Monthly Archives: September 2012

Your move, creep…

Everything old is new again.

Black-clad, ticked-off, just a little Swedish – meet your new Robocop. Image via the telephoto ninjas at ComingSoon.Net.

No sooner has Len Wiseman‘s apparently fairly anemic Total Recall come and gone from our cinemas than news reaches me of the next Paul Verhoeven film due for an unjustified kicking nifty remake and remodel.

“Robocop”, Jose Padilha’s spin on the dark future of law enforcement, has begun to lens in Canada and the first paparazzo pics have hit the net – we have the fine droogs at ComingSoon.Net to thank for the image shown above.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the new Robocop depicted above – I’m getting a distinct “G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra”/“Guyver”/every movie with a hero strapped into a body-conscious slab of matt black body armour vibe from what new Murphy, Joel Kinnaman is wearing in that long shot.

Black is the new…black?

Of course, it’s easy to be snarky when all that you’re seeing is a quickly snapped photograph, taken at a distance, of what adds up to first pass, location photography – we’ve not seen how/if the armour will be enhanced, the subtleties of Kinnaman’s physical performance and what direction Padilha’s production is directing.  It’s a little early to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ based on one photograph, but this is the internet, so I’m sure that some bunch of forumite taste makers has already called the future prospects of this new remake based on this lone pic.

That said?

“Can you fly, Bobby?”

Don’t mess with my Robo, losers – or I’ll send Clarence Boddicker, Detroit’s lethal legend, after your Gucci Loafer-sporting, corporate suited butts.  And he’s not a nice man (YouTube link contains NSFW awesomeness…)

 

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From VFX to No FX? The near-death and resurrection of Digital Domain…

 

Formerly an industry leader, now just about hanging on – Digital Domain, James Cameron‘s VFX house this week staved off bankruptcy…

It’s something of a conundrum – visual effects work is the life-blood of summer blockbusters, tv shows, music videos and commercials, but the business behind it is utterly cut-throat and increasingly parlous – witness this week’s near-bankrupt Digital Domain.

Once the brainchild of Billion Dollar King of the World, James Cameron, and the late, lamented Stan Winston, the latter-day Digital Domain expanded from its core effects business to producing  a now on-hold animated feature, “The Legend of Tembo”  and just this week avoided going to the wall entirely – and it’s by no means alone.

Chances are that you’ve seen D.D.s  contributions to Cameron’s Titanic, , the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek”, the “Transformers” series, Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or “Thor”.

An excellent story by Bill Desowitz, over at the always illuminating Thompson on Hollywood, relates just how tough it is to keep your head above water in the business of painting digital dreams…

 

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“Transformers 4” in 2014 – now with terrible lizards?

 

Concept art from High Moon Studios’ “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron”

If memory serves, I’ve spoken before on the blog about my love-hate issues with the Michael Bay-directed “Transformers” series of live action toy commercialssummer blockbusters.

The progression over time goes something like this – loved the first one, wanted the burn the second one with fire, kind of grudgingly enjoyed the third one despite an array of dubious shenanigans (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley‘s insultingly written role, reusing old The Island footage, Buzz Aldrin‘s embarrassing cameo).   It’s probably fair to say that the only people really jonesing for another Baysplosion Rock-Em-Shock-Em fest are the accountants at Hasbro and Paramount.

To which end, Empire Online today has a story about the plans for the fourth movie, which aims to reboot the series and introduce new characters.  Or, to lead the elephant directly into the room, introduce new Autobots and Decepticons so that Hasbro can flog a whole bunch of toys and spin-off merch to kids and their long-suffering parents.

As illustrated in the featured image on this post, many fans are already jumping to the conclusion that now would be a great time for Paramount and Bay to introduce Dinobots into the mix and you have to say that they may well have a point there.   If we were going to see the series recalibrated to appeal to the eternal 10-year-old geeks who are arguably the lifeblood of this enduring property, what better way to do that than to blend every youthful nerd’s favourite stuff – sci-fi, transforming robots, mind-boggling action and awesome dinosaurs running amok – into a heady, pop-cultural mix?

And whilst we’re at it, could we jettison the sad misogyny, racist stereotypes and rabid gun worship whilst we’re at it? I know, I know – but it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?

As Empire’s story suggests, an as-yet-undetermined 2014 release date is planned – and who knows, perhaps we’ll  get the awesome, undeniably entertaining “TF” movie we deserve and that the first film promised to deliver.

 

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Wii U? Why not?

 

Yep, that’s a console all right…

Whilst the telephonically-inclined are constantly refreshing their browser of choice on Wednesday in a desperate attempt to pre-order the new iPhone, those of us whose gadget yearnings extend beyond the kingdom that Steve Jobs built will be eagerly following Nintendo’s various websites, as the Japanese innovation factory announces a release date for their Wii U system.

Or the Wii 2.5′ to those more cynical observers underwhelmed by the console’s purported specs and games line-up.

