Friday, 27 February 2009

[151] Chatting with the Watchmen

Capping off my week of Watchmen articles, here is a 'best of' piece with excerpts from my interviews with the members of the main cast.

------------------




Our chance to talk to the cast and crew of Watchmen was divided up into several sessions, of which we posted the Zack and Debbie Snyder part earlier this week. Here are some highlights from our shared time with the cast...


On violence in the movie...

Jackie Earl Haley

You see people just get shot left and right and things blow up all over the place in cinema and it cracks me up. I mean, is it dark? Is it graphic? It's definitely pretty graphic. I think, again, it's the beauty of fully-realised characters. There's a resonance. To me, this is a super-hero flick. It's got that hyper-reality going for it. It's just smarter. It's like the book did in '86, it's taking an extra, heaping dose of reality and fusing it with that, so it resonates on a deeper level. It's more thought provoking. And when you care, action starts to mean more. And when it means more it hits home in a different kind of way.


Read the full article here.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

[150] Metal Slug 7 DS Review

Another Den of Geek article this week. My review of Metal Slug 7 on the Nintendo DS.


-------------------------




Very quietly, beyond the
Brain Trainings and the Cooking Guides, the DS has been enjoying a healthy subculture of hardcore gaming. This is especially true with the shooter genre, now banished to handhelds and download services as arcades go out of fashion and full price console games plough different fields. Nostalgics and twitch-fetishists can find comfort in Geometry Wars: Galaxies, Bangai-O Spirits and Contra 4 (still not released in Europe). Now, Metal Slug 7 can be added to that list.


Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

[149] Watchmen the Movie Review (dir. Zack Snyder, 2009)

After my interview piece with Zack and Debbie Snyder, my review of the Watchmen movie went up at Den of Geek today.

I had a lot of fun working under pressure with this review. It was a great opportunity as well, even if I find re-reading what I've written a little frustrating.

---------------------



We review Watchmen, the most highly anticipated superhero movie of 2009. But is it faithful...?

Fanboys, lay down your noble swords. Watchmen the movie is here, and it is good.

As the opening titles of Watchmen kick in, an elegiac, graceful montage of photographs passes by, narrating and illustrating its slightly altered, kinky universe - Nixon re-elected for a third term, masked heroes forming a team called the Minutemen, before disbanding - backed by the downbeat strums of Dylan telling us 'The times they are a'changin''. Breath a sigh of relief, as this is the best of all possible worlds.


Read the full article here.

[148] Zack and Debbie Snyder Talk Watchmen

Yesterday, I went down to see a preview of the theatrical cut of Watchmen, and then interviewed director Zack Snyder, producer Debbie Snyder and the main cast.

It was a heavy day, involving running around central London, dropping off audio files and rush-writing reviews in pubs and on buses. I also went to see a preview screening of the new Stewart Lee television show, called Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, which is coming to BBC2 early next month.

My review of Watchmen should be up in the next few days, but for the time being here is the first interview segment.


----------------------




We were lucky enough to sit in on a chat yesterday with Zack and Deborah Snyder, director and producer, respectively, of Watchmen. Our review will be up soon, but in the meantime here's what Zack had to say about how he felt when first offered the project...

ZACK SNYDER:
"People said 'It's unfilmable - what makes you think you can film it?'. What made me think I could film it is that I didn't think about it...most of my conversations [with the studio] about whether we should do it was whether they would just accept what I wanted to do too. They call me and they say 'We have a thing called Watchmen' - this was their words - 'We think it's based on a graphic novel...[laughs]...it's PG13, it's two hours, the bad guy dies..."

DEBBIE SNYDER:
"...and we want you to update it to make it the war on terror!"

ZACK SNYDER:
"Yeah! "


Read the full article here.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

[147] Damnation, by David Wynne

Since I started going to Peckham Library when I moved to London a few months back, one book has stared out at me from the new comics rack. A small, unassuming graphic novel in an A6 pocket book size called Damnation, by David Wynne. For some reason I can't put my finger on right now, I never gave it a proper glance, even though its black, white and blood red cover tones, complete with a sketchy image of St Paul's Cathedral and an ornate ceremonial sword did impress itself of my mind.





