Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sony Gamescom 2013 Conference Overview

PS4

Assassins Creed Black Flag: remote play demoed.
Infamous: Second Sun - electricity power shown
Killzone Shadow Fall: custom game making for MP.
Minecraft - on PS4 at launch.
Playroom - preinstalled on all PS4s, requires PS Eye.
Resogun - new HouseMarquee exclusive.
Shadow of the Beast - remake of Amiga game only on PS4.
War Thunder - WW2 online battles.
Watch_Dogs - partnership with Sony on movie. Exclusive content includes one costume and 4 missions.

Music Unlimited improved for PS4: works like a background app.
Broadband deals to help PS4 dedicated gaming.
New apps, including Twitch.
Already 1 million pre-orders.
US launch - 15 November
EU launch - 29 November
32 countries this holiday season.

PSV

Megapack bundles - 8gb memory cards with preinstalled games.

Borderlands 2, Football Manager Classic 2014, Lego Marvel.

Price drop - $199, memory card price drops. 

BigFest - music festival management game.
Murasaki Baby - 2D, touch based game from Ovosonico. 

PS3

Gran Turismo 6 - partnership with car makers for exclusive concept vehicles in GT6, and even real life; DEC 6 2013 release; film in development

LittleBigPlanet Hub - 2013. F2P.

PS3 12gb reduced in price.

Owners of certain PS3 games can buy the digital version of the PS4 copy for discounted price.

Indies

Gran Turismo 6 - partnership with car makers for exclusive concept vehicles in GT6, and even real life; DEC 6 2013 release; film in development

LittleBigPlanet Hub - 2013. F2P.

PS3 12gb reduced in price.

Owners of certain PS3 games can buy the digital version of the PS4 copy for discounted price.

PS+

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - The Chinese Room
Guns of Icarus online - exclusive to PS4 on consoles.
N++ coming to PS4.
Rime - Tequila Works

PS+
Assassins creed 3 heading to PS+
Resogun is free for PS4 with PS+.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Skyfall

You only live twice...


A computer drive containing the information of MI6 Agents planted in terrorist organisations has been stolen and Bond is tasked with recovering it. While on the mission, Bond is severely wounded and presumed dead, until months later when he returns after learning that MI6 itself has become the target of a bomb attack. Bond forces himself to return to active duty only to discover that not only are his skills as an agent have been impaired, but that M's life is in danger.

After the surprisingly excellent Casino Royale and it's disappointing sequel Quantum of Solace, it is both understandable though strangely perturbing that Skyfall is a standalone entry into the new era of Bond films. While continuity in the 007 history is all over the place, there is the situation that certain plot points, primarily that of the criminal organisation known as Quantum, should have surely been expanded upon. As it stands, there is little in reference to Bond's lover Vesper or Quantum, two important aspects in the shaping of James Bond (Daniel Craig) as a character, and it comes as a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, we are presented with a new villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), who has a a pretty hefty grudge against M (Judi Dench). Silva is definitely the most interesting Bond villain of recent years and is a highlight of the story, but his introduction comes a little later than expected but this is a minor issue. Skyfall's plot is an interesting one: what starts off as a hunt against a formidable villain turns into a retrospective of Bond. However, this latter point never feels fully developed, and can appear at times to be tacked on to further the length of the narrative.The integral point of interest in humanising Bond is his feeling of betrayal by M for her lack of confidence in him. And then it is over. Just like that. The development of Bond feeling jaded against is quelled as quickly as it arises. The strong emphasis on humanising Bond will either be interesting to you or distracting after how subtly this thematic element is convincingly explored in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Nonetheless, it is the film's identity which is most at crisis. Skyfall constantly switches between passé and new-age 007 that it fails to find or even stick to an identity for the sake of consistency. Bond is more believable in the modern adaptation  but the film expects the audience to accept its questionable narrative logic for the sake of plot advancement. In past Bond films this would not be a problem but following Casino Royale, where plot advancement made some semblance of sense, in Skyfall this comes across as overreaching. 

