Monday 26 March 2018

Epic Games demos future of gaming with Star Wars

Star Wars has a storied history with gaming technology. From an Atari arcade tie-in for the original trilogy to the founding of Lucasfilm Games, which would become the defunct LucasArts.

For the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC), Epic Games teamed up with Nvidia and Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB for a fun Star Wars cinematic demo featuring Captain Phasma and First Order Stormtroopers created using an experimental code for Unreal Engine 4.

Tim Sweeney of Epic Games explains:

“Ray tracing is a rendering process typically only associated with high-end offline renderers and hours and hours of computer processing time, film-quality ray tracing in real-time is an Unreal Engine first. This is an exciting new development for the media and entertainment linear content worlds—and any markets that require photo-realistic visualization.”

Friday 23 March 2018

Build Light Cycles with LEGO Ideas TRON: Legacy

LEGO Ideas has unveiled an official Disney TRON: Legacy Light Cycle set including 3 minifigs featuring Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa) and Quorra (Olivia Wilde), complete with identity discs. It's as awesome as fans would hope.

The playset began life as a LEGO Ideas submission from the fine folks at BrickBros UK and the finished set captures the look and feel of the original movie in brick form. The Quorra minifig is especially cool. Deservedly, Drew and Tom got to review their upcoming set early courtesy of LEGO.

The last LEGO Ideas set I bought was Doctor Who featuring the Eleventh (Matt Smith) and Twelfth (Peter Capaldi) Doctors and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) in 2015. So, this will be an excellent addition to my desktop.

LEGO Ideas 21314 TRON: Legacy will be sold exclusively at LEGO stores and online (affiliate link) for £29.99 from 31st March.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Annihilation to be shown in UK cinemas

Director Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller Annihilation, currently streaming on Netflix in the UK, will be shown in selected cinemas later this month.

The director's follow-up to the acclaimed Ex Machina stars Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. You can read my spoiler-free review here.

To find out more and to book tickets visit Everyman.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kratos returns in God of War for PS4 this April

Sony has another PlayStation exclusive hit on its hands with the upcoming God of War for PS4 this April. Previews suggest first-party studio Santa Monica has outdone itself. So, in anticipation of the latest instalment in the franchise, here's my God of War 3 review for PS3, which I never got around to publishing on this blog, in all its gory glory...

God of War 3 is more Return of the Jedi than Return of the King. For gamers (myself included) who remember playing Greek myths on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, this is a wonderfully upscaled version of those ambitious 8-bit titles from the eighties.

Bayonetta, a darling of critics everywhere, left me cold [I've since become a huge fan in the intervening years and now own the original and Wii U sequel on Nintendo Switch]. Therefore, I was pinning my hopes on God of War 3 to reignite my thirst for the visceral hack and slash genre popularised by Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Golden Axe and Devil May Cry.

It may be worth pointing out that I've never played PlayStation exclusive God of War or its first sequel - something I plan to redress once the remastered God of War: Collection is released [Never did get around to it. Because Mass Effect trilogy.]. To use a filmic analogy: I was about to watch Return of the Jedi without ever seeing Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. However, I had it on good authority that God of War 3 could be played without any prior knowledge.

Olympian video games have enthralled me since Gift from the Gods graced the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 1984. Despite the generation gap, both Gift from the Gods and God of War 3 are epic revenge fantasies wrapped in the trappings of Greek mythology.

The player is plunged into the action as Kratos battles the undead to defend a female titan scaling Mount Olympus - much to the chagrin of the Gods. The frenetic pace, sweeping camera angles, aping Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and surround sound, induced a migraine and I was forced to put down the controller after only a few minutes of gameplay! This isn't a negative. It's symptomatic of an overwhelming opening sequence that the Clash of the Titans reboot would be envious of.

Death-dealing has never looked more picturesque than it does in God of War 3. The game's aesthetic is most reminiscent of BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic. To be honest, I'd, incorrectly, assumed that it was a BioWare release. It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see Kratos, himself, as a Sith Lord!

Much has been made of the visceral violence in God of War 3: from decapitating limbs to beheadings, in all of which you play a pivotal part. But, it's mostly operatic in nature and didn't disturb me as much as Resident Evil Code: Veronica - that game was the stuff of nightmares.

However, it's not exactly 'family-friendly' and I'd politely suggest thinking twice about playing this alongside a family game of Wii Sport Resorts! It's worth pointing out that amongst this melee, there's sexual content, too. The camera doesn't pan away, and you could find yourself fielding awkward questions from younger gamers.

This is the third act and has a satisfying conclusion, unlike most trilogies. For those of us who haven't played the previous instalments, there's now a compelling motivation to do so. But, I can't imagine that the franchise will end here. It's too lucrative and the PlayStation needs exclusives. However, I hope that the developers will allow Kratos to retire with dignity and serve up something fresh, exciting and worthy of the mantle.

By turns breathtaking and awe-inspiring, I was still left wondering if there could have been more imagination and less regurgitation applied to the development of such an auspicious title.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Constantine joins DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Constantine was a fun, if short-lived, series on NBC. Matt Ryan made the role his own and DCTV fans (myself included) were delighted when Constantine cameoed in Arrow season 4.

The character most recently returned in the midseason premiere of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, cementing the series' status as my favourite Arrow spin-off after its startling season 2 soft reboot into an unmissable time-travelling caper.

Matt Ryan is expected to become a cast regular for season 4. The CW has not announced a renewal, but there's every reason to assume it's a done deal. Good times!

Monday 19 March 2018

Indiana Jones 5 begins filming April 2019

Director Steven Spielberg is currently in Europe promoting the release of Ready Player One. During last night's Rakuten TV Empire Awards, Spielberg confirmed he'll begin shooting Indiana Jones 5 for Lucasfilm in the UK:

“It’s always worth the trip when I get to work with this deep bench of talent coming out of the UK. The actors, and the crew, the chippies, the sparks, the drivers — everybody who has helped me make my movies here, and will continue helping me make my movies here when I come back in April 2019 to make the fifth Indiana Jones movie right here.”

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the weakest instalment of the beloved matinee-inspired franchise. Here's hoping Spielberg can channel his blockbuster movie mojo and rejuvenate the iconic archaeologist at Disney.

Are you looking forward to new Indy adventures? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Annihilation is a hybrid house of horrors

Director Alex Garland's follow-up to his claustrophobic sci-fi masterpiece Ex Machina splices together DNA from Avatar, John Carpenter's The Thing, Apocalypse Now and Alien.

Annihilation is a controversial adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's award-winning novel, which I've yet to read so was free of any preconceptions. The controversy derives, for the most part, from Paramount's decision, in the wake of Mother!'s, directed by Darren Aronofsky, tepid box office, not to release the movie theatrically outside the US and China due to a poor test screening, and the director's reluctance to dilute this cerebral and profoundly ambiguous sci-fi thriller.

So, cinema's loss is Netflix's gain. Netflix completes a trifecta of streaming sci-fi movies day-one starting with The Cloverfield Paradox, Duncan Jones' misfiring passion project Mute and now Annihilation starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac.

Annihilation is Netflix's first bonafide sci-fi classic, which will be deconstructed, frame-by-frame, by cinephiles for decades to come. It's a puzzling sci-fi thriller paradox best enjoyed sans spoilers. So, in the service of that, I won't say too much. However, fellow Doctor Who fans may recognise an indirect nod to Tom Baker's classic gothic serial Horror of Fang Rock.

From Natalie Portman's always compelling central performance as Lena, a wife in search of answers as to what happened in the Shimmer to her soldier husband, played by Oscar Isaac, to a sense of wonder juxtaposed with brutal horror. Annihilation's nuanced images, poetic musings and evocative soundscapes will haunt you long after the end credits have finished rolling and for that, I applaud Alex Garland.

Annihilation earns a deserved place alongside Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in the Hollywood pantheon of thought-provoking filmmaking in an era dominated by bombastic multi-billion-dollar franchises. It’s available to stream on Netflix.

Saturday 17 March 2018

HBO releases new images from Westworld Season 2

Westworld season 2 starts on HBO and Sky Atlantic this April. HBO's released new promotional photos depicting returning characters including Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Teddy Flood (James Marsden) and William (Ed Harris).

The first season, with sweeping vistas worthy of an IMAX screen, captured my imagination in 2016. So much so, I've rewatched it twice.

Spoiler alert for folks who haven't watched season one of HBO's lavish sci-fi reboot. The second season picks up from the climatic first season finale with the self-aware androids running amock inside the theme park and the Delos corporation struggling to reassert control over its creations.

Westworld season 2 begins 22nd April on HBO and 23rd April on Sky Atlantic.