The other day, I picked it up and flicked through. The comic takes place in a dystopic, mildly science fictional near-future, where the water levels have risen and civil order is imposed by private security firms and extreme religious organisations. Perceval Blake is a cynical misanthrope who, after following up a murder case, gets caught up in a conspiracy involving religious fanaticism and cloned armies of End Times-grade psychopaths.





It is a short, independent work, but its rough-around-the-edges imperfection gives Damnation a kind of freewheeling genius. The setting, a submerged London and slickly sarcastic and socially minded tone smacks of Warren Ellis, with the former recalling Freakangels. Blake, the film noir PI by way of Withnail & I and Phillip K. Dick, who lives in an out-of-action riverboat perched on the roof of Peckham Library (wow!), is like a mixture of Spider Jerusalem and John Constantine. However, these more than obvious influences are swept aside by Wynne's ballsy approach to the execution.

One major hook of the comic is mind reading; throughout the story, Blake takes a drug that gives him the power to see the thoughts of those around him. Wynne uses art spectacularly well to present these literally mind-bending sequences, as shards of brainwork pierce through the frames, interrupting the objective narrative flow with POV images - or as memories drip from the backgrounds and scenery around characters.





This is all contained in a consistent and effective black-and-white art style which maintains Wynne's sci-fi/pulp atmosphere well. At times the comic may get a little too 'talky', with frames dwarfed by speech bubbles, which don't sit well with the small format, but the book's cautionary themes of privatisation and freedom are communicated with a real vigour. This is obviously a labour of love; and, as with a lot of web-based, spare-time ventures, the fact that it is published and in book form is a triumph. The 115-ish page story is supplemented by an insightful little essay about Damnation's genesis and Wynne's growth as a writer and storyteller - it is humble and informative, two things I've grown to not expect in prefaces for graphic novels and trade paperbacks published by the big companies.

I picked Damnation off the library shelf, and walked towards the counter. As I handed it over, I noticed it didn't have a bar code inside, or indeed any of the usual stamps and inscriptions found in library books. The man at the desk was puzzled, and, after searching on the database, found the book wasn't even in the library catalogue. He mocked up an entry on the spot, as I smiled inwardly. Guerrilla promotion, perhaps?


For more information, check out David Wynne's WebComicsNation page here (where you can read Damnation in full, and order the book), or alternatively his personal page here.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

[146] Street Fighter IV in London

Today I went down to the HMV on Oxford Street in Central London to check out the Street Fighter IV arcade machines they have there.





Very sweet pieces of kit. They had two, two-player systems facing each other, with a nice big HD tv setup overhead for spectators. When I was there, it wasn't too packed, and they had a little sign-up sheet instead of a queue. The game looked lovely in motion; I didn't have the time or the courage to have a go. I'm more comfortable with embarrassment over Xbox Live, thank you very much.

Tomorrow at noon the store will be host to a world record attempt, where UK Street Fighter champion Zak Bennet will be hoping to beat 10 people consecutively in under 4 hours. Representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records will be there to oversee the event, and any member of the public who beats Bennet will be rewarded with a 48'' TV and home cinema system.




This is all part of the promotional circus for the home console release of, you guessed it, Street Fighter IV, which is coming out tomorrow (February 20th) for PS3 and Xbox 360.

The arcade systems will stay in London over the weekend, before moving to the Birmingham New Street Gamestation (26th February - 1st March) and the Gamestation in Hull's Prospect Centre (5th - 8th March).

[145] Morning Roundup, General Update, etc.

I've been very busy over the last week. I've been conducting interviews and generally researching for this feature I'm writing, which is still operating under the working title 'Expatriated Classics Live Again On Xbox LIVE'.

