Monday, 17 April 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando Post-Talk Part 2 [Thoughts]

 Saturday was a real blast. The two main things I was looking forward to have been amazing. Starting with Rebels, it has been confirmed season four will be the last. This family of actors we've had portraying the Ghost crew were up on stage. Tiya Sircar, Steve Blum, Taylor Grey, Vanessa Marshall, and Freddie Prinze Jr. sat with Dave Filoni to look back on the third season and what is coming in the forth. There was some great interaction between the cast, and this is possibly the final time they will all be together. It's a special moment then, and one that certainly was felt among them upon Dave's announcement of it being the last season.
We had a brief look at a new character, and Warwick Davis finally has a part in Star Wars animation. Playing the assassin boyguard of Thrawn - Rukh - it seems as though nothing is stopping the reintroduction of past elements into this canon. We'll also be seeing more of Mon Mothma, of Saw Gerrera, and the return of Bo-Katan in what is sure to be one of the greatest Mandalorian arcs across the animated series. And Ezra really seems to be channelling a love of armour, or at least helmets, as we see him in an orange painted Scout-trooper helmet, and even seems to get his own Mando jetpack and helmet.
And talking of the trailer, it really sets up the end of the series, with Hera talking about her family. "A boy who was lost, and a girl who was broken ... a survivor, a war veteran, and a fallen knight" really characterises the entire story of these characters, and how far they have come. The end of what she says "But we never imagined it would end like this" is really foreboding. That entire speech is chilling, possibly even more-so than Luke's ending words in The Last Jedi trailer. And that speech is composed of clips from old episodes, then straight into the new stuff. No playing around, and built-up reveals, just clip after clip showing off a lot of new elements. We see Yavin IV. We see Mandalore. Bo-Katan as mentioned, and a curious line from Kanan. "We are the balance, Ezra. We were meant to be Jedi so we could be here, now, when Lothal needs us most." It seems Lothal is going to be featuring again, and whether the whole crew will be along for the ride or just Kanan and Ezra, it should effectively be another loss for the rebels. After all, the meeting of Rogue One isn't so indecisive because of an attack from the Empire. It has to be multiple losses of the rebels. Quite possibly, Lothal will be one of them. Filoni has always talked about getting a wolf into Star Wars, and now he has done it. On what looks to be Lothal.
Since this is the final season, and it has been confirmed there are only fifteen episodes, I want this final season to go out with a bang. No singular episodes. Season Five of The Clone Wars had nothing but arcs, and while I don't think we need four-parters across the board, having nothing but arcs for the final season of Rebels will make it a strong ending. From what we see in the trailer, there are at least three major areas. Lothal will be one. Mandalore is another. Hera and her band of X-Wings and my personal favourite part of the trailer form another. That being a hyperspace jump through a length-running hangar of an Imperial installation which devastates everything inside it.
Well done for three seasons of awesome, Rebels, and make season four your best.

Now, Anthony Daniels was meant to have his panel after Rebels, but there was a lot happening with interviews and such on the Star Wars Show stage, so that didn't get shown. Instead we got a showing of what happened at Smooth Talkin' with Billy Dee Williams. Some good talk happened with a few insights. Of course, nothing against Mr Williams, but I was pretty much just waiting for the start of the Battlefront II premiere.
And what a panel that was. The trailer was shown a few minutes in after introductions, and what a trailer that was. Showing off what the story campaign had for us, it also teased the multiplayer. I'd say it was probably a better trailer than the one shown for Battlefront 1 in Anaheim.
The story goes that Inferno Squadron is on Endor, and witness to the second Death Star's destruction. Along with the rest of the Empire, Inferno retreat, vowing to avenge the Emperor's death. The story runs from Endor straight up to the fight of Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens. And this story is canon. There is a lot that was talked about this, with the teams involved wanting to tell a story about who are those people in the Empire that young people aspire to be. The pilots, the soldiers. This is all to give the helmeted troopers character through this squad. The leader of the squad is Iden Versio, a female within the elite of the Empire's forces, and she has her father to thank for that. Alongside the campaign and releasing in July is a book by Christie Golden. It's been rebranded to tie-in with Battlefront II, bearing the game's name, but that doesn't change the content. Just makes it stronger, as more can be told about this squad's history, and people can really get a feel for who they are, how they met, and the dynamics they fill within the squad.
On the multiplayer side of things, it just get a whole lot better. Classes return, and abilities are the order of the day. More weapons, more maps, all three eras, and space battles return. Hopefully to form. Classes, heroes, and even ships can be upgraded with abilities, and all of them have different roles to play within the battlefield. The best thing is all three eras. The prequels return. Shown in concept was Kamino, with clones battling with droids. In the trailer we saw Mos Eisley, which could be a hint as to a certain mode returning from the original Battlefront 2. It looked as though Darth Maul and Yoda were on Naboo, which makes me wonder if said mode could be on multiple planets.
Now, what was shown and said was all well and good, and a very big start in improving over the first, but it needs more. I've been saying that this could even beat Pandemic's Battlefront II for the vast amount of things within, but I'm pretty sure one major thing will show whether this game can have that title. Everything we see in multiplayer needs to be playable solo and local multiplayer, with the campaign also being playable solo, local, and online. It features a squad of soldiers, it cries out to be played as a team. If that happens, it can have that title, but even if it has the largest amount of content within the game, there are still worries as to gameplay. It certainly looks as though EA have been following advice, and making this game more in-depth with the gameplay, though E3 will have the answer as to whether all that can come together to make the best game possible.

