Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rebooting Ruxpin - The Fobs

     I figured this was as good of a time as any to reboot more Teddy Ruxpin characters. This go around, I'm putting a new spin on the Fobs, the cute rainbow-colored bird things that inhabit the forests of Grundo.

     I always thought it was odd how both the Fobs and the Bounders are able to survive in the wild hopping around without any arms. With the Bounders, I decided to give them stronger legs like a kangaroo, but with the Fobs I took more of an "Angry Birds" approach to their design, basically making them nothing more than a bunch of bouncing heads with feet. It's still odd but, hey! What's wrong with odd? After all, we're talking about airship-flying bears here!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Silly Nate Film Club - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

     So my intention when starting The Silly Nate Film Club was to discuss certain films I like that may not necessarily be unheard of, but aren’t very big in pop culture and definitely not something you’d be likely to see discussed on typical fanboy blogs. For the holidays, I was all set to write an entry over Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, but then I happened to watch another movie… and it’s been all I’ve been able to think about lately. I’m putting Emmett Otter on hold, therefore, and making an exception with this edition of the Silly Nate Film Club. This time around, I’ll be posting about a slightly more popular film. In fact, it’s one you have, more than likely, recently seen as well. Directed by J.J. Abrams, it’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

     Another plus of the Silly Nate Film Club is that I never have to utter the phrase, Spoiler Alert! The few films I’ve discussed so far (and one’s I plan to discuss in the future) are at least 10 years old and any statute of limitations, when it comes to plot spoilers, has long since run out. However, this film is an exception. There may still be people out there who haven’t yet seen the movie, but still feel as if they have the right to surf the web reading articles and posts about this now one month-old film without being exposed to tidbits of information pertaining to its plot.

If you’re one of these people… Spoiler Alert!
     Back in 2013 when it was first announced that they were working on a new Star Wars film, I wrote a post over the reasons we had to be optimistic for this new installment of the franchise. Now having finally seen it, I’m glad to say that my reasons were justified. I liked it! A lot! For me, what makes Star Wars so enjoyable are two main things: a sense of fun and an ensemble of well-developed characters.  I thought The Force Awakens filled both of these criteria. While writing this, I’ve seen it three times so far and have had a little more fun each time! As for the characters, well… here we go!

     First of all, there’s the Resistance’s top pilot! I’m, of course, talking about Poe “I Can Fly Anything” Dameron! Poe’s a favorite, though there’s not really a reason I can think of for this being the case. He’s barely even in the movie! Still, while he is on screen, he certainly does his part in providing the first part of my criteria – a sense of fun. Poe’s a real man’s man! A bro’s bro! A guy’s guy! A dude’s dude who doesn’t blink in the face of adversity! You and the other x-wing’s fall back, Greg Grunberg! Black Leader’s got this one on lock! …Like a BOSS!

     Here’s hoping Episode 8 will quench that Bro Dameron thirst that The Force Awakens leaves us with.

     With the original Star Wars trilogy, the audience’s entrance to the universe was through the character of Luke Skywalker. With The Force Awakens, it’s been thirty-something years since we last saw him or any of his friends and a new entry point is needed to reconnect us with that galaxy far, far away. For this, we have the character Rey! Like Luke Skywalker, Rey starts off as a seemingly insignificant nobody leading a mundane existence on a barren, isolated planet. Unlike Luke, however, Rey has a much greater air of mystery about her. Whereas reckless young Luke longed to leave his planet in search of adventure, the na├»ve young Rey is capable of leaving but, for whatever reason, wishes to stay. It’s my guess that this lack of recklessness is the key difference that makes her so much stronger with the Force… but hey, that’s just baseless fanboy speculation. We’ll have to wait and see.

     Next up is Finn! He’s probably my favorite of the new characters. Like Rey, Finn is also a nobody. He’s a stormtrooper, which as we already know, is one of the biggest nobodies in all of cinema. I love the concept of a meaningless expendable finding purpose in the cause of his former enemy and rising to make a real difference. It’s inspiring, regardless of how unrealistic the situation.

     Rey and Finn’s relationship is one of the most charming things I’ve seen on screen since... I don't know when! Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are superb with their childlike banter that drives most of the film. When you think about it, neither one of the characters have had much experience when it comes to the opposite sex. Rey’s stuck out in the dessert with blob dudes and luggabeasts while Finn is up on a spaceship being bossed around by Brienne of Tarth! It makes sense then, that the two treat each other like fellow kids on a playground rather than with your typical boy meets girl display of affection. 

     Finn’s little crush on Rey and his need to protect her, even though she’s clearly the more capable of the two, is... for lack of a better word, sweet. There’s one short scene where the two of them run out in the freezing temperatures of Starkiller Base. If you notice, Rey is wearing Finn’s jacket. Adorable. 

     Overall, I think it’s these innocent new characters being set against the familiar backdrop of alien cantinas and giant enemy bases that really makes this film work. Most of us adults like to be reminded of our childhood. For me, at least, The Force Awakens does just that.

     I probably could have ended this whole thing right there, but no! It's STAR WARS, and I want to keep talking about it! 

     I have yet to mention the new antagonist, Kylo Ren! The task of creating a villain to follow up Darth Vader had to be RIDICULOUSLY daunting! What we got is a character who, himself, is daunted by the task of following up Darth Vader. It’s brilliant! Vader was a cold and heartless machine whereas Kylo Ren wishes he was… and when he fails, he loses it! He’s filled with emotion, (way more than Vader was) which he sees as a flaw. The end result is a character racked with inner conflict… and he’s kind of a jerk about it. We’re definitely meant to hate this character, and if there was any doubt, they have him go and straight-up MURDER his dad, one of the most beloved characters in all of fandom!

