Best Gift Ever

clone-wars-1-1

Star Wars Christmas

Return-of-the-Jedi_612x380_1

There are times when the best gift at Christmas…  you are not quite sure if it was intentional or not.  I’ve talked about our relatively chill Christmas day plans for the better part of a week, and I have to say after going through it yesterday it was far better than I could have imagined.  First off we have all this amazing food…  that we will be eating for a week.  On the menu….

  • Chilli-Cheese Rotel Dip
  • Sausage Cheese Balls
  • Pulled BBQ Beef
  • White Chocolate Cranberry Clusters
  • Chocolate Cashew Clusters
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Ranch Pretzels
  • White and Milk Chocolate dipped Pretzels
  • Flakey Biscuits to heap the BBQ Beef on

It was not exactly the most conventional meal, but we grazed happily throughout the course of the original three Star Wars movies.  You cannot have read my blog over the last few months and somehow missed the fact that Star Wars was a major part of my childhood.  I went to see the original when I was roughly 2 years old in the local drive in… and was hooked from that point on.  So for Christmas it was a given that I would end up getting a bunch of Star Wars merchandise from my parents.  The best gift however was this marathon and the effect it seems to have had on my wife.  I am trying to keep my expectations tempered, but maybe just maybe we have another Star Wars fan in the family.

Granted she has always been amazing about my Star Wars thing… and has brought me home various artifacts like Star Wars Legos, or just the other night a cool set of Kylo Ren playing cards.  So even though she didn’t get why the movie was important to me… she was always super awesome about putting up with my thing.  I remember in college she even used to get into the hunt for new action figures, helping me crawl through the racks of figures to find the one or two that I didn’t already have.  The prequels pretty much killed my desire to be surrounded by action figures on my walls…  but I do pick up the occasional figure every now and then and on the wall between my monitors I have Dark Jedi Luke, Jedi Leia, Clone Emperor, Mara Jade, Admiral Thrawn, a snow gear Plo Koon, and a badass Savage Opress figure.  So yesterday I half expected the desire to watch the three originals and then go see the new one… was at least in part a gift for me.  That is until she invited one of her friends along for the journey.  After watching the originals and seeing the new one…. she came home with all of these questions that I can’t really answer before she watches the prequels.  So right now the plan is to spend today marathoning through those as well…  and I am happy as a clam when I say… it was not MY idea to do this.

Keeping it Chill

clone-wars-1-1

There are a lot of things I am into that I think she would also like.  I mean she was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and got into it long before I did, and is also a fan of the Star Trek series and has been amped to see the newer movies.  So the raw DNA of a Science Fiction and Fantasy fan is there, and I think if I could ever get her interested in say the modern Joss Whedeon Marvel films she would really enjoy them as well.  However with those… we would need to start at the very beginning chronologically and do another Marathon since each movie at least in part fleshes out another corner of the Avengers universe.  All of this said….  I am trying to keep it super chill and not put any pressure on her to like things more than she actually does.  However just having my wife ask me questions about Star Wars…  might be quite possibly the best Christmas gift I have ever received.  I mean I guess it was impossible to live with me for the last two decades and not have SOME of the Star Wars franchise to imprint on her.  She has always liked R2-D2, Chewbacca, The Jawas and the Ewoks…  and she used to laugh when I would throw a blanket over my head and say Utini.

One of the awesome things about our marriage has always been that we could have completely different likes…  but each of us would be supportive over whatever the other person was into.  She has been awesome about the daily blog thing… and the podcast… and this game or that…  because I know they really do put dents in our schedule that are theoretically “untouchable” where I need to be at a keyboard.  Similarly I am cool with the fact that there are many nights where she works in her classroom until 8pm or has this or that church activity that needs attention.  It has always amazed me at just how well we work together, when in truth we don’t have that many shared interests.  At the core has always been this willingness to go along with whatever the other person wants to do… because I think we enjoy seeing the other half excited even if we aren’t that excited ourselves.  All of this said…  I am not expecting a Christmas Miracle… and all of the sudden my wife will be as obsessed with Star Wars as I have been all of these years.  I still think its amazing however for her to be asking the same sorts of questions that I pondered all throughout my childhood and even now have nothing more than vague guesses at.  I think without a doubt though, there will be no question as to whether or not we will be going to the next several movies because if nothing else… she seems hooked on the new generation of films after watching Force Awakens last night.

 

 

 

Santa and Grumplings

Santa Lives

I’ve been going through this strange set of emotions since getting out of the movies on Thursday night.  One of the things I am learning about myself is that I am in fact deeply susceptible to nostalgia.  Growing up I honestly thought I was not nostalgic at all, because the things I cared about never seemed to align with the things I was supposed to care about.  Photos for example are just not one of the things I care about that much, and the only time I take a photo of something is when I want to show it to someone else.  I have a pretty good memory when it comes to visual images, and I can always summon up images from the past when I want them… and as such I never placed much value in having a physical representation.  My mother on the other hand…  that is the thing she finds most important in the world and has taken volumes of photos that the world will likely never see… because she never does anything with them.  My nostalgia… seems to be firmly rooted in the things and places that gave me the most joy in the world.  The king of all of this will always be Star Wars, because it truly was my first love.  For so many years I doubted my memories, or at least doubted that I had as much fun with Star Wars as I seemed to remember.

