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Tag: Star Wars The Force Awakens

My New Apple TV is Worthy of the Force

How do you create this imaginative screen saver for your TV? You just hand over your pictures and let your Apple TV do the rest…

How do you create this imaginative screen saver for your TV? You just hand over your pictures and let your Apple TV do the rest…

Star Wars…
The new Apple TV…
And my favorite TV screensaver.

These three forces recently collided to create something of a tech crisis in my life.

Before taking my wife to see Episode 7, I wanted to offer her a little refresher on Luke, Han, Leia, Darth and the old gang. So I went looking for my copy of Episode 4, but I realized I’d never purchased a digital version of any of the Star Wars’ flicks.
(I know… A huge gap!)

I did locate a forgotten VHS copy, but trying to watch that would require its own MacGyver project getting the old tape to play on my HDTV. I wondered why I still had the archaic tape lying around to begin with. Perhaps this version represented the original cut where ‘Greedo didn’t shoot first.’

Anyway… I threw it back in a drawer for another time.

Another Problem with the Hyperdrive Engine
So I summoned iTunes on my iMac and figured a swift HD download of “Star Wars: A New Hope” would quickly fill the gap.
(I know that purists would insist on purchasing the Blu-ray version… But I just didn’t have enough time to buy a physical copy.)


Then, I synced the 1977 classic to my old Apple TV and waited (not so patiently) for the Force to appear.

Nothing happened.
I repeated the sequence.
(And that’s when I began having a really bad feeling…)

So I did a little online research and was painfully reminded that my first generation Apple TV can’t play full HD 1080p videos.

Only the inferior 720p flavor.

And today, all of Apple’s HD movies in iTunes are 1080p.

(Clearly I hadn’t bought a movie for my old Apple TV in a while…)

Always in Motion is the Future
Yes, I failed to mention earlier that I’m still trying to keep alive the original Apple TV. Part of my rationale for trying to forestall its obsolescence was due to its clever screensaver mode that can download and then rotate hundreds of your photos into a dynamic scrolling collage.

Forget all of the movies, TV shows and home videos that Apple TV was built to handle.
With my first generation Apple TV, I could generate my own personalized living photo collage onto my HDTV that showed up via Apple TV’s screensaver.

I was concerned when later version Apple TVs came out without an internal hard drive that they wouldn’t be able to perform the same trick…

Hello Generation Four
Sure, the fourth generation Apple TV has so much more capability…

  • Siri functionality
  • Streaming service apps
  • Game apps
  • HBO and Showtime without a cable or satellite subscription
  • A newly designed remote

But I was laser focused on that screensaver capability. Could the new Apple TV do it?!
(And I’m not talking about the new cinematic screensaver, which displays nifty aerial videos of different cities.)

But without a way to play 1080p videos on my Apple TV, it was clear it was finally time for me to take a leap of faith and go for the upgrade…

Discover This
Of course I missed the holiday shopping discounts that were originally offered by some retailers on Apple’s new streaming device. But I had a little trick up my sleeve… I was able to generate my own personal discount…

I simply dipped into some cash back dollars I earned by using my Discover Card.

And then I stretched them a little further by redeeming them for Staples’ gift cards.
Staples will give you a $25 gift card for only twenty bucks!

A few of these go a long way to dropping the $199 price of the 64GB Apple TV.



Memory Management
So yes, I’ve just become the proud owner of a new Apple TV. I went with the beefier model as opposed to the 32GB version, which was only $50 less.
(I usually supersize it if the upgrade cost is reasonable.)

And yes… The Apple TV 4 has a hard drive.
(Flash memory, as in the past two models)

But the increased storage capacity is there to handle the apps and content you’ll be using in the moment. Not necessarily to download and store for keeps. So the Apple TV essentially decides what content to keep locally. Humans not required.

But the big change from my old Apple TV is you don’t sync content from your computer… You sync it from the cloud via your iTunes and iCloud accounts.

Drum Roll, Please
And is my favorite screensaver still there…?


The only difference is you’ve got to transfer your photos up to your iCloud account and Photo Streams for your Apple TV to access them.
(As opposed to syncing the photos directly from your computer)


Doubling Down on Star Wars
For a time, I’ve again brought tech balance back to the Lester household.

  • My wife got a crash course on the ways of the Force via Episode 4.
  • And then we both enjoyed Star Wars…The Next Generation.
    (Though I must admit I walked out with a little knot in my stomach… similar to how I felt at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back.” That’s not so terrible as Episode 5 is widely considered the best of the series. But I didn’t fully appreciate that reality until three years later. I imagine I’ll feel better again when Episode 8 comes out in 2017.)
  • Moving forward, with our new Apple TV, we’ll watch all six legacy films.
    (Yes, I couldn’t resist the discounted price on buying the complete bundle.)

Jedi Training
I’m sure some of you are scoffing at my questionable decision to bring Episodes 1-3 into our home media library. Who could possibly want to watch them?

