Thursday, 30 May 2013

Xbox and BT Possibly Teaming Up

When Microsoft announced their console the other week, it was met with much mixed reception. The majotiry of negativity stemmed from the fact that the emphasis on the console was not on the games part but on the TV and home entertainment features, something many gamers took as an offence.

For those of you not in the loop, the Xbox One has the ability to give up-to-the-minute sports news feeds on top of current sporting events as you watch them. Thanks to an integrated system, this allows you to watch major highlights, different POV's and even overlay your fantasy sport team. The one problem? It was a US only feature.

Now BT are claiming that they would like to partner up with Microsoft to offer BT Sport (which just became free for all BT subscribers) via the Xbox One. Talks are in place, and though this isn't a done deal it would seem highly unlikely that a deal wouldn't be cut bearing in mind Microsoft need to regain the support of its European fan-base. The only other viable option is a deal with Sky though, while they are likely to be just as good, I'm hoping that BT will win just because I don't like paying money to the Murdoch empire (especially at those prices).

I doubt we'll still get the same features as the US but if we are lucky, BT might go all in and actually try to mimic the same content add-ons as the ESPN sponsored US deal.

[via TechRadar]

Monday, 27 May 2013

New to Netflix UK - 27/05/13

One new notable addition this week. Just one. It may be the return of one of the smartest sitcoms in TV history, but still...C'mon Netflix, we've had enough of the Disney movies already.

Arrested Development (TV) - The much anticipated Season 4 is now available of this critically acclaimed sitcom that follows the trials and tribulations of the highly dysfunctional Bluth family. I am pleased to say that the new episodes are not a disappointment, with the humour as sharp and witty as ever before.

More Disney movies, mostly live-action ones from the 60's and 70's. The only one really worth looking at is The Love Bug.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Trailer Time - "We're the Millers", "Ender's Game", "Ain't Them Bodies Saints", "Monsters University", "Don Jon", "V/H/S 2" and "Byzantium"

A nice bumper edition of trailers today.

Let's start off with a comedy...
Rawson Marshall Thurber hit the screens big some 9 years ago with the exceptionally funny Dodgeball but he hasn't really made much on an impact since (with only one directing title to his name since). We're the Millers will hopefully prove that he wasn't a one-trick pony, and expectations are high for this one. Jason Sudeikis plays a man who's tasked with muling marijuana from Mexico and comes up with an elaborate scheme involving the creation of a fake family to avoid suspicion at the border. Suffice to say, things don't exactly go as planned. The film also stars Jennifer Aniston (who bares even more skin than she did in Horrible Bosses)n Emma Roberts and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow) as his fake family.

For those of you in the comfort of your own homes, there's also a Red Band Trailer, which shows off a little more Jennifer Aniston, some swearing and some pretty graphic full frontal male nudity. Otherwise the two are pretty much similar.

The film opens 23rd August.

Next up is the first full trailer for Ender's Game which actually came out a while ago but I figured better late than never. The film is an adaptation of the highly popular sci-fi military novel by Orson Scott Card and will be directed by Gavin Hood. Hood, who also wrote the screenplay, broke out onto the movie scene with the exceptional Tsotsi however his other films haven't exactly been of the same calibre (especially X-Men Origins: Wolverine) however Card has been notoriously fussy over who adapts his novel therefore his blessing on this version will hopefully mean that the film is going to be good (as the trailer promises). The film is set in the future where the military oversee the recruitment of children as soldiers to fight an alien race at war with the earth and follows the main character, Ender, who is proving to be a military genius.

If anything, the film looks to be visually impressive however there is some concern over how pro-military the film will be (the book is often used as required reading for the US Armed Forces). We will find out whether the film lives up to its promises on October 25th.

Hardcore drama now with Ain't Them Bodies Saints, the feature directorial debut from David Lowery. The film sees Casey Affleck play an incarcerated man escape prison to be with his wife and newly born daughter. The first half of the trailer seems to echo shades of Mallick in its style (maybe it's just the music) however the latter half shows a much more sinister drama.

The film premièred at Sundance this year where it wowed and stunned critics, with many praising the depths that Lowery explores. No UK release date has yet been set however the main US date is mid-August so we have to wait until the new year.

Something more cheerful and family friendly with the new Monsters University trailer. The film serves as a prequel to the acclaimed Monsters Inc and looks to be a complete return to form from Pixar (after the strangeness that was Cars 2 and the somewhat disappointing Brave). This time we get to see how Mike and Sully first met and became to top scarers that we know them as.

This looks to be a whole lot of fun, and I can already see plenty of Animal House references. Interestingly, preliminary reviews seem to suggest that the movie goes into some very dark territory never before seen in a Pixar movie, so fingers crossed come July 12th.

Don John (previously Don Jon's Addiction) is the directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt which sees him star as the titular character who tries to juggle a personal life along with his addiction to porn. The trailer has a nice vibe to it, and as always JGL seems to shine through with his performance. The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza.

Reviews have been varied, with opinions varying from satisfactory to a very funny and well made character study. The film opens November 15th.

The sequel to last years odd-fish horror movie V/H/S wasn't one many people expected, given the varying quality of the films individual segments, however it seems that they learnt from their mistakes as this time around proves to be even more messed up than before. The wrap around story this time seems to be very similar to before, in that two private investigators look into a teens disappearance and find the tapes, however the actual vignettes themselves look to be very promising. This time the talent is Adam Wingard (You're Next), Eduardo Sànchez & Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Jason Eisener (Hobo With a Shotgun).

