Monthly Archives: January 2013

Awesome: New Trailers for Iron Man 3 and others coming Superbowl Sunday

Posted by Matthew on January 31, 2013
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Iron Man 3

Unless you’re from some alternate dimension you’re aware that advertising at the Superbowl is kind of a big deal. Well this year is no different.

Premiering this Sunday during the game will be new trailers for Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Oz the Great and Powerful, and at least a few more.

They’re sure to hit the web the day of so when that happens we’ll get them posted along with a breakdown of what we see in each one.

In the mean time, here’s the teaser for the trailer for Iron Man 3 that will be debuting at the Superbowl.

[source: Slashfilm, Marvel]

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Awesome: Duncan Jones to direct Warcraft

Posted by Matthew on January 30, 2013
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World of Warcraft

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Duncan Jones is making the jump to big-budget tentpole movies, signing on to direct Warcraft, Legendary Pictures’ live-action adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s video game universe.

[…]

Taking an almost kitchen-sink approach to fantasy, Warcraft, which has grown to be one of the most popular multiplayer online role-playing games out there, is part fantasy, part science fiction and — depending on the game you’re playing — includes elements such as dragons and orcs, zombies and werewolves, and aliens and spaceships. Legendary is keeping its script, written by Charles Leavitt, under wraps. The Warner Bros.-based production and finance outfit is eyeing a fall 2013 start and a 2015 release.

Duncan Jones has already made a good movie and an OK movie. The former, the brilliant Moon starring Sam Rockwell and the latter Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhall. Both had strong characters and performances though and those are the things that something like Warcraft needs. There’s plenty of story in Warcraft and there’s plenty of places to go with it. What’s going to make a movie in that world compelling isn’t the story or the spectacle of it all but rather the characters, and Duncan Jones is good at that kind of movie. Kind of like how Joss Whedon did with The Avengers.

Colour me excited.

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Awesome: Entourage Movie Greenlit

Posted by Matthew on January 30, 2013
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Entourage

Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline:

Aquaman star Vinnie Chase is back, baby. Warner Bros has tonight given the green light on a movie version of Entourage, the HBO series that ran from 2004-2011. That gives a reprise for the inside Hollywood exploits of the up and coming film star, his manager and agent, his under-appreciated TV actor brother and the childhood pal/driver who form his inner circle.

The film will be directed by series creator Doug Ellin, who wrote the screenplay and who exec produced the series with Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson.

As a long time fan of the show this is great news to me. I know the show got a little less consistent towards the end but I still loved it start to finish, and the end of the show –with Vince running off to get married and Ari being offered a position as studio head– was a pretty clear opening for the story to continue.

Deals haven’t been made with anyone yet but it’d be hard to imagine this going ahead without any of the primary stars. I just find myself wondering which of the awesome recurring cast they might wrangle into it as well.

Either way, I’ll be there opening day.

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Awesome: Dan Houser on making a sci-fi Grand Theft Auto

Posted by Simon on January 30, 2013
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OXM has an interesting story covering an interview with key Rockstar figure Dan Houser about the possibility of making a science-fiction themed Grand Theft Auto:

Science fiction Grand Theft Auto is “very tempting”, says Rockstar boss

We will do it the very second we have an idea,” Houser replied, when asked whether the franchise would ultimately transcend the present day. “One of our strengths is the consistency of the game world. We’re not necessarily the best writers in the world, but we how to write a video game.

When we decided to make a Western, it was because we knew we had something to say,” he went on. “We have no interest in going into science fiction for the sake of flying cars and laser guns. The best science fiction stories are those that speak about the human condition. So while this idea is very tempting and, by definition, anything’s possible in a videogame, we lack the essential thing for the moment: a good reason.

It’s good to know Houser recognises that a good story is at the heart of quality SF instead of just “flying cars and laser guns”. As each GTA seems to get bigger in both scale and ambition, I wonder if the shift into the coming next generation of consoles will finally see this dream realised. A space-based GTA? I’d be there in an instant.

It does, however, beg the question of what is happening with Prey 2. The enthusiasm based on the amazing trailer soon fizzled away as it got repeatedly postponed, then troubling stories emerged of the developers being on strike. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappear completely – an open-world space bounty hunter game would certainly get my interest.

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Awesome: Everything Wrong with “The Room” in 8 Minutes or Less

Posted by Matthew on January 29, 2013
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CinemaSins continues their series of pointing out everything wrong with films, but this time they take on one of the worst films ever made: The Room. That’s why this one is nearly 8 minutes instead of the usual 4. The video is of course full of spoilers but you’ll probably have a better time watching this than the actual movie.

I’ve really gotta find a copy of this movie for Matt Watches Bad Movies.

