Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Retro Games reimagines the Commodore VIC-20

Retro Games, the company behind The C64 (affiliate link) and The C64 Mini (affiliate link), is expanding its successful 8-bit home computer line to include the Commodore VIC-20, which was the predecessor to the Commodore 64 and sold over one million units.

"We are really excited to bring you even more of the most loved retro games ever on two of the most iconic home computers of all time, combined in this latest incarnation of The C64 range - this time with full working keyboard and a classic VIC-20 style," said Retro Games' managing director, Paul Andrews.

William Shatner, best known for his role as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, featured in a memorable television commercial introducing the 'wonder computer' of the 1980s.

Whilst I didn't own a VIC-20, opting for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K and then Commodore 64, a few school friends did and we would play popular video games such as Gridrunner and Laser Zone, 8-bit classics by Jeff Minter of Llamasoft fame.

The VIC-20 (affiliate link) includes 64 built-in games from the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 back catalogue and is released 23rd October for £109.99. Koch Media is distributing and I hope to bring you a review in the future.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Normal People confess sins to Fleabag’s Hot Priest

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal reprise their roles of Marianne and Connell respectively from Normal People opposite Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest (Fleabag) for RTE Does Comic Relief.

“I feel like I’m causing pain to the person that I love,” Connell reveals to the priest. “I’m just really torn. You know, the physical side of things is great, that’s always been so powerful. It's when I try to talk, you know, when I try to express what I’m feeling at the time that’s when things get confused.”

The skit, recorded socially distanced due to coronavirus, has become a huge hit with fans (myself included) of Normal People and Fleabag.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Last of Us Part 2 surpasses Spider-Man sales

The Last of Us Part II has eclipsed Marvel's Spider-Man to become the fastest-selling PlayStation exclusive in Sony's history with more than 4 million copies sold worldwide.

"The Last of Us Part 2 represents large scale innovation in gaming with a great blend of excellent gameplay mechanics and masterful storytelling," Eric Lempel, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Sony PlayStation, said in a statement. "We strive to bring you unique, engaging experiences."

Neil Druckmann, vice president of Naughty Dog and director of The Last of Us Part II said:

“We are so immensely grateful to the millions of fans around the world that have played The Last of Us Part II and shared their experiences with us over the last week. We set out to tell a new kind of story, one that deals with difficult themes and would challenge you in unexpected ways. Hearing how the experience has resonated with so many of you and witnessing the type of thoughtful discussions it has sparked has been so incredible. We’ve also been so inspired by your creativity – whether it’s your gorgeous Photo Mode shots, jaw-dropping gameplay GIFs, or the songs you’ve recorded using Ellie’s guitar.

The Last of Us Part II was made possible thanks to the efforts of the hundreds of talented and passionate developers here at Naughty Dog. We can imagine no greater honour than seeing that same passion mirrored by the people playing it. Thank you for helping us reach this amazing milestone.”

Not only is The Last of Us Part II one of the greatest video game sequels ever made, Ellie is an openly gay female protagonist and I, for one, can't wait for HBO's live-action adaptation.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 trailer channels Blade Runner

CD Projekt Red has released an official trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. The long-awaited role-playing video game adaptation has been delayed until November. Positive comparisons with Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and Blade Runner franchises are inescapable.

New gameplay footage was revealed, showcasing extensive character customisation options (a staple of RPGs), alongside unanimously rave reactions from hands-on impressions.

As part of yesterday's Cyberpunk 2077 - Night City Wire event, an anime series tie-in from Netflix was announced for 2022.

"Wherever there are nerds, there's gonna be anime fans," Saya Elder, a Japan-based producer on the show, says in a preview video. "When we began this project, we were certain that we didn't want to make a recreation of the game," she adds. "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a standalone story set in the same universe. The stage is still Night City, but everything else is totally new: new characters, new story."

The developer behind The Witcher 3 has, justifiably, garnered goodwill from the gaming community for consumer-friendly practises. So, I've pre-ordered Cyberpunk 2077 digitally for Xbox One X. The upcoming title is optimised for Xbox Series X at no additional cost.

Cyberpunk 2077 is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Three Doctors unite on HBO Max

Every season of Doctor Who since 2005 is now available exclusively on HBO Max. To celebrate, 3 Doctors, played by David Tennant, Matt Smith and Jodie Whittaker, are reunited on Zoom with IGN's Terri Schwartz moderating the online panel.

“‘Doctor Who’ is one of television’s all-time, most beloved series, on both sides of the pond, and we are happy to be the exclusive streaming stewards for this BBC gem,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max and president of TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Another series to further define the high-quality content experience consumers can expect from HBO Max.”