A Red Band surfaced a while back, so if you didn't catch it then...

Reviewers are already claiming it to be far superior to the previous instalment, with every story apparently as good as the next. Given that the first movie only reached our shores at the beginning of this year, I can't quite tell when we can expect the sequel. The US get it mid-July so we may be lucky to have it in time for Halloween.

Last but not least, the new Neil Jordan movie which sees him return to his vampire roots. Byzantium, based on the Moira Buffini play A Vampire Story (Buffini also wrote the screenplay). The follows a mother and daughter, Gemma Atherton and Saoirse Ronan, both of whom are vampires living in the modern day world but find that their past is slowly catching up to them. Jordan hasn't really had a huge hit in a while (not counting his producing credit on TV series The Borgias) so it's interesting to see him return to the world of vampires once again, especially if the film is anything as promising as the trailer makes it out to be.

Reviews are slowly pouring in, some very positive, others not so much, however the general consensus is that this is a decent vampire movie to wipe away the remaining traces of that other vampire series. The film opens next Friday (May 29th).

Arrested Development Season 4 Now Available on Netflix!!

The day you have all been waiting for is finally here. All 15 episodes of Season 4 of Arrested Development are available in all their glory for your viewing pleasure. I haven't yet had a chance to watch any yet but I'll probably give a mini consensus on tomorrow's "New to Netflix" post.

Given that all the major talent behind the original episodes are back, I doubt we will be disappointed.

Watched the first few's like the show never left us. Bravo Netflix.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Indie Game Round-Up - "City Tuesday" + Brief Interview with creator Chris Zukowski

So a while ago I stumbled upon a neat looking XBLA game called 'City Tuesday', where you play a man who has to try to prevent bombs from blowing up in a city. What really caught my eye however was the style and presentation for the game, which seemed to have taken its inspiration from the 'infographic' commercials that often crop up (most notably in the Portal games).

The gameplay is simple enough however each task of retrieving the bomb requires for you to pay close attention to your surroundings, utilising the people and objects around you to complete your objective. The catch is you have to work against a clock, adding a certain level of desperation to the puzzle solving.

As mentioned before, the style of the game is very minimalistic and it results in something that feels fresh to look at. There are plenty of nice little touches to the game too such as the random facts that pop up when you interact with certain objects. They aren't life affirming but it's a neat gimmick that adds that little bit more to the experience. Another great feature is when using the time ability (you can fast-forward and rewind time in the game) it distorts the screen a-la VHS, which I found to be a rather awesome visual flourish.

Bear in mind this isn't a very long game (I clocked in just under an hour) however for an indie title there are plenty of great ideas that amount to an enjoyable experience and it hopefully marks the start of a promising career for creator Chris Zukowski.

I managed to get into contact with Chris just to find out a bit more about the game.

How long have you been making games?
This is my first one. It took me about 1.5 years to make.
What inspired you to make the game?
I was inspired by the standardized graphics all around train stations and airports. I love those. And video games is my medium of choice so I decided I should try to create something about them.
Can we expect to see this title for the PC (such as Steam)?
I would love the game to be on Steam but they are very selective. I think the game is just going to be XBOX live Indie Games
Any thoughts on future projects?
I am in the process of making an iOS game named Rotato. Watch for it within the year.
City Tuesday is out now on the Xbox Live Arcade and will set you back only 80 Points.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Cheap Blu-Ray Deals (UK)

Blu-rays are great, but they're also very expensive. To save you the hassle of tracking down the current cheapo's, I've listed the better movies currently on offer below (prices also include delivery).

A Lonely Place to Die [£2.99]
Lethal Weapon [£3.25]
Contagion (Triple Play) [£4.13]
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Extended Edition) [£2.29]
Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist [£3.90]
Loser (aka The Grand) [£3.97]
Casino Jack [£2.99]
Rachel Getting Married [£3.79]
Scream 4 [£3.44]


Twilight: New Moon [£2.15]
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Year 6) [£1.83]
Halloween II (2010) [£3.20]
Talk to Me [£3.25]
Green Zone [£3.54]

Plus, there's a 4 for £15 deal at No all titles are worth it but they seem to be changing the films available on a regular basis.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rant - Why Spielberg Producing the Halo TV Series Is Not Necessarily a Good Thing

At the Xbox ONE Reveal Event, Microsoft announced the next iteration of Master Chief would not be in a game but rather on the small screen, brought to you by Steven Spielberg. This has been mostly met with great enthusiasm but part of me can't help but be sceptical, disappointed and even slightly worried.

On the one hand, the mythology behind the Halo games is a rich and immense as those of say Star Wars or Star Trek (not as popular or relevant perhaps, but still pretty important) and as a result a film has been in the pipeline for a long while now. Going back a few years now, Peter Jackson signed on as producer for the new Halo game signing on newbie Neill Blomkamp to direct, a move that went pretty much under the radar. Financial difficulties and lack of interest in the movie pretty much stranded it in development hell (even after a really impressive live-action teaser on what we could expect) and Blomkamp went on to direct the awesome District 9, a move that was widely regarded as being the right choice.