Anthony Daniels and Warwick Davis are always a troublesome duo to have on the same stage, and with 40 Years of Threepio, it was no different. The panel was played for the stream after the cosplay contest, and Daniels gives Warwick his own introduction to say after he feels the two Warwick has done don't suit him. After that, Daniels encourages the crowd to do as the Ewoks did and pray for him as he "is some sort of god." The one-upmanship continues between the two as the panel continues, and the hilarity reaches new heights. As Daniels is about to read the comic of how C-3PO got his red arm, and says a hero with a red arm, pictures start on a reel of all the characters Warwick has played with a photoshopped red-coloured arm. Of course, it wasn't all laughs, as we did get a beautiful behind-the-scenes of a part that was cut from Attack of the Clones between Padme and Threepio at the Lars homestead. It showed the inside thoughts of Threepio, in a way. As ever, it was a panel to watch.
And while I didn't watch it live, I did take a look at the radio drama that played at the end of the day. Smuggler's Revenge was a brilliant story, with some really great interactions between Han and Leia, as well as Han and other characters. Vanessa Marshall guest starred, as well as Sam Witwer, Steve Blum, and Catherine Taber. Even Warwick Davis got a part. The entire thing was well put together, and after it had all been performed, a bit of behind-the-scenes was talked about. The drama itself had a scene changed on the day it was to be performed.

 On the Sunday, you could tell the four days were starting to take a strain on some, with Andi on the Star Wars Show stage having a hoarse voice, and the same for Mark Hamill, who still managed to run with his hour-long panel.
These Are The Droids You're Looking For had a lovely atmosphere to it, talking about why we love the droids of Star Wars. First up was Matthew Wood, talking about working on the battle droids, and how a misplaced point on the mo-cap suit gave them their characteristic walk. He went into voicing the droids in The Clone Wars, and mentioned why Anthony Daniels - the biggest droid by far - wasn't around. Cue an entertaining phone call between Warwick and Daniels. Once Matt leaves Warwick gets a call on his phone and Anthony appears - behind Warwick - who asks why he wasn't invited. These two are by far the funniest two people to have together on a stage, and after the origins of Threepio were talked about, Anthony leaves. Warwick introduces Alan Tydyk, and halfway through, another call happens, with Anthony walking in from the back entrance complaining about a fake droid being on stage. The two are friendly towards each other in reality, and have a good discussion about the attitudes of the two droids. BB-8 and a load of other astromechs came on stage for the end of the panel.
As said, Mark Hamill had a hoarse voice, but that didn't stop him putting on a good story. He's such a good teller of stories, and had some good ones to tell. His dog came on near the end of his panel, and was pretty much upstaging Hamill himself. I'm not going into details as even with a hoarse this is an interesting panel to listen to.
The final panel closed off Celebration, with the stages saying what their favourite parts of the event was, and even got the audience involved. On the Star Wars Show stage [which technically is called the stage] Pablo Hidalgo got hold of the T-Shirt gun, and was asked whether this cannon was canon. He said it was, giving a full name, and then fired some shirts into the audience. With each stage also giving their farewells and thank yous, the Celebration stage and Warwick Davis had the final say.