Other half watching TV? Continue your game on this tablet controller.

Slightly rejigged versions of Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3“, & “Ninja Gaiden 3are due alongside the next Assassin’s Creed“, “New Super Mario Bros U”, “Pikmin 3 and the mysterious motion-control fest , “Avengers: Battle for Earth” will vie for your attention this Holiday season amongst 3o or so launch window games.

It might be rubbish shovelware, or family-friendly genius, but who wouldn’t want an “Avengers” title on their system this year.

I’m always up for a new video games system – new hotness incoming! – but I’m not inclined to jump on board this particular hype train.

For one thing  – and this is key – the price of early adoption is frequently prohibitive.   It’s early enough in a console’s life cycle that production costs haven’t reduced and any business worth their stock exchange listing is going to want to give their new piece of sexy consumer electronics kit a price tag which reflects its newness, desirability and perceived cool status.  With games systems, unless you have a tattoo of Master Chief or proudly self-declare yourself as a devout Sony fan boy/girl, getting a console on the day that it hits the streets is going to leave you out of pocket, stuck with a bunch of rushed-to-market games and loudly cursing your consumer electronics overlords for  being suckered by the PR blitz once more.

I picked up my Xbox and PS3 a good few years into their life cycle – my briefly-owned Wii some time after that – and didn’t regret the financially-motivated decision to wait awhile until decent games made their debut, online services were sorted out and I had an idea what I was buying into.

The half-this-gen, half-next-gen nature of the Wii U makes me more likely to bide my time with it, if I ever pick up one at all.  As much as I love Mario and Samus, I’ve not seen anything yet from the demo footage so far shown of the system which tells me that this is anything other than a bridge between the Wii and what Nintendo come up with after seeing how the Xbox 720 and PS4 have shaken up gaming with their next disruptive iterative offerings.

Oddly enough, the Wii U really feels like a reaction rather than a singular design statement – and probably should have been with us earlier than it is – a system which can give Miyamoto-designed whimsy and blast-em-up military shooter action with a supportive suite of online services and the usual HD bells and whistles perhaps has a better chance than most at appealing to each sector of the lucrative family gaming market.

Establishing the message that your new system can handle the same fist-pumping, knuckle-dragging Bro Shooters as the other games consoles might drag in gamers for whom Nintendo is just greasy kid’s stuff but I’m not sure that they can get over the company’s image as the safe system for family gamers – and a lot of Ninty’s core audience would run a mile rather than play “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield”.

So, who is the Wii U for exactly?

 

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“Dredd” movie review

If it’s September, that must mean that we’re due a 3D action movie or two to lead us gently into the more reflective Autumn season and transition gently from the explosive mayhem of the summer – whilst I wait for the next instalment in the Capcom derived video game-to-movie franchise which dare not speak its name at the end of the month, these early weeks are taken care of by “Dredd“, director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland‘s attempt to give this iconic comics anti-hero a film worthy of his stature.

He is the law.

And what a film it is – lean, hungry, mind-bogglingly violent, stylish and thrifty, “Dredd” is the kind of sci-fi western that you feel as much as watch, with brutal action sequences and melee combat having a positively visceral effect when viewed in the 3D format that this film is primarily releasing in (there’s controversy in the UK about how few cinemas are playing the 2D prints – only one of Britain’s Multiplex chains are showing it).  Any worries that we might have had about whether this film would be as disappointing as the 1995 Sylvester Stallone/Danny Cannon iteration are comprehensively erased by what is a confident, stylish action movie which makes a virtue of a lower budget and creates a uniquely convincing world.

Not having $200 million dollars to throw at expensive CG and gargantuan action sequences has made this version of “Judge Dredd” get creative and construct its post-apocalyptic world in modern-day Cape Town.  There are the huge city blocks of the comic, but they’re nestled in against a resolutely practical and contemporary backdrop  – highways and overpasses, contemporary vehicles and clothing all stop this film from distancing the casual viewer.

Don’t let her inside your head! Olivia Thirlby as rookie Judge Anderson in “Dredd”

The plot is as straight-ahead as it gets – a gang-related murder in the Peach Trees block is attended by taciturn law man legend Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and ride-along rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), pitching them head-first into conflict with hooker-turned-syndicate crime maven Ma Ma (Lena Headey), whose drug empire is run from the building and whose army of heavily armed thugs are intent on stopping legal interference in whatever form it takes.

That simplicity, in essence, is one of the best things about this film – The plot single-mindedly concentrates on propelling the action forward and the script focusses on making the world convincing rather than in beating the viewer around the head with distracting gadgets and surface detail to hide the fact that there isn’t much of a story.  This film doesn’t reinvent sci-fi cinema as you know it, but it does a brilliant job of making this post-apocalypse world seem like a postcard from the future – the tech is all backdrop rather than foreground, showing up periodically to let Dredd do something cool and doesn’t draw undue attention to itself.

