Category Archives: Movies

Oi! I Was Watching That



bluraylogoStreaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Sky’s Now TV might have overtaken DVRs, DVDs and Blu-ray but I’ve discovered that physical discs have one major advantage…..no-one can take away the film until you’re finished watching (excepting small children and drunken relatives). 

Our family subscribes to a streaming service, and while I normally watch a film or episode in a single viewing, there are some that I don’t get through in one go, perhaps because friends call round unexpectedly (yes, I have friends). Recently I’ve twice had the experience of returning to a film only to find that it’s no longer in my queue. The first time I thought I was mistaken as I couldn’t find the film but the second time was no mistake. I was very annoyed.

Streaming services take on new content and drop old content regularly as they license films from studios and other copyright holders for set periods. I can understand this but what bothers me is that they don’t feel it’s necessary to either email or pop-up the deadline on-screen. I would have made a special effort to watch the ending if they’d dropped me an email to say, “Hey, I see you’re watching Spiderman. Just to let you know that film’s going away at the end of the month so you’ve three days to find out what happens.” How hard would that be?

Anyway, if someone could let me know if Spidey saves the world, I’d be grateful.


Before Ive, There Was Rams



Braun LogoAsked to name an industrial designer, most Apple lovers will come up with Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive, designer of iconic products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Go back a few decades, and it was Braun and Dieter Rams that were synonymous with industrial design. From coffee makers and toothbrushes to calculators and radios, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen or used one of his designs.

Braun CalculatorRarely seen in the public eye, there’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about this great designer, famous for his “Ten Principles for Good Design“. Film director, Gary Hustwit, is recording a feature-length documentary about Dieter Rams which is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter. The director has previously produced Helvectica, a documentary about typography and Objectified which looks at the relationship between objects and the designers behind them..

The project has already reached its target of US$200,000 with another two weeks to go. There’s some cool rewards (including your own private screening with the director at $5,000) but a $15 digital download is more reasonable.

To underline Dieter Ram‘s significance, there’s a trail that goes from mid-century modern straight through his work to today’s designs from Apple and Ikea. If you want to understand the consumer products you buy now, this is a must-see documentary….though you’ll have to wait until 2017.


Star Wars: Rogue One to Digitally Revive Deceased Actor



TarkinThe next official full-length Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is scheduled to hit theaters in December. Leading up to that release, the Disney/Lucasfilm hype machine has been running at full speed. One facet of this promotional juggernaut is a film called Star Wars: Rogue One, the first part of an ongoing Anthology Series that will compliment major Star Wars releases in the future. Rogue One tells the story of brave Rebellion fighters who capture the secret plans for the first Death Star, ultimately leading to the destruction of that space station in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Given how close Rogue One and Episode IV are in the Star Wars timeline, it would be necessary for some characters to cross over. But there’s a logistical problem here because Episode IV was released almost forty years ago, in 1977. Of course, some characters could be recast with contemporary actors who look/sound enough like their Episode IV counterparts. But in one case, the producers of Rogue One are doing something else.

Even the most casual of Star Wars fans will remember the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, portrayed stoically by famed British actor Peter Cushing in Episode IV. Tarkin was the commander of the first Death Star and one of Darth Vader’s most trusted allies. He was only seen on screen a handful of times, but the character has endured as a fan favorite. (In fact, a recent Star Wars novel is dedicated to the telling of Tarkin’s backstory.) Peter Cushing died in 1994 at the age of 81. There’s no way he can reprise the role of Grand Moff Tarkin. But Cushing’s likeness will appear in Rogue One thanks to modern CGI techniques.

It has been said that this type of special effect is like “bringing dead actors back to life,” and it is somewhat eerie to consider. If Cushing can be replicated thru CGI now, then in theory, any person whose ever appeared on film could be resurrected in the same way. In the case of Tarkin, the character is arguably more integral to the Star Wars franchise than the actor who originally portrayed him. The mind begins to reel at the possibilities within future Star Wars films alone. Why not make a new movie based around Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, but instead of using the actors that portrayed those characters as they appear today, using CGI-rendered versions of the actors as they looked forty years ago? I guess the fan reaction to computer-generated Peter Cushing will be a good gauge for how far Star Wars producers can stretch this idea in the future. But it seems likely that this is the first step in that direction.


So long, Leonard Nimoy



vulcans-4ever

Perhaps one of history’s most famous, and loved, aliens, Spock trained himself to let go of human emotion. But upon the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the Internet is full of “the feels.”

Countless posts have been made since it was released that Nimoy had passed, and never has anyone seen so many emotion-filled comments by fans around the world.

Nimoy had been battling end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for some time, when he died yesterday at the age of 83.

He was not only a talented actor but also a wonderful photographer, artist and writer.

Leonard Nimoy was preceded in death by other Trek-mates DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Majel Barrett and of course, Gene Roddenberry.


