All posts by Dan Woizinski

Dan is a Canadian with a penchant for writing things, watching things, playing things and occasionally leaving the house. You can follow him on Twitter:

Gary Oldman & Helena Bonham-Carter offered “Akira”

Akira is the latest title to go down the Hollywood remake poop-chute, and about a week ago it was reported that Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) was at the top of the list for the role of ‘Kaneda’. While rumors of Hedlund playing the gang leader and sweet motorcycle-owner remain pretty thin, Gamma Squad reports roles have been offered to former Harry Potter co-stars Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Oldman would play ‘Colonel Shikishima’, the man in charge of tracking down the not-yet cast Tetsuo, and Bonham-Carter would take on the character of ‘Lady Miyako’, “a high priestess and former test subject of a secret government project led by the Colonel,” who as far as I can remember was not originally a part of the Anime film. It’s difficult to say how the new Akira will turn out; the original movie is a cult classic, and it was one of the very first Anime films I ever saw. Suffice it to say, I was too young and new to the genre to get most of it, but from what I remember it’s a very complex, very cool and visually impressive sci-fi story set in future Japan.

How director Jaume Collet-Sera will translate that to an Americanized Hollywood picture remains to be seen, but just having Commissioner Jim Gor…uh, Gary Oldman attached would get me on their side.

For more Akira news – Click it Here

Hero Express – Thor, Dredd, Ghost Rider and More

Welcome back to the Hero Express, your one-stop sometimes SPOILER filled shop through the news filled world of superhero’s in Film, TV, Video Games and whatever else floats your boat. This is the Hero Express for October 19th, 2011

Thor 2 Director Announced – (Superhero Hype)

On Thursday it was revealed that Patty Jenkins, who most notably directed Charlize Theron’s award-winning role in Monster, will be behind the camera on Thor 2. Jenkins has also had a hand directing episodes of several great TV shows, including Arrested Development and The Killing. The sequel is slated for a November 15, 2013 release date.

Judge Dredd Director ‘Wasn’t Fired’ – (Gamma Squad)

Last week news came out that the director of the Judge Dredd remake, Peter Travis,  had finished shooting when the project’s screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later) kicked him out of the editing room. Travis was supposedly kicked to the curb and refused access to the rest of the film’s post-production. Well, the two have released a rainbows-and-unicorns joint statement claiming these reports were completely false:

“During all stages of the filmmaking, ‘Dredd’ has been a collaboration between a number of dedicated creative parties. From the outset we decided on an unorthodox collaboration to make the film. This situation has been misinterpreted. To set the record straight, Pete was not fired and remains a central part of the collaboration, and Alex is not seeking a co-director credit. We are all extremely proud of the film we have made, and respectfully suggest that it is judged on viewing when it’s released next year.”

However nowhere in the statement did they mention that remaking Dredd was in any way a good idea.

Ghost Rider 2 Sounds…Awesome? – (i09)

If you’re anything like me, even the balls-out kooky Nicolas Cage didn’t save the first Ghost Rider, so word of a sequel didn’t exactly sound like a great idea. With that in mind, New York Comic-Con got a completely different impression on Spirit of Vengeance, at Ghost Rider 2‘s movie panel. In addition to behind-the-scenes clips and some footage already released in the first teaser for the film, the audience got to see some new stuff – Really freaking cool stuff, by the sound of it.

A couple notable examples:

“- A gang of thugs start shooting Ghost Rider, over and over and over. One guy freaks out and runs up to his face and starts shooting right into his skull. Ghost Rider fire barfs all over him.”

“When [Blaze] becomes the Ghost Rider, spikes pop out of the jacket, it all felt a little 80s,” Taylor explained. “What if the jacket was like a werewolf and it transforms from leather to this black bubbling tar?” “More visceral less Melrose,” Neveldine chimed in.”

Spirit of Vengeance keeps pushing the idea of a ‘re-imagining’ in the sequel, which looks to be the right move. More details on the panel here.