[source: CinemaSins]

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Screen Actors Guild Award Winners and Reactions

Posted by Matthew on January 29, 2013
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Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were this past weekend. I know I’m a few days late but here’s a quick roundup of the winners for movies and some thoughts to go with them.

Note: I’m not going to talk about the TV awards, but the coles notes version is this: Hooray for Kevin Costner, Bryan Cranston and Alec Baldwin.

Winners shown in bold a the top of each list.
You can read the full list of winners here.

Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Life Achievement Award

  • Dick Van Dyke

I grew up watching Dick Van Dyke movies my parents had recorded off the television so this makes me smile.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln as Abraham Lincoln
  • Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano
  • John Hawkes – The Sessions as Mark O’Brien
  • Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
  • Denzel Washington – Flight as Whip Whitaker

This isn’t a surprise to me in the slightest. Say what you will about Lincoln but Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing playing the man. At this point I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win the Oscar.

It’s nice to see John Hawkes get the nod for The Sessions as well.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany Maxwell
  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty as Maya
  • Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone as Stéphanie
  • Helen Mirren – Hitchcock as Alma Reville
  • Naomi Watts – The Impossible as Maria Bennett

At this point Jennifer Lawrence has won the Golden Globe and the SAG award for playing Tiffany Maxwell. The Oscar is now hers to lose if it wasn’t already and I think that’s how it’s going to go. I’d love to see Jessica Chastain win because I preferred Zero Dark Thirty to Silver Linings Playbook and I think that Maya was a far more complex character to play, but Tiffany is exactly the kind of quirky, loveable, bird with a broken wing but still independent and strong, feel good, cliche character that people love.

That’s not to say Lawrence isn’t an amazing actress or that she wasn’t amazing in the film, because she was and this is one of those parts designed to win Oscars.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln as Thaddeus Stevens
  • Alan Arkin – Argo as Lester Siegel
  • Javier Bardem – Skyfall as Raoul Silva
  • Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano Sr.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master as Lancaster Dodd

Nice to see Tommy Lee Jones take home the trophy. Also cool to see Javier Bardem get the nod for his roll in Skyfall. He was brilliant as Silva and thats not the type of roll that usually gets recognized.

This is going to make the Oscar race in this category a little more interesting. Alan Arkin already took home the Golden Globe and everyone who’s nominated (swap out Javier Bardem for Christoph Waltz and its the same list) had already won to this one is anyone’s game.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables as Fantine
  • Sally Field – Lincoln as Mary Todd Lincoln
  • Helen Hunt – The Sessions as Cheryl Cohen-Greene
  • Nicole Kidman – The Paperboy as Charlotte Bless
  • Maggie Smith – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as Muriel Donnelly

No surprises here. Anne Hathaway has already taken home all the awards for this role. If she doesn’t win all the awards that are left I will be incredibly surprised.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • Argo – Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, and Chris Messina
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton
  • Les Misérables – Isabelle Allen, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Huttlestone, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Tveit, Colm Wilkinson
  • Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn
  • Silver Linings Playbook – Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver

In a year where Lincoln, a timely political story about America’s most beloved president came out I didn’t see this happening but Argo has now won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for best picture.

It’s well deserved. It’s a brilliantly crafted film from start to finish and I’m glad to see it getting all the recognition it deserves.

It’ll be interesting next month to see if it takes home the Oscar as well, since Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for best director. That might end up being this years big “wtf” moment.

Conclusions

Awards Season this year has been interesting so far. The films I thought would be a lock haven’t been winning and the ones I thought were entirely deserving but would get passed over have. The ladies categories are pretty much locked in for the Oscars at this point I assume, but the gentlemen’s categories as well as the best picture and director categories are up in the air as far as I can tell.

I like the SAG awards as well because you get films like Skyfall, which is a great film and completely overlooked by the Oscars and the Golden Globes, getting recognition from their peers. Make no mistake Skyfall was one of last years must-see movies but it’s no surprise that it’s only up for technical Oscars.

Make all the jokes you want about millionaires giving each other statues, but I enjoy watching great films win accolades (and Simon and I will be live blogging The Oscars on 24th Feb. while they air).

What are your guys thoughts on the matter? Do you agree with the wins here? How do you think the Oscars are going to play out?

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Awesome: LucasFilm delays 3D rerelease of prequels to focus on Episode VII

Posted by Matthew on January 28, 2013
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20130128-180022.jpg

From StarWars.com:

Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall’s scheduled release of Star Wars Episodes II and III in 3D. Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.

Yet another win. I’m sure they’ll keep milking existing Star Wars to death but for now they’ve decided to make something new before they do it. Hopefully Episode VII turns out good enough that when they inevitably milk it to death I’ll be ok with it.

[source: starwars.com]

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Awesome: JJ Abrams still involved with Star Trek, Mission: Impossible

Posted by Matthew on January 28, 2013
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JJ Abrams

When it was announced that JJ Abrams had been signed to direct the new Star Wars there’s been on big question: does this mean he’s not doing any more Star Trek?