Star Wars “The Force Awakens” Teaser Trailer



 

Forget Kim Kardashian’s butt breaking the internet. Star Wars mania has officially arrived. (Was it ever really gone?) The first shots of the new film hit the internets this morning at 7:15a (PST). Initially I couldn’t get the iTunes Trailer page to load (go figure) but found it on the official Star Wars YouTube page. And after watching it about 50 times, I’m excited.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

– JJ Abrams promised us 88 seconds of footage, but minus all the black transitions, the 11 seconds of sand-nothing at the beginning and titles at the end, we’ve only got about 42 seconds of actual movie footage. Which also works out to 2163 frames. Remove the ratings logo, the empty sand wasteland from the beginning, the black transitions, and the end titles we’re left with 670 frames of actual new stuff. Stormtrooper guy at the beginning got 100, chick on fudgecicle speeder got 73. X-Wing Pilot 26. Creepy guy in the woods, 136.

– No shots of anything actually happening in the “stars” (space)

– We saw things we already knew about, either by leaks or “leaks” (Falcon, the villain, trooper helmets, actors)

– Right off the bat we are reminded that there are also non-white-male characters in this movie. (there was a big deal made of that after the first photo of the cast was released)

– Dear god, please don’t let the volleyball droid be the “comic relief” in this movie.

This Ship
– I also noticed that THIS ship is in a few of the concept art images that are up over at Nuke The Fridge. The Fudgecicle speeder and stormtrooper designs are also holding true to the concept images:

Possible spoiler concept images:
http://nukethefridge.com/…/huge-collection-leaked-star-war…/

Those aren’t complaints, by the way. I can’t wait to see what the next trailer looks like!


Transformers: Age of Extinction



Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 1.19.22 AM

Transformers: Age of Extinction wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t in the mood for any kind of thinkin’ movies, and this one def’ isn’t that. It was fun and full of eye candy and explosions and more explosions and carnage and explosions. Don’t forget the slow mo close-up of a girl w the sun setting behind her. But they did a better job on the Transformers’ faces this time. Like, you know, they had them. The story was fine, we got some new characters, some old, of course Optimus Prime is front and center, but the Dinobots didn’t show up until almost the end.

I always get the feeling, watching these movies, that someone was only just “aware” of the original Transformers. There will be a name or car or ship that’s from the originals but it’s just not quite right. It’s like someone just saw a couple clips from the old shows and went “Yeah, put that in there.. I dunno.. I heard someone was called Prowl, I guess? Use that for one of the guys, I don’t care if he’s good or bad, whatever.” I’m not asking for a lot here, just get the characters and what they turn into right.

So am I recommending this movie after all that? Sure. If you want a good, fun, shiny movie to watch, it’s that. Just make sure you go to the bathroom ahead of time because, yes, it IS almost three hours long. I think if you get there just as the movie is starting, it’s fine. The nonstop action keeps things moving along. But throw in the 20 mins of previews and whatever commercials before that (depending how early you get there), it does start to seem like you’ve been in your seat forever. It could have been chopped down a little, because let’s face it, we don’t really need three hours of Michael Bay in any one sitting.


‘Batman: Attack on Arkham’ Official Trailer



Just as “Son of Batman” hits the public, DC is hard at work on the next animated Batman feature film.

The movie, entitled “Batman: Attack on Arkham” doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but the trailer will be included on the DVD combo pack of “Son of Batman.”

Here’s a first look at “Batman: Attack on Arkham,” with all your favorite baddies, including the Joker, Harley and more.

“Son of Batman,” the landmark 20th film in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies, is now available via Digital HD. The Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will arrive May 6, 2014 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Play

Michael Bay Brings “The Last Ship” to TNT



This summer, TNT is going to take viewers on an action-packed ride with the exciting new drama series The Last Ship, starring Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy) and executive-produced by blockbuster filmmaker Michael Bay (Transformers).The Last Ship opens with a global catastrophe that nearly decimates the world’s population. Because of its positioning, the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan Jamesavoids falling victim to the devastating tragedy. But now, Captain Tom Chandler (Dane) and his crew must confront the reality of their new existence in a world where they may be among the few remaining survivors. Rhona Mitra (Strike Back) plays Rachel Scott, a strong-willed, intelligent and fearless paleomicrobiologist assigned to the ship. Adam Baldwin (FireflyChuck) is XO Mike Slattery, a former homicide detective and Chandler’s second-in-command. Also starring in The Last Ship are Travis Van Winkle (Heart of Dixie), Charles Parnell(Pariah), Christina Elmore (Fruitvale Station),Sam Spruell (Snow White and The Huntsman) and Marissa Neitling(Leverage). Based on William Brinkley’s popular novel, The Last Ship comes to TNT from Bay’s Platinum Dunes and its partners, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, whose credits include the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Bay, Fuller and Form serve as executive producers, along with showrunner Hank Steinberg (Without a Trace, The Nine), Steven Kane (The Closer) and director Jack Bender (Lost). Steinberg and Kane wrote the series pilot, which was directed by Jonathan Mostow(U-571).

