Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review [SPOILERS]

Star Wars Force Awakens

I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m not going to shy away from spoilers in my review, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie and want to keep it a surprise.

The movie was good and I’m excited for where the new Star Wars movies are going.

The new characters were interesting. Including the old characters meant there were a few too many important people in the movie but I managed to keep up with it.

The new villain, Kylo Ren, was awesome. Just as menacing as Darth Vader while embracing the anger part of the dark side. When Kylo Ren gets angry he ignites his lightsaber and just lays into whatever is around him. Excellent characterization.

The plot was… familiar but there’s nothing wrong with that. Star Wars 1, 4, and 6 all had the same damn plot. Why shouldn’t 7 as well?

And while I enjoyed the movie a lot, it was still a let down.

I’m a big fan of Star Wars, both original, prequel, and expanded universe, so inevitably the movie was going to be a let down in one way or another.

There were two specific things the movie did not do that I wanted it to do.

The first thing is a little complicated. You see, the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was based off a Japanese movie called The Hidden Fortress.

The Hidden Fortress is a story of two poor soldiers who get caught up in a war when they find a chest of gold belonging to the “rebels.”

They team up with a general to transport the gold and the warrior princess to whom the gold belongs to a faraway castle.

The whole movie is about seeing war through the eyes of the low, the two poor soldiers.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is the general in A New Hope, Leia is the princess, the gold is the Death Star plans, and the two poor soldiers? Are they Luke and Han?

NO! The poor soldiers from The Hidden Fortress are R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars!

The whole Star Wars series has been told in some way from the point of view of the two droids. They experience all the action in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. They start off the action in Return of the Jedi by going into Jabba’s palace alone. We see their origins in A Phantom Menace and how they got to be part of the Rebel Alliance in Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith.

But is the story of The Force Awakens told from the R2-D2 and C-3PO’s point of view? Nope. They are thankfully still in the movie, but their role of in the movie has been taken over by BB-8.

The idea still plays out the same way with BB-8, but it disappointed me that the original droids will no longer be the focus.

And I get why Disney made that choice. R2-D2 looks clunky and old now and C-3PO was always supposed to be lame. BB-8 has a cool design and his character is active and energetic. There were tons of BB-8 toys sold even before the movie came out, making it a smart financial move on Disney’s part to introduce the new character. More merchandising!

The second thing that upset me about the new movie was that Luke Skywalker wasn’t really in it.

Sure he has a cameo at the end, but he doesn’t have a single line.

Everything I’d heard about the new series of Star Wars movies indicated that they would be about Luke passing the torch to the next generation of Jedi. While the new characters want to find him for that reason, that plotline just didn’t move forward in this movie.

From an impartial perspective the movie didn’t suffer from Luke’s absence. The whole plot was structured around him not being there and thus it worked fine without him, BUT I STILL FELT LIKE HE SHOULD’VE BEEN THERE!

Another minor problem, the whole Force Awakens thing was never explained. The idea was introduced in the first trailer but it only shows up in the movie as a single line from one of the villains. The way the trailer is, I thought the whole movie would be about “The Awakening.”

Regardless of the movie’s faults, I still enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next ones.

If you’re still unsure if you should see the movie, I definitely recommend it for Star Wars fans. The Force Awakens is also a good introduction for those who are new to the series.

-GoCorral

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Road Chip Movie Review

The_Road_Chip_Poster_2

Star Wars is the big movie of the season and we did want to see it, but not until January when the crowds have died down a little bit.

So my wife and I went to see the latest Chipmunks movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, instead.

The movie is a typical Alvin and the Chipmunks affair. Alvin does crazy stuff and everything escalates into a huge farce until Dave comes in and shouts, “ALVIN!”

This children’s movie taps into a primal fear that many kids have, that their parents won’t love them as much when their family gets bigger.

Dave is getting serious with his girlfriend and is planning a romantic weekend alone with her.

The Chipmunks find a diamond ring by his luggage and make the logical conclusion that he is going to ask her to marry him.

The Chipmunks hate this idea because Dave’s girlfriend’s son, Miles, bullies them.

Miles also dislikes their families joining together so he joins the Chipmunks in their cross country journey to Miami from LA to steal the ring and stop the proposal.

