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KITTY! Ang Lee

KITTY! Ang Lee’s Life of Pi

The cinema was everything growing up. I practically lived there. It seemed like every week there was something interesting to go see. I want to stress the word interesting, because not all of it was good, but most of it gave you reason enough to go. Hell, even when the trailers weren’t so good we would go, because why not? $8 bucks is all you needed, double it if you wanted popcorn and soda, but only suckas bought treats from AMC. I gave everything a shot back then because it was just so cheap. I saw more bad movies than good ones, but it didn’t matter, until it did.

The 1st time I second guessed seeing a movie I was in college. My wallet wasn’t exactly stacked, but I wasn’t starving. I was making use of my artistic abilities, scraping some pennies together. I wasn’t about that Ramen diet life. It was awards season 2012 and I jetted to the cinema to catch Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. I remember sliding up to one of the spiffy new (at the time) self serve kiosks and zipping through the UI only to come to a grinding halt at the end. $17.50?! You cats charging $17.50 to see Life of Pi? At Kips Bay?! Kips Bay wasn’t a DUMP, but it wasn’t Lincoln Sq IMAX. At the latter prices had ballooned to $21.50 for 3D affairs. I felt a little guilty at first. Life of Pi was a great film, but I threw it in this “less than” category. I didn’t think twice about paying $20 bucks to see Avatar in IMAX 3D in 09’ but for some reason Life of Pi’s $17.50 struck me as egregious. Combine this with being hoodwinked by IMAX’s new digital theaters and my love affair with cinema was dwindling. Now that I had to think about the cost of the ticket, I was going to be real choosy about which films I went to see.  View full post »

Timothy Evans

Timothy Evans’s brilliant drawing sums up my evenings.

Writing is a soul crushing exercise that I launch myself into on a daily basis. I’ve slowly come to the realization that I am not a writer, at least not one who likes writing. Do not be mistaken, I love creation. Creating worlds, characters, situations, those that resemble the ones we know and those that don’t fills me with glee. But transplanting those ideas to the page is akin to pushing a boulder up Mt. Everest. Jonah Nolan, Christopher’s gruffer, more American kid brother, spoke about this recently in this year’s THR Screenwriter’s Roundtable. Everyone tells you writing is hard work, but I’ve always felt guilty for actually not enjoying it. Writer’s block is an endless road I’m walking down in the dead of the winter with no shoes on. Quitting seems like a possibility at every instant until I remember I’m not good at much else and I’m forced to carry on. Every line I write I read as I’m moving onto the next one thinking “fuck that last bit is shit, I’ve got to go back and fix it”. How can you ever move on when your constantly looking back and futzing? It only gets better when I get closer to the end. When I can see the puzzle pieces of the climax forming into a recognizable image. It’s only then that I start to remember why I started on this journey. The thrill of having 90+ pages of my imagination to share with others and have them take it and turn it into something grander than I could have imagined. It always seems worth it in the end, but the finish line is never close enough.

 

The Xbox One: Day One Edition

The Xbox One: Day One Edition

Last week I gave you some early impressions of the PlayStation 4, this week I’m here with the Xbox One. I had no intention of buying this box so soon, but my impulses got the better of me. So here we are. The Xbox One is the most ambitious product Microsoft has put out in a long time. Microsoft has been beat to a lot of markets, most prominently the smartphone and tablet markets, and they’re aggressively trying to make sure that isn’t the case with the living room. The Xbox One is a jack of all trades device. Its part gaming system, part Roku 3, part Windows 8 machine, and large part GoogleTV. Microsoft has made a lot of the inclusion of Kinect, their secret weapon in the battle for living room supremacy. The Kinect reads faces, is always listening for your commands, and is the preferred method of navigation inside the Xbox One UI. The One is banking big on voice control being the killer app for their integrated box hoping to excel where Tivo, Google, and others have failed. Is the Xbox One the All-In-One device we have been waiting for or is it the best GoogleTV ever made?

Let’s start with the easy stuff, hardware. The Xbox One is huge. It is clear that Microsoft isn’t trying to relive the RROD nightmare that plagued the Xbox 360, there are vents everywhere. It’s almost as if Microsoft is using vents as some kind of design aesthetic. The box features a two-tone black color pattern. One side is full of gloss, the other is a more textured matte finish, very similar to the Playstation 4. However, next to the PS4 the Xbox One seems terribly lazy. The PS4 is svelte and tries to do something interesting with the black box motif, more importantly it packs the power brick INSIDE THE BOX. For as large as the Xbox One is, it still doesn’t accomplish that feat. Madness. It’s not tremendously egregious, it will blend in perfectly well with the rest of your home theater setup, just don’t expect it to win any beauty contest.

