Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Console Wars

This is so late in it's coming I might as well be reviewing pac-man. However the two big consoles in the world — I think — have reached their peak of usability with regards to games, online experience and operating system. I actually only own the Xbox 360, but I have a fair bit of experience with the PS3 and finally feel qualified to go through each feature and directly compare the consoles. Yes I am disregarding the Wii, and I will give you a very good reason; "I HATE THE WII", but more on that later.

Controller

Let's start simple, the controller is the main way that your body interfaces with the console so it's fairly important. The Xbox wins so clearly. The Xbox controller fit's snugly and ergonomically into your hand, the buttons and triggers are elegantly positioned and perfect for your thumbs and indexes. It's much heavier than the PS3 controller, but that doesn't bother me, because it means it has some substance. The rumble is also wonderful providing a decent haptic response. The PS3 controller on the other hand is tiny, so much so that it will be dwarfed by any hand older than 4 years. This makes it hard to press buttons causing cramps and repetitive strain injury up the butt. The triggers on the PS3 controller are horrible, they're sort of semi-springloaded, but they just feel spongy and uncomfortable, which is really annoying when most driving in games is now controlled chiefly by triggers. The PS3 controller's sixaxis, while sounding cool and a good premise, is just plain annoying and useless. The only time I've tried it is in GTA IV but it was horrible.

Operating System

This is slightly less clear, so I'm just gonna directly compare facets. First the look, simple, the PS3 operating system is gorgeous, the Xbox system looks like lego, PS3 wins. Menu layout is up next, they're only slightly different, the animation is much nicer on the PS3 but that doesn't really affect usability. I remember the old Xbox operating system worked much better and was pissed off that they changed it, but for the life of me I've forgotten everything about it now. Functionality next and I'm gonna try to avoid online function. I have less experience with the PS3 on this front. I know that on the Xbox however, you can listen to music and watch videos from a usb connected device, you can stream from a windows PC, which is useless for me, a Mac user. I'm pretty sure there is similar function with the PS3 but there is probably less restriction on file types and mac blocking.

Online content and function

The Xbox online content is great, Microsoft constantly pump out interviews, previews, demos, images, reviews, tips, tricks, arcade games and in the case of Britain a couple of douchebags doing some very poor work. While the PS3 produces less exclusive content, it has the important stuff, downloadable demos and dlc for games. However when you get to the versatility of internet usability the PS3 wins outright. The one thing that the Xbox is missing most of all is the most simple thing, a web browser. Even with the recent update, which gives you facebook, twitter and last.fm functionality on your Xbox, it is still nothing compared to a bloody web browser. I'm a big revision 3 podcast fan and every week I am forced to download podcasts to my 4gb memory stick and then put that in my Xbox. If I had a PS3 I could simply use the web browser to stream or download rev3 podcasts directly to my console. But it's not like that is the only application of a web browser. The way Microsoft have restricted online function is absurd and I cannot figure out why they want to control it so much. Online play is the last facet of this section, on the Xbox you pay a subscription to be an, "Xbox Live Gold Member", which frankly sucks and isn't that cheap. The PS3 online play however is free, regardless of game, however there is less integration with the gaming community than on the Xbox. DLC is another big thing, more and more games are coming out with extra content online that you can download for a fee, whether you agree with this or not I will leave up to you, but I will say this. On the PS3 it is simple enough you pay the price using you card and you download, with the Xbox you have to buy points first and exchange these for games. The problem is you can't buy points in the amount that any DLC costs, which is both very shrewd and clever on the part of Microsoft and also makes me want to kill them.

Hardware

The PS3 wins, even before they released the slim version. First off it has a blu-ray player built in, not only that, but it's supposedly the best blu-ray player currently on the market. Xbox sided with High Def DVD and didn't even put it in the console, you had to buy a separate drive. The PS3 is bigger and heavier but it is also very good looking and practically silent compared to the Xbox, which sounds like a Boeing 747 taking off. I understand that if you care-not for your warranty — which is stupid considering the amount of faults the Xbox has — you can send your console to some specialists, who will take it apart, and put it in a giant box, which will slightly reduce the noise for some money. The PS3 is all built in, which is good because you don't have to fork out £50 for a wireless network adapter, but not as good because you can't remove and change hard disks like you can with the Xbox.

