Thursday, September 29, 2005

The future of television?

I have been reading with increased interest details about the new SED ("Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display") Televisions which are due to be released by Toshiba towards the end of next year. Details about this technology can be found below:


Although this technology will be initially very tempting, it seems to have all the benefits of LCD and Plasma televisions with none of the disadvantages. Now at present I have both a plasma television (50” Philips) and an LCD television (21” Sony). My plasma I use for day-to-day television and also watching films. My LCD I use solely for playing console games (Gamecube and PS2). The reason that I have a separate television (and a smaller one at that) for gaming is because 1) the inherent risk of burn in on plasma screens and 2) gaming on such a large screen can be a tad disorientating.

The disadvantages of plasma screens are:
Poor contrast.
Risk of burn in.

The disadvantages of LCD screens are:
Very poor contrast.
Poor response times, which result in a ghost/blur effect of fast moving images.

The disadvantages of CRT screens are:
Bloody big (especially for large sets 32-36”)
Poor picture geometry.
Can generally only show standard definition pictures, namely 480i or 575i.

Now the SED screens seem to be able to keep the sleek thin appearance of LCD and plasma screens and at the same time solve all of the disadvantages shown above. The first sets due out (50”) even have a resolution of 1920x1080, which is the highest current HDTV resolution and is currently rarely found even in top range LCD and plasma sets.

I shall be watching these televisions with interest to see what the response is like on there release.

Games played:
As I have been unable to play Half Life 2 after the oh-so-glorious “update” which has spoilt my enjoyment of the game, I decided to start playing Killer7 instead.

My initial impression of the game are that it plays like a mixture of a David Lynch and Manga in playable form. It really is quite baffling! I think I must have spent the first hour of the game trying to figure out exactly what the hell was going on, what I was meant to be doing and trying to get used the quite unorthodox controls. I’m starting to get to grips with it now and have started to enjoy the admittedly freaky experience.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I have just read on and darkhorizons that Kirsten Dunst has inadvertently confirmed rumors to Zap2it about the villains in Spiderman 3, namely that Thomas Haden Church will play Sandman and Topher Grace is Venom.

"We have really great people though as the villains in this film, Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace -- Venom and Sandman," said Dunst, who plays Mary Jane Watson in the Spidey films.

"Maybe I wasn't supposed to say that," she added before reversing her claim. "It's the other way around. You're right," she conceded to a journalist.

Dunst has yet to receive a script for the third film that will begin shooting in January. "But I know the general story. There's a lot that they're trying to fit into this one."

I’m sure that Dunst will get a slap on the wrist for letting this slip before any official announcement.

I must admit that I’m a little surprised. Although this rumour has been circulating for a little while now, Sam Raimi has always shown distaste for the character of Venom and also the ending of Spiderman 2 hinted at a return of the Green Goblin, or perhaps Hobgoblin. There is also the fact that the backstory for Venom i.e. the symbiotic spidey suit, is quite long and fitting this in together with yet another villain, seems quite a lot. They will either need to condense the whole Venom story a lot or change it considerably.

On a personal note, I used to love the character of Sandman in Spiderman comics and I’m very pleased to see that he will be making an appearance in the film.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Land of the … Half Life

Games playing (or not):
Half Life 2
Okay, so I have really been enjoying Half Life 2 these last couple of weeks. I’m around 2/3rds of the way through the game and presently at quite a hard section where I need to arrange the placement of several gun turrets to stop enemy guards coming my way. However, it isn’t this which is bothering me, no it’s the damn update to Half Life 2 which has all but ruined my game.

I hadn’t played the game for a few days, but when I started it up last night it connected to my steam account and uploaded an update to Half Life before I could play. Steam did not ask if I wanted to upload the update, it just did it without asking permission. Now I know that there will shortly be an additional chapter to Half Life 2 called The Lost coast which will be available soon which uses HDR ( a system to enhance the graphics). This update appears to have included the HDR in the main game, but not The Lost Coast (presumably) just yet.

Now when I started to play the game again I was horrified to find that it now runs really badly. The frame rate has dropped, it now seems very unresponsive and frankly is really no fun to play at all. I checked the video setting and switched off the HDR, but this made no difference whatsoever. I went back to the video setting changed the resolution to 640x480 (previously 800x600) and took down all the other settings to their bare minimal. The game ran slightly better, but was still a pale comparison to how it was previously. The fact that the section that I’m currently playing through is quite hectic, only make matters worse.

