The Wolverine: Sharp Dressed Logan

It's not all yellow and blue spandex, people.
It’s not all yellow and blue spandex, people.

Courtesy, obviously, of Empire Magazine’s next issue is a look at Logan from this summer’s upcoming The Wolverine.  The film, helmed be James Mangold (Walk the Line) will cover Logan’s time in Japan.  If you’re wondering where it fits into the whole timeline, note that there isn’t any adamantium on those claws.  Wolverine will also be appearing in the next X-Men film proper: X-Men Days of Future Past alongside the casts of both the orignal trilogy and X-Men: First Class.  Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer today revealed that film will take place ten years after the events in First Class, which would put it somewhere around 1972.  So we’ll all get to enjoy Magneto in bellbottoms.  That’s ridculous, lol, Joel Schumacher is nowhere near that film….

43 Heroic Sacrifices in Movies (Supercut)

The needs of the many....
The needs of the many….

43 Heroic Sacrifices in Movies (Supercut) – YouTube.

The folks over at Supercut have put together another fantastic montage (and who doesn’t love a montage….we need a montage of montages) this time featuring cinematic heroic sacrifices.  Bonus points and a site shout out if you get all 43.  It’s not as heart rending as their  montage on movie deaths, but it’ll get you misty.  Subscribe to them on YouTube; they do awesome work.

Game Review: Halo 4 (2012)

"Promise me you'll tell me before this is over which of us is the machine..."
“Promise me you’ll tell me before this is over which of us is the machine…”

I’ve played every Halo game that’s come out since Halo: Combat Evolved launched the first Xbox, but I’ve never fallen in love with one of them.  They were shooters.  They were good shooters, but the games I really love (Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed) are story-based and most of the Halo games seemed to have thin campaign stories as an excuse to get to the multi-player.  When Bungie Studios left the Halo franchise to 343, most Halo fans were wondering if they’d be able to equal Bungie.  With Halo 4, they surpassed them.

It’s not really a revolutionary question that drives the plot of Halo 4.  Who is Master Chief?  He’s arguably the most iconic game character since Mario and if all you’ve done is play through the three Halo games he’s starred in, you know he’s part of the Spartan military experiment, he’s extremely terse, he has an AI companion by the name of Cortana, and things standing in-between him and his objective tend to explode violently.  Now, I’m not saying every game hero needs deep origin stories.  I do not need to see Mario plying his plumbing trade and discovering how he managed to enrage an entire anthropomorphic turtle coven.  But the best games make you care.  They suck you into the world you’re through which you travel.  Halo 4 was the first game in the franchise that achieved this for me.

I won’t delve deeply into Halo lore, but we pick up from the end of Halo 3 when big MC was put into hypersleep to be awakened at need.  With the new threat of the Promethean race teaming up with our familiar Covenant adversaries, he’s rebooted and primed for action.  That’s not the story though.  Cortana (who is brilliantly voiced by Jen Taylor), the AI who literally lives in MC’s head, is decaying.  AI programs were only built to function for a certain time and she’s far past her’s.  She’s going mad.  The only relationship this warrior has is slipping away and it propels the campaign story with urgency and weight that previous Halos lacked.

The gameplay is flawless.  The interface, the level design, everything about the experience is brilliant and absolutely stunning.  Halo 4 may be the best looking video game I’ve ever played.  If I have to nitpick, I’d say that I’m a little tired of running around hitting switches (switches seem crucial to all Halo world installations), but run-and-gun levels are nicely mixed with vehicle adventures and the scope of everything is just enormous.  343 put every penny they had on the screen and it shows.

But that’s not it.  Yeah, there’s multiplayer, which I’m assured is fantastic if you enjoy having 12 year olds scream DIE MOTHERF#$(ER in your ear in death match, but I’m talking Spartan Ops.  Spartan Ops is essentially an entire game unto itself in episodic format.  Serving to weave in and out of the campaign story, there are five episodes of five levels each (taking approx. 30 minutes to finish apiece) that have you (and your friends if you are so inclined as to have them) completing missions which rank up your Spartan in an RPG fashion.  You can design your own armor and customize your armory.  It is a blast.  I’ve sunk more time into Spartan Ops than the campaign and I’m only just starting episode 5.  What’s more, is that 343 is releasing 5 more episodes in regular installments (free to those who bought the game new) that take place after the campaign to keep the playability going.  Episode six was just released last week.

There’s very little to find fault with in Halo 4.  If you loved Halo before, this is nirvana.  If you have been on the fence, this will shove you over.  343 is wisely not rubber stamping Bungie’s formula and is producing deeper and more rewarding experiences for Halo players and I can’t wait for the next installment.