Then Thursday night I watched Force Awakens and remembered just what it was like to experience that level of joy again.  Now I am just riding the giddy contact high of the experience, and looking forward to talking about it with anyone that has already been indoctrinated into the club.  Yesterday there was a sequence of tweets trying to decide when it was time to talk about the movie, and I guess personally… I am going to wait until January 18th.  I am going to give the world a full month to watch it before I start openly talking about spoilers and spreading the world with my theory crafting.  Spoilers are such a weird thing…. because for me personally they do not adversely effect my enjoyment of the movie.  I personally guessed at four or five of the plot points from the movie, and it was in no way tarnished for me when I saw them coming.  In fact there was a bit of strange excitement coursing through me when I realized that things were playing out in one of the ways I had imagined them.  For others though… once something is spoiled it ruins the experience, and as a result I am going to try my best not to ruin anyone else’s.

The “A” Team

Return-of-the-Jedi_612x380_1

I love the Star Wars universe, and while I was greatly disappointed for years…  shows like the Clone Wars and the current Rebels made me remember just how awesome the setting COULD be.  I think they were essentially the gateway to allowing myself to indulge in the hype leading up to Force Awakens.  The problem with Rebels is that as good as it is…  it isn’t the team of characters that I wanted to be engaged with.  Shows like it or Agents of Shield… no matter how amazing they might be… will always be stuck in the rut of being the “B” Team.  These are the characters that are ALSO in the universe…. but aren’t really the characters that you really want to be watching.  While shows like that might raise the excitement level a bit every now and then with a “special guest appearance” you know at the end of the day… you are never really going to get back the characters you care the most about.  While to some extent the new movie is setting up a brand new cast of heroes to take over the throne… in the form of Finn, Rey, Poe and Ren, it still very much feels that we are going on another adventure with the characters we grew up loving: Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, R2, and C-3PO.

There is a continuity that other derivative products lack, and in a way I am more okay knowing the cast of the original trilogy will always play a secondary role in this new trilogy of movies.  The Avengers are still an active team… and while they exist… Agents of Shield will always be the lesser product.  Similarly no matter how cool Rebels is… and how awesome it is for filling in the gap between the prequels and rebellion era movies…  it will always be the story of people we didn’t know existed until Disney told us they did.  So in the meantime I am going to embrace the joy I am feeling, because there were points yesterday where I wanted to take my hot-wheels Millennium Falcon and go running around the office making “space” noises.  There is a kid inside me that has woken up, that has not been awake since the 80s… and I am perfectly okay with hanging out with him again.  Part of my whole mission to limit the negativity in my life, and to be less cynical…  was to be able to truly feel unbridled joy again… and this movie has paid off in spades.  Sure I am almost forty years old… and sure I probably shouldn’t be enraptured by Star Wars.  To that I say “fuck it” I get to decide what sort of Adult I am going to be, and I choose to be the one that never really grew up inside.

Grumplings

Wow-64 2015-12-19 07-39-42-65

The most annoying part of any in game holiday event… are the things you have to fight other players for to get spawns.  In the new Winter Veil garrison event, you have to fight players for patches of snow on the ground, in the hopes that instead of getting a snowball of various kids…  you get a Grumpling pet.  Last night after looting many piles of snow I managed to get one… and now I am done touching those piles of snow.  I am not going to be one of these players that tries to profit off this event, because it is my hope that by removing myself from the picture others will have an easier time getting their own Grumplings.  Now however I am still going to be completing the daily event… until I get the damned mount.  I’ve decided to send all of my packages to Belgrace my MooCowAdin, because he seems to be the closest to getting all of the appropriate factions for the flying mount.  So among the four characters I have that can do the daily, I am hoping ONE of them gets the stupid mount.

 

Spoiler Free Review

Doing Silly Things

So the other day I said I would be doing a spoiler free review today, since I was in theory seeing it ahead of a good deal of the potential folks that will eventually see it.  As a result I am leading off my post with the single line tweet that I sent out last night after getting home.  Now I am going to talk about the day and night itself for a bit.  I was not one of those first day ticket scroungers, in fact I ended up waiting at least a week before trying to find any.  We have a smallish theater in town within walking distance of the house…  however last night it fell in the “too damned cold” territory to even consider walking.  For Lord of the Rings I was able to simply walk in on opening night and get tickets, without any pre-order…  so I had no real doubt that I would be able to see the movie this weekend without much fuss.  The original plan was to eat dinner at Plaza De Toros  a Mexican place that I like quite a bit that just happens to conveniently border the parking lot of the movie theater.  Just to make life easier… so we could meet up at 5pm and then walk over and start standing in line around 6pm for the 7pm show.  This at least was our plan…  our plan changed.

I went home over lunch yesterday to pick my tickets up, since pre-orders still need to be printed at the theater in our setup.  I ended up having a lengthy conversation with the worker that was manning the booth, and he told me that they were seating for the 7pm show… aka the first showing as early as 4:30 so that we could go ahead and get seats.  So when I went back and talked it through with my boss, we agreed that we would simply meet at the theater around 5ish instead and either eat at the theater… or like I did and grab something really quickly on the way home.  The positive of both options is our theater has unlimited refills on both soda and popcorn, so my boss went with that option.  The only negative is that I didn’t think to warn him not to take one of the Highways that is notoriously hell to travel on during the evening rush hour… so this meant it was running about 30 minutes later than planned.  Luckily about this time another friend popped her head out of the theater and hollered at me, and saved us some seats near her, her husband that I work with, and their son who was completely amped about the experience and wearing and Ezra Bridger costume.  So there we sat in the theater for an hour and a half ahead of the start time… chatting away and killing the time.

