Month: June 2011

Link Sausage: 6/29/2011

Posted by – June 29, 2011

• Terri Schwartz, Kara Warner and Josh Wigler presented a fine speculative casting call for “Game of Thrones” Season 2 on MTV Movies Blog. Terri makes a great point there about the show being a potential opportunity for some Harry Potter kids to transition on to new things on solid footing. Also, I would like to see Christopher Eccleston as Stannis Baratheon more than anything else on their list. It would almost make up for him accepting his Destro role in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.”

• I wrote up a list of the worst teachers in film for IFC last week. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to bring up “Torment” in discussion.

• I’d previously speculated offline that it would only be a matter of time before the Twitter jokes about Japanese radiation leaks and Osama bin Laden being buried at sea resulted in a fully realized comic book tale. Erik Larsen appears to be on top of that, according to his Twitter post from last night:

• This post about video from Netflix and the user reviews of the “Example Short” films is exactly what you need to be informed and get your LOLs on today. (via Metafilter)

Playing Through: ‘Infinity Blade’

Posted by – June 28, 2011

A long, long time ago, in December 2010 in fact, Chair Entertainment released “Infinity Blade” out into the wild, and using the Unreal Engine 3 set a new standard for elaborate graphics in games on iOS platforms. It turned out to be more than just another pretty game, too, as Chair’s updates and trickled-out weapons and upgrades to the game went on to show. “Infinity Blade” checks off a number of boxes that you would imagine to be on production, marketing, and sales professionals’ checklists; it’s got in-games purchases. there’s now Facebook character sharing, etc. etc.

The menu screen always had a “Coming Soon” message, however, promising arena and multiplayer options that recently arrived, and those implementations make “Infinity Blade” as ripe as it ever has been for a review.

The game mashes up third-person, “Punch-Out!!”-style fighting with sword-and-mace weapons combat set in dark, fantasy realm that could have been swiped straight out of a Frank Frazetta painting, the real story behind everything gets heavily glossed over in order to provide a few shock moments when you beat the God King or come face to face with history down in the castle’s basement. I won’t spoil the endings if you haven’t seen them yourselves, but they’re filled with extra doses of Medieval gibberish, and employ plot twists that ensure you will keep fighting forever (as long as you keep the game installed on your i-device).

Despite numerous updates, “Infinity Blade” has seen more than its fair share of single player mode bugs. Although a recent fix mended a problem I experienced on my first-gen iPad where my character would constantly open up empty chests, the game still suffers from constant crashing and subsequent crashes upon restarting from the iOS home screen. Additionally, the last update introduced a problem I’d never experienced before where after earning points from a weapon mastery nothing on the upgrade screen is selectable and the only option is close the app and restart. This occurs regularly and still routinely cuts my play sessions short. (Maybe its a product feature urging me to use my time more productively.) More

Link Sausage: 6/17/2011

Posted by – June 17, 2011

• I would like to use this Link Sausage installment to express solidarity with YouTube commenter jasonportizo and appreciation for the good old fashioned Muppet special effects being used in this Muppets “Green Lantern” parody trailer.

• Goodness knows I’ve enjoyed the performances and plot twists in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV adaptation thus far. To only a slightly lesser extent, I have also enjoyed Sean T. Collins and Megan Morse reviewing each episode at The Cool Kids Table. Additionally, I would like to thank Mr. Collins personally for pointing out that (and I quote): “‘Game of Thrones’ is certainly shaping up to be for UK character actors what ‘Law & Order’ was for New York theater veterans.”

• 27-year-old Bill Stiernberg’s 2001 pre-order receipt for “Duke Nukem Forever” has since become the stuff of Internet fame, and Tracey John interviewed him about it for The Daily.

• Nearly all politics aside, the legality of the ways by which the U.S. exercises war powers is a complicated knot of practice, law, context and definitions. I thought this debate between Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Reagan administration attorney Robert Turner parsed the opposing arguments well on Democracy Now! this week.

• Lastly, a belated Happy Picard Day to one and all reading this. (Via Newby)

Review: ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011)

Posted by – June 17, 2011

“X-Men: First Class” seemed like it could be the odd one out as 20th Century Fox’s entry on an ambitious slate of Marvel Comics-based movies this year. Director Matthew Vaughn turned the clock back to 1962 make an origin story/period piece, that may or may not be in continuity with previous X-films. (Indeed, I’ll be perfectly content to see “X-Men: The Last Stand” never be in continuity with anything ever again.) In the end, he assembled the most visually inspired and overall cohesive film of the franchise.

Vaughn obviously took some notes on previous efforts. Several performances and awkward moments could have used polishing. But this film has heart. Ta-Nahesi Coates said it well in his New York Times op-ed when called the film “incredible work of American historical fiction” and noted its importance amid real-world attempts to sterilize history of its less convenient complexities, and it seems like the kind of film that would make for a great pivot for talking to kids about what happened in the U.S. during the 1960s.

The vintage set designs, archive footage and costumes all came together spectacularly to make many of the scenes look like they could have been taking place during a Sean Connery-era Bond film. Vaughn successfully captured much of the magic that made Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original “Uncanny X-Men” comics work, and he managed to pull that off with an almost completely different cast of mutants.

As far as the casting goes, James McAvoy rightfully stood out from the pack as a young, hairy Professor Charles Xavier. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for January Jones as Emma Frost, who proved to be a major letdown. I write this as a dedicated “Mad Men” watcher, but Jones’ entire performance in “First Class” failed to flip a switch to take her out of Betty Draper-in-a-malaise mode and tint her with any malevolence whatsoever.