Though there is no denying that the recent 007 films have all employed rather commendable performances from the entire cast, especially that of Daniel Craig who has provided a sense of concrete believability to the somewhat caricature nature of Bond. While Bond in Skyfall is much worse for wear than he has been, there is no denying that Craig does, at times, come off as far too stiff. This is a most noticeable when he has some quick words to spare upon someone, otherwise the forlorn act he presents can make you feel for him, though whether you choose to buy that is another matter. Judi Dench continues her stellar performance as M and its great to see how her role has matured from the Brosnan era to the Craig era, and with her added screen-time for Skyfall she definitely does not miss a beat. Rounding off the trio of important actors is Javier Bardem as Silva. Silva is a different type of villain compared to that seen in the previous two outings. He is one part happy-go-lucky, one part vindictive  and all sociopath, but still you never quite feel as if you should be rooting against him. Bardem portrays a charm that really pushes his character to the forefront of almost every scene he is in, outpacing both Dench and Craig with little effort. It is a pity that his character does not appear more often in the plot. The rest of the cast are all noteworthy in their performances. Naomi Harris as the operative Eve, Ben Whishaw as the new Q and Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Head of Intelligence and Security all do a great job.

A welcomed change from Casino Royale, as echoed with Quantum of Solace, is the move towards a more diverse array of action sequences, such as vehicle chases. What makes the action that more effective are the locales themselves. There is a distinctiveness to the likes of Istanbul  Shanghai, Macau, Gunkanjima Island, among others, that provide each action sequence is distinct personality. This is only made better by the fact that there are some great locale shots outside of Bond doing what he does best.

As expected of a 007 film sexuality has its place but within moderation. Language usage is emphasised on the odd occasion while violence, in which there is quite a bit is never explicit.

Skyfall is a fun film to watch. There is nothing that can deny this. Good acting, an interesting plot, an interesting villain; good action sequences and some lovely cinematography have the making for a top notch film. However, as interesting as Skyfall is to follow, its narrative caves within itself at points. The strange turn to humanise Bond about two-thirds through seems at play against what came before, and this itself is heavily played to the point that Bond himself begins to lose much of the intrigue that makes him who he is. Additionally, some plot advancements, like Silva's plan, do not get the attention the audience deserves in terms of understanding how it ultimately works. And lastly there is the dual identities the film attempts to balance, but that never feels like it really comes off. Bond is still doing what he does to be the world`s super spy icon, but sometimes, maybe the world is not enough.

8/10

Monday, 24 September 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift


Sailing on ice...

A lot has happened since the release of the original Ice Age when Manny, Diego and Sid first met. This time around, their existence is threatened when their continent begins to break apart, forcing everyone to have to flee from their established homes. However, things go a little wrong resulting in Manny, Diego and Sid being caught up in a battle against a pirate ape, Captain Gutt.

For those who have not been keeping up with all the release of the Ice Age series, going to view the latest installment should not prove to be any hindrance into the overall world that has been created. Sure, the relationship between the protagonists may not be fully understandable but each's unique personality is unveiled very early. This ensures that you do not have to think too much and you can let yourself go for the adventures which ensues. This is not to say that Continental Drift is devoid of any tangible story, it is just not a unique or promising one. In short, the main characters are trying to get back to their families (well Manny at least) and this brings up the tried and tested theme of family bonding. There is a good lesson here to be taught to kids, though parents are most likely going to ignore the fluff. Thankfully, the film does have its fair share of good laughs. Most is aimed at kids which can provide the odd smile but then at times the writers do their best and it shows. Continental Drift is not a minute-by-minute comedy affair, but every aspect of the story and writing do adequately fall into place.

The voice acting is a lot of fun, mainly due to the performances by Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo. The rest of the actors are by no means bad, for they all feel and sound comfortable in the roles assigned to them. This brings about a voice talent that fits well within the mould of the story itself allowing dialogue and comedy to be presented in a clear manner without ever sounding incompetent.