9.5/10

On Star Wars Episode VII: What do we know so far?

Like you didn't go through this cycle before thinking it through.
Like you didn’t go through this cycle before thinking it through.

More than we did a week ago, but still not much.  For a movie that will begin production sometime this year and is barreling forward with blitzkrieg speed, there aren’t a whole lot of concrete facts regarding Episode VII.  Before we delve into rumor, speculation and the delightful business of just making stuff up to freak people out, let’s rundown what we do know.

KNOWN

  • Disney bought Lucasfilm, ILM, and Skywalker Sound for $4.05 billion.
  • Disney appointed Kathleen Kennedy to oversee the property so in essence, she’s your new Lucas.  It should be a position that comes with a ceremonial goiter.
  • Disney is releasing this thing in May 2015 come hell or high water.
  • Episode VII will be the first of a planned trilogy, taking us to Episode IX.
  • The main episodes will not be the only films.  Kennedy is on record saying the studio plans on 2-3 Star Wars films per year exploring different facets of the mythos and weaving in and out of the plot of the episodes.  It’s essentially the formula Marvel used to build its cinematic universe.
  • The screenplay is being written by Oscar-winning screenwriter, Michael Arndt from a 100-page treatment he got a greenlight on from Lucasfilm and Disney.
  • The director will be JJ Abrams who has handled complex mythos, large casts, big budget productions and franchises in need of rescuing.  His only statement so far is that he wants this to be something the fans will be proud of and he feels a duty to them to get this right.  For more on why he’s the right guy, see my post the day after he was selected.
  • GEORGE LUCAS WILL HAVE LIMITED INVOLVEMENT AS A CONSULTANT.  HE WILL NOT HAVE ANY RESPONSIBILITIES WHATSOEVER BEYOND SITTING IN A SMOKY ROOM NODDING OR SHAKING HIS HEAD.  You may all breathe again.

That’s all we know.  Seriously.  Which leads us to….

WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW

  • Are the original series characters coming back?  This has been confirmed, denied, confirmed, denied.  Some of the actors have expressed interest in reprising their roles and Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill say George Lucas told them he was doing the sequel trilogy a year ago.
  • Though never officially confirmed, it’s long been the thought that Lucas had originally planned 12 films; four trilogies.  This planning goes all the way back to the original films.
  • In 1983 Lucas was interviewed by the author Denise Worrell for her book Icons: Intimate Portraits and revealed plans for a trio of films set after Return of the Jedi that would deal with “moral and philosophical problems”. He said: “The sequel is about Jedi knighthood, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned.”  According to Worrell, Lucas’s plan for the sequel trilogy at the time of writing was as follows: “In the sequel Luke would be a sixty-year-old Jedi knight. Han Solo and Leia would be together…The sequel focuses mainly on Luke, and Lucas says Mark Hamill will have first crack at the part if he is old enough.”
  • What does this mean for the EU?  The EU (or extended universe) for the normal people, is the massive set of novels, graphic novels, role playing games, video games, etc. that have been blessed by Lucasfilm as “canon” in the years since.  Those have taken the plot-line 40 years past Return of the Jedi and have an incredible complexity.  It’s my opinion that the EU post- ROTJ is toast.  It’s apocrypha that’s will be strip-mined for the best characters and ideas, but you can’t start a new epic saga and adhere to 40 years of built in continuity 99% of the film’s audience will not know about.  Luke has been rumored all over the place as the focus of the trilogy and Hamill is not denying involvement.  I would like to place a visual aid here to crush any hopes of a feasible story past Luke in an elder Jedi role and some leaks about the temple on Yavin 4 where Luke re-establishes the order in the novels have come out.

    Yeeeeah
    Yeeeeah.
  • Will John Williams return to do the music?  Highly doubtful.  The maestro is nearing 80 and JJ Abrams has a working relationship with Michael Giacchino, who has done music on Lost, Star Trek, and won an Oscar for Up.
  • Who’s the villain?  Got me.
  • Sith?  Yeah well probably.
  • Artoo and Threepio?  Lucas has said that they were the only characters he ever intended to be in every movie.
  • But, again, regarding Hamill, Ford, and Fisher, I it might be helpful to put things in perspective and realize that this is a vast universe and mythology with amazing characters to be created and realized and they’ll put an Ewok or a Gungan on this thing over Abrams’ dead body.  I feel excited about Star Wars again.  What do you want to see?   What have you heard?  Let the fanboy speculation go wild!