Well, my five-year-old son will one day have to decide for himself.
(He’s still a little young to watch the movies, but I’m thinking of introducing him one day soon to “The Clone Wars” cartoon series as a primer.)

Every Jedi in training has to choose his or her own path. If we’ve learned anything from Star Wars over the past decades, we must accept that difficult truth.

May the Force be with you, my son.

I’m Watching Star Wars Right Now

This is my ticket to the hottest show on this planet. If you want to avoid any spoilers, don’t worry… I won’t be blogging from the movie theater.

This is my ticket to the hottest show on this planet. If you want to avoid any spoilers, don’t worry… I won’t be blogging from the movie theater.

These words were written in your past. In the very moment they are released on Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 8:00pm… I will no longer exist on the planet Earth.

In fact, I will have been transported to a galaxy… far, far away.

Yes, you guessed it… I’ll be about fifteen minutes into
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
And I’ve got to say, if all goes well, that will be quite the accomplishment… for me.

I suppose I should admit it’s something of a sad state to acknowledge I couldn’t get it together to buy my tickets for opening day months ago, like any self-respecting sci-fi geek did.
(And then I figured it would be impossible to find tickets for days or weeks after opening weekend.)

But a work colleague, who was more organized than me and successfully got himself to an opening-night screening suggested I find the opportunity to see the new J.J. Abrams’ flick soon… before people started to talk openly about the plot.

His comment sounded a little ominous…

“The Force Works in Mysterious Ways”
As I was driving home from work on Friday thinking about how distant the Force still felt from my eyeballs, my wife called and told me she just received an email from Fandango proclaiming there were still tickets available in our area code to buy that very night.


Now in the old days, we would have just gone for it, but as you know we’ve got a young Jedi in training at home… He’s only five and not quite ready to watch “Star Wars” yet.
(Especially a PG-13 rated Episode VII)

So we can’t just take a spin around the galaxy anytime we want.

But we’re not entirely unable to pivot… so we decided that if I could secure a couple tickets for tonight, we could swing the rest.

As I was driving, I figured I could either buy the tickets online when I got home…. or better yet… I could just drive a little further up the street to our local movie theater and go old school… and simply secure the tickets there.

And that’s exactly what I did.
(How 1940’s of me)

As I stood in the center of the lobby, grasping my two tickets, I looked about for some unforeseen obstacle… Like some storm trooper would walk up and demand a $200 opening-weekend surcharge. But everything seemed absolutely normal. Of course, there were lots of people on line waiting to see the sold-out Friday night show, but other than experiencing a few momentary flashbacks, I felt really good.

Flashbacks, you ask?

Oh yeah…

“Assimilate This!”
I think part of the reason I didn’t try harder to see “The Force Awakens” on opening day was because of fan hysteria and long lines for sold-out shows. I’ve been part of that scene before. And I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve been one of “those fans” who’ve contributed to “the scene.”

I first transported back to “Star Trek: First Contact’s” opening day back in 1996. That was the time I organized a group trip and brought ten of my friends.

  • We bought our tickets…
    (No Fandango yet)
  • Stood on line for an hour with 500 Trekies
  • And finally walked in
    (There were actually three theaters that day showing the flick, and ours was outfitted with the newer “Dolby” sound system.)

Guess what?
Our tickets were for one of the other theaters. We were in the wrong one!

When one red-shirt member of our landing party took a quick trip to the bathroom, she was nabbed on the way back by a young usher, who spotted the discrepancy on her ticket.

He walked down to our group to escort all of us out of the sold-out theater. By this point, it was only a couple minutes until the film started. So it was clear we wouldn’t get into any of the other simultaneous screenings either.

What would you do…?

It was my own personal Kobayashi Maru moment…
(If you’re not a “Star Trek” geek… that refers to how someone handles a “no win” situation.)

Without giving much thought to the consequences, I simply proclaimed we wouldn’t leave.

My excuse…? I explained that we were told to stand in the line that led us to this particular theater. That was technically true, but I was hanging my hat on an unconfirmable technicality.
(We were still sitting in the wrong theater.)

The usher threatened to bring in the manager. I called his bluff.
(It wasn’t a bluff.)

It was at this point, the rest of my group started getting uncomfortable. So they started to get up to leave. My poker game was over.
Only a benevolent act by the “Q” could save me…

And then the lights dimmed. And the movie started. And we were still there…
And I guess the usher gave up.
(He never came back.)

So we watched the movie.

And yes, my friends later told me I was a little crazy to do what I did.
(I wasn’t proud of my act of defiance, but I have to admit that Dolby sound was sweet!)

Twenty years later, all I’ve got to say is that was a long time ago in a state far, far away, and I would never do something like that today.
(Do I seem a bit defensive?)

“No Growth without Assistance”
Fast forward four years…

Then there’s the time when my wife and I were dating, and we went to a packed movie house in Brooklyn about to see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” We showed up with five minutes to spare, and there weren’t two open seats together in the whole place.