Celebrations are usually something special, but this one was quite possibly the most special of all. Perhaps that was because it was the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, and the first panel certainly gave the feeling that this was extra special. Reuniting the cast of the original trilogy and those tributes for Carrie Fisher was heartwarming. Harrison's first Celebration, and how he reacted to seeing the love, was great to see. Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid reunited. And I have no idea what it is about the audience, but they always relish when the actors recite lines from their characters. Forcing it to happen seems to cause a different reaction, though. Anthony Daniels is always welcoming in fitting in 3PO quotes where they fit, though when Ian McDiarmid was questioned by a fan "If I was to say The Senate Will Decide Your Fate, what would you say back to me?" he laughed and knew the fans were waiting for it, but didn't give it. Instead he said in a Palpatine voice "Next Question".
However, the guests are some of the best parts, but nothing beats seeing the fans together reacting to news and stories. The Star Wars Show stage is always a good place to see that in action, as the camera pans across the crowd when no action takes place, and whenever fans see themselves on screen they can't help but wave out and cheer. Some go further, such as this year we had dancing Stormtroopers at one point. And when guests are on stage, the cheers, whistles, and applause are always felt. The guests have said across the panel that no fanbase is quite like the Star Wars one, and events such as these show the energy and passion of the fans.
Cosplay also plays a big part of that, and the amount of costumes around was staggering to see. Hera, Jyn, Rey, Darth Maul, Mandalorians, Stormtroopers of all kinds, and even the lesser known characters. While you don't get to see much of Celebration away from the stages, the action behind-the-scenes is always fun to see when shown. A re-enactment of that final Vader scene of Rogue One, or lightsaber battles around the place, meetings between members of the public, there's a lot of stuff that happens.
As a final word, the news we have seen from Celebration is some of the best we could get. A Captain Phasma novel and comic series, introduction of new characters, planets and vehicles in The Last Jedi, and my favourite piece of information - Battlefront II as a whole, and the canon campaign it will present. More news is bound to follow in the coming months for everything shown, and when the last season of Rebels starts, it will be to a thrilling conclusion I expect. When I get to play Battlefront II, I am expecting it to be the best yet. And importantly - most importantly - when Celebration returns in 2019, I am hoping to go.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando Post-Talk Part 1 [Thoughts]

The first day of streams for Celebration was really an explosive opening. The 40 Years of Star Wars panel had surprises galore, and nowhere was that apparent than George Lucas being introduced on stage by Kathleen Kennedy. Lucas stayed on stage to interact with the other guests that appeared, and they came in force. Dave Filoni and discussion of how George was a mentor to him throughout The Clone Wars. Hayden Christensen appears at his first Celebration since 2002, and he is joined by Ian McDiarmid, as the two discuss their roles with particular emphasis on Revenge of the Sith and the opera scene. The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise. This is brought up again during McDiarmid's panel, with quite a bit of time spent on it. Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson had messages for the fans, and the videos had both words of wishing and wit, as both say what an honour it is working on Star Wars. Neeson teases with fans saying he's on the set of a Jar Jar Binks movie, and Jackson recites a particular theory of Windu still being alive and how he wants it to happen. Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams are brought on stage to discuss how their characters came to be. Mark Hamill gets introduced and yet another bombshell as Harrison Ford arrives. Character origins are brought up again, and by this time I feel as though the fun interplay between all these people have made this panel a great opening for Celebration, and a celebration of Star Wars' 40th anniversary. It's also a time of remembrance though, as Carrie Fisher passed on. Lucas and Kennedy say touching tributes, and Billie Lourd - Fisher's daughter - brings the final words home. A tribute video plays celebrating all that Carrie Fisher brought to the franchise and the world, and that lasting memory was bringing tears to the eyes of fans. Yes, I felt the tug of heartstrings as well.
You thought this thing was over though? Oh, no. A 40 year celebration should only be played out one way. Bring out John Williams, and an entire orchestra to play out Princess Leia's theme, followed by the opening and closing themes to the original film. And what better way to end out the panel than with the Imperial March.

Animated Origins had some interesting bits of information, as we got talk on brining Maul into The Clone Wars, and his end in Rebels. Ahsoka and Rex were brought up, and teasing of season 4 of Rebels ensued. Those on the stream didn't get to see what those actually at the panel saw on the screen, which was quite a shame as they showed off a clip of an arc from The Clone Wars that never got finished. It involved Cad Bane and Boba Fett in something resembling a western-styled duel from what Filoni said about it.
The insights continued with the first guest panel on the stream. Ian McDiarmid talked in more detail about that opera scene in Revenge of the Sith. The talk itself was informative, and we got to hear about how he influenced the character of Palpatine with Return of the Jedi and how returning to a younger version of said character in the prequels helped him understand what Palpatine was like. McDiarmid also did his famous Palpatine laugh, and an interesting question from the audience asked about how other characters he has played influenced Palpatine and vice versa.
And I said in Pre-Talk, the guest I always look forward to seeing is Ray Park. Again talking influences of the character, some insights were given to Maul, Park's martial arts, and his cameo as a Naboo Guard with the group protecting Padme in the final fight of The Phantom Menace. The earring mention was an interesting fact I also didn't know about the character of Maul, so this panel was informative as well as fun. And of course Ray Park and Warwick Davis were going to recreate the final duel again. Which was hilarious when Davis realised he needed to pretend he'd fallen down a shaft and had no way to get back up - being lifted up by the audience.
The Star Wars Show had one last interview up its sleeve, preparing for some of the Rogue One panels the next day. Who should also be along but Sam Witwer - voice of Darth Maul. He joked about no longer having a job due to Maul's death, having to work with the prop builders, and also teasing that Maul's legs were still kicking about and would be a focus of season 4 of Rebels.

