8/25/09

Back to Work

I'll admit that it looks like the Asterisk has been slacking. The fact is that a lot of stuff has been happening behind the scenes, both in the lives of the writers and in the development of the site. So, to make up for lost time I'm going to do a bit of a round up of the biggest geek news in the past few weeks.

1) Avatar trailer looks like crap on the internet.
Several reports are coming in that the trailer for Avatar, James Cameron's highly anticipated adaptation of the anime, looks like an adult version of Delgo. These people watched the trailer on the internet and concluded that the entire thing is computer animated while in fact only the more fantastical elements are. In theaters, the trailer has been received with wide-spread praise, especially in IMAX. After watching it over and over both at the theater where I work and on the Internet, I have to conclude two things: 1- it does look awesome on screen, and 2 - it will probably look even more awesome by sheer virtue of the fact they have several months to touch a few things up. What may be throwing some people off is the fact that some of the live action stuff is shown in slow motion, setting off the physics and making it look more CG. This is a testament to the fact that they are able to bring CG and live action so close together that it's really impossible to tell them apart and, in fact, it's even possible to mistake real life for animation. The best computer animation so far this year has to go to District 9 which made aliens that really looked like they were there and belonged in the environment. When Avatar is released, we'll see if District 9 keeps that title.

2)Batman: Arkham Asylum kicks video game reviewers in the face.
It would seem that Arkham Asylum is doing to the superhero video game industry what Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did to the superhero movie industry. Appropriate that Bats gets the honor of kicking industries in the pants, eh? Way to go, Bruce. Honestly, this looks like one heck of a game with an awesome cinematic storyline. I only wish I was able to play it. I hope Jocelyn gets around to reviewing it for us.

3) World of Warcraft: Cataclysm details revealed at BlizzCon.
Rumors have been flying about WoW's next expansion. Now we have clear details about what to expect in Azeroth's future. Cataclysm will follow Azeroth's story after an earth-shattering devastation changes the face of the globe forever. Highlights: Goblins will join the Horde as a playable race. Worgens, Gilneans, will join the Alliance. Hyjal will open as a playable zone. The Sunken City of Vashj'ir will open allowing underwater gameplay including underwater mounts. Flying mounts will be allowed in Azeroth Proper. DEATHWING IS BACK! For more news about Cataclysm, I recommend visiting WoW Insider at WoW.com.

4) World of Warcraft movie production chugging along.
I would hate to have too much WoW news, but this is pretty important movie news, too. Warcraft is right up there with Lord of the Rings in terms of its epic, deep and sprawling lore. It was only a matter of time before someone made it a movie. Sam Raimi is the definite choice for their director, and the vice president of Blizzard, Frank Pearce, said recently that Blizzard will be deeply involved in the creative process because if they don't, "there’s no guarantee that the production company that’s making your movie is going to appropriately honor your intellectual property, and our intellectual property is our lifeblood." This I like. Usually I'll always fight for the director and the screenwriter's vision of a movie, but when it comes to a property like World of Warcraft, if Blizzard doesn't get what it wants, the fans will riot. Luckily, in Raimi, we have a fellow player. Also... Bruce Campbell as Leeroy Jenkins??  Hmmmm... /strokechin

5) Wil Wheaton to join the cast of The Guild as a rival GM.
Is this WoW news? Not really... Sorta, but not really. If you haven't seen The Guild yet, I highly recommend taking the time. Especially if you play MMOs and love your guild. This series, created, written, produced by and staring Felicia Day, follows the story of people who play World of Warcraft together in their every-day lives. It's gone on for two seasons now, and at BlizzCon it was officially announced (actually, I think someone said something before BlizzCon, but we're going to pretend I'm right) that Enterprise Cadet and world-famous geek, Wil Wheaton, is joining the cast in the third season. If someone slips up and calls him Wesley I'm going to smile even bigger.

That's all I got for now. Have a tip for some geek news? Email at tips@thegreenasterisk.com and we'll check it out.

8/14/09

District 9 and the Mustachioed Hero

There are two reasons to like District 9. 1) Because it's just generally an awesome movie. 2) Because it's the first movie I know in which the hero proudly sports a mustache.

Wikus van der Merwe (yes, I did have to look that up) takes his mustache to District 9, a refuge/slum for aliens who inadvertently landed on earth 20 years ago, in order to serve them eviction notices. The plan is to move the aliens farther away from Wikus' mustache, which resides in Johannesburg, South Africa, because people keep complaining about them. But things never go according to plan.

The aliens, which don't have mustaches, but do have similar tentacley protrusions, are called prawns by the locals. My guess is that their actual name is unpