28 Jun 2013

You're Not Your Mother's Favourite Jonah, Jonah

Ok, I lied. There will be more science on Monday, I promise.

Last year, I listed some of the biggest butt monkies on TV, but I left one out because the show was new and I wasn't sure if it would be an on going thing. I was wrong, and this video proves it in beautiful simplicity. A butt monkey is the character whom everyone hates, towards whom every bit of blame and anguish is pushed, yet never seems to suffer any breakdown because of it. They are seemingly blissfully unaware that they are the hemorrhoid of the cast. And Veep has perhaps a new champion, in Jonah. Season one was merciless, and season two improved upon the perfection of the insult lobbed at this putz.

Loved it when she kicked him off the plane. Loved it.

Are We There Yet? Can We Be?

Courtesy of the European Southern Observatory
I'm not going to sugar coat it, yesterday's posts were short, rushed, and generally rubbish. There was a thing, and some stuff, and I wasn't able to put in my all. And science wise, despite my stated intention back in March to include more science related materials on the site, since then I've included less then I was before. This is entirely down to me being far lazier then I give myself credit for. So, today's posts hopefully will make up for the shortfall of "quality" from yesterday, and make up for my lax scientific output.

Exciting news from the ESO. Gliese 667C, one of a trinary star system located 22 light years away (that is literally within our stellar neighbourhood), had previously been confirmed to have three planets orbiting it, with one falling into the habitable zone. Now, a team of astronomers led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé of the University of Göttingen, Germany and Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, UK have combined the data of the Very Large Telescope with that from the HARPS in Chile, the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Magellan Telescopes, and announced that the system in fact has at least six, possibly seven planets. And most exciting is that three of these planets, all so called "Super-Earths," orbit within the habitable zone.

This is exciting for a number of reasons. First, it is the first observation of such a densely packed habitable zone anywhere in the universe. Our own solar system has three planets within the habitable zone (Venus, Earth and Mars), but only just. The continued exploration of extra-solar planetary systems continues to upend our previously conceived notions of what other star systems look like, and not only make our own 8 planet system look normal, but quite scrappy by comparison. Second, these are close. I mean, 22 light years might as well be 10,000 in terms of our ability to get there, but it's exciting that as we continue to look at stars that are right next door, the potential for planets that can sustain life is good news for both the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and for the future of humanity, and our life in the stars.

Third, Gliese 667 is a very active system. Three stars, C of which is a third of the mass of our own Sun, and the dimmest of the three. According to the press release, "Viewed from one of these newly found planets the two other suns would look like a pair of very bright stars visible in the daytime and at night they would provide as much illumination as the full Moon." So these stars are packed close to each other, meaning there is a lot of data our telescopes are taking in, and a lot of readings that could distract from getting a lock on these planets. That we were able to look into there, and sort out exactly what was what speaks to our continued advancement. We are so good at hunting for planets, I feel like A&E should make a reality TV show about it. Add to that, these are low mass planets they've found here, meaning it is even harder to spot when there is only one star, and a single planet. This team of astronomers needs to be congratulated for their work.

Now, when are we leaving?

Via the ESO.

[Opinon] - What Needs To Change In A Man Of Steel Sequel

I had low expectations going into Man of Steel, so I guess in that respect, my expectations were met: it was not a good film. This is, unfortunately, par for the course when it comes to Superman on the big screen, but Man of Steel was meant to be the film that changed all that, and would lead us into a larger world. Instead, it was just another in a long string of evidence that suggests either Superman doesn't work on screen (provably untrue considering some of the best versions of the character have appeared on TV), or that the sorts of people making these films don't understand how to make the character work (Richard Donner came the closest, and the failures of Superman '78 are largely pacing and technical stuff).

This past weekend saw a 65% drop in the box office for Zack Snyder's film, hardly the sort of performance that Warner Bros was hoping for when they greenlit a sequel a week before the movie opened, for release next year. Understand, thanks to $170 million in promotional agreements, Man of Steel didn't even need to be released to be profitable. But thanks to poisonous word of mouth, it will ultimately be nowhere near the huge blockbuster Warner Bros was hoping it would be, and is a rather tepid way to kick off their own shared universe of characters (which, at this point, I'm guessing will mostly just be Superman and Batman).

That they expect to be able to shoot, post and release a sequel within a year suggests to me that, despite Snyder's claims to the contrary, a script from him and David S. Goyer must already be in hand, and that this was all part of the plan. If MoS had tanked utterly in the first week (which, again, thanks to the promotional agreements, it couldn't have done), then the sequel would have been postponed, and Warners could still pretend like they intend to release a Justice League film in 2015. But a sequel will happen at this point, for better or worse. And considering how this one turned out, I'm betting worse.

But, we can hope for better. And for it to achieve the lofty ambition of "better," here are some things I feel the sequel must do, to turn the tide not only on this particular franchise, but on Superman's future in film. Hit the jump for my concerns, which includes spoilers for Man of Steel.

27 Jun 2013

You Had Me At Leslie Bibb

A spoof is a dangerous thing, nowadays. time was, when a spoof came out, you got an Airplane, or Naked Gun. Now, chances are you'll get something with either the word "scary," or the word "movie" in the title. So it is with apprehension that I post the trailer for Hell Baby, by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911 fame, and hope that it is actually funny. It stars Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Michael Ian Black and one half of Garfunkel and Oates, so at least they've went with actors who are actually funny, rather then just look good being stupid.

What Shall It Be, Reboot Or Death? Or... Death By Reboot? God, That Sounds Horrible

Comics can be tepid, repetitive things, especially when dealing with the Big Two. A never ending story line, and unwillingness to disrupt the status quo results in editorial decisions to "shake things up" or "approach the character from a new perspective." These are buzz phrases that mean nothing, because any attempt to go in a new direction is usually just a repeat of a previous attempt, and almost never has any lasting effect beyond six months or a year's worth of issues.

Kate Willaert understands this, and to make the process easier on the clearly overburdened editors of today's comics companies, has designed a simple Event Picker, to make the process just that much easier. Just print the wheel, and glue it to a lazy Susan, or dart board, and have at it. On her tumblr, she even has an interactive version you can try.

What is sad is the knowledge that editors probably already use something like this.

Via ComicsAlliance.

[Review] - Warehouse 13, Season 4 Episode 18, "Lost & Found"

Courtesy of Universal Cable Productions
Warehouse 13 is always at its best when having just stupid amounts of fun, and considering that it is a series about professional treasure hunters, a treasure hunt is a great way to bring that out. Even when it is overshadowed by something as joyless as cancer. I've noted many similarities between this latter half of season 4, and season 2, arguably the shows strongest period. And rounding out the season with a mad dash to uncover of the secrets of a long lost Warehouse, and unleashing a dastardly villain from the bronze sector does nothing to dissuade that feeling. The show is cribbing its own notes, but at least they are having fun while they do so.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that never expected angry smoke monster to become reoccurring genre trope.

26 Jun 2013

When I Spin In My Office Chair, All I Get Is Nauseous

Joey Shanks, a visual effects artist, has put together this lovely and hypnotising video of his easy to make Abrams-style Star Trek transporter effects. Using Christmas lights, and something that spins, usually an office chair or lazy Susan. I nearly drifted off watching the video, not because it was dull, but because it was so calming and tranquil, and just goes to show what you can achieve by randomly spinning things in your home and filming it.