Anyway, it's 2013 now and for some reason, despite appearing to put a lot of work into the original idea, Jackson no longer seems to be invloved in live-action Halo and instead they have turned to one of the greatest directors in the world to oversee the Master Chief and his adventures. So why am I so worried?

There's no denying that Spielberg is a film-making God. His movies have huge levels of humanity and emotion to them, he has a keen eye for action (especially military action) and he is responsible for some of the greatest franchises in history. But that doesn't mean he doesn't screw up every now and then.

Spielberg has created some of the finest works of cinematic science fiction, films which to this day are still being channelled. But he has also churned out some really disappointing movies, all of which had infinite potential for greatness (and all are his most recent endeavours).
A.I., the film Kubrick never directed, was picked up by Spielberg but the result was a film far too ambitious for its own good and the result is pretty largely forgotten.
War of the Worlds features some amazing set-pieces, a chilling role by Tim Robbins and a decent update on the HG Wells story, but it lacked any real punch and had one of the most pointless Hollywood endings for any movie to come out that year (had Robbie died the film might have been able to put in that emotional kick it was lacking, but no he had to survive).

His last forays into television haven't exactly been very promising either (with the exception of Falling Skies). Terra Nova began with huge promise but soon fell flat very very quickly and became a real bore to watch. Likewise with The River, which in the end never really went anywhere. Some part of me feels this is how the Halo TV series will end up.

I would love to see a Halo-fied version of Band of Brothers or The Pacific, but I highly doubt that will happen due to budgetary reasons. The forth Halo game, while still only appealing to the hardcore fans, managed to add a very human and very emotional storyline to the franchise in the guise of the relationship between the Master Chief and his AI counterpart Cortana and I'm guessing that it's this level of drama that Microsoft hope to cash in on, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it needs to be done right.

Spielberg has the capacity for high drama but we have to remember he's only producing which means that the main writing and story direction will be through someone else. Nothing has yet been released regarding plot or even setting, so this rant could all have (hopefully) been for nothing, but for the time being I am not exactly convinced with Microsoft's big announcement.

The Fastest Ships in Science Fiction

Slate has a pretty cool diagram that details how long it would take for iconic sci-fi vessels to reach landmark places in the universe.

What is pretty surprising is that the USS Enterprise isn't actually all that fast (not when compared to the Galactica or the Millennium Falcon) so all those people pledging to sponsor a real life Enterprise will probably be disappointed by it's possibilities.

As can be expected however, the Tardis is the quickest mode of transportation, what with ripping holes in space time. It's a close tie with the Heart Of Gold, however they don't really factor in that by operating the Heart of Gold, the chances that you will end up where you want to are pretty small, so it probably isn't all that much use.

The Voyager probe just proves at how screwed we are if we ever want to explore the solar system.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Don't Forget, XBOX 720 Reveal Is Fast Approaching

There's just under 5 hours until the big reveal from Microsoft, so make sure you tune in.

At 5pm GMT (9am PT) Microsoft will finally unleash its next-generation console unto the world, a good three months after Sony unleashed the PS4 (I believe the main event actually starts an hour later though).

As for what we can expect, details are pretty hush hush. What we do know is Infinity Ward have said they will use the launch to promote the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, so fans should keep an eye out. Also there are rumours that a new Forza game will also make its debut at the launch.

Hopefully Microsoft will do a better job than Sony, who managed to tease with what to expect from the PS4 rather than flat-out tell, and that all the promises of the new Xbox will not fall short of peoples goals.

Live streams are available via and GameTrailers however for those of you just wanting the key notes from the event you may be better off waiting until tomorrow when I'm sure YouTube will become rife with content.

Monday, 20 May 2013

New to Netflix UK - 20/05/13

Not too much out this week.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) - The first three seasons (out of 7) are up to watch of this cult classic show that follows a teen as she does battle with the forces of evil. Fans of anything supernatural will have much to love with this show, thanks to some really cool plots and excellent supervision under Joss Whedon.

Silver Surfer (TV) - Short-lived series about Marvel's galactic superhero and his quest to find his home. It may not have done the character much good in terms of it's narrative but it's hard to deny this series any attention, particularly because the surfer is one of the few decent-but-lesser-known Marvel hero's but also because the sanitation is at times rather wonderful.

There's more Disney movies being added too, including Mary Poppins, Cool Runnings and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

In the meantime here's the Season 4 trailer for the all new Arrested Development, coming next Sunday.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What's Next for the Star Trek Franchise?

The latest Star Trek movie in the rebooted universe has just been released, to incredibly favourable reviews, and so the question on everyone's minds is what's next? JJ will be very busy these next few years trying not to crush what hope remains in the Star Wars fans and given that the last Trek movie came out four years ago, we may not see (if ever) another sequel for some time now. But there's still plenty of options available.
[Some minor spoilers may follow]

TV Show

The one big question is whether the franchise will ever return to its roots on the small screen. Thanks to the huge success of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, the space opera drama has found itself a new audience in the modern age, but would this mean in a huge change in the Star Trek formula?

The Original Series was ground breaking, not because of it's genre or what it achieved at a technical level, but rather because of the material it presented to viewers. First off you had the main characters who were of various racial origins; nothing out of the ordinary for us but back in the sixties this was a big deal. Then you had the themes of the individual episodes which again looked at somewhat controversial topics such as war and discrimination, with Roddenberry ensuring that the series mirrored current world events and offered up a retrospective political and social commentary.