     I’ll go ahead and use that point to transition to the next character. It’s such an unfitting end for Han Solo! It makes me mad… and I love the film for it! They could have just as easily given us a happier fan-service ending for everyone’s favorite smuggler and the film would still have raked in at the box office, but it would have lacked substance! It took real guts to take a character we all love and give him such a senseless end. I applaud them for it! It shows that the filmmakers didn’t want The Force Awakens to just be a quick and easy cash grab, but a serious film! Not only that, but it heightens interest in Episodes 8 and 9 where that diaper baby Kylo will hopefully get what’s coming to him!

     To sum it up, The Force Awakens did exactly what a Star Wars movie hasn’t done in quite some time! It made me feel!

And now… a few more random thoughts:

“I See the Island.” – I like the fact that while probing Rey’s thoughts, Kylo Ren sees EXACTLY what he’s looking for and doesn’t even know it! He’s so obsessed that he’s blinded! It’s just one of many subtleties that make these characters much more interesting.

Wookiee Fingers – Am I the only one that was a little weirded out by seeing Chewbacca’s fingers? He’s been in four other films, and we’ve really only had a vague sense of his fingers underneath these big wads of fur. The Force Awakens, however, gives us several close up shots of his hands like he was some sort of Wookiee Giada De Laurentiis! I found it odd.

Red-Handed – As long as I’m talking about sidekick appendages, I might as well go ahead and mention Threepio’s red arm. There’s supposedly a comic book that explains how the protocol droid received this abnormality. I, for one, could care less. However, I would have liked it if Threepio referenced it more… like, as in EVERY time he spoke! For example:

     “Artoo’s been in low-power mode ever since Master Luke left. He doesn’t even know I have a red arm now!”

     “I’ll just plug in BB-8’s map to the main projector using my new red hand.”

     Meanwhile, Leia and Greg Grunberg just sigh heavily and roll their eyes. Hey! That’s twice now I’ve been able to reference Greg Grunberg in a blog post! That’s two times more than I originally intended! It’s been a good day.

Johnny Baby – You can’t really have a detailed discussion about Star Wars and not talk about composer John Williams! I don’t think I’m saying anything new when I call the man a GENIUS! I remember my excitement over what the musical sorcerer would come up with for each of the prequel soundtracks and the same is the case with The Force Awakens! For myself, “Rey’s Theme” stands out the most. I'm still humming that one every day at work. 

     What I really love though, is how Williams blends his new compositions with several of the saga’s familiar themes. The way “Han Solo and the Princess” chimes in when Han and Leia reunite is beautiful, and the way the classic Force theme seamlessly blends with the new… bad guy theme(?) ...I dunno. It's just brilliant! 

     As is the case with the special effects and characters, the score perfectly compliments the film’s theme of balancing the old with the new!

I also like this poster... Just thought I'd throw that one out there as well.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The 2015 Silly Nate Blog Pog Recap

     Remember Pogs? It was a game played with trading card-esque pieces resembling the bottle caps from some kind of fruit juice called, POG. It was all the rage for more-or-less a week in the 1990’s and then, all of a sudden, wasn’t. My guess is that everyone finally got all of the pogs they wanted, and then sat back and said to themselves, “Hey! You know what’s MORE fun? ACTUAL games!”

     Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for nostalgia and decided to recap (pun SO intended) the past year with some pogs of my own!

     2015 was a BIG year for me! I was able to go back to Walt Disney World, which was a real treat! I haven’t discussed it much here yet, but I did roll out a few Park Pals which is sort of an every-now-and-then treat for me. You know? Like eating at Long-John Silver’s. 2015 also gave us the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga! I appropriately displayed my enthusiasm with a countdown of Penguin Suits. And speaking of movies, this past year also saw the start of The SillyNate Film Club! I like to randomly yammer on about movies, which can be a little exasperating at times for those closest to me. So I created this ongoing segment where I can yammer here on my blog! You’re welcome!

     I also want to talk about how much fun I had giving a new look to the characters of the late Ken Forsse’s Teddy Ruxpin series. A lot! I had a lot of fun! As I just said, I’m a sucker for nostalgia so cranking these bad boys out goes right up there with playing Fireball Island and blowing the dust out of Nintendo cartridges on the whole ‘Things That Make Me Feel Like a Kid Again’ list. Hopefully you all liked these renditions of mine, because there are some more coming real soon!

     As long as I’m strolling down memory lane, I’ll mention my silly tribute to Jim Cummings and his many wonderful characters that brought joy to my life throughout my childhood and to this day! From the Disney Afternoon, to Looney Tunes, to Winnie the Pooh, I really feel like this guy has made a HUGE difference in the entertainment world and so I decided to share my appreciation for his work the best way I know how… with drawings!

     Last, but not least, (or maybe least. I don’t know. I’m not really ranking things here.) I resolved back in January to draw 50 original characters! This was a big deal for me. Drawing is pretty much, just something I do in my spare time, and more than often, I prefer to devote that time to fan-art… such as everything you’ve seen above.  Most New Year’s resolutions kind of fizzle out by early March, but I’m proud to say that I pulled this one off… and with 51 original characters! That’s one more character than I originally intended, for those of you doing the math. As far as 2016 resolutions go… I dunno… I kind of want to catch the last episode of Downton Abbey. I haven’t put much thought into it beyond that.

     So there you have it! My recap of 2015! I’m not sure how many people actually check this blog of mine, but to those of you that do,… Thanks! Hopefully you enjoy looking at these posts as much as I do making them.  And here’s to 2016 being another Whammer Slammer of a year!

That’s another Pogs reference. It really was a stupid game.