Friday brought us some good panels. Some funny moments and witty tales. And some more serious stuff as well. And the first panel - The Last Jedi - was something. Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson take the stage to offer the first few words, then one by one cast members are brought on, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, new girl Kelly Marie Tran, and Mark Hamill. There were interesting moments with the talk, and Kelly is playing a new character with Rose - someone within the Resistance working within maintenance. A bit of set-up for the film that was said at the panel was that the First Order is taking advantage of their destruction of the Republic to create chaos within the galaxy. Nowhere is that more apparent than when we see the trailer, and a war is going on - both at the Resistance base and up in space.
And that trailer! It certainly did a good job of teasing us. Leaving us wanting more. Rey's training. The aforementioned battles. A sight of Leia. A sight of Kylo Ren. Captain Phasma with a squad of troopers surrounded by fire and the debris of battle. And that final line. "I only know one truth. It's time for the Jedi to end."
From my point of view the Jedi are evil we can piece together what that could mean from certain facts. An interesting mention during the panel was how meeting your heroes can sometimes leave a bad impression of them. We know Luke left because Ben turned to evil. Luke has probably been hunting the first Jedi Temple looking for answers. Is this the way forward, sort of thing. Is there another way? So while he agrees to train Rey, he isn't doing so as a Jedi, and he certainly isn't teaching her anything of the Jedi. Rey would try to get through to him, and bit by bit we get the history of all that happened that would make him withdraw, and lose trust in the Jedi way.
As for the full trailer, it left me with chills. Especially that last line. Those chills would always return upon another viewing of it.

The other three panels of the day were memorable, for different reasons. Our first with Warwick Davis had him hosting a panel and being the guest. Members of the audience were brought up on stage to ask questions, and some were funny. One of the first asked what flavour ice cream he liked, with the reasoning being that the person felt he'd be asked a lot of Star Wars questions so wanted to ask something a little more personal. The interactions between those audience members and Warwick were certainly entertaining, with the occasional 'Better Question' being given by Warwick on a card when he felt the question asked wasn't much. He showed off some rarely seen clips, such as a house tour as Griphook from when he was filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and from the set of Return of the Jedi came Return of the Ewok, a cute video showing eleven year-old Warwick searching for his destiny and coming across Star Wars.
The Heroines of Star Wars panel gave us some interesting insights on how strong female leads are made and a mention of the first time Hera and Sabine were alone. That was interesting, as Filoni mentioned how the two were having a talk of relationships but it never felt right, and when that scene was cut, it made the characters and the episode stronger. Filoni is always a laugh on these panels, and here was no exception. When Daisy Ridley, Ashley Eckstein, and Tiya Sircar were presented with Forces of Destiny figures of their characters, Filoni joked that Amy Ratcliffe - who was hosting - said everyone was getting one. Where was his? It was certainly a fun few minutes of teasing.
Of course, the most memorable of the three would be Mark Hamill's tribute to Carrie Fisher. It had funny moments, and serious moments. It had stories from on set, with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy giving video messages. In all of this, you could tell the grief was there, those feelings still raw. But as Mark said, Carrie wouldn't want us to grieve. She was a fun lady to be around, full of wit and charm, and would rather everyone remembering her for all the good times, and being happy, as she would always be with us. The panel is well worth a watch, as it gives an insight to the wonderful woman that Carrie Fisher was. Warwick Davis even gave his view, and brought a reel of highlights from Carrie's time at Celebration. As I say, well worth a watch.

Now, I can already see this is getting to be a large post. With only two days worth of panels. I know tomorrow is my most looked forward to day, so I expect quite a lot for that day, which will probably double the size of this post with just two panels of that day. As such, I'm calling a stop here, and a second part will be added for the next two days. That part will have my overall impressions of the full Celebration as well. So, enjoy the next two days worth of panels, and the next post will be in three day's time.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando Pre-Talk [Thoughts]

Star Wars Celebration is starting off the party right. The 40th anniversary party for the franchise. That shows in the fact the first panel is called '40 Years of Star Wars', and The Star Wars Show pretty much hyped it up as something big. Hayden Christensen will be returning to Celebration after fifteen years, and a lot of other big names from the franchise will be at the panel. It kicks off the Celebration on Thursday 13th at 11:00 ET [16:00 for those in the UK]. The panel runs for an hour and a half, so this is sure to be something special.

