Thursday 28 November 2013

NOW TV Box gets 4oD

4oD is now available on Sky's NOW TV Box and can be downloaded, free, from the Roku Channel Store.

Gidon Katz, Director of NOW TV, welcomed the latest addition to its NOW TV Box catch-up bouquet, which includes BBC iPlayer and Demand 5.

"There is now even more to watch. The launch of 4oD means the NOW TV Box delivers an even bigger choice of on-demand TV," he stated.

"It’s available alongside flexible pay-as-you-go access to must-see sport, the latest movies you missed at the cinema and the TV shows everyone’s talking about."

Laurence Dawkin-Jones, Director of Commercial and Business Development at Channel 4, said the broadcaster is always looking for new ways to offer its content to viewers.

"Bringing 4oD on the NOW TV Box represents the latest device launch in a busy year for Channel 4 that has seen us extend our content reach to many new platforms," he stated.

It's worth noting NOW TV recently launched an Entertainment Pass for £4.99 per month. This includes Sky1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Disney Channel.

Friday 15 November 2013

R2-D2 returns to Star Wars

Bad Robot, JJ Abrams' production company, tweeted the return of R2-D2 in Star Wars: Episode VII!

The diminutive droid most recently appeared as space debris in Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Gravity: A Survival Odyssey

Ever since Sandra Bullock's breakthrough role in Demolition Man, as chirpy Lenina Huxley, I've hoped the Oscar-winning actress would return to the realm of blockbuster science fiction again.

In Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón's orbital thriller taking 3D to the nth degree, Sandra Bullock does just that and then some.

Director Alfonso Cuarón deftly drops the audience into spectacular 3D space with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (Solaris) at their career best as astronauts Dr Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski respectively. Trying to survive a downbeat predicament comparable to Alien, Silent Running and Solaris replete with lush mythological undertones.

There's serene beauty in the darkness of space. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki imbues this technological tour de force with beguiling and haunting imagery befitting the emotional resonance.

I'm not going to spoil the plot for readers. This is a movie best viewed on the biggest digital 3D screen. Dr Ryan Stone's breathless journey of survival will terrify, amuse and move you to tears.

A sumptuous slice of quintessential cinema? Quite possibly. Try not to blink.

Friday 8 November 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII gets release date

Save the date. Star Wars: Episode VII debuts in theatres on December 18, 2015.

“We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII,’ where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” Alan Horn, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement released Thursday.

The line starts here...

Thursday 7 November 2013

Resolution revolution transforms television!

Longtime readers already know I'm obsessed with sci-fi and technology! So, when Panasonic invited tech writers, including myself, to an exclusive event in Covent Garden. Resistance was futile.

The Japanese electronics giant unveiled its flagship 4K Ultra HD TV.

Smart VIERA TX-L65WT600, the world’s first Ultra HD TV with a 4K 50/60p input designed based on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2a specifications. Offering up to 60 frames per second 4K playback, the WT600 is the ultimate choice for consumers looking to access the next level in home entertainment, as well as professionals – such as those working in small TV studios – for whom picture quality is imperative.

At an eye-watering £5500. The WT600 is a future-proof investment for the home cinema enthusiast who won't accept comprise. A well-appointed television that embraces 3D for those with a penchant for Hollywood's current obsession with frothy optics.

James Cameron's Avatar remains the most successful use of 3D technology to date, and the director worked closely with Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory (PHL) to affect such startlingly imagery.

As is de rigeur, the television includes a comprehensive collection of catchup channels and social networking apps accessed with built-in Wi-Fi. Panasonic has a dedicated 4K channel (requiring a minimum broadband speed of 30Mbps) and Netflix is trialling Ultra HD streaming in the US. NOW TV is a notable omission due to a timed exclusive with Smart TV partner LG.

Users can create individual login profiles much like on a Mac, PC or PS3. Customising and curating their own Home Screen, and can be recognised using face and/or voice recognition via automatic pop-up camera. Thanks to a built-in dual HD tuner, owners will be able to watch two sources at once and can wirelessly stream to a companion device such as an iPad in another room.

Wisely, Panasonic hasn't lavished this model with form factor spoiling speakers. Most (if not all) home cinema systems will already include separate speakers (mine are KEF) and HDMI AV systems. It's all about the screen. And what a screen...

To suggest it's comparable to IMAX would not be marketing hyperbole. There are no image artifacts and it boasts the deepest black levels I've ever seen on a consumer product. This is a THX-certified 4K display, which can be calibrated using the included remote or companion app for Android and iOS devices.

If the thought of calibrating a television makes you squeamish: there are THX presets. However, I'd encourage experimentation; you can always switch back to default settings at anytime. For the record I calibrate televisions using Which? magazine's laboratory test results and DVE to set below black.

Blu-ray discs are upscaled to 4K and look fantastic (as evidenced by the photo of Megan Fox in Transformers). It's worth noting 'Remastered in 4K' Blu-ray discs are not native and the benefits of the higher resolution won't be fully realised until an industry-wide codec is agreed upon.

As a self-confessed geek. It would be remiss of me not to mention voice control!

Panasonic has included a voice recogniser, which looks like a Star Trek Communicator from the original series. You'll be able to issue voice commands in your best Captain Kirk impression. But, I was also reminded of Apple's Siri technology and what an Apple television might be like as envisaged by the late Steve Jobs...

Special thanks to @PanasonicUK and @Spreaditfast for making me feel so welcome. There was pizza for the win.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

JJ Abrams to take Star Wars back to the dark side

JJ Abrams, talking to The Times Magazine, wants to take Star Wars back to its grittier space western roots and reignite a sense of mystery and wonder (themes that run throughout the director's work).

"I loved how Star Wars had that sense of a world far beyond the borders of what you can see and have been told – it's one of the things it did so brilliantly.

"If you watch the first movie, you don't actually know exactly what the Empire is trying to do. They're going to rule by fear – but you don't know what their end game is.

"The beauty of that movie was that it was an unfamiliar world, and yet you wanted to see it expand and to see where it went."

Scriptwriter Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) has been replaced by JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan famously co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.