Friday 16 March 2018

Ready Player One sans Star Wars

Following director Steven Spielberg's surprise appearance at SXSW, and premiering Ready Player One to a gathered audience, Warner Bros. has released the final trailer. Dreamer.

Spielberg's upcoming movie is replete with infinite references to the geek galaxy of the eighties. However, the Oscar-winning director was unable to secure rights to include the granddaddy of them all. Star Wars. This I did not foresee, Padawan.

Spielberg has a storied history with the franchise. George Lucas, his friend and Indiana Jones collaborator, created the space opera and Amblin co-founder Kathleen Kennedy is Lucasfilm president at Disney.

"We couldn't get any Star Wars rights," Spielberg revealed at a press conference. "[We tried] very hard. They wouldn't give up the Star Wars rights."

“You could’ve called me on that one, Steve,” joked Rogue One actor Ben Mendelsohn, who stars as the big bad Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One. “I built the Death Star, I’m just saying.”

With a 29th March release, we're on the home stretch and I'm watching a collection of classic 1980s movies referenced in Ernest Cline's original book. From Ferris Bueller's Day Off to WarGames...

Thursday 15 March 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider released this September

Today Square Enix announced the final chapter in the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy to coincide with the live-action reboot starring Alica Vikander as Lara Croft in cinemas.

The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot came out of left field and was a darling of the critics and gamers alike. The first sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, marred at launch by an Xbox One timed exclusive controversy, built on that robust foundation in 2015 and expectations are high for the climactic instalment.

Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) provided the voice and motion capture reference for Lara Croft in the first two instalments. Hopefully, she's reprising the role for the third time.

A full reveal of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is scheduled for 27th April. In the meantime here's a teaser trailer.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider will be released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on 14th September. Pre-order from (affiliate link).

Wednesday 14 March 2018

"Why so serious, Wiseau?"

Last weekend I rewatched The LEGO Batman Movie on Sky Cinema and was struck by how cleverly it explores Batman's relationship with The Joker in stark contrast to the current live-action DC Comics cinematic universe at Warner Bros.

Coincidentally, Tommy Wiseau (The Room) has published an audition tape for The Joker online. Wiseau creepily distils several famous incarnations of Batman's ultimate nemesis.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

SNL's The Mos Eisley Five: A Star Wars Story

Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas 25th May. In anticipation of the upcoming Star Wars spin-off, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has produced a new skit as part of its Cut for Time digital series.

In the Star Wars skit JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens and upcoming Episode IX, introduces a first look at the summer 2019 movie The Mos Eisley Five: A Star Wars Story, starring Mikey Day, host Charles Barkley, and Kate McKinnon.

Friday 9 March 2018

Jon Favreau to write live-action Star Wars series

Actor-director Jon Favreau, who kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a decade ago with Iron Man, is executive producer and writer for Lucasfilm's upcoming Star Wars live-action series.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

Favreau is thrilled to be returning to the Star Wars galaxy: “If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

There has been a backlash, in the wake of the announcement, citing a lack of diversity. However, Favreau is an exciting choice and has been previously linked to the Star Wars sequel trilogy and spin-off movies. This is the guy who gave us Elf and an award-winning live-action adaptation of Disney's The Jungle Book.

The upcoming live-action series will be available exclusively on DisneyLife late 2019. Disney's streaming service was soft-launched in the UK in 2015 and is now available in Ireland before being rolled out internationally.

Favreau appears next in Solo: A Star Wars Story this May.

Thursday 8 March 2018

Star Wars: Episode IX will be John Williams' last

During a talk with Jim Svejda for KUSC Interviews, award-winning Hollywood composer John Williams hinted Star Wars: Episode IX, directed by JJ Abrams, will be his last for the space opera franchise.

“We know JJ Abrams is preparing Star Wars: Episode IX now, that I will hopefully do next year for him. I look forward to it. It will round out a series of nine. That will be quite enough for me."

Williams, most recently Oscar-nominated for The Last Jedi, has composed music for the original, prequel and sequel trilogies. Episode IX would be the culmination of George Lucas' original vision and a poignant bookend to a stellar body of work spanning over forty years.

Williams' symphonic sound is synonymous with the Star Wars franchise, but Michael Giacchino performed musical duties with aplomb for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story despite only having a month or so to write music after Alexandre Desplat departed the spin-off due to a scheduling conflict.

Fans can hear Williams' Han Solo theme in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story this May. Oscar nominee John Powell is composing the rest with a guitar-brass-infused score.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Explore strange new worlds in Lost in Space

Lost in Space should fill the void left by Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix this April.

