Tag Archives: Star Wars

Christmas Traditions, Part 3

It’s funny how certain things just become associated with Christmas. Some perhaps more intentionally than others. Today I delve into some movies and TV shows that have been a part of Christmas for me and my families, and perhaps some things might be surprising.

For example, every Star Wars movie except The Force Awakens has been released in May. But Return Of The Jedi was shown on TV around Christmas for several years in a row when I was a child, so that was the one I saw most, and I still kind of associate with Christmas. The Force Awakens was released just a few days ago, around a week before Christmas, is that a movie that will keep a Christmas association for people?

Contrast that with Star Trek movies. I only saw the Next Generation and reboot movies in the cinema. First Contact and Insurrection were released in December in the UK, Generations in February (3 months after the USA, and the one with Trek’s only mention of Christmas), and Nemesis was Mid-December in the US, and really early January in the UK. I don’t think any of these are widely thought of as Christmas movies.

In addition to Return Of The Jedi, the 1982 animated short film The Snowman was another thing that seemed to be on every year. Not that we minded…

A few years later, and other things became Christmas staples on TV. The first three Wallace And Gromit movies.

And repeats were the order of the day, for a while: Morcambe and Wise. Then all manner of shows started doing Christmas specials. Watched Only Fools And Horses, of course. More recently, the Doctor Who specials, though nowadays we get those a bit later.

Here, we don’t have TV in the traditional way, it’s all streaming or discs these days. So we don’t have the same sort of habits of TV watching anyway, let alone similar traditions. Watching Love Actually has been a Christmastime tradition here (not necessarily on the Big Day). I think that’s been less of a thing the last couple of years because of the kids (though possibly general busyness contributes, too).

As I continue this series, casual reader, I ask you to contribute: what Christmas-related household traditions do you have/have you had? Please comment below.

The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free)

The newest Star Wars movie allegedly comes out tomorrow, but my local cinema had both screens open this evening for a 7pm and a 9-something showing. Oldest and I got our tickets for the 7pm earlier in the week. Oldest rocked a fancy Luke Skywalker costume, copied from what Mr Skywalker was wearing at the beginning of Return Of The Jedi. I had my “Hello Jawa” t-shirt, and had a red lightsaber, just in case.

The screen we were in was pretty full. Not every seat was taken, but most were.

Seemed there were more trailers than usual: Now You See me 2, Allegiant, Batman vs Superman, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and Captain America: Civil War. A friend predicted Finding Nemo 2, and I predicted Independence Day: Resurgence and Star Trek: Beyond. We were both wrong. In hindsight, Captain America should have been obvious for the same reasons as the ones we predicted: Nemo because of the Disney connection, Independence Day and Trek for the sci-fi action.

This review of the movie will be spoiler-free, though I suspect the best way of not being spoiled will be to see the movie soon.

Overall impression was that The Force Awakens was a good, enjoyable movie. Not blown-out-of-the-water fantastic you-must-see-it-now super-wonderful, but still good, and I’m glad I saw it.

It opened with the Lucasfilm logo, then the traditional “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”. It was weird for the main Star Wars theme to be without the Fox fanfare.

It seemed that most of the trailer footage, promotional stills, and so on, were taken from the very beginning of the movie. Not all, but rather a lot.

I didn’t go out of my way looking for speculation about the movie, based on those trailers and images, but I did see some. And it was interesting how not-right it all turned out to be.

There were a bunch of impressive visuals. I mean, it would be pretty bad if there weren’t, but I can picture getting screen grabs of several things, for the screensaver.

Characters: I liked Maz. I wanted to know more about Snoke. It seemed they were setting up for us to learn more about Rey, in further installments of the series.

Some returning characters were used surprisingly sparingly. Even some new characters seemed less significant than some promotional material seemed to suggest.

There were some nice continuity nods to earlier films. Including a throwaway line explaining why Finn isn’t Temuera Morrison.

The Force Awakens seemed a solid Part 1. A New Hope seemed more standalone than this one, though this contained its story pretty well. It does leave you wanting to know What Happens Next.

I’m looking forward to seeing it again on DVD.

After Mockingjay Part 2’s MPAA number came tantalisingly close to 50000, I was waiting to see if The Force Awakens’s would beat it. It seems that though the number generally corresponds with release date, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Well, it turned out to be 50155. Wow, where did those 159 other movies go?

Anyway, those are my first-viewing spoiler-free impressions of Episode VII. Might so a more spoilery one after the DVD comes out.