Via Uproxx.

Don't Worry; We Won't

Now that Game of Thrones has ended, is there nothing to look forward to, only to have the scant few episodes we're given pass by us far too quickly, leaving us once again barren and gormless, adrift in the world of television until Justified returns in January?

Oh, right. Breaking Bad. Forgot.

Via Collider.

Richard Matheson Has Died

Richard Matheson, prolific author, screenwriter and horror icon, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. The details of his passing are unknown. He was 87. Matheson was to be presented with the Visionary Award at today's Saturn Awards, and the entire presentation will now be dedicated to him. His influence on the modern field of writers, especially genre writers, cannot be expressed. Over his 60 year career, Matheson's material, if not his name, is well known to the general public. Best known for his short format stories, in both prose and on the screen, including 14 episodes of the original Twilight Zone, such as the William Shatner episode Terror at 20,000 Feet, which shaped the modern horror landscape. He also contributed to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Star Trek, and originated the character of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Recently, his work had regained a focus in the modern culture, with I Am Legend, Real Steel, and The Box all being based on his work. Stephen King once said that Matheson was the author "who influenced me most as a writer," and dedicated his novel Cell to Matheson. His sheer amount of output means that it is rare for anyone who has ever shown an interest in writing genre materials not to have read, been wowed and humbled, and inspired by Matheson's work. Many of his collected editions fill my shelves.

The loss of Matheson all but brings a close to an age of literary giants, which included Asimov and Clarke, Heinlein and Bradbury. The torch, ever more then before, has truly been passed to the people who were inspired by them, the Kings and the Gaimans, who in turn are inspiring a new generation of rising authors. Doesn't make it any easier to watch that transition happen.

25 Jun 2013

Max Landis Knows What He's Talking About... At Length

Max Landis, writer of Chronicle, and son of director John Landis, knows him something about Superman. And knows how to vocalise those opinions for internet consumption. So it really shouldn't have been a surprise that he'd have a reaction to Man of Steel, and that his opinion of that film would be on par with what most people are saying about it, that it stinks. He delves further, saying that the bigger issues behind MoS are a problem in every superhero movie, specifically mentioning Avengers. It's a funny, but more importantly, intelligent and passionate response to the film, and worth a look.

Via Filmdrunk.

One Of The Few Jon Stewart Interviews Available On YouTube

Jon Stewart is currently in the Middle East, filming Rosewater, which he wrote based on the experiences of Maziar Bahari being held by Iranian forces in 2009. In his place, Jon Oliver is filling in back on The Daily Show, and is doing a great job, though I feel he hasn't quite found his own voice yet. He's got til September, so he's got plenty of time. Meanwhile, since Stewart was in the area, he stopped by the Egyptian equivalent of the Daily Show, Al Bernameg, or "The Program", hosted by Bassem Youssef, who has been a guest on the Daily Show many times, most recently just before Stewart left the show. And if nothing else, it goes to show that nothing eliminates borders, ethnicity, race, and anything else that keeps people apart, better then comedy.

Because we can all agree that laughing at dumb people is funny.

Via Uproxx.

Go Digital Or Go Dark

[Author's note; I am in no way affiliated with Kingston Family Fun World. This is not a sponsored post. I just care, is all]

I don't care about much. There are few things that I am willing to lend my name, and more importantly my money, to. Causes tend to be fashionable, and it is rare that one comes along that actually inspires real passion in me. The Tesla museum was one that moved me. This is another. To anyone not in South Eastern Ontario, this post may mean very little. Come back later, and maybe you'll find something more to your liking.

The Drive-in movie theatre on McAdoo Lane, Kingston Ontario, currently known under the banner of Kingston Family Fun World, has been there for 47 years. It is one of only 50-odd remaining in the whole of Canada. It has three screens, showing two movies on each screen every night during the summer, with the occasional all nighter. Time was, it was open between Victoria and Labour Days, but thanks to global warming, the season now falls anywhere between Easter and Halloween. And it's one of my favourite places in the world.

This may seem odd to you, considering all the other places there are in the world, but movies occupy that place in my heart where other people keep religion, or close personal relationships, or cats. I love movies, and I have seen many of them at the Kingston Drive-in over the years. It is no hyperbole to say that during the summer months, 90% of the films I see, I see in my car, with the soundtrack blasting out of my radio, and a mosquito net over the window. Currently, they use 35mm film projectors for all three screens. Due to the move in the industry towards almost exclusively delivering movies on digital, the future of the Drive-in, and many other independent theatres around the world, are in jeopardy. Because, despite the move, the equipment needed to convert film theatres into digital is enormously expensive. And the blockbusters that bring in the crowds are no longer being made available on 35mm. It is a case of convert, or die.

According to the Drive-in, the total cost of converting all three screens is over a quarter million dollars, for equipment and climatized rooms needed to operate the equipment, a staggering and crippling number for independent owners (more, they claim, then it cost to purchase and operate the three film projectors for the past 23 years). Chains like AMC or Cineplex can afford this cost, but privately run theatres cannot, and they are closing in heart breaking numbers (the North York Drive-in in Sharon, Ontario did not open this season after 58 years in operation). In an effort to continue to operate, the Drive-in has begun a charity campaign they are calling "Go Digital or Go Dark." It does exactly what it says on the tin. If the Drive-in is unable to raise the necessary funds to make the transition to digital, it will not open for the 2014 season. And that is unacceptable.

Their primary goal is to raise $80,000 towards the conversion of the main screen, a Goliath thing seen above, through community support. There is no overhead, and all donations will go towards the conversion. The hope is that support will exceed this amount, and work could begin on converting the other two screens. To incentivize the community (and businesses looking for advertising partners), packages have been made available, ranging from $10 to $2000, and offering a variety of movie passes, concession vouchers and passes for the go-karts, batting cages and mini putt that are also part of the Fun World park, for the second half of this season, and extending into the presumed next year. Donations are available online, or in person at a display within the concession building. I have made a donation already, and intend on continuing to donate whatever I can whenever I attend. It is the least I can do for a location that has provided me many happy memories.

My earliest of the Drive-in was back when it was the single, solitary main screen, looming over the Kingston skyline on top of McAdoo. The film was Disney's animated Jungle Book, though I cannot confirm that this memory is real, or cobbled together from a dozen such outings. I remember being curled up in the backseat of my parent's Buick, being lulled to sleep by whatever film was on second showing that night, in those days the sound coming from a talk-box mounted on a post next to the car. The posts are still there, but the talk-boxes are long gone, having been replaced by radio transmitters, and limiting the number of bug bites you need to fend off. I remember getting my driver's license, and going by myself for the first time, I can't remember to see what. I doesn't matter, really. I'll see anything once. And because of the schedule for first and second showings, I've seen many films a second or third time at the Drive-in. I make no complaints.

The movies blur together, but I remember are all the various Batmen I've seen on those screens. I recall seeing dinosaurs come back to life, and gods and heroes standing side by side, and Mel Gibson acting crazy, back when he got paid for that sort of thing. I've watched animation, action, comedy, everything. I've left the park in the early hours of the morning, and drained more then one battery keeping my radio going. Kingston is a place I've lived in, I've lived near, and lived far away from. But every time I'm there, and the nights are warm and the movies are playing, that's where I am. Drive-in's aren't some hold over from a bygone era, they are just another way to experience the wonder and joy that is going to the movies.