Gina McIntyre at the LA Times:

According to Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Abrams — who directed both 2009′s “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” — will still be involved in some capacity with a possible third “Trek” movie, at the minimum as a producer, if not also directing the film.

Moore also pointed out that Abrams will continue to play a role in another of the studio’s most valuable franchises, “Mission: Impossible.”

“J.J. will continue to develop projects for us including a new ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and he is committed to produce another ‘Star Trek,’” Moore said Friday afternoon.

I’m taking this as good news. I still have mixed feelings on the whole affair, no small part of which is that I’m not really sure that its right to have one guy at the helm of three major franchises (two of which are completely beloved).

That said, power to him. That much high profile work must be a good problem to have.

[source: LA Times Hero Complex]

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Awesome: Searching for the Heart of Bungie

Posted by Matthew on January 28, 2013
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Russ Pitts writing for Polygon:

Two things become clear as we sink deeper into [Pete] Parsons’ canned presentation. The first is that it really isn’t canned; Parsons knows every intimate detail — the memories are ingrained, not memorized. The second thing we discover is that Parsons’ affection for the Bungie Pentathlon trophy wasn’t a punt after all; of all of his company’s many accomplishments, crafting the perfect, nearly-insoluble team is the one of which he is absolutely most proud.

He describes how he meets with employees on their first day, then again, a month or so later. He describes the indoctrination, the counseling, the nurturing. He uses the world “family” — a lot, and sincerely. He tells the story of how he finally conceded the studio needed an IT department after he became too busy to troubleshoot computers and lay cables himself. He lovingly describes every feature of the studio building — custom built from the ruins of a defunct bowling alley (downstairs) and movie theater (upstairs) — not in the way of someone describing their new mansion in the Hollywood Hills, but rather the way a librarian might describe a new reading room. As if it’s not a monument to his own largesse, but rather a construction for the benefit of others.

He describes the intensive security measures: key-card coded front door; the beefy, menacing guards at the front desk; the cameras; the second set of doors guarding the stairway to the production floor and the third set of doors at the top of those stairs. And then he ushers us behind those layers of security to see what few have seen before.

Be sure to check out the embedded video as well. It’s always awesome to get a good behind the scenes look at a group doing work that you love.

[source: Polygon]

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Matt Watches Bad Movies: Knowing

Posted by Matthew on January 27, 2013
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Knowing

Knowing

The Nic-Cage-A-Thon continues this week with another recent pick, 2009’s Knowing. How does Nic react to knowing the future? Let’s jump right in and find out!

It’s 1959 and we’re in your typical 1950s elementary school classroom. The teacher tells the kids that they are making a time capsule and the kids go APESHIT. Makes me long for childhood again, because i don’t get that excited about anything anymore. The kids then start working on drawing for the time capsule, except the creepy little girl who had the idea in the first place, she starts writing numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. The teacher then takes away the creepy girl’s paper before she can finish writing. It must be frustrating for the teacher because the creepy girl clearly has some form of autism and this is the 1950s so no one knows or cares what that is.

Fast forward to 2009 and the time capsule is being opened. Nic’s kid is of course the one who receives the crazy numbers because if he didn’t we wouldn’t have a plot at all. We couldn’t very well have Nic seeing the numbers in someone else’s hands and then stealing them from said kid. Although, that might be kind of hilarious.

Oh, and Nic is an astrophysicist. Remember that for later.

At home it’s revealed that Nic is an exhausted alcoholic single father and his kid is a deaf in the way where he can hear fine without a hearing aid. The kid has taken the numbers home and Nic gets angry and sends him to bed. Nic proceeds to get drunk and after a few hours spent watching television and wallowing in self loathing he takes a look at the numbers. He clears off a bulletin board and writes out a random group of the numbers and stares at it blankly for a few moments before realizing “hey, the first digits from this group is a the date, September 11th 2001 and then there’s four more digits!” Then he searches those numbers on the web and guess what? That’s how many people were killed on September 11th 2001.

So just for the record, he grabbed a random number grouping and they happened to turn out to be Sept 11th 2001. Of course they did, because America.

As a side note, I think it would have been funny if the numbers turned out to be written internationally and had turned out to be about the 9th of November.

So this goes on all night. Searching groups of numbers and finding disasters that correspond. He must have an uncanny knowledge of disasters as well, since he leaves big strings of numbers between each of the groupings he’s circled. If it were me I’d just see lots of numbers, but he’s managed to zero in on every relevant grouping like he’s fucking rain man or something.

And so the big mystery is set in motion. He goes to visit the teacher from 1959 and she turns out to be an alcoholic as well. She offers him tea, but only offers the gin to herself, and tells him about the creepy little girl who wrote the numbers and how she wrote more numbers on a door.

