Category Archives: Star Wars

The Best Films I Saw in 2016

“Hey Dudley, when are you going to post your list of favorite movies from 2016?” is a question that exactly zero people have asked me. Well, too bad, it’s my blog! Just a reminder: These are not the best films released last year. These are the best movies I saw in the last calendar year, whether they were new or old. I’m almost embarrassed to say that, of the 87 movies I watched in 2016, only one was in a movie theater, and that was in late December. This means I streamed a ton of films into my living room and watched them by myself (I like to call it “Netflix and no chill”). See, my lovely wife Jen would rather spend her time reading books or going to work than sitting and staring at a screen (she’s weird like that). So it’s usually me alone, watching a movie and thinking to myself, Great job on another 2 hours well spent, Dudley! Add that one to the list for the blog!

But I’m okay with that if you are. Here is my list. Remember, just because I liked them doesn’t mean that you will. And vice versa; I mean, you probably liked some of the films I left off the list (e.g., “A Walk in the Woods,” “Ant-Man,” “Neighbors 2”). Clearly, we have different tastes. I’m not saying mine is better; I’m just mumbling it behind your back.

10. “My Architect,” 2003 documentary directed by Nathaniel Kahn. Louis Kahn, a celebrated architect who died in the early 1970s, had three separate families that he kept from one another. His son travels the world visiting his father’s colleagues, family members, and buildings he designed, trying to find out more about his father. Sad and redemptive; at one point, a relative challenges him to prove that he is his father’s son, and Nathaniel Kahn, obviously used to this sort of questioning from his father’s family, pulls out the birth certificate that he always carries with him.

9. “What If,” 2013 indie comedy directed by Michael Dowse starring Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe. Harry Potter in a romantic comedy? Yes please! Radcliffe is a medical-school dropout moping about his failed engagement; he meets Kazan at a party, and they hit it off. The only thing standing in their way is her boyfriend. Wizardry won’t save you now, Harry Potter! Yeah, he’s never going to outgrow that.

8. “Super 8,” 2011 sci-fi directed by JJ Abrams starring Kyle Chandler and a bunch of child actors you’ve never heard of. Abrams wanted to make a film in the spirit of early Steven Spielberg (who is the executive producer). A group of children spend the summer of 1979 running around and making movies. Late one night, they sneak out and accidentally capture a military train crash on film, leading to an investigation of unexplained events happening in their town. I remember seeing “E.T” in a Texas theater in 1982 while on vacation; this movie brought a lot of the memories of that movie and that time back.

7. “Gravity,” 2013 sci-fi drama directed by Alfonso Cuaron starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Every year, there are movies that I hear so much about that I’m like, Screw that, I know everything about that flick and won’t want to sit through it. I don’t know why, then, that I watched this much-talked-about film, but I did. I couldn’t get it out of my mind afterwards. I’ve always hated thinking about deep space; it makes my brain hurt. Still does, but what a powerful film.

6. “How To Be Single,” 2016 romantic comedy directed by Christian Ditter starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Lacy, and Anders Holm. I am a sucker for twentysomething, “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life,” relationship movies (see “What If” above). This ensemble comedy follows Dakota Johnson’s character as she navigates the wacky world of dating in New York in the 2010s. It’s better than I describe it; and for the second year in a row, Jake Lacy fills the nice-guy role with great comic timing (last year’s “Obvious Child”).

5. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” 2016 sci-fi directed by Gareth Edwards starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, and Riz Ahmed. Look, I get that people who don’t like the Star Wars universe hate hearing about it all the time. And I’ll be honest, after first seeing this, I said out loud, “That wasn’t my favorite Star Wars movie.” But then it stuck with me, the way “Gravity” did and the way other movies that aren’t exactly all rainbows and sunshine can. It effectively carried the story up until the moment the original “Star Wars” began. And now during trying times, I find myself muttering under my breath, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me…”

4. “Mortdecai,” 2015 mystery/action comedy directed by David Koepp starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ewan McGregor. I watched this silly movie and immediately made Jen and my daughters watch it. I’m not usually a fan of all of Depp’s goofy voices, but to hear him with a marble-mouthed upper-crust British action, and to hear Paltrow’s accent, made this movie worthwhile. Based on the late Kyril Bonfiglioli’s novels about Charlie Mortdecai, art dealer and scoundrel, this one follows Charlie as he and his wife attempt to solve a crime caper involving stolen art. I giggle thinking about Paltrow gagging when she attempts to kiss Depp with the handlebar mustache that she hates.