I've been speaking to Western developers and publishers who have reworked, rebooted or made sequels to classic Japanese gaming properties. So far I've spoken to Grin (Bionic Commando Rearmed) and Southend Games (R-Type Dimensions) in Sweden, and I'm working on interviews with Tozai Games (R-Type Dimensions) and Foundation 9 Entertainment (1942: Joint Strike, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix). It's taking up a lot of my time and energy, but I'm really enjoying it.

Also, working on a review of Metal Slug 7 for the DS, and other writing for other sites. Exhilarating stuff.


---------------------


It turns out that the remaining Zavvi stores will be closing by the end of this week, so I think that one last trip to the Oxford Street branch is in order.


---------------------


And, of course, as always:




The Morning Roundup: Fockin' Fockers, Expendables get Indispensable, Brit Awards


This morning we have new clips from Watchmen, news on the best action movie cast ever, Nintendo DSi release details, and all the usual scoops and tidbits. Short and sweet, but you love it!


Read the full article here.

Monday, 16 February 2009

[144] Comics, Continuity and Canon: Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison's Batmen

Neil Gaiman's two-part Batman story 'Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?' has been greatly anticipated since its initial announcement. However, due to general delays at DC and in the writing and drawing process (by Batman regular Andy Kubert), fans and the curious have been waiting for a few months for this issue to finally arrive. And here it is. This isn't so much a 'review', as a big monster 'essay' of reactions taken from this issue.





When I saw Gaiman at a Q+A / reading event for The Graveyard Book on Halloween last year, he was in the process of writing this issue, and described it as 'weird' - even in relation to his previous Batman story, from Batman: Black and White, which cast Batman and the Joker as actors in a television show, sharing chit-chat in between takes. In practice, 'Whatever Happened to...' certainly is weird, especially when read alongside its similarly-named Superman cousin 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?' (written by Alan Moore). Even though both comics were touted as being the 'end' of their respective characters, the approach is fundamentally different. Moore wrote a touching, warm-hearted send-off for a simpler age of super-hero; Gaiman, here, writes in a metafictional , abstract mode that blurs the boundaries between content, continuity and canon. The result, as marked by many readers and bloggers is stylistically very close to Grant Morrison's run on the series, especially in his concluding two-part Final Crisis tie-in Last Rites. Nevertheless, there are themes found in both these Batman stories that contrast.

Morrison's run on Batman was rooted in one central hook, as described by the writer in an interview with Newsarama:

'What if all the Batman adventures from the 1930s until now were all part of one guy's life, and he's really gone through all this stuff, and it's happened over the space of, say, 15 years, potentially?'


This approach effectively collapses the myriad continuities, reboots and retcons into one grand absurd plot. It is fascinating in theory and bonkers in action, as he pulls references from half-forgotten stories from the 1960s and gives them crucial importance to Bruce Wayne's psychological makeup. This run culminated in the Last Rites two parter , where the history of Batman is told in a sort of sequence, incorporating stylistic shifts and tonal turns. Morrison explains it best:

'It's also nice to think that he had a period in his 20s, where he and Robin were like the Batman and Robin from the TV show, all sunny and fun and the Joker was a bit crazy, but not killing people... and then it was over and suddenly the Joker's an increasingly darker homicidal maniac again.'


So, in preparation for his Batman stint, Morrison created a timeline, hypothesising where the disparate events over the last 70 years of comics would fall in the 'real life' of the character. He essentially makes continuity, something that propels and structures series as they go along, into a long trajectory. This move is genius, as it turns one of the complications, necessities and failings of comics into a narrative device - incorporating the medium as content.





What is interesting about Neil Gaiman's 'Whatever Happened to...' story, at least from the first part, is his different approach to continuity. Like Last Rites, the comic takes an all-encompassing look at the history of the Batman character. However, Gaiman adopts a narrative framework that separates his story from accepted continuity: a wake for the hero himself. In attendance are a variety of characters from the Batman universe - Two-Face, Catwoman , The Joker, Alfred Pennyworth. This almost dreamlike setting, where billboards and road signs hint at famous comic artists and writers, hints at the world of Batman being saturated by not just continuity, but the whole 'entity' of the comic series itself.