Most other morning panels run for an hour and a half, which must show how much content they have to talk about - even if they aren't showing stuff for most of it. The Last Jedi is highly anticipated for this year, and a trailer will give hints as to what the film will be like. Expect talking with the cast and crew for other tidbits, and maybe even a surprise reveal or two. The panel runs on the 14th, from 11:00-12:30 ET.
TV fans are pretty much catered for, with the Rebels Season 4 sneak peek giving a look at the coming season. The third season ended on a high note, and this next season is certainly going to be introducing a lot of interesting stuff. There could be some good interaction between characters like Saw and Mon Mothma, for instance, if the series decides to play on it. The panel takes place 11:00-12:30 ET on the 15th.
There is the possibility for hints at Season 4 through another panel, however. Dave Filoni: Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates will have Filoni joined by Pablo Hidalgo, discussing those characters that had their start in animated projects, revealing some untold origins of heroes and rogues. They'll also have some rare clips and artwork to show. Now, remembering that The Clone Wars was cancelled before its story could be fully told, we could be getting some interesting reveals at this panel. Last year Filoni revealed a bit about the Siege of Mandalore - actually making Ashley Eckstein cry with the reveal of Rex's 501st troopers having repainted armour to match Ahsoka's look - so could we be seeing more about that story arc? It is quite possibly one of the most important arcs The Clone Wars never aired, tying directly in with Revenge of the Sith, and has been referenced quite a bit in other media since. We will find out on the 13th, at 13:30-14:30 ET.
While I don't follow the series, having a look Behind the Scenes with LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures is sure to give fans a better insight into what the second season will bring. A trailer was recently released for that season, so I expect some of the things within it will be talked about in more detail. The panel will be on the 16th, starting at 11:00 ET and running for an hour.

Quite possibly one of the things I am most interested in is The Galaxywide Premiere of Star Wars Battlefront II. I found the first one to be a good game, and if you were following my content back in 2015 you'll know I played through the Alpha, Beta, and EA Access ten hour early access and found it to be an enjoyable experience. I still find it to be so now, with Walker Assault still being my number one played mode - both through multiplayer and the Skirmish offline mode that was added. If there's one thing I still don't like, it's the lack of single player content. Skirmish mode corrected that somewhat, but only Walker Assault and Fighter Squadron are available to play with only the core content and Jakku maps. The original Battlefront had every map available both online and off, and yes I understand that shooters have changed to mostly be online experiences, but most people have been asking for the equivalent of Instant Action from the older Battlefront's, as well as a Galactic Conquest mode. EA have stated they'll be more focused on the solo play stuff, and this panel should go some way to assure people it's being taken care of. The 15th is the date to watch, at 14:30-15:30 ET.
The one time I have been to Florida was when I was 13, and still being fairly new to Star Wars as a whole. So being on the Star Tours ride was a fun experience, and something I've wanted to do again. If I ever do go to Florida again, I'd want to wait until the Star Wars park is open. Star Wars and Disney Parks: A Galaxy in the Making will look at the creation of Star Tours, and looking ahead to the experiences that will be had when the new Star Wars lands open within Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It should be a good panel, reliving history and making it, and while I have doubts the panel will be streamed, it takes place on the 15th at 16:30-17:30 ET.

Guest panels are a given at an event like this, and there are quite a few of them. Billy Dee Williams, voice of Lando Calrissian, will be one of the first up on the 13th at 13:30 ET for forty-five minutes, and an hour later Ian McDiarmid - our favourite Chancellor/Emperor - will be having a talk. Again for forty-five minutes.
Perhaps the one I am looking forward to most - as I did last year - is Ray Park, who played Darth Maul. Last year was fun, with a re-enactment of his fateful end with members of the audience, and I hope it's not too much to ask for something similar this year as well. Prepare to be Mauled on the 13th at 17:00-18:00 ET.
Warwick Davis has a panel to himself, though being a host of Celebration we'll be seeing plenty of him. This panel is sure to be delightful, as Warwick is always a charming presence, and with fans asking him questions, there's bound to be some tales and some jokes. He'll be hosting Small Talk on the 14th at 13:30-14:30 ET.
Mark Hamill has two panels this year, though one is a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher. At last year's Celebration she was a lively presence, and her passing has been remembered and mourned since December, but at a Celebration about Star Wars, it gives a chance to pay tribute as one. Mark Hamill is also one of the best people to host it, having been one of the main cast members of the Original Trilogy along with Carrie. Watch and remember with fans on the 14th at 17:30-18:30 ET.
Hamill's other panel on the 16th is sure to be more lively, as Hamill Himself is sure to bring his Joker voice with him yet again. It's always fun to see cast members reliving tales of being on set, and just as with The Force Awakens, there will be fans asking about The Last Jedi. The time to tune in is 13:00-14:00 ET.
Of course, we can't forget the most friendly droid to ever grace Celebration - Anthony Daniels. 40 Years of Threepio will bring Anthony Daniels and Warwick Davis together yet again for some wacky antics, sometimes at the expense of the audience, as well as some tales of being a droid. It is 40 years of being known for the iconic droid, after all. The panel is on the 15th at 13:30-14:30 ET.

