Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Wii Turns to the Dark Side


He finds your lack of Mario Kart skills disturbing.

In a perfect storm of downright geekery, StarWarsShop.com is offering a Darth Vader Nintendo Wii Sensor Bar Holder, which can be yours for $49.99. While a bit costly, some Star Wars fans would argue it’s a small price to pay to have the Dark Lord of the Sith guard one’s entertainment center.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Trailer for the Elm Street Remake Hits the Web, Haunts Your Dreams

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a proponent of the current wave of reboots, remakes and reimaginings—save for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and a few other standouts—but I’m liking what we’ve seen thus far from the new take on A Nightmare on Elm Street that’s hitting theaters next year. After watching the trailer, which has been posted on MySpace, you might too.

In the teaser, we get our first look at Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) as razor-gloved supernatural killer Freddy Krueger. While former Freddy Robert Englund will certainly be missed, director Samuel Bayer seems to be making this character truly frightening for the first time since Wes Craven’s 1984 original.

The Michael Bay-produced remake is scheduled to open April 30, 2010.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Could the Hulk Be the Villain in the Avengers Movie?

Personally, I think it’s essential that Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers film feature the Hulk in some capacity. But in a recent interview with MTV News, Incredible Hulk star Edward Norton seemed pretty excited about the possibility of ol’ Jade Jaws squaring off against Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and other Marvel luminaries as a villain in the team-up film. Not a bad angle, to be honest.

“In the comics, there was always a tension between the rest of the superhero community and he was always this problem,” said Norton, a longtime comic book fan. “I think that’s a fun way to go with it.”

The Avengers hits theaters in 2012.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Michael Caine Debunks Batman Sequel Casting Rumors

Since news on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight sequel is pretty much non-existent, the Internet has been buzzing with speculation that stars such as Johnny Depp, Philip Seymour Hoffman and even Megan Fox may be attached to the highly anticipated film as villains. To get some clarification on the issue, MTV News caught up with Alfred Pennyworth himself, Michael Caine, at the Toronto International Film Festival. The big news? There still isn’t any.

“There is nobody, there’s no script, there’s nothing,” Caine said. “It can’t possibly be made before 2011 because Inception is such a big picture.”

As for Depp’s involvement? “Johnny Depp is great in anything, but there is no Johnny Depp in this Batman. They tell me in no uncertain terms.”

Nolan’s Inception, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, opens July 16, 2010.

They’re Actually Making a Sequel to Ghost Rider

You know, for some reason, I like Nicolas Cage. No, he’s not a particularly good actor and he’s been involved in some terrible movies (see the awesomely bad Wicker Man remake for a great example), but I think he means well. Plus, he can wear the hell out of just about any hairpiece imaginable. So that’s something.

Among those Cage clunkers is Ghost Rider (2007), which took one of Marvel’s most visually striking—and badass—characters and made him pretty damn boring. Now, Variety reports, Columbia Pictures is revving its engines for a follow-up, with Cage once again playing the stuntman-turned-supernatural hero. While screenwriter David Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins) has yet to sign on to the project, the sequel is said to be based on a script he’d written years ago.

Call me crazy (as many of you do), but I think Sam Raimi would be the perfect director for a Ghost Rider movie if he wasn’t preoccupied with the Spider-Man franchise. A Marvel Team-Up film perhaps? Since Columbia owns the movie rights to both characters, it’s really not out of the question.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nintendo Announces Wii Price Cut

Mazel tov! Sorry, I saw “Wii” and “cut” and assumed I was writing about a bris. Anyway, Wired reports that on September 27, Nintendo will officially lower the price of the Wii from $250 to $200 in the United States. The company made the announcement on September 23 in anticipation of the Tokyo Game Show, which kicked off the following day.

Nintendo also revealed a November 15 release date for New Super Mario Bros. Wii. For me, news of an actual top-shelf title from Nintendo is far more exciting than the price drop, since most people who wanted a Wii not only own one already, but have likely become fascinated by how much dust they collect when not in use.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

“All You Need Is Love” Becomes Fastest-Selling Rock Band Download

The first downloadable track for The Beatles: Rock Band, “All You Need Is Love,” became the fastest-selling download in Rock Band history just two days after its release, Kotaku reports. Sales of the Xbox 360-exclusive track benefit Doctors Without Borders, which provides emergency medical care to war-torn regions and developing countries.