If you live in or near Kingston, and have gone to the Drive-in at any point in the last near half century, you should donate. If you've never went to the Drive-in, fix this. Bundle yourself up, take a blanket and a pillow, gather up the kids, or grab your special someone, or just go by yourself. Get yourself a slushie and some popcorn (or funnel cake, they have funnel cake now!), and settle in for a late night under the stars. What could be better then that?

And then donate. Help keep this wonderful place open. Because if it leaves, it's another sort of magic killed in the name of progress. And I think progress has killed more then it's fair share of magic, don't you?

Via Kingston Family Fun World. Donate here.

24 Jun 2013

Oh Yeah "Ooh, Aah", That's How It Always Starts

On the heels of pre-production starting back up on Jurassic Park 4, now with the far more realistic release date of 2015, comes the first major claim of knowing what the hell its about. There is no confirmation that this is true, is complete conjecture at this point, and will probably bare no relation to the final project (if there ever is one), considering that Colin Trevorrow is working with Spielberg on a rewrite of the script turned in by Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. According to JoBlo, that first draft of the script featured a fully armed and operational battle station... err, theme park.

According to their source:
"Jurassic Park 4, set in present day Isla Nublar, is now an actual theme park, as originally intended by John Hammond in the first film. It garners 10 million visitors per year and is completely safe - until it's not. The park itself is described as very Sea World-esque and includes an area called the Isla Nublar Lagoon. That means underwater dino's for the first time. No indication of what kind, but there's concept art showing one of the aquatic dino's, as part of a show, jumping out of the lagoon and eating a strung up great white shark like it was a fish for a dolphin at sea world."
This fits with the scouting mission Trevorrow took to Hawaii earlier this year, searching for Nublar locations. It also fits with the modern corporate culture - what company, in possession of patented genetic material, location, infrastructure and means wouldn't try to make the park work again after the bad air had cleared? Especially if it isn't InGen running things anymore, as I suspect it won't be. It also conforms to my suggestion that the best new dinosaur for the film wouldn't be a dinosaur at all, but an aquatic reptile such as Kronosaurs. Setting aside that the above description sounds a little too much like that a combination of one Jaws sequels and the Itchy and Scratchy Land episode of the Simpsons for anyone's comfort, I do think that expanding out of theropod serial killers is the wisest move they could make.

JoBlo goes on to claim, "this will feature "tamed" dino's. In fact, our source indicated that the usually menacing Velociraptors (which will finally be muzzled, along with the T-Rex - until they're not) will actually be used to help fight the threat, which begins in the form of a new dinosaur, not seen in any of the previous films (and not disclosed to us) shows to be much smarter than originally thought and is the main cause of havoc breaking out at the park."

I have no idea what "tamed dinos" means, though a further exploration of Grant's claims from JPIII that what John Hammond created were theme park monsters might be fun (and would give them an out for not including feathers). Why they would try to tame the infinitely troublesome and not very strong raptors rather then usually docile herbivore, like Hadrosaurs probably comes down a rule of cool sort of logic. The fact of the matter is, though, that it is very early days, and no details are certain at any level of production, except between Spielberg and Trevorrow. Details that I suspect it will be some time before we know. If this report from JoBlo is in any way accurate, or close to what the intention is for this new film, then I think they are off to a good start. However, Jurassic Park III sounded like a good idea too, and look how that turned out.

I will, however, pay money to see a movie where kids can ride a baby Triceratops. Or where Gallimimus pull rickshaws for cornmeal.

Via JoBlo.

Tony Stark To Pull More Iron Man Out Of His Ass

Courtesy of Comedy Central
At the end of last week, Joss Whedon appeared for the first time on the Colbert Report. The interview, which can bee seen here if you are American, here if you are Canadian, and somewhere I'm sure if you are neither (sorry), was a little awkward at first, but livened up some by the end. Colbert can get a bit flustered when around people he genuinely admires, and that was the vibe I was getting from this interview.

Whedon was there to promote Much Ado, which I still (bitterly) haven't seen, and showed a great clip involving lots of physical comedy form Amy Acker, something I was not expecting. But Colbert, quite naturally I think, managed to get in a question concerning Avengers 2. Whedon seemed uncomfortable with the question, but managed to cover himself with a joke (as is his way). His discomfort might have come from the fact that the interview aired Thursday night, and Friday morning it was officially announced that Robert Downey Jr had signed an extended agreement with Marvel and Disney, to appear as Tony Stark/Iron Man (it specifically mentions both, though if that was intentional or just par for the course is unknown) in Avengers 2, to be released in 2016, and Avengers 3, date TBD (though the smart money is 2019).

This is fine by me, and not that big a surprise. Iron Man 3 did promise Tony Stark would return, it was just a question of if RDJ would be playing him or not. But it wasn't likely that Disney would be getting rid of the biggest feather in their cap just yet. What the release doesn't mention is Iron Man 4, which I also quite like. Iron Man's story is over, and Marvel needs to move on to new properties, instead of blindly revisiting their biggest money makers. Make room for Doctor Strange, and leave Stark to the team-ups. Personally, I'd like to see Iron Man retired entirely. Stark can serve as a consultant to the Avengers, as was the original intention, and if they need a power suit, then Rhodey can get his moment in the sun.

Oh, and 49th happy birthday, Mr. Whedon. Please don't die anytime soon.

Via Den of Geek.

[Review] - Monsters University

Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios
Remember a few years back, there was a rumour that companies like Sony and DreamWorks were going to sue Pixar over the consistent quality of their product? Of late, that hasn't been a concern for the company that for a decade and a half was the embodiment of everything honest and good about animation. The history of Pixar can be divided pretty easily into two categories: before the Disney purchase, and after. Before the purchase, when all they had was a distribution deal with the House of Mouse, the quality of Pixar's film was never in question. The impending release was something you could count on, that you were guaranteed a solid film experience. And that made the other studios cringe, knowing that nothing they had could even approach the ten films Pixar released between 1995's Toy Story and 2009's Up.

I say Up is the dividing line, because it would have been the last original studio movie in production before the 2006 Disney purchase, which saw Disney take direct control over the Steve Jobs owned business, install Pixar head John Lassiter as Disney Animation head, and basically saw the Pixar dynamic take over the stale and stagnant Disney corporation. Or so we thought. Since the buy out, the seemingly autonomous studio (setting the standard for the Marvel and LucasFilm purchases) has produced four films: Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University. And if we're being honest here, Brave was Pixar in name only, having far more in common with a generic Disney product then anything approaching the care and consideration that Pixar shows for its ventures. But two sequels, a prequel and a knockoff. From a studio that had only produced one sequel in its existence before that. A studio that didn't feel the need to made followups based on merchandise revenues. That didn't have to trade on brand recognition in the titles, because everything that needed to be said was in the production credit.

They returned to the well yet again in Monsters U, and while I'm happy to say that the Pixar spark is alive and well in this feature, showing a marked improvement over the last two offerings, it lacks the heart and soul that the older Pixar films had. It would be, by any other studio's reckoning, a fantastic film, but Pixar films used to be judged at a higher standard, and by those increasingly outdated metrics, it is merely a very good film.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have an extra toe. Not here, of course.

