Monthly Archives: November 2011

2011 – a completionist’s tale

Yep, that's me that they're shooting. Fun times...

“Gears of War 3”, “Uncharted 3”, “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine”, “Singularity”, “Bulletstorm” – campaigns done and dusted, multiplayer mostly left untouched (still making progress through “Uncharted 3”, really should try out some more “Space Marine”).

What have you finished this year – and is finishing games important to you?  If you’re not enjoying something, do you just put it down or persist with it in the hope that it gets better?

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“Doctor Who”, Christmas Day, 7pm anybody?

Image via Doctor Who News.net

This year’s Christmas episode of “Doctor Who” finally has a place in the schedule.

After you’ve eaten yourself insensible on the banquet of your choice, avoided doing the washing up and fallen out with all of your family, you can settle down to “The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe” at 7pm on BBC One in the UK.

And play Twister (c) with your Cyber-Mates, too. Yay!

 

 

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“Ender’s Game” movie happening, whether you like it or not…

Don't let Keith Vaz get his paws on this book...

Empire is reporting that the long-gestating adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s “Enders Game” novel might be getting some serious star power.

Harrison Ford starry enough for you?

The film has been in proverbial development hell for a good few years now – I believe that I recall hearing talk of an adaptation back when Card’s novelization of James Cameron’s “The Abyss” was published back in 1989 – but technology seems to have caught up with the novel’s themes and can now do Card’s future world justice.

Ignoring some of Card’s predictably Conservative politics and focussing instead on the film to come – which already has a release date in March 2013 – what can we expect of this tale of small children being trained to wage war against an alien menace?

Well, the fact that Gavin Hood is directing it may give some pause for thought.  He last brought you the not especially well thought of “X Men Origins: Wolverine”.  I know, not a good outing but not entirely his fault – that film was anecdotally micro-managed to the point of absurdity (repainting bits of the set to make them brighter, anyone?) and was probably not the movie that anyone – fans or creative folks – wanted to make.  His other work – which includes “Tsotsi” and “Rendition” is better and more representative of him.

It’s a brave man who takes on a movie project like this – Card is not celebrated for his ability to keep himself to himself and the violence in the book would make this an untenable film unless it was significantly toned down – it’s a movie focussing on genocide, with predominantly child actors beating the crap out of each other in a hellish military school.  We’re talking R-rating territory here.

I’ve seen more unlikely pitches for movies, but none that were on quite this scale.  Time will tell, I suppose.

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New “Riddick” back on, money woes averted, ‘death-by-teacup’ solution unconfirmed…

Yep, that's the guy who locked us out of the studio. Where's my teacup?

TMZ were all over this story at the weekend, but as they’re a somewhat icky gossip site I didn’t want to post about this story until I had confirmation (so here’s a story from Collider, instead) – it appears that the new “Riddick” movie’s cash crisis has been sorted out and the film can head back into production in Canada at the end of December.

Phew.

What the movie blogs are telling us is that this “Riddick” is a smaller-scale, neo-Indie production, which is closer to the tough-as-nails, small-scale original “Pitch Black” than the galaxy-spanning, operatic “Chronicles of Riddick” sequel.

Much as I would love to see Riddick leading his newly acquired Necromonger army on a dark and strange trip across the “Pitch Black”-verse, it might be best for Diesel and writer/director David Twohy to scale things back and tell a smaller-scale story which values thrills and bleakness over spectacle and gigantic FX sequences.

Just as long as we don’t begin this movie with Karl Urban and the rest of his Necro-posse having been summarily dispatched off-screen, a-la Newt and Hicks in “Alien 3”.  That would, I need hardly remind you, suck somewhat…

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“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” trailer gets teased…

This summer, a paternal robot truck will rise...

Topless Robot has a wee hint of a teaser trailer for the next Transformers game from High Moon, “Fall of Cybertron” today and it got me thinking.

Do we really need teasers for trailers?

This seems to be a weird and growing phenomenon in the Nerd sphere – are we now deemed such inveterate fanboys and fangirls that we’ll keep F5-ing sites, Facebook ‘liking’ and generally chasing around the interwebs until we get a look at a trailer for a movie/game/tv show which we’re waiting for?   If this is the case, I don’t know if it constitutes hardcore fan service or some kind of ‘Dance, monkey boy, dance!’-style condescension.

Social media only seems to be making things better/worse, depending on how you look at it.

It’s now quite the thing for one of your favourite video games blogs to report on the latest mysterious countdown clock to surface on a developer website or publisher site, with cryptic hints and Facebook/Twitter pimping being used to build up the anticipation for the early release of a game trailer.

A trailer, as in ‘free advertising’, the last time that I looked.

I suppose that for the PR department of a publisher, this is one way of gathering user metrics and getting a sense of just how big the anticipation for your product is.  Not that this guarantees anything – witness the quiet retreat of the Hollywood studios from San Diego Comic Con after the hyped-to-the-gills films like “Watchmen” and “Scott Pilgrim” failed to cross-over beyond the Hall H crowd to the elusive mainstream audience.