Artist Andy Kubert does a great job of evoking different eras and styles in the presentation of these characters - very similar to Lee Garbett's equally impressive work in Last Rites - however, whereas Morrison and Garbett place their different portrayals along the timeline, Gaiman and Kubert create an almost amorphous world where characters shift in form and style from one frame to the next. This is most tellingly seen in the representation of the Joker, who first appears in classic stock form, before shifting to the stylised, angular look from the 1990s animated television series. At this wake, various guests address the assembly with differing, contradictory stories of how Batman died. These tales span continuity while existing on their own - Selina Kyle speaks of the relationship between Catwoman and Batman, touching on appearances and encounters from the series, before moving beyond, into new territory heavily inspired by Robin Hood ballads.





Equally, Alfred's story of how he created the Rogue's Gallery to keep the deluded Bruce Wayne occupied pushes at the edges of what's acceptable in mainstream comics series. This miniature story itself sheds interesting light on aspects of Batman's existence usually left untouched. It also sets up a priceless sequence of having Bruce Wayne realise his life as a vigilante is a work of fiction. However, the vocal minority of comics fans are already warming up to scream 'how does this fit in with Batman RIP? Is this Batman under the thrall of the Omega Sanction??'





Importantly, whereas Gaiman embraces the wealth of Batman adventures with as much tenderness as Morrison, he seems to reject the restrictive aspects of continuity. Instead, he sets up a Batman which is a modern story-cycle; myth and legend not in that sense of replacing gods and heroes but as exhibiting central thematic or design aspects which resonate or dominate despite context. Literature and art in the contemporary world are very 'authorised', with characters and 'canonicity' being subject to the whims of owners or creators. Gaiman projects Batman onto a plain similar to Odysseus and King Arthur, not due to great deeds or hero worship, but because he exists as an amalgamation of sources, creators and conflicting paradigms.

By having these various interpretations and representations rub up against each other, as opposed to laying them down in sequence like Morrison, Gaiman and Kubert approximate the reader's experience of Batman. They create a world where differing versions of characters can contradict yet co-exist, as there is a sufficient build-up of core themes and tropes that exist off the page. It reminds me of the classic Looney Tunes short 'Duck Amuck', which experiments with what makes Daffy Duck distinctive by morphing or removing his key features such as form, face and voice, which seeks to stress that this creation has essential character.





As it is, experience of the Batman property is not simple or unified in the way that continuity-obsessives hope, or that Morrison sublimely imagines, it is distorted and atonal. Newcomers must contend with the multitude of origin stories and decades of print, as well as the various film adaptations, in order to attain the essence of the character. Although, the simple beauty of comics characters, especially the likes of Batman and Superman, is that they are close to Robin Hood and the like in the sense that they can be evoked and defined very easily. Morrison in particular does this in the first issue of his All Star Superman series, which uses 4 panels and 8 words (and some wonderful, expressive art from Frank Quitely) to retell the Man of Steel's origin story.





To say that Gaiman is exploring untainted territory would be a stretch, as this metafictional, self-aware approach to the medium has been one of the hallmarks of the current generation of comics. Even Alan Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow' stressed its fictional form ('this is a fictional story - aren't they all?'). What is impressive, though, is his lightness of touch. Gaiman is a consummate storyteller, and these small vignettes work not only when scrutinised and analysed, but as yarns. They are effective and moving, and don't bludgeon the reader with mind-bending concepts and experimental technique, which is an accusation usually levelled at Grant Morrison's recent DC work (which, for the record, I really enjoyed regardless). The first part 'Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader' is probing and enjoyable in equal measure. I can't wait for the next issue.

Friday, 13 February 2009

[143] R-Type Dimensions XBLA Review

In the last couple of days, I've found myself pretty busy. I came up with a gaming feature idea which has required a lot of liaising with developers and publishers, so that has been sucking up my time.