21 Jun 2013

Finally, Chemistry Is Interesting

What better way to end a week then with something Muppety? A periodic table of Muppets, no less, put together by Mike BaBoon Designs.

According to BaBoon, "Each square represents a different character and indicates the primary Muppeteer(s) for that character, as well as the year and production in which the character made its debut. Borders align with hair/hat colour, background aligns with skin/fur colour, and colour of the abbreviated name represents nose colour (for characters with noses that is)."

I really have nothing else to add. Brilliant.

Via BaBoon Design.

Couldn't This Just Be Called Internet: The Movie

All it lacks are cats. Aside from that, The Lego Movie is pretty much designed to be as appealing as possible to the internet at large. With a voice cast that consists of Chris Pratt, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett (as Batman), Elizabeth Banks, and Nick "Axe Swanson" Offerman, any suggestion that the "adult swim" demographic isn't the target audience is just a bald faced lie.

Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to next February just that much more now that I've seen a peak of what the Lego Movie has in store. But the fact that, some decades after getting my first Lego set (a viking ship), a movie is coming out based off a Dutch toy brick is... both amazing and depressing in equal measures.

Hit the jump for the American version of the trailer, which is basically the same except Morgan Freeman explains the plot of the film in slow, clear language.

[Review] - Hannibal, Season 1

Courtesy of NBC.
"Are you a murderer, Doctor Lecter?"

From the beginning, I've been sceptical about Hannibal. From the announcement, to the various trailers, to the premier, I was apprehensive about the prospect of yet another revisitation to a character that had been stripped of any effect he might have once had. Was it worth it, I asked, to delve deeper into a character that been stripped of his menace, for the sake of brand recognition. I honestly believed that Hannibal Lecter had no surprises left in him.

What I forgot was Bryan Fuller. Fuller, whose particular blend of absurdity, dark humour and attention to detail, especially when it comes to character, have produced three of the best TV shows of the last fifteen years (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and Pushing Daisies). That Fuller, whose resume also includes Star Trek Voyager and Heroes, was the least likely choice to dive into the world created by Thomas Harris is probably put me off. What sort of Hannibal might Fuller create? What sort of places might be go?

As it turns out, I was wrong. And I am so very happy when I am wrong. Not only was I wrong, I was wrong in a fashion so spectacular, it made me giddy. After watching the first episode, I was elated and horrified. Elated, because the series was clearly built on a foundation of quality and masterful understanding. And horrified because I was watching it on NBC. The Enemy, when it comes to those previous mentioned adjectives. This was a show surely meant for the halls of prosperity, like HBO or AMC. What future could a show like Hannibal, which it is reasonable to declare the best current drama on network television, have? And, it turns out I was wrong, as NBC (who took their sweet time with it) have renewed Hannibal for a second season. Which means the viewers will be able to continue on this decent into madness.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which don't appreciate rudeness.

20 Jun 2013

Something Has Survived

It would appear that production is set to begin again on Jurassic Park 4, with Colin Trevorrow at the helm with a new intended release date of 2015. Steven Spielberg is apparently soon set to meet with the director to discuss plans for the long postponed continuation of the film series, which I've had thoughts about in the past.

But what I wanted to mention was the above tweet Trevorrow sent out, displaying his newly acquired, mint condition Kenner Jurassic Park toys. Whatever else happens with the film, I can at least say he has earned my respect in this regard: while I may think that the Palisades Muppet line are the greatest action figures ever made, the Kenner JP toys are my favourite.

I have the whole original figure set, including the second wave that made the faces look (slightly) more like the actors, but changed all the clothing colours, and gave them all non movie featured dino hatchlings (beige jacketed Grant with Lycaenops is pretty random). I have the Lost World figures too, as they were made to the same scale and quality (and complete absence of similarity to the actors they represented), but passed on the craptacular JPIII line, which were smaller, and had no soul.

I will say though, that I have only the figures and vehicles. For whatever reason, I was never really taken with the actual dinosaurs, probably because most of the came with some sort of battle damage. Luckily, in the years since, Papo has come out with a frigging amazing line of dino figures using the Jurassic Park models that compliment the figures quite well.

Treasure those figures sir. And when it comes time to merchandise your own film, do us collectors a favour and make sure the toys don't suck.

Via /Film.

Well, That Rules Him Out

The discussion of who will play the Dozenth Doctor now that Matt Smith has left Doctor Who just got one actor simpler, but goes no further towards explaining exactly who John Hurt will play in the 50th anniversary special. Hurt has been cast in Guillermo del Toro's TV series The Strain, reuniting him with his Hellboy director. Hurt will play a Van Helsing style character, Professor Abraham Setrakian, "a holocaust survivor who immigrated to the United States after World War II and now runs a pawn shop in Spanish Harlem."

When I read the novels, I remember thinking to myself that Hurt would have been perfect for the role, in the TV series that was the initial origin for the novels. Turns out that was pretty intentional, as del Toro and co writer Chuck Hogan had envisioned Hurt for the role from the beginning. Hurt joins a cast that includes House of Cards' Cory Stoll and LOST's Kevin Durand. The series, which will be run by LOST creator Carleton Cuse, will film in Toronto this fall, where del Toro filmed his upcoming Pacific Rim. The lesson, I guess, is that its good to keep things in the family.

What this means for Hurt's Doctor is yet to be seen, though I still maintain he's an aged version of Eight, at the end of a long and unseen regeneration cycle.

Via Collider.

[Review] - Warehouse 13, Season 4 Episode 17, "What Matters Most"

Courtesy of Universal Cable Productions
And now we have our Pete episode. Following last week's Jinx, and the week before that focusing on Myka. In the run up to the final two episodes each member of the team has been given a episode where they must confront an issue from their past. It's a fairly simple and obvious way to further character development, while still sticking to the ridged episode structure. And has succeeded in giving us some good episodes. Nothing special mind, but certainly of better quality then in the past. Playing it safe has the benefit of being safe, and you can assume that safe episodes won't be overly offensive.

But with Pete, Myka, Jinx and arguably Artie (considering where the season began) covered, that leaves only Claudia focus on next week. Except, I feel like we've already had that too.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that once blacked out and drew rude pictures all over the walls.

19 Jun 2013

Is It Wrong That I'm A Fan Of This Trend?

Via Buzzfeed.

I'm not entirely happy with my review of Man of Steel.

I stand by everything I said: it was a terrible film, and one I've only grown less happy with the more I've reflected on it. But there was so much more I wanted to go into with that review, to touch on how I feel it is truly a bad film, not just a bad Superman story (it is both in wild and spectacular ways). I feel it is unjust to judge it solely on it's failures as one, and not the other, and that is what I feel I've done in the review.

There was one thing that I mentioned only in passing, but really want to discuss. And I don't feel that it is a spoiler because it's obvious from the trailers, and the fact that its a superhero movie, there is going to be some damage to the city. But the film ends with the Daily Planet up and running as if nothing had happened, despite it being pretty close to ground zero of the Kryptonian attack. This bothered me as much as the other, bigger things that bothered me. Metropolis, from the damage sustained in that attack, is dead. It is an unlivable city. It's not just crippled or damaged, it is wrecked. It's New Orleans after Katrina, New Jersey after Sandy, San Francisco after 1906, London after the fires, and Winterfell after the Ironborn all rolled into one. No one is living in that city for years after that attack, let alone having a company up and running in the same building days later.