The Xbox One controller is kind of a mixed bag.

The Xbox One controller is kind of a mixed bag.

The Xbox 360 controller was wisely regarded as the best controller in gaming last gen. It was nearly perfect, great stick placement, not too big, fit well in the hand, but the DPad was awful and the battery pack bulged from the back center of the device. The Xbox One’s controller solves those two issues and also adds Impulse triggers. The triggers now have rumble motors in them and they are AWESOME. Forza Motorsport 5 is really the only game I’ve played that utilizes them, but they are integral to the experience. You can really feel the cars and gauge how much trouble you’re getting into. Microsoft has also messed with the shape and size of the unit. The new controller is flatter and narrower than the previous. It’s not so much smaller that your hands feel cramped after prolong usage, but I did find myself missing the spacious layout and feel of the DualShock 4. Like the DualShock 4, the Xbox One’s controller features a nice grippy texture though one different from the DualShock’s. Your hands just wants to stay on it, but Microsoft seems hell-bent on you leaving it down for most of the time. View full post »

It

It’s here.

It’s been 7 years since the Playstation 3 stormed into living rooms across the world. The hotly anticipated PS3 came with a lot of baggage, including a high price tag, a funky system architecture, and a woeful launch lineup. The Playstation 4 is a different beast. It is the cheaper of the next gen consoles, uses a well known x86 architecture that is more powerful than it’s competition, and it has a decent launch lineup. The Playstation 4 represents new Sony; a Sony that has an ear tuned to its audience and a seemingly insatiable desire to appease them. View full post »

Grand Theft Auto V has come and taken the gaming industry by storm!

Grand Theft Auto V has come and taken the gaming industry by storm!

A lot has been written about Grand Theft Auto V’s monster sales figures. The usual suspects have bloviated about what these figures mean for the entertainment industry. Lazy writers have claimed that this is a warning shot to Hollywood. “Look out movie execs! Video games are coming for your audiences!” But how much of that is true? As video games become more like the “pick your own adventure” version of Hollywood blockbusters, there seems to be more crossover than ever. You can’t scoff at 800 million dollars, and though numbers may never lie, they almost always never tell the whole story.

Let me open this by saying, GTAV’s sales figures are ridiculously impressive. The game is a masterpiece, a title only Rockstar Games could produce. For all it’s flaws, and there are many, the game is a wicked blend of artistry and technology. A showpiece for the gaming industry. Now let’s talk numbers. $800 million in 24 hours. $1 billion in three days. Roughly 17 million copies sold. For video games that is mighty impressive, but the industry and industry spectators seem hell-bent on minimizing its success. The comparisons to blockbuster film grosses are completely off kilter for a myriad of reasons. Lets start with the obvious. Average price for a movie ticket is $8.38. Variety made a big deal about this being the highest it’s ever been. Take it from the guy who recently paid $21.50 to watch GRAVITY in IMAX 3D, $8.38 is chump change. The entry-level price point, the most popular price point, for GTA V is $59.99. Now just like cinema the price can skew. There are three different editions of GTAV the standard ($59.99), special edition($79.99), and the collector’s edition($149.99). Each edition comes with various pieces of swag and in-game bonuses. We don’t have a supply breakdown, but it’s safe to assume Rockstar delivered and sold more of the standard edition. But even comparing game prices at their cheapest you see the cost dwarfs ticket prices. Even if you factor in the most expensive movie ticket and an eventual BluRay copy of the film, you still come in under the baseline price for a AAA video game. Grand Theft Auto V will certainly be the most successful video game of all time, but it’s audience is puny in size compared to cinema’s. Avatar garnished 330+ million in ticket sales, 10+ million in DVD sales, and 5+ million in Bluray (exact Bluray sales figures are impossible to come by). Why do pundits constantly feel the need to compare these two mediums? Their business models could not be more different.

The more important discussion centers around this audience size disparity. How can video games propel themselves into cinema’s wheelhouse? Streaming. Streaming has fully gripped the music industry and has one foot planted firmly in cinema’s. The game industry is the last space to crack. The limitations that hampered streaming in the movie space are exacerbated in the gaming arena. We are talking about countless bytes of data being transmitted in seconds. Latency is a killer; waiting on things to buffer isn’t an option. Services like OnLive and Gaikai–the latter of which was recently acquired by SONY–have failed. The network infrastructure isn’t there, globally, but that is changing. The change may have to happen even quicker due to a push in the movie and television business. Audiences are screen agnostic. They want to watch their content on a myriad of devices and they want to watch it whenever they want. This desire, in concert with manufacturers push for 4K, will lead to a necessary expansion in internet infrastructure and speed. This has the potential to provide gaming with the tech it needs to progress beyond the box. View full post »