Through their journey the Chipmunks and Miles receive some valuable moral lessons and realize that they don’t mind being step-brothers after all.

The movie didn’t really stand out as an exceptional Chipmunks movie to me. There’s childish comedy and good dance/singing sequences like usual, but nothing truly spectacular.

The Chipettes have minor roles in the movie which was a little disappointing. It would’ve made sense for them to be there, but that would’ve made the script too complicated. Instead they spend most of the movie judging the last season of American Idol.

I’d definitely recommend the movie to people who are fans of the Chipmunks like myself. For those who haven’t been exposed to the Chipmunks yet, the movie is as good an entry into the franchise as you can get. Cheesy comedy and cute forest creatures singing high-pitched covers of popular music. Not much more to say than that.

-GoCorral

Christmas 2014 Events

I’ve been putting off my post about Christmas for awhile. I was busy spending time with my family during Christmas break and didn’t set aside time to write then, but I am now!

My wife and I went home to visit our families. Her parents and mine live in the same town, so its easy to see both families when we have a break. We stayed with my family this time and brought our cats, Lucky and Carmelita, along.

We got to spend some quality time with both families, chatting, going on walks, playing minigolf, and playing card games.

The big news of the break was that my wife’s uncle (my uncle-in-law? Is that a thing?) is moving to Taiwan. He’s a doctor right now. He’s in his late 50’s, but he doesn’t have any kids. It’s likely that he’s saved enough for retirement at this point, although he isn’t calling this retirement. He plans to work on something else in the future, but it isn’t clear what that is.

His wife is from Taiwan and they’ve gone there plenty of times to visit her family, so it makes sense for them to move there. She works over the internet which she can do just as easily in Taiwan as she can in the USA until she chooses to retire.

The crazy part of this whole plan was that they plan to keep some sort of residence in Nevada even though they currently live in California. It was a little confusing to us, but it seemed to be for tax reasons.

And of course the most important part of any Christmas break, WHAT PRESENTS DID I GET?!??

First, we got two huge bags to carry all the loot in, one for my wife’s stuff and one for my things. We got a decorative glass apple which we’d like to display once we move to a place with more room. Our space for decorative items is filled up in our current apartment.

We got an ice tray specifically made to produce long and thin pieces of ice to put into travel bottles. A lot of candy, some candied popcorn, and my favorite, a chocolate orange.

I got two movies, one is a favorite of mine, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The other is Pirate Radio, something my dad claims I said I wanted a while back, but I have no memory of. It has a lot of my favorite actors in it though so I will most likely enjoy watching it.

I got a new iPad keyboard which I am using to write this post. It’s amazing and I love it. I got the Villainy board game that I played at Fake Chinese New Year’s Eve. I got an Imagine Dragons CD. I got a cool book, On Killing, that was recommended in the Harcore History podcasts. It’s about the costs and methods of training people to kill in modern society (soldiers mostly, but it touches on the media influence of other forms of violence as well).

I got an electric razor to give myself the 5 o’clock shadow shave that I’ve been wanting. I got a pair of bacon and egg magnets for my fridge. I got a Snow Wars t-shirt. It shows Han Solo and Chewbacca having a snowball fight, only they are illustrated in Calvin and Hobbes art style as if Han Solo is Calvin and Chewie is Hobbes.

I got a puzzle and a new pair of scissors (I did want these things). I got a new lab coat to wear at work. I got a hand blender due to a mixup on my Amazon wish list (might still use it!). I got all of the Hardcore History podcasts that are no longer available for free on iTunes (Awesome!). I got a cookbook solely for making stuff in the microwave. I’ve looked up recipes like that in the past and I’m very happy that there is a whole cookbook devoted to microwave recipes.

My wife got us a pair of shirts to wear. She got me a bread knife. I also got her a bread knife. There was a miscommunication. She got me Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods which I’d been wanting for a long time. She got me a ton of funny hats as well. I now have a pizza hat, a viking helmet, and a Poro hat (Poros are cute and fuzzy League of Legends animals).

Soooo many presents. Fortunately, most of them are small and I was able to find places for all of them. Let me know what presents you got! Or just your favorite one!