It’s not hard to see the uber-publishers like Activision, EA and Ubisoft taking a similar tack when their first trailer for a game doesn’t ignite the Twit-verse with eager chatter and set games blogs alight with hype.  Does your marketing budget drift south if you’re not trending, having new threads made on NeoGaf or getting 80 plus MetaCritic rankings?

Countdowns for teasers for trailers – innovative way to drive enthusiastic community interest in your product or the latest example of the games space chasing its own backside?

 

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Disney cranking up the “John Carter” hype train…

A new franchise for a classic literary character...

Disney have strongly hinted that we can expect to see a full trailer on Thursday – there’s a teaser here at Apple’s trailer site – so it appears that the hype train for their sci-fi blockbuster-in-waiting, “John Carter” is beginning to build a head of steam.

Various journos were invited to see 20 minutes of footage at Disney’s London office recently – SFX’s Dave Golder’s piece is here whilst Den of Geek’s Ryan Lambie’s story is here.

Nascent sci-fi franchises are ten-a-penny, but there are reasons to be excited by this latest would-be contender – the presence of Pixar director Andrew Stanton behind the camera is but one.  He directed “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” for the digital animation wizards and that’s reason enough for me to be at the cinema on opening weekend.  “Wall-E” is probably in my top ten films of all time – “Finding Nemo” certainly is.

If he can translate his obvious storytelling gifts from one medium to another, we’re in for a treat – initial word says that he may have done just that.

My hope for this film is that it manages to make a more than decent fist of translating Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp sci-fi hero the screen and prompts studios to realise that there’s more to summer blockbusters than just superhero adaptations – there’s a wealth of classic sci-fi fiction which can be realised now in the digital era.

Of course, this could be a recipe for disaster if Hollywood lets the likes of McG and Michael Bay loose on the Golden Age of sci-fi novels.

Involuntary shudder in 5, 4, 3…

 

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New pics from “Underworld: Awakening” in the wild

Fearless Vampire Warrior or Suburban Goth Yummy Mummy off to see Cradle of Filth?

Den of Geek have some new images online from “Underworld: Awakening”, which now has a UK release date of January 20th 2012.

Oddly enough, this is the same weekend that Steven Soderbergh’s odd detour into action film-making,  spy thriller “Haywire” opens, starring MMA brawler turned actress Gina Carano.

You might think that these films might potentially share a cross-over audience and that releasing both on the same weekend is a curious idea, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Charles Dance, subbing in for Bill Nighy as the obligatory Posh English Vampire Chief...

I missed it somehow, but there’s a second trailer for the film over at the official “Enter The Underworld” site and it looks…like an “Underworld” movie.  Such an array of leather duster coats, PVC outfitting and funky contact lenses on-screen that you’ll think you’ve woken up at Whitby Goth Weekend?  Check.  Ms Beckinsale glowering and throwing awesome shapes having just wiped out twenty stuntmen whilst barely perspiring? Check.  Huge, roaring werewolves with comic-book physiques, proverbially barking at the moon to the point that Metalheads will be expecting to see an Ozzy cameo? Check.

India Eisley in "Underworld Awakening". Or the goth Bratz movie sequel. One of the two...

Add to the usual stuff a slightly dodgy new character – Eve (India Eisley), who appears to be Selene and Michael’s daughter.  I tend to cede to my learned friend Dominic on these matters – he’s eternally mistrusting of any genre show or tv movie which introduces a new younger character, as this is the first sign of having teen angst drive the storytelling henceforth.

And that observation comes from a man who has subjected himself to each “Twilight” movie thus far despite not being remotely in the demographic. I’m going to guess that dropping Selene’s daughter into the mix is potentially clearing the way to have the films to continue once Kate Beckinsale decides that she’s had enough of leaping around in PVC and waging a campaign of zero tolerance against the oppressed lycanthropic community.

I’ve not seen India Eisley in her “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” telly series but her appearance in the trailer is giving me a slightly perturbing faux-mall goth vibe.   Not that this will preclude me from going to see the new “Underworld” – I’m there on the Saturday morning of the opening weekend, with all the crushing inevitability of night following day.

By the way, is there a vampire genre franchise entry currently in development where the undead can’t somehow contrive to produce offspring?  Is this some kind of cultural meme/nerd fan-fiction wish-fulfilment that I was previously unaware of?  I blame that Whedon bloke…

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“Aliens” on ice. Yes, that actually happened.

They're coming through the goddamned walls!

Via SFX magazine’s weekly round-up of spurious, sci-fi weirdness comes this self explanatory video of James Cameron’s peerless 1986 action horror masterpiece “Aliens”, rendered via the medium of ice dance.

Yes, quite.