The Movie

Latest-The-Force-Awakens-Trailer-Description

I had a lot of hope riding on this movie… but at the same time I kept trying to prepare myself for the potential of it being just as disappointing as the prequels.  In fact a good deal of my conversation with my friend was that both remember how excited we were for Phantom Menace and how disappointed we were immediately after.  I have to admit… I was not immediately in love with this movie.  Not saying I was disappointed in any fashion… but the movie has a look that is significantly different than the traditional “star wars look” for lack of a better term.  JJ Abrams simply has a different design ethic than George Lucas did… and this is perfectly okay… but I spent the first few moments of the movie “adjusting” to the style.  However at about the twenty minute mark… I was hooked and from that point through the end I was completely drawn into the world and believed that I was in fact watching a new Star Wars epic.  The characters are all excellent, and more importantly than that… their interactions…  are also awesome. There are jokes and quips… and not in a way that takes you outside of the picture.  Much of this movie had to be about passing the torch from one generation to the next… and feel like we are now firmly introduced to the conflict through the eyes of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren.  Not really going to delve into characters outside of the group, because those are the ones we already know quite a bit about thanks to the trailers.

What I like the most is that each of these characters is their own “new” character… and not “The New Vader” or “The New Luke”.  They are each their own person and don’t really fit any predetermined molds in the Star Wars universe.  The conflict that is set up… is one that I cannot wait to see resolved over the course of the next few movies.  In fact I am hungry to see what happens next…. which is something that never happened during the prequels.  This is the first “new” story that we have had from Star Wars on the big screen in a very long while, because the prequels had a fixed beginning and a fixed end point… and we were simply seeing how the details worked themselves out between.  This time with Force Awakens… we have no clue what is going to happen in the beginning, middle or end… and in spite of all of our machinations and predictions… we know that we know next to nothing.  There are certain aspects that I think seasoned veterans of Star Wars and the Expanded Universe might guess at…. but those guesses are never justified with a firm answer.  This movie feels very much in the tradition of A New Hope, and also feels like this grand Star Wars pen and paper adventure… played out on the screen.  The critics are more than likely not going to like it… because this is absolutely a “Star Wars” movie… and not something that is trying to get an Oscar.  That said… the costuming and use of practical effects absolutely SHOULD get an Oscar.

The little kid in me is alive and happy.  There was a period of time after the prequels where I doubted if my memories of Star Wars were really genuine.  I wondered if the universe really was as cool as I remembered it.  I am happy to say that yes…  this setting still has amazing things to show us.  Now stop reading this shit and go get tickets to see Force Awakens.

 

Predictions and Dots

Wow-64 2015-12-17 06-21-29-64

Star Wars Predictions

KermitFlail

It is in fact the day… and I have reached full on Kermit Flail status.  All day yesterday my brain kept going “Star Wars! Star Wars! Star Wars!” and I have zero clue how I am going to be a reasonably functional human being today.  The tickets are for 7 pm tonight at my local generally no frills theater…  in 2D… which is honestly the way I would prefer to watch this movie.  If it can blow me away without any frills, then it will have been a good day.  At this point I am largely in a Star Wars information black out other than occasionally checking what the Rotten Tomatoes “freshness” score happens to be.  For most of yesterday it was around the 98% but right now it is sitting at 95%.  I am super thankful that Google shows the score without having to actually click through into the  site, because really I am trying to avoid knowing much of anything about the actual plot.  That said… when the Legion announcement happened in WoW I did a few predictions that morning, some of which were serious… others very much not.  So I thought it might be fun to do my Star Wars: Force Awakens predictions.  Please note that any alignment between these and actual plot points is pure coincidence and based on sheer dumb luck.  I promise I know nothing… and these are not spoilers…  but “wouldn’t it be cools”.

