Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Decalogue of Droids…

Yes, I loved "Terminator: Salvation" but I'm getting counselling, so it's cool...

Over at Geek Soul Brother, it’s a list which got me thinking.  What are the TEN MOST EVIL ROBOTS?

Do Cyborgs count?  Is a proper evil robot 100% synthetic?  Can a part-human, part-robot hybrid ever be really, truly evil if there’s the possibility that such a being has human reasoning in addition to artificial programming?

Am I reading too much into this?  Very probably.  But I do love a good list.

Ian Holm as Ash, employing the 'evil robot as mild-mannered janitor' switcheroo.

For my money?  Ash in “Alien” is the most evil, as Ian Holm gives him a predatory quality which neatly undercuts the way in which he’s actually supposed to be looking out for you.  At least with the likes of the Terminators, or the Daleks, you can be pretty sure that if you’re organic and fleshy, the vaguely metallic life-form pursuing you probably means you a good deal of harm and isn’t merely trying to catch up to you so that he can give you an expert back-rub.

These chaps don't want to give you a lovely Shiatsu treatment.

I’m all for agenda-free robots, is what I’m saying.  Make my killer robots easy to recognise, dag-blast it!

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And Eurogamer’s ‘Game Of The Year’ Is…

Whatever happened to the idea that games/movies/albums released earlier in the year where always forgotten about when the end of the year rolled around?

Eurogamer has announced their game of 2011 and it’s the critically adored and refreshingly popular “Portal 2”.

Great – another game that I need to go and play forthwith…

 

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“Skyrim” theme goes Metal…

In a development as inevitable as somebody being offended by the “Top Gear” Foreign Bigotry Getaway Christmas special, some enterprising muso has given the “Skyrim” theme music a metal makeover.  And it’s utterly glorious.  If you thought that Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” was a work of genius but really needed some Viking Metal action on the soundtrack, you should get on this right now.

You can find it here at YouTube and there’s also a link therein to download the cover version via SoundCloud.

Go on, you know you want to.

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Today’s moment of nerd bliss – OK Go covering “The Muppet Show” theme.

Beaker!

Sometimes words seem oddly superfluous (via Geeks are Sexy).

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My 2011 Games of the Year.

Everybody’s doing it – why shouldn’t I?

At Number Five – Bethesda’s fantasy co-op adventure, “Hunted – The Demon’s Forge”.

Not the most polished or original title of the year, but oddly compelling nonetheless.  There was something really engaging about the low/gritty fantasy setting, the bickering and mis-matched mercenary duo posh Elven warrior E’lara and gruff barbarian Caddoc (voiced by the always reliable Graham McTavish).  This isn’t a game which will change your life but it’s certainly worth a rental and ends on quite the cliffhanger – which looks unlikely to be resolved in a future release as this title can charitably be described as having ‘flown under the radar’.

At Number Four – Epic/EA’s sci-fi shooter, “Bulletstorm”.

On the face of it, this skill-focussed shooter from Polish developer People Can Fly seemed to operate in the same territory as Epic’s other sci-fi first person action series, the always bromantic “Gears of War”, but even ten minutes spent in this colourful, gleefully profane, absurdly over the top universe was enough to reassure most players that this game really was its own, ten storey, razor-toothed beast.

There was a little forum chatter about the game’s loutish protagonist, disgraced mercenary Grayson Hunt and what a terrible, misogynistic, macho power fantasy he represented – Duke Nukem says hi – but that seemed absurdly overblown to me.  This game’s nominal hero is clearly the butt of every joke and his belligerence is always his undoing – the female lead in the game, Trishka, is clearly drawn from the same cloth as many female warriors in games (where her clothes are lacking, there’s usually an ammo belt or gun to hide her modesty) and gets to save the day and drive the plot at least much as Hunt does.

I’d be absolutely up for a sequel if the numbers justified it to EA.

At Number Three – Epic Games and Microsoft Games Studios’ “Gears of War 3”.

A surprise to me that this climactic entry in the series landed so comparatively low on my list.

It was in so many ways the most polished and well-made game in the entire series, boasted lots of new and utterly gorgeous environments and introduced characters from the wider “Gears” universe into the game for the first time – hello Jace and Bernie – but still didn’t quite click with me.  I finished it with little difficulty, didn’t look at the multi-player portion of the game and traded it.

I can’t say that it was a bad game at all, just one which left me ultimately a bit cold.