As the various iterations of Star Trek progressed (TNG, Voyager, DS9...and Enterprise), the show moved into more mainstream science fiction ideals and focused less of providing a social/political perspective and more about ensuring full on entertainment (although the underlying themes that Roddenberry worked hard to include would always remain).

It was a huge contrast then that when the reboot was launched the main focus was on ensuring that the entertainment value was at full warp, trading in deep plots for something light and cheerful but also something to attract a much broader audience. By creating a new TV show I would assume that they would keep the tone very similar to the movies, keeping their current film-going audience at the same time. I wouldn't put it past them to create something more in-depth however, to compete with the current small screen dominators (Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men etc) however I doubt we will get themes as dark or rich as those that we last saw in the Battlestar Galactica reboot or from the Original Trek series.

The big question however is who would the show focus on? It makes no sense keeping the characters the same if the same actors don't reprise their roles as the majority of the appeal would be lost (this was one of the big problems with the Zombieland TV spin-off). The only reason why the reboot pulled of introducing new actors as the old characters was thanks to the whole 'alternate universe' plot, wherein the actors were given the chance to reinvent the characters to their own interpretations. Shatner's Kirk was arguably one of the greatest captains of modern fiction however you can't deny that Chris Pine does an amicable job as the more rebellious version. Likewise, Mr Spock now has a lot more going for him following the destruction of the Vulcan homeworld which makes his character a lot more interesting given his own inability to show his emotions. But putting new actors into their shoes just won't work so we would need to follow the crew of a new ship.

At the end of Into Darkness, the Enterprise finally gets its five year order to explore new worlds, but there are plenty of other ships that have just as much of a chance for adventure as Kirk and his crew. There's still the very uneasy borders with Qo'noS (Kronos) that could make for some interesting storyline if you opt for a diplomatic-thriller styled Star Trek (like a John le Carre novel) or there's still the aftermath of the destruction of Vulcan where surely the tensions between the Vulcans and the Romulans is at an all time high.
Alternately, go down the Next Generation route and set the series a few decades after the films. It would be interesting to see what effect the parallel universe would have on Captain Picard and the others. We know from the original reality the Jean-Luc was very cocky as a cadet, much like the rebooted Kirk, so this could be a nice frame of reference between the series and the films.

The reality of a new Star Trek is far from unlikely however I can't see it really having a slot with the current programming on TV. The best thing about it is that the reboot converted so many people to the Star Trek universe and it is more of a house-hold name, which means the chances of a TV series being greenlit are much more likely than if it had remained as the traditional following (the Original Series was cancelled due to underwhelming ratings however it's popularity grew soon after ensuring that when TNG started the fan base was already exceedingly large). It's not uncommon for films to get TV spin-offs, the most recent and successful being 'The Clone Wars' and 'Agents of SHIELD'.

What we should wait and see is whether the Avenger's spin-off is successful (I very much doubt it won't be) as this would probably help reignite the debate on whether Star Trek should return to TV screens. The last thing we want is for an amazing series to be developed only for it to be cancelled before it's even had a chance to sink in (à la Firefly).

Star Trek 3

As I mentioned before the prospect of there being another movie is a long way off, however this is assuming that Mr Abrams will be in the directors chair. There's no reason why we can't give the reigns to someone else who will do the series justice (I'm looking at you Mr Bird, or you Mr Nolan).

The likelihood of there being another movie is very high, especially if Into Darkness does as well as the projected forecasts are saying, and I believe the actors all enjoyed themselves therefore I'm sure they would be up for another round.

As for plot, well anything really. I would heartily suggest they opt for an original story rather than try to rehash a past adventure but either way there's plenty to choose from. Obviously this being a movie they can choose a much more epic storyline however the Klingon's are still around. Or perhaps the Borg sensed the rift in time and have already begun to appear.

But what does another movie mean? For one it will give them the chance to round off the reboot nicely and  leave it open for new films to be made in the alternate universe. Into Darkness admittedly ended on a nice note but it would still be fun to see the crew embark on one last adventure before saying "Well that was fun, but no more for me. Here, you take over." Additionally, this might also be the perfect set-up for a TV series. I personally want to see the crew embark on a mission that is ultimately a suicide quest, but then I highly doubt that will ever happen. Whatever the case may be, it should end after a third movie. Trilogies are perfect. Any more and you risk getting stale.


This is a no-brainer, given the hundreds of books that have already been published since its first inception in the 60's, however the books have become a core part of the Star Trek universe with some books even rising above the quality of the series and films. But it would be nice to see a more mainstream author have a crack at the crew of the Enterprise. One can only imagine what would have happened in Arthur C Clarke or Issac Asimov had penned a Trek novel (I hope there is a universe where they did) but there's no reason why other modern day sci-fi legends can't take a stab at writing one.

Video Games

This is a tough one given that there haven't really been any good Star Trek games to date (excluding Bridge Commander and Elite Force) despite there being a heap load of them. Still, if they keep churning out one of them will have to be playable.

This is a real shame given that the Star Wars games have generally been very playable so it's a wonder as to why the Trek games never achieved a great hight. I understand that the key difference between the two franchises is that Star Wars is more war orientated while Star Trek is about exploration and discovery, but this shouldn't result in the crap-fest we have recently been presented with.