Spoiler: Wash dies.

The Great Cinema Binge Of Yesteryear

There was a time in the early to mid-2000s, when I regularly went to the cinema. I’m not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog, but it’s one of those anecdotes that does tend to come up if I talk about going to the cinema for any length of time.

The cinema happened to be not-very-far-away as the train flies, and I had the afternoon free from work on Tuesday, the cheap day. Saw a bunch of Orange Film Board commercials during that time, probably the most interesting promos about how mobile phones can ruin the movie-watching experience.

I would tend to watch 3 movies in a row. I’d have to plan start times and end times, and have to factor in running time. It was fun.

There were, if I recall correctly, a little more than 20 screens in the cinema. Some were straightforwardly small, with an aisle dividing the two sets of seats. Some screens were pretty huge, with a bunch of seats in front of a railing, and the seats behind the railing tiering upwards.

It was in one of these huge screens that I watched Star Wars Episode III, I was towards the front of the cluster in front of the railing, which was far too close to the screen to comfortably see the action. It was an evening screening, fairly close to release day, and was one of the only seats left. Also in one of these giant screens, I saw The Aviator. Afternoon, not evening, that showing was not very full. I sat just behind the railing, which tended to be a good distance for watching movies. It was perfect for that movie, I was grabbing the railing when the plane was crashing down into that house.

In the smaller screens, I developed a sense of about how far back in the cinema I wanted to be (action movie, there was no point in sitting in the front half). There did tend to be a spot just off-center of the screen that tended to be a bit extra reflective, that could just be the angle of the projector and my angle of viewing, meeting in an unfortunate manner.

There were times when there were a bunch of things I wanted to watch, and I didn’t quite catch them all, and some points where less looked immediately interesting, but I’d give some a chance. And there was an interesting mix, some I was less sure about I ended up enjoying (White Noise springs to mind), some that I was more interested in seeing turned out to be a lot less good (Alexander, Troy, King Arthur).

In addition to the movies themselves, for a large chunk of this time there tended to be a bunch of promotional materials given away. My wall at one point was covered in movie posters, and I had a stack of postcards. These materials had all kind of dried up by the time I stopped. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the cinema the other day, to find a stack of posters for the film I was watching, in two designs. If it stops raining tomorrow, I can take the two Mockingjay Part 2 posters to the garage, and put them in the box with all the other film posters.

The chain did a nice promotion when Star Trek Nemesis came out: you could get preview tickets for that film, and you could also get tickets for The Wrath Of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country, and First Contact (the even-numbered films, AKA “the good ones”), all shown back-to-back on a Sunday.

Too right I took advantage of that one. Just a shame Nemesis sucked.

So anyway, that was a fun experience for a couple of years. And don’t tell anyone, but I think I still have the ticket stubs in a box somewhere, I could find out what I actually saw then.

Harp Twins

I started writing a post on a different subject, and research started taking a while, and it just got to a point where I decided I needed to go to bed soon, so I decided to save that post for another day, and give you something less complicated.

So, following on from yesterday’s post about stuff I found on YouTube, I thought I’d highlight a couple of YouTube stars who have been rather prolific in their output.

I found the Harp Twins, Camille and Kennerly, from their Star Trek themes cover. They take tunes they line, TV themes, movie tunes, video game music, rock, and heavy metal, and create arrangements of the tunes, for two harps to play. then they record them, video them, and put them up on YouTube for your enjoyment.

(of course, if I’m going to embed one, it’ll be Final Fantasy tunes)

Their Lord Of The Rings covers are a favourite, Oldest loved their Star Wars medley.

There’s all sorts of stuff to enjoy there, and I hope you do enjoy it. nice relaxing playlist to have on in the background of your day.

Star Wars, Religion, And Magic

In Star Wars: A New Hope, there is a memorable exchange between an Imperial officer and Darth Vader:
Admiral Motti: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you enough clairvoyance to find the rebels’ hidden fortress…
[Vader makes a pinching motion and Motti starts choking]
Darth Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

In a kind of mirror encounter, Han Solo expresses a similar disbelief to Luke, while Obi-Wan listens in:
Luke Skywalker: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?
Han Solo: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

So I think we get a sense that the general understanding in the universe at this point, is that there is no magic, no Force, religion is dismissed as not alive, perhaps not much thought about.

In one of the Force Awakens trailers, it seems the same zeitgeist permeates the universe.
Rey: There are stories about what happened.
Han Solo: It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi. They’re real.