3. “Love & Mercy,” 2014 drama directed by Bill Pohlad starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti. I didn’t think it would work having Dano and Cusack play Beach Boys singer/songwriter Brian Wilson at different ages, but it does. I thought I knew the story of how Wilson suffered from mental illness and then lived under the control of his psychologist, Eugene Landy, but I didn’t really understand what was going on. Effectively shows what it’s like inside the head of a haunted musical genius. This is a truly American story of love, loss, and redemption; we love a comeback tale.

2. “The Nice Guys,” 2016 crime comedy directed by Shane Black starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice. Gosling and Crowe have great comedic chemistry in this action movie set in 1977 Los Angeles. They play private investigators working on a murder case that involves porn stars, government conspiracies, and eccentric hitmen. Rice plays Gosling’s preteen daughter, clearly the more mature of the two of them. I’m not one for bloody violence, but I could put up with it here to see Crowe and Gosling knock heads.

51PQ9syugdL._SX200_QL80_1. “People Places Things,” 2015 romantic comedy directed by Jim Strouse starring Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, and Jessica Williams. This movie came and went quickly. If you recognize Clement, it’s probably from the TV series “Flight of the Conchords.” Here, he plays a newly single father of twins in Brooklyn struggling to raise them while dealing with the breakup of his marriage, teaching art and animation to college students, and working on his own graphic novel. Funny and sad. Sometimes very funny, sometimes very sad. It’s my favorite movie of the year because it was so unexpected.

Movies that just missed the cut: “Dope,” “The Social Network,” “Ex Machina,” Mr. Holmes,” “Pride,” “About Time,” “Man Up,” “10 Years,” “Hail, Caesar!,” “Before We Go,” “Bottle Shock,” “Indie Game: The Movie.”

My Old Star Wars Toys Are Priceless! Wait, Does “Priceless” Mean the Same As “Worthless”?

I decided to wait until all the “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” hoopla died down before I posted this story. (Let’s assume that getting beaten in the domestic box office by “How To Be Single” and “Zoolander 2” equals no more hoopla.) As I explained in my year-end review of movies, I was a Star Wars kid growing up and thus will remain ever devoted to the Rebel Alliance. I blame my parents for having me in 1971, making me 6 years old when Episode IV was released.

I should mention that I am not a true Star Wars geek. I don’t delve too deeply into the Star Wars Expanded Universe or even the Star Wars canon, I don’t follow Wookieepedia, and I definitely do not want to get into an argument over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina.  (There’s no argument because clearly it was Han.)

When I was a kid, my parents had a strict policy on toys: my siblings and I could keep them as long as all of our toys didn’t overflow out of the toy barrel. (My dad had played in a golf tournament organized by his company, and he won a plastic garbage can in the shape of an old wooden barrel. He turned it into a fun toy chest: “Here, kids, keep your toys in this garbage can. Make sure the lid stays on it.”) The four of us Dudley children were in charge of getting rid of any toys that did not fit.

Consequently, I usually got small toys as gifts. (Please, stop weeping for me. Somehow I made it to adulthood relatively unscathed.) And my favorite gifts were Star Wars figures. I would spend hours playing with them all over the house, creating storylines that I am sure don’t fit into any Star Wars canon. Example: Luke and Chewbacca get stuck in the toy barrel under my sisters’ Barbie dolls and have to blast their way out. (All the storylines ended with “and have to blast their way out.”)

