re familiar enough with Legos, you can see that little assembly was required. His middle leg is already attached, so all I had to do was attach his 2 main legs!

He’s just over a foot tall, once he’s leaned back like this. The contest rules state that the value of this one-of-a-kind Lego R2-D2 is around $2,000 but I’ll go ahead and say that this whole experience was priceless!

In hindsight, I was pretty lucky to even find out about this contest because I found Lego Luke on the last day he was at my Wal-Mart! Huge thank you to Lego & Wal-Mart for everything!

Last week I got to meet Lego Luke again at Play Fair 2017 and thanked him too. If you haven’t seen him yet, check out my Play Fair post and also the official Lego time lapse video of building him with 36,743 bricks:

Play Fair 2017 – The Ultimate Experience In Toys & Family Entertainment

Play Fair is a celebration of play and entertainment for all ages. It’s an immersive, experience-rich event for children, parents, families, and teenage and adult fans. With hands-on exhibits, awe-inspiring displays, dozens of toy and entertainment brands, and never-before-seen exclusives, attendees can feel, touch, and take home their favorite toys and games — and be the first to glimpse the toys of tomorrow!

Following its first convention in 2016, Play Fair is back! Once again, the Toy Association and LeftField Media brought the latest and greatest to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on November 4-5, 2017 with a special Industry Preview Night on November 3. This is a fun and highly interactive con that highlights some of the best toys & games. It’s also a great place to discover up & coming brands that are just starting to get more exposure!

The weekend kicked off with a very special Play Fair presentation for the prestigious Toy Of The Year Awards, which supports the Toy Foundation in helping children in need. In attendance to present the TOTY finalists were Steve Pasierb (CEO of the Toy Association), Ken Seiter (VP of Marketing), and Richard Barry (Board of Directors and Toys R Us Merchandising Officer).

With 122 finalists in 17 categories, not only would we be able to see the toys & games but voting was open! (Polls are still open and you can cast your votes today!)

An amazing booth was revealed after the presentation so that all the finalists can be seen up close. But don’t worry, Play Fair isn’t about keeping the fun sealed up in glass cases. Tons of exciting things are always out on the floor for you and your families to enjoy firsthand!

Play Fair sponsor Toys R Us had a large section called Geoffrey’s Spectacular Play Lab filled with toys, remote control vehicles, photo ops and even Geoffrey the Giraffe! (See the video at the end of this post for more)

Lego also had a big presence with activity tables…

A Brick Pile (I found a rogue brick in my back pocket later that day)…

And a Statue Garden featuring 10 iconic characters:

Even for its second year running, Play Fair is a good sized convention and takes up Halls 1A and 1B of the Javits Center. I had the privilege of interacting with some of the great exhibitors and vendors during the show:

Learning Lab 360 is a traveling VR company to partner with schools to teach interactively through Virtual Reality. They had one of the longest lines at Play Fair this weekend, demoing Minecraft inside their trailer. It was my first time playing Minecraft and not only was it pretty fun, it was educational talking to the staff about what they do to help teach students!

City Girls by The New York Doll Collection is comprised of 5 girls from all 5 boroughs of New York City. Each girl has a different look and style. You can even follow along with their adventures online. These 18-inch dolls are a great introduction to accessorizing and even collecting. And for a limited time, save 10% off your order with code TF2017 (expires 11/12/17).

Stick Together is a wonderful way to make mosaics come to life! These puzzle posters use lettered stickers that correspond with a color in order to create a beautiful masterpiece. At Play Fair, they had a demo set up so that attendees can collectively help build a large mosaic. But at home, these posters are foldable and can even be custom ordered online to make for a perfect holiday or birthday gift!

Pearl Odyssey was another vendor that caught my eye. Offering live oyster openings, Pearl Odyssey is a strictly convention-only exhibitor that creates on-the-spot jewelry and wands. You can choose from a variety of accessories such as pendants, earrings, rings… and a number of woods for the wands. Very cool!

There were also many game creators present but Magnets The Game is one that I can get behind. Calling itself the “Marbles of the 21st Century”, Magnets is simple fun that didn’t take 10 minutes to explain like some of the other new games at Play Fair. I also appreciated that as you collect magnets to win, the game doesn’t just end if a player runs out of magnets. Instead, they’re shared so that the game can continue! For more info, visit their website.

In addition to vendors, all around the show floor were photo ops and many interactive stations. Sidewalk chalkboard artist Eric M. Maruscak of Pepper Ink was at the Funimation booth drawing an epic Dragon Ball display:

Imagine by Rubie’s, a division of Rubie’s Costume, had very cool statues of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Iron Man, Thor, and Darth Vader… along with a collection of costumes for kids, adults, and even pets!