Hardiness

There is one last point to be made. The Xbox is famous for something called the red-ring-of-death, which comes up when you're xbox is basically going to die, you can send it back to the manufacturers to be repaired for free as many times as you like, it's probably gonna die. Plus when you send it back you no longer have an Xbox, which is poop. The reason so many Xboxes have this problem as I have been made to understand it, is because, when the initial release of the console came, it was rushed to beat the PS3 and win some market saturation. As such components were installed poorly, without testing. I'm lucky enough to have one of the few Xboxes that has suffered from nothing more than a few false starts, which still keep me awake at night with worry. However everyone else I know with an Xbox has had the red ring and eventually either sells it and plumps for a PS3 or sells it and gets a replacement which is a pain. I also understand that for the first few years the percentage of Xboxes suffering from faults was a large majority of the total population, but now it has been reduced massively.

So as you can see each console has its merits and demerits, and I hope I've given people, considering getting a console, a hand in choosing. It's a tricky decision which now can no longer be made on the basis of price, as they're getting closer and closer though the Xbox is slightly cheaper. Personally, if you can afford it, then get both, you'll then have the best of both worlds, and be able to play all the games regardless of platform. I will explain why I hate the Wii in a later post.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Halo Music

One other thing about Halo, the music. It's totally awesome, seriously someone should give those guys an award. When I make my first hollywood feature, I want them doing the score. They set the mood so perfectly and it's just beautiful.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Foo Fighters

I'd have to say that Dave Grohl and his band of Fighters of Foo are my all time favourite band. I love their music, Even the early stuff, which was just Dave on his own in a shed milling about playing everything like some wonderfully good one man band.

The band's progression is wonderful to behold, just by listening to a couple of tracks from each album it is possible to see a sound so individual and unique developing. I await each new album with baited breath. Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace was, for me, a masterpiece, and analysing when their past albums came out told me that one should have come out this year already so where is it.

And then they released a Greatest Hits album. My rage is unspeakable, I wanted an new album and a new chapter in the story of this band's progression. Not some list of songs I already own, with a couple of new ones chucked in to keep people like me happy. That kind of thing doesn't keep people like me happy.

Of course if this puts them on tour doing a greatest hits show, I would definitely go to see them but that doesn't change the fact that I don't have anything new to listen to from them and say how wonderful it is, and that's all I want.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Halo: Reach

What is Halo: Reach? I'm so confused about it. At first I tried to ignore it, it was gonna be released in 2010, that was like ages away but now 2010 is looming and I still know basically nothing. I thought for a while it might be Bungie's foray into the world of MMORPG, but that doesn't seem to be the case, it is definitely an FPS but as to what it's about I cannot attest.

In fact people in the Media who have been visiting Bungie recently, have been speaking about some secret room they have, where they are working on their project to come after Reach, and they all seem to be pretty impressed and wowed, so perhaps that's the MMO I think most Halo fans are expecting.

Thoughts and Comments please.

Halo 3: ODST




My previous game posts seemed to imply that I would reviewing each of the aforementioned games as they were released. So here is Halo 3: ODST.

I said that what got me excited about this was that it had a much darker look than the previous games. It fulfilled its promise there, the stunning scenery that you would usually expect from a Halo game was there with a whole new look, it was dark, it was cold it was windy and rainy.

My favourite thing though was the elite actors in this game. We've got half the cast of Firefly, spouting out lines from that wonderful show every few minutes and if that isn't enough we have the hot Cylon from Battlestar Galactica playing the role of Dare, an ONI agent.

The story was a lot of fun, the stealth elements worked well, without the Bungie folk having to employ any new and fancy stealth game mechanics. The map alone brings a whole new dimension to Halo, giving you the ability to plan your attacks and even avoid fighting in some cases.

I'm coming to the end of my second run through, it's even more fun this time round. The story is wonderful, fantastic voice acting, epic scenery, a great new feel, fun gameplay, everything you want from a Halo game and more.

In other game news, I won't be reviewing Forza 3 for the forseeable future, as I'm not crazy keen on splurging my money at the moment. The same goes for Modern Warfare 2, I really want to play it but that price tag is insane, don't think I'll be buying that for a while. Still not decided if I'm going to pre-order Assassins Creed 2, my most anticipated game of the year, but probably won't get it until Christmas.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Unemployed



This image, for me, is a perfect commentary on our current economic climate. This is at least how it has affected me the most. I've just graduated from university, I should be eligible for work, but there is nothing. I can't get a decent job and it's driving me insane. At the moment my favourite option is to return to Preston, the city of my university, and return to my university job, working at the local cinema.

It's nothing for a graduate but I'll be earning money, I'll be with friends, and I'll have somewhere to live. I'll also be living in a city, something I love.