Are you excited Doctor Who is on HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Foundation teased for Apple TV+

A free 12-month Apple TV+ subscription, included with a recent iPhone SE purchase, couldn't have come at a better time. Not only has Fraggle Rock been rebooted, but next year a lavish adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is coming to the Cupertino-based company's streaming service.

During yesterday's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple released a first look at Foundation with David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy).

My earliest memory of reading Foundation was whilst on a school summer holiday in Spain. The prose were beyond my adolescent years, but I quickly deciphered how it had influenced popular sci-fi culture including George Lucas' Star Wars.

“Foundation was an enormous influence for Star Wars,” Goyer says. “It was the greatest science fiction work of all time. The scope is sprawling. It unfolds over the course of 1,000 years.”

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Normal People triumphs in the ‘new normal’

When we went into lockdown in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fox's Anglo-French adaptation (I use the term very loosely) of War of the Worlds had already started. It was certainly no seminal sci-fi mini-series (read Andrew Lewin's review here), but I stoically stuck with it unlike the much-maligned BBC adaptation which wasn't helped by being scheduled after BBC/HBO's phenomenal His Dark Materials in the run-up to last Christmas - seemingly several lifetimes ago in the wake of our shared trauma.

Daisy Edgar-Jones played Emily Gresham who regained her eyesight whenever near an alien invader. For a while, War of the Worlds was a fun post-apocalyptic romp in the style of The Walking Dead until it became abundantly clear we weren’t going to see any tripods! Le sigh!

The later episodes washed over me in a comfortingly forgettable fashion given the emergent coronavirus crisis and the knowledge that, like so many, I would need to shield due to disability and asthma. Seeing family and friends would be reserved for social media, FaceTime and fond memories for the foreseeable future.

So, when Normal People, a BBC co-production with Hulu, started streaming on BBC iPlayer with considerable fanfare, I didn't appreciate it was the actress from War of the Worlds, playing Marianne opposite newcomer Paul Mescal's Connell, until a few episodes into this astonishing adaptation of Sally Rooney's award-winning book about millennials.

Amidst the modern day trappings of 24/7 digital connectedness and iPhones (I belatedly jumped onto the bandwagon with the new SE), Edgar-Jones and Mescal’s performances harken back to the silent era in this bittersweet examination of first love imbued with bokeh beauty. The brittleness of their on-off relationship distilled in lush, aching, glances. The leads inhabit their roles from divergent worlds so absolutely; a former college lecturer and family friend suggested I should never read the book; wise words.

The series, directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Hettie Macdonald, triggered a multiplicity of marvellous and malignant memories from high school, college and university. Cognisant of the, crushingly, inescapable notion of imposter syndrome haunting so many of us throughout our lives.

How I yearned for a place at drama school as I tackled, with the support of family and NHS healthcare professionals, the challenging aftermath of a traumatic life-changing head injury. Finding myself mocked and ridiculed for being the only school student with a visible disability who had romantic crushes like everyone else.

Alas, there was no TARDIS, X-wing or Batmobile (Edgar-Jones reminds me of Anne Hathaway who played Catwoman in The Dark Knight Trilogy) in which to escape beyond the metaphorical. That said, I'll be forever grateful to my late mum for fighting to secure a return to mainstream school and this facilitated further disabled students' entry (where appropriate). Pathfinding is never easy as history attests.

It would be disingenuous not to suggest that I've always found making friends easy, but within the context of being disabled and, by extension, oftentimes discriminated against, each new encounter felt like another tiresome battle of wits to justify one's existence. None of this is in anyway unique to me, and I hope it doesn't detract from sharing my enjoyment of Normal People by becoming a worthless exercise in self-indulgence.

The creative arts gave me sanctuary and college was a second chance at an education stifled by systemic streaming and the need for years of rehabilitation. So much so, I was afforded the privilege of unconditional offers on several art courses at degree level. A far cry from what a career tutor prophesied in the final year of high school; having tried to sabotage a college application; an abject lesson in how not to inspire pupils.

The lecture scenes in Normal People resonated. This Gen Xer was transported back to English Literature class and debating the subtext of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, a critique of British imperialism (infesting our current political discourse), which is where this journey of introspection began.

Like pop cultural touchstones The Wonder Years and My So-Called Life, Normal People is one of the most deeply affecting rites of passage in any medium. The fates of its charismatic characters will haunt you long after the end credits have rolled.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Star Wars: Squadrons gameplay at EA Play Live

Star Wars: Squadrons was teased on Monday and gameplay will be revealed during today's EA Play Live event.

