Monday 16 August 2010

Star Wars on Blu-ray disc and a dark Jedi

During Star Wars Celebration V George Lucas officially announced that Star Wars will bow on Blu-ray disc in 2011!

"Blu-ray is the absolute best way to experience Star Wars at home – in pristine high definition," said George Lucas. "The films have never looked or sounded better."

"We've been wanting to do it as soon as we possibly could, but we just wanted to do it when enough people would be able to buy it and see it," Would it be disingenuous to suggest that Lucas would release Star Wars on a packet of crisps if it meant more money could be made from the franchise?

The original trilogy will be based on the Special Editions released in 1997 and on DVD in 2004; not the beloved first run theatrical releases.

"You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally," "It's a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version." George Lucas explains without a trace of irony. The billionaire creator of Star Wars is also the founder of THX: a cottage industry dedicated to the preservation and monetization of audiovisual properties. However, the boxset will include unreleased deleted scenes.

Lucasfilm has pulled a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi showing Luke Skywalker constructing a new lightsabre, in a cave on Tatooine, and ignoring Darth Vader's summon, from within his meditation chamber aboard a Super Star Destroyer, to join the dark side of the Force. Notable for its dramatic discordance, symbolising Luke's conflict and typifies the uneven tone of Jedi!

Don't be surprised to see Star Wars in 3D too; if only to shift a boatload of THX-badged consumer products. After all Star Wars became a toy story...

In an interview with the LA Times Gary Kurtz, the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, sheds light on a darker Return of the Jedi, which was drastically altered due to Lucas' shift towards merchandise-driven creative decisions. "The original idea was that they would recover Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base,"

"George then decided he didn't want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason." What's more, the film would have shown Princess Leia struggling to cope with her new-found responsibilities, and would have ended with Luke Skywalker walking off into the distance as an embittered, Clint Eastwood-style loner.

Kurtz left Lucasfilm during pre-production on Revenge of the Jedi (altered to Return late in production), citing creative differences with George Lucas, and the saga suffered. He produced Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal and you'll note the obvious similarities with Return of the Jedi a year later.

At the age of 11, and a fully paid-up member of Generation Star Wars, I was savvy enough to note the increased emphasis on merchandise (not that I was complaining at the time) and lamented the inclusion of a second Death Star, the Emperor (diluting the conflict between Luke and Vader) and those teddy bears!

The Ewok celebration always struck me as an uneasy denouement given the loss and deception Luke had experienced. But what do you think? Did you like how the saga ended, or would you have savoured a few more flies in the ointment?

Monday 9 August 2010

Kinect or Move?

During this upcoming holiday season, Microsoft and Sony will both release their belated ripostes to Nintendo's game-changing Wii console. Not new consoles, but add-on peripherals backed by high profile brand partnerships.

Sony and Coca-Cola have signed an on-pack deal to promote PlayStation Move. This will appear on 130 million packages of Coke, Sprite and other associated drinks.

Kinect and PlayStation Move will be available in a variety of bundles - some of which may confuse consumers.

Sony has yet to announce a PlayStation Move bundle that includes all the peripherals required to take full advantage of the technology, unlike Microsoft's Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect.

I'm most interested in replaying Heavy Rain: Move Edition: the gameplay lends itself to an immersive motion control experience. Whether or not that justifies a further investment of £100 (including Move, Subcontroller, Eye Camera and charging station) is open to debate! However, as with Heavy Rain, many first and third-party games will receive downloadable patches to support Move.

Dead Space 2 might just be the killer application to entice enthusiast gamers, and there's the derivative Sports Champions for everyone else.

In view of the ongoing economic crisis, Nintendo Wii's out-of-the-box experience undercuts both rivals by a significant margin. Of the two new platforms competing for your cash: Move, a halfway house between Wii and Kinect, is the easier sell. You'll most likely already own games that are Move compatible. And I haven't touched on the subject of 3D!

Tempted by Kinect, Move or are you apathetic about gesture-based gaming?

Sunday 8 August 2010

Move like Michael Jackson

This November Sony will release a posthumous album containing 10 unreleased songs from the self-proclaimed King of Pop: Michael Jackson.

Frank DiLeo, who managed Jackson during the boom years from 1984 to 1989, told Rolling Stone magazine, "There are a couple of songs we recorded for the Bad album that we had to cut that are just sensational."

"Every time that [Jackson] recorded, he over-recorded. He would record anywhere from 20 to 30 songs for each album," former Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola told Rolling Stone last year. "Any of them could have been as big a hit as the ones that came out."

A spokesperson for the estate confirms the new record, chosen from more than 100 songs held in Jackson's archive, will be the first in a 10-project, seven-year deal worth $250 million that Jackson estate executors signed with Sony Music bosses in March.

Unsurprisingly interest surrounding the unreleased collaborations with Akon, Ne-Yo and remains undiminished since the superstar's death. has publicly decried Sony's decision to go ahead with a new album. Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, who co-produced Michael Jackson's Invincible (2001), is working on the project.

A brand new official video game will coincide with the album and includes support for Sony's PlayStation Move. Michael Jackson is no stranger to video games and signed a lucrative deal with Sega in the late 1980's, which culminated in a 'Moonwalker' movie tie-in, and various appearances in Sega arcade and home console franchises.

There are rumours that Sony is preparing extended editions of Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Is PlayStation Plus for you?

A few days ago I decided to knix the idea of investing in Microsoft's Kinect platform! An Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect will cost £249.99 (not including a new games library) and that's money I'd rather not spend during the current economic recession. After consolidating my video game console collection. Enter PlayStation Plus!

When Sony announced its plan to introduce a subscription add-on to its free PlayStation Network (PSN) service, I was reticent about signing up! How much added-value would there be for £39.99 per year? The marketing spiel suggests savings of up £200 on selected products, automatic downloads and exclusive betas and demos...

During the first month subscribers could pick up free copies of LittleBigPlanet and WipEout HD Fury! Many gamers, myself included, already own these games. However, they're both enticing AAA titles and suggest that Sony is serious about taking on Microsoft's Xbox Live in the mid-to-long-term.

In its current form PlayStation Plus is difficult to recommend as a "must-have". There's risk involved with any subscription; you can only play free games for as long as you're a member and there's a chasm between the US and European offering. For example US members received an extra 3 months free for signing up to the annual tarif.

4oD will be joining BBC iPlayer on the XMB in the coming months. Sony should consider its brilliant BRAVIA Internet Video as a PlayStation Plus exclusive! This should be in addition to cross-game chat, which has yet (if ever) to be announced.

I'm delighted with free PSOne games (PS3 and PSP compatible), exclusive content, and now toying with the idea of repurchasing a PSP! Despite having a love-hate relationship with Sony's portable gaming platform, PlayStation Plus makes it much more compelling.

The best is yet to come...

Monday 2 August 2010

Meet Steve The Robot

An amusing viral campaign for i-CAN's Freeview HD and catch-up TV receiver.

(View it larger on Youtube)