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars raised by song purchases, an online auction of a one-of-a-kind Beatles-themed Xbox 360 pulled in at least $17,600 for the organization. That amount will cover 86,500 immunizations or about 15 days of drugs and medical supplies for 2,800 people.

“All You Need Is Love” will run you 160 Microsoft Points (about $2). A great song for a great cause at a great price.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Holy Free Download, Batman!

It’s a great day to be a fan of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and judging by the impressive sales figures, there are quite a few of us out there.

Joystiq reports that starting today, September 17, players can download the “Insane Night” DLC pack. The free (yep, free) download includes the “Totally Insane” combat challenge—which pits the Dark Knight against wave after wave of the Joker’s goons in Arkham’s records facility—and the outdoor “Nocturnal Hunter” predator challenge.

Another free DLC pack, “Prey in the Darkness,” will be released on September 24.

Arkham Asylum is one of the year’s best games, hands down, and now Eidos and developer Rocksteady Studios are giving us more of it. At no cost. Wow.

As the Joker might ask, why so generous?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DC Entertainment: No Movie Plans for Superman

The new head of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, told MTV's Splash Page on September 11 that there is no new Superman film project in the works, despite the recent Warner Bros. restructuring that will make DC Comics characters a company priority.

“We've obviously done a lot of great things behind the property in our history, and it's a key part of the family, but we don't have current plans behind Superman,” she said. Ouch. Those words are like kryptonite.

It looks like the lukewarm response to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns back in 2006 has grounded the Man of Steel for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Star Tours Gets 3D Facelift in 2011

If you’re any kind of Star Wars fan, no trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World is complete without at least one visit to Star Tours, a flight simulator that takes parkgoers to that galaxy far, far away.

Well, I’ve got some bad news. The Los Angeles TimesHero Complex blog reports that at Disney’s D23 expo, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo announced that the ride is closing in October 2010. However, it’s getting a 3D update in 2011, complete with new sequences from the prequel films. In addition, while Yoda was not a part of the original Star Tours ride—which opened in 1987—voice actor Frank Oz told Hero Complex previously that he’s recorded new dialogue for the updated version.

According to Rasulo, Star Wars creator George Lucas has been heavily involved in the ride update. Although, to anyone that’s purchased numerous versions of the Star Wars trilogy over the years, Lucas’ affinity for tinkering is no secret.

“Ever since we did our original Star Tours attraction with George, the relationship with Imagineering has been very, very close,” Rasulo told D23 attendees on September 12. “We strive for authenticity in everything we do. This is a Lucas idea, this is Lucas storytelling, interpreted by Imagineering.”

I got a chance to experience Star Tours at Disney World in the spring of 1999, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken Disney this long to revamp the aging attraction. My one request? That they keep Paul Reubens as the voice of the ride’s droid pilot, RX-24. Knowing there are robots that talk like Pee-wee Herman somewhere in the world helps me sleep sounder at night.

So, let me get this straight. Disney is upgrading Star Tours, owns Marvel, and is apparently remaking the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie using motion-capture animation.

Did Disney get kinda awesome in the past month?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bruce Campbell Gets Expanded Role in Spidey 4

Since you apparently can’t have a Sam Raimi Spider-Man film without Bruce Campbell (and what self-respecting geek would want one?), the cult icon and star of Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy revealed to Access Hollywood that not only will he appear in the next entry in the blockbuster superhero series—which begins shooting in January—but his role will be much larger than his brief cameo appearances in the previous three films.

Access Hollywood speculates that Campbell may be playing Spidey villain (and master of illusion) Mysterio, but I’m actually hoping Raimi takes a stab at Kraven the Hunter as the baddie in the next movie. But then again, as /Film notes, Campbell having a “major” part does not in any way mean that he’ll be the villain. And Campbell himself admitted that he doesn’t even know what character he could be playing. Regardless, news that we’re getting more Bruce is pretty groovy (ha!) for those of us paying attention.

Spider-Man 4 is due to hit theaters May 2011.

Sgt. West’s Giant Douche Club Band

Last night at the MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West pretty much brought to the surface everything that’s wrong with popular music—and pop culture, some would argue—by exhibiting a complete and total disregard for class and common decency in front of the entire world. In case you’ve spent your Monday under a rock (or without an Internet connection), West rushed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video to proclaim that BeyoncĂ© Knowles should have won instead.

“Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but BeyoncĂ© has one of the best videos of all time," West said, referring to the sexy video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Swift was noticeably crushed when West snatched the mic from her. Everyone else just got douche chills.


Of course, Knowles proved later on that not only is she one of the hottest performers on the planet, but she is also among the most gracious. While accepting her award for Video of the Year, she invited Swift onstage for a second shot at her speech. So bravo to her.

Since we’re on the subject of MTV (great segue, right?), I picked up MTV Games’ The Beatles: Rock Band for Xbox 360 this weekend and, as a self-proclaimed Beatlemaniac, it’s amazing. While I thought I’d grown bored with rhythm games and their needlessly overpriced plastic peripherals, developer Harmonix has truly delivered a love letter to Beatles fans. And, as the song goes, “Love is all you need.”

I should mention that I am a terrible faux drummer. If the game’s higher difficulty levels are any indication, Ringo Starr is a better musician than we’ve been giving him credit for.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

By the Numbers

A post-apocalyptic computer-animated action film pitting cute, ragdoll-like robots against evil, monstrous ones, Shane Acker’s 9 is all about spectacle. Produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov and based on Acker’s 2005 short film of the same name, 9 has a fascinating steampunk aesthetic and moves along at a breakneck pace.

However, with a brief running time of 79 minutes and a barely-there plot, 9 just doesn’t feel like a feature. And since the screenplay by Acker, Ben Gluck and Corpse Bride co-writer Pamela Pettler never gives 9’s archetypal characters anything all that interesting to do or say, this film will probably be remembered as a visually arresting yet hollow movie experience. That is, if it’s remembered at all.

The verdict? It looks great, but save for some cool action sequences, 9 doesn’t offer much to latch onto from a narrative perspective. If there’s one thing that Disney/Pixar’s WALL-E taught us last summer, it’s that computer-animated robots can be more human than most flesh-and-blood Hollywood stars. Unfortunately, 9 never reaches that level of emotional engagement. But, then again, it never aspires to it. While flawed, this is a worthwhile rental.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DC Just Got More Entertaining

Not to be outdone by last week’s news that Disney is acquiring Marvel Entertainment, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. announced on September 9 the creation of DC Entertainment, which will improve promotion of the DC Comics brand and its characters through Warner Bros. films, television, video games and merchandising. Essentially, this newly formed subsidiary ensures that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other DC luminaries in the near future.

Diane Nelson will serve as president of DC Entertainment, segueing from her post as president of Warner Premiere, the production arm responsible for such stellar direct-to-DVD animated DC films as Justice League: New Frontier and Wonder Woman. Nelson, who oversees Warner Bros.’ wildly successful Harry Potter movie franchise, will report directly to Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov. Former DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz will serve as writer, contributing editor and overall consultant at DC Entertainment.

Like the Disney/Marvel deal before it, I view the creation of DC Entertainment as beneficial to the comic book industry as a whole. Aside from Batman, Warner Bros. hasn’t been able to fully capitalize on other DC properties as of late. The Superman movie series stalled after 2006’s Superman Returns, while a big-screen Wonder Woman adaptation has never managed to get off the ground. These are iconic characters that deserve the proper cinematic treatment, and there’s no reason why a modern Superman film couldn’t be just as good—or as well received—as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

“The founding of DC Entertainment fully recognizes our desire to provide both the DC properties and fans the type of content that is only possible through a concerted cross-company, multi-platform effort,” Nelson said in a statement. “DC Entertainment will help us to formally take the great working relationships between DC Comics and various Warner Bros. businesses to the next level in order to maximize every opportunity to bring DC’s unrivalled collection of titles and characters to life.”

Film projects in development at Warner Bros. Entertainment include Jonah Hex, starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich; The Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds; and Lobo, directed by Guy Ritchie.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Didn’t Think We’d Really Seen the Last of Rambo, Did You?