Although the 501st Legion wasn’t to be seen, Empire Saber Guild was proud to pose for photos, present live demonstrations, build sabers with kids, and even hand out fun collectibles like trading cards, Topps Galactic Connexions, and kyber crystals! But one of the coolest parts of their booth was the new Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges game featuring an AR headset and lightsaber remote.

As I wrap up, some other noteworthy booths were FDNY’s vehicles, Hasbro‘s inflatable Nerf arena, a lifesize Soggy Doggy, E-Blox interactive circuit building bricks, and TeeTurtle’s reversible octopus mini plush.

But the most noteworthy event of the entire convention was the mammoth achievement by Maddie Rae and her fans to make Guinness World Record live at Play Fair!

This pool of a purple mess was created by many helping hands along with Maddie Rae to officially be the largest slime recorded! I got to interview the official Guinness rep and not only did they reach the 11,023.11 lbs. minimum (5,000 kg), they broke it! They officially hit 13,820 lbs. which is nearly the weight of an average tyrannosaurus rex! (What did they do with all that slime? Half was given out as souvenirs and the rest will be sold online with proceeds going to Hand in Hand, a hurricane relief charity.)

It was an awesome weekend at Play Fair and I highly recommend checking it out next year, November 3-4, 2018! It doesn’t get super crowded and there’s plenty of fun to go around! Be sure to check out my video below for everything I didn’t mention here:

Chow: Making The Chinese American Restaurant (Museum Of Food And Drink)

The Museum of Food and Drink is extending Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant until the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018!

Step inside the Museum of Food and Drink as you experience the history of Chinese American cuisine with artifacts, 100 year old clippings, infographics, and even a fortune cookie machine! This limited time exhibit also features tastings at their exclusive Culinary Studio.

As the world’s first large-scale food museum, Brooklyn’s MOFAD delivers a visual walkthrough of the Chinese American Restaurant timeline (almost 200 years)!

You’re immediately greeted with a massive wall of takeout containers. But as soon as you step behind it, prepare to be immersed in a rich past. This exhibit was interesting and though it was quick, you learn a lot about the culture and cuisine, leading up to today.

As you walk around, you’ll find fantastic displays: photos, articles, even videos. One of my favorite sections was the wall of old restaurant menus. It was amazing to see how much has changed over the decades. Imagine paying only 75 cents for a plated dinner combo (soup, entree, and dessert)!

For Chow, MOFAD also houses a special fortune cookie machine that will create the cookies live with custom fortunes submitted using their in-house tablet/Twitter/hashtag (#ProjectFortune).

Powered by Infiniti, the purpose of #ProjectFortune is to spread messages of goodwill so that when visitors come to the exhibit, they’ll hopefully receive your fortune and share it with friends & loved ones!

See the fortune I submitted here!

Though the machine wasn’t working this particular day, we still got to learn about the whole process and see many of the submitted fortunes colorfully displayed at the end of the exhibit.

MOFAD also had part of Flavor: Making It and Faking It on display, their previous/debut exhibit. In this MOFAD Lab, different smelling stations were set up. Here you can experiment with a few apparatuses that would release a combination of various smells of your choice.

For example, what combination of cilantro, peach, caramel, and candy will create “strawberry”? Or how much orange oil, lime oil, cinnamon oil, and vanilla extract is needed to smell like “cola”?

Build different flavors at 3 stations or try your hand at the Smell Synth, a scent organ you can play! With over 500,000 different combinations, your senses will go haywire!

As you make your way to the exit, don’t forget to stop by the Chow Culinary Studio! Each General Admission ticket includes a small complimentary tasting (MOFAD states that they cannot guarantee dietary accommodations). And for an additional $11, you can upgrade to the Chow Down ticket which turns your tasting into a 3-course meal!

Tastings will vary from the chefs on duty to the featured dish of the month. We had the pleasure of sitting with in-house Chef John Hutt, who was not only very knowledgeable about authentic Chinese cuisine but also able to deliver a delicious meal!

He started us off with the dish of the month which was the Peking Pork with Sweet and Sour Glaze over rice. Great texture and great taste – the chef meticulously cooked the pork (see more in the video at the end).

Next, he served up some Malai Mushroom Dumplings with 7 year old vinegar. He taught us a brief lesson on Ma (numb) and La (spicy) – explaining that the mushrooms will create a tingling sensation, ultimately giving off a “spicy” effect. What a rush!

Lastly, we wrapped up with a Rice Pudding with Fortune Cookie. I normally don’t like rice pudding but it was a great finisher as we continued talking about Chinese cuisine and his involvement with the museum.

We were fortunate to have Chef John rather than one of the rotating guest chefs. His experience made our meal all the more enjoyable and it was educational too! The exhibit itself takes about 30 minutes with an additional 30 minutes for the full tasting. Be sure to check out the video recap below for more and click here for tickets.

