Category Archives: Geekery

“Star Wars” – Attack of the production line?

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Honestly, you go away for a couple of days – a work trip, not exactly exciting – and things get all confusing for any self-respecting member of the “Star Wars” generation.  It’s as though you’ve been out of the game for a while and people get delusions of grandeur or something…

The sci-fi franchise’s new overlords, the Walt Disney Company, this week unleashed dark, Sithian portents of wholly predictable corporate malevolence by announcing that films seven, eight and nine in the new trilogy will open two years apart in 2015, 2017 and 2019 , with spin-off movies featuring “Star Wars” characters filling in the gaps between new instalments of the main saga (“Salacious Crumb – Lust for Glory” – make it so).

So, the House of Mouse is borrowing a note or two from the thus-far successful Marvel Studios play book and pitching their comic book movie business against the biggest name in cinematic sci-fi in a playground battle to win all of the marbles in the yard.  Greedy, much?

I confess to be alarmed by the proposed timeline – is two years between movies really a realistic schedule which would allow for quality to be maintained?  It doesn’t seem as though director J.J. Abrams could realistically turn around movies on this scale in that production line fashion – could any director keep to that kind of workload and deliver something which didn’t feel like a product tooled to meet a release date line in the sand?

Is the plan, then, to alternate directors on each Episode? Curiouser and curiouser…

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The Cutting Edge of Video Games…

Purple Box of Wonder…in 2001.

Yep, after fearing it lost forever in the great house cleaning of aught-11, the redoubtable Mrs Rolling Eyeballs managed to unearth Nintendo’s happy purple Gamecube from it’s most recent resting place and reinstate it to our lovely CRT telly, where it belongs.  The lesson to be drawn from this?  Tidying is for suckers – don’t do it, kids.

That golden era of titles like “Burnout 2: Point of Impact”, “Metroid: Prime” and “Zoocube” is even now being relived, via the medium of extended controller cables and an in-the-mail memory card from those nice folks at a popular online retailer.

Given that our platform-owning overlords are now seemingly bent on making us pay and re-pay to enjoy titles from back in the day by removing backwards-compatibility from video games consoles, my next course of action is to head into town and pick up a PS2 to enjoy some of the earlier Sony titles I missed first time around (and so that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs can enjoy other iterations of her beloved, Criterion Games-developed “Burnout” franchise).

Retro? No, I just love the classics…

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Transhuman Infinity and the Theory of Everything

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Keen followers of this  blog, ardent devotees of the nascent Scandinavian Symphonic Melocore scene and random Elize Ryd pervs duped this way via your custom Google searches – lend me your consciousness and read, won’t you please, an appreciation of the new Amaranthe album, “The Nexus”.

Without wishing to damn the band with the faintest of praise from the outset, their sound might best be described as that most hedged of bets, ‘musically diverse’.  The last time that I heard a band this keen to go off on one and veer between genres from song to song was on New Radicals‘ classic album “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too?” and that was a properly exhausting listening experience.  Amaranthe’s love of dropping in different musical elements is perhaps a bit more confined to metal and its sub-genres, but in its own way this album (and band) is equally capable of banjaxing casual listeners unprepared for the extent to which the group populate songs with everything and the kitchen sink.

Amaranthe start as they mean to go on with opener “Afterlife”, which bounces along on a wave of upfront synths, near blast-beat drums and Amaranthe’s unique selling point, a trio of male and female singers who cover the clean (Jake E.), harsh scream (Andy) and symphonic female (Elize) elements of the sonic spectrum.  Even the most casual music fan couldn’t help but notice the band’s energy and desire to make their tunes leap out of the speakers – and that’s where some metal fans may encounter a problem.

You might want to whisper it quietly around any more sensitive metalheads of your acquaintance, but Amaranthe have a distinct pop sensibility inherent in their music – I don’t know what they put in the water supply in Sweden and Denmark, but it’s resulted in a sophomore album so stuffed to the gills with once heard never forgotten, rock club dance floor-filling  ear-worms that the likes of Halestorm will be casting a nervous glance over their shoulders.

