Geeky Reactions: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer

When it comes to Star Wars, I do my best not to let others influence my opinions. With the current state of the Internet that’s not terribly easy to do. Fortunately for me, I got to watch the new The Force Awakens trailer a few times, and then had to go help my wife with the Black Friday shenanigans at our local small business. Honestly, after being distracted all day long I wasn’t able to stalk the interwebs reading all of the inevitable criticism that that occasionally spews from the Star Wars community. That said, it’s time to talk about what I love about the teaser trailer for a film I hate that I have to wait until next year to watch.

All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas…

Can I please have that lightsaber? I’m sure there are people that are are making this the focus of their criticism. Really, what else do you have to criticize when there’s really nothing else there? For me, it’s the perfect blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and as a die hard fantasy-lover I couldn’t be more intrigued by what Abrams and Disney plan to do with weapons going forward. Lightsabers aside, the X-wings skimming over the water was reminiscent of the Episode IV trench run, and stunningly sweet. The Millennium Falcon’s evasion roll against the TIE-fighters was a classic Han Solo move that just looks amazing.

Outside of the visual effects, we saw two of the actors, not including the dark Jedi, or Sith with the broadsword lightsaber, some stormtroopers and a ball droid. The latter one was a little funky, but the rest was just plain badass. John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform at first made me think we will get a look at stormtroopers beyond their masks like the clone troopers in the prequels and The Clone Wars. I think this is likely, but my other thought was closer to what Lucas did with Han and Luke in Episode IV. Is Boyega just posing as a stormtrooper? Of course, my other question is what the heck is going on? He looks not only disoriented, but freakishly out of place against the stark Tatooine backdrop. Speaking of our favorite desert planet, most of the action in the trailer not including the dark Jedi/Sith and the X-wings, is focused on Tatooine. Daisy Ridley’s character is seen for a moment fleeing some unseen enemy on a very boxy speederbike, and is quite clearly on Tatooine. Guess what planet the Falcon is evading TIEs on? Clearly Vader’s home world will be a major setting for the film.

I’ve played many Star Wars games, and read countless EU novels, and outside of the films where Hoth is the planet we encounter perpetual snow, the moment with the Dark Jedi/Sith we once again see snow. Is this a new planet, or perhaps one of the many EU/SWTOR planets covered in snow? Illum comes to mind, but that is the SWTOR player within making an appearance. Illum is the where lightsaber crystals form, and maybe, just maybe, that’s where our new lightsaber is crafted? I know it’s not technically canon, but without more information, all I can do is hopefully speculate.

Overall, I’m predictably more excited for The Force Awakens. Music, visuals, and actors are all on point in this teaser, and if that is any indicator, the film’s release is going to be something really unexpected. For me, if what Abrams did with the Star Trek reboot, and what Disney has done with the Marvel Universe is any indicator, the future of the Star Wars franchise is in capable hands indeed. I’m more than ready, but for now, I will hit the interwebs to see what the rest of the community thinks. If for some crazy reason you haven’t seen the trailer, and are reading this post, I pasted it below for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome.

Gaming Through the Holidays

It’s that time again, where everything seems to go by the wayside except for family, food and gift giving. Some would say that’s enough, but the gamer inside is always looking for what to do when everyone else is asleep. The holidays are a crazy busy time for our small business, and for my family, but what am I doing to keep my sanity you may ask? It is NOT grading papers that’s for sure!

Dragon Age: Inquisition

This game is one of those rare gems that if I had waited, and asked for it for Christmas, I would have felt like I’d missed the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer in theaters because I don’t live close enough to the 30 theaters it was released in. Okay, that was a little venty. The truth is, DAI is an amazing game I bought for two reasons.