Now I’m in no way an expert when it comes to PC graphics cards (I leave that to my friends), I’m just really pissed off that 1) I didn’t even get the choice whether to install the upgrade or note and 2) that valve seem to have not optimised the upgrade to ensure that it sill ran smoothly on lower end PC’s. There is no way in the world that I would want to pay out to upgrade my PC just for one game, so it looks likely but I’ll have no option but to stop playing. As I said I was 2/3rds of the way through the game and WAS really enjoying it, however, I cannot see me continuing to play when it is now running so badly that it impairs upon the enjoyment of the game.

This is just another reminder of why I hate PC gaming so much. At least with console gaming you know that the game has been optimised to run at it’s very best on the console and that it will run no better or worse than any other console (of the same make).

I may eventually have to buy Half Life 2 for the PS3 or Revolution (wouldn’t it be great controlling the gravity gun with the revolution controller) just to finish the game and so long as a console version (other than X-box) is released.

Films watched:
Land of the Dead
I’m a fan of Geroge Romero’s Dead movies, namely Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the dead, and was quite looking forward to a continuation of this series with Land of the Dead, especially after the successful recent remake of Dawn of the Dead. My only complaint about the remake of dawn of the Dead was that next to the original there seemed to be an awful lot of action and not a lot of depth. This same complaint can also be said of Land of the Dead, except if anything it seemed far shallower.

The fact that the film seemed so isolated and did not see anything outside of the main location, is not the main problem as the other films also were contained a within set locations (a house, a mall, a military complex). The difference is that in the other films there was a sense of what was happening to the world outside, mainly through television and radio broadcasts. Land of the Dead seemed to so keen to get the limited storyline done and dusted as soon as possible, that there was no time to explore the far reaching effects of the “end of the world”, so much so that this seemed ignored.

Overall, too much action, very little tension, very little depth, thin storyline, shallow characters but plenty of gore (even for a 15).


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Leon & Mathilda?

Films watched:
Integral version (R2 Japanese DVD)
I’ve just sat down and re-watched Leon. I always remembered it being an excellent movie, but I think I must have forgotten exactly how remarkable it truly is. This is by far Luc Besson’s finest movie. It takes may aspect of Nikita, including Jean Reno as a “cleaner” and builds upon them, adding both depth and style. Natalie Portman is also stunning in her debut role, showing how fine an actress she is even at such a young age.

This version is the extended version which was release theatrically only in France and is approximately 25 minutes longer than the original cut. The additional scenes intensify the relationship between Leon and Mathilda, as Leon introduces her to her first hits as a hitman and also wines and dines her. I can the reasons why they may have been cut from the original cut as the Lolita style relationship (although never developed) and introduction to violence for such a young child may have been a little too much for American audiences. However, in my opinion they just add to an already fantastic film.

I had to get this version of the film imported from Japan, which is also region 2. However, after looking on the internet, I note that this version of the film has now recently been released in America.


I have heard rumours over the last couple of year about a potential sequel to this film, focusing on a grown up Mathilda. If Luc Besson managed to up his game and get back into gear (his films following Leon have been a bit of a disappointment), then this could be a fantastic prospect.
Fingers crossed…

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A little bit of Grace (plus twilights and lost)

Films watched:
To Catch a Thief
It’s been quite some time since I last watched this film. I picked this up as part of a 3 for £17 deal at HMV when I was in Jersey the other week.

Overall this is one of Hitchcock’s poorer efforts. It lacks the suspense and gripping story of his other films. The only redeeming features are the stunning scenery of the French Riviera and great performance by Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

One to watch if you’re a fan of Hitchcock, Cary Grant or Grace Kelly, but otherwise not the most interesting or stimulating of films.


Watching To Catch a Thief got me thinking about Grace Kelly. She is the only actress that I can think off that always seemed to exude such a level of style, sophistication and dare I say it, grace. Even before becoming Princess Grace, she carried herself like a princess. It made me remember that Hitchcock had written the part in “Marnie” specifically for Grace Kelly to return to acting, however, this was never meant to be and eventually Hitchcock gave the role to Tippi Hendren. I think that it would have been fascinating to see Grace Kelly take on the role, although Tippi Hendren did it justice, you can’t help but wonder if it would have been a better film with Grace Kelly in the part.