And other people agree with me, people who do this sort of thing for a living. Buzzfeed contacted Watson Technical Consulting, and asked them to price the damage caused by Zod and Superman. Their estimate, as you can see above: $750 billion. With a B. And that's just the physical damage to the city. They elaborate, saying "WTC estimates that, in the days after the attack, the known damage would already be stunning: 129,000 known killed, over 250,000 missing (most of whom would have also died), and nearly a million injured." That bottom number, the total cost of this event, is $2 trillion. It wouldn't be cost effective to even try to save that city, let alone having water and power up and running later that day. Even with Superman's help.

Last year, when Kinetic Analysis Group tallied the Avengers destruction, they brought the total to $160 billion (something I hope Captain America 2 makes reference to, considering Iron Man 3 didn't). I hate it when action films ignore all the damage caused in the events of the films, but rarely is it so blatant as in MoS (the nuclear bomb in Sum Of All Fears is a comparable example).

At one point Zod and Superman stand in the centre of the destruction, and under their feet is the flat, pulverised grey dust made from skyscrapers being atomised. It also means that, unavoidably, Superman breathed in vaporised people just then.

Via ComicsAlliance.

Hey, You're Troy McClure. I Remember You From Internet Videos Such As That Supercut Of Troy McClure

Yesterday, due to technical issues, I spent the day internetless. While this isn't an uncommon occurrence with me in a planned, "I've leaving the world behind for a while" sort of way, this unexpected banishment from the web happened when I was at work. Where the internet is my friend. Where it gets me through the day, and is required to do at least 70% of my day-to-day stuff.

Plus, it meant my Continuum review was delayed twenty four hours. And that just pissed me off, considering that the day before, I was late getting my Man of Steel review up (though that was due to my own failures as a human being. And latent festering rage). My OCD doesn't let me move on from stuff like that, and only increases the chances of me putting my fist through the screen of the useless brick of plastic and electricity sitting on my desk. I like order, dammit, and a sticking to a schedule.

What I needed was a palate cleanser, a fresh start. And like in all things, I found my answer in classic Simpsons material, specifically the mastery that was Troy McClure. Anyone who claims that in those early years, the Simpsons wasn't the smartest, funniest, most lasting comedic material of the twentieth century doesn't know what the fuck they are talking about.

I apologise for cussing just then. I'm still working through some things.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Continuum, Season 2 Episode 8, "Second Listen"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
Something I rarely discuss in these reviews is the CG on the show. Mostly because CG isn't a big component of the series, and is largely restricted to Kiera's suit and HUD. But infrequently, they'll break out a shot of the future skyline, or some impressive technology, as this episode began, following a flying car as it sweeps across the future scape. And I have to say, considering that the show is an original production from a Canadian cable network, that the quality of the CG impresses me. With lower budgets, the CG tends to be the cost saving kind (such as we saw in Primeval New World, which also had international backing), and can be cheesy and distracting. Maybe its because they use it so sparingly, or rarely try to render things they know they couldn't get away with, but weekly, Continuum looks very nice.

This is all a preface to the fact that Showcase, the originating network (which is also the origin of Lost Girl, and co-producer of Defiance) has wisely opted to renew Continuum for a third season. Across the board, this show is the best original thing Showcase has ever put their name to, and allowing the story to unfold for another year is good for them, ratings wise, and good for us, story wise. And as proof of this, this week we got a mythology rich episode, that dives straight into some of the sticker issues surrounding the time travel that is the crux of the series.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have a circle, a rhombus and a parakeet tattoo been their fingers.

18 Jun 2013

Boldy Finishing What No Man Had Finished Before

If there is one thing that Star Trek fans never do is give up. And while fan made films are nothing new, the rise of the internet and a new level of acceptance for all things geek have created the perfect environment for some truly spectacular attempts to keep the franchise going in a less then copyright approved way. Not that copyright stands in the internet's way on the best of days.

Star Trek Continues is from entrepreneur Steven Dengler and voice actor Vic Mignogna, and is an earnest attempt to continue the original series where it left off: with two years remaining on the five year mission. But it isn't just about telling new stories about the old character, but telling new stories using the old methods. Great length has been gone to to produce these episodes using the same production values, lighting and costumes to match the original series. The result is a pretty frightening capturing of that visceral feel the Original Series has, the feel that Dan Harmon described as recognisable out of the corner of your eye, in a crowded bar, with the TV on mute.

And considering the way things have turned for the reboot, we might be gald to have the original adventures continue, whichever way we can.

Via Bad Astonomy.

Veronica Mars Cast Is Excited About Veronica Mars Film

The Veronica Mars kickstarted film is getting nearer and nearer to becoming a real thing, and as part of that, Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell are shoring up the cast. As you can see above, Party Down's Ryan Hansen is pretty excited about the whole thing. The returning cast thus far includes:

Bell as Veronica, Enrico Colantoni as Keith, Percy Daggs III as Wallace, Tina Majorino as Mac, Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls, Ryan Hansen as Dick, Krysten Ritter as Gia, Francis Capra as Weevil, Daran Norris as Cliff (the family lawyer), and Chris Lowell as Piz (the boyfriend from college). So, pretty much everyone from the series that didn't die will put in at least some face time in the big screen followup.

At least they aren't doing things by half measures.

Via Uproxx.

17 Jun 2013

Finally, Some Things I Can Look Forward To

Coming off the dull thud that was Man of Steel, it's nice to speak about things I've got high expectations for. And both (technically) come form the House of Mouse.

First up, speaking with Empire magazine, Joss Whedon said this:
“Everyone is going to be looking for the Loki-Hulk smash moment and you’ll be looking for [a quim moment]. First of all, imitating what I did before is the surest way to do it not as well. Second of all, Loki’s not there to say those terrible things. Although I do think we should bring the word back. Not as an insult, it’s just a nice word. There aren’t a lot of nice words for it. The ones in common usage are either like sort of offensive, or just sort of lame… it’s just not good. Quim! What a lovely word for a lovely thing.”
Setting aside the fact that Whedon pretty organically worked in his support of a new alternative for women's underbusiness in the middle of a discussion of superhero sequels, the rest of it is all good news. That he recognises just repeating the same things that made the first one success won't make the second one the same makes him more self aware then 90% of Hollywood. But more importantly, Loki won't be appearing in the Avengers sequel.

Late last year, I wrote a brief article on why Loki shouldn't appear in any further Marvel films. I boiled down to: the more he's used, the less effective he is in the role. Ideally, his appearance in Thor: the Dark World should be his last. Either Thor should kill him, as per his threat in the trailer, or he should sacrifice himself to save Thor, thus completing his redemption arc. When I made suggestions for character casting in Thor 3, I did so specifically with Loki having died or otherwise removed in mind. That Loki's absence would set up the motivation for the third film's villain (which ideally would be the Enchantress).

Elsewhere (to Bleeding Cool), Whedon confirmed that none of the Guardians of the Galaxy would be appearing in the Avengers 2, saying "We’re following Guardians at Shepperton [Studios, with Avengers 2] but we won’t be swapping cast members. Every movie is its own thing and has to be. Unless I take a lot of peyote and write a very different draft… and I’m not ruling that out." Which supports my theory that Marvel, in casting Glenn Close and John C. Reilly as Nova Corps officers, is attempting to establish a shared universe in space with the Guardians film, to mirror the SHIELD universe established on Earth in the Avengers films. It doesn't confirm this theory, but I feel like I've got this one right (it had to happen eventually).