One, it’s BioWare! Those that know me, know I’m a BioWare fanboy.  I think my dedication to the Star Wars: The Old Republic community for over three years says that loudly enough. I’m a sucker for BioWare storytelling, and outside of SWTOR and Mass Effect, Dragon Age truly tickles my fantasy fancy. I think I spent the first hour messing with the character creation system. So far, I’m only about twelve hours into the game and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve leveled a few times, and ran screaming (literally) from my first dragon, and my quest log is overflowing. There’s so much to do in this game I really needed to get a head start before I get distracted. That leads me to reason two…

Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Expansion

The second reason I couldn’t wait to put some time into DAI is BioWare related, but has little to do with DAI itself. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Shadow of Revan expansion releases next week. Every time SWTOR releases an expansion I dedicate all of my “free” time to it. Just when I thought I was all ready to go, and prepared for it’s release I got the silly idea to get all eight base classes to max level BEFORE the expansion. Thankfully, 12 times XP helped with that, and at the moment, I have a few missions left before finishing the Trooper class story, and my Jedi Consular is almost level 45. With Thanksgiving, and real life stuff, I’m not sure I’ll pull it off, but I hope to have all eight base classes sitting at 55 before next Tuesday. While I’m being ambitious, I’ll even wager I’ll down my first dragon in DAI this week.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

I was really hyped for this game, and because I’ve done less and less console gaming the last few years, I pre-ordered ACU at San Diego Comic-Con on PC. I even got this nifty T-shirt! When the game arrived I didn’t really have time to play it, so I looked up the reviews of the PC version. I’m so glad I did. Turns out on release, there was a whole host of issues with the PC version. Rather than hope I wouldn’t be affected, and deciding then and there to buy DAI releasing the next week instead, I returned the game. It’s still on my wish list for Christmas. Hopefully the great patch gods are able to fix what I had hoped would be a great game, and the first one of the franchise I buy on PC.

Sleep?

My gaming time is limited to late in the evenings and I rarely manage to do much outside of that. Add the holidays, and parenting while my wife is out town next week, it’s hard to say how much gaming I’ll actually get in. Oh yeah, add all of that to revising my finally completed novel, blogging, and my full time job, something has to give. Usually, the first thing to go will be sleep. Who needs sleep anyway…right? Happy holidays!

Raising Rebels – Fighter Flight

One of my favorite things about watching kids shows with my girls is hearing them laugh. They both have a great sense of humor, and easily pick up on comedy aimed specifically at them. Rowan, my oldest, has even been picking up on my constant sarcasm more and more each day. As a parent, hearing my girls cry, whine, or pout, happens just as often as hearing them laugh, but laughter is always preferred. My youngest laughs a lot like I do. It happens suddenly, loudly, and wholeheartedly. My oldest daughter Rowan’s laugh is easily outdone by little Zoey’s, but it’s adorable nonetheless. Thanks to the latest episode of Rebels, I got to hear a lot of laughter.

Pumpkin chocolate muffins? Check. Star Wars Rebels? Enthusiastic check.

Pumpkin chocolate muffins? Check. Star Wars Rebels? Enthusiastic check.

Star Wars Rebels: Fighter Flight was the episode I needed my kids to see. There was no Agent Kallus, no Inquisitor, and with only a few suspenseful moments near the end, it was the amazingly fun ride my kids needed to help them buy into the show even more. Looking through the list of episode titles going forward, a few of the them have me worried. The next episode called Rise of the Old Masters is definitely one of them. Right now they are more than excited to watch Rebels each week, but I can see that excitement turning to concern when the Inquisitor makes his first appearance. As I mentioned in my first Raising Rebels post, Darth Maul did not go over well with them at all. Come to think about it, neither did Darth Ferb in the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars special. They are older now, so my hope is that their love for the characters of The Ghost will outweigh their inevitable fear of the villains. This episode had them laughing and playing along with the crew, and even if things get a little scary in the future, I’m fairly optimistic about them voluntarily staying with the show.