  • Rey – I think it is probably a given at this point that Rey is the child of Luke and Han that somehow got stranded on Jakku, or at least that is my working theory.  There was a shot of Rey and Chewie flying the Millennium Falcon which kinda lead me down this line of thinking.
  • Han – Harrison Ford has long said that the only way he would ever return to the Star Wars franchise is if they were going to kill off his character.  So I think without a doubt Han Solo will die in this movie.  It will be an even bigger shock to me if he doesn’t… because I guess at the end of the day that means that Harrison Ford REALLY likes printing money.  It would be cool if he got used to the fandom, and approached it with less disdain… but I am not holding my breath.
  • Chewie – I think if and when Han dies… the Life Debt that Chewie owes Han…  will transfer to his daughter.  My biggest fear is that they jettisoned the Expanded Universe just so that Chewie would be alive…  only to kill him off again.  This movie should be all about passing the torch to the next generation… but you still need some aspect of the current generation to make that work, and I think Chewie continuing on would be a good callback.
  • Kylo Ren – This one… I am torn on.  For the longest period of time I thought maybe this was also Han and Leia’s kid… if for no reason other than in the Expanded Universe…  their son did in fact turn to the Dark Side.  Now I simply do not know.  I have a feeling he ties into the Skywalker lineage somehow… but at this point it makes me wonder if he will end up being Luke’s son.
  • Luke – One of the big mysteries is what exactly is up with Luke.  I think this one goes one of two ways… either he has turned to the Dark Side himself and becomes the new big baddie … the power behind the throne of sorts.  There are problems with this however… because if that were the case why would Kylo be on this hunt to collect all of these artifacts of Darth Vader… why wouldn’t he just worship the new embodiment of the Dark Side instead.  I think more likely he is going to play the role of Obi Wan from the first movie… where he has isolated himself from the world and we go on a hunt to find him, where he is slightly mad in an almost Jorus C’Baoth style.
  • Poe Dameron – I think a safe bet would be he somehow ties lineage back to a member of the Rogue Squadron that we will come to know during the Rogue Squadron breakout movie.  That said I am going to go down my “wouldn’t it be cool” line of thought…  and say… wouldn’t it be awesome if he turned out to be the child of Boba Fett?  I mean he bears a vague resemblance to both Jango and Boba as seen in the prequels, and I mean… vague… because its not like Boba looked exactly like Jango.
  • Finn – I really have no real guesses on this one.  My fear is that they will go with the simple answer and make him Lando’s kid.  I would love to think that he is tied into the original cast somehow.  I know in theory he could be the child of Han Solo and Sana Solo which was introduced as Han’s wife in the comics.  I’ve long thought that Han himself was a force sensitive… because his unnatural luck at times…  could just literally be latent force sensitivity.  I think Finn is going to play into the main story line in an important way, and we know he at least ends up wielding a light saber… so could he be also of the Skywalker lineage somehow?

Whatever the case any of these things might be… I am just hoping that I really and truly love the movie.  I need this to be awesome… because I am still so disappointed in the prequels.  I am even wearing my special Star Wars vans today…  in hopes that tonight will be a truly awesome experience.

Warlocking

Wow-64 2015-12-17 06-21-29-64

In theory Wednesday night is the night that I raid with Jed and crew, but I needed the night off.  It has been a pretty crazy week, and with something scheduled almost evening…  Wednesday night was really the only night I truly had to sit at home at chill.  So instead of raiding I ended up working on the new holiday quests.  The positive is that there is now a whole sequence of Winters Veil quests that start from your Garrison, the negative is that one of them is horrifically bugged and largely impossible to complete if you wish to retain your sanity.  I guess in theory if you caught the quest during off hours you would do just fine, but since this is the sort of thing you want to do on every character that can possibly do it…  it means that the area is pretty much constantly camped.  Realistically they should have had the Alliance event happen in Shadowmoon Valley and the Horde event happen in Frostfire Ridge…  because simply getting there is a bit of a pain in the ass for my Alliance characters.  The worst part about the new quests is that Christmas has now also become a mount chase… with these chests purchasable from the vendor in your garrison for essentially one days worth of tokens.  If you are insanely lucky like apparently Jaedia…  you can end up getting the Minion of Grumpus mount…  which I will be shooting for during this event.

After fiddling with holiday bits, I relaxed to an evening of working on my new Orc Warlock.  Essentially I am leveling just like I would an arcanist, which means running around like mad and dotting things up.  The end result seems to be a pretty rapid fire way to level… and I am already out leveling the content.  Granted I am fully decked out in heirlooms which is in part what is making that be a thing.  Mostly I am just trying to push my way into “dungeon” levels as fast as I can so that hopefully I can be queued for a dungeon the entire time I am leveling.  If nothing else I am enjoying myself which is a first when it comes to Warlocks.  I’ve always been interested in the class… because demons…  but always struggled with getting into the spirit.  However during the AggroChat podcast and through playing Final Fantasy XIV… I am learning that I basically tried playing all dot based classes wrong, and that the answer is in fact to run around like mad, dotting everything up and watching it just die before my eyes.  So upon leveling this Warlock that is absolutely my new MO, and so far … it seems to be working.  I needed a chill out class to play and this one is fitting the bill.

Media Consumption – 10/31/2015

Happy Halloween

MediaConsumption

This was another week where I mostly just watched things on YouTube.  That said I did dig up a few gems that I feel are worth sharing.  My weekend is going to be a bit odd because last night we recorded AggroChat so the members of our podcast that have social lives… can go out and do social things.  I on the other hand plan on playing the new Funcom single player game “The Park” in honor of the holiday.  I am not 100% sure if I am going to stream it or not, but I will likely record it.  I have heard it is honestly not that long of a game, but it seems just about right for Halloween fun time.  Other than that…  I have this fear that because of the cold snap I am starting to also get a cold…  I know it doesn’t work that way but still.  So I am starting to preemptively medicate myself, because I really don’t want to be sick again…  after having recently spent entirely too much time sick.

The Book of Sorrows

This is absolutely amazing… and you should stop what you are doing and spend the next hour and a half listening to this.  I may or may not be a bit obsessed with Destiny and its oddly coherent… but insanely difficult to find Lore.  This lore has traditionally been pieced together in a manner that can only be fully represented if you imagine a basement somewhere… with newspaper clippings, photos, scribbled writings…  all connected together with red string with various bits and pieces circled and text scrawled on it that says “this means something”.  Seriously to understand Destiny lore is to lose a significant part of your sanity.  With the Taken King release…. they made things a bit easier in a way that peeling an orange with your bare hands… is easier than trying to do it with a pair of those weird mechanical lab arms that you see in science fiction labs.  Throughout the new items there are some items called Calcified Fragments… and each one you collect unlocks another tidbit of a tome called the Book of Sorrows.  This actual book…  outlines the progression of the hive from being this tiny race that lived only ten years…  to the immortal monster that it is today.  This shit is really good… and at some point I will listen to it again.  The channel I linked is pretty damned amazing… because it is voice acted in a manner you would expect an audio book to be done.  Extremely worth your time…  seriously listen to this now.