Frank Miller Making More Sin City – (Gamma Squad)

Quick and dirty final story: Frank Miller announced at NYCC that he will be working on new Sin City books in collaboration with Dark Horse. This news came as part of a pretty deep Legendary Comics panel, which in addition to Sin City, discussed Miller’s 9/11-based comic, Holy Terror, and a new ambitious Legendary series titled The Tower Chronicles. That’s all for this week! I can’t believe the most interesting part of this week’s HE for me is Ghost Rider 2. Until next time!

Grizzly Game Review: Rage

Way back in the early ‘90s, id Software essentially invented the first-person shooter when they released Wolfenstein 3D. They continued to dominate the genre they defined with Doom and Quake in the years following, which today are recognized as some of the most successful and important franchises in video game history. While all three of these IP’s have had all kinds of sequels and remakes in the years since their initial creation, id seemed to have retired more or less from the industry proper. That is until this year with the release of Rage.

Wolfenstein 3D

In the year 2029 a massive asteroid collides with Earth, wiping out the majority of life on the planet. The player wakes up in an ark, one of many cryogenic stasis chambers buried beneath the Earth as part of the Eden Project, an international attempt to preserve humanity’s existence after the Apophis asteroid’s impact. However the Eden Project was an apparent failure – you’re released from cryo to find the rest of your ark killed and much of the ark itself badly damaged. After making your way out into the wasteland, you discover a handful of small civilizations meekly carrying on. Between constant raids by bandits, swarms of attacking mutants and the oppressive Authority, the few good people in the wastes are left to survive or rebel, both lifestyles leaving little time for anything other than shooting, gambling and racing. You’re thrown into the push and pull of things, using a myriad of bullets and vehicles to blast your way through what’s left of Earth.

Without understanding it’s pedigree, Rage might not seem like it warrants the attention it’s getting. Particularly because the game’s been marketed with fairly tight lips there seems to be a lot of fuss over what seems to be just another post-apocalyptic monster-shooter. I was definitely a part of that mentality, even with the knowledge of id’s importance in the industry, and superficially at least, it’s a fair judgment. You probably won’t come away from the game remembering unique set-piece moments and caring much about the story itself, but what you will get is borderline addictive gameplay and, well, fun.

id can definitely use Rage as proof that history and reputation count for something; these guys understand gunplay like no one else, and boy do they make use of that knowledge. Right from the start you can feel the weight and power behind your pistol, and though there are a pretty modest set of firearms you get to play with, there are enough ammo types and weapon classes to keep things varied and interesting. Every weapon has its benefits and detriments and you learn quickly what works on each enemy type. Lots of shooters can boast far more weapons to pick up and use, but it usually just means finding the most powerful one and using it forever. Rage isn’t satisfied with that. For the first time in recent memory, I found myself ducked behind a wall thinking strategy in an FPS game: “Okay, my assault rifle isn’t working, and they won’t get close enough for my shotgun. I have 12 explosive bolts left in my crossbow, but Ghost bandits are too evasive for my accuracy.” Solution? Pop some fatboys in the chamber and blow them away with my pistol.

This leads into my second point. The AI in Rage is fantastic. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an NPC actually dodge bullets before. I mean, many games have had enemies that will duck, roll or hide behind walls, but never contextually to my actions. Different types of enemy have their own unique behaviour – certain bandits will rush and throw mid-range weapons before slashing at you with axes and blades, mutants will climb and jump around your bullets, and heavily armoured Authority soldiers will use cover and grenades to try to draw you out of safety. There are even occasions where I’ve nearly cleared out a room and the last two bandits will shout ‘He’s kicking our ass! Fall back!” and run back to the next room. It really feels like the AI reacts organically to you, and whenever it seems that you’re actively affecting the game world around you the game is doing its job.

The game is set up in a sort of faux-RPG format. The world is essentially open, and missions are doled out through optional jobs chosen through conversing with NPC’s in hub worlds. Most of these jobs involve traveling by buggy through the wasteland to one of the many faction territories that function as ‘levels’ in the game. Here is where you’ll find the majority of enemies to shoot and explode. Accompanying the ‘RPG-lite’ mission format is an equally simplistic RPG system for upgrading your equipment. Throughout the game world you’ll pick up and purchase recipes and schematics that allow you to build more advanced tools that’ll help you throughout the campaign. The most popular and easily the coolest of your kit is the ‘wingstick’, a bladed boomerang that does heavy damage and can even return to you if thrown properly. Working out the bullet, evade, wingstick rhythm is a joy, and it’s probably the most satisfying weapon in your arsenal. The little RPG elements benefit the game by deepening the gameplay just a few inches more. It’s just a taste, but it’s enough.