Along the way, I picked up some random figures that were the same size as the Star Wars guys but were not from the movies. My favorites were the Fisher-Price Adventure People. My neighbor had way cooler ones than me, but my brother and I got one set that had a Jeep and another that had a motorcycle with sidecar. We played with those indoors and outdoors, and we slept with them (we had no shame).

Like all kids, we were a little rough on our toys, and not all of the Star Wars guys survived. The original R2-D2 had its legs broken off, but was replaced by a newer toy when my son was younger. The Adventure People vehicles are long gone. A few of the other Star Wars guys had their heads popped off. None of them are worth anything at this point, I am sure.

I bring this up because of an article in the Chicago Tribune on December 15, 2015, that highlighted the worth of older, well-maintained Star Wars toys. A recent auction fetched $505,202 for the sale of a collection of over 600 Star Wars toys, including $32,500 for a 1980 boxed set of Boba Fett, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker figures. Yikes. The $25,000 sale of a Luke Skywalker with a double-telescoping lightsaber is no comfort to me: my Luke Skywalker was of the replacement single-telescoping kind, and the telescope on him and my Darth Vader broke off shortly after we got them.

My point: Let your kids play with their toys. They will destroy them, and that’s okay. You don’t want them to become like Al McWhiggin, the toy collector who stole Woody in “Toy Story 2.” They just might end up keeping those toys in their basement when they are adults, and then post an article about them. Complete with photos:


This was the carrying case for my Star Wars figures. It has two trays and can hold 24 figures. The figures came with a sticker so you could label their slot in the case. The trays flip over and have plastic pegs so you can stand the figures (there are round holes on the bottom of their feet).


These are all Luke Skywalker. Left to right: wearing his Bespin fatigues, X-Wing Pilot, and the original. Note the missing lightsaber on the original. You could open and retract it.



“Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy!” Darth Vaders from 2005 and circa 1977. Poor guy lost his cape and lightsaber.



The arm on this 2005 Darth is spring-action. But it can never be lowered, so that’s annoying.



Bleep blorp bloop. R5-D4 from 1977 and R2-D2 from 2005. R2 makes noise, but I haven’t changed his batteries in a long time.



I’m pretty sure I said I wasn’t a Star Wars geek, but apparently I lied. This is an Ugnaught (left) and a Power Droid (right).



Oh, how I loved Yoda. He was short, smart, and funny. This figure came with a brown snake and a cane. I’m sure they were vacuumed up by my mom in 1983.



“Going somewhere, Solo?” “Yes, Greedo, as a matter of fact, I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba that I’ve got his money.”



Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian. Lando liked to make the moves on my Princess Leia figure. (I lost the Leia figure just before I started dating girls. Might have been a correlation.)



Okay, now we’re getting obscure. These are a rebel soldier in Hoth battler gear and a Bespin security guard from Cloud City.



This is a Tusken Raider. (Labeled as “Sand People” on the original packaging, although technically it should have said “Sand Person.”)



C-3PO and Death Star Droid. C-3PO’s hands broke off. Chewbacca probably did it.




Hey, it’s Hammerhead! And his brother Hammerhead! (I’m guessing my parents got sick of hearing my brother and me fight over our toys and so got us the same thing once. Even though it was the ugliest of the Star Wars figures that we owned.)



The Chewbacca Brothers. Mine was the one on the left. Just kidding. But not really.



Maybe these guys were the ugliest figures we owned. Snaggletooth and Walrusman.



These are my son’s. Note the bendable legs and arms; clearly, that’s a 21st-century toy. Left to right, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Utapau Shadow Trooper, and Clone Commander.



Original Tron figures. Made of translucent plastic. We welcomed all kinds in our game-playing.



Fisher-Price Adventure People. These were part of the cycle racing team; the guy on the left sat on the motorcycle and the guy on the right went into the sidecar.



Adventure People. These were my favorites. Two outdoorsmen and a cowboy. They had a Jeep. Note that most of the Adventure People had left hands that could curl around any vehicle’s steering wheel.



Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones (left) and as Han Solo (right). Indy had a whip, and his right arm is spring-action.