Anything with a yellow power loader gets a free pass as far as I’m concerned and this is no exception.

Justin Bieber with a yellow power loader would be tolerable for at least ten seconds, surely?

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“Uncharted 3” patch out – adds aim fix, multi-player tweaks, de-whines community…

"Sully, think this patch will shut up NeoGaf for five minutes?"

Remember when we were all up in arms about “Uncharted 3” and the changes that Naughty Dog had made to controls?

Shooting was tougher, which made sections of the game teeth-grindingly frustrating.  Motion blur was apparently missing from the single-player campaign (who knew?) and a movie cut-scene viewer was missing from the same mode.  There’s a full list of fixes and updates over at Eurogamer’s story.

As nice as it would have been for much of this stuff to be addressed in the shipped, boxed title, it says a lot for Naughty Dog that they are prepared to work with the games fans and Sony to ensure that this flagship title gets prompt support which fixes issues.

And it isn’t as though the shooting controls update removes the original scheme – there’s a choice of the two options for players to use.  I’ve been making slow, steady progress through multi-player and can confirm that the controls take a lot of getting  used to.   I’ve sprayed a clip’s worth of Uzi bullets into another player at point-blank range and hit nothing more than scenery, so something (latency?) has to be going on.

I’m going to jump back on today and see how this patch affects game play in campaign and online modes – I’m sure that my Kill to Death ratio will leap exponentially as a result.  Yeah, right…

 

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Tomorrow’s cyberpunk today: augmented advertising on your eyeballs.

In the future, even your eyeballs won't be safe...

I’m all for futurism.  Wi-Fi toasters?  Bluetooth underpants?  Hi-Def backpacks? Totally down with all of the above.

Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the interface of technology and humanity is going to places that I’m not comfortable with – witness Bitter Wallet’s story on Augmented Technology contact lenses.

Hence the use of the screen-grab from “Minority Report” above.  There was a film which seemed to get the future’s interface between humanity and technology bang-on.  Your eyes get a retinal scan whenever you walk into a shop and the contextual adverts update in real-time with recommendations based on your purchasing history.

I'm assuming that digital readers of augmented reality contacts won't be quite so terrifying...

It’s like a really terrifying, faux-omniscient Amazon Recommends reading your recent life every time you go to the Mall.  In related news, I don’t go to Malls unless I absolutely have to and can’t get out of going (A trait which I picked up from the wise and lovely Mrs Rolling Eyeballs whose blog title directly references “Minority Report”, fact fans).

Though the technology in the Bitter Wallet story has only so far been tested in lab conditions on Rabbit subjects as a proof of concept (because Bunnies are all about wearing contacts, yo….), one can only imagine that this stuff is going to have a subsequent application which directly impacts on a more human client base and which will inevitably be used to sell us stuff.

The history of technological innovation seems inexorably married to subsequent commercial usage – an inevitable by-product, I suppose, of the funding rounds required to develop anything worthwhile in our era.  You can’t develop something cool because you need money, which is available from private sector investors, who want results which can be effectively monetized to make a return, which arguably compromises innovation in turn because something esoteric but fantastic won’t reach a big enough market to be worthwhile.

Teetotal blogger posts augmented tech, faux-Guinness advert from nearly ten-year old film. Universe implodes at the Meta-ness...

The lovely thing about “Minority Report”, of course, is that we’re supposed to be slightly disapproving of the technological society in the movie – it’s invasive, barely regulated and runs on gadgets which erode personal liberty which we allow because it gives us greater daily convenience (insert obligatory, anti-Mark Zuckerberg joke here).  Director Steven Spielberg meanwhile manages to get lots of brands and marques to liaise with his crew of futurologists to be featured in the film (a risky gambit, as any contemporary viewer of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” will attest – it’s like a graveyard of once-prominent brands), which seems at least tacitly critical of the future it’s asking these corporate partners to sign up to.

Sweet ride, bro.

So, corporate branding is bad – but here’s a nifty futuristic Lexus for you to covet…no mixed messaging there, then.

I think that we can all agree that companies having less direct contact with us is a good thing – and that the degree to which advertising can be used to influence our behaviour is something which shouldn’t be jacked directly into our cerebral cortex (well, eyes, but you get the point).  This may be a generational thing with me – I grew up reading Gibson, Sterling, Pat Cadigan and the wave of eighties ‘cyberpunk’ authors, so the idea of corporate interests feuding over who gets to control the future is one which resonates with me.

It seems that kids don’t necessarily have the same concerns – I think to many young adults, the labyrinthine agreements which we agree to when we set up accounts on internet sites so often implicitly guarantee invasion of privacy that its seen as the norm and nothing to be bothered about unduly.  Yes, you’re being tracked, tagged and scanned as you check in on smartphone apps or buy a song on iTunes, but that free stuff you got when you signed up more than makes up for companies data-mining the hell out of you.

Still, check out these cool adverts on my eyes, man – feels good

 

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