Scattered throughout the event will be other panels, such as various Rogue One panels looking in depth at various behind-the-scenes stuff. Books, comics, and merchandise will get their time to shine, and screenings of all the films will take place throughout the nights of the event. The Heroines of Star Wars will be celebrated, and exclusive Star Wars Show interviews will be shown on the stream. Celebration events usually also host a lot of other things, including writer panels and blogger showcases. And as ever, rounding off will be the Closing Ceremony on the 16th at 16:00-17:00 ET. A celebration of all things that happened at the Celebration, and possibly even a few surprises as well.

I will be tuned into the streams for most, if not all, of the event. I am expecting plenty of things to be shown, hear plenty of stories, get a few good laughs, and most of all - just have fun. Those at the event and experiencing all this will have even greater memories to cherish, and it is my hope that one day soon I will be able to go to one of these. With Celebration already confirmed to be taking a year off in 2018, that gives two years preparation if I am to experience this myself. I had fun at Summer of Sonic, so four days of being surrounded by Star Wars fans and taking part in Star Wars events, should be equally as fun. If you want to take a look at the schedule, the website is here.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Alternate Adventures of Halesowen Has Released [Network]

Yes, my first book has been published to the Kindle Store. The short story compilation comes in at 93 pages, and has a price tag of £2.50 [though that will probably be reduced soon]. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it can be borrowed for free, but borrow or buy you will be helping me.
As I've stated before, the idea to do this came from TV and Film Residential Camp - where I was using real names of real friends and other members of the group. As I was building that up, I wanted a full cast of original characters, while still borrowing elements from my experiences. All the stories are original though.

As this first book is out, I am exploring where these characters can go next. First will be a slight retread of events here, as well as more focus on Daniel, as TV and Film Residential Camp gets expanded on. The main plot points will still be the same, but I will be cutting some parts out to make way for new elements within the story. Without giving too much away, both visits to the camp will be expanded on, and the middle section will have a much clearer focus.
Away from that, more focus will be put on plot developments, and shorten the focus from the whole group within one novel to just a few. You won't get those stories until after I start some other series though, and I have two others in the works.

However, there are still things which can be posted from this book. Starting next month a new section will go on WattPad that will have some extras from this story on it. There was a lot of focus on the first story, which is the largest of the lot. The two main short films within it had planning go into them, so full scripts were referred to throughout. These will be added first, as though they were deleted scenes from the book during the film screenings. Then a few other extras will be added.

The Amazon search results will find the book using just 'Alternate Adventures', or for those in the UK use this link - Kindle Store - to get direct access. Enjoy the book, enjoy my future content, and I will have new posts on this blog very soon. There is a certain event happening next week, after all.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

April '17 Monthly Update [Network]

April is an interesting month for one very special reason. Star Wars Celebration has come around once again, but this holds a bit more importance as it is celebrating forty years of the franchise. I've only been a fan for a quarter of that time, but it's been an awesome experience. The films, the games, the books and comics - especially the Republic Commando series - have all been keeping me interested. And especially the animated TV series, which is really when I started to grow into being the fan I am today. For all fans though, this Celebration will be something special, and as ever I'll have a post looking at some of the things happening before it starts, as well as my thoughts on those things and others after. EA have already stated they'll be showing Battlefront II at the event, and The Last Jedi and Rebels Season 4 are showing as well. As always, if you are going to the event itself, there are a lot of things to see and do. The last two years have been amazingly fun, even through the livestream [which is when I started to majorly focus on Celebrations].

The Look Inside the Morphing Grid post for In Space and Lost Galaxy has been pushed into this month, just due to the fact that I posted the movie review [and I'm kind of slacking in watching Lost Galaxy, hoping the later episodes can pick up].
Since it is Star Wars Celebration this month, I've been thinking of things I can do to join in the celebration myself. While I haven't decided yet, I will keep you all posted on social media about any developments.
The Alternate Adventures of Halesowen will be self-published to the Kindle store this month. There's the last few checks to be completed, but it should be ready. Once it is up, I will have a post about it here. I am hoping that those who do read it will be able to give some good pointers to me. Things I did well and things I can improve upon are the major areas any person should be looking for to help them create a better product in the future, and I certainly welcome that advice.
In the latest episode of Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles, DarkRula and The Doctor had split to follow their own goals. The Water Base sees DarkRula head to Da Soocha, trying to find out where the main base of the Jedi was moved to. He recounts a month of looking from the location he currently sits.