In other news, The Muppets sequel, currently in post production (that was fast) has been renamed... again. The Muppets Sequel became The Muppets... Again, and is now Muppets Most Wanted. Personally, I feel that this new change is a little too commercial, a little too safe. The snide, sarcastic tone of the Again title I felt was perfectly fitting to the Muppets in terms of tone. This new one, of course, is more reflective of the plot, and will no doubt fit in well on my shelf next to the likes of Takes Manhattan and From Space.

Via the Mary Sue, /Film and Collider.

Conversations With A Two Year Old Distracts Me From Man Of Steel

My Man of Steel review was late getting up, because I had a hard time organising my thoughts, and still left out about half of what I wanted to say (read: rant). And I was kind of in a funk all weekend after seeing it anyway, so I haven't put a lot of thought into my posts for today. Expect very little.

Conversations With My 2 Year Old, As Reenacted With A Full Grown Man might be the best thing I've seen on the internet in a while. No doubt you've seen them, but I'm posting the most recent episode anyway. Because it's going to be that sort of day.

[Review] - Man Of Steel

Courtesy of Warner Bros
Since the announcement of Man of Steel, I've been... pessimistic. This was only reasonable, considering the cinematic history of the Superman character is spotty at best. And with each announcement, I was prone less and less to raising my hopes. That being said, I did go into Man of Steel with hope in my heart. I actually said aloud, as the lights dimmed, "Please impress me." I wanted to be blown away, to have every snide thing I've said over the last year mixed in with a daily recommended dosage of crow and shoved in my mouth. And while the claim many are making that Man of Steel is the best Superman movie ever made is technically true, that bar is set so low as to not actually be a comment on the quality of this film.

What is a comment on the quality of this film is this: visually and technically, Man of Steel succeeds over the previous entries through a temporal quirk; this stuff wasn't possible before, and therefore this movie looks better then the rest. But in terms of the stuff that matters, like the script, and the direction, and the characters, Man of Steel is just another passable entry, buoyed by a few clever moments, but dragged down by gross misunderstanding and an unsubtle amount of shame.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that

14 Jun 2013

At Least He's Wearing His Underwear On the Outside, Like A Sensible Kryptonian

My local cinematoriums are all being assholes and have refused to release Much Ado About Nothing anywhere near me this weekend (they've got a half dozen different versions of Man of Steel, After Earth despite no one going to see it, and something called Mud, but no Whedonesque Shakespeare. Must be communists). So, I'll probably be seeing Man of Steel. And despite goodish reviews, I'm still going into it with as low an expectation as you can get.

And it gives me a reasonable tangent to post this great reedit the hub did of scenes from Superman: The Animated Series, to match the trailers for Man of Steel. Rather then just put the trailer dialogue over the footage like some internet goon, they brought back all the original voice actors to read the Man of Steel lines. So returning are Tim Daly, Dana Delany, Mike Farrell, and going the best job of any of them, Christopher McDonald as Jor-El, giving a great reading of the Jor-El monologue. It's a fun dub, and a reminder that despite S:TAS being nowhere near as good as Batman:TAS, it's still one of the better versions of Superman out there.

But I'm still bitter about not being able to see Much Ado.

Via ComicsAlliance.

Expect Lara Croft To Develop An Addiction To Magic, Become Possessed By Eggs

Marti Noxon has been hired to write the screenplay for the Tomb Raider film reboot, ostensibly based off the successful and popular rebooted game. I have mixed feelings about this. I have nothing against her personally, but Noxon is in certain groups a polarising figure, and is largely (fairly or not) blamed for the swift downturn in quality during Buffy season 6 (while Joss focused on developing Firefly). Since her Buffy days, Noxon has been a producer on Mad Men, Private Practise, Glee and has written for them all. I cannot speak to the quality of these particular episodes, since these three shows (and purely by coincidence, pretty much every other show on her filmography) are ones I cannot stand to watch. That is not a judgement against her, its a judgement against those particular shows, and possible proof that we simply have incompatible tastes in fiction.

What makes me uneasy is that, film wise, Noxon has written only the scripts for I Am Number Four and the Fright Night remake. Those were not good films. By any stretch of the imagination. That does not inspire confidence in her potential Tomb Raider film (once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is an enemy action), especially now that the Tomb Raider franchise has shrugged off the thick vernier of cheese cake, and might actually have something of substance to add to the modern culture. What is nice to see, for the second time in a row, is a female writer being given control over the Lara Croft character (following Rhianna Pratchett on the game). And any movement towards a grounded, complex, human Lara Croft rather then one intended to cause pre-teens to salivate is a good move.

A hollow, cynical person might suggest that the push for a new Tomb Raider film is an attempt to cash in on the "warrior woman" wave that has gripped the movie studios, following the Hunger Games and Brave, and that is exactly what I will do. Because I'm a hollow, cynical person. But, at least that is a far and away better reason to make a Tomb Raider movie then the reason the Angelina Jolie movies exist, which was pretty much just "boobs" (a similar "legs" variation is the best explanation for the continued existence of the Resident Evil films).

I wish and hope for the best from the script and the film, and considering that Noxon has also been hired by Pixar to write an as of yet undisclosed film, I hope her future output is better then her prior examples. But, as with most things in life, I'm not going to get my hopes too high. That's just good sense.

Via Collider.

[List] - 5 Things To Look Forward To In Game Of Thrones

So... how are we doing? Feeling better? No, well, it gets better. Except that it doesn't. The Song of Ice and Fire, aka Game of Thrones, is one c*ntpunt after another, and The Red Wedding is just one of many opportunities that George R.R. Martin took to carve another piece off the the reader's (and now the viewer's) soul. I've fairly certain the novel and TV series are a really expensive way of teaching people how to become cold, heartless monsters, incapable of love by creating a Pavlovian expectation that any sign of happiness will lead to dismemberment. Or, maybe they're just quality examples of fiction that remind us that not everything has a happy ending. Or middle. Or beginning, really.

And after three seasons, the show has only scratched the surface of Martin's world. The producers have said that the series as a whole might be close to half over, though my own estimates suggest they might need closer to 120 hours in total. But that's the far future. In the near future, we still have (slightly less then) half of Storm of Swords to get through, in the form of season 4. George R.R. Martin has confirmed that casting has begun on several new characters, to replace those we've lost. Appearing next year will be the Magnar of Thenn, Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martell (personally, I'm surprised at Mace, considering how inflated the role of Olenna Tyrell became on the show as compared to the novels. I was certain the producers had merged the role of Mace into her). If you haven't read the books, these names mean nothing. And that's fine, you don't need to know them yet. All you need to know is that, for every moment of blinding agony, there are plenty of things to look forward to, in season four and beyond. And these are just a few of them.

Hit the jump for the list, which mentions several general things from the novels, but has made careful attention not to include specific spoilers about what is to come. Independent research into anything I discuss would, however, result in immediate spoilers, so don't do that. Spoilers from season 3, however, do exist below.