Finally there are mini-games to play in each of the small hubs that include gambling your money on 5-finger fillet, a simple chance game called ‘Tombstone’ and a collectible card game similar to Magic: The Gathering. On top of this is the more campaign-relevant racing circuits you’ll need to participate in to upgrade and unlock your vehicles. The cars all feel clunky and handle wildly at first, but before long you’ll be breezily boosting and shooting your way around corners relatively easily. The racing is barely more than another distraction that helps vary the gameplay and keeps the gunplay from getting stale, but it works and can be a blast.

Rage can be a really pretty game most of the time. It features wide, varying landscapes and beautiful lighting. Up close the details start to blend and look a little muddy, and (at least on PS3) the game is constantly popping in layers of detail every time you move the camera, but truthfully you spend so much of the game in a frenzy of movement and bullets that these issues are pretty hard to notice when you’re actually involved in the game world. It also helps that characters move and speak with relative liveliness, thanks to less rigid dialogue animation and some quality voice-acting. Add to this the sheer size of the damn thing (Rage comes with three discs on the Xbox 360) and minor graphical problems are easy to overlook in exchange for the length of gameplay you get out of it.

If you’re exhausted by the amount of similar-looking FPS games that seem to come out every month, Rage is probably not on your wish list. In that respect, you might not want to go the $60 route. That being said, you may be surprised to discover how much you’ve been missing real entertainment in a shooter. The story is a tad conventional and truthfully, doesn’t really go anywhere and ends quite suddenly, but this is a rare occasion where it doesn’t matter. Rage is just that fun to play.

3.5/5 Bears

Here is something extra for all our Breaking Bad fans….

Hero Express – So Much ‘Dark Knight Rises’

Welcome to Hero Express, your one-stop sometimes SPOILER filled shop through the news filled world of superhero’s in Film, TV, Video Games and whatever else floats your boat.

This is the Hero Express for October 06, 2011:

Catwoman set photos – (Cinema Blend)

Anne Hathaway’s upcoming turn in the catsuit has us all a little curious. What exactly has Christopher Nolan got in store for Selina Kyle in TDKR? Here are some new photos of  Hathaway rockin’ the new outfit. I particularly like the shot of her and Bats chatting behind off-camera.

Selina Kyle set photos – (Comic Book Movie)

Actually more interesting for me to see than Catwoman’s get up is getting a good look at the Selina Kyle in Nolan’s Bat-verse, which we get a ton of here. Hathaway looks amazing in these photos and I’m really seeing why she was cast as the character.

Interview with Nestor Carbonell – (Splashpage)

You know Nestor Carbonell as Gotham’s mayor, Anthony Garcia. Back for the ride in The Dark Knight Rises, he had a lot to vaguely say and tease about the experience of finishing the Batman trilogy:

“I finished [filming] about a month ago in Pittsburgh. It was a lot of fun, it’s nice to go back to Chris Nolan’s world […] He has announced that this is his last go at ‘Batman’ but yeah, if it is the last for him, he certainly goes out big. It’s massive.”

“What I saw of the sets was just unbelievable. When we were shooting a particular scene I snuck around to see the image on the dolly of what the D.P., Wally Pfister, Academy Award Winner [was shooting]. I looked and immediately thought, ‘Wow, I see why he is who he is, it’s beautifully framed, beautifully shot, half is on IMAX.”

On Christopher Nolan:

“He’s one of these amazing storytellers in our generation, he’s one of the guys who’s taken that genre and grounded it and done something with it that hasn’t done before […] He’s made it that much more real, much more accessible, and he’s made a psychological thriller out of all of them, so he’s great, he’s amazing.”

New set photos of Bane – (Script Flags)

Here we get to my most interesting part of the Hero Express so far; some new images of Tom Hardy as Bane. In addition to photos of the Inception co-star in the face mask, there are a couple of images and videos of his Bane Truck to enjoy:

And his truck:

Even MORE set photos; Christian Bale and JGL – (Comic Book Movie)

Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous. Here are some photos of Joseph Gordon-Levitt driving Christian Bale around Gotham in a police car.

