Wednesday 31 October 2012

A long time ago in Disneyland...

George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm to Disney, for a cool $4.05 billion dollars, with the promise of a new Star Wars trilogy, set after Return of the Jedi, to begin in 2015. Place your bets on who will direct Episode VII. I'm backing JJ Abrams.

This is an unprecedented move for a studio that owns PIXAR (founded at Lucasfilm) and Marvel! However, the Mouse House has struggled to establish its own successful sci-fi IP: Mars Needs Moms and John Carter have fallen short of commercial expectations and lost Disney millions of dollars in the process.

What implications (if any) does this have for Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars titles? Marvel was instrumental in the success of Star Wars in 1977 and I'd be surprised if the franchise doesn't return to the fold with immediate effect.

In the wake of Avengers Assemble. Will we see Avengers vs. Jedi (AvJ)?

Monday 22 October 2012

Something stirred, something Alien…

This weekend I watched Prometheus on Blu-ray disc. Twice in quick succession - unprecedented for me - in an effort to collate my thoughts into something remotely coherent. Artistic ambition has returned to the Alien franchise on an epic scale.

I wholeheartedly agree with John Rivers' excellent review! For all its precarious narrative flaws. Prometheus remains utterly enthralling: a compelling collusion of cerebral and visceral thrills.

The Engineer (AKA Space Jockey) as alien Adonis taps into the mythological underpinnings (a reprise of Star Trek V with 2001: A Space Odyssey aspirations) wrapped around amorphous Alien DNA. I won't go into story specifics per se. But, was delighted to see some of the mysteries surrounding the derelict spacecraft (Alien) answered in a way that, selfishly, satiated my college conjectures. Dark Horse Comics for the win.

Damon Lindelof's (co-creator of Lost) pedigree for episodic television is unimpeachable. Yet, here there are too many characters for a two-hour multiplex pleaser. Cut out the Ensign Red contingency and you're left with a nuanced performance from Noomi Rapace, an ice maiden personified in Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender's scene stealing android. Frankly, Fassbender delivers one of the best acting performances in recent years. David's enigmatic introduction is director Ridley Scott's love-letter to silent filmmaking.

The ending is, arguably, anticlimactic when viewed in the context of a standalone film (a criticism that could be levelled at The Empire Strikes Back)! There's a nagging sense of a work-in-progress rushed to meet a studio-imposed summer deadline and the commercial necessity for a sequel. Presumably Prometheus will be followed by the search for Paradise? Make it so, Sir Ridley Scott.

It would be remiss of me, as a self-confessed Whovian, not to mention Dr Liz Shaw (Noomi Rapace)! Surely a Doctor Who in-joke and not coincidence?

From a technical standpoint. The Blu-ray disc is reference material and will reveal any weaknesses inherent in your home cinema setup. Therefore, it maybe worth digging out that old copy of Digital Video Essentials (DVE) on DVD before you can fully appreciate the deep focus photography captured using Carl Zeiss lenses.

Blu-ray disc with thanks @petehotchkiss.

Friday 19 October 2012

Dishonored: take a trip to the dark side

Dishonored, a steampunk fable to rival BioShock, is a macabre masterclass in open world gaming; eschewing the on-rails blockbuster thrills of Call of Duty (a guilty pleasure); favouring shadowy, supernatural, stealth and imagination!

Not for the squeamish. You play Corvo Attano, a bodyguard, who is framed for the death of Dunwall City's Empress. She must be avenged and her kidnapped daughter rescued.

Your decisions directly influence the narrative outcome in this first-person action adventure: do you sneak past enemies or kill everyone in the room and befall a plague of rats upon the city? The dark side is quicker, easier, more seductive...

Arkane has assembled a stellar cast of actors that includes Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, Carrie Fisher from the original Star Wars trilogy, Brad Dourif and, if I'm not mistaken, Game of Thrones' Lena Headey.

Dishonored is a love-letter to hardcore gamers seeking cerebral and visceral thrills, and should be discovered on your own terms. It would be remiss of me to say much more!

Arkane may have published the game of the year! A game in which, ironically for a bloodthirsty genre, no one has to die, but where's the fun in that, eh?

Tuesday 16 October 2012

New Xbox 360 dashboard rolls out!

For the past few months I've been beta testing the latest, subtle, iteration of dashboard, which starts rolling out to Xbox LIVE subscribers from today!

Here are the highlights:

Refreshed Xbox 360 Dashboard. We’ve updated the UI with a few things, including an updated layout with more tiles, a combined TV & Movies channel and, in the US, a Sports destination.

Internet Explorer for Xbox. With Internet Explorer on Xbox, you can easily find and view internet content on the biggest screen in the house, including HTML5 videos.