A Star Trek 4x (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) game would be interesting, especially given the rich variety of races who would be present, although I see the immediate problem facing Starfleet Command in the form of those final two "X's". Alternatively a city builder set in the Trek universe might be successful, in the vein of Anno or the old Sierra Interactive games, and could certainly have potential in terms of trading, alliances and survival in harsh environments.

Fancy a FPS? Maybe an all-out conflict with the Klingon's or the Borg.
RPG? I'm sure Bioware could get creative.

Arguably there have been many games set in universes like Star Trek but which have been their own creations. FTL (Faster Than Light) was a fantastic indie game from last year, which saw you having to micro manage a starship while travelling through hostile territory, and Artemis is essentially Bridge Commander. But then the influence of Star Trek has been so immense that practically anything sci-fi related is 'like' Star Trek, so in some way you can factor in EVE Online or the Mass Effect series.

The Trek universe is one of the richest that's ever been created and all it needs is a decent attempt at a video game and people will throw money at it to play it. Hell, if a series is ever made, do what Syfy did with Defiance and create a game to accompany the show.


I'm on the verge of listing every single bit of Star Trek merchandise but we shouldn't forget that there are also a whole heap of board games too, including plenty of D&D style RPG's, many of which are available on the internet or free.

There's no reason why Bad Robot couldn't make their own game in this style, especially if it means Kurtzman and Orci write the story behind it.

Trailer Time: "Gravity", "The World's End", "Pacific Rim" and "Thor: The Dark World" PLUS Bonus TV Trailers

A special sci-fi edition of Trailer Time, to comemorate the release of the excellent Star Trek Into Darkness and the successful return of the ISS astronauts.

First on our list is Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the amazing Children of Men. One of the reasons why Children of Men was so fascinating to watch was that
Cuarón relied on single long takes to shoot his scenes, something that's not too easy when you have to orchestrate an entire action sequence around it. In any case, he promises to use the same technique in Gravity, which sees two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) from the ISS become stranded in space following a sudden debris collision with their shuttle.

Apart from the truly stunning visuals, another reason to be excited for this movie is the whole concept of being alone in space; no monster or aliens or supernatural beings, just you. I understand that footage from the film was screened a while back to mixed impressions, but that was based on the concept rather than the execution. In any case, this looks to be a movie worth keeping an eye out for when it opens in October.

Another hotly anticipated movie is the final conclusion to the Wright/Pegg/Frost Cornetto Trilogy. This [rumoured] Mint Flavoured threequel sees a group of friends reunite many years later to complete a pub crawl they failed to finish when they were younger, only to find that their hometown is overrun by what appears to be aliens. Naturally, they must overcome all obstacles to ensure they finally complete their epic saga.

There's many ways this could turn out to be a complete dud but I have strong faith in the guys behind it to provide us with a decent sci-fi comedy. The opens fairly soon on July 19th.

From space and aliens to giant robots and creatures from another dimension, that's what Pacific Rim promises. The latest Del Toro movie is nothing short of ambitious but it certainly looks to provide us with plenty of hardcore robot-on-monster fighting that we haven't seen in a long time. The film follows a group of soldiers who operate giant robots (Jaegers) in an attempt to ward of evil monsters (Kaiju), however when the Kaiju begin to get the upper hand the only chance of humanity's survival rests in what appears to be an obsolete Jaeger.

Del Toro has never disappointed when it comes to providing a visual feast and this looks to kick all his previous efforts into the trash. Expect the fight to start 12th July.

Our final movie is Part 2 of the Second Phase of the Marvel Avenger's movies, Thor: The Dark World. Our favourite God finds himself torn trying to protect Jane from the clutches of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim  while trying to uphold his honour in protecting the Nine Realms.

The first movie was a camp-fest, but it was aware of it and hence turned out to be a highly enjoyable movie. This time we seem to be in for a much darker tone courtesy of Alan Taylor (he of Game of Thrones fame), so let's hope the success from the first can be continued. The film opens 30th October.


A couple of new trailers for TV shows have cropped up and two imediately caught my eye.

In keeping with Thor, abc have released a teaser for their upcoming Anger's TV spin-off Agents of SHIELD, which has just been picked up for a full season. 

So this looks like it could be a whole lot of fun, something along the lines of Heroes meets CSI as produced by Joss Whedon. And yes, Agent Coulson is not dead. 

Wanting more? io9 have listed out some cool things they noticed in the trailer here

Second cool new show is from the guys behind Fringe, which seems to be a buddy-cop adaptation of Robocop, with one officer human and the other a robot. Oh, and the human doesn't like robots. Bet that got your attention.

Fringe turned out to be one of the greatest TV sci-fi shows of the last few decades thanks in part to it's great characters but also due to the 'what-the-hell' laws of physics the writers decided to break for that episode. Lets hope the same level of excellence can be brought to this series as without a proper direction, this one could get very boring quickly.

First Unmanned Commercial Flight a Success

Details are emerging of the first unmanned 'passenger plane' to successfully complete a flight. The Flying Test Bed flew 500 miles, from Warton in Lancashire to Inverness, however it wasn't completely alone. Aparently, the take-off and landing were performed by an on-board pilot however that actual flight itself was performed by a pilot situated on the ground, controlling via the high-tech instruments on the aircraft as well as help from Air Traffic Control.