Previous X-films fell into the trap of divvying up screen-time far too equally among their stars, and “First Class” took advantage of its relatively lesser known set of faces. Although Riptide (played by Álex González) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng) became nothing more than personality-less henchmen set pieces, the movie overall turned into a fine ensemble piece, with Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) all delivering exactly what they needed to.

As far as the blemishes go, there was a really odd scene worth noting toward the end (SPOILER ALERT) where Xavier suffers his fatal paralyzing injury at the hands of a stray bullet. Perhaps Magneto was only deflecting the bullets; alternatively, he may have been randomly redirecting them. Whatever the case may be, the bullet nearly flattened, either by hitting the Magnetic force field or by striking Xavier, and traveled along an odd curve to get to Xavier’s spine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be a product of some poor planning, and by the time the CGI inserted the bullets it was too late to re-shoot, but the whole scenario raised about as many questions as the physics behind the generally accepted story behind the JFK assassination.

I halfway expected a post-credits scene to show up where it turned out that Bishop or Deadpool or someone was hiding in a grassy knoll on the island during the final battle. That brings me to a couple of other points, though, in that there was no post-credits scene attached to the end of this film. That didn’t detract from what was in it, and it’s almost certainly indicative of a lack of planning for a future installment. Nevertheless, that and Stan Lee’s absentee cameo were missed.

So in the end, “First Class” did feel like the odd Marvel film out in 2011. That didn’t turn out to be a bad thing though. It was leaps and bounds above either of the modern Fantastic Four movies, and didn’t try to live by the rules and looks that have defined the Iron Man and X-Men releases that came before it. And for that, Vaughn deserves quite a bit of respect.

TV Reception: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 6, Episodes 1-7

Posted by – June 7, 2011

Doctor Who Season 6’s mid-season finale closed with quite the emotional moment a few nights ago. Not to spoil anything here, but every time a TV show hinges its plot on a pregnancy in jeopardy, I’m wired to think that it is about to be cancelled. (Thanks, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)

Nevertheless, the show (and Matt Smith) have been renewed for Season/Series 7, so that’s not something we need to worry about for the time being. The wild ride that began in April with the Doctor and Amy coming to America has reach its cliffhanging crescendo, and the show followed through with a few surprises, somehow managed to orchestrate another prophecy-driven cataclysmic event, and even tried to emulate Star Wars while introducing a healthy crop of new cast members.

One of hallmarks of the Steven Moffat era has been the tendency to keep viewers on their toes by introducing characters with Doctor-related histories and letting you guess as things unfold as to whether or not you should know what’s going on. After “A Good Man Goes to War,” you can bet that one or more of the Doctor’s friends, Vastra, Jenny or Strax, will be back in some fashion. They’re all ripe for many more stories.

Best of all, Moffat finally played the “Who is River Song card?” I won’t ruin that for anyone who hasn’t seen “A Good Man” yet, and many watches likely saw the revelation coming a mile away, but it really did work in a number of ways. Not only did it deepen her relationship with the Doctor; it also cooled the weird quasi-romantic tension his presence created between Rory and Amy.

Admittedly, “A Good Man Goes to War” had a breakneck pace to it that constantly rushed right past explanations and encouraged assumptions and guesses about what was going on along the way. The scads of new characters who have shown up in the mix this season have really enriched the Who-verse, though, and it’s worth noting that new LGBT characters in particular have been on the front lines, from Canton Delaware to Vastra and Jenny, and even the “Thin One” and “Fat One.” The show was already lightyears ahead of Star Trek with its sexual identity diversity, but it really is nice to see a big production like this use gay and lesbian characters whose sexuality isn’t co-opted and reduced to being a caricatured stereotype.

As for the final payoff, Season 6 didn’t need to do much more for me after it brought Richard Nixon on in the first arc, but between Neil Gaiman’s episode and hints at more Silurian tales to come, Moffat and company wrapped up these episodes nicely, and it’s really going to blow some minds if they manage to keep up when more installments arrive in the fall.

‘Infinity Blade’: The ‘How’d you do that’ Achievement

Posted by – June 2, 2011

“Infinity Blade” on the iPhone and iPad recently received an update from Chair Entertainment containing multiplayer features and upping its full achievement count to 64. After snagging 54 of those, I noticed the ominous “How’d you do that” achievement sitting unfulfilled at the bottom of the list. A lot of the FAQs and Q&A posts I looked up glazed over a few of the necessary steps to unlocking it, so I decided to write up a public (and spoiler filled) post to help out anyone out there who’s still confused about it.

This is how you unlock the Dark X-SC2, Dark Tempest, Dark Halo, Dark Fusion and Dark Omega XOS-7:

1. Restart from Bloodline 1. This was the key point that was holding me up. You need to (a)
go to the main menu from within your current game, (b) select Options, and then (c) select Restart Bloodline 1. (If you simply beat the God King and beging another game+ Bloodline 1 to the nth power, none of the subsequent steps here will work.

2. After you’ve restarted at Bloodline 1, you should be getting those old familiar tutorial instructions to block with your shield. Merely tap your shield so that your character raises the shield momentarily and then lowers it in time to get hit with the bad knight’s sword. Do this over and over again until you die. If you get to the point with you’re being told to swing your sword, it’s too late, and you will not be able to get to Bloodline -1.

3. After you die, select Save and Restart Castle from the options you’re your offered. If you do this, you will be sent into negative Bloodline numbers, you should unlock the “How’d you do that” achievement, and everything else will be a piece of cake because you’ll be equipped with all of of these cool weapons.