 


Optoma Pico-Projector at The Gadget Show



Optoma specialise in digital projectors with a range going from personal pico-projectors all the way up to professional stacking projectors for large-scale installations. Here at The Gadget Show, Optoma were showing off their  ML750, an ultra-compact LED projector about 12 cm square and 4 cm deep. The picture below doesn’t get over how small the unit is.

Optoma ML-750 Projector

James from Optoma runs through the features of the ML750, which with the addition of a small wireless dongle (the little white object in the top left of the photo) allows presentation and streaming directly from the tablets and smartphones over wi-fi to the projector. The feature works with both Apple and Android devices using a downloadable app.

The native resolution is 1280×800 but will show 720p and 1080i video sources. It’ll even do 3D with additional active shutter glasses, though I’m not sure anyone is interested anymore. Still, the feature’s there.

I’m not a big projector expert, but at the event the ML750 was showing a series of film clips and it was very watchable. Obviously nothing like an HD monitor but for a portable device showing a 32″ display, it was impressive.

Available online for GB£400.


Kingston Wi-Drive Review



Kingston Technology LogoIn the final review of this series on Kingston storage solutions for smartphones and tablets, I’ll be putting the Wi-Drive portable wireless storage through its paces. We’ve already seen the DataTraveler microDuo and the MobileLite Wireless so what’s the Wi-Drive’s niche? It’s definitely the most stylish; let’s take a look.

Wi-Drive in Box

The Wi-Drive is a slim shiny unit that’s very similar to some of the 2.5″ external hard drives that are on the market. It’s very pocketable at around 12 x 6 x 1 cm and it feels just right in the hand – not too heavy, not too light. At the bottom centre, there’s a miniUSB (not microUSB) port for connecting the Wi-Drive to a PC and for charging. On the side, there’s an on/off button that lights up green when on, turns to orange when the battery is getting low, before going red when it’s just about to die. Finally, on the top surface are two blue LEDs that display WiFi and Internet connectivity status. It’s all very sleek.

WiDrive

Connecting the Wi-Drive to a PC is the easiest way to load the drive with media and as usual, it’s simple drag’n’drop once attached with the supplied USB2 to miniUSB cable. It’s only USB2, which probably isn’t a serious handicap – I think most people will upload movies and music occasionally for more frequent wireless use.

The Wi-Drive works very similarly to the MobileLite Wireless. Turn it on, and the Wi-Drive becomes a wireless access point. Connect to the wireless network with your tablet or smartphone and then use the Wi-Drive app to access files and media on the Wi-Drive.  As with the MobileLite Wireless, the Wi-Drive can itself then connect to another wireless network so that connectivity to the Internet is maintained. However, unlike the MobileLite Wireless, I did have a problems connecting to other wireless networks – I couldn’t get a successful bridge connection to either a Sagemcom F@ST2504n or a Netgear WNR2200 router. I did successfully connect through to a Huawei E586.

The Wi-Drive app is available for Apple, Amazon and Android devices and I tested it on a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ tablet, a Nexus 10 tablet and a Nexus 4 smartphone. Frankly, the Wi-Drive app is disappointing – it’s like an early beta of the version that was finally deployed with the MobileLite Wireless. While app broadly works and is stable, the user interface is dated, the photo thumbnails are miniscule, the music player is clunky and there’s no use of a tablet’s larger screen. Here are a few screenshots to illustrate my point.

Wi-Drive browser Thumbnails

Music Player Wi-Drive Web Interface

Handily, there is also a web interface for both configuration and for accessing the media, which is great for PCs and Chromebooks; you can see this in the bottom right screenshot. The IP address is always 192.168.200.254 so it’s easily bookmarked.

On the positive side, video playback is smooth and glitch-free, and looked great on the tablets and as with the MobileLite Wireless  you can stream to three devices simultaneously. In terms of video playback, I felt that the Wi-Drive had the edge over the MobileLite Wireless as the latter occasionally stuttered. Battery life was also good: Kingston’s specs for the Wi-Drive say four hours but I was able to get about 10 minutes more with continuous video playback before the Wi-Drive died.

That covers the main areas of the Wi-Drive and to summarise, the Wi-Drive is good-looking and convenient device which is let down in a couple of areas, particularly by the Wi-Drive app. To me, it’s still a beta product that needs the last few bugs ironed out. The 32GB version is available for a little over GB £40 and expect to pay around £70 for the 64GB one.

Looking at all three Kingston storage devices, what are the pros and cons? For a single user with an Android smartphone or tablet that supports OTG, the microDuo is hard to beat as you get lots of storage for not very much money, though it’s going to stick out the side. The MobileLite Wireless will suit those who use SD cards or USB memory sticks as it’s a useful all-round tool for removable storage and although I wasn’t able to test with Apple devices I imagine this might be particularly handy for those owners. Finally, the Wi-Drive is the most stylish and a better choice where children are involved as there’s nothing small to lose or forget. Just get it fixed, Kingston, as it could be great.

Thanks to Kingston for all the review units.