When the episode started, I admittedly had concerns about Zeb’s childish behavior. Although I let it go pretty quickly, it was a little off-putting to see the previously angry, all business muscle of The Ghost acting like one of my high school students. It not only worked a few minutes later when Zeb, Ezra and Chopper started fighting, but it further reinforced the family structure of the crew. Herra and Kanan acting as parents, while the rest get into trouble with mom and dad. My girls really got a kick out of the banter between ‘the kids” on The Ghost. We must have rewound the scene where the bunk falls on Zeb a half dozen times. In fact, there were more “rewind it daddy” moments in this episode that any others so far. Rowan loved Zeb flying the TIE fighter, and Zoey was cracking up when Zeb teased Ezra about using The Force.

Overall, this was yet another episode that was well received by my daughters. My wife and I enjoyed it as well. Now that the relationship between Zeb and Ezra is as solid as two close brothers, I’d like to see more of Sabine’s backstory, and because I haven’t finished A New Dawn yet, I’d like to know more about the very close relationship between Kanan and Herra. I am also curious to see when the stolen TIE fighter will make a reappearance. I think many of the other Rebels and Star Wars podcasts have it right when they assume the crew will need an Imperial ship for some reason down the line just as Han and company did in Episode VI. That’s the trouble with watching a show week to week, and never being able to watch it the night it airs. You’ve got to have a Jedi’s patience, and wait for all to be revealed …eventually.

Raising Rebels: Droids in Distress

This week’s Star Wars Rebels episode went over quite well with my girls. All three, in fact. My daughters, Rowan and Zoey laughed at just about everything C3-PO, Chopper and R2-D2 did, and turned away when things got a little stressful between Zeb and Agent Kallus. At the same time, my wife and I both got a little teary eyed when Ezra saved Zeb. But before I get to what my daughters liked about the episode, I want to give my two credits on the episode as a whole.

My girls were pretty stoked for this week's episode

My girls were pretty stoked for this week’s episode

My second spin Star Tours last year

My second spin on Star Tours last year

I’ve watched Droids in Distress three times before writing this, and everything from the pacing to the cameos were very well done. I knew that both R2-D2 and C3-PO would be making appearances before my first viewing, but I’m glad they didn’t stick around as the episode ended. Don’t get me wrong, as many Star Wars fans do, I love those droids, but any “old school” characters joining the crew so early on, or for more than one episode, would seriously detract from the Ghost’s crew, and the relationship that we must have with them. I think Senator Organa’s interest in them as the episode ended was enough to get me excited about more “old school” characters making cameos going forward. I was also glad to get more of Zeb’s story in this episode. I think the connection between his past and Agent Kallus will make their next meeting fairly intense. Hopefully my girls will stay with it despite the darker themes. I really enjoyed the Star Tours references as well. My family goes to Disneyland every year, and as a kid, some of my fondest memories of the park were riding the Star Tours attraction. I thoroughly enjoy the new version of the ride, but something about Pee-Wee Herman yelling “comets!” or “I’ve always wanted to do this! We’re going in!” were at the forefront of my mind as I watched the scene in Rebels. A very fun nod to an old school Disney and Star Wars collaborative project.

Why wouldn't they try on Yoda hats?

Why wouldn’t they try on Yoda hats?

My girls loved the episode overall. When it ended, I asked them a few simple questions, hoping for the awesome that is a young child’s response to something fun they experienced. I asked them separately what their favorite part of this week’s episode was, and they both said: “The Force part.” I can’t help but agree. I mean, what child doesn’t try to use The Force to turn the lights off in their room, or to wrestle a toy away from their younger sibling? Granted, they both turned away as the fight between Zeb and Kallus unfolded, but when Kallus was poised to strike, and the Ezra committed to saving the Lasat, the Force push he delivers was both very Star Wars, and great storytelling. This moment worked on a number of levels. One, of course, is that Ezra instinctively uses The Force in a powerful way to save someone he cares about. Two, he saves the Ghost and it’s crew as a whole by stopping the Imperials at a crucial moment. Lastly, this action forces (pun absolutely intended) Kanan to train him for fear that his increasing powers, if not honed, could cause him to hurt someone he loves, turn to the dark side, or cause him to leave the crew altogether.