-Mister Ed

Thanksgiving Traditions

For those of you who don’t know, today is Thanksgiving in the USA! Turkey time!

My family has a few Thanksgiving traditions.

First, we set up the table for everyone who is coming over. This involves adding extra leaves to make it bigger as well as covering the table in butcher paper.

The butcher paper is not for butchering, but for writing on. We write and draw things we’re thankful for, like each other, or well-made bread, or that more Star Wars movies are coming out.

Then we have the usual food traditions of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.

Additional food is for my wife, who is a vegetarian. She likes making spanikopita instead of turkey. Spanikopita is a baked dish made with filo dough, butter, cheese, and spinach. Its really good!

We all eat the dinner and usually avoid the awful drama of arguments with your relatives.

After dinner is pie time.

My sister is the one who usually makes the pies. The typical number is eight, which ends up being about one per person at Thanksgiving dinner.

After eating everything we spend the rest of the night cleaning before falling asleep early.

But the fun isn’t over there! The next morning there is still plenty of pie left to eat! My sister invites all her friends over to eat the leftover pies. I know most of them, so its good to catch up with them and eat sugar for breakfast.

Most of those traditions are getting disrupted this year. My sister has moved to Ohio and is staying there this year. My dad and step-mom are going to my step-mom’s aunt’s house for the holiday, so they’re not in town either. I’m spending Thanksgiving with my lovely in-laws!

Most everyone in my wife’s family are vegetarians, so there will be no turkey this Thanksgiving. The spanikopita will be replacing it. Everything else is still going to be here though! Stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, and people that I love.

There’s also talk of going on a hike before cooking begins.

I miss seeing my direct family, but I saw them last month and I’ll get to see them all again in December for Christmas. At least I get to see the family cat because I’m taking care of her while they’re away.

I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving wherever you are and however you celebrate it!

-Mister Ed

Darth Vader in League of Legends

For the last time! Who ate my sandwich?!?
For the last time! Who ate my sandwich?!?

One of my personal goals for this blog when I was first constructing it was to post designs for League of Legends champions, items, and game modes.

When I first read about where champions came from in League of Legends it was pretty clear that the answer was Anywhere.

Champions come from cities, farms, mountain villages, deserts, jungles, and out of the ocean. They can come from more exotic places too like the distant past or other dimensions. Kayle and Morgana come a dimension populated by angels. Lots of champions come from The Void. Malphite comes from a rock dimension. You get the idea.

So why couldn’t a champion come from an alternate dimension like Star Wars?

There’s a precedent for this kind of crossover in other games. There’s a whole wikipedia article on crossovers between video games. For Star Wars specifically, Soul Calibur IV had Yoda, Darth Vader, and Starkiller in it.

So there is room in League of Legends for crossover characters if Riot decides to go that route. It could be Link, Donkey Kong, Master Chief or Darth Vader who I’ll be designing today.

One issue with making a Darth Vader champion is there is already a character very similar to Darth Vader within League of Legends. That character is Kassadin.

Freaky helmet, evil lazer sword, dark energy coursing through him. NOPE! Definitely not a Sith Lord...
Freaky helmet, evil lazer sword, dark energy coursing through him. NOPE! Definitely not a Sith Lord…

I don’t mean similar in story or personality, Kassadin is nothing like Anakin Skywalker. I mean in terms of what that character can do.

Darth Vader has an ability to choke people from a distance. Kassadin can interrupt what people are saying from a distance.

Darth Vader has a shining lazer sword. Kassadin has a shining lazer sword.

Darth Vader can summon powerful winds (remember when that whirlwind hits Luke in The Empire Strikes Back?). Kassadin can throw out magical energy that slows people down in a cone close to him.

They even look similar!

So how do we differentiate a League of Legends Darth Vader from Kassadin?

Let’s just go through the abilities I had in mind for Vader and see how they compare.