Meanwhile creepy albino people give his kid a black rock because, you know, reasons. Shortly after Nic’s sister shows up and is all concerned and he blows her off.

In another alcohol fuelled evening he figures out that the numbers he hasn’t circles are locations and that he’s basically at the location of the next disaster on the list. He drives to where the next disaster might be and there’s a massive traffic jam. He assume that he must be there and goes to ask someone what’s going on who gets about half way through saying “everything is fine” before a fucking plane crashes right into the traffic jam.

When he gets home he’s still in shock and tells everyone off and, I presume, starts drinking.

While he’s doing that the creepy albino people and show his kid a vision of the world ending. Fire, brimstone, animals running and on fire. Hell it looks like the air is on fire. It’s actually pretty a disturbing to show to a kid. Hell, it’s a disturbing scene to show me. When the kid starts crying Nic comes a-runnin’ and then runs outside after the creepy albino people yelling “you want some of this!” which is hilarious.

Now he’s still looking for more information on the numbers so he stalks the little girl who wrote them on the web. Finds a photo and it’s totally Rose Byrne. He then finds the girls daughter, also Rose Byrne, and stalks her in real life at a museum. Don’t ask me how he knew she’d be there because it’s not explained as far as I remember.

He manages to get her to come to lunch and then right off the bat starts asking all kinds of crazy questions, in that way that only Nic Cage can, about whether her mother had some kind of ability or if she was an albino with light coming out of her mouth and Rose Byrne runs away in response. This makes sense.

He then buys a gun, because America. Also because the creepy albinos are still watching the house.

At night he figures out the next place there’s going to be a disaster and since it’s New York City he calls the FBI and tells them a bomb is going to go off. He then dumps off his kid with his sister and goes to New York and when he gets there goes right up to a cop asking why they aren’t doing anything, to which the cop replies “Actually we’re waiting for a crazy guy who phoned in a bomb threat and …. wait, what did you say?”

Before the cop can finish Nic is running away and there’s more cops running after him. He dives into a subway station and for some reason starts chasing a purse snatcher. Every cop in New York is now chasing Nic (and they all recognize him on sight somehow) while he chases a purse snatcher. I guess he thinks that the purse snatcher is a terrorist, and in a way he is, but before we can have a serious debate about the matter a subway train derails and crashes through the station and kills everyone except Nic and a few cops.

That’s right, terrorism was just a red herring.

Rose Byrne is back now. Says the last day on the list is the day that her mother told her she’d die. Now everyone is in a car and they are going…. somewhere. Nic tries to sound deep as he talks about his wife dying and losing his faith but it doesn’t really work.

Turns out they were going to investigate Rose Byrne’s moms house, which is creepy as fuck. Trailer in the middle of nowhere and all kinds of conspiracy theory wall clutter of articles and photos and biblical references and such. Rose Byrne also points out that the last two digits aren’t 33 they are EE, and knows that that means “Everyone Else.” Dun Dun Dun. Wait, how did she know that?

Meanwhile in the unattended car the Albino people come to see the kids who are waiting patiently. Nic runs off into the creepy as fuck forest (and I think that’s the actual name of said forest) and when he catches up to one of the albinos the Albino turns around and belches light.

If you haven’t figured out the big twist at the end yet then this should serve as a pretty big clue.

It’s also at this point that the movie starts becoming the Crazy Nic Cage show. Fucking finally. No one does crazy the way that Nic Cage does crazy.

Nic the astrophysicist (remember, he’s an astrophysicist) finally starts cluing in that the sun might be a problem. They’ve been having record heat waves and cell phones don’t reliably work but it takes something the kid says for everyone to go “oh, the sun might blow up and kill us all.”

Everyone gets together in the car and drives off. Nic has a plan, but isn’t telling anyone what it is because, you know, reasons. He’s acting crazy and Rose Byrne is freaking out but rather than explain so that everyone would understand and be calm he just keeps stonewalling.

He’s going for the door that the last numbers got scratched onto so he’ll know where to go to save them, but since he’s acting fucking crazy and Rose Byrne is freaked out she drives away with the kids. She stops for gas and sees an emergency broadcast that says “the damage from the sun will be worse than we thought.” which is weird since we haven’t heard anything from anyone about the sun until the kid pointed it out 5 minutes ago.

At the same time the Albinos steal the kids and leave more of the rocks because of reasons. Rose Byrne steals a jeep to go after them and when she runs a red light she gets fucking creamed by a semi truck. No one could survive that. Nic shows up and sees her and she has survived. He the goes for the kids but she’s not with him because I guess she did die? It’s not really clear.

He gets to where the kids are and it’s a flat field full of the same rocks the albinos have been handing out like candy. Turns out they’re aliens (what a twist!) with what’s actually a pretty cool space ship.