Star Wars Original Trilogy – Force Awakens Mash-up

Another thing I am also completely enamored with right now is Force Awakens and anything else that seems like  Force Awakens.  The measure of hype and love that I am feeling for Star Wars right now…  is insane.  The awesome thing about it is that right now I am rocking a R2-D2 beanie… and it is insane the amount of friends I make because of it.  I had a long conversation about Star Wars Battlefront last night with the grocery store cashier because it all started with a “Man I love your beanie”.  If you want to be crushed with feels….  watch this above video.  The creator took scenes from the original trilogy, and cut it to fit the thematic elements of the Force Awakens trailer and that soundtrack.  Seriously…  I felt shivers when I watched this thing… and then was just overwhelmed with emotion upon its conclusion.  I am probably overselling it…  but you know I get super excited about things so…  watch this too.

Detroit Trailer

A few years back there was this amazing tech demo running on the Playstation 3 hardware called Kara, about this android that feels more emotional than it should.  We wondered for years what would become of it…. if anything would come of it.  It was this great experience of trans-humanism and my friends and I all sort of hoped it would be more than just a tech demo someday.  Turns out they are in fact working on a game surrounding that same universe, and they are setting it in Detroit.  Not sure exactly what the appeal of Detroit is for non-American developers…  but apparently it has some because there seem to be an awful lot of games set in this city.  The game looks pretty awesome, and it is going to be interesting to see what ramifications come from being a “free range android” of sorts.  Reminds me quite a bit of the show Humans, which deals with similar issues.

Destiny re-cut to Force Awakens

I said I was obsessed with Force Awakens right now… and also Destiny… and this video connects the two.  Similar to the original Star Wars trilogy trailer, this takes the sound and voice over associated with the Force Awakens trailer and edits it to Destiny footage.  I think it works pretty great, and I felt the same sort of warm fuzzies watching this as I did the other…  I was honestly shocked at just how well it worked.  The strange thing is… the guy that did this apparently almost exclusively re-cuts movie trailers to Destiny footage… but honestly most of them don’t work nearly as well as this one.

Walking Dead

I thought I would throw a footnote in here really quick…  just to say I am not going to talk about this episode.  Mostly because I don’t want anyone to accidentally have it spoiled.  Some shit happens… some major shit…  and Monday morning we tried to sort through all of it.  We were seriously distraught because we were uncertain what the events of the show meant for the franchise as a whole.  Then…  one of us found some leaked information…  which makes me even less likely to write about it.  Right now…  I am just not sure how I feel about it… what happened… what supposedly will happen.  As a result I just am not going to talk about it other than what I have just said here.  Since however I have gotten in the habit of running down each new episode, I thought I would at least leave a footnote.

Media Consumption 10/24/2015

Week of Star Wars

MediaConsumptionThis week was extremely dominated by my burgeoning love of Star Wars.  I have written many times about how I just was not feeling the franchise after the prequels… and that all of the hype surrounding me has rekindled that little kid inside of me that wanted to be “darfa bader”.  I’ve always loved the empire more than the rebels, and I feel kinda bad about that… but Storm Troopers and Darth Vader….  come on.  I was sick for a chunk of the week and while home sick… I caught up on a few things… namely Star Wars Rebels.  So without further rambling… lets talk about stuff.

Star Wars: Force Awakens – Trailer 3

This trailer is absolutely amazing and only serves to bump my hype for this movie up to a fever pitch.  This honestly scares me more than a little bit.  I am as excited right now for Force Awakens as I was for Phantom Menace… and we all know how that turned out.  I think the thing that gives me confidence more than anything is the giant trail of money attached to this movie.  Disney paid four billion dollars to purchase the Star Wars franchise… and I think the realize if this movie is the stinker than Phantom Menace was… they have essentially flushed the vast majority of that money down the toilet.  That said I have also come to realize that quite simply I don’t think George Lucas knows how to direct human beings with human emotions.  I’ve recently watched the prequels again… and those movies are full of some really damned good actors… all of which are chewing up scenery with some of the most unnatural dialog and acting I have seen.  You take those same actors and put them in quite literally any other movie and they do amazing jobs… so it has the be the movies themselves that are the problem.  Anyways… enough of that and on to the trailer.

I love the feel of this trailer, how it is a sequence of more fleshed out vignettes this time.  I have gone back and forth on the popular conspiracies and at this point I simply don’t have a clue.  I don’t know why Luke Skywalker isn’t on the movie poster, and I am starting to question if it is him with the robotic hand reaching out to R2-D2.  I am playing this game of “who is the Skywalker”, and I right now I am starting to think that maybe Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren are all connected to the previous trilogy.  I am still leaning heavily towards Kylo Ren being the child of Han and Leia who has now turned to the Dark Side and become essentially a Vader fanboy… since he knows that Vader was essentially his Grandfather.  You see Rey behind the seat of the Millennium Falcon in one of the shots that has come out… so that would lead you to believe that maybe she is ALSO the child of Han and Leia…  maybe sibling to Kylo?  Finn is the one I cannot place…  since we see him wielding a lightsaber we know he is a force sensitive.  Makes me wonder if maybe he is the child of Luke, but with whom.  He could also be the child of Sana Solo which is now apparently the in canon wife of Han.  I feel like a lot of this movie is going to center around Kylo Ren essentially going on an Artifact hunt trying to find relics of Vader, but past that I am not sure of anything.  I am absolutely looking forward to December so I can finally see how the pieces are going to fit together.