At Number Two – THQ and Relic Entertainment’s “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine”.

This game really managed to scratch the third person action itch that “Gears 3” failed to do.  A great and long-established sci-fi universe rendered brilliantly by a developer with lots of experience making PC titles in that world, making their first console action game and getting the awesome Mark Strong to voice the lead and then finding that their publisher released it a couple of weeks before the 800 pound gorilla that is the game at number three on this chart – this game had a lot to recommend it and then was undone by insane marketing decisions.

This game focussed on an admittedly linear game design and compelled the player to play in a specific way which may have annoyed some but I stuck with it and loved the whole campaign.  Even delved into the multi-player a bit.  Get me, venturing online to have myself struck down by random strangers.

At Number One…

Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment’s “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”.

I whined a lot about the shooting, complained some more about the enemy artificial intelligence – standing there to present an easy target one second, moments later developing ninja stealth skills by some happenstance to flank you and mercilessly shoot you into the middle of next week – and generally threw my toys out of the pram in response to flaws that I felt made the game artificially difficult and borderline broken in some sections.

A patch did away with the shooting issues in the campaign and the rest of the game was so damned good that it didn’t matter that one aspect of the title needed to be worked on post-release, with the assistance of the community and by a developer who acknowledged that the fixes needed to be made (Hi there, Bethesda and “Skyrim”).

This game did everything that the landmark second entry delivered so successfully – great storytelling, massive action on a cinematic scale, a gloriously beautiful game world rendered in eye-popping, budget not spared style and technology underpinning everything that you’d give your wisdom teeth to see employed by other devs – and somehow managed to eke a bit more out of the PS3’s architecture to make the system’s definitive title a cut above the rest.

“Gears 3” on the Xbox 360 approached the beauty of “Uncharted 2” on the PS3 – “Uncharted 3” leaps frogs both platform’s new and existing high points and delivers truly beautiful moments and cities that are a pleasure to put the pad down to just look/gasp slack-jawed at for thirty seconds at a time.

It’s easy to be blase about Naughty Dog have done with this series – when game two is a massive leap forward from the already accomplished first title, the pressure becomes that bit greater for the developer to move the paradigm on and deliver an interactive entertainment experience which doesn’t only improve on their own previous work but which also lives up to the claims that fans have made for it.

I’ve told people who don’t play games that this is a series which underlines why I frequently now go to PS3 and Xbox titles for the thrills that in years gone by I might have found in a Spielberg or Cameron film.  Naughty Dog, to me, are the equal of those established film-making icons and regularly deliver titles which surpass any big-budget Hollywood studio film in terms of entertainment and excitement.

I don’t believe that this franchise necessarily needs the pseudo validation that a film adaptation allegedly bestows, even though it’s apparently going to get one, helmed by the director of this year’s “Limitless” – its already more inventive, exhilarating and witty than any comparable film series is and it’s the film community which needs to up it’s game to catch up with Nathan Drake and co.

 

 

 

 

 

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Another “Underworld: Awakening” poster rises from the grave…

Seriously Kate, have you ever considered fronting a European Symphonic Metal band?

Another day, another poster for this January’s “Underworld: Awakening”.

This time, we’re going with giving the punters what they want – Kate Beckinsale doing her best impersonation of Sharon Den Adel, guns akimbo, wintry vibes to the fore.

It’s a toss-up as to how many fans will view this poster, I think – are we supposed to say “Hmm…looking good there, Ms B.” or “Hmm…I wonder where I can pick up those contact lenses she’s wearing?”

In other news, the full track listing for the soundtrack has been released over at Loudwire.

You can expect the likes of Mumford & Sons, Jessie J & Lady Gaga.. Evanescence, Linkin Park, (my beloved) Lacuna Coil and The Cure on the CD, which will be available from January 16th, handily a few days before the film’s debut on January 20th 2012.

I saw the trailer again yesterday when I went to see “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” at the cinema and it’s got a lot more impact when you watch it on an appropriately sized screen (in my case, Cineworld Sheffield’s impressively huge screen 7, popularly known locally as ‘The Full Monty’), and projected digitally.

Can’t wait to see this in January – but given the amount of “Underworld” posts that I’ve written, you may have picked up on that already.  I’d worry about going on and on about this, were it not for the views that such posts generate – it’s one of the most popular topics that I write about, don’t you know? Fellow, down-low, faux-mall Goths unite!