Adam Rodriguez gets cast in TDKR – (Deadline)

Oh my God, look at that. News that isn’t 25 videos and a 360 degree photo gallery of Anne Hathaway’s leather-coated butt (Not that I’m complaining). Adam Rodriguez, famous for his role in CSI: Miami, has just been added to The Dark Knight Rises cast, in a small role that as yet hasn’t been announced.

And that’s it for this edition of The Hero Express! I have a new-found respect for SupaScoot, having filled in for him this week and sorting through piles of links and news stories. Drop a comment telling us what you think about all this Dark Knight Rises news!

Asimov’s ‘Foundation Trilogy’ Coming to the Big Screen

You should know Isaac Asimov as a fundamental part of all science fiction. His ‘three laws of robotics’ have pretty much defined the genre’s depiction of robots ever since. He’s known as one of the “big three” science fiction authors and he’s basically had an influential role in every android, automaton, and metal man you know and love. On top of being one of the most prolific writers ever, he’s credited with writing arguably the best science fiction short story of all time.

Anyway, if you’re not so much into sci-fi literature, you might have heard Asimov’s name attached to mediocrity-fests like I, Robot. Just let it be known that the original short story is very different and very much better. Asimov’s had a few of his works adapted into unfaithful movies that blandly miss the point, but Gamma Squad’s got word that Hollywood’s giving it another go, this time with the Foundation trilogy. Three books that make up the major storyline of a vast saga Asimov added to and compiled throughout his writing career.

 In case you Asimov fans were crossing your fingers and mouthing prayers to the sci-fi Gods, you should know the series is set to be written by relative newcomer Dante Harper and directed by Roland “Make Things Go Boom-Boom” Emmerich, so the beloved and iconic stories so cherished in the genre will likely be handled with the care and subtlety of a propeller plane dodging an exploding Los Angeles.

Above: Subtlety

Fox has also recently greenlit Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, so now would be a good time to hit the library and read these books before they go the way of Bicentennial Man. Unless you’ve already read them, in which case now would be a good time to cry.

#28 – Countdown to Halloween: THE THING (1982)

“We’re a thousand miles from nowhere, man. And it’s gonna get a hell of a lot worse before it gets any better.” – Windows

John Carpenter’s The Thing wasn’t well-received when it was released in 1982, which apparently hit Carpenter pretty hard. It’s a shame because had he had the foresight to understand the turnaround the film would experience, he’d never have worried; The Thing is now one of the most celebrated horror movies of all time and rightfully so. Combining some of the best elements of horror and suspense, it’s one of the few movies I’ve seen that can deliver real chills, and scare consistently through repeated viewings.

Continue reading #28 – Countdown to Halloween: THE THING (1982)

Borderlands 2 – Game Details and Interview

Gearbox Software’s hit shooter Borderlands came almost out of nowhere in 2009, selling close to 5 million copies worldwide in the three years since its release. No surprise then that Gearbox is in development for a sequel slated to hit shelves sometime in 2012, and IGN has a whole truckload of details on the upcoming installment from the series’s concept designer, Scott Kester.

Borderlands 2 will once again take place on the planet Pandora, but there are a lot of refinements being made to the way you’ll experience the old setting. For one, the game will feature a lot more variance in the look of the planet, adding snow and fields to the usual rockiness of the original, but there’s more to the world than just a change of atmosphere.

“There’s a lot more diversity this time around, but not even just in the environments, also the creatures that inhabit them.” Enemy AI is more intelligent in the sequel; you’ll see creatures “ripping things up and throwing it at you or just scanning the landscape and on the fly taking different pathways at you.”

In addition to Pandora itself, Borderlands 2 will feature a brand new ensemble of playable characters, eschewing the original four from the previous game. This is in order to better suit the deeper class system and skill-tree elements. Traditional damage upgrades and the like will be available but Kester noted players will have the ability to “modify their character’s behavior in more significant ways.”

“We’re really trying to make sure there’s a lot more depth for the more hardcore RPG player side. We wanted to make sure that even though you only had one action skill we were going to give you multiple ways to use that, more so than we did the last time.”