Thoughts and comments please.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Filthy Teenagers

I read this article today on Slashfilm. For those who don't want to read it let me give you the gist of it. A new film has been announced which is a teen, reversed, skew on Nancy Meyers' 2000 film What Women Want.

The original film is great, it's pre-mega-crazy Mel Gibson at his best, in a wonderful Nancy Meyers film, in which a man gets a chance by a paranormal gift, to change who he is. Awesome premise, great film.

But isn't a reversed teen version of that film an oxymoron? The title is What Boys Want. I was, not too long ago, a teenage boy, so I know exactly what they want and I can tell you that it is not suitable to be heard in public at all, let alone by teenagers. So either this film will stay true to what teenage boys really think and get an 18 classification, preventing most teenagers from watching it, or it won't be a true representation of what teenage boys think at all, get a 12 rating and fall flat on its arse.

Thoughts and Comments please.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Wire

I'm a latecomer to The Wire, as I type I'm watching the last episode of season 2. The Wire has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest things since sliced bread. It's very good there's not doubt there. Some of the scenes are just pure genius, like the scene in season 1 where Bunk and McNulty are looking around a crime scene and using only one word repeatedly to draw conclusions and discuss their ideas. Or in season two when Greggs and Daniels are at dinner with their respective disgruntled partners and the camera rotates and switches between the two scenes.

These little moments of beauty are interspersed throughout a complex police investigation, conducted by talented but none-the-less flawed individuals, making them very relatable characters. Our protagonist, McNulty, is the antithesis of a classic hero, he sleeps around, he objectifies women, he's an alcoholic, but he's the best damn police Baltimore has ever seen, and more so than characters like House, his failings make him even more endearing.

The police investigation is wonderful to behold, these guys have a fraction of the resources of most police shows around, and yet they achieve remarkable things. We see every detail of the investigation, and the struggle to gather evidence when you know exactly what crimes the people you investigate are committing but can't take them down because of the lack of said evidence.

My criticisms of this show are few and small in magnitude. First of all is the character Prezbyluski. I think that's spelt correctly, when he first appeared he was violent, naive, abusive of his power and a bit of a little shit. However just a few episodes later he is this reformed, productive, resourceful and polite officer who everyone loves. Don't get me wrong I think his character is great, he and Lester are awesome but people don't just change like that. People barely change at all throughout there entire lives, and any major changes that do occur are usually things that the individuals have known to be true about themselves before the change. For massive change to come about, like that which occurred with Prez, it takes a long time and not one single event. In this the show falls down.

My next criticism is quite minor, the opening credits. They are so damned long, with that annoying song about Jesus or something. Opening credits can only serve to bore and frustrate viewers, they should be short and snappy, you throw up the titles and you go into the show.

Finally - and this isn't a criticism as such - I find myself only able to watch one episode at a time, which is strange because I'm the type that enjoys marathons. So my conclusion is that the show is not dramatic enough to draw me in to a sense of not being able to put this book down-ness.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Waterstones

I've had a really big issue with an order I placed with waterstones quite some time ago, which I have still not received entirely. I won't say much more, here is the email I have sent to their customer service department, I'm so fed up and I think people should hear about this sort of thing.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have emailed you regarding an order part of which was lost in the post. I reported the missing item the day of delivery by phone. I was told I would receive an email from you within 24 hours detailing when I would be receiving my goods. Several days later I received an email asking me to return damaged goods with a letter requesting either a refund or a replacement. I emailed back saying I did not receive the good, and that you had sent me an incorrect email, and I still have not received a reply from you, long after the 48 hour reply time you stated in said email. It has now been over 3 weeks since I placed the order and I have not received my book.

I think this is quite appalling customer service, and I request either a refund for the book A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin or preferably the book delivered immediately.

It really is time companies realised how important customer service is in this day and age. Anyone can have a blog, and if they have something bad to say about your company, it can potentially be read by millions.

I hope to hear from you soon,

Sincerely,

Stuart Scrace.

Please digg this use stumbleupon, anything, word of mouth is so important, and with the internet should be easier to use.

Of course if you disagree with what I have to say, please leave a comment and I will endeavor to reply to you.


*UPDATE*

I have just received a reply to my email, a tracked replacement is on it's way to me, and they've added 500 points to my card as a gesture of good will. After everything that happened this is very good, but it still shouldn't have happened in the first place, I'd rather the book had come on time than got this extra bit. People shouldn't be rewarded for complaining, but should be compensated appropriately, I feel this has happened.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Dananana dananana dananana dananana Batman Batman: Arkham Asylum

I did a post about the games I'm looking forward to this coming 6 months so it seems only fair that I review each one as it comes out. First up is Batman: Arkham Asylum.


Arkham Asylum is a third-person...errr...umm...well sort of action, adventure, puzzle thing. To be quite frank defining it's genre may be pointless, it's awesome. Let's start with the combat, as that may be the first thing you think of when you hear, "Batman". The game has a free-flow combat mechanic, meaning there is no heavy hit and light hit or kick button, there is one strike button. You repeatedly hit this button attacking inmates, if one should get into a position where they might hit the bat you hit another button to counter, it is as simple as that, well almost. As you go through the game you get upgrades from, "Waynetech", which upgrade your combat, armour, batarangs and technology. I have three favourite combat upgrades first is the critical strike, which, enables you to perform increasingly more powerful hits once your combo gets above 3 and you time the hits right. The second is the one which leads to the third, so it's not really important. The third is an unblockable instant takedown once your combo gets above 8 or 5 if you have another upgrade. Let me tell you this last one is so cool, the instant takedowns are brilliantly animated and have the most wonderful bone-crunching sound, every time Batman does one of these, you utter an audible, "ohhhhh, bugger me!".

Next, the stealth. For those who are unaware, the chief difference between Batman and the Joker-other than one being perceptibly evil and the other good-is that the Batman refuses to kill anyone and the Joker goes around killing as he pleases. This is in fact explicitly stated by Commissioner Gordon during the introductory scenes of the game, "We have to show him our way works". So while batman has no problems dealing with a few thugs armed with nothing more than lead pipes and fists, he encounters difficulty with guns. He doesn't use guns beacuse they can often result in bad case of death. So when you enter a room and see 5 armed guards, it bodes well to hide a bit and try not running in gung ho. Using distractions, explosive gel, sonic batarangs, inverted takedowns and a myriad of other creative devices you can take down a room of armed guards in an enjoyable and safe way. Seriously if this was a method for hunting rabbits instead, a health and safety officer would not only approve, they'd join in.

So last is the puzzle element. Our old friend Jim Car...I mean The Riddler has planted a few puzzles around the island to test out mental capability. How he got them there I have no idea, this place is like Alkatraz and how he taps into our earpiece early in the game I also don't know but he does and he taunts you just as much as the joker throughout the game. Ostensibly these puzzles and riddles are meant to be solved to keep the Riddler talking so we can trace his broadcast, but we all know we're just doing them because they're fun. There are trophies in hard to reach areas, there are recordings of the spirit of Arkham (What?!), riddles leading to allusions to old batman characters and riddles leading to question marks printed on the walls that you have to quite precisle align. The puzzle mode holds my key criticism of the game, the detective mode.

The Detective mode is used in other parts like scanning for guards, tracking dna, alcohol and tobacco (sounds weird but will be clear when you play). But a large part of its usefulness is in the puzzles, there are destructible walls, hidden grates and all kinds of things that you will only see with detective mode on. This makes it incredibly tempting to leave it on all the time, and why shouldn't you, if the game has been designed that way you shouldn't feel some weird sense of loyalty to the artists, and have to turn it off to look at their quite lovely work. It's an old problem in video games, usually caused by mini-maps, here you get to see the scenery but not in the gorgeous colour and detail it was intended to be viewed in. Peter Molonyeux is well known for speaking out on this matter. What is the point in creating beautiful artwork and scenery if you give the player a minimap which they're gonna stare at instead of the game. Peter solved it in a way in Fable 2 with the breadcrumbs and dog mechanic, which while a little glitchy at times was elegant and blended into the scenery well.

While I do dislike the over-usefulness of the detective mode, I love this game, I'm on my second run-through and can't see myself getting bored with it, 4 save files may not be enough. It is the best game I've played since Mass Effect and Shadow of the Collossus. So if you'll excuse me I'm gonna go play and not bother proof-reading this, not that I ever do.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Games Incoming 2009

The second half of this year sees some really exciting games come to the table. I am tremendously excited about them so I'm gonna share some thoughts regarding them.

The first is the new Batman Game Arkham Asylum. This comes out on the 22nd August, I've already pre-ordered it and today played the demo like 4 times, yes it's that good. The fighting mechanic is a lot of fun. The stealth—i—ness is ultra cool, doing an inverted takedown whilst hanging from a gargoyle is almost as fun as karate kicking a helicopter (yes that was a reference to prototype a game I thought was a lot of fun but quite boring after a while). The art style in Arkham is really cool and comic booky. This may have come as a suprise to some of the Dark Knight fans, but they started making Arkham before the success of Dark Knight, so that's why we get this cartoon style, but don't let that word fool you, it's still very dark and creepy.