Anything else I have planned over the month will be posted to social media, but that's all for now, so bye for now.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Power Rangers 2017 Movie [Review]

The TV series of Power Rangers is always good fun, and the suits and story were usually pretty colourful and fun. A few seasons took a more serious side with the story, and even in the more light-hearted ones there were some serious moments. But no-one really expected those spandex suits and cheap effects to change to reflect that more serious tone. Here then, with the first in the new Rangers films, a more serious tone is presented with the effects and suits to match.

It takes time to get to the good stuff, and if you really want to start questioning stuff that happens, this isn’t going to fit your tastes. With Rangers it is always best to suspend logical reasoning regarding its events, even if some things are sort of logical. As such, the film itself begins 65,000 years ago, with the original Rangers. Zordon is the only Ranger left on a war-torn environment, and he calls in a strike to end the conflict. In the present day, we slowly get introduced to the new team, with most focus placed on Jason to begin. Billy and Jason strike up a friendship, and that night the two head off to the mines. Kimberly, Zack, and Trini are there as well, and the power coins are revealed.
This film essentially tells how this team of misfits bond together, and I feel it does a good job of that. It’s a more mature origin story, with some obvious issues it deals with for the main cast, who do a good job of portraying those emotions. In context of the film, I do feel we don’t get much of either Zack or Trini until the middle act, where the bonding between the group really starts. I can understand where that comes into it, since these are the more outcast characters, but it still would have been good to get a bit more depth to them early on. Alpha and Zordon are used as was expected, and even gave Zordon a bit of a selfish need until he realised his time is done. As for Rita… She was a bit more outside of what I expected. How she came about and grew in power, with the way it was shot, gave a more creepy side to the character. At full strength, she really played that up.

As for the story itself, it was more about those character interactions, I felt. It gives a real feel as to how the characters see each other, and their reactions to believable to the situations they are in. At first they are hesitant to accept the powers and the responsibility, just as in the Mighty Morphin' TV series, but here it is more played up. The bond between the group is what allows them to earn their powers, and until they have that bond, they cannot morph. And while they do start training, they don't exactly bond. When it comes to the action, Rita is reconstructing Goldar and intends to pull the Zeo Crystal supporting all life on Earth from where it is hidden. I liked watching the Rangers grow into that team, and in a way it reminded me of Dino Thunder. A group of teens get in trouble, are grouped together in some way, find the power, and have to bond as a team to succeed. Since this film is playing on the original settings, I wouldn't suggest anything as outlandish as it should have been three Rangers to start.
I felt it was a well constructed film. There's serious and more light-hearted moments, with references to numerous films, and even a blast of the original theme's chorus as the Rangers and their zords charge into battle. I will say though, and this will be coming up in my Look Inside the Morphing Grid series when I get to the era, I felt Disney had a better understanding of how to make Rangers work. Most of the film feels like it suits the more serious tone, and the lighter toned scenes are a breather from that, but in no way do they feel... fully interwoven with each other. Perhaps it's just preference, and there'll be more detail when I cover that era, but for here I'll just say that the lighter scenes don't exactly work in places, and occasionally feel timed wrong.
The effects are well done, with the zords and enemies feeling mostly a part of the same world. Just don't go expecting the sort of explosions you'd get in the TV series, as the fights are more grounded. Which is also an interesting point to bring up.

The final climax of the film is the fight that is usually expected in any Power Rangers episode. Battles against foot soldiers and monsters, then a zord fight. The fight against those foot soldiers is executed well enough for the film, with the first wave outside the mine. It's a more standard movie affair than the TV series though, which usually holds back the larger groups of foot soldiers until the finale, as the first fight overwhelms them, if not for using the zords. And while I do say it's best not to think about the logic of Rangers, this is the one point I couldn't help but question it. Working as a team was the whole point of the film, and while that gets represented in the zord fight, it doesn't get much look in with the ground fight. Said ground fight barely lasts any time at all before the zords are pulled out to annihilate the enemy. Said fight has a few instances is used. Said ground fight, in real terms, is five super-powered teenagers in armour against a bunch of rock monsters that fall easily. Yet all appears lost almost too quickly. I think that maybe the film wanted to use the zords more, as those things really are good looking. The fight with the zords is a lot better, and since the zord fight immediately follows the ground fight, enjoyment isn't really affected too much. The zord fight feels much like in the TV series, with each Ranger utilising their particular zord as a way to fight off the forces of evil and stop Goldar from getting the Zeo Crystal. It's effective, and good to watch, and when all seems lost, the Megazord is formed. Either through the bond the Rangers are sharing at that time or due to a fuse owing to the extreme heat the zords have placed on them. I'd say the first, since teamwork is the theme of the film and Power Rangers as a whole.