Yep… another Kobayashi Maru.

So I ran up the stairs led by some ‘Force” and asked an entire row of people to shift one seat over.

They did.
(And happily too. I think it must be a Brooklyn thing.)

I think my wife was impressed.

But come on… that was another risky move… Right?
If it had played out poorly, my future could have evolved into a different timeline altogether.

“The Force is Strong with This One”
Fortunately, another film flashback that comes to mind is much more Zen.

It’s the hot summer day in 1977 when I saw “Star Wars: A New Hope” with my mom at the now long-gone movie house on East 86th street in New York City.

I remember being blown away by the entire movie. And though I was already a “Star Trek” geek, the groundbreaking “Star Wars” really opened my eyes.
(Along with the rest of the planet.)

“Your Thoughts Betray You”
Then, I snapped back to this reality.
It’s 2015.

So I walked through the suburban parking lot and got into my car.

I thought about the future. About tonight.

Would this experience also burn permanent memories into my neurons just like it did with “A New Hope” and “The Return of the Jedi?”
(Watching Episode VI in the massive New York Ziegfeld Theater with a thousand screaming kids begging Darth Vader to take action against the evil Emperor is hard to forget.)

Oops… time slipped again.

“You Cannot Escape Your Destiny”
Will December 20th, 2015 always be a day I remember, because it’s the day I saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens?”

I’ll let you know.
(For now, I’m just tickled I’m getting to see it on opening weekend!)

And I’m shooting for a stress-free experience this time.
(May the Force be with me.)

If you thought this was going to be a movie review, this is not the blog you’re looking for… And what self-respecting Star Wars’ fan wants to read a review ahead of time anyway?

Just go!

The New Star Wars Teaser Will Blow Your Mind

If you’ve been preoccupied, you may have missed a significant disturbance in the Force last week.  The good news is your opportunity to catch up is only a click away…

If you’ve been preoccupied, you may have missed a significant disturbance in the Force last week. The good news is your opportunity to catch up is only a click away…

I’ve always enjoyed watching movie trailers. They used to be the favorite part of my film-going experience. But no more… That’s because every blockbuster trailer I’ve seen at the multiplex I’ve already caught at home when I’m online.

Download Vs. Streaming
Typically, I go to the iTunes Movie Trailers page to find the newest previews.

I usually prefer downloading the ones I really like to my iPhone and then watching them whenever the moment moves me.
(Usually when my commuter train isn’t moving too fast)

You may recall, I’ve had some ups and downs with this….

A couple years ago, Apple inexplicably began taking away its trailer downloading functionality, leaving streaming as the only viewing option. This is hardly ideal when your smartphone doesn’t have a strong connection.

…and Barrett was frustrated.

Then, a year later, Apple seemingly gave it all back.

…and Barrett was happy again.

Prepare Yourself
So this past week, I was looking for the newest summer movie teasers, as the blockbuster season is nearly upon us.

Imagine my glee when I spotted the second teaser trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

When the first teaser came out in November, millions of geeks in galaxies near and far could barely contain themselves. The fact that J.J. Abrams had successfully recreated the look and feel of the original “Star Wars” was almost too much to handle.

Come on… This is J.J. Abrams we’re talking about.
“Lost,” “Star Trek,” “Fringe.”
You didn’t think he was going to get the basics right?

I thought the first teaser trailer was just fine.
It was nice to have a quick peek.
That’s what any first teaser usually does…

Traveling Back in Time
But then I clicked on this second teaser trailer.
My finger was running on autonomic instinct; my brain, barely keeping up.

I felt like I was fourteen years old again watching “Star Wars” for the very first time with my mother at the east 86th street multiplex in New York City. I was transported back to those two mesmerizing hours…

And then I heard-
“You have that power too.”

And then I saw-
“Chewie, we’re home.”


Now, this is more like it!

An A+ Trailer
I’m not entirely surprised J.J. Abrams blew my mind with this new teaser trailer. He did something similar with the early trailers for his first “Star Trek” movie. But those suggested something different from the “Star Trek” we grew up with.
(And in fact, it was an alternate reality.)

This “Star Wars” trailer by comparison feels exceptionally familiar. Of course, because the Star Wars universe is being continued, not re-imagined.
(It would seem.)

We’re given the perfect balance between what we already know about and teased with what we don’t.

And then that last shot: We get to see Han Solo!

I Have a Good Feeling about This
We’re still eight months away from seeing how strong the Force really is with Episode VII.
That said, this trailer completely reenergized all my geeky energies.

After I watched it, I just stared at the screen.

And then I downloaded the two minutes of movie (and marketing) magic.

I felt like a kid again.
It was the perfect moment…

Thank you, Disney for spending $4 billion in 2012 to keep it all going.
Only now, at the end (of the wait) do I understand…

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