Though only a small 16-seater, the feat is being hailed as a leap forward in the future of air travel as the experiment successfully proved that unmanned civilian aircrafts can operate in the commercial airways. The one big concern that they do have however is that the technology is not yet available that can replace the detection of the human eye-ball.

It's no secret that the systems of modern day planes are so sophisticated that they can basically fly themselves, however they do lack that human ability to make quick judgement calls that can potentially save lives. You only have to look back to the US Airways Flight 1549 where the pilot managed to successfully save the entire crew and passengers by making an emergency landing on the Hudson River. I very much doubt any modern day computer system would have been as successful (if at all) in repeating such a task.

The big question is however, would you want to fly in a plane that has no pilot? The mere fact that the pilot is safe on the ground while you are the ones trapped in a metallic object flying at 800km/h is enough to make anyone uneasy. Then again, planes are practically the safest places to be right now given all the safety testing they must go through.

[via BBC and New Scientist]

Monday, 13 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - 3D Review (Is it worth it?)

This is not a review about the movie but rather a review about the 3D. For a full rundown on the film I'd advise checking out the pages of your local film critic as they have far more experience in telling you why you should/shouldn't like the movie. I'm only qualified to tell you how effective the 3D was.

[Note: Providing you have seen the latest trailers for the movie, the following won't contain any real spoilers. If you have however been keeping yourself in the dark, skip to the end verdict.]

Still thinking about whether to see it? If you have any regard for anything sci-fi then yes, you should be at the cinema right now. This is a sequel that lives up to all the promises that the reboot made and gives you something very compelling to watch too (though it should be noted that this is less of a 'The Dark Knight' style sequel as they originally hoped and more along the lines of 'X2' or 'Spiderman 2').

So, with that out of the way...3D or not 3D, for that is the question.

The Good

I was stunned to find out that this movie had not been filmed in native 3D but was a victim of post-conversion (and I mean that in the highest regard). Every single scene felt enhanced by the use of 3D, not in an obtrusive way (exempting one bit) but rather in the way that it should give depth to the setting and not come off as a gimmick. This they achieved in spades. As a result I cannot think of a single scene where it worked best because it worked for all of them.

If I did have to pick I would argue that the space set scenes were the ones that benefited the most. I personally love anything that's set in space and adding a third dimension to it can really work wonders, much like it did in this movie. There's a space jump segment that really looks the part and you get a real feeling of just wanting to leap into the screen.

Credit should also be given for making the enterprise feel vibrant and alive. The majority of the work was thanks to the set design, but that extra dimension really brought the ship to life. You could just imagine yourself walking through those corridors, sitting at the command deck with all those instruments beeping and flashing.

Kudos to JJ for adding in a sly 'pop-out-of-the-screen' moment that's fun but not too gimicky and is quickly forgotten.

The Bad

There's really not much to talk about here. As with most action set movies, the fast camera work and editing can result in the scenes blurring by and as a result the 3D can feel non-existent at times.

One thing I noticed was that the amount of detail on the screen was so excessive that at times the 3D became overwhelming. I particularly noticed this during a scene where a building is under fire from a ship and as a result sparks and bits of building go flying in all directions. I guess it's a bit harsh to call this a negative point, as it really helped to make you feel like you were there, however I did feel like I wanted to shield my face from these invisible particles, not exactly something I want to do in a movie.

Oh, and lens flares. There are lots and lots and lots of lens flares. And yes, they do pop out of the screen from time to time.

The Verdict

3D done right is a joy to behold and Star Trek nails it perfectly. The film is a visual feast and while the standard 2D format won't deprive you of any of the eye candy, the 3D really does its job in adding that deeper layer of satisfaction to the experience; so yes go and see it in 3D if you get the chance. Or even better, see it in IMAX 3D.
(One can only hope Star Wars VII will look and feel this good.)

A Little Extra

They showed the trailers (in 3D) for 'World War Z' and 'Thor' and this is the impressions I got from them.

WWZ did not feel right and reeked of post-conversion. It wasn't exactly 'Clash of the Titans' quality but I can only hope that they are still working on it. I was not impressed, which is a shame as the film looks like it could be a lot of [dumb] fun.

Thor on the other hand looked like your bog standard post-converted movie. I wouldn't rank it any higher than the Iron Man 3 job, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

New to Netflix UK - 13/05/13

Hmm...We seem to have had an influx of Disney movies. They appear to be from the classic Disney years so you can show the kids what it used to mean when the House of Mouse attached their name to a film.
There's a couple of standard movies out too, both of which can be found at the end of the list.

Laziness prevails once again; I will just list out the movies.

Pete's Dragon
The Gnome Mobile
Brother Bear (1 & 2)
Treasure Island
Herbie Goes Bananas
The Incredible Journey (1963)
Davy Crocket
My Favourite Martian (highly underrated)

Special Mentions
Robin Hood (the one with the fox)
The Island at the Top of The World
The Swiss Family Robinson
Blackbeard's Ghost
The Sword in the Stone
The Muppet Christmas Carol

Magic Mike - A male stripper tries to branch out with his furniture enterprise while trying to show a new dancer what it means to be a stripper. So long as you can accept it for what it is, Magic Mike is surprisingly affectionate and funny and also shows the Channing Tatum is a decent actor.

Super Size Me - Documentary following Morgan Spurlock as he pledges to eat nothing but McDonald's meals. A watchable (and at the same time unwatchable) chronicle of how unhealthy fast food really is and how stupid one man is.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Rant - Why does Netflix have so many "bad" movies? (And why is this not a bad thing?)