Star Wars Rebels

star-wars-rebels-season-2

While sick this week I caught up on watching Star Wars Rebels, which I found out you can stream from the Disney XD website so long as you have a cable provider to validate with.  The only problem with this is that it isn’t really clear where one season ends and the next begins.  At this point I am apparently caught up and into season two, and I have to say this show… is so great and just what we needed to bridge some gap between the prequels and the modern age movies.  This show is essentially about the birth of the Rebellion as we know it episodes four through six.  I’ve talked about the show in the past on my blog, and I will warn you it honestly takes a few episodes before it starts to feel right.  Sabine Wren is awesome… just going to get that out there.  I love Mandalorians and she has this awesome quirky nature that is just great, and I love the fact that she tags her armor every time they take down another imperial target.  I also adore the paint job she did on the captured Tie Fighter.

The coolest part about this show however is the fact that we get to find out what happens to Ahsoka Tano.  That was the biggest problem I had after Clone Wars you weren’t really sure what became of her.  You know she isn’t in any of the prequels…  largely because I don’t think the character existed until the Clone Wars cartoon… but we just know she is not around in any form.  Here we find that she is fighting the good fight and acting as the rebel operative known as “Fulcrum”.  It is awesome to see her again, but we know that issues are going to come up…  and with a brief interaction with Darth Vader he realizes exactly who she is… and that she is still alive.  You are left with the impression that she has her assumptions that Vader is Anakin…  but she isn’t nearly as certain as Vader is in that interaction.  I thought it was awesome that they brought in Commander Cody as well, and it makes me so damned happy that essentially Clone Wars and Rebels are a continuation of the same basic story arc.  I was afraid that all of the great characters that got invented for the Clone Wars show would simply be gone, but now we are seeing them almost all revitalized as part of the Rebels show… which also I believe means they are being inducted into the canon universe.  The hope is that maybe some of these characters will have brief cameos in the new movies as well.

Walking Dead Season 5 – Episode 2

720x405-TWD_602_GP_0518_0043

Wow… this episode.  I thought the first episode was intense with the quarry full of walkers, and herding them down the path.  This episode starts off very benign showing you how the rest of the characters were spending the time while everyone else was out in the field with the walkers.  Then in a manner so quickly that I thought it might literally be a hallucination…  we see the wolves get into Alexandria and just start slaughtering the residents.  We all knew the wolves would eventually get there, and it seems as though either someone jumped the fence in the same way that Carl and Enid have done…  or someone left the damned gate open again.  Last week we theorized as to who was hitting the car horn and leading the walkers of the pack, but this week we find out that it was instead a semi truck that was heading for one of the walls to break it down.  The gun in the guard tower managed to shoot the driver…  but then the driver fell on the horn while dying.  The episode as a whole was just so strange to see how absolutely feral and blindingly fast the wolves were.

The part I am thankful for however is the fact that essentially this incident forced Carol to abandon her disguise.  She had to become the badass we all know she is, but I do think it is significant that she once again took on the disguise of a wolf, much like she took on the disguise of a walker getting into Terminus.  I think this is the sign of something more with her character… I think she got used to having to wear a mask in the years she was in her abusive marriage, and now it is just comfortable for her to keep adopting them in order to stay safe.  This episode however was a tale of two styles conflicting…  the monk like pacifism of Morgan, and the brutal and honest force of Carol.  The body count from this episode was massive and I think in one show we have whittled down the folks in Alexandria to only the reliable and self sufficient ones are left.  The wolves came in and killed all of the sheep as it were…  all of the people who simply could not take care of themselves.  As a result I think Alexandria is going to be a vastly different place in the coming weeks as they have to deal with this horde of walkers bearing down upon the walls.  I am amped for this week to see what happens next.

Sithmas Time Is Here

1080_saber1

Merry Sithmas

20151007_114140

It has been so surreal since the launch of the Force Awakens toy line.  Everywhere I go the world seems to be teeming with Star Wars enthusiasm and with that… comes a bunch of priced to own kitch.  While we have yet to reach anything close to the hype bubble we experienced before the release of Phantom Menace, it is still extremely noticeable.  A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching the prequels and how I had wondered if maybe I was just too harsh on them at the time.  After re-watching I decided that no… they really were horrible films.  The problem is that for years I let them have control over my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe as a whole, and that frustrates me.  If you were to completely ignore their existence, then honestly the rest of the Universe is still pretty great.  Sure there was some strange stuff on the fridges of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot discount just how phenomenal the Old Republic Era has been.  I remember picking up one of the first Tales of the Jedi comics and being completely blown away at this concept of a universe set essentially 4000 years before the time of Skywalker.  Then as that universe blossomed over the course of sever comic series, and then came to life in the form of the Knights of the Old Republic game, I was absolutely hooked.  Now that I am back roaming around SWTOR, I am realizing I care about this universe far more than I ever realized.