As to what final verdict I'd give the film... I liked it, and it certainly gave a more mature spin on the lore of the Rangers series. Which is something I'd like to see expanded on with the future films. As for this film, it does a good job of introducing the concept of Rangers, so even if you haven't been a fan of the series you'd still be able to enjoy it. But while it is good, and it serves its purpose, I can't help but feel Disney did it better with the series, so a film under their control could be better than this one is. If we look at the films as a series, then this was just the first episode. And since it was the first episode, we should expect greater things for the series in the future.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Nintendo Switch: This Just Got Everywhere [Gaming]

It's been over a week since the Switch was first released, and already it's doing better than the Wii U. A lot of build-up for the console went a long way to securing good sales, for both games and the console itself. And what a console this thing is.

The set up was quick and easy, showing off what the console was capable of easy enough. The UI is simple enough to navigate, with games being sorted by most recent played. A set of icons below this carousel feature the news, eshop, album, and settings for both console and controllers. Two themes are available, and so I opted for the darker one on preference. What I really like about it is the simplicity of it, but feel it could have a bit more functionality to it. The Wii, 3DS, and Wii U had ways to track play time, the latter two having specific apps for it [the 3DS one being the best], but there is no such thing with the Switch. Even the PS4 and Xbox One have some way to see total play time, and while it's not really a big deal, it is something that will be missed. The eshop is also simple in design, and simple to use. Simple functionality seems to be the order of the day for the Switch, and that also goes into how it's used.

While I did get time playing it in January, there was no real way for me to test the switching function properly. Glad to say it works great. Freehand Joy-Cons are the best, I've found. That's how I started using the Switch, and is probably going to be the way I play near enough all the time with it docked. The straps fill the Joy-Cons out a bit more, allowing them to be held better. The positioning of the buttons and sticks are pretty good for either freehand or in the grip. Swapping to handheld mode is simple enough, and attaching the Joy-Cons to the Switch itself. The only trouble I've had is removing the straps, but after a few times of doing so it has got easier to do so. Holding the Switch in handheld mode is lighter than I was expecting. The only trouble I have had is a single Joy-Con. At the January event the only experience I had of that was with Sonic Mania. I've played two games that use a Joy-Con on the side, and even with the strap I've found it a bit hard both keeping a hold of it and pressing buttons in more intense moments of play.

As for the games I've played, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been the big one. While I do keep up with the series, I'm not exactly a big fan. I've seriously been pulled into the world with this one though. There's so much to do within the world. I've explored like crazy and still probably haven't found everything. The game is open in how you attempt things, with story beats being the best way to do so. There are also numerous shrines around that give spirit orbs for passing a test. Four of these will grant a heart or stamina upgrade. And there are over 100 of them. There's things to cook, clothes to buy, places to explore, and enemies to beat up. There's weapons to use and find, Korok seeds to collect for inventory upgrades, and also fairy fountains which give good things to you as well. There is so much to do that while I'm technically half way through the story, I'm nowhere near finished with the game.

FAST RMX is the second game I purchased, and while I said I would do it first day, I had spent so much time on Breath of the Wild on that day I didn't have time to do so. Instead, it was the first thing I did on the second day, and it's a great game. I haven't been online yet, but the single-player races I've done have been living up to the name of fast. It takes a bit of skill to race, with switching between two colours to gain and use boosts the sole game-changer on offer. Each course looks vastly different from another, and each feels unique with its course layout. Getting third or better will unlock a new cup and a new vehicle, with three difficulty levels to get through. There's even Hero mode for that greater bit of challenge, where the boost bar also acts as an energy gauge - same as in F-Zero - which destroy your racer if it runs out. I've only played through a few of the cups, but it has been a great racer all the same.

Now the third game I've been playing has been Snipperclips, a simple yet fun puzzler. At first it was just the demo, but I've delayed this post so I can include the full game, which arrived as a code with the Neon Joy-Con bundle. The demo had the tutorial and three of the stages, with the tutorial doing a good job of showing the controls off and the stages doing a great job of showing what to expect in the full game. Getting to that full game, the puzzles get that bit more interesting, and while I've only completed the first world, the puzzles on offer have shown that it can be fun. Get a friend along for the challenge, and it becomes that bit more fun with the right person. Yes, you can work together to solve the puzzles, but there's fun to be had just playing around. I've yet to fully test out the other modes in the game, but from what I've read, those also offer enjoyment with friends.

That's my impressions with the console in its first week. Yes, there are a few niggles, and a lack of entertainment features - such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video - might bother some. For me though, it has been a delight to have as much power of a home console on a handheld, and have the ability to swap almost seamlessly between handheld and TV. While the launch has been a success in my eyes, there's still the next few months to take into consideration. The likes of Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and ARMS will make sure there are plenty of first party games coming, though E3 is where the support of others will really be shown.