The Museum of Food and Drink is extending Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant until the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018!

Stranger Things 2 Spoiler-Free Review

This spoiler-free review is not brought to you by Kellogg’s Eggo waffles.

Almost a year after the events of Stranger Things 1 (2016), the second season of the Netflix supernatural science-fiction series revisits the mysterious town of Hawkins, Indiana. You can then imagine my confusion when I hit “Watch Season 2 Now” and my Netflix started playing a random episode of Season 1. But I digress.

If you’re like me and you fell in love with Stranger Things because of the super 80’s themes, music, wardrobe, etc., then fret not! It’s all still here. The Duffer Brothers completely knock it out of the park and deliver another masterpiece of a season. But in true Stranger Things fashion, rather than answering Season 1’s questions, it begins by asking even more.

Thankfully, as we saw in the trailer(s), new characters help develop a new story while building upon fan favorites from last season. With the story continuing a year later, many of these new relationships were believable thanks to amazing casting… others, not so much. Here are some of the new players:

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) – Yes, that Will. But wouldn’t you agree that he was more of a cameo last season? I mean he was missing almost the whole time! In Stranger Things 2, we get to really meet Will for the first time and see how he fits into the Party. We get solid lines and great acting from Noah – and as expected from Season 1’s finale + Season 2’s trailers, Will plays an important role in everything that goes down in Hawkins.

Bob Newby (Sean Astin) – Could Samwise Gamgee be bad? I don’t know, but he instantly won me over! As soon as he was cast as Joyce Byer’s (Winona Ryder) new love interest, my curiosity was piqued. I honestly haven’t seen Sean Astin in many roles, but he always has that right amount of believability. And his chemistry with Winona is spot on!

Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) – Are we sure this is the same Paul Reiser from the 80’s & 90’s comedies I grew up watching? We’re introduced to Dr. Owens right away and the mystery surrounding him isn’t incredibly obvious. I credit this to his acting and his charm. He was a wonderful surprise to this season’s cast and if all goes well with his character, I hope we see some more of him next year!

Maxine (Sadie Sink) – I’ll be frank… when I first read Sadie’s bio, it said that she was cast in the highly coveted role of “Maxine”. Highly coveted? I immediately started to have my doubts. But just as anyone else who encounters the Party, she gets dragged into the nightmare that is Hawkins and the Upside Down. The boys in the Party are a tight-knit group – both on & off screen. Will Maxine/Sadie be able to fit in?

Bill (Dacre Montgomery) – From Jason (the Red Power Ranger) to Billy (not the Blue Ranger), the newest kid in Hawkins High. But there’s an unusual secrecy surrounding him. Who is he really and what’s his story? Not much was revealed about Dacre’s character leading up to Stranger Things 2 but all will be revealed in due time…

Kali/8 (Linnea Berthelsen) – One of the first people we see on-screen this season, but one of the last we actually learn about. I was beginning to worry that we would never see her character again! But at the same time, I found her to be just as easily forgotten. As I’ll explain below, I thought the storyline surrounding her was weak and needless.

General Premise: The Upside Down continues to threaten Hawkins with unseen dangers. Not simply being just about Will’s disappearance anymore, we begin to discover bigger “why” & “what” questions. The plot definitely thickens!

The Good: As previously mentioned, the cast was basically perfect! Diving one year into the lives of the Stranger Things characters is risky business because the chemistry with the new cast (above) may not be as cemented as that of the vets. But thanks to some amazing writing and direction, the Duffer Brothers made it completely plausible. The story was well-paced and revealed little nuggets at a time, making binge-watching the entire season all the more justifiable! And though some focus was lent to the new characters, we didn’t lose out on fan favorites from last season (Hopper, for example).

The Bad: Some choices made in direction and writing confused me because it’ll throw you off of the “real” storyline. It’s very possible that the Duffer Brothers have a bigger plan in mind and they want us to have a big “aha!” moment later on… but the execution of Chapter Seven (The Lost Sister) was poorly done, in my opinion. It felt so out of place and played such a trivial part in the grand scheme of things (so far). But in general, between both seasons, the best episodes were those both written & directed by the Duffer Brothers.

Initial Verdict: It’s a close call! I think the first season was more captivating because of the suspense of it all: new characters, new threat, new mysteries… And while Stranger Things 2 played it safe with many familiar themes & ideas, it did manage to keep things fresh with some twists here and there. Plus they triggered some amazing 80’s feels at the end of this season. But I’d be interested to see how Stranger Things 3 (and going forward) will offer something brand new.

I’ll definitely need to watch the whole series again leading up to 3. But I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!