13 Jun 2013

I Suddenly Want To See An All Female Russian Version Of Star Wars

Every since it premiered at Sundance, I've been looking forward to In A World... The positive buzz around it is one thing, but voice acting and voice overs are of a particular interest to me. That, and Lake Bell is a fiendishly funny actress, and this being her directorial and writing debuts only furthers the interest. Now there is a trailer to get excited over, and based on these couple minutes, I'm very excited by what I see. Aside from the cast (which includes Nick "Axe Swanson" Offerman, and a lot of Bell's Children's Hospital cast mates), what impressed me most is Bell's own vocal range. That is some impressive mimicry.

The film opens in limited release on August 9th, which probably means I'll be waiting until it's out on DVD before I can see it. Joy.

To Investigate The Eerie Noise, Turn To Page 41; To Die Suddenly From A Weasel Attack, Turn To Page 13.

Courtesy of Bantam Books

I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. And all the off market, not copyrighted knockoffs. Even the Choose Your Own Goosebumps were decent. The illusion that the reader was influencing the narrative no doubt had an effect on my developing mind, and is probably responsible for my affection for fiction that plays with the nature of the medium. Also, my preoccupation for sudden and inexplicable deaths. And, if I'm being honest, probably more then a few personal fetishes. They were influential books, is what I'm driving at.

And now they will be a movie, somehow. I don't know how. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Fox will have all screen rights to the property and will be able to adapt it for multiple platforms." That... doesn't explain things. If the desire is to tell a story, in which the characters experience multiple plots, then that's as simple as involving time travel or some sort of mystical undo button. If the desire is to have the audience experience multiple plots, that's a harder nut to crack, and only really attempted by the Clue film, which had multiple endings attached and distributed randomly. If the audience is expected to have control, I'd say the properties would work best as a video game, in the vein of Mass Effect's decision engine, where each choice builds and builds towards a resolution. Because the books weren't just about twist or multiple endings, it was about making decisions all along. And something like that seems like it would work more as a smartphone app or interactive web presence, rather then a complete film.

Or, you know, they could just reprint the books with more modern covers. I suspect that would work even better.

Via Collider.

[Review] - Warehouse 13, Season 4 Episode 16, "Runaway"

Courtesy of Universal Cable Productions
With four episodes left in the season, now would be a good time to point out that there has been next to no development on the season arc thus far. The mid-season premier introduced James Marsters and his ex-wife played by Polly Walker. She popped up again, seemingly without purpose, in the horse racing episode, where she showed a keen interest in Claudia (might this have something to do with Claudia's eventual guardianship over the Warehouse, which we were reminded of last week). Beyond these two brief appearances, there have been no further developments. In fact, there has been no establishment of an arc this season at all. No looming big bad, no on-going mystery. Just stand alone stories, and lots of character development.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that never car-lava surf without a helmet. Safety first, after all.

12 Jun 2013

It Is Undoubtedly A Trap

Jeez, I'm on a role. First I put Sony in it's place (quiet), and then Peter Jackson and the Warner Bros marketing department. On Monday, with the release of the first teaser poster for Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I said that the only way this campaign will be both 1) successful and b) last until December would be if they showed the dragon. They went hot and heavy with Gollum the first time around, despite the fact he was only in the film for 13 minutes. Smaug is the Gollum of the second feature (the Necromancer will be the hook for the third, mark my words). He needs to be revealed now, and get his dragony goodness out there for everyone to see. Dragons, if HBO's rating are accurate, are hot right now (you see what I did there). Low and behold, the first teaser trailer for H:DoS is released, and here be dragons. And lots of Legolas. And Evangeline Lilly doing an accent (I won't guess which she's trying to do). And the greasy looking Bard. And Lee Pace's eyebrows.

Over all, the trailer is structured pretty identically to the first trailer for Unexpected Journey. Right down to the villain reveal after the titles. But I have two problems with it. First, it is far too focused on the action components of the film, resulting in the trailer finishing with three identical CG rag dolls jumping into the air and preparing to strike. Same damned move, three different characters. It's lazy marketing, and distracts me. Second, the CGI looks... rough. We can blame Peter Jackson for a lot, and one of those things is the overuse of CGI in films (the Lord of the Rings trilogy made heavy use of CG fashionable and cheaper). He took this to George Lucas levels in the first part of the Hobbit, to the point where I'm certain as much of the film was made on green screen as it was filmed on location, if not more. And it doesn't appear that the second part will be any different. Which would be fine, if it looked good. Many will say it's still early days, and the CG won't be finished until November. But what is rendered already won't be replaced, only finessed. So the crappy physics, the apparent lack of bones in CG characters, and the unrealistic movements of rendered figures will all still be there. When it transitions from a real person to a digital version, it's not only apparent, it's distractingly obvious.

I've said all along that the first part will be the weakest of the three, because the least amount of stuff happens in that section. Part two will have Stephen Fry and dragons, and part three will have a massive War of Five Armies. So I'm optimistic that from a story telling perspective, Smaug will be an improvement. But from the looks of things, the weakness in the film making will all still be on show.

Also, I was not expecting Smaug's design to look like a pike.

Sony Wises Opts Not To Let the PS4 Suck

Just Monday I explained, in no flattering terms, my biggest problems with the push towards a new generation of gaming console: the focus isn't on the gaming, and hasn't been for a while now. The PS3 has a dozen menus that I've never needed to go near, because the only commands I need are "Play Game" and "Shut System Down." Everything else is fashion or ego. Turns out, this might just be a Microsoft problem.

Happily, I can state that Sony took to heart each of my complaints, complaints I feel are common among gamers, and I am muchly pleased with their E3 announcements of the PS4 specs. Addressing my specific concerns, the PS4 will not require an internet connection (updates will presumably still be possible via USB stick). It will not authenticate games, and what is on the disc is what is on the disc. There will be no restrictions on used or rented games. Those seeking to play multiplayer games online will have to pay for a PlaystationPlus Account (existing accounts will carry over), but that's something that will never be an issue for me. There was no word on storage size, though one assumes it will be close to Microsoft's announced 500 GB (the top PS3 size is 320 GB, though a 500 GB Super Slim model was produced). And the price tag, $399, is a full $100 cheaper then Microsoft's Alienation Box. Both systems will be released in the late fall, to directly compete in the holiday market, and one assumes Sony will hand Microsoft it's own ass.

It appears my earlier complaints might have just been complaints against Microsoft. Because from this announcement, it seems to me that Sony is still interested in making a gaming system, rather then a Motherbox. The focus, despite agreements with Netflix and Gaikai, is on gaming. And they have created as close to a modern system that conforms to my ideal: plug the system into the wall, put the game in the system, play.

And I kind of dig that it looks like the PS2.

Via Uproxx and PC Magazine.

[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Finale Episode 10, "Mhysa"

I was talking with someone the other day, and they said that the first and last episodes of each season of Game of Thrones are the worst of each year. I wouldn't say worst, but certainly the least effective. Because the premiers and finales are about positioning. They are fragmented, tend to check in on every plot thread, and rarely have time to dig into actual character conflict. The finales have it so much worse, because they have to follow the Event Episodes, and Mhysa may have gotten the worst of it, having to come down off the high that was the Red Wedding. That being said, it wasn't a bad episode. It just had to be a lot of things, and it did those lot of those things well.

Hit the jump for the year's final review, which contains spoilers that also don't know why there is a 'g' in 'night.'