I do have some musings that I'm working on, a review of The Wrestler, at least. And maybe some comics posts, as I've not made many of those in a while. And the next Okami essay.

One thing that developed out of this gaming feature idea is a review of R-Type Dimensions, now published at Den of Geek. Check it out!


----------------




Blasting onto Xbox Live Arcade is R-Type Dimensions. Mike primes for take-off and surveys the damage...

The true refuge of the hardcore nostalgic gamer at the moment is Xbox Live Arcade. For those who think games are selling out, dumbing down and getting just too easy, the download service is a haven for difficult, stalwartly retro titles. Last year, we had Mega Man 9 and Ikaruga doling out one-hit deaths left, right and centre. Now, we have R-Type Dimensions. Essentially a compilation of the first two games in Irem's R-Type arcade space-shooter series, Dimensions has been given an HD overhaul by USA-based publishers Tozai and Sweden-based developers Southend.


Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

[142] Jar City DVD Review

Another review over at Den Of Geek. Jar City (Myrin) was one of my favourite films from last year, so I jumped at the chance to finally write a review of it.



There's been a murder in Iceland. Luckily, Mike's on the case.

Jar City is a dark, chilly detective thriller set within the bleak, unforgiving landscape of Iceland. On the surface, it is standard TV-grade stuff - an old, misanthropic copper pursues a gruesome case while throwing disparaging, dry comments at his suspects, witnesses and doltish colleagues alike. In fact, I read a reference to the film somewhere as being 'Inspector Norse'. I prefer 'A Touch of Nordic Frost', myself, but importantly Jar City has significant stylistic depth and enough of its own cultural identity and gloomy atmosphere to stand above its generic premise.


Read the full article here.

Monday, 9 February 2009

[141] John Adams DVD Review

My review of John Adams has gone up on Den of Geek. Sadly, I wasn't supplied with the last disc of the series, but soldiered on anyway. Check it out!


------------------------




The USA's second president gets the elongated mini-series treatment in John Adams. Mike dons a wig, declares independence and sees what all the fuss is about.

Are there two more hackneyed or conventional genres than the historical drama and the biopic? The former is often thinly-veiled nostalgia and political ideology, and the latter is rarely more than egotistical awards-baiting. Both are packed full of manipulative dross, with a handful of uniquely interesting, mould-breaking exceptions. Thankfully, the HBO mini-series biopic of John Adams is one of those happy few.

The set up is prime material for partisan misrepresentation. John Adams, a Massachussets lawyer, falls in with the revolutionaries, helping form the continental army, draft the Declaration of Independence, and finally takes the seat of Vice President in the first US government. However, instead of shooting straight for sappy patriotism, the team behind John Adams, headed by director Tom Hooper, craft something that is serious, complex, and nourishing. The depth and scope afforded by the series' 7 (over an hour long) episodes is immediately impressive, as the focus, style and chronology develops, shifts and progresses throughout.


Read the full article here.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

[140] Frank West: Photojournalist?

One of the many good things about finally purchasing an Xbox 360 is the chance to catch up with games and franchises that I have missed over the last 3 years.





When the Xbox 360 first came out, the only game that piqued my interest was Dead Rising. Its interesting mix of sandbox action and survival horror genres was unique, and the zombies-in-a-shopping-mall setting, featuring heavy inspiration taken from George Romero's seminal movie Dawn of the Dead, was refreshingly different. It also had a quirky sense of humour and varied, often brightly satirical design that few games have.

Another aspect that drew me in was the incorporation of photography into the gameplay. Frank West, Dead Rising's protagonist, is a photojournalist who infiltrates Willamette, Colorado in order to cover a national security incident. He is dropped off at the town's shopping mall, and proceeds to look for 'scoops' about the mysterious goings-on. The story develops along quite normal lines, with the player engaging in 'story missions', engaging with non-player characters and uncovering different levels and elements of the story as the game progresses.