The Imperial MarchPassive (The Imperial March): When Vader attacks an enemy champion all allied minions with an attack range within 100 of that champion will also attack that champion for the next 2 seconds. The minions will lose aggro if the target gets more than 200 outside of their attack range. This ability has a cooldown per champion targeted of 12 seconds (like Nautilus’ passive).
This ability brings in a little of the stormtrooper element of Vader’s strategies in the movies. He gets the little guys to do his dirty work. The minions still have to move in range and complete their attack animations though, so there is some ability to escape the minion assault. Plus, Vader’s minion won’t be attacking the opposing wave, resulting in the opposing wave pushing in. I’d like to say that I can predict how this passive would play out in actual games, but I can’t. Is it broken? Is it awful? I can’t say. The good news is the passive fits thematically and it is unique, making the gameplay of Vader easily identifiable, even if he’s not using his abilities.

Force ChokeQ (Force Choke): Vader lifts an enemy off the ground with the Force and chokes them. This is a short ranged ability, probably 500. Vader will channel for 1 second while the opponent is knocked up and takes damage over the duration. The knockup can be interrupted if Vader’s channel is broken. The target takes damage over the channel that scales off Vader’s AP and the target’s missing health. The last tic of damage should be three times as much as the other tics. The last tic is supposed to be from the target hitting the ground, so it will trigger if Vader cancels Force Choke or is interrupted. The ability refunds half its mana if it kills the target. Force Choke will have a short cooldown of about 6 seconds.
The base damage on this ability would be pretty low so that Vader either has to rely on the execute part of it or the AP part late game to get any use out of it. The knockup will be almost useless to Vader for trading in lane because he can’t do anything during the channel either. The short cooldown will allow Vader to CS with it against ranged champs that might zone him. In team fights it should be a great initiation tool, but it has the drawbacks that Vader must expose himself when using it and CC on Vader will interrupt the knockup.

Dark Side FuryW (Dark Side Fury): Vader draws additional power from the Dark Side of the Force and channels it into his weapon. His weapon crackles with purple lightning and Vader gains increased AD and attack speed for the next 6 seconds. His next auto attack is also empowered to deal additional magic damage scaling off his AP.
There were other ideas considered for this ability slot, but none of them fit the overall concept as well as a simple steroid. Throwing Vader’s lightsaber was one idea as he does that in Return of the Jedi, but Vader should be a melee champion and giving him what is effectively a ranged auto didn’t seem right. I also considered an ability called Turn to the Dark Side that taunted an enemy champion, but that really put too much CC power in Vader’s hands. Force Gale was also considered for this slot, but my friends convinced me that it belonged as an ultimate. The auto attack empowerment matches the lightning enhanced attacks and the Force Fury mechanic in the Force Unleashed games. At first I felt uneasy about this because Vader never uses lightning in the movies, but if professionals designed Vader with this ability in Force Unleashed then maybe I should too!

Feel the ForceE (Feel the Force): For the next 3 seconds Vader uses his lightsaber to deflect all incoming ranged auto attacks, effectively dodging them. During those three seconds Vader also reveals all enemy champions within 1,500 of Vader. As this ability all but nullifies ganks it would have a long cooldown on the order of 30 to 60 seconds.
This ability is one of the chief things that all force users do in the Star Wars movies, deflect lazer shots with their lightsabers! Its one of the first things that Obi-Wan teaches Luke! Gotta include it. Force users can also sense the presence of other force users which covers the other use of the active. When Obi-wan is on the Death Star, Vader says, “I sense something; a presence I’ve not felt since…”

Force GaleR (Force Gale): Vader stands still and shoots a wind gale in front of him. All enemies in the gale are pushed back 150 and a zone is established while Vader continues to channel the ability that slows enemies moving towards Vader and deals damage to all enemies within it.
This is that power that Vader used to throw a bunch of stuff at Luke in the fight before he says, “I am your father.” He also throws other stuff with the Force at other times in the movies and all the time in the Force Unleashed. Force Gale is basically a weaker form of Rumble’s Equalizer because it deals damage over time and slows in a linear area. The area in which Vader can place the Force Gale is more limited than the Equalizer though. Vader acts as one of the ends of the line. This ability could be used for damage in combination with other champions like Amumu or it could be used to zone people in a team fight.

How do you play Vader? He is an AP bruiser who is best suited for Top lane or Jungle. He could work as a Support as well. Hard to say without getting to play him.