Overall, this week’s episode was great. I found myself wishing it was an hour long episode rather than 30 minutes, mostly because I just wanted more. I’m still a bit nervous about the inevitable entrance of The Inquisitor, and how my girls will respond, but right now we are having a blast watching Star Wars together, consistently, for the first time ever.

 

Raising Rebels: Too Young for Star Wars Rebels?

As a geek, and die-hard Star Wars fan, my dream when I became a father was, of course, to raise my kids right. At the same time, I have secretly dreamed my kids would grow up to love Star Wars as much as I do. Rocking my girls to sleep when they were newborns, I would hum the Star Wars theme, and still do when they have a bad dream, or have a hard time falling asleep. We’ve held little dance parties to the Imperial March, and at ages five and three, they can recognize most of the original characters by sight. Buying them Star Wars sticker books and coloring books, watching the Jedi Academy show at Disneyland, riding Star Tours, and reading them countless Star Wars pop-up books, learning to read books, and the Jeffery Brown books helped in that regard for sure.

In the last year or so, I’ve tried to show them Star Wars: Episode I, and The Clone Wars with mixed results. For the record, my girls are absolute sweethearts. (No father has ever said that about his girls right?) That said, when they get nervous about a particularly “scary” character, or the suspense in a show builds, whether it’s a cartoon or live action movie, they are quick to cringe, jump up onto the couch with us, and or vow never to watch that movie, or episode again. This has happened with everything from certain My Little Pony and Phineas and Ferb episodes, and sadly, both The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Episode I. The latter two, I can understand. Darth Maul in the eyes of a three year-old would be terrifying, and even to a five year-old, The Clone Wars has some fairly dark, and violent moments in the early episodes. I’ve had to give up on introducing them to the Star Wars Trilogies and The Clone Wars for now.

Dinner and Star Wars Rebels

Dinner and Star Wars Rebels

However, I refused to give up hope. When I had first heard that Star Wars Rebels was in the works, I got to work warming my girls up to the idea. The New Yoda Chronicles and the Star Wars Rebels books I picked up at San Diego Comic-Con over the summer have been an incredible help. The Rebels learning to read books, and Pablo Hidalgo’s book Star Wars Rebels: A New Hero, helped get them excited about the characters and the world of Lothal. We read chapter books to the girls each night as they fall asleep, and I’ve read them both Rise of the Rebels and Ezra’s Gamble. My family enjoys many of the Disney shows, and as we watch Dog With a Blog, Girl Meets World, or Phineas and Ferb, when Star Wars Rebels commercials run, they both yell: “Star Wars Rebels, Daddy! Don’t rewind it!” Of course they mean don’t fast forward it, but I love that they want to watch the commercials and shout: “Daddy, that’s Zeb!” or “Kanan!” as they watch.

It's Kanan!!

It’s Kanan!!

Last night, nearly a week after it had first aired, we finally sat down as a family to watch the premiere of Star Wars Rebels. Although they had seen the first few minutes, and loved it, I hadn’t had a chance to screen the rest of the episode ahead of time. I was afraid they would beg me to turn it off part-way through as they did with Episode I, and I would have give up on yet another Star Wars show until they’re older. There were a few moments where they got a little nervous, especially with Agent Kallus and the baby Wookie, but by the end of the episode, they were hooked. I was relieved, but more than anything I was proud of them. Even my wife, who isn’t the biggest fan of Star Wars, loved the show. For me, laughing, crying, and feeling the suspense with my girls, while watching something in Star Wars universe was literally a dream come true.