This may be reading too much into the quote, but perhaps there’s a bad guy mirror scene:
Supreme Leader Snoke: There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? The Dark side, and the Light.

I guess Luke didn’t singlehandedly rebuild the entire Jedi Council in the intervening years.

The parallels with various countries of the 20th and 21st centuries are obvious. In various places, the Communists tried to stamp out all religion, and those places are having to spend effort in recovering what they once had. And there are various currents rather obvious in English-speaking countries, either apathetic or hostile to either religion in general, or Christianity in particular. Not always without good reason.

I was thinking tonight about sites in England (springs and wells) that historically were regarded as miraculous, such claims easily dismissed now even by most Christians in the country. And miraculous things I find out about in my approach to Orthodoxy that seem really weird coming from a Protestant background, but seem to have something to them.

I don’t want to bang on too much about the subject, so I’ll just post a link instead, but there were a couple of stories like this that seemed fairly close together, this was the one I found: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/up-from-the-ashes-helping-south-boston-parish-recover

Perhaps there’s more magic in the world than people generally see.

Tis The Season For Costumes

Each year, a bunch of the businesses in town open their doors for trick-or-treating. The kids enjoy dressing up, so last year I took the older two round the town center for the candy collection. Participating places put a pumpkin in their window, so parents and kids know which establishments to go in. I think Oldest was a Jedi, and Middlest had a Hello Kitty-themed outfit. I went as Indiana Jones.

We’re planning to take some kids this Friday (a day early, but it’s when the stores are doing it). The appearance of a Darth Vader mask, and my retrieval from the garage of my own Darth Vader voice-changer helmet (IIRC five quid from a charity shop in England) makes it sound like we’ll have two Darth Vaders this year.

Youngest (assuming he goes) and Middlest were fighting over a lion coat (mane on the hood, and a tail dangling down from the back. It fits Youngest better. Middlest’s outfit seems to be sorted out already, she now has the Vader mask, and a black dress. It’s pretty cute. Youngest has been running around the house with the voice-changer helmet today, and he really enjoyed it. It might be difficult for him to not wear it on Friday, to give it up to someone else. There was talk of someone taking him separately. He does like the roaring, though, so he might end up being ok as a lion.

There has been talk of Oldest or even myself wearing the Vader helmet. I suspect Oldest will get it, he has an appropriate black cloak. At one point today, Oldest and Youngest both had Darth headgear. I tried to get Oldest to say “I shall call him Mini-Me”, but of course he is far, far too young for the reference (I checked, and he’s far, far too young for the full trailer to the first Austin Powers movie). He didn’t want to say it in a Doctor Evil voice, but he was ok trying to say it in a Darth Vader voice. Once.

Bit late for all of us to be evil Star Wars characters (“Sith Happens”). Not quite sure what I’ll go as. Oldest has an Iron Man mask. That’d go with Youngest being a lion, wouldn’t it? They’re totally from the same show. (Or I could go as Gomtuu, except no, way too hard.)

Hmm, decisions need to be made. (or, in other words, much begging for ideas). My wizard’s staff got dismantled a while ago, but the stick may suffice on its’ own, and I think I saw the hat recently. That’s a possibility.

We shall see.

The Next Generation(s), And Spinoff Silliness

Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation this evening (Journey’s End and Firstborn, we’re nearing the end, folks!), it occurred to me that there were some more shows with “The Next Generation” in the title. Although I didn’t think of many others, I think I was still surprised by how few there were, when I checked IMDB afterwards.

Roots: TNG started the trend in 1979, Trek was second in ’87, there was a TV movie “Bonanza: The Next Generation” (speculation: intended as a pilot, but failed?) in 1988, and Degrassi: The Next Generation (the one I remembered, though I’m not sure I ever watched it) was actually far later, in 2001.

There’s a reality show that started this year called “The Jacksons: Next Generation” – “Taj, Taryll, and TJ Jackson struggle to manage their lives, careers and families under the constant spotlight of their famous last name” – which could be seen as a continuation of the naming trend, and next year there’s an “Underworld: Next Generation”, which I suspect isn’t.

You may well have been happier not knowing about those last two, but I just heard about ’em, so now you have, too.

I’m tempted to copy and paste the “The Next Generation” portion of ST:TNG’s logo below a Star Wars logo, in celebration of the forthcoming movie.

One wonders what would have happened if Trek had been spun off into TV shows now. What spin-off naming convention would be used now?