Technically, the film is pretty good. The animation is crisp and clear though lacking any noticeable advances in the medium. The 3D is not too bad itself: it is never distracting nor does it particularly standout or enhance the experience. But what was pretty fun was the full 4D effect. Moving chairs, water vapour being sprayed on you and air passing by your skin. While 4D is not something new to anyone who has experienced it, it did feel like it enhanced the film-watching experience. I cannot imagine it being suitable to all types of films, but in the case of a 3D animation like Ice Age, the film begins to feel more fun for it.

As an animation aimed at children, the worse the film receives is some name calling and some relatively non-violent action scenarios.

Ice Age: Continental Drift can be seen as a somewhat tired film. It's story is not particularly strong nor is the comedy always engaging. But it wades through these rough seas to make an impact that is adequate enough to keep your interest through to the film's conclusion. Add in some nice looking animation and the bonus 4D (if you are lucky) and the end result is something that can be enjoyable if you allow it to be.


6/10

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Standing tall in the shadows...

It has been 7 years since the Joker caused havoc upon Gotham and Batman made the decision to become a fugitive for the greater good of the city. Since then, Gotham has undergone a massive overhaul in terms of battling crime, with the city experiencing a peace it had never before, and without the need for Batman, who has disappeared. Yet, all of this comes under threat when a man by the name Bane attempts to restructure Gotham into his own making.

Christopher Nolan has crafted something unique with his Batman trilogy. Instead of following in the footsteps of all those before him, Nolan attempted to take Batman out of the comics and into the real world, so to speak, in a way that made some sort of logical sense. It is a different kind of superhero movie and The Dark Knight Rises continues this trend. The time jump between the previous film and this one can be a little jarring at first. There is no real sign that things have changed in Gotham with the only information provided by various subtle conversations about the situation as it is. In some ways this can be problematic as it is difficult to truly gauge the context Nolan is attempting to create. But, it is this sort of understatement that encompasses the entire film. Things are not as they appear, and Nolan is not attempting to deceive the viewer of this: the fact that characters talk about Gotham but hint at problems ultimately serves as the perfect backdrop in which to force Bruce to take up the mantle of Batman once again. The rest of the story continues at a controlled pace but at times it can feel rushed. The motivations for some characters have to be understood and accepted almost on the spot and it can feel like such reasoning's are never given time to truly develop. Nevertheless, the story brings about what makes superhero movies so important: overcoming obstacles, and for Batman's 3rd attempt at character growth, it is a wonder to see the character become more then even he himself expected. As usual, some other characters are given some spotlight (and perhaps more so then the previous entries) such as the young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). The story can feel rushed towards the end. The final 30 to 45 minutes cover a really long time period within the story and the sequence of scenes  Lastly, even though the film is a direct sequel to The Dark Knight it is important to note that thematic elements from the first still exist in order to build character development.

Supporting the well crafted, albeit slightly rushed, narrative is a top line of acting performances. The usual suspects (Caine, Freeman, Oldman) get the nods they so deserve for their respective characters but the new cast are thankfully just as good. Anne Hathaway as the mysterious Selina Kyle portrays the character with zealous and appears to have a good grasp on facial cues to truly sink in the reality of her character and the world around her. Next is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who, in comparison, brings a more reserved performance to the inquisitive cop Blake. But a nod must be given to Tom Hardy as the formidable Bane. Bane feels  powerful whenever on the screen and his voice is enough parts dominant and sophisticated to emphasis Bane as more then just some brute (as evident in pre-Nolan Batman). There is a good cast here, and they make their characters work. Finally, credit must be given to Bale who embraces the role of Bruce and Wayne and Batman head on. There is a subtle vigour to his performance which really strikes home his characters' anguishes and attempts to overcome the obstacles in their lives.