The next game to come out for me will be Halo 3 ODST, which is out on the 28th September so let's hope I can make Arkham Asylum last a month. I first heard of this game when TRS and CO-OP were doing coverage of E3 it looked way better than the old Halo games. One of my biggest problems with previous Halo games were too bright and colourful, it looked like the Teletubbies go to war. This game looks so much darker, it really impresses me. Another thing is the weaponry, this new pistol looks super cool and I can't wait to try it. But above all these things is that leading the Voice acting are everyones' favourite actors from Firefly, Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk. Fillion is like so cool I can't begin to describe it, One of the trailers has him introducing his ODST squad and it's so cool. Sorry about the gushing but he is really cool. One more thing about Halo, I've played a bit of the original, all of 3 and all of Wars, but to be perfectly honest I don't understand the story.


The next game is Forza Motorsport 3. If you'd asked me a year ago what I thought of racing games, I would have told you that they're huge piles of poop, and I would have freely admitted that I hate them because I'm no good. My friend recently sold his Xbox and gave me most of his games, he is now massively regretting that and I'll explain why in a second. In that pack of games he gave—most of which I'll be honest I deemed poop and sold—was a gem, Forza 2, this game has changed my views of racing games completely. I am addicted, I play all the time, yes mainly because I'm bored but also because it's really fun. My friend is a huge motorsport fan, this is why most games he owns are racing games unless I happen to point out a piece of awesome to him. Now I've told him Forza 3 is coming out he is seriously considering buying a new Xbox, but considering he lives at home and is a Sports Journalist, he can afford it. I can't wait for Forza 3 the graphics alone look—pardon my french—shit hot, and I can't wait to get my hands on all the new cars


"Next up?", I hear you cry, it's Modern Warfare 2, which to be honest speaks for itself to most of the gaming community. COD 4 saw a huge departure from the older COD games, and it proved to be very popular and awesome. COD 4's primary downfall is that it's so damned short, this second part is hugely anticipated and looks great with a revamped multiplayer mode but it's £55 price tag could prove to be a little too rich for me and i suspect many other gamers out there. Release Date is November 9th


Assassin's Creed 2; fuck yes. I adored the first Assassin's Creed, I don't care what anyone says that game was frickin' awesome. I appreciate the mundanity of performing the same tasks again and again but I don't care, its beauty lied in it's ability to give the player creative control. Anyone who can't see past the repetitive tasks and marvel at Assassin's Creed's glory is a fool and not someone I want at a dinner party. This is by far my most anticipated game of all time let alone the year, thank you Ubisoft Montreal, I love you guys. Release date is November 20th.


The last game I am anticipating for the second half of this year is a little unknown title called Saboteur. This game hasn't received a lot of press and I only know of it because my friend Joe brought it up in conversation. This looks a lot of fun, though I don't know much about it yet, but check it out if you can, release date: December 4th.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir is a disturbing look at the Israeli-Lebanese War. It is told from the point of view of a veteran of the war trying to recount the memories of his days as a young soldier. The main character seems at the beginning to have lost his memories and meets with his old comrades and other soldiers who were involved in the war to reconstruct his memory and figure out if his memory of the massacre at the camps in Beirut is real or not.

This film uses a style of animation that is quite peculiar, not to the extent of A Scanner Darkly but getting there. I think the decision to use this animation was a good one, it gives a versatility which just wouldn’t be possible with live action, and means the film doesn’t have to be about crazy visual effects and stunts, which would ultimately detract from the horrifying message of the film.

It’s an eye-opener, I was born in 1988 and the war was in 1982, so I had no prior knowledge of the war. It shows the complete and utter disorganisation of the armies; 19 year-old un-tested soldiers put in charge of a tank and just firing aimlessly into the night; officers disjointed from the horror of the death and destruction they leave behind, and a complete absence of respect for the enemy’s life and property.

But while the officers showed a complete lack of regard for the people around them, the main character and his comrades show an extraordinary amount of empathy and care for their fellow soldiers and a crushing amount of responsibility for what they did in the war even though they were under the orders of officers and did not fully understand why they were doing what they were doing.