The shows that immediately spring to mind, are CSI and NCIS.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Such unwieldy titles, but they say what they mean.
Equivalent? Star Trek: Starship Enterprise.

Hmm, eerily close to the last Trek show.

All right, what else have we got?

CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans. Same-but-different kinda vibe.
Equivalent? Star Trek: U.S.S. Brooklyn, Star Trek: U.S.S. San Francisco.
Alternatively, the shows could be named after where the ships are stationed in the Trek universe.
Star Trek: Along The Romulan Neutral Zone.
Oh no, that would make Deep Space Nine “Star Trek: Bajor”, or maybe “Star Trek: Cardassian Border”. Phaser me now.

This leaves one CSI spinoff title unadapted. CSI: Cyber. Presumably the team isn’t sitting around the whole time, examining millions of lines of code or transactions or data report, like one imagines cyber crimes units usually doing.
But Trek has always been partial to playing around with new technologies, and sometimes exploring the implications of them, or imagining what might be possible with technology two, three or four centuries away.
But really, there can be only one equivalent.
Star Trek: Holodeck.

Run for the hills!

Bits And Pieces

Just a quick one tonight, as the power’s going to go off in not-too-long, and the outage is supposed to last until about when it’ll be time to get up.

I’ve crossed a few things off my to-do list the last couple of days. Sorted payment for the web sites, arranged an eye test because I need a new prescription to get a new pair of glasses (my current pair got scratched while playing hide and seek with Oldest outside, in the dark), wrote the first draft of an article for a site I frequent. Did some of the data collection for my planned site. Some items go really quickly, and some take a really long time (such as the last one I did today.

The Steam key for Civ IV came through, am going to try and enter that before we lose power.

Played some Final Fantasy VII with Oldest today (disc 1, having left the Gold Saucer, we got to Cosmo Canyon, for those that means anything to). Oldest, familiar with the Star Wars music, recently saw an orchestra playing the Imperial March, He hadn’t realised quite how many instruments, or how many people playing the same kind of instrument, there were in an orchestra. He said he didn’t realise it was that “complicated”. So today, a while after we’d stopped playing FF7, I put on a YouTube video of the very beginning of FF7 for him. Then I put on that same music (“Opening/Bombing Mission”) on my Distant Worlds DVD. The full orchestra is playing it, and clips from the game are shown on a projector screen behind them. Oldest thought this was also “complicated” (quotes because that’s the part I can guarantee are his words). We saw a few more tunes on the DVD before he had to get ready for bed.

Smoke me a kipper, internet: I’ll be back for breakfast.

Star Wars With A Two-Year-Old

This evening I’ve been watching Star Wars with Youngest. We watched New Hope (original version, widescreen), and we’re in the middle of Return Of The Jedi (special edition, fullscreen, worst of all worlds :) ) right now.

It’s been fun watching with commentary by a 2-year-old. Initially lots of “oo dat?”s (“who’s that?”) and trying of names (“Chewbacca” was pretty cute, and he picked up “Chewie” from dialogue). “Dark Vader”, though since his mommy corrected him he’s been saying “Darth Vader” pretty well.

Some of the best ones have been unprompted, however. The speeder bikes a few minutes ago, were an entirely understandable “motorcycle!”.

He insists on calling R2-D2 “Dalek!”. At one point, both main droids were on screen, and I said “Artoo and C-3PO!” and the response was “No! Dalek!” At another point, R2 and a droid just like him, but black instead of blue, were on screen together. “Two Daleks!” You better watch out, R2, this guy’s onto you.

And in a case of “say what you see”, he was calling the original Death Star “watermelon!”

He was losing interest at the very end of Star Wars, but concentrated during the end credits (I think the music helped). He was then interested in another one, so I got Return Of The Jedi. The menu animation that first played, was of some Imperial ships. youngest declared that he was scared (“cared!”), but I told him it’s all right, there are teddy bears in this one. He cheered up at this. Thankfully, we reached that part in the movie. Interestingly, as I’d pointed out that the Ewok was scared when Leia took her helmet off, and pointed out when Luke picked it up, he was trying to keep track of where the helmet was after that point. Maybe continuity people need to start watching out, as well.

So there you go, some experience of Star Wars with a 2-year-old. For the most part, it kept him distracted enough to not go and mess up the project his mommy was working on, or to wake up everyone in the house. Now he’s gone, in theory, to get a good night’s sleep. As should I.

Some Musings On Star Wars Videogames

There have been quite a variety of Star Wars games over the years, and, as you would expect, their quality level goes all over the place. Here’s some thoughts on some outings I’m acquainted with.