They take the kids, but not Nic, to restart the human race. I don’t really see why they had to wait until the day the world ends to do this since it’s clear at this point that they are responsible for the numbers which means they knew about this happening at least 50 years in advance.

As the albino aliens take the kids away they turn into their natural less creepy form which is made of light and has wings and a .. halo.. around their… wait, they’re aliens and they’re angels? Good thing it’s not too heavy handed a reference.

Nic is now crying like only Nic Cage can. He passes out from it in fact and then wakes up at dawn to a world gone crazy. He drives through the center of town with Beethoven’s 7th playing. He gets to his parents house, they have a little reconciliation which includes the most awkward group hug in the world, and then the world ends as the sun explodes.

Cut to the kids playing in a field of terrible CGi grass on their new planet. Yay.

You know, this wasn’t actually as bad as I was expecting. Sure, the plot is a bit predictable at times but it’s actually a creepy creepy movie. In fact I think Nic Cage overacting might be it’s biggest failing other than a story that has so many convenient coincidences I’m surprised that one set of the numbers didn’t win anyone the lotto.

I can’t say as I recommend watching this, but if you’re going to choose a bad Nic Cage movie this one isn’t a bad one to go with.

Rating: 5/10

Matt Watches Bad Movies is a weekly feature in which Matt watches a bad film so you don’t have to. If you have suggestions of something terrible you’ve seen, or haven’t seen but are morbidly curious about, feel free to tell me about it in the comments or via twitter @posterboy81

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Awesome Daily – X-Men, JJ Abrams and Jurassic Park – 27th Jan 2012

Posted by Matthew on January 27, 2013
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Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Rogue all back for X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer announced Saturday via the twitters that Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore and Anna Paquin will all be returning to the franchise in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film:

This is going to be interesting. Days of Future Past is a crazy time travel story which is how we have the First Class cast and the X1, X2 and Last Stand casts all together. I’m looking forward to seeing how they tie the 60s versions of the characters together with the present versions of the characters if only because of the few very subtle things that made me consider them to be different time lines. – Matt

Star Trek fan talks about JJ Abrams taking the job directing Star Wars

Jordan Hoffman at Badass Digest:

Know this: I love Star Wars. Star Trek is a key part of my life, but the other, lesser franchise is still a great deal of fun. You wanna grab beers and yap about IG-88 or Midi-chlorian counts or the lesser known works of the Mon Calamari Ballet Company? I’m down. But the thing is that Star Wars, at least for people in my age group, was something that was accepted – it was never not cool. Star Trek only became cool very, very recently. And J.J. Abrams, for better or worse, had something to do with that.
The basic gist, as Mashable quoted me, is this: I feel like J.J. Abrams took me out to the prom but left with the hotter girl.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read. He’s more upset than I am, but it does mirror my feelings on the situation pretty well.

[link]- Matt

Jurassic Park 3D Blu-Ray gets a release date

Jurassic Park is coming to theatres in 3D in April, and then it’s coming to 3D Blu-Ray. Mark April 23rd on your calendars if you want to pick it up.

If you don’t care about 3D you can get all three movies on regular blu-ray on the 26th of March.

[source: The Verge] – Matt

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Awesome Daily – 26th Jan 2013

Posted by Simon on January 26, 2013
News / 1 Comment

Hello! Welcome to the first Awesome Daily.

So many little things happen during the day that Matt and I want to share, but often they’re little snippets or redirects and not really suitable for a full-blown article. We’ve started putting them on our Facebook page (LIIIKE USSSSS sorry) but want to make them available to everyone. So, we’re going to try and make a single daily post of all the little bits and bobs we think are cool from the day. It could be the announcement of a new film from our favourite director, a quick iPhone recommendation or just a reaction to something we’ve heard – a quick and easily digestible slice of the day’s cool news. Let us know what you think.

Ready Steady Bang, Free game for iOS

So, let’s get started with my new favourite thing – Ready Steady Bang on iOS. It’s a free single press quickdraw game that is all about fast reactions. The single, multi and online player modes, combined with a deliciously simple graphic style, has already made this essential. Grab your gun and start taking down those pesky outlaws.

[iTunes link] – Simon

JJ Abrams Confirmed to Direct Star Wars Episode VII

It’s official folks. Press Release from StarWars.com

After a bevy of emails and phone calls, the formalities have been wrapped up, and at long last everyone can exhale and properly share the word with an excited Internet. Yes, J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams will be directing and Academy Award-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.

“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”

George Lucas went on to say “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller.” He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”

To me this is good news. I’ve found his films good but, uh, safe. What I will say is that while I like what he and his team with with Star Trek, the storytelling style is likely much better suited to Star Wars which is more Science Fantasy that Science Fiction. Not that it really matters, you know I’m going to be there on opening day. – Matt

LOL: Everything Wrong With Avatar in 4 Minutes or Less

CinemaSins released the latest in their Everything Wrong With… series.

