Monthly Archives: February 2013

Audrey The Uncanny

Uncanny Valley – party of one. The late Audrey Hepburn, now sort-of appearing in a TV advert. It’s a living…

 A virtual Audrey Hepburn, digitally returned from the beyond…to sell us chocolate bars.

The business of resurrecting deceased stars of yore in order to pimp products is nothing new – in recent years, Chanel have made fragrance adverts featuring current brand ambassador Charlize Theron rubbing shoulders with former Chanelistas Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly backstage at a fashion show, for example.  Death is no longer an escape from being compelled to flog somebody else’s merchandise.

It’s quite a good attempt to render the gamine Anglo-Belgian icon anew for Generation iPad, who are perhaps more familiar with her photographic afterlife than her exemplary filmography – Indeed, if you want to class up the joint, there’s still no better way to do that than to put a Holly Golightly print up on the wall of your apartment.  She’s everyone’s favourite style pin-up, isn’t she?

I’m still a little nonplussed by the default merch angle with these digital recreations.  Is it better to have such Frankenstein-esque acts of virtual revivification performed in bite-sized advertorial chunks like this, saving us the horrific prospect of “Casablanca 2: Sam’s Revenge” with a digitally revived Bogie and Bergman running virtual rings round Nazi ne-er do wells?  Or should we just admit that the likes of Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler are but poor substitutes for actual stars and go crazy with the rendering farms, introducing today’s cinema goers to new flicks from Hollywood’s golden age stars?

Let’s not give Michael Bay any ideas…

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Oscar gets it right…

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It’s funny how time changes you.

There was a point where the Academy Awards were quite a big deal for me.  I did my best to see nominated films, had an opinion on buzzed-about performances and genuinely looked forward to the ceremony itself, even with the cheesy, self-congratulatory, megawatt pageantry which is so frequently inherent in the telecast.

That ship, it would appear, has sailed.

The still above, from Disney‘s glorious animated short subject winner “Paperman”, represents the only major award winner that I saw at the cinema prior to the ceremony this year.   Attached to “Wreck-It Ralph“, it didn’t do anything more revolutionary than tell a simple love story without words and

Which means that I’ve missed out on “Argo“, “Life of Pi“, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Les Miserables”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln”.  And I’m mostly okay with that.

I will definitely get around to watching “Zero Dark…” as Kathryn Bigelow can do little wrong in my eyes, and I’ve enjoyed everything that Ben Affleck has done as a director, but I can’t get excited about the sort of films which have been nominated in the last few years:  Vaguely Traditional Musical, Obligatory Mainstream Hit, Ersatz, Quirky Pseudo-Indie Flick, Crossover Foreign Arthouse Piece – these, it seems,  are your options when it comes to February and the solemn bestowing of Little Gold Men.

And that is my problem – the woefully predictable Oscar Bait which surfaces in the Autumn and defines the race from thereon.  There’s simply no room for a genuine surprise, as even a left-field entry like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” has all edges removed and uncomfortable, below-the-surface truths obscured by the PR hive-mind in order to pitch an alternative, life-affirming narrative about debuting actress Quvenzhané Wallis.  It’s the equivalent of patting the cheeky little kid on the head and ignoring all the stuff about post-Hurricane Katrina communities because that awkward stuff doesn’t exactly uplift.

Grumpy old man – moi?

 

 

 

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“Game of Thrones” season 3 – Dinklage, Dragons, Flaming Swords – oh my!

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“…Me and THIS army…”

Full disclosure time, fellow nerds – I didn’t get on with “Game of Thrones”, at least in its television adaptation form.  I have yet to look at the books.

I tried two episodes, didn’t enjoy the mud-encrusted grittiness of the drama or empathise with many of the characters – it’s a real “It’s not you – it’s me” situation, I suspect.  It could well be that I just prefer my fantasy to be a bit more comforting, quite escapist and less of a mirror to our inhumanity (oh hai there, Markus Heitz!)

As many of you will be loving George R.R. Martin‘s grim saga of politics, family and fantastical realms, it would be remiss of me to not remind that there is a new trailer for the reasonably imminent season three now available.

Enjoy, I guess?

 

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PS4 – new tech and shiny dragons

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Killzone: Shadow Fall” image via US Playstation Blog

Hmm…orange.

So, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 system last night amidst hoopla, fancy curved video screens and more new media waffle than I could parse early this morning.

What I gleaned from the talk about sharing, convergence and new experiences was that the new system is powerful (so what else is new?), designed with social media integration in its DNA (witness the sharing button built into the new DualShock controller) and that all that horsepower, invention and design has been pressed into service to make a new “Killzone” and “Drive Club”,  which looks quite like “Forza” only shinier.

So, iteration rather than innovation?  Possibly. But, is that so terrible?

Apple and Samsung have made phat stacks of cash from users willing to drop hundreds of pounds every year on a slightly curved version of the same mobile phone they bought previously, so why shouldn’t the console makers choose to unveil a system which makes every thing look a bit better, sound nicer and have moderately more realistic animation?

Capcom’s “Deep Down” – Here Be Shiny Dragons…

This was a curious event, really.  Lots of cheer leading for the slightly tarnished Sony brand, which emphasised the console maker’s strong points – innovation, engineering, production values – and pitched the new system as being able to seamlessly interface with those new-fangled tablets and smartphones whose ubiquity and quick play convenience have delivered a drubbing to the Japanese gaming giant’s own PS Vita handheld console.