I listen to at least a dozen Star Wars, and Star Wars: The Old Republic podcasts every week, and in the most recent episode of Coffee with Kenobi they discussed the issue of violence in Star Wars Rebels. My kids are a few years younger than theirs, and I do have some concerns with the violence because my kids are so young. They watch Perry the Platypus sock Dr. Doofenshmirtz in the head repeatedly in every episode of Phineas and Ferb, but it’s a bit different watching stormtroopers blown to bits, or kicked hilariously, and more than a little disturbingly off a platform to fall to his death. Doofenshmirtz returns every week, but these stormtroopers will not. Granted, they are quickly replaced by more helmeted troopers, they don’t have names, and they don’t have major roles outside of blasting wildly as our heroes escape, but this doesn’t lessen the violence inflicted upon them. When The Inquisitor finally arrives on the scene, I wonder if my girls will not only be able to handle the violence, but will they ultimately refuse to watch episodes with him in it? I hope not.

I have concerns that my kids are below the recommended age to watch Rebels, and if the show gets even darker, and more violent, my fear is that this show will join the others in what I have dubbed the Hopefully Temporary Star Wars Graveyard. As far as the premiere is concerned, overall, it went over very well with my very young girls. My hope is that this is the right time for them to develop a love for what is very much their Star Wars, and that my dream of raising Star Wars fans becomes a reality sparked by rebellion.

Extra Life 2014 – Team Carr

1up___get_a_life_by_krukmeister-d5n5klu

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to find an excuse to play video games all day, and even all night. Although I had heard of the Extra Life Charity gaming event, trying to justify a 24-hour gaming session, with a wife and two young children was all but impossible. To my surprise, this year, my wife gave me the go-ahead. Yes, she is an amazing woman!

I decided to take it a step further, and start an Extra Life team inviting my high school students, and colleagues to join in on the fun. Not only am I hoping to raise a nice chunk of money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, but I will finally live the dream of gaming all day and all night. Hopefully, I can stay awake!

As of right now, I plan to play Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have three more Republic toons I want to finish the class story for, and with the recent expansion announcement, 12x EXP for class quests will make that possibility a solid reality.

If you want to join Team Carr as a player, or want to donate to help the kids, click here. Thanks in advance for your support!

 

The New Tomorrow

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Disney is making preparations to once again revamp Tomorrowland and turn it into Star Wars Land. The Star Wars lover in me hit the roof with excitement, while the deep, deep rooted lover of Disneyland started to cry. To really work through the huge disparity of emotions I felt upon hearing this news, I’ll have to take a brief look at each of the warring fandoms that threaten to tear me dramatically in twain.

Hey Daddy, is the old Tomorrowland gonna be in here?

My girls were hoping The White Rabbit was at home:)

4 Months and Beyond

I’ve been a resident of California my entire life. My mom grew up in Pasadena, California, and because of the close proximity to Disneyland, she grew up going to Disneyland at least once a year. Fast forward a couple decades to 1979. I was four months old when my parents took me to Disneyland for the first time. Granted, I don’t have a single memory available from that first visit, but my parents continued to make the drive from the Bay Area to Disneyland every summer thereafter.

I have several very fond memories around Disneyland as a child. I remember my siblings and I sitting up late, no sooner than month before we were scheduled to make the trek, pouring over last year’s Disneyland map and plotting out what we would do first, and discussing at great length what worked well the year before and what didn’t. Even geekier than that, we would even sing our favorite songs from certain rides, attempt to recite the Spanish warning phrase instructing us to “remain seated please,” and of course, seeing who could say the Thunder Mountain Railroad intro the fastest. If memory serves, I won.

As adults, that feeling of being a kid in a place of constant joy, music and fun is still part of who we are. My brother takes his son almost every year, usually around his birthday. Lucky for them his birthday is near Halloween, so they’ve been able to do Mickey’s Halloween Party, and of course, ride the Haunted Mansion Halloween style.