Recommendations and Ratings. Recommendations will allow you to discover new favorites, generated based on a number of variables including the content you previously viewed, what your friends are consuming and what is most relevant and popular with our Xbox community. You can now rate content yourself and also see Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Pinning. Pinning lets you personalize the dashboard by saving your favorite movies, TV shows, games, music, videos and websites right to the home screen. It’s as easy as opening an app or a favorite movie and clicking “pin.”

Xbox Video. Formerly called Zune Video Marketplace, Xbox Video offers hundreds of thousands of TV shows and movies for buying or renting in instant HD streaming.

Recent. Previously called Quick Play, the Recent view gives you a list of movies, games, apps or other types of content that you most recently accessed on the console.

Enhanced Search. The last Xbox LIVE update brought Bing voice search to Xbox so you could use voice to search for movies, TV shows, actors, directors and artists. This year we added genre search to the list, so now you can search for action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi. Bing voice search now includes results for video across the Web, including YouTube.

International Expansion of Voice Search. We’ve expanded our Kinect voice search capabilities to 9 new countries – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Ireland.

The dashboard update coincides with Xbox Music (a rebranded Zune). A streaming service not entirely catered towards Xbox LIVE members; unless you're prepared to shell out more money for a service that will be free on Android and iOS devices in 2013!

Xbox SmartGlass will be launched on October 26th for tablets, PCs and smartphones. This pits Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony head-to-head in the so-called second screen space during the holiday season. I'd argue Microsoft has already won the war...

Thursday 11 October 2012

Hasbro unveils Angry Birds Star Wars line

Amazon is taking pre-orders for Hasbro's Angry Birds Star Wars tie-in, ahead of the game's release this November, in time for Halloween.

The Pawtucket-based company has announced a range of products from toys to costumes. AT-AT Attack Battle Game (pictured) is all kinds of awesome.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Ashley Eckstein on Star Wars Reads Day!

Those fine folk at Geeks are Sexy interviewed Ashley Eckstein (The Clones Wars' Ahsoka Tano) during last weekend's inaugural Star Wars Reads Day!

Why is ‘Star Wars Reads Day’ important?

‘Star Wars Reads Day’ is important because the story of Star Wars is being told in so many different ways, not just on television. To me, it’s a story of hope, a story of good overcoming evil, and so to encourage that through reading, it’s just the perfect mash-up. It was really awesome to see so many kids today and to hear from so many of them that they love reading Star Wars books.

You can read the full interview with Ashley Eckstein here.

Monday 8 October 2012

Angry Birds Star Wars this November

Next month Rovio unleashes the power of Lucasfilm licensing in Angry Birds Star Wars!

The birds take the role of Rebel Alliance, and the pigs play, you guessed it, the evil Empire... Red bird is Luke Skywalker and the green pigs will be Stormtroopers lead by Darth Vader.

Hasbro will be announcing a range of branded toys and accessories including an Angry Birds Star Wars edition of Jenga for the holiday season.

Angry Birds Space and Bad Piggies were released this year to critical acclaim and topped the App Store around the world.

Is this a brand extension too far? Sound off in comments.

Friday 5 October 2012

50 years of 007

James Bond turns 50 today and the longest running film franchise in cinema history shows no sign of relenting to silverscreen upstarts! Even Harry Potter and Star Wars ran out of steam...

My Bond fandom began, like so many, watching the films on TV! An irresistible blend of action and romance - at its zenith in On Her Majesty's Secret Service - translated to innumerable car chases with Corgi tie-ins and Action Man firefights! Even Hasbro's Transformers toy line paid homage to the secret agent: Megatron's alternate mode was a Walther PPK. James Bond nurtured a love of fast cars and an aspiration to own one, myself.

There were the teenage years of apathy towards Ian Fleming's creation (Doctor Who and Star Wars suffered, too). I rediscovered Bond during a rerun of Moonraker in the mid 1990s! Suddenly, I was that wide-eyed child, waiting impatiently in the queue, at the Odeon, Exeter; Bond's going into space and I must have that ticket.

I had serious reservations regarding Adele's theme song for Skyfall (David Arnold isn't onboard due to London Olympics 2012)! But, within seconds of hearing the sweeping orchestrations, recalling John Barry's seminal soundtracks from my childhood, I was sold.

Local lads Muse submitted Supremacy, which interpolates familiar Bond motifs, yet Adele's soulfulness wins! What say you dear reader?

The last two decades delivered two brilliant Bond movies; GoldenEye and Casino Royale. After the nihilistic excesses of Quantum of Solace; Skyfall promises a return to form under the auspices of Sam Mendes (American Beauty).

Imagine a remake of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy), and starring Daniel Craig?

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Dalek Jack-O-Lantern

How cool and clever is this for Halloween? Forget the new Dalek paradigm! This is timely and all kinds of awesome.

Be sure to check back for further Halloween highlights throughout the month of October.