However, Frank has his trusty camera at his side at all times, and the player can with a pull of the left trigger bring up the viewfinder, and snap away. The camera mechanic is used as part of the Prestige Points (PP) system, where the player can score more points with pictures that are more dramatic, gory, action-filled or well-composed. These points go towards a rudimentary levelling-up system, which in turn improves Frank's health, and unlocks new abilities like body charges and dodge maneuvers.

The addition of the camera brings an interesting widening of focus to the game, as a group of zombies are not merely enemies, but a photo opportunity. The player is encouraged to take risks, and to be inventive in order to score higher points with more extreme photographs. It reworks the usual genre boundaries by opening up different gameplay avenues, as opposed to merely all-out action. Michael Abbott, at the Brainy Gamer, discussed a similar case in a recent podcast and series of articles about the game Beyond Good And Evil, and how taking photographs is more difficult than fighting. He also goes on to describe how the photographic element of the game strengthens the depiction of the main character, Jade, and her contemplative, spiritual personality, and how such distinctive markers define her against more common female stereotypes in gaming.

What interests me most is that Frank West, despite the addition of camera gameplay, is still an example of a boringly cliched male video game character, even if the tone and setting of the game go against the current paradigm of 'hardcore' action gaming. A recent podcast done by the guys over at Idle Thumbs describes this staid style as 'Bros in a War', referring to Halo, Gears of War and Killzone among others. This relatively specific example can be extrapolated out into the plethora of gritty, grizzled, 'kickass' dudes that populate the majority of big titles available today.

Frank West may be a photojournalist, but he is a wise-cracking, sarcastic beefcake of a photojournalist. Photography and journalism are skillful, observational and cerebral roles, especially in relation to more traditional cop-criminal-solder-mercenary types. Nevertheless, Frank looks like a cross between Max Payne and a Rugby player.





Crucially, he handles like a rugby player. His moves are slow, sluggish and, when handling weaponry, pretty strong. This is perhaps more a gameplay flaw than a conscious character decision, but it certainly puts more weight on the action side of things than the dexterous. This focus on the physical than the observational fits in with the game's necessity for action-oriented progression (featuring bosses, etc), as opposed to the observational photographic aspect, which is firmly pushed into the periphery. Frank is built and characterised as perfect for killing zombies and bad guys, not so much for stealthy camerawork.

Separate from these mechanical quirks, the portrayal of Frank in the narrative cut scenes also chimes with action-game cliches. Almost immediately, he is depicted in the dialogue as brash, arrogant and sarcastic. Some of his first lines, in an otherwise great introductory sequence as Frank choppers in over Willamette, using his zoom lens to survey the area, is as follows:

'Yeah, well I'm freelance pal. I don't make my living waitin' for the TV to tell me what to cover... It's Frank... Frank West. Remember that name cause the whole world's gonna know it in three days when I get the scoop.'

Frank is quickly presented as a hard-nosed, self-interested reporter, a Han Solo with a camera, who searches for scoops and foists his personality all over the place. His position as a freelance photographer is even equated with a kind of soldier-of-fortune lifestyle, as he says 'I'm freelance. You know... Go into the battlefield alone... No crew'. When he is given a gun by Homeland Security Agent Jessica, she asks 'do you know how to use this?'. His reply is laced with smarminess, as he spits out 'Kinda... I've covered wars, you know!'. Then the player is launched into the main plaza of the mall, and must dispose of the zombies they find in various gruesome ways.

It is a shame that a game with so much potential as Dead Rising so quickly shuts down some of its more intriguing aspects. The photography becomes a sideline and Frank West's character develops along generic lines. To make matters worse, in an early side mission, the player is confronted by a character called Kent, who is another photographer that is let loose in the mall. His stature is more weaselly, anemic and his movements are more agile; he is a wily paparazzo foil to Frank's beefy snapper. Admittedly, his characterisation is perverted, deranged and wholly unsuitable for a commercial game's protagonist, but he is far more interesting.