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The Best and Worst SF Movies of 2011.

Sucker, Punched.

My very favourite blog in the world (clue: irony is being employed here), i09.com today breaks down their list of the best and worst SF movies of the year, because it’s the law to make these kinds of lists at the end of the year.

It’s illustrative to me personally that I’ve seen one of their top ten best films – the Marvel adaptation, “Thor”, and have a bunch of the other titles on my DVD rental list: Do I share a taste in films with my enemies?

The year's most underrated movie?

It’s a bummer that they couldn’t find a place on their list for “Source Code“, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to “Moon”, as I felt it did a lot to confirm that Jones could make mainstream, science fiction-inflected adventures as well as occupying the more art house territory of his debut – is “Limitless” really that much better?  “Source Code” had provocative ideas about the notion of the self, our Western responses to terrorism, personal freedom and found time to balance intellectual concerns with pulse-racing action, a romantic sub-plot which didn’t make you want to gnaw off your limbs in annoyance and some great acting work from Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga, amongst others.

Tell me if I’m off-beam here, other viewers of this film – it was as good as I remembered it being, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, in the realm of terrible films, io9’s blogger really didn’t like Zack Snyder’s fetish farrago, “Sucker Punch” and I can see where they’re coming from.  It’s a difficult flick to recommend to anybody as it shoots for the moon and misses primarily because it makes some utterly inexplicable, divisive choices in the process of doing so.

We’ve got a cast of young actresses playing young girls who are essentially imprisoned in a 1950’s reform school/mental home only to find that they’re now victims of what we might call people trafficking.  Yeah, I know – Friday night fun for your multiplex demographic!  In order to escape the very real horror of their surroundings, each girl escapes into a fantasy world which sees them transformed into super-cool, uber-skilled warriors battling all manner of sci-fi/high fantasy bad guys in order to retrieve dream world totems which become real world items which will allow them to escape.

Sounds like trashy fun – but it really isn’t.

The major problem for most thinking viewers of this film will be the way that it spends a lot of time getting leery over these young women, dressing them up in lingerie (not exactly practical for the battlefield, last time that I looked) and then photographing them in a way which makes Michael Bay’s soft-porn “Victoria’s Secret” adverts look like a Jane Campion film.

It’s that old chestnut – when does empowerment become exploitation?  If you answered “When a film director old enough to know better has his cast inexplicably dressed up like anime schoolgirl hookers”, that’s probably the correct answer.

Elsewhere on the list, you’ve got your usual candidates for terri-bad viewing during the year.  “Green Lantern” gets a nod, for mostly eschewing the cosmos-spanning comics lore in favour of a desperately dull, earthbound adventure with supremely dull characters.  “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is cited, mostly for being shrill and still persisting with the idea that Shia LaBeouf is an actual leading man.  For the record, I could do without the human beings in the film (noted exception, the glorious Alan Tudyk) and felt that the action sequences were frequently extraordinary – it’s just a shame that the movie they appeared in was so unlikeable.

I would have to say that “Green Lantern” was my pick for the worst film of the year – as much of a missed opportunity as “Sucker Punch” was, it at least managed to provoke you to object to sections of it and had some bravura action (Baby Doll’s fight against the Giant Robot Samurai, the steampunk WWI Nazi Zombies, the dragon battle) to distract the audience momentarily from it’s profoundly misguided sexual politics.

They're letting anybody be a member of the Green Lantern Corps nowadays...

“Green Lantern” was chuffing terrible.  Sexless, character-free, action-light, played broadly by a cast who seem alternately bored, uncertain as to their role or believe that they’re in a pantomime and that mugging is therefore perfectly acceptable (For shame, Tim Robbins, for shame!).

It’s not entirely the fault of the actors – the script is wretched, the cinematography bathes the on-screen action with a murky green tinge that makes on-screen action hard to see and Martin Campbell shows so little interest in the character that he flashes back to the hero’s father’s death a matter of minutes after we initially saw it, apparently in the belief that the audience has nodded off in the intervening moments.  Of this film – which is apparently getting a sequel – I can say only ‘Ugh!’ by way of summing up.

Let’s hope that 2012 offers a few more things to look forward to – on the evidence of trailers for “Prometheus”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, dark superhero ‘found footage’ tale “Chronicle”, part one of  “The Hobbit” and even Greek Mythology sequel to “Wrath of the Titans”, things are already looking a lot better.

 

 

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