The most evident of the camera work this time around is that Gotham is not as much of a centre piece as it was before. In previous films, it was possible to see Gotham as a character in its own, especially since villains emphasised a need to test the limits which the city itself possessed. In The Dark Knight Rises, the test that occurs is not as apparent at first but the theme of a united Gotham continues. The film is also very much about the human characters and the camera supports this. That said, there are some great scenes throughout the film but the truly unforgettable scenes are more sparse than previous scenes in the trilogy. On a stronger note, the musical score is expectantly mesmerising.

As expected of the series, the film has a slightly darker feel than other superhero films but never to the point of pushing the envelope in terms of appropriate content. Violence is a standard affair though the kill count is higher then before. Language is almost non-existent and the same can be said about sexual elements.

Nolan's trilogy has finally come to its end after 7 long years, and there is no doubt that the wait for the finale was worth it. Like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before, The Dark Knight Rises is virtually a top tier contender in every way. There is little to fault in a film that combines the fun of a superhero flick with the thoughtfulness of a human drama. If you believed in Christopher Nolan before, prepare to have your faith rewarded.

9/10

Friday, 8 July 2011

Something Borrowed


Case gone cold...

By her 30th birthday, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a dedicated attorney, bemoans the fact that love is not in her court. Her best friend Darcy (Jennifer Hudson), however, is closed to being married to Dex (Colin Egglesfield) whom Rachel met in law school. After a few drinks together Rachel confesses to Dex that she always had a crush on him which leads to both sleeping together. With Darcy's wedding not long away, Rachel finds herself in dubious territory.

Something Borrowed had the potential to be a multifaceted affair. On one hand it is your average romantic comedy and on the other it offers a portrayal of ethical issues surrounding love. It is a pity the latter is downplayed to a rather basic understanding of the issues. The narrative does its best to help the viewer identify with Rachel and it is not difficult to do so for the first third. She is the good girl who is studious and in love with a guy who she feels is too handsome for her, but loses him to her best friend who always has to be better than her. This sort of identification begins to fall away with Rachel's self pity, which is thankfully attacked by her long time friend Ethan (John Krasinski), and her rather willingness to engage in an affair. While the ending is not something new for the genre, it is quite surprising how the film appears to glorify the act of cheating to the point of it being acceptable. There are no dire consequences to actions and so the narrative becomes unfortunately one dimensional. That said, there is no denying the fun factor associated with the romantic comedy nature of the film so it is not all bad.

Thankfully, the actors do a decent enough job of keeping the story afloat. Goodwin and Egglesfield are perhaps not quite up to par with Hudson and Krasinski. This is easily due to Hudson having the most exciting role and Krasinski stealing scenes with his humour and charisma. This merely leaves the more romance orientated and weak dramas scenes for Goodwin and Egglesfield to wade through.


Considering the thematic elements expressed in the story, sexual content is fairly tame and without nudity. Violence is only really shown through a horror film being watched by some characters and language is on the tame side.

There is potential to push past the romantic comedy genre, but the story of Something Borrowed is light hearted to its detriment as the possible avenue to build a thought provoking tale is never really attempted. Additionally, not all of the actors are given the strongest material to work with and this becomes evident when the best scenes require particular characters. On a simple level Something Borrowed does work, but with such pressing issues alluded to early on in the story it is saddening that nothing comes of them: something blue indeed.



6/10

Screen date: 8 July 2011
Release date: 8 July 2011

Friday, 10 June 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


On slowing tides...

On the way to hopefully finding the fountain of youth, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself in a dire predicament when he is captured by his ex-lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz )and the nefarious Blackbeard (Ian McShane). They require Jack's help in finding the fountain in order to save Blackbeard while trying to avoid the clutches of Barbossa (Gerofery Rush).

As a sequel to the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, On Stranger Tides attempts to refresh the series by concentrating on an uncomplicated narrative. Instead, the film takes a page out of the original film in the series but not quite as successfully. There are a few plots being weaved together but they all come up short in execution which ultimately threatens the potential of various associated characters. The core reason is due to the lack of detailed exposition. The most problematic of these is the love story between Philip (Sam Claflin) and the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) which is evidently undeveloped and unimportant to the overall narrative. Their growing love lacks tangibility and it becomes frustrating when their conclusion becomes a guessing game for the audience. There are various plots developed but they are underwhelming and this hurts the film as the action sequences alone cannot stop the odd scene from dragging along. For the most part the film is a fun watch but just not a particularly great one.