Sure, “The Nexus” is a nominally heavier proposition than the Pennsylvanian quartet’s “The Strange Case Of…” set from 2012, but the pop sensibility and command of state-of-the-art rock dynamics commanded by this European group is just as pronounced.  It’s not difficult to imagine an R & B diva like Rihanna covering soaring mid-tempo ballad “Burn With Me” – even the title sounds like one of her tunes – and having a huge smash with it.  Similarly, “Theory of Everything” has Gaga’s name written all over it – it’s a pop glam stomper just ripe for reinterpretation, but I’d be quite happy to see some enterprising radio station or music channel taking a punt on turning this band into the next crossover act.  Any body who likes a bit of Evanescence wouldn’t have too much difficulty getting into this wholly melodic and refreshingly direct band.

If you like your metal catchy, sonically ludicrously upbeat, lyrically driven by vaguely futuristic sci-fi positivity (it’s like cyberpunk self-help up in this joint!) and camper than an episode of “Strictly Come Dancing” with Justin Hawkins sporting a lilac Lycra catsuit, “The Nexus” is absolutely for you.  My love of Power Metal is well documented on these pages and extended listening to Amaranthe’s second album leads me to conclude that they’ve just CTRL + C’d the dragons and elves out of a classic rock record and royally CTRL + V’d them with songs about love, digital ultra-worlds and stuff.

TL: DR version – essential spring listening for any fan of massive, widescreen metal insanity and choruses which lodge themselves in your head and won’t bugger off afterwards.

 

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“Doctor Who – The Bells of Saint John” review

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“I’ve never seen a Jammie Dodger so scrumptiously perfect”

It usually takes me a couple of viewings to make my mind up about the episode which heralds the return of “Doctor Who” and I suspect that “The Bells of Saint John” is no exception.

For some reason – wanting to ease the wider audience back into the rhythms of the show, to introduce new characters, to just have fun with the premise – it always seems to me as if the opening salvo of each series is a little lighter and somehow less substantial than the episodes which come to follow.  Not that this is bad or ill-advised, per se, but I never quite feel that the Tardis is fully firing on all cylinders until episode two or three (Technically, of course, this is episode seven of series seven, so my misgivings shouldn’t apply).

The story dealt with a very contemporary fear – the extent to which technology enters our everyday lives and encroaches on our freedom via our inability to deal with it, which is a notion that I’m sure strikes a rueful note for any brave soul ever charged with the dire responsibility of providing technical support for computer-averse friends and family.  The villain of the piece this time utilised dear old endlessly useful wireless internet signals and used them to…do nefarious stuff.

I’ll not go deeply into spoilers, but the methodology of the Big Bad in this episode didn’t quite ring true for me on this first viewing – it smacked a bit of that notion ‘because…science?‘, which probably plays quite well with folks who view their modem and router as terrifying technology daemons which inhabit their living rooms and blink malevolently at them several times a second for no good reason.

The villain was, it may come as no surprise at all to you, hardly a match for The Doctor but the bad guy’s machinations did give Matt Smith‘s big kid in funky Edwardian clobber a chance to meet cute again with Clara – a charmingly sparky and energetic Jenna Louise Coleman – who we last saw in the Christmas special, having just died for the second time.

Clearly, her nature and repeated appearances in vastly different times and galactic locales will constitute an ongoing mystery and its to current “Who” show-runner and gigantic brainy overlord Steven Moffat‘s credit that you do want to know what her deal is and how she’ll come to affect the Doctor’s in the rest of the season.  I’ve read one theory to the effect that Clara constitutes a kind of Moorcockian ‘Eternal Companion’ and it would be interesting to know just what Moffat would do with that idea, were it to be an accurate assessment of just how the expiry-prone Clara fits into his master plan.

"Computers - how do they work?"

“Let me update my status…”

The story rattled along nicely, sure enough, but it didn’t seem to add up to much on first viewing – save for a last-minute appearance by a malevolent character we saw quite recently, albeit in somewhat different form than the last time that we encountered them (vague enough for you?), this was essentially stand-alone, monster-of-the-week stuff.   I suppose it’s daft to feel that the Doctor is ever really going to be truly challenged by the menaces he encounters, but this was somewhat a case of the Doctor waving his Sonic about, loudly asserting his intellectual dominion and then saving the day because he’s The Doctor and that’s his gig.  No real sense of the day not being saved – and so not much dramatic tension as a result.  First episode syndrome, and no mistake.