Urban is great as the titular bad-ass, finding a way to make the character funny without getting mired in cheap one-liner schtick and showing some holes in the metaphorical armour that his otherwise imperious icon of justice wears – a Dredd who bleeds and occasionally needs to think on his feet to get through the hellish multi-level fight through the under-siege building he finds himself occupying is infinitely preferable to the one-man killing-and-quipping machine that the Stallone version gave us.  Olivia Thirlby is great too as Anderson – there’s a fantastic scene which gives her psychic gifts ample room to roam and we get to see how she would interrogate and intimidate a perp into silence – it’s telling that a scene where a bad guy gets the upper hand on her doesn’t convince entirely as being anything other than a plot contrivance as up till that point in the movie, her neophyte Judge has shown that she has the right stuff and wouldn’t necessarily get suckered in the way that she was.

The 3D is a selling point, but I found it restrained for the most part – used sympathetically to inhabit the scenes where futuristic crankers are on the ‘Slo-Mo’ drug which slows down time for the user but not employed to constantly chuck sharp objects at the viewer or as a way to distract viewers from creaky storytelling.  There’s a climactic scene which employs the broken glass trope of action cinema in a curiously beautiful and aesthetically pleasing way – is it worth the price hike?  I’m not sure, but it is native 3D rather than post-converted shenanigans, so let that guide your ticket-buying choice.

This is a fine, stripped-down action movie with an intriguing take on the iconic character and the future-shock world he inhabits – I hope that it leads to more adventures for the 2000 AD law man and that all concerned behind the camera find a way to retain the tactile near-future dystopia they’ve delivered so credibly in this very entertaining film.

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Your Daily Moment of Nerdy Awesome…

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Via Nerd Approved (and The Mary Sue) comes this delightful Steampunk Portal gun by artist Duncan Shirah.  And I would like one, please.  That is all.

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Paralympics for the win!

T54 5,000 metre Gold Medallist, David Weir, winning a thrilling race at the Olympic Stadium in London on Sunday September 2nd. Image via Guardian.co.uk/picture by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

If you’re anything like me – a bitter old cynic, possessed of a smoking husk where his heart once was – this summer has been the proverbial game changer.

I started the year not caring a jot about the Olympics and wishing that the hype would go away – I had no intent of watching the Games and intended to spend the event self-consciously shunning it in a pointless and self-aggrandizing one man protest.

Then the Olympics began.

Picture via Guardian.co.uk/ Image taken by Julian Stratenschulte/EPA

To say that the spectacle, competition and atmosphere won me over is something of an overstatement.   My wife, always a fan of athletics and pretty much any sport which isn’t football, played some part in that conversion by knowing what was going on and explaining the significance of individual races, events and seemed to have a running Team GB medal tally on her person at all times.

The Games ended and I found myself wondering whether the same countrywide fervour and open-minded embrace of all things sporting would extend to the following Paralympic Games – because history seems to indicate that people who’ve just enjoyed the quote-unquote ‘main event’ seem to find their attention wandering when Paralympians converge to compete on the world stage.

Rather brilliantly, and in a way which actually has me slightly tearing up as I type, it would appear that my worries about a mass exodus of interest have been comprehensively quashed as viewing figures in the UK for Channel Four‘s coverage are high and the various stadia for the individual events are attended by enthusiastic fans whose love of Team GB has extended to this utterly inspirational and fantastic display of athletic endeavour.

Without wishing to offend any American readers, I’ll take the exhilarating spectacle of wheelchair basketball over the US ‘Dream Team’ steamrollering their competitors any day of the week.  Similarly, as exciting as it is to watch Usain Bolt routinely smash through the established wisdom of how quickly a human being can run, I found the 200m duel between South African ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorious and Brazilian Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira an utterly riveting race, not least because of its unexpected conclusion.

“Don’t focus on the disability – focus on the ability” was Pistorious’ request to the media (and by extension, the World) prior to the Games opening ceremony and , after nearly a week of fiercely fought and utterly compelling sport, who would argue with his assessment?  That these athletes face unique physical challenges before ever getting to compete is obvious a key factor in the existence of this competition but the obvious thing to take away from the Paralympics is that this competition is every bit the equal of the Olympics in terms of quality, thrills and inspiration.

I find myself wondering why we don’t get to see this kind of competition on a more regular basis on TV – Channel Four have been doing a brilliant job in the run-up to London 2012 of positioning Paralympians and their sporting disciplines into their schedule and making sure that we knew the Games were on their way but I now wonder whether this commitment to athletes with physical challenges will extend beyond the end of this Summer.

Isn’t this the kind of sport which belongs on Channel Four – whose remit has traditionally been to offer perspectives on the world which are outside the norm?  I like to think so and I really hope that they continue to bring us more of this brilliant, life-affirming sports coverage long after the glory and ceremony of the London Games have faded from memory.  Give me real athletes like those of Paralympic Team GB rather than the overpaid, talent-light, half-wits of the Football Premiership any day of the week

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