At numerous points in the film I was horrified to the point of endless cringing. The veteran’s old comrades have some fantastic tales, and the artwork brings some beauty to a very ugly point in human history. Some people really dislike seeing films that challenge them, and point out horrors, but I think it is important to see these films, and to challenge ourselves, and to face up to the ugly truths of our past. Even more important is to remember those who needlessly died for the sake of—from what I can tell from the film—religion.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Lost in Translation

According to my brother's tumbleblog ( http://tomscrace.tumblr.com/ ) it is some famous French guy's 188th birthday (yes obviously he's dead, it's just a celebration of his birthday). It just so happens that at work today I was working with a colleague called Yann who is from France. It was a slow day at the cinema so we found other ways to occupy ourselves as usual. Today's activity was a clever game invloving taking film titles, translating them into French, and by the clever use of French Homonyms, making it so that if translated back literally into English, we could have a rude title. I have a fairly good knowledge of French considering I have no qualitifcation in the language, so that made it fun. So in a tribute to this famous French guy here are the titles we came up with. Oh and I can't be bothered inserting all the accents so please excuse the inaccuracy of some of the titles.

Race to Witch Mountain becomes La Course a La Montagne, which I am reliably informed by Yann can be translated to The Big Fat Witch Race.

The Boat that Rocked becomes Le Bateau qui Demenage, which can be translated to mean The Boat that Moved Out, Ok that one isn't very rude or funny but still good homonym work by Yann.

Terminator Salvation was an especially good one, Salvation in French is Salut but as many readers may know, Salut also mean's "Hi". This opens up a whole cornucopia of fun translations. Le Salut Du Terminator can translate to The Terminator's Salute or my favourite Hi! Terminator.

Drangonball Evolution is probably the best and sounds like it should be a Jack Black film after translation. L'Evolution Des Couilles Du Dragon, translates to The Evolution of the Dragon's Balls, and yes I mean testicles.

Actually I've changed my mind, this next one is the best, G.I.Joe, Rise of Cobra, translates to La Montee Du Cobra which translates back, quite awesomely into The Cobra's Jizz Explosion. We were playing around with The Cobra's Hard On but decided Jizz Explosion was funnier, yes we're quite immature on occasion.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the fallen becomes La Revanche Des Dechets, which excellently means Revenge of the Garbage.

X-Men Origins Wolverine, translates to Les Origines Des Hommes Du X, which translates back to The Original Porn Guys.

Fast and Furious - Rapide Furieux - Furious Rapids.

17 Again - 17 ans Encore - 17 More Years.

Ice Age - L'age de la Glace - The Age of the Ice Cream.

It helps that Yann has a similar sense of humour to me and could figure out what would work because of his extensive knowledge of French rude colloquialisms. This was lots of fun, hope you enjoy it, leave a comment with your own clever film title re-translated.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

FRIGGIN STUPID ARRRGGGHHH!

Today has been a poop-storm of poop. I'm working on my dissertation trying to get this video for my study sorted out. I did the filming yesterday with some excellent friends who I will be forever indebted to. Today came editing I thought easy peasy, I've got a mac, just bung it all in iMovie HD and string 'em together with maybe a couple of bits cut out... NOOOOOOOO.

First issue, tried to play the videos in quicktime, "Sorry it's not actually a video file". Well actually it clearly is, you've recognised it as a quicktime thing, and it quite clearly says MPG on the end, it's a video file. Fine ok deep breath, try VLC, wooot it works, but there's a bit I want to cut out and if I play it as a playlist in VLC it's all jumpy and stuff between parts.

But as long as it works in iMovie, what's the problem, "sorry quicktime couldn't parse it". What, no sorry but what, "parse", bugger off. Right ok don't worry deep breath, flatmate Joe said he found a cool editing program for mac OS, let's call him, "Joe, come quick, need help, please!".

"Hey Stu, wassup",
"I, need that thing like now",
"oh ok, be right back...here it is",
"but that's not even a thing",
"oh yeah"

many minutes of umming and ahhhing.

"let's do it on your PC"
"oh ok yeah lets do it"

So we go to Joe's room and get an editing package and spend an hour or so editing, much grunting and exclamations of "why isn't there a cut option". Finally though it's done. We start the render and Joe goes off to work. Later on I get the file and put it on my mac and try to play it in quicktime, "sorry you don't have the right codec see if it's here...". It wasn't there. BUGGER, BUGGER, BUGGER. So I go online and try to find tips on how to solve the problem, apple support has a lovely article on how to sort out avi problems, find out what format the audio and video is in and get the relevant codec. Ok so the audio is fine we have that codec but the video is in IV50, what the deuce! Find the codec, every article I find says, "it doesn't exist for mac, and probably never will", ARRRRGGGHHHH.