Some of these are a bit of a stretch if you ask me but its still funny.

[YouTube Link]- Matt

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Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Posted by Matthew on January 25, 2013
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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

I must admit that when I first started hearing about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters I had some moderately high hopes. You see there’s a type of movie that I rather enjoy: the popcorn flick. You know the type; it’s a bit ridiculous, lots of one liners, actors having fun. We’re not talking about high art here we’re talking about fun. Fun at the movies. If you have been following us for any length of time you know that Simon last had this experience with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

We’re talking about the type of movie where you sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. I was disappointed by a couple of films that promised to be this last year. So how are we doing with the first big effort this year? Actually, pretty freaking good!

Director Tommy Wirkola’s resume isn’t that long but he’s best known for the horror comedy Dead Snow released a few years back about a group of kids being terrorized by nazi zombies. Thinking about that movie now it feels like a dry run leading up to this. Where that movie faltered mixing up the horror and comedy, this movie has a pretty good mix of action and comedy plus a healthy dose of blood and guts and gore to round things out.

The story is fairly basic. Hansel and Gretel survive the childhood ordeal slightly differently than you remember it from the fairy tale and end up orphan witch hunters who come to a town with a bunch of kids gone missing. Much anachronistic badassery ensues.

There’s not anything here you haven’t seen before though and at just over 90 minutes long there isn’t really time for anything you haven’t seen before either. This movie is short and to the point; what little back story we need is given in a brief prologue and then the beautifully animated credits and then we jump right into the story.

I think this is actually one of the films major strengths. Previous fairy tale re-imaginings I’ve seen that try to make sure you know they’re serious films end up boring. This movie doesn’t want you to be anything other than entertained so plot is kept to a minimum and action to a maximum.

And yet despite it’s predictability, it works. When things are revealed you’re not going to be surprised but I didn’t care I was busy enjoying a well staged fight, some well executed gore, or a zingy one liner.

Speaking of action and gore, there’s a nice blend of practical and digital effects at play too. Some things are obviously CG but there’s one big practical effect that I loved. I don’t want to spoil it (even though it isn’t really a secret it’s not in any of the marketing) but if you’ve listened to the podcast when this has come up you can probably guess what it is when you see it.

The film is rife with anachronism as well. The film seems set in the early 1800s but the weapons in Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal appear to be from anywhere from the 1860s to the 1920s and everyone speaks in a thoroughly modern mode of speech.

I’m sure a lot of these elements are going to wear thin pretty quick for a lot of you but they didn’t for me. Chalk it up to the films short running time or the fact that I actually like watching bad movies. Or both.

The films stars do pretty well with what their given. Jeremy Renner might be phoning it in but Jeremy Renner phoning it in is still pretty good. Gemma Arterton plays the whole thing as an over the top ass kicker and that’s actually pretty awesome. Famke Janssen isn’t amazing but her character is such a one dimensional bad guy that it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line here though is that it seems like everyone involved is in on the joke and as such it feels like everyone involved is having a blast making the movie.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is a good movie. Quite the opposite, it’s a bad movie.

Lets be honest it’s a movie based on a joke of a title and it does get repetitive. That said, I still had fun watching it. It’s a bad movie, but it’s so bad I enjoyed it.

Rating: 6/10

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Far Cry 3: Playing Outside The Box

Posted by Simon on January 24, 2013
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Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3

The alternative subheader for this article was “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Radio Tower”. In a way, it would have been more fitting (along with providing me with personal amusement). I lost sight of what Far Cry 3 wanted from a very early stage, and the resulting few hours were a revelation.

That’s not to say it doesn’t try to capture your attention. Starting with a POV cutscene with you and your brother being sneered at by bad man Vaas behind the bars of a bamboo cage, your subsequent escape is a suitable launchpad for some open-world vengeance. It’s also worth noting that the voice acting and mo-cap is truly exceptional, raising the pirate leader above clichéd baddie tropes into something genuinely unsettling. Being spat headlong into the jungles of Rook Island with your brother’s gruesome death still ringing in your ears would be an obvious point where you grab all the guns you can carry and fight back along leafy linear forest corridors.

The designers of Far Cry 3 had different ideas though, and this deviation in structure is the first clue as to how the next few hours might play out. Your character is quickly taken under the wing of a local community leader who suitably outlines the Quest for the Hero and places the first gun – a pistol, of course – firmly in your hand. Once an initial test is passed (which might as well be referred to “THE TUTORIAL” by everyone involved), your new leader points you towards the house of a doctor where you can meet one of your friends. There’s also some mention of hunting and collecting and crafting but it all gets filed away behind the predicted promise of bullets and bloodlust.