It isn’t just Nintendo and Microsoft that Sony have to take on this time – it’s a sector of casual gaming which really didn’t exist when the PS3 debuted and which seems to have won the hearts, minds and wallets of “Angry Birds” addicts who would run a mile from being described as (cough, spit!) a gamer.

Can the core experience likes of Capcom’s intense-looking RPG “Deep Down”, dark superhero spin-off “Infamous: Second Son” and new Media Molecule quirkiness do the business and convince the public that they need Sony in their living room again? Will E3 bring us something as crazy and absurd as a look at the actual console – what do you call a console reveal which doesn’t actually show you the hardware?

And what do Microsoft have up their sleeves (so long as somebody from MS keeps Don Mattrick safely backstage at their press event and away from a teleprompter, I’ll be a happy man) to change the game anew?

 

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PS4 Hype Train? All aboard!

PS4 devkit and new controller image via T3.com

Hype level critical?  Video Games forum posting privileges not revoked?  A much-loved, custom Jack Tretton action figure clutched to your ample bosom?  Your best “Rii-iii-iii-ddd-ggg-eee R-aaa-ccc-eee-rrr!” impersonation ready to be unleashed?

Yep, you’re ready for tonight’s PlayStation press conference and the awe-inducing technology bound to be revealed as the latest iteration of the PlayStation console (are we still calling it Orbis?) makes its worldwide public debut tonight in New York – just as I go to bed, in fact:  I hardly dare guess how large the NeoGaf threads will be by tomorrow morning…

Expect the motion-sensor DualShock pictured above to feature, some increased online functionality to be embedded in the system, heavily rumoured game streaming tech from Gakkai to solve the backwards compatibility issue which bedevils new games consoles and all manner of widgetry to take advantage of those tablets and smartphones which were but so much vapour when the PS3 made its debut in 2007.

In conclusion?   I am, in the parlance of the young people, like so totes stoked, yeah?

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“Wreck-It Ralph” – the ultimate video game movie?

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Video games and movies – traditionally uncomfortable bedfellows, wouldn’t you agree?   Made on the cheap, by inexperienced directors graduating from making adverts and frequently starring actors who would clearly rather be doing something else, the list of video game adaptations is a list of movies which aim low and miss even that humble goal.

So, perhaps, a different strategy is required?

Disney‘s “Wreck-It Ralph” is a movie set in the world of arcade games, has cameo appearances from many classic gaming characters and does such a good job of imbibing the essence of video games and utilising the best aspects of film that you wonder why in the name of Mario Mario anybody would want to make a cheap cash-in action flick out of an FPS when they could be doing something far more worthwhile – and financially lucrative – like this.

The film follows the titular anti-hero, voiced wonderfully by John C. Reilly, who toils as the archetypal bad guy in 1980’s arcade game “Fix-It Felix Jnr.”  A combination of career fatigue, hostile co-workers and a lack of cake prompts Ralph to experience a mid-life crisis and our protagonist realises that he no longer wants to be bad.  As noble an ambition as that is, the video game world needs antagonists and Ralph soon realises that he’s going to have to take matters into his own gigantic, 8-bit hands by winning a medal and reaping the spoils which come from ascending an arcade game’s leader boards.

Sweet Wheels, pint-size.

Sweet Wheels, pint-size.

Though steeped in nerdy video game arcana – oh hai there, Konami code! – “Wreck-It Ralph” functions best as a propulsive action adventure with a simple and mostly unobtrusive moral about the importance of not judging books by their cover, and is well served by a talented voice cast.  Reilly is impeccable as the sad sack wannabe nice guy, Sarah Silverman is just on the right side of the cute/annoying divide as game glitch Vanellope, as ostracised by the other characters in her kart racer game “Sugar Rush” as Ralph is in his digital home.

You don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of arcade gaming, home consoles and game trivia to get the most out of “…Ralph” – sensibly, this film concentrates on inhabiting the world and giving a layer of delightful referential subtext for fans to geek out over whilst allowing a young audience to enjoy a blisteringly-paced adventure with so many primary colours on screen during the “Sugar Rush” race sequences that you’ll think you’re having some sort of acid flash-forward.

A must for gamers, a safe bet for family audiences and a fine addition to the ongoing canon of Disney animation, “Wreck-It Ralph” is a deftly-made, charming example of what the House of Mouse does best and illustrates the combination of artistry and storytelling which marks them out from their competitors in the overcrowded CG animation field.

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“Spy Hunter” movie hoots up road for Warner Brothers

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It defeated John Woo‘s attempts to make it and bested Paul W.S. Anderson‘s best efforts to tame it, but Midway’s classic “Spy Hunter” apparently has a director brave enough to take it on.

Ruben Fleischer who brought you “Zombieland” (yay!), “30 Minutes or Less” (…erm…) and “Gangster Squad” (oh dear…), is now intent on making vehicular espionage shenanigans the new hotness and has a script which Warner Brothers are sufficiently happy with.

So, explosions, then?

So, explosions, then?

Clearly, the original game’s avoid civilian vehicles/evade & destroy bad guys/upgrade your super tricked-out spy mobile game play might have to revisited somewhat nascent franchise-in-waiting to literally take flight, but a devilish part of me would love for Fleischer’s take to somehow incorporate the classic top-down viewpoint somewhere into the film – after all, who didn’t love the FPS sequence in the movie version of “Doom”?  Anybody?  No?

A fun, frivolous gadget-based spy adventure sounds fun to me – perhaps one which occupies the silly, popcorn territory now vacated by the Craig era of “Bond” movies?

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