But there are other options, let's go back to the initial problem, now we know what we have to do to find out what codec we need, we can do that with the original files, get it in quicktime, do the editing in iMovie which'll be much easier than the stupid program Joe found and Bob is most assuredly the sibling of one of your parents. Can't open it in quicktime still, so let's get it in VLC and find out through that. Ok so it's mpga and mpgv for audio and video respectively, score, now we're getting somewhere.

Online, how do I get it into some semblance of quicktimery. Try MPEG Streamclip, all the forums say. Woooo, I'm getting close I can feel it. Right go MPEG Streamclip!

I suddenly bore the expression of an individual who has had all of his hopes and dreams crushed.

"By the way, do you have this MPEG2 codec, oohh looks like you don't errrm you kinda need it to convert this into the quicktimery, soo you gotta get it",
"fine give it to me, after all of this, one more codec isn't going to hurt me",
"Well the thing is and don't get angry, and definitely don't throw anything, especially not me, remember how much you love me and what we've been through together, but that codec isn't free",
"I don't understand how can it not be free that's just stupid",
"Well it isn't, infact it costs more than 10 pounds",

RAGE
RAGE
RAGE

"WHAT! WHAT! YOU EVIL F*****G BA*****D, I AM GONNA RIP OFF YOUR **** AND FEED THEM TO A RABID GOAT, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME, YOU WILL BE ***LESS, AND NO LONGER WILL YOU BE ABLE TO HAUNT MY FRAGILE EXISTENCE WITH YOUR S**TSTORM OF CODECS AND OTHER SUCH NONSENSE".

Anyway that's been my day, how's everyone elses been?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Prager and the Thief

I'm in the middle of watching the latest diggnation and Kevin brought up the fact that Prager had his house broken into. Along with this is the fact that Prager's response to the break in was to tweet about it and to set up a live ustream of the burglar. I immediately went online to find more out. I saw the tweets he posted and the video and I have only three letters prior to the many words I will be saying, WTF.

First of all forget Dan becomes a man on the Totally Rad Show, they need to do Prager becomes a man, or at least a sentient life-form capable of calling the police to remove a prowler from his house. The video is just insane, I’m pretty damn sure it’s not a stunt, because if it is, then what is the point?

Whose first instinct when someone breaks into their home is to tweet profusely about it and set up a ustream of the event. I have a theory about this some may not have thought of, what if this random guy was some sort of protestor or artist trying to point out something about twitter. Before I go further I should say that I love twitter, I love the community, I love sharing things, it’s great.

What if this guy was making a point about twitter or simply doing some life replicating technology thing. If you watch the video, you see he just comes in, takes off his trousers and lies down on the sofa, ready to see what Prager gets up to the next day. Prager and others like him tell us about stuff that occur during their day anyway so why not just hang out to see what happens, you don’t need the Internet and you definitely get a greater amount and richer updates about what’s going on.

The thing that prompted this theory is that in the video, Prager, after successfully booting out the dude, says that he said, “Sorry I’m just trying to follow…” There you go he’s just trying to follow him, he thought that’s how it worked maybe. I follow Prager, fair enough I do it from a respectful distance from across a rather substantial ocean we call the Atlantic, but I follow him none-the-less. And to make it even better if this is the case, then the exquisite irony is that Prager’s response to a guy literally following him is to tweet about it, isn’t that just beautiful.

Anyway here’s the link to a business insider article about it, http://is.gd/mRWp watch the video and see what you think and let me know what you think about my theory. And by the way this is a joke, although if it were true it would be awesome.

Friday, 6 March 2009

My old blog

I'm considering transferring all the posts from my old film review blog "jollygoodshow" over to here. I'd like feedback from my miniscule readership. Let me know what you think and I shall respond accordingly.

Stu.

Watchmen

I saw Watchmen on Thursday morning, in iMAX Manchester. This was a special screening for UCI employees, of which I am one. Since then I've been trying to think about what I can say about the film very carefully. It was really tough, so much to the point that I considered not writing anything, but I couldn't leave my avid readers - of which I'm sure there must be at least three - waiting.

In the end an alternative has been offered to me. I just read a fairly extensive review of the film by, David Chen, posted on the slashfilm website. I almost entirely agree with what he has said and cannot truly elaborate, or say anything without heavily plagiarising his work. So instead I offer you a link to his review. http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/03/06/movie-review-watchmen-a-cinematic-achievement-in-adaptation/ .