11 Jun 2013

This Halloween, We'll All Be Batman

E3 has yielded the first game play trailer for the forthcoming Batman Arkham Origins. This footage is much anticipated, as everyone is eager to see how Warner Bros Montreal has fared in terms of development against the good folks at Rockstar, who created the original two games. And the good news is that the footage doesn't look that different at all. Which is the best of all possible outcomes. Arkham Asylum was practically perfect, and City did little to mess with the game play. Origins looks to have wisely opted to not to try their own thing, and stuck with what works. Though the crime scene reconstruction mode looks fun.

Elsewhere, I'm happy to see Deathstroke and Deadshot and Black Mask in the mix, but a little disappointed to see the Joker yet again. If there is one flaw to the franchise that is Batman, its the belief that the Joker always has to be involved.

I guess, come Rockstar's City followup, that won't be an issue.

Just Like In Real Life, I Have No Idea What Is Happening In Congress

The Congress is the new film, partially animated, from Ari Folman. Starring Robin Wright, who most recently impressed the hell out of me in House of Cards, stars as herself, who sells the rights to herself to a movie studio, headed by Danny Husten. This involves a complete digital scan being made, as well as a memory download. Then... things become a cartoon, and I loose track of sense and reason. Which I suspect is the point. Either way, it looks interesting (I love movies like Cold Souls or Eternal Sunshine, that play with the concept of self). The film also stars Harvey Keitel.

[Review] - Continuum, Season 2 Episode 7, "Second Degree"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
The disappointing nature of last week's episode was nothing more then a pot hole. A rare divot, which caused the show to lerch wildly, before regaining control with the wonderful Second Degree. As I said last week, with several important revelations occurring that would have a long lasting impact on the nature of the series, the overall low quality was disappointing. This episode built on those revelations, and delivered a whole episode up to snuff with what we've come to expect.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have spent a lot more time then that looking at pictures of boats.

10 Jun 2013

Talk About Making A Mountain Out Of A Dragon Hill

It's not as iconic an image as Gandalf standing in the Shire, but as the first teaser poster for The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug, it's pretty good. What works against the PR team Warners has prepping to barrage us with Hobbit stuff for the next six months, is that the focus of the next film is on the dragon, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Except they can't show the dragon in the campaign, because what Smaug looks like is being kept secret. As a surprise. Because that is important, apparently. Because that, after four marathon length films, is what will get people in the seats. The desire to see what the dragon looks like.

Warners, and Peter Jackson: secrets and spoilers aren't as important as you've been lead to believe. You want to get butts in the seats, especially those who thought An Unexpected Party was a bit lackluster? Put the bloody dragon front and centre on every damned poster and trailer between now and December, and you'll pack them in. Don't be cagey, be bold. Buck the trend, and show every other secret obsessed studio that not every movie is Psycho.

Via Collider.

Luther Returns

I'm plum pickled about this. BBC One has announced that series 3 of Luther will air in July (September on BBC America), returning to our screens Niel Cross' tense psychological thriller, and the hulking Goliath that is Idris Elba's John Luther. And more then that, Ruth Wilson returns as Alice, with a fab new hairdo.

The new series will consist of four episodes, and I will do my level best to review them all here (July is always a funky time in terms of my schedule). Returning with Elba and Wilson are Warren Brown, Michael Smiley, and Dermot Crowley as Luther's workmates, and new to the cast is Sienna Guillory as Mary Day, a potential love interest (neither the announcement or the trailer make mention of last series' surrogate daughter, Jenny).

The trailer shows John dangling at least one person over a long drop. Looks like it'll be business as usual then.

Via Metro (and my mother, for the heads up).

E3, The Next Generation Of Consoles And My Apathy

The PS3 was released in 2006. I bought mine, second hand, last summer. To say I am a late adopter is an understatement. I am a casual gamer at best, and usually during the summer months when 1) there isn't anything on TV, and 2) I'm on holidays. It takes a lot to get me to sit down, day after day, for long stretches, to play a game all the way through (it's happened twice in the last year, with Lollipop Chainsaw, and recently with the Saints Row games).

But I've always been a loyal console gamer. Atari, Nintendo, SuperNES, 64, then I made the jump to the Playstation, and the PS2. And they all did what I wanted them to do: play games. That's all I wanted from them. Buy a game, put it in the machine, play it, turn it off, rinse, repeat. If I wanted to play with someone else (which I rarely did) I invited a friend over. Or popped the cartridge in my pocket and hustled myself over to their house (a SuperNES buddy of mine and I had no duplicate games between us, making the arrangement equally beneficial). And I've still got each and every one of those consoles, in fine working order. And if I'm really itching to sit down and play a game, I'm more likely to load Super Mario Bros. 3 then any of the Uncharted titles.

What pushed me over the edge, what broke me down and convinced me to finally get a PS3 was what always turns my head: Batman. I wanted very much so to play the Arkham games, and it really was worth it. Not worth the whole price of a new system mind, but what I got mine for previously played was what I considered acceptable. That was as much as I was willing to put into it, and marked the first time I've bought a second hand system. Second hand games, I've been buying since I picked up Donkey Kong Country 2 at half off. They're as much a part of gaming as the actual gaming. Wait long enough, I've always said, and everything is $20. Be it at HMV or Best Buy into the discount bin, be it after being rebranded a "classic," or be it at EB with a yellow sticker. I've never been one to run out and buy a game on release day, having the self restraint to wait the months out until depreciation kicks in, a tactic that comes in handy now, having to wait a year or more for the "Game of the Year" or "Complete" editions, which include DLC on disc (my collection is about half and half in terms of bought second hand or initial).

My PS3 isn't connected to the internet, nor will it ever be. If I sit down to play the game, I don't care how many trophy's I have compared to my neighbour, or how my melee skills match up against some kid in Kuala Lumpur. And I don't appreciate the fact that, thanks to DLCs, the games I'm buying are essentially incomplete games. I could give two fat tuffs about skins or vehicle packs, but actual game play, additional levels (or in the case of Mass Effect, endings), that is tantamount to kidnapping. That the Catwoman levels, intrinsic to the game, weren't included on the Arkham City disc, is borderline criminal. For what I want out of the experience, I'm just as happy to pop a game into my PS2 then anything. And thanks to second hand shops, there is a backlog of games I've never played that are only getting cheaper.

So I won't be buying a PS4. And as E3 gets ramped up, and we actually start to hear details about the system over the next few days, I'll have my check list out, as I did for the X-Box One, about all the things the system is focusing on that aren't gaming, and are making me less and less interested in the whole gaming industry. The companies making these systems are doing their level best to alienate long term loyal customers like me, in favour of making the machines capable of doing every damned thing as easily and seamlessly as possible, except play games, which will be a nightmare to sort out, despite the fact that it's the thing that should be the primary focus of the machine. Will I be missing out on some stuff? Sure. Not right now, as developers are still cranking out games of the PS3, and will be at least until next year. But I'll have to pass on the third proper Arkham game (not the prequel). And any follow-ups to Tomb Raider. But if Sony is going to expect (as Microsoft has) me to do anything other then just plug the system (any system) into the wall and put the game (any game) in, then they have vastly misunderstood how much I want them to have my money.

So, I'll be doing as Yahtzee suggests, and not taking part in the new generation. Unless of course Sony surprises us, and announces this week that they are reasonable people and the system won't be a $400 corporal punishment session, in which case I might pick one up. In four or five years.
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