A few months ago my father-in-law mentioned that he thought that they would soon stop making Twilights (mint chocolates – if you are unaware). Now I love twilights and in fear of loosing them forever, I bought some and put them aside (well actually asked Roz to hide them). I now found that twilights appear to have been “relaunched”. However, they are now slightly smaller and the mint centre is now no longer as crispy as it used to be. While still very nice, they are no longer quite as exquisite as the once were. Arghhh! Why mess with perfection. Maybe I should start a petition to get twilights returned to their former glory.

Really enjoyed last nights Lost. This episode centred on Sawyers character and as with the story Centred on Locke, had a nice little twist in the tail. I was a little concerned that the show might get a little repetitive always going into different characters back story, but it’s jut a case that sometime it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that so long as it keeps the main story interesting, Lost will continue to be a show that I enjoy.

There are however a few issues that I have.
1) Aren’t they eventually going to run out of characters to tell their back story?
2) What on earth happened to the “things” in the forest? These seem to have disappeared since episode 3.
3) Why on earth are they hiding in the forest now… remember – big monstrous “things” in the forest.
4) There really needs to be more division and arguments in the group to spice things up. The last thing that we want is everyone to be getting along fine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nintendo Wifi gaming

Well following on from the announcement of the Revolution controller at the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo have now started to reveal some details about their wifi service. The link below is to a leaflet which has recently been handed out to all retailers:

Wifi leaflet

This all looks good and promising. The key to getting wifi gaming to traditional non-online gamers really should be to keep it as simple as possible and also not to alienate hardcore gamers, which seems to be the route that Nintendo is taking.

Obviously Mario Kart DS will be the first game to launch, following by Tony Hawk, Animal Crossing and Metroid : Hunters. I’m looking forward to Mario Kart and Animal Crossing most. It’s just a shame that Advance Wars for the DS has already been release, as this would be fantastic to play online – here’s hoping that Nintendo release an updated version.

Just under 2 months now until I should be playing Mario Kart online on my DS. Should be no time at all until I’m wiping the floor of any competition to the shout of “Wa ha, I’m a Wario, I’m a gonna win” :)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Spankingly good

Okay, I admit... This made me laugh :)

click here

Friday, September 16, 2005

THE Controller… and stress, stress, stress!

Well Nintendo have done it. They’ve final revealed their “Revolution” controller to the gaming community during Iwata’s keynote speech at the Tokyo game show.

The functions of this controller are as follows:

- Remote control design: constructed to appeal to a wide variety of potential players

- 3D Pointing: Sensors understand up, down, left, right, forward and backward.

- Tilt Sensitive: Controller can be rotated or rolled from side-to-side.

- Buttons Included: Has a trigger on its backside, face buttons, and a D-Pad.

- Multifunctional: Has an expansion port which can be used with different types of controller peripherals. Analogue stick with two trigger buttons planned for left hand.

- Wireless: Totally wire-free. Currently there are no details on the max distance, source or power, or otherwise.

- Rumble Built-in. Included standard in all the controllers.

My initial reactions are both of surprise and bemusement – similar to my initial reaction to the DS. To be honest my first thought was “what the heck”. The controller really is a lot more unconventional than I had imagined. My belief was that it would look generally similar to a normal controller with either or both gyro and touch screen functions. Instead was have a controller that looks very much like a remote control with gyro like functions, with much more beyond that.

Not that FPS are my favourite gaming type, but this controller really does sound ideal for this type of game. It’s a shame that Nintendo didn’t have any actual games to show, only demonstrations (which I am yet to watch), but I really do think that Nintendo have brought something new (and truly revolutionary) to the table.
Iwata’s comments:

"Firstly, we face the reality that within one family there are people willing to pick up a game controller, and those who would never touch one," he said. "Anyone will pick up a TV remote control, but not necessarily a game controller. Why is this?"

"We are not only going to offer small and simple games. Rather, with this controller, we are going to establish a brand new standard for game control," he said. "We needed to satisfy both the novice gamers, and veteran gamers who want big, deep, highly complex new games."