I got into an argument a civilised debate with someone recently who was complaining about the content (or lack-of) of the Netflix Streaming store. They were complaining that there were too many B-movie-esque films and not enough proper movies to make their money worthwhile. While very true, I think this was a rather harsh judgement of the aforementioned B-movies.

First off, never say that there isn't enough content on Netflix for your money. The amount of hours from movies and TV shows (just the critically acclaimed ones) is enough to last you a good 8-9 months of solid watching, and that's not taking into account the many titles added each week. People who say there isn't enough content are either too spoilt for choice or they have a very poor taste in entertainment because Netflix is very careful to ensure there is enough to cater for all tastes.

But why does Netflix have so many "bad" movies to show? The obvious explanation is that chances are the licensing costs are dirt cheap, so it helps to boost up their title numbers. The other, more appropriate explanation, is due to the sheer pleasure of the B-movie.

The original definition of a B-movie stemmed from when cinemas used to play two features - the main feature, which would have been the reason to go to the cinema in the first place, and the second film, a cheaply made flick that used recycled ideas (or sometimes unusual ones) to create an extra hour of entertainment. They generally were of poor quality however, which is why in the modern day movies that are made on the cheap and look bad are referred to as B-movies.

As the years progressed, B-movies evolved to envelope a new range of movies including a whole heap of exploitation flicks, as well as direct-to-DVD features and sequels. Just becuase a movie is made cheaply and looks terrible, doesn't mean it should be avoided however.

Roger Corman is one of the greatest producers Hollywood has ever seen. He has a roster of well over 500 movies to his name, helped launch the careers of Joe Dante, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese and yet every one of his movies was made cheaply and is pretty dreadful. And that's why they are so good to watch. The tongue-in-cheek value of his movies is priceless and makes for a great night in with friends, and this is how most movies like this should be enjoyed.

The late Roger Ebert, one of the greatest film critics ever and a very respected taste in movies, was a great B-movie screen-writer and participated in a lot of movies along with Russ Meyer, another B-movie (and sexploitation film) pioneer.

I'm not saying that movies with the titles such as "Alien Armageddon", "Super Cyclone" or "Hellevator" will be any good - because they won't, it's guaranteed - but that doesn't mean you should raise your nose to them. These are the movies that have to be watched after consuming a whole heap of alcohol with friends (I still have fond memories of "Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus" thanks to four and half bottles of Jack Daniels).

Play drinking games with these movies.
See which actor looks like someone you know.
Try to guess the dialogue as the film goes along (or even completely recreate it yourselves).

Netflix knows that these movies are not works of art, that's why it also offers up "There Will Be Blood" and "Drive" and other critically acclaimed movies. What it does know is that there are people out there who know how to appreciate these types of movies, once again proving that Netflix really does cater for all tastes.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Cheap Blu-ray Deals (UK)

Blu-rays are great, but they're also very expensive. To save you the hassle of tracking down the current cheapo's, I've listed the better movies currently on offer below (prices also include delivery).

A Lonely Place to Die [£2.99]
Spiderman 3 [£3.49]
Toy Story 3 (Double Play) [£4.48]  -  It's not cheap cheap, but for a Disney movie (and probably the best Pixar movie too) it's definitely still a steal
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Extended Edition) [£2.29]
Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me [£2.89]
Scream 4 [£3.45]
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Year 6) [£3.14]

This one I wouldn't exactly call good by any means, but it appears to be very popular for some very strange reason...
Sex and the City 2
     - Standard [£3.49]
     - Triple Play [£3.99]


Fast and Furious (4) [£3.06]
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps [£2.99]
Michael Jackson's This is It [£2.05]

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Interview - Aniwey, Creator of 'Candy Box'

Yesterday I wrote a post about a couple of games I had recently played and the one that immediately stood out was a little web-based creation called Candy Box. What starts off as a simple game of just eating candies soon evolves into a great little experiment that involves doing quests, upgrading weapons and farming lollypops.

As an added bonus to my discovery, aniwey was very kind to respond to some questions I asked in an email.

Can you explain a bit about yourself?
I'm a 18 years old french student in first year of computer science. I love coding, and games are quite interesting to code. I guess that's why I'm making games.

How did you come up with the idea for Candy Box?
While making the game, I always kept one thing in mind : I wanted to make a game which I would like to play to. My favourite aspect of the game is "nothing at first, and then it grows !"

How long did it take to program?
It took me about two months to program
Can you see Candy Box evolving into a larger idea (such as world exploration/building, communication/trade with fellow players)?
I think the game can evolve by turning towards a RPG game. So world exploration, and maybe building, would be great, but I won't implement any trade with other players, I don't think this game is made to be a MMO.

What games (other than Candy Box 2) would you like to work on in the future?I'd like to work on independent games. I made this one alone, but I would prefer to work in a team. I don't have any other idea yet, at the moment I'm focusing on the sequel

How many people (roughly) are currently playing Candy Box?
I can't know how many people are playing the game right now since there's in fact no communication between the browser and the server apart when saving & loading. But I can tell you that there are currently 445929 unique saves

If you haven't already, I highly recommend you check out Candy Box.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Indie Game Round-up - "Candy Box" and "Papers, Please"

A new feature to the blog (that appears to be less and less about engineering, but anyway) will be the heads-up to any interesting indie (or online) games.