When the game mentions Freedon Nadd or Exar Kun… I remember who they are and what they did in this worlds history.  I remember awesome characters like Nomi Sunrider from the comics, or Jolee Bindo from KOTOR.  When I see a reference to Casus Fett or Mandalore the Ultimate in game… I know who those characters are and can remember reading about them in the comics.  The thing is… it is not just the Old Republic era that is amazing.  Essentially each time another creative force has been given free reign in the fertile Star Wars universe… really awesome things have happened.  For example while the official Prequels are pretty horrible, the Clone Wars cartoon series is amazing.  No one can deny just how awesome Ahsoka Tano as is a character, and just how much more interesting the interaction is between her and Anakin…  than pretty much ANYTHING in the Prequels.  Now if we scan forward we have Star Wars Rebels… also being allowed free reign in the universe, this time within the constraints of the more well known modern era.  Similar to Shadows of the Empire it is weaving its way in and out of events we already know, and doing a great job of making us care about this new cast of characters.

Excitement Grows

1080_saber1

Which leads me to realize…  the times I have really loved Star Wars lately is when someone has been able to wriggle out front under the grasp of George Lucas and run freely creating their own plot lines and characters.  Essentially this is exactly what is happening with Force Awakens… it is all the goodness of the Star Wars universe with none of the harmful effects that Lucas has forced upon it in recent years.  In fact Lucas has been more than a little bit salty when talking about Episode VII and the fact that for the most part Disney ignored his plans to create a movie focused around teenagers.  What is happening is that Disney has become the most powerful marketing juggernaut on the planet, and at the core of their methodology is protecting the bottom line, and with it the long term profitability of the franchises they own.  I am sure there is some computer program somewhere that knows precisely what fans will like, and just how far they are willing to allow the themes to be stretched.  While at some point down the line this might be a bad thing for innovation…  I sincerely doubt they will allow anything even vaguely close to midichlorians to ever happen again.

The only frustration I have with the Disney approach however is that so much of the Universe became ruled “non-canon”.  There were characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn that were absolutely amazing…  in fact I have action figures for both of them hanging on my wall as well as Clone Emperor Palpatine, Dark Jedi Luke, and Jedi Leia.  Those stories meant a lot to me, and while there were parts of the Expanded Universe that were completely unfollowable… most of it made a certain logical sense at least at one time.  The problem being like most fan centered fiction, it iterated on itself causing the characters to become more distorted and unbelievably heroic as time went on.  It is my hope that they will figure out how to work some of the best characters into the new tales.  There has been rumors that Mara Jade will be introduced as an Inquisitor instead of the Emperors Hand for example, which is fine with me…  so long as she is introduced at all.  Basically I find myself in a strange place, of having hope for Star Wars… when for so many years I lacked it almost entirely.  I imagine as we get closer to the December release of the movie, the cross promotions and Star Wars branded soup cans will start to get annoying.  However in the meantime…  I am reveling in Sithmas.

The Professional

swtor 2015-10-07 23-37-28-54

As of last night I have finished Balmorra and Nar Shadda on the Bounty Hunter and just went through the “intermission” that generally occurs there.  I didn’t really expect to be all that into this storyline, because essentially it was one of the ones that I never intended to actually complete.  While I enjoyed the Trooper storyline, the class itself was not that compelling to me.  Largely I think this was the reason why I ultimately fell out of love with SWTOR after pushing three characters to the then level cap of 50.  Bounty Hunter however feels completely different, and much more action packed.  There are little things like rocket punch and the jet pack charge that make it feel more brutal…  even if the attacks are essentially the same as my trooper vanguard.   The funny thing about the storyline is just how much of myself I can pour into it.  I am playing a very grey bounty hunter, who does not kill anyone for free.  Also as the story goes on I am becoming a bit of a softy, and I am wondering exactly when that will bite me in the ass.  Essentially it does not seem like a very “sith side” storyline so far other than the fact that essentially I am doing everything for the sake of payback… and for a girl.

I imagine over the next few days I will rip through the content quickly and before the end of the weekend start work on the last of two classes.  Not sure what I will be doing next, if it will be the Inquisitor and its constant shock treatment… or if I will go for the Imperial Agent.  As it stands now… I am starting to lean towards Agent.  Whatever the case playing all of these stories is making me fall in love with the Bioware writing all over again.  It is also making me look forward to Fallen Empire and its more story driven focus.  When you ONLY play the class quests, SWTOR becomes a much better game because it has a nice clean story arc that does not get muddied by repeating the same planetary quests over and over again.  At some point I will go back and play some of the quests I missed Sith side, but for the time being I want to push through the classes because each one feels like it adds another piece of a puzzle to the central story arc of this game world.  This is also making me want to go back and get KOTOR 2 working, and actually attempt to beat it this time.  It feels like there is a chunk of storyline that I am missing there, and with it several characters that I really only know by name.  Essentially I am saying by all of this… that once again I am proud to be a Star Wars junkie.