I don’t do ratings – meaningless things, be they numeric or arbitrary and letter-based – but if I did, I’d probably say this was a solid B-plus, perhaps an A-minus.    Extra marks for Clara rushing into the fray still carrying her cup of tea.  A nation salutes you, fine miss.

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White House Redux

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No sooner has Gerard Butler saved 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from wholly plausible and in no way absurd destruction at the hands of terrorists in “Olympus Has Fallen” than another screen hunk is up to the same patriotic larks.

Hollywood does love high concept duplication of effort, after all: we’ve had duelling volcano, asteroid, CGI Insect fable, Robin Hood and even Alfred Hitchcock films since 1990, so it’s no surprise that 2013 sees not at least two movies set amidst the smouldering ruins of a White House under terrorist attack.  Puzzingly, schlockbuster DTV studio The Asylum have been entirely remiss by not cranking out a Z-budget, franchise-aping homage to this trend.  Perplexed ain’t the half of it…

The aforementioned “Olympus…” is now out and garnering decent notices – as much for saving Gerard Butler from the inglorious rom-com movie jail he was seemingly doing time in.   The redoubtable Den of Geek even dubbed it a better “Die Hard” movie than the apparently dire “A Good Day To Die Hard“, which probably suggests that multiplex audiences might have preferred to see John McClane duking it out in the Oval Office than in Red Square.

Late June, then, sees the arrival of Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Channing Tatum (and Channing Tatum’s omnipresent nipples) in serial White House mangler Roland Emmerich‘s “White House Down” and a new trailer for said action opus has arrived, bringing with it amazing scenes of America under siege, panicky news people reporting on artfully staged chaos and Mr Tatum’s sweatily exuberant protuberances bewitching all who encounter them (I understand that Channing’s bits have their own three picture deal at Fox).

I’m intrigued to see what Roland Emmerich does with an unabashed action movie for a change – his stock in trade is the contemporary disaster movie and whilst he’s an old hand at laying waste to global monuments and iconic buildings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be able to deliver on the tropes that fans of earnest blokes in increasingly dank vests wielding sub-machine guns seek from their Friday night frag fests.

The film opens on June 28th in the US, and in September in the UK.  It’s almost as if the subject matter won’t resonate quite so much with us cynical Brits…

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The Fast and the Furyon

After months of drip-fed stills, we’ve finally got a first look at the new “Riddick” movie in motion.

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It’s a teaser trailer in the truest sense of the word, clocking in at a brief 22 seconds, but no doubt acts as the outrider for a longer glimpse at What Vin Did Next – perhaps due in front of an audience primed and ready for the vehicular smack-down of “Fast Six“?

Whilst many an online movie outlet has been downright sniffy about the low-key publicity campaign that Diesel and longtime collaborator David Twohy have been engaged in – most updates on the project have come directly via Diesel’s Facebook group – I can’t help but feel that this strategy is a smart one which might be copied by any new media-savvy star.  Why not convert that millions-strong Twitter following into engaged consumers storming the box office come Friday night and the release of your new flick?

Films increasingly cost an absurd amount of money to make, and any way of engaging and reaching out to people who will get the word out to their friends and family about a new release can only help a film’s opening weekend in a marketplace which is more competitive than ever.  This third outing for “Riddick” is, after all,  a more stripped-down effort than the second film’s budget-straining, Sci-Fantasy universe building, so surely any attempt to intelligently engage with an audience who want to see the film has to make more sense than blanketing television channels with adverts that Tivo owners just zip through?

We’ll see who has the last laugh when the film opens in the US on September 6th.

 

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Cumberbatched Into Darkness

It’s a Thursday, there’s precious little on TV – why not take in the latest trailer for “Star Trek Into Darkness”?

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This would be the “Empire Strikes Back” of the reborn “Star Trek” movie franchise, then?  I’m guessing so, what with the doomy tone, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s messianic sociopath running amok and blowing up half of the planet and the gloriously blatant shuttle craft/Millennium Falcon riff showing up in this two minutes and 15 seconds of face-melting, nerd glee.

Oh, and if you’re into that kind of thing, Alice Eve‘s character apparently can’t afford clothes.  Hollywood double standards, how do they work?

Have a new poster for the movie whilst you work that one out…

"Star Trek Into Darkness" - none more dark, squire...

“Star Trek Into Darkness” – none more dark, squire…

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