Watch the first full trailer to see Will Robinson's extra-terrestrial Geth-like (Mass Effect) guardian - a far cry from the beloved 'bubble-headed booby' of the original sixties sci-fi series.

There's a palpable sense of wonder and discovery permeating Netflix's lavish reboot. Something absent from most Hollywood sci-fi franchises.

“Fans of the original show should know we maintain the core of what was special about that experience of watching that as a child,” series showrunner Zack Estrin said. “For new fans of the show, there’s a certain baggage associated with the title. ‘Oh, that’s that campy show from the ’60s,’ or, ‘That’s that movie from the ’90s that was… what it was.’ We are taking that core of an idea—the Robinson family is striving to hold together and survive in this incredible circumstance.”

Stream Lost in Space from 13th April only on Netflix.

Monday 5 March 2018

Play arcade classics with Ready Player One

In anticipation of director Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One releasing in cinemas this month. Fans can play arcade classics Joust, Tapper, Sinistar and Robotron: 2084 on the official website. More games are teased.

"The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger."

Ready Player One is in cinemas 29th March.

Saturday 3 March 2018

Warner Bros. reboots Logan's Run

Seventies sci-fi classic Logan's Run is getting a modern remake from director Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) and The Hunger Games screenwriter Peter Craig. This version of Logan’s Run will feature a woman in the lead role. Warner Bros. is hoping for another successful revival in the wake of Blade Runner 2049.

Like The Planet of the Apes (coincidentally also scored by Jerry Goldsmith), I saw the Logan's Run television series spin-off, written by Star Trek alum including Harlan Ellison, before seeing the theatrical original on rental home video in the early eighties. I wasn't prepared for its chilling dystopian depiction of a future foretelling mandatory euthanasia at the age of 30 (21 in the original novel) due to dwindling resources.

The original film centred on Logan (Michael York), a Sandman tasked with terminating runners evading 'renewal' by Carousel, who ultimately sympathises with the rebels and escapes with Jessica (Jenny Agutter). The movie's cliffhanger ending suggested further sequels, and I was disappointed to learn that none were made.

So, what do you think about a Logan's Run reboot with a female lead and who would you like to see in the titular role? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 2 March 2018

Detroit: Become Human arrives on PS4 this May

PlayStation exclusive film noir Heavy Rain (2010) remains one of my favourite games from last gen and I'm looking forward to David Cage and Quantic Dream's next opus. A neo-noir thriller 5 years in the making - it began life as a PS3 tech demo entitled "Kara".

Detroit: Become Human.

The latest PlayStation exclusive taps into the familiar trope of sentient artificial intelligence and its moral implications, most recently explored in AMC's Humans, HBO's Westworld and Blade Runner 2049.

“Detroit is by far the most ambitious title ever created by Quantic Dream,” said writer and director David Cage. “With this game, we wanted to push our limits by creating the most bending game we have ever made. Your actions have real and spectacular consequences.”

“Each story is almost as unique as your DNA,” added Cage. “It is the result of the choices you made — the minor ones and the important ones — because in Detroit, all choices matter.”

It remains to be seen whether it's more QuickTime (QT) events sans motion controllers, but I'm fine with that within the context of compelling character-driven choices and a branching storyline. It'll pass the time whilst waiting for CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077.

Detroit: Become Human is released on 25th May. Pre-order from Amazon. This is an affiliate link and as such, I may receive compensation for any referrals (at no extra cost to yourself).

Thursday 1 March 2018

Star Wars Rebels 90-minute series finale this March

The series finale of Star Wars Rebels is 5th March on Disney XD. After 4 thrilling critically-acclaimed seasons, the crew of the Ghost face their final challenge in an epic 90-minute special.

In A Fool's Hope - Ezra calls in every favour he can to rally together a ragtag group for a seemingly impossible fight against Governor Pryce and her Imperial forces.

In Family Reunion – and Farewell – Ezra and team take drastic action to free Lothal.

Star Wars Rebels quickly stepped out of the shadow of Cartoon Network's The Clone Wars and became a fan favourite filled with guest stars from the franchise's storied history. From James Earl Jones reprising the role of Darth Vader to Frank Oz as Yoda. Bringing back Grand Admiral Thrawn (Heir to the Empire) was an inspired move, and the Ghost can be seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

What will you miss about Star Wars Rebels? Let me know in the comments below.