"I believe that it is the job of all of us who are creators of great entertainment to continue to surprise people, and constant innovation is the key," he concluded.

I am relieved that Nintendo has finally released details about their controller and I’m also extremely pleased that it is truly as revolutionary as they have been promising. I’m intrigued to see what types of game they come up with for the revolution and to see how this new controller is put to use. I can imagine that a Metroid Prime 3 would be a complete blast with this controller and knowing Nintendo, they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Overall I’ve very excited at the prospect of playing games in a whole new way,

Also, like the DS, I think that Nintendo will be able to carve a significant slice of the gaming public and also non-gamers by offering something both simple to use and different from the norm.

Anyway, here are a few more pictures…

A had the afternoon off work this week, but strangely enough I spent a large portion of this doing nothing more than lying on the bed. The reason for this? The simple answer is stress, stress, stress (and a little pinch of depression). Yes we are still pondering and planning the flat below us and boy is it starting to give me a headache, what with mortgage applications, surveys and also keeping the peace with our neighbour. It’s gotten to the stage now when I just want it all over and done with.

At least I managed to get out of my slump, with both Roz and also the new Nintendo news helping considerably.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vampires… Damn it!

I have just read on that a new version of the excellent novel “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson is due to be filmed by the director of Constantine.

To quote, this is what they have said:

“The story has been filmed before – once with Vincent Price in 1964 (as The Last Man On Earth) and once with Charlton Heston in The Omega Man in 1971. Neither really satisfied fans of the book, however, who are hoping that this version will stick more closely to the novel's plot.This most recent version seems pretty faithful – it's set in Los Angeles after a biological war that has turned most of the human race into daylight-hating mutants.”

Faithful! Faithful my arse! The “daylight-hating mutants” should be damn vampires! In The Omega Man they were mutants, but since the whole book is a careful study of the realistic practicalities of vampires, I don’t see how making the creatures’ mutants again will turn this into a more faithful adaptation.

Come on, this has the potential to be a fantastic film. Make the damn book properly!

Controllers and Serenity (hurray)

First of all, I have to say a little “hurray”. The reason being that it looks likely that my local cinema “The Mallard” will be showing Serenity after all. In some respect this is a slight disappointment, as I was quite looking forward to return to Jersey in order to see the film, but then again I’m loath to spend too much money what with an impending property purchase still potentially on the horizon. This definitely has to be my most anticipated film at the moment, I’ve even recently re-watched the entire series of Firefly in preparation.

Elliot has recently taken a liking to playing games on my Nintendo DS (mainly the Mario 64 mini games – which really are worth buying the whole game for). This got me thinking about console controllers. I think that most gamers (myself included) take for granted how complex modern controllers are, the reason being that we have grown up with controllers from Atari to the more complex controllers of today’s generation. It’s no wonder that gaming as a pastime lacks appeal to the non-gaming public, the controllers really must look quite daunting and PC games with their keyboard and mouse operation even more so.

It’s no wonder that the Nintendo DS (in Japan at least) is taking off so well with non-gamers and also female gamers. Using a stylus really couldn’t be simpler, after all if my 2 year old son can master it (and even beat some of my high scores) then I’m sure that anyone can!

Occasionally Elliot will sit on my lap and watch me play on my gamecube, although he rarely has a go himself (maybe every so often with Monkey Ball – which after all you only need the analogue stick to play). Instead he prefers to be spectator. His current favourite game is Mario Kart, to which he will shout “green shell”, “red shell” and “throw the shell” amongst other instructions!

I’ve heard rumblings on the internet that the Revolution controller may be shown over the next few days during Nintendo’s keynote speak at the Tokyo Game Show. Lets just hope that it really is as revolutionary as most Nintendo fanatics hope!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Jersey cinema & films

Whilst I was in Jersey last week, I was lucky enough to visit the truly wonderful Cineworld cinema on the waterfront. It is so refreshing visiting such a splendid cinema, I just wish that Guernsey would get into gear and build the proposed cinema at Admiral Park.