 

 

 

Star Wars Disappointments

Force Friday

ForceFriday
Borrowed from the Disney Blog – Force Friday Merch at a disney store

 

Once upon a time I was a die hard Star Wars fan and more importantly collector.  Throughout my childhood, my parents enabled the collecting of Star Wars figures, and in truth I think my parents got more into it than I did.  There was a certain thrill in chasing down those last few figures that I did not have.  So it was not a huge surprise in 1996 when the figured were re-released to the marketplace that I got back into it.  In fact there were so many of my college friends who went damned near bankrupt buying various bits of star wars merchandise.  This fervor was only made more insane by the re-release of the movies in the theaters.  My wife was a trooper and tolerated the shit out of my habits, and I even got her into sifting through the racks looking for this or that figure.  However when I went to see Phantom Menace it pretty much killed my desire to keep doing that.  I know it is cliche’d but I still have not reconciled the disappointment I feel over the prequels.  I am sure taken without the viewpoint of a lifetime of nostalgia and hero worship over the original movies…  they are probably not that horrible.  However for me personally… they were just a bunch of cool lightsaber battles and the bits of movie I tolerated until I got to see more of said lightsaber battles.  The problem is it is a habit you never really kick, and on a regular basis I filter through the toy isle and look at the star wars figures.  I still have a handful of figures hanging out around my office.

With the announcement of Force Awakens, I have to say I have been getting pretty damned excite about it.  So when I heard about this Force Friday thing where they would be releasing in bulk all of the Force Awakens merchandise out into the stores…. it made me think of the sheer excitement I felt when they released all of the Phantom Menace merchandise.  Now I know people who went out Thursday night at midnight for the official first moments…  me however…  I am past the whole doing something at midnight time.  The last item I purchased like that was probably the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  I did however need to run get cat food over lunch and while I was at Target, there as no way in hell you could keep me from going through the Star Wars isles.  From the moment I stepped into the store things just felt strange.  They had this huge cardboard stand-up of Chewbacca near the front entrance in the dollar section…  asking patrons of the store to take a selfie with it… and do your best Chewie Roar.  I mean I realize this is Disney we are talking about…  a company that has made its entire career by capitalizing on our nostalgia.  It just felt somehow more cheap… more commercial…  more forced.  It didn’t help that quite literally you could not go for very far in the store without running into some bit of Force Awakens merchandise stuffed here or there.  I mean even in the home goods section they had cups on one of the end caps.

Low Quality Figures

1415809346973869489

The thing I regret is not having taken any good pictures, because for this next section it would help out quite a bit.  They had a dedicated section set up in the seasonal area, and I of course made a bee line there expecting it to be some sort of a one stop shop for all of the merchandise.  Now there was quite a bit there, but one thing was missing completely…  the standard sized Star Wars action figures that I collected so many years.  For those I had to go to the traditional “Star Wars” isle in the toy section, and they had a fair assortment.  I had a Kylo Ren and a Captain Phasma in my hands, when I started to notice a few things about the figures.  Firstly the cards they were on felt really cheap compared to modern Star Wars toys.  Instead of a thick piece of cardboard with printing on both sides… it was some sort of a sandwiched construction made out of a bunch of thinner layers of cardboard which gave it a very irregular look.  Then I started paying attention to the figures themselves…. and while the sculpts themselves were fairly nice…  the paint jobs were atrocious.  It looked like they had applied the worst sort of rush treatment to get them out the door in time for this “big event”.  I’ve been looking for images that illustrate my point, but all i can really say is that it felt like they were a paint by number that just could not stay inside of the lines.

On the storm troopers for example… large chunks of black were globed over onto the white sections of armor.  The Captain Phasma figures that I had seen preview shots of had a nice satin sheen to them to simulate the chrome armor.  Instead the figure I had in my hand was a dull matte hunk of largely unpainted grey plastic.  I looked at figure after figure and they all seemed to have these same basic defects that just made them look cheaply produced.  The thing is…  this is not the standard I am used to in Star Wars figures.  I have a bunch of the more modern figures… and they all had excellent paint jobs.  Granted the “newest” figure I have is of Savage Opress, but it still is a figure from the last few years.  The twelve inch figures looked a little better, but they were still not really up to the standards I would expect from that sort of a figure.  On the positive however… the Funko Pop figures looked amazing as always, and the Lego display I saw looked amazing.  Lego is on of those companies that is always spot on when it comes to quality, and you know that for the most part anything you buy will be perfectly formed and defect free.  Hasbro on the other hand…  seems to have slipped massively, and if I were them I would be ashamed of the quality of this figure line.

Still Spinning

Screenshot018

I find it extremely bizarre that I have yet to get Diablo 3 out of my system.  When I came home last night from work, I immediately plunked myself down on the sofa, put something on Hulu and started working on bounties for crafting materials.  At this point I am two achievements away from getting my season four toys, and I think probably I can knock one of them off soon.  The biggest challenge seems to be getting legendaries to drop so that I can fill gear slots with them.  More so than that… the real challenge is getting legendary rings and a necklace with gem slots in them…  because with the introduction of legendary gems no piece of level 70 jewelry is really viable without a gem slot.  I hear tell that there are items in the game that you can use to socket items, but I have yet to actually see any of them.  Right now I would settle for a second level 70 ring so that I can maybe knock out the legendary in every slot achievement.  Still enjoying the barbarian, but it gets frustrating the higher I dial up torment because I just take so damned much damage…  since I require being in the thick of everything to deal any real damage.  At this point Torment 1 is my new normal, and I keep thinking the more paragon levels I pour on… the easier things will get.  In the mean time I will keep plugging away at Rifts and Bounties until I get the items I actually need to drop.