I will say one thing his rating is maybe a little low I think I'd raise it by .5 or 1.0, but I'm not entirely sure ratings are a sensible thing for films, see my post on the subjective nature of film viewing for more info. There are some spoilers I think if you haven't read the book, but I both suspect and hope that those who want to see the film have read the book.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Valkyrie

Valkyrie tells the tale of the last attempt by members of the German Military, during World War II to stage a coup to overtake Adolf Hitler's Government. The film stars Tom Cruise, along with a multitude of British acting talent, and was directed by Bryan Singer who directed the first two X-Men films, Superman Returns and is the main director on House.

The opening scene of the film sets the scene beautifully, moving from Tom Cruise speaking fluent German into English, which draws us in, in a mesmerizing way to the setting. It's World War II and Colonel Stauffenberg - I think I've spelt that right - is in North Africa, fighting the Allies in a War he is against. They come under attack and he is massively injured. On his return to Berlin he meets with a resistance of military officers and politicians.

When going into this film there are a few things already laid out, we know this is about an attempt on Hitler's life. We also know that it failed as anyone who did a GCSE in history knows that Hitler killed himself when the Allies had Berlin surrounded. So there are no major plot twists coming. Instead in this film we are looking for some inspiring figure. In this way I would say it was comparable to Braveheart. This is no more obvious than at the end where - and maybe a spoiler warning - Cruise's character Stauffenberg, shouts at the top of his voice, "Long Live Sacred Germany", as he is executed by the firing squad.

So the beggining was good, the end was very moving and inspiring, but what about the middle? To be quite honest the middle isn't great, and this is where the substance of the film comes into play. Cruise has a few moments when the charisma of his character shines through, his ability to lead is wonderfully portrayed. But nothing ever really draws you in. Bill Nighy gave a quite interesting performance, it really shows how versatile he is, he is so nervous yet he is doing such a bold thing and this conflict really shines through in his performance. On a small aside note, an intersting artistic choice that was made by Singer was I think to have the gunshots and explosions stand out massively on the audio track. This makes them so shocking and suprising, even though you know they are coming.

Singer showed us exactly what needed to be shown, but I feel he didn't show us what we wanted to see, which is what makes a film. At the moment I'm having trouble putting what I feel about this film into words, as you may be able to tell. I think this film is definitely worth seeing, it's very inspiring, and though not fantastically entertaining, it is about a very important time in global history. So see it, and tell me what you think, I really hope everyone disagrees with me.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a young man named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) and how he managed to get to the 20 million-rupee question on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The famous Danny Boyle from 28 Days Later and Sunshine fame directed the film.

The film starts with our hero in an interrogation room, he is suspected of cheating on the game, and has been accused of fraud. We see him tell the story of his life through telling the interrogators how he came to know the answers to each of the questions.

This is a very moving piece of cinematography, the story is brutally honest, and shows some true horrors. Dev Patel, may be fairly well known by English teenagers, because of his role in the popular teen drama television series, Skins, but I suspect he is little known elsewhere in the world. His performance holds up well, and shows that he has some potential beyond playing a shy, awkward teenager from an Indian up bringing. He is still shy and awkward in this film, but we see why in the film and his acting holds up under scrutiny.

The chase scenes through the slums of Mumbai are classic Boyle, reminiscent of 28 days later. There are some gorgeous shots in these scenes where the camera zooms out from above the slums to a wide shot, showing the impoverished conditions of the slums. The rest of the film has no fantastic direction, as far as camera shots go, but the shots used do not intrude on a moving film, which is exactly what was needed.

Unfortunately this film has been blighted by the tiniest little thing, which apart from during the first few frames, one line said by a young Jamal and the repetition of this line and these frames at the very end, is not mentioned at all. But this thing is made out to be the entire theme and moral of the story, it’s a discussion of fate, and I use the word ‘discussion’ loosely. And this culminates in a massively cheeseball line, which in the words of Sarah Chalke, “Sucks Caboodle”. I hate this type of cheesiness in films where it just isn’t appropriate. To further enrage me, there is some Bollywood style dancing by the cast during the credits, I literally ran from the theatre when this started. I don’t like musicals (bar Dr. Horrible), and I certainly don’t like choreographed dancing. And just exactly how appropriate is it to do that at the end of this kind of film. It reminded me of the scene in Hot Fuzz where the Amateur Dramatics Society have put on Romeo & Juliet and at the end after Romeo has killed himself they sing and dance to Lovefool by The Cardigans.

But barring this, it was a very good film, which moved me to my core and made me literally gasp and shudder.