Lego Star Wars
I’ve played the Complete Saga on DS, and tried out the Original Trilogy on PC before its DRM screwed me over. I like the Lego humour, and while not taking itself too seriously, still seems to have a fondness for the source material. Shame about the DRM, because on PC I could actually play with Oldest. After getting 100% on Lego Star Wars, then Lego Lord Of The Rings and Lego Marvel Superheroes on DS, I haven’t really been in a hurry to play any of them through again.

Dark Forces
Back in the days when the original Doom was all the rage, someone came up with the idea of a Star Wars first-person shooter. You, as Not-Han-Solo Kyle Katarn, are dropped off on a series of solo missions. The story is told between missions, and you’re often finding your way into Imperial bases. You start off retrieving the plans for the Death Star, then gradually discover the existence of the Dark Trooper project: battle droids that are actually tougher than the stormtroopers (the prequel trilogy hadn’t come out, yet). It did a good job of telling the story, level design was pretty good, I’ve finished it once, and played it a few times since.

Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight
Man! A lightsaber in Dark Forces would have been really handy. Kyle discovers that he, too, can become a Jedi. I recall it seemed like ages before you got the lightsaber, but it seems that it was only level 4 out of 21. Interestingly, the demo for the game was of level 9. I completed the game once, haven’t really felt the desire to go play it again, but I don’t recall it being bad. Perhaps not as interesting as the first one. I played some of the expansion, Mysteries Of The Sith. It seemed that some detail, texture or shading, wasn’t quite as well done as the main game. I stopped at some point, and never came back to it.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
There’s a thing about first- and third-person shooters. If they’re not done quite right, you can get motion sickness while playing them. Or some sort of unwell-feeling. It’s worse for onlookers, who aren’t controlling the character, but it’s not good when the player gets it. I got a way into this game, but could only play for certain lengths of time before starting to feel a bit sick. Never finished this one. Kyle had given up being a Jedi, and has to get back into the swing of things for this game, so again you spend some time working towards getting Force powers and lightsabers.

Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy
This time round, it seemed like there was no dilly-dallying around before you go to the lightsabers and the Force powers, and I don’t recall feeling sick this time round. I think this was the best outing of the series with a lightsaber. Don’t remember much of the story, so Dark Forces gets the edge there for “best in series”, and I haven’t felt an urgent need to go play it again, but I get a better feeling about replaying this one than the other two Jedi Knight games.

Star Wars: Empire At War
Though still being miffed at its DRM saying I had Virtualdrive or equivalent installed when I didn’t (and not taking too kindly to a game telling me what else I can and can’t have installed on my machine), I played through this one and won. Controlling the Death Star and AT-ATs was, of course, fun. Got a feeling there may have been a unit limit, which I’m not too fond of in my RTSes, being spoiled on the Command And Conquer: Red Alert series. The effects of controlling certain planets, and the bonuses you get from that, were a good idea. Haven’t given any thought to installing it again, having been through a few OS reinstalls since I played it.

Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
I picked this up second-hand a while ago, such that I don’t remember exactly where. Finally got around to installing it last week, and have been trying it out. Took a while to get it working, there is some obscure shader setting in the Graphics options that needs to be turned off, otherwise the game will crash. Similar to Jedi Outcast, you’re an ex-Jedi having to get back into the swing of things. You can start getting Force powers pretty early, and I haven’t gotten to the point of getting a lightsaber yet. I’m running it with the Restored Content mod, and the extra level.
First impressions: It’s a bit RPG-ish, you level up, and when you do you can enhance particular skills and powers, or learn new ones. In theory, it adds a layer to any puzzle-solving you have to do. Also, how you talk to people can affect how much they like you, how you fit on the scale of Light Side to Dark Side, and there’s even dialogue that lets you choose early on, the gender of a character you meet later on, and whether they’re good or bad (and as I found that out, I don’t remember which I chose). Choices affecting aspects of the world around you is a great notion, though I don’t have an opinion yet as to how well they pulled it off. On the other hand, I’m very much noticing the linearity of the level design: so far you just kind of follow the path, then you’ll get your objectives and side-objectives done. Which is a bit of a contrast to those other aspects of the game where you actually make choices. I suspect this will affect the replay value, but we shall see.

Do you have opinions on any of the above games, or any other Star Wars games? I can think of at least 4 more that I’ve played that didn’t make this post, and at least two more that I own and haven’t got around to playing. anything I should put on my list to try?