Harry Knowles over at Ain’t It Cool News reports that Sylvester Stallone is readying yet another Rambo movie called Rambo V: The Savage Hunt. Is this a good thing? Well, if you’re like me and loved the hell out of 2008’s blood-soaked Rambo, then you might be interested in what ol’ Sly has in mind for John Rambo’s fifth outing on the silver screen. What’s really fascinating—or damning, depending on what you think a Rambo movie should be—is that this movie apparently introduces a sci-fi element to the series. No, it’s not Rambo in Space. But, then again, I’ve heard worse ideas.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, the film teams Rambo with special ops soldiers to track down an escaped U.S. military experiment, which Stallone describes in a voicemail to Knowles as a “feral beast” that is an “amalgamation of fury and intelligence and pure, unadulterated rage.” So he's fighting monsters now?

I’m not quite sure if this will work for a lot of people, but after Rocky Balboa and Rambo, Stallone seems to have a handle on his characters these days. However, as over-the-top as the last three hyper-violent Rambo films were, they were at least grounded in something resembling reality. This sounds a bit like Rambo Vs. Predator.

Click here to read more about the film and to listen to Stallone’s voicemail in its entirety.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Dark Knight Triumphant

Despite multiple successes in comic books, television and film, Batman has just never really been able to make that pivotal leap to video games. However, developer Rocksteady Studios clearly set out to change all that with Batman: Arkham Asylum, a third-person action title that not only manages to far surpass every comic-based video game ever released, but might be among the most satisfying gaming experiences in recent years.

The game begins with Batman hauling the Joker to Arkham Asylum, a decrepit nightmare of an institution that houses all of Batman’s worst foes. The Caped Crusader notices fairly early that it seems as though the Joker actually wanted to get caught and, as is almost always the case, Batman’s right. With the help of his gal pal Harley Quinn, Joker breaks loose and takes control the asylum with his arch-nemesis locked inside. As the Dark Knight, it’s your job to foil the Joker’s latest plot, facing off against iconic Batman villains such as Bane, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow along the way.

While the story is pretty simplistic overall, writer Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Detective Comics) keeps things fresh throughout, and the superb voice cast—which includes animated series veterans Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin as Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn respectively—makes the experience all the more cinematic. As a Batman story, it’s not quite as good as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but it often comes close.

But that narrative attention to detail would be for naught if Arkham Asylum wasn’t fun to play and, fortunately, this game is about the closest you can get to a Batman simulator without putting on a cape and scaring the neighbors. Most of the game’s fast-paced battles pit Batman against large groups of baddies at a time, but the game’s free-flowing combo system makes taking down goons a breeze and a whole lot of fun to watch. It’s amazing how varied Batman’s ass-kicking repertoire is considering that the combat essentially relies only on an attack button and a counter button. It’s a real testament to the animation work.

When Batman’s not cracking skulls, he’s skulking around in the shadows to dispatch thugs one by one. At certain points in the game, you’ll come across gun-toting henchmen that require the stealthy approach, which can include sneaking up on them, stringing them up from gargoyles or swooping down on top of them from the rafters. By utilizing the X-ray vision-like Detective Mode—which can also be used to track down clues and solve puzzles—Batman can identify which goons are packing heat and can even see how nervous they are by monitoring their heart rate.

Batman’s also aided in his adventure by a plethora of Bat-gadgets—including line launchers, grappling hooks, explosives and the always-cool batarangs—to help him beat down bad guys and explore every corner and crevice of the island. Sure, each of these devices serves a purpose in the gameplay, but they also help you feel like you really are Batman. And that level of immersion is important.

Production values are top notch, with detailed character models and creepy environments reminiscent of BioShock, another phenomenal title in which atmosphere plays a critical role. Complementing the graphics are some pretty impressive in-game physics. You may find yourself slipping up during combat as you admire the fluid movement of Batman’s cape.

It has flaws, including some lackluster boss battles and simplistic puzzles, but there’s no reason for an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 owner not to pick up Arkham Asylum. Even without the Batman license, this is a well-constructed action game that offers up a ton of gameplay variety with polished visuals and a great story. It even provides plenty of reasons to keep playing long after the story is complete. The Riddler has scattered puzzles and challenges all over Arkham for you to solve, while you can compete for online high scores through the game’s Challenge Maps.

Arkham Asylum is a dark and refreshingly mature take on the Batman mythos that one hopes signals a new beginning for superhero video games. Whether or not you’re a Batman fanatic, this is some of the most fun you’ll have on a console this year.