This is a minor issue, I'll grant that, and I do not usually form opinions on the characters in games, but Frank's personality is so strong and unavoidable that it is hard not to form an aversion very quickly. It is by no means the most glaring issue with Dead Rising, but it has been the first to affect my experience of the game. I'll keep playing, hopefully I will have something more positive to write about in the future.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

[139] The Morning Roundup, etc.

It's that time of the week again. Not much to report at the moment, I'm quite under the weather, and I've been busy writing stuff for Den of Geek, among other things. I've added one or two new topics in the sidebar, now that there are so many posts here, and people might want to see the 'best bits'. So there is the 'I'm Quite Proud of These' tag, as well as a link to the 'What is Wild Tyme?' post I made a couple of months ago.

Big thanks to Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer, and Simon Carless at GameSetWatch for the recent links, as well as the folks at GoNintendo, I appreciate it very much. Those are really useful and interesting sites to check out, I recommend them.

I've recently been getting to grips with my new Xbox 360. I've played some of Fallout 3, although I'm taking my time with it. I purchased a Live Gold membership, and I've been trying out Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2 online. I used to be a big multiplayer nut back in the Quake days (while I was at primary school), and I played a lot of Half Life and its various mods. Although, I downgraded to a laptop around 2004-2005, and have been out of the race since.

The XBL community intrigues me a lot, and even though I don't have many friends who are 360 gamers, I would still like to crack the surface of Live and maybe hook up with some like-minded players online. I've heard that Call of Duty 4 is the online shooter of choice at the moment, and Left 4 Dead provides some wonderful anecdotes and experiences. So I may have to look into that, although my budget isn't allowing at the moment.

My previous playing on the 360 (on my father's) has been restricted to single player, especially where the Arcade games are concerned. Are there any worth checking out for the multiplayer?

More on gaming later, when I hopefully have the chance to bash out another essay. In the meantime, though...

-----------




The Morning Roundup: Pacino is Lear, Mass Effect 2 is 2010, Vanity Fair Award Pix

This morning we've got news about Al Pacino 'doing Lear', new game releases from EA, details about Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim movie, and the usual mish-mash of adaptations and production tidbits.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

[138] Vicky Cristina Barcelona Film Review (dir. Woody Allen, 2008)

I wrote this review a couple of weeks ago. I must admit, I had a lot trouble with it, and re-reading it this morning when it went up wasn't a very nice experience. I tried to cut it down from a big essay into something more condensed and to-the-point, however it's still a little rambly and pompous (I feel). Alas, here is my first review of a Woody Allen film.


------------------




Woody Allen takes his film crew to Spain, and comes back with the terrific Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

After a three-film stay in the UK, a run which encompassed the best (Match Point) and worst (Scoop) reviews of his recent career, Woody Allen eloped to Spain to make Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It trails his last picture, the London-set Cassandra's Dream, by only nine months, and is now released to UK cinemas amid a wave of awards buzz...


Read the full article here.

Monday, 2 February 2009

[137] Yet More Snow Pix

Overnight, it snowed even more. The heaviest snow in 19 years for the UK, it seems.

Therefore, we've been a little snowed in over here in Peckham.





I've been hard at work with some reviews for Den of Geek. Today I've been trying to finish off a draft of the John Adams mini-series, after writing a piece on Jar City (Myrin) yesterday. The Finnish Girl's friends are still here; their outbound flight back to their mainland European residence was cancelled due to the weather conditions. So, as a result, today has been a bit of a washout.





Never mind, there are more pictures (of our back-garden's saw, no less). Usual service will resume once I get back on top of things. Which, hopefully, will be tomorrow. Although I will be going off to Gosh! to attend a signing with American comics writer/artist Adrian Tomine, in what I think is his first official visit to the UK. Very nice.


Sunday, 1 February 2009

[136] A Snowy February 1st





Chinese New Year - Trafalgar Square





Chinese New Year - Chinatown, London





Snow in Peckham


(And overnight, it snowed even more. Currently it is the heaviest snow in the region for almost 20 years. Not a blip on other country's snowfall, but enough to disrupt public transport and the like.)