A basic combo for Vader would be to walk to an enemy champion during laning phase and auto attack that champion. This sets off his Imperial March passive. He follows up with Force Choke while the minions attack. When the enemy champion lands, Vader hits them with a Dark Side Fury auto attack. Then, depending on the situation, Vader can give chase with his enhanced autos or retreat now that his combo is done.

In teamfights Vader provides short cooldown CC with his Force Choke. He has a strong battlefield control option with his Force Gale and in rare situations it can be used to snipe fleeing opponents. Feel the Force gives Vader a tool for fighting ADCs as well. His weakness lies in his lack of mobility. Vader never moves quickly in the games or the movies. He walks freaking everywhere all the time. While his ultimate is strong if used in the right place, Vader has to position himself in the right place. Mixing that positioning with Vader’s strong kit will separate the good Sith Lords from the great Sith Lords.

Tadah! There’s my first idea for a League of Legends champion! I think Darth Vader will play and feel quite different than Kassadin. Their laning phases are differentiated by Vader’s passive and Kassadin becomes an assassin upon getting his ultimate while Vader gains more CC to solidify his tank role. Thanks a lot to my friends who gave me feedback while I was coming up with the idea. You know who you are!

-Mister Ed

P.S. If this post has made you interested in playing League of Legends you can try it out by clicking this link.

Father’s Day 2014

I went home last weekend for Father’s Day.

Unfortunately for you, my dad and I are not into taking pictures of ourselves that much.

Instead you get a picture of what I gave my dad.

My dad and I spend a lot of our time together watching movies.

One of the first types of movies we watched together were Japanese samurai movies (Chanbara movies in Japanese).

I don’t think I got much out of the samurai movies when I was a kid because they were subtitled and in black and white.

Now I really appreciate the genre. A ton of my favorite movies are samurai movies.

Some greats to check out include: Rashomon, Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Harakiri, Throne of Blood, and Chushingura.

One interesting thing about samurai movies is that they are often adapted for Western audiences as… well, westerns.

Yojimbo and Sanjuro were turned into A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars MoreSeven Samurai became The Magnificent SevenChushingura was made into an action movie called 47 Ronin instead of a western. Throne of Blood is actually a Japanese adaption of Macbeth. Finally, Hidden Fortress inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars.

What’s my point with all this? Well, because my dad and I like samurai movies we also like westerns.

I recently started listening to a lot of western themed songs.

The songs are like little mini western movies. Marty Robbins is a singer who basically only writes within that small genre.

I got my dad a mix CD of these cowboy songs along with a pair of movies that inspired two of the songs, High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is an iconic song of the genre. Here’s a link if you’d like to listen to it and get a taste of the genre.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

-Mister Ed

Small Leg Injury

dammit, tim. 

So this afternoon I injured my leg. I took a picture of it, but it looks nasty. I decided you should get a picture of a beaver and his friends instead.

I hurt my leg while at work. It’s not broken or anything like that. I received a cut in a strange way.

You see we have these rolling tables at work for putting rice plants on at the greenhouse.

The tables are designed for maximum storage capacity. I’d guess that their dimensions are 5’x8′ (1.52mx2.44m).

The tables are supported by two long sliders.

Two rollers rest perpendicular along both sliders, one at each end.

The chain link fence material table then rests on top of that.

The rice plants then go on top of that.

The purpose of this is so that the table can roll back and forth.

There are four tables in the greenhouse, two on each side with a pathway through the middle.

The default position of the tables is to be rolled back against the walls.

The whole thing is designed to save horizontal space.

The tables can be rolled out into the pathway and one can go behind them to reach the plants on that side of the table.

It works great and its actually a lot of fun to roll the tables back and forth.

But since the whole thing is to save space, the greenhouse gets a little cramped.

Today while I was disposing of some old plants I rolled the table out to reach the back plants.

I placed my leg incorrectly and the table rolled over it, pinching my skin.

The injury looks kind of weird. Like a mix between a bruise and a snake bite. I think it looks most like the head of this guy from Star Wars.

Anyways, kinda nasty.

A lot of other cool stuff has been happening lately too. Father’s Day for one!

More posts on that stuff soon.

-Mister Ed