I’ve not only had the joy of passing my families tradition to my wife, but after years of showing her “the Carr way to do Disneyland” we’ve not only carved our own style to tackling the two parks, but started several new traditions with our first daughter, and now with our youngest as well. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my new favorite family traditions is the Princess Lunch at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure. Seeing my girls’ faces light up when Cinderella, Snow White and the rest of their favorite princesses stop at our table, all but makes the sometimes difficult journey from Fort Bragg beyond worth it. Being able to sip on a ice cold IPA is another bonus to this meal.

It's not everyday Belle drops by while your eating lunch.

Belle dropping by during lunch

Another one of our favorite family traditions is to take our pictures as Star Wars characters. Yes, the cheesy digital “facelift” of new and traditional Star Wars images with our faces Photoshopped in. I’m still waiting for the day when my girls get over their fears and watch the Star Wars films with me. (My oldest is even too scared to watch an entire episode of The Clone Wars!) Only then will they be ready to make their geeky father proud on stage at Tomorrowland’s Jedi Academy.

Minnie!!

Minnie!!

For the Love of the Wars

My love for Star Wars hasn’t been as ever-present as my connection to Disneyland but it’s pretty damn close. I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back at my grandmother’s house when I was five or six years old. One of my first memories was the scene where Yoda is giving sage advice to a young, stubborn Luke Skywalker. From that point on I was sold. I’ve made my love of Star Wars part of who I am. Although I didn’t own many Star Wars toys, every day I’d go to my neighbors house and play with his massive collection. I was so jealous of his Millennium Falcon toy carry case and countless action figures. Not too long after I got a Nintendo, so I eventually got to see his face wrinkled in jealousy.

Like most other Star Wars fans, I waited in line for the midnight showings for the prequels and re-releases of the original trilogy, I get several Star Wars collectibles and toys for Christmas each year, I’ve listened to almost every unabridged Star Wars Audiobook, and I have played just about every Star Wars video game ever created. Currently I spend my nights playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although I no longer write for them on a consistent basis, I’m one of the longest running contributors to TORWars.com, and help them cover community events near the Bay Area and San Diego Comic-Con.

Changing Tomorrow

When I heard that Disney was going to revamp my favorite land in the park, at first I was stoked. The ever hungry Star Wars fiend within was more than ready to consume more from the a galaxy far, far away.

Then, I started to think about what that meant. What people are forgetting is that there will be no more Tomorrowland! I’ve watched that land change several times over the years. Off the top of my head: The re-imagining of Space mountain, the removal and return of Captain EO, decommissioning the Skyway to Fantasyland and the People Movers, and of course, the overhauling of Star Tours.

IMG_4912

The kids fell asleep, so I soloed Star Tours…twice.

It’s this last point I want to address because it directly relates to how I anticipate feeling when Tomorrowland becomes Star Wars Land. When I heard that Disney was going to change Star Tours I immediately felt upset. Not only was I going to miss the ride completely during the construction period, but changing the ride meant changing the nostalgic feelings that go hand in hand with visiting the park every year. For me, a huge part of my yearly visits to Disneyland are that many of the things I love have never changed. The Jungle Cruise, The Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain have seen few if any changes since I was a kid. When I ride these attractions, I feel fully engrossed in how the child version of me felt the first time I rode it.

As most Star Wars fans know, the franchise seems to be synonymous with change. At least in the hands of George Lucas. When the new Star Tours ride debuted, I felt a mixture of “Whohoo that was awesome!” with “Aww what happened to Pee Wee Herman?” I knew the original ride by heart, and this new one changes every time. After a couple years I got over my nostalgia and fully embraced the awesome that is the new Star Tours attraction.

As far as the changes to Tomorrowland, I imagine my ability to walk through the Millennium Falcon, and ride speederbikes instead of Autopia cars will out weigh the part of me holding onto the Tomorrowland I’ve always known…eventually. I still have years to enjoy the most recent incarnation of Tomorrowland so hopefully, with this much time to let change sink in, I’ll be ready to get my Star Wars on for real in 2017.