The Jersey trip was also significant because it was the first time that we took Elliot away on holiday (he's 2 years old). He really was a very well behaved boy, even on the long (delayed) trip home. It was also nice to see him enjoying himself so much in the hotel pool, which really was very well equiped for children.

Films watched:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Tim Burton must really have some issues with his father. First Edward Scissorhands (with Depp), then Big Fish and now Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Depp again). Not having read any Rohal Dahl (although Roz is trying to persuade me) I can’t vouch for the sub plot about Willy Wonka’s father, but I suspect that this has been added.

Overall this is a fantastic kid’s film, I much preferred this to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but this is likely due to the Tim Burton touches that I have become accustomed to.
I really have to add that Johnny Depp really was quite impressive as Wonka, this and Pirates of the Caribbean really do highlight him as a fine character actor.


The 40 Year Old Virgin
I’m not a big fan of comedies, mainly I think because a joke is only funny once and this really diminishes any replay value that comedies have. Although there are still several comedies that I am fond of.

This film, was enjoyable viewing, although it did seem rather long towards the end for a comedy. Also the overall joke in the film seemed to wear a little thin at times.
It did have its moments and overall I would recommend that this film is worth watching at least once.


Red Eye
Sometimes a simple concept works very well. In this case two strangers meeting on a plane, getting along very well, then suddenly it turns out that the meeting wasn’t quite as coincidental as it would seem. A very tight thriller with a very confined space and with a very simple goal. My only gripe would be that I wished that the film remained set on the plane longer. The ending segment in the story set in the heroines home, really just seemed to “Hollywood” for my tastes.

Overall a very different and welcome change from Wes Craven.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Oldboy and Pirates

I’m not just adding reviews for new films on my blog, I’m also adding reviews / opinions for older films that I have recently revisited. As in this case:

Films Watched:
As mentioned previously, I love Asian cinema and to my mind this has to be the pinnacle of Asian cinema so far (yes – even better than the Ring).

No other recent film that I have seen has such a tightly woven plot, such a starting visual and audio style, such stunning performances and directed with such flair.

Vengeance is the central theme of this film, and boy is it driven home with a stake (not literally, no vampires in this film, just sick and twisted individuals). It really is such a simple premise, i.e. a man is locked away for 15 years, then released and given 5 days to figure out who and more specifically why he has been imprisoned. This really is a stunning film from start to finish and what a fantastic and utterly twisted finale it is.

I won’t go into the story too much, as it would be a true crime to spoil anything for potential viewers.

Absolutely fantastic, really… Well deserving the Grand Prix du Jury in Cannes 2004. It’s just a shame that it has not been recognised by other awards bodies.

I’ve heard rumours that this may be yet another Asian film which will be remade by Hollywood. I have no objection to this, having enjoyed the remake to The Ring. I just very much doubt that Hollywood would be brave enough to tackle the themes and intensity of the revenge undertaken in this film. We shall see.


Pirates of the Caribbean
I won’t go on about this film too much, other to say that it really is one of the most “fun” films in recent years. A truly rip-roaring adventure which takes you along for the ride. It’s just amusing that it’s based upon such a poor and tedious Disney real life “ride”

A swashbuckling adventure of grand proportions, bring back memories of Errol Flynn and age old black and white matinee movies.

My only complaint would be that it tends to drag a little towards the end, at least 20 minutes or so could have been cut out to keep the pace up. It’s not that it has ant boring moments, it just feels that some of the action is repeating itself a tad.

Just hope the sequels matches or surpasses this quality.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Invisible Dragon

The first few lines of this poem came to me whilst I was driving home yesterday. I wrote the remainder last night and finalised it just before.

At the rate that I’m writing poetry recently, I’ll have to add another poetry collection document to soon…

The Invisible Dragon

The invisible dragon roars no more.
Its dying body lay on the floor.
As fire and blood erupts within,
Its life, once legend, begins to dim.
People roam around this death
Oblivious to its dying breath.

The invisible unicorn is all alone
Its graceful figure turned to stone.
Absence of love, joy and trust
Has turned this creature into dust.
As time goes by we forget its name
A blanket of apathy hides our shame.

An invisible world of magic and myth,
Hidden within the world we live,
Is fading slowly before our eyes,
Its marvel concealed by vicious lies.
The world is much more than it seems,
The magic lives on within our dreams.