Candy Box
First up is a game by Aniwey, which at first seemed rather pointless - there's a candy counter that slowly increases and you have a chance to eat all the candies, thus resetting it to zero, or throwing 10 candies on the floor. Give it time however and the game slowly expands into a rather in-depth experience where you can buy a sword, go on quests and run a farm.

The game harkens back to the good old days of text-based gaming, although it has a nice little twist in that it features some nicely animated ascii art. The best thing is it can run in the background of a internet page tab, so you can keep on doing other things too. There is also a save feature, all you have to do is remember a 5-digit code (just make sure you save often...any accidental click to another page can make you lose a lot of progress).

Check it out here (it's free).

Papers, Please
The other game is a completely different fish entirely, a 'Dystopian Document Thriller' by Lucus Pope, where you have to man a passport control booth in a fictional communist country. The aim of the game is to only let in the people who have the correct credentials for entry, which increases in difficulty with each passing day.

What sets this game apart from being a simple game is the underlying themes at it's core. At the end of every day you get paid based on how many people you successfully let through (letting in undesirables docks your pay). With this money you must use it to feed and nurse your family, who are always at the point of starvation and illness. This simple feature allows for the game to reach you at a much more personal level, but it also rings home that this is a situation that many people in the real world often find themselves in.

The game is currently in Beta, and can thus be downloaded for free here. Those of you with Steam can also help it by 'Greenlighting' it (it is unclear if the full game will remain free or require a small fee).

New to Netflix UK - 06/05/13

It's a good day to be a subscriber as a whole heap of content is now available, including a lot of Disney movies - so thank you very much Netflix.

Justified (TV) - Seasons 2 and 3 have been added to what could be the best cop-crime drama currently showing. Season 2 sees Raylan butting heads with the Bennett family, the local drug suppliers, while Season 3 kicks it up a notch by introducing the sinister Robert Quarles, an exiled gangster who begins to muscle in on the local activity.

Quantum Leap (TV) - The first three seasons have been uploaded of this classic show about a man whose conscience jumps between different people, forcing him to help them solve their personal problems.

Xena: Warrior Princess (TV) - Cult fantasy show which follows ex-Warlord Xena as she attempts to undo the wrongs of her past by helping those in need. All 6 seasons are here so be sure to ration them carefully.

The Killing (TV) - Season 2 has been added of this compelling counterpart to the Danish show of the same name. The investigation into the Larsen murder continues and a possible conspiracy in the campaign is unearthed. (Fans will be pleased to know that the show has been revived for a third season after its sudden cancellation thanks to a co-deal made by Netflix).

I Am Number 4 - Alien refugees living under assumed identities find themselves being hunted in numerical order by the people they originally ran from. It's a completely bonkers premise and the execution isn't too grand but there's some level of mild fun to be had, especially if you're a teen.

Surrogates - In a world where every human is represented by a fully-controlled avatar, a detective must venture out to track down a serial killer who can kill the hosts though their own avatars. It's completely forgettable and checks every box in the 'standard sci-fi dystopia future thriller' list but it's still a fun Brucie vehicle and it does have a fair bit to say about a world driven by technology.

War of the Worlds (2005) - Following a sudden alien attack, a father risks everything to get his children to safety. It's not the most solid film from the great bearded one but decent set-pieces and a chilling performance from Tim Robbins makes this remake stand out above the rest, just so long as you ignore the Hollywoodised ending.

Tomorrow When The War Begun - Based on a series of books, the film follows a group of teens who have to survive when their country is invaded by foreign forces. Sure it reeks of Red Dawn but this movie focuses more on the characters rather than the situation and although it doesn't always get it right, it still makes for an enjoyable watch.

Catfish - Three friends embark on a road trip when one of them meets up with a girl on the internet. The notorious 'is-it-real-or-is-it-not' Catfish has barely any re-watchability value but it shouldn't deter first-timers from what is perhaps the most frighteningly honest portrayal of a society that lives on the internet.

Larger Than Life - A man inherits a large elephant when his father passes away and the situation causes him to rethink his own views on life. It's not a remarkable film but it has Bill Murray in it, that should be enough to convince you.

Kicking and Screaming - A father and son find their competitive nature put to the test when they begin to coach different football teams. Unless you're a die hard Will Ferrell fan or you have kids who need to be entertained there's really not much to this sports-flavoured comedy, disappointing given the talent involved.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Film 2 in the series sees the children return to Narnia to overthrow the evil king who has brought misery upon the lands and restore the rightful heir to the throne. The first movie (also available) was a solid work of entertainment and while the second instalment fails to capture the same level of awe and wonder, it's still a worthy addition to the series.

Red Tails - True story about the Tuskegee airmen who became the first black pilots to fight for America in the Second World War. The film may not offer the most compelling version of the story but the action sequences are still the best air-to-air combat scenes ever committed to film.
Disney Movies
Because I'm lazy I'll just list out the decent Disney movies that are now available (no High School Musical related content is getting recommended on this site). If you haven't heard of them chances are you had no childhood.
  • WALL-E
  • Ratatouille
  • G-Force
  • The Rescuers & The Rescuers Down Under
  • The Aristocats
  • Dumbo
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  • Treasure Planet
  • The Emperor's New Groove