It really seems like Borderlands 2 is going to focus even more heavily on the weapons; different weapon brands are going to be a bigger deal and more distinctly so.

“The hardcore guys really understood the differences between a Jakobs and Tediore,” said Kester, and they plan on making everyone aware of just how big that difference is this time around. “

“We actually took all the guns we made in the last game and in all honesty we basically chucked those and we started again from the ground. We didn’t want to just re-skin the guns from the last game. Every single gun in this game is different from the last one […]

The system itself works relatively similar but now we have a lot more components to it. We can add a lot more variants. Sometimes they can just be purely visual like there’s a bunch of nails sticking out, but a lot of times that might add to the melee damage dealt with the weapon. We’re trying to make sure all the things we’re adding aren’t just there for show but there is gameplay to support them. We felt that the last game, an assault rifle kind of looked like an assault rifle but you weren’t sure what its attributes were going to be until you fired it. We’re really trying to make sure that that feels right even at a glance. It’s much easier to tell how effective a gun is going to be at this or that due to the amount of barrels it has on it or just the size of the clip. There’s still the tech effects from the last game too and some more surprises as far as that goes.”

On top of all the inner-workings being upgraded and revamped, Kester went on to address the story element of the next Borderlands, addressing the original’s unbalanced focus on co-op play and promising a better experience both for multiplayer and single-player gamers.

“I think statistically there were actually more people that played the game single-player just because that’s the nature of consoles right now. We’ve really made sure that the single player side this time is more satisfying.”

Most enticing of it all however, may be this tidbit:

“We’re trying to make sure that we’re not a cut-scene game, we’re not going to stop to tell you the stuff. We’re trying to integrate the story into the missions so as you’re playing you’re being delivered story, you’re being hopefully more engaged. The missions themselves aren’t so much fetch quests all the time that are just A to B, A to B. We’re making sure that those really propel the story forward.”

With all that in mind, remember Gearbox is still keeping their lips sealed on a lot of other content. Borderlands 2 is shaping up to be far bigger and more expansive than its predecessor, so if you’ve already experienced Pandora before (and I don’t mean the blue cat-people one) I’m sure you’re anticipating this one. I know I’m excited, and I never managed to get my hands on a copy of the first.

Borderlands 2 is slated for a 2012 release.

Grizzly Game Review: Dead Island

Chances are if you are aware of, and/or interested in Dead Island, it’s as a result of the spectacular non-linear teaser that was released several months ago. The trailer, hinting at an emphasis on emotion, devastation and tragedy in a zombie apocalypse, went viral and drew millions of views on Youtube alone, even garnering some nice praise from game journalists and credible tech mags.

What you might not be aware of is that the game was actually announced 5 years ago at E3 2006, and had it not been for the sombre trailer blowing all our minds it probably would have continued to pass under everyone’s radar up to, and probably after, its release. Combine that revelation with the reminder that the game’s developer Techland had little to do with the teaser at all (they actually handed the job off to Axis, an animation studio) and we’re all left with not much to go on.

The whole teaser debacle aside, Dead Island is an open-world first-person zombie basher set in a resort in Papua New Guinea. You have the option of playing one of four blank slate archetypes who inexplicably have the good fortune of being immune to the infection that is mysteriously sweeping the island paradise. You wake up after a night of drinking and partying to find something horribly amiss; conventions! Zombie conventions everywhere! Making your way through the hotel you find blood, flickering lights and abandoned rooms, and led by a voice on a loudspeaker you’re eventually guided to a group of survivors, and through an awfully expositional conversation you’re tasked with saving the living, and killing the undead all over the isle of Banois. It’s a disappointingly uninspired introduction, especially after the amazing teaser (Yeah. I’m not setting it aside).

From then on you’re subjected to all manner of generic fetch-quests that slowly inch you closer and closer toward the endgame. There are multiple acts of the story which offer a change of scenery and new enemy types and weapon drops, but it scarcely draws you into caring for any of the inhabitants of the island, least of all your own character, who regardless of your selection has no discernable personality and yet refuses to keep silent long enough for you to infuse yourself into his or her place.

Continue reading Grizzly Game Review: Dead Island