It’s at this point I tried to stock up on weapons – buy what I could, note prices for upgrades, gear up for the road ahead – but soon found that I just couldn’t carry anything. Almost literally. The space in your pockets makes way for one gun, a couple of syringes (read: health packs) and flowers, but that’s it. All the things I would take for granted in an FPS such as weapon slots and ammo pouches were held back, each instead showing requirements based on one vital ingredient: animal skins. Pigs, goats, tapirs, dogs, sharks…it was a menu that demanded I go off and get lost, explore, kill, skin, and craft. I could absolutely head to the next mission marker, but it soon became apparent that I would need to expand in order to succeed.

Jason, your character in the game, is established very early on as Just Some American College Douchbag. Does this make him more relatable than a grizzled super soldier? I’m not so sure, but I was certainly maintaining this naive inexperience in my first few attempts at hunting. Shooting at pigs wildly as they scurry away doesn’t exactly carry Bear Gryllis levels of success, especially when you find yourself running directly into an enemy encampment, stabbing some guy through the neck in a panic before leaping off a cliff to escape his comrades. The Monty Python style of predatory strategy. Finally running out of bullets, I resorted to throwing a remote charge in the path of a deer before removing his skin with fire and flame. Overkill? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.

This need for skin of various types led me to a wider use of the map, searching for their silhouetted shapes in various habitats. Much of this is obscured by blackout, a result of the radio jammers similar to the one you briefly visit in the tutorials. These towers are styled very much like the high structures in another Ubisoft title, Assassin’s Creed. Once you ascend and pull out the important wires from a red box, the camera completes a wide pan and the area is added to your map. The map, once cleared, becomes either the green of free movement or red to show that an enemy camp controls the area. Often these camps are placed between you and the next radar tower, meaning their removal becomes a logical next move, and they invariably consist of small compounds with a selection of enemy types that you conveniently identify and track constantly, even through rocks and foliage. The icons that appear magically stuck above their heads tell you of their predisposed attack routine – snipers, grunts, chargers, armoured heavies; dangers that are immediately recognisable by anyone who’s ever played another FPS. These patterns become a puzzle, your attack strategy forming on the basis of how they will each react.

And so this pattern emerges, of movement, analysis, exposure, and attack. A radio tower exposes the position of an enemy camp which, when cleared, leaves a quick-travel location close to the next tower, and so on. The odd hang-glider – kindly deposited on every mountain edge by a militia group obviously into their airborne pleasure trips – merely amplifies this idea of moving against the scripted tide that normally sweeps you towards the campaign markers. As you discover more towers, it’s quickly obvious that their collective order has a combined difficulty curve. Ubisoft rightly holds back from making it too tricky (few things are more frustrating than poorly designed first-person platforming sequences) but the sequence of moves required takes on a maze-like quality that actually reminds me of Portal. The enemy camps also become harder, with alarm boxes, animal cages and spread-out enemy types calling for a carefully planned sequence of attack. Of course, there is your growing arsenal as assistance for when this all goes wrong and you have reinforcements snapping at your hells whilst being chased by a tiger, but it doesn’t give you the same sense of freedom and accomplishment.

It was after a night of just going through this pattern that I realised how well Far Cry 3 fits being played purely as a spacial puzzle. The layout of the towers and camps directly reflects their complexity and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of “just one more”. It also helps that death is totally meaningless, with a liberal checkpoint system dumping you back either at your most recent fast travel location or just outside an enemy camp in the seconds before your first shot. However, where FPS puzzles hold your attention by changing the rules after carefully setting them up, Far Cry 3 eventually falls into the trap of repetition. The island is detailed and expansive, but it starts to feel that you are completing the same actions in every scenario, albeit in a different order. It doesn’t help that Jason is apparently a “normal guy” yet can yield a sniper rifle with pinpoint precision. Even with the numerous Alice In Wonderland references pointing to the whole game being a childish fantasy, there is never any chance to connect with a protagonist who is such a superficial cypher.

The obvious move is to head back to the campaign, but this only serves to exacerbate the emerging issues. Each mission is tightly scripted and suitably bombastic, but they ultimately feel frustrating and restrictive after many hours of roaming. Unfortunately, it’s at this point where the free movement around the island reveals itself to just be smoke that conceals the cast-iron linear structure of the game’s heart. With no reason to push on solving the puzzles and no compulsion to guide your sudden action hero through his paces, Far Cry 3 becomes more about what might have been.

For the latter hours of the game I was unable to stop myself comparing it to Just Cause 2, wishing that it could somehow absorb that game’s amazing sense of freedom and exploration. Along with Crackdown, JC2 used its game world to lure players into fun endeavours that had nothing to do with the story but existed purely to have fun. It allowed us to journey outside of the usual structure of following a set path and gave us the sense of adventure so absent from many games today. I would not be able to tell you how many hours I spent in JC2 attempting to carry an enemy to a remote mountain peak with a helicopter, or line up the perfect jump in Crackdown.