The upcoming EA Motive title is set in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second dreaded Death Star. The single player campaign follows pilots from the Empire and New Republic.

A demo will be available for EA Access subscribers (myself included) when Star Wars: Squadrons is released for PS4, Xbox One and PC this October. EA has announced it will feature cross-play and virtual reality (VR) support for PS4 and PC.

Let's hope EA can build on the goodwill for Jedi: Fallen Order and put Battlefront II's infamous loot boxes behind it.

Star Wars: Squadrons is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Warner Bros. announces free DC FanDome

On Tuesday Warner Bros. announced its own free 24-hour online-only event for DC Comics fans (myself included) 22nd August. This follows news of the free Comic-Con@Home from 22nd-26th July.

DC FanDome will include virtual panels for The Batman, Wonder Woman 1984, The Suicide Squad, Stargirl, more details from the Snyder Cut of Justice League for HBO Max and much more.

“There is no fan like a DC fan," said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of Warner Bros. "For more than 85 years, the world has turned to DC’s inspiring heroes and stories to lift us up and entertain us, and this massive, immersive digital event will give everyone new ways to personalize their journey through the DC Universe without lines, without tickets and without boundaries. With DC FanDome, we’re able to give fans from around the world an exciting and unparalleled way to connect with all their favorite DC characters, as well as the incredible talent who bring them to life on the page and screen.”

What do you most hope to see at DC FanDome? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Coming of age in unprecedented times

Paul Moxham, our resident film critic, editor and cameraman, continues his movie odyssey during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Incidentally, Paul's a fellow PlayStation fan and I'm secretly hoping he'll review The Last of Us Part II, but that's between us, OK?

Guest post by Paul Moxham

I’ve only gone and done it; I’ve watched two previously unseen by me, non-franchise based films in a week. Lady Bird directed by Greta Gerwig and Booksmart helmed by Olivia Wilde. Between these and mine and Mrs. Moxham’s binge on Normal People, it has been quite the time for coming of age narratives at Moxy Towers.

Coming of age films are one of those genres that will never die. As long as people are growing up they’ll want to see films that reflect and remind them how devastatingly amazing and horribly devastating their formative years were. That strange combination of reminding us of the good and the bad whilst suggesting that everything will make sense once we’re a grown up. I’m still awaiting the arrival of the certificate.

I am a complete and unapologetic sucker for them; which initially seems strange considering my own adolescence felt largely like that feeling you get between tripping over something, and the moment you hit the floor with your head. In slow motion. Although I imagine that’s exactly why I like them so much; crystallised moments of teenage triumph that you always wish you were cool enough to have experienced. I imagine we all feel somewhat the same.

Booksmart is all about that moment of triumph, only not in the way the main characters envision. Amy and Molly have their eyes on the prize, top grades leading to top jobs. This pursuit has led them to eschew all forms of extra-curricular activity, parties etc. Necessary sacrifices surely, until on the eve of graduation they learn their classmates have forgone none of these heady delights and are on course for equally rewarding futures. They have one night to make up for lost time. The tension of ticking as much off the teenage experiences list in just one night, like a thrill-seeking Father Christmas, makes for a fun and lively adventure. The balance between the meaningful, the funny and the weird is a joy. Plus a sense of pathos that is genuinely earned without feeling forced or tacked on is a treasured thing.

Lady Bird also focuses on someone who is certain they have life planned out, if only everyone understood her. Although Lady Bird’s realisation that she doesn’t have all the answers is a less high-concept structure. I imagine enjoyment of the film might depend on how much sympathy you can muster for someone who changes their name to Lady Bird and shouts at their mother. Saoirse Ronan has yet to put a foot wrong (check out Brooklyn as well, so very good), she expertly balances between someone feeling their way towards maturity and all the vulnerability that entails, whilst fooling themselves that they exist in the universe to tell everyone else how much they’re getting it wrong. Witnessing the birth of her understanding does elicit a degree of empathy. I’m just not sure it was quite enough for me to completely forgive everything. Maybe that’s my failing; you don’t have to like a character to empathise with them, just understand where they’re coming from. And on that front Lady Bird puts Lady Bird’s case very well.

I can see why Greta Gerwig’s film was so richly lauded when released. It didn’t quite hold me the way her follow up Little Women did. So that’s a long way round of saying I preferred the characters and humour of Booksmart. Now I think I’ll have a lie down, all this angst is exhausting. I don’t know how I ever did it full time.