Monthly Archives: December 2009

Inception

This French trailer for Christopher Nolan’s 2010 intellectual action thriller “Inception” made it’s debut yesterday in various places online before being swiftly yanked by Warner Brothers.

This link should still be working – a barrage of images awaits you, and if you hanker for more of Nolan’s uniquely modern and cerebral take on the summer blockbuster, this new movie appears to have everything you could want.

The walls are moving in...

Image via MovieCarpet.com

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Whatcha’ Been Playing – points hoarder edition…

As previously promised, this is another edition of the Whatcha’ Been Playing meme which has been so generous to any podcast needing twenty to forty minutes of lovely content each week…and to hapless bloggers eager to generate traffic from punters on the internets.

First up – “Frontlines – Fuel of War”, the KAOS/THQ tactical shooter from 18 months or so ago.  This isn’t a game that’s been on my shelf for long – it’s actually a pick-up from the good people at Goozex.eu.  Enjoyable combat, neat gadgets – UAV’s, remote controlled helicopters and trucks, a mess of vehicles to tool around in – and a mostly involving story which strives for some real world relevancy add up to a fun experience which is worth looking at if you see it cheap or can pick it up for rental.

Can’t comment on the multiplayer, but I know that on the 360 community side, E and Major Nelson were vocal supporters of the MP component of the game when it came out.  Give it a shot (no pun intended).

Pretty Steelbook!

Another game in my playing rotation is…

Black Rock and Disney Interactive's "Pure"

Awesome ATV stunt action, ahoy!

…which is a must for you if you like fast-paced, tactical racing action with just a hint or nerdy, RPG stats-like gameplay.

Sure, you can jump right into the game and duke it out with a stock vehicle but a few minutes spent in the game’s garage feature can pay dividends in the later stages of the game.  In fact, unless you’re some kind of racing savant, you’re going to have no small amount of issues unless you take the time to spec your rides, investigate tuning options and find out what kind of vehicle works best with the courses and race types – sprint, freestyle and race.

I love this game – and have bought it twice, for PS3 and 360 (the latter I’ve recently traded via the aforementioned Goozex).  The gameplay is a challenge – getting every point in every stage is a hell of a job – and the graphics are to die for, with eye-popping vistas over the lip of every mountain and cliff-top edge.  It’s one heck of an underrated title and I’m glad to see that at least some people will get to play it as it forms part of the software pack-in with Microsoft’s 360 bundles this festive season.

In far nerdier news – and to demonstrate that Giant Bomb can influence a brother to pick up a game or two – I’ve just downloaded “Torchlight”, via Steam.

Loot! Loot! Loot!

Loot lovers, fill ye boots...

It’s a dungeon crawler, with lovely art and pleasing character design – well worth a look, as the demo’s free and easy enough for a PC noob like me to pick up.  Highly recommended.

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Snow Day

The view from my bedroom window on Sunday afternoon.  Seasonal, isn’t it?  It’s calmed down a bit, but the flurries do start up again, periodically.  It’s a good job we took Bonnie the Terrific Terrier out for her constitutional this morning, as the weather would have made it borderline impossible later on.

And as you can see, she was appropriately attired for her walk…

Weather conditions being as they were, we elected not to go to our usual dog-walking location as the roads promised to be treacherous – it’s not the kind of location that Sheffield’s gritter trucks make it to first thing.  Instead we went to Endcliffe Park, which was a fine place to give Bonnie her walk and had the added benefit of yummo Cappucino from the cafe in the park.

When we went out at 9:00am, the weather was like this:

As of two or three minutes ago?  Sheffield looks like this..

The Day After Tomorrow 2: Ice-Capade!

Makes you want to stay inside, really.  Well, that’s the plan for the rest of today.  Hopefully, your own corner of the globe is a bit warmer.

The best response to this weather is to go get some hot cocoa – tell whomever may query this that I said you could.

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“Avatar” – An unbiased, measured review

The Blue Man Group's new member felt somehow different...

I’ve been remiss in updating this blog recently – life, things, the usual excuses all figure in any explanation of my tardiness.

Luckily, I have a reason to post anew – James Cameron’s film “Avatar” is finally here after years of speculation, hype and backlash. And it’s a corker.

Let’s get some caveats out of the way – Cameron’s writing is often clunky, betraying an over-reliance on archetypes in lieu of fully-realised characters. The story is nothing to get too excited about – it is, without doubt, an obvious riff on themes previously seen in “Dances with Wolves”, “Pocahontas”, “The New World”, not to mention a military presence whose reliance on technology and hardware screams ‘Colonial Marines’ during their appearances on screen.

If such things aggrieve you, the environmental meta-text and unsubtle references to Bush Jnr’s ‘War on Terror’ may prove a lecture too far and take you out of the carefully crafted world that Cameron and his technical personnel have wrought – because, let’s get this clear, my reservations and minor annoyances should not distract you from my conviction that “Avatar” is an extraordinary picture – a veritable master work from a director whose grasp of popular entertainment remains gloriously, thrillingly intact.  Whatever else this film may be described as, it is a command performance from Cameron – this is no “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”-style disappointment.

Refreshingly, the acting is top-notch – be it Sam Worthington’s wounded, fallen soldier seeking redemption and freedom on an alien world or Zoe Saldana’s awards calibre turn as a fearless, iconic warrior princess.  Sigourney Weaver’s scientist could have been a sketch in a different movie – her history with Cameron pays off and results in a multi-layered, at times not especially likeable study of a scientist whose ego forces her to make some very hard compromises.  Perhaps best of all is Stephen Lang, as villain Miles Quaritch, whose splendidly evil turn results in a cinematic bad guy to rival  Alan Rickman in “Die Hard”.

The urge to say "Get Away From Him, You Bitch!" was too hard to resist...

I should point out that this review is based on a viewing of the 2D print – this is, of course, the film which promises to be at the vanguard of a 3D revolution in cinema.  And it’s no hypebole to suggest that Cameron’s adventure is every bit as exciting a film in it’s standard configuration as it promises to be in three dimensions.  The scale, the visual splendour, the utterly breathtaking special effects are not short-changed by being viewed in a conventional cinema – far from it.  “Avatar” is Hollywood eye candy of the highest order, no matter what kind of cinema you see it in.

That said, I will be seeing the film’s 3D print at my local multiplex on Monday 22nd December and I hope that it delivers the extra layer of visual information and staging that the initial reviews have suggested it does.  I’ve enjoyed the likes of “Monsters Vs Aliens” and “Beowulf” in the Real D format and I hope that Cameron does something with the presentational possibilities of the medium beyond what we’ve seen to date – I’m looking for dimensionality and scale, perspective and the use of this technology in a storytelling capacity.

It’s hard to tell how this film will do at the box office – it’s not a sequel, a comic book adaptation or a riff on a video game, and has chiefly Cameron’s reputation and back catalogue to attract the floating voter to hand over their money.  There’s a lot of cynicism regarding the movie – not helped by early publicity which seemed to suggest that this film would raise the infirm from their beds, remove pollution from the atmosphere and turn my blue eyes brown.  But that cynicism should hopefully be met convincingly by the end result of Cameron’s labours – this is, at the core, a brilliant exercise in popular entertainment.  It’s an action adventure from a master of the genre – and one can only hope that we won’t have to wait another twelve years for a new Cameron salvo.

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