Far Cry 3 shows you down a path of humid jungles and creaking towers before bringing you back and saying, hey, there’s a way you need to play this game. It’s a shame as there’s so much potential for it to become the free fantasy it constantly teases. I wanted to get lost and have an adventure in the tangled secrets of Rook Island, but in the end, the game kept finding me and bringing me back.

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Awesome Classics: Wing Commander (1990)

Posted by Matthew on January 23, 2013
Classics, Games, Reviews / 1 Comment

Wing Commander Title

I’m sitting in front of a blank screen. The computer is on, it just doesn’t display much beyond the letter C, a colon, and a blinking cursor. I type my way into a directory, load up a .exe file and wait while it performs memory checks before I get to fly off into space to shoot up the aggressors from the Empire of Kilrah.

It’s 1991, I’m 10, and I’m playing Wing Commander for what must be the hundredth time. I don’t just mean I’ve loaded the game up that many times I mean I’ve played through it that many times. Believe you me this is no easy feat; Wing Commander is not a short game.

It is a cool game though. Set in the 2650s Wing Commander puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter fighting an ongoing war between humanity and the Empire of Kilrah, a race of large bipedal cat people. You get to fly several different fighters over the course of the game, in several types of missions.

It plays out in full 3D space and was one of the first I remember doing so. Every fighter has it’s own cockpit details and strategies for flying combat. Each of the enemy ships (both fighters and capital classes) had their own distinct set of strengths and weaknesses as well. There’s no difficulty scale either so everyone who plays it gets as close to the same experience as can be given the fluid nature of the story (more on that in the moment). The graphics are sprites, not rasterized, however the game still looks amazing to my eye. The amount of detail they were able to cram in in an age where system resources were so limited is kind of amazing. The sound is all midi tracks, but they do sound great.

Wing Commander Rapier Cockpit

The cockpit (pictured above is the cockpit from the Rapier, the last fighter you fly in the game) is where the action happens. You go out on sorties to accomplish various goals but you always get the chance to fight the fur balls. How well you fight them and accomplish mission goals dictates how the war goes in the system you are currently in and after a few missions your carrier, the Tiger’s Claw, jumps to the next system.

Here’s the brilliant bit though: if you win the current system you go one way, if you lose you go another. I have played this game dog knows how many times and I doubt I took the same route through the systems twice until I got really good at it (and even then not so much).

The game has two distinct endings (one where you win the war, one where you lose) and you can take any number of different paths to get to either.

This is kind of awesome as it encourages you to accept your failures. Because you can fight your way back to the winning path at almost any point (or start to lose at almost any point) there’s no need to save your game and obsessively play each mission until you win it, just go with the flow and see how you do. You can almost count on not winning every system in fact, because there is one mission which is nearly impossible. I can only remember beating it once, but my ship was so beat up by the end that I couldn’t dock with the Tiger’s Claw, I had to eject and get picked up.

Even if you lose it’s nice to just enjoy the story; and there is a story. Between missions you go to the officers lounge and speak to two pilots sitting in the bar and the bartender. They give you some battle strategy, news on how the war is going, but all in pre scripted conversations between them and your character.

Unless of course they were killed in a previous mission. Now, other pilots don’t die unless they are on your wing, but the knowledge they have is sometimes incredibly useful. You get a new wingman in every system (and you’re usually reassigned to a new squadron/fighter) but if you’re out fragging hairballs and your wingman is killed you have to complete any remaining missions without them and you never get the benefit of their insight at the bar.

Wing Commander Medals

In addition to being transferred from squadron to squadron at the end of the mission set in each system, if you perform well enough you can also get promoted or awarded medals for valour.

The above screenshot was taken near the end of my most recent play through the game, major is the highest rank and I’ve been awarded multiple bronze, silver and gold stars.

I know there is a metric for how they are awarded but I don’t really care. They are kind of nice to receive, but they don’t affect the story. That screenshot could be in the final system to win the game or to lose. You can go the whole game without ever being promoted or awarded a medal and the story still plays out to the win or the loss.

There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia in this title for me, I’ve been playing it in some form since I was 10 years old. Don’t let my dad hear this, but 1990 was a long time ago and things have come a long way but I still fire up Wing Commander every now and again because I still love playing it. If that doesn’t mean it’s a great game I don’t know what does.

Wing Commander is still available, packaged with it’s 1992 sequel Wing Commander II: Wrath of the Kilrathi for Mac and Windows for about 6$ USD as of this writing so don’t take my word for it, fire it up and see for yourself what I’m talking about. You won’t regret it.

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