The acting is passable enough as Depp and Rush convey their characters in a similar fashion to older films. Cruz and McShane add positively to the cast with the former bringing some zest to the film while the latter does bring the expected arrogance to Blackbeard. Claflin and Berges-Frisbey are not able to be quite as convincing. However, this is mostly due to their limited capacity in the film, which comes from the limited nature of their respective plot on the overall narrative of the film. On Stranger Tides also sports a far less noticeable and capable supporting cast when compared to the original trilogy which is disappointing, so the chance to offset the major situations in the film to the lesser cast is next to impossible.

There is an extensive use of CG throughout the film and predominately with good results. What is a strange decision is to have a large portion of the film shrouded in darkness. A lot of the film deals with enlightenment, either by faith or common humanity, but the filmmakers attempt to ensure you do not feel the same way as the lack of visibility can, at times, hinder the viewing experience.

The film contains no sex though the mermaids are clearly naked even though nothing explicit is shown. Language is mild at best as it is more in the name-calling variant. Violence comes in a variety of forms but deaths are mostly tame.

On Stranger Tides appears as a semi-reboot of the series, being more in liking with the original film and therefore losing the unnecessary scale At Worlds End attempted to provide. But the simplification has gone perhaps a little too far with a thin narrative and a thin cast of characters that ultimately fail to ignite. At its best, On Stranger Tides has everything that made the franchise good, but these moments are never frequent enough or long lasting making the film like spotting a mermaid: if you blink it will most likely be gone; and that just may well be a good thing.

6/10

Screen date: 20 May 2011
Release date: 20 May 2011

Monday, 6 June 2011

Sony E3 2011 Conference Overview

PS3
software
- Battlefield 3: Battlefield 1942 exclusive to PS3 copy.
- Bioshock Infinite: Move support; PS3 copy includes original Bioshock.
- Dust 514: from CCP, developers of EVE Online. FPS, connected to EVE on PC; supports Move, Home space; PSV support; exclusive PSN.
- God of War Origins Collection: remastered in HD and 3D.
- ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection: remastered in HD.
- Infamous 2: release date 7 June; creation tools via Move.
- LittleBigPlanet 2: deeper Move controls.
- Medieval Moves: new Move IP from Zindagi Games.
- NBA2k12 - Move support.
- Need for Speed the Run: 7 exclusive cars for PS3.
- Resistance 3: single player campaign demoed; Sharpshooter bundle $150.
- Ruin: compatible with PSV version via save transference.
- Saints Row The 3rd - exclusive DLC.
- Sly Cooper Thieves in Time: 2012 release.
- SSX - Mount Fuji track exclusive to PS3.
- Starhawk.
- Star Trek - move support and exclusive DLC.
- Star Trek PSN - exclusive to PSN; move support.
- Uncharted 3: single player campaign demoed; beta: 20 June; Subway initiative for early MP access.

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PS VITA
hardware
Vita: means life; OLED screen, dual cameras and analog sticks, touch screen and rear touchpad.
Price: wifi - $249, wifi+3G - $299.

software
- at&t: official provider of 3G PSV.
- Bioshock PSV: new title based on Bioshock universe.
- Party mode app: cross chat.
- LittleBigPlanet.
- ModNation Racers - new title; access to all PS3 creations.
- Near app: social networking between PSV owners.
- Ruin: action RPG from SCE San Diego
- Street Fighter X Tekken: Cole from InFamous is a character.
- Uncharted: Golden Abyss: developed by Sony Bend.
- Wipeout 2048 - play against PS3 users.

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PSN
- CinemaNow partnership. stream TV and film.
- Playstation Suite: PS content on non-PS hardware.

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MISC
- Playstation branded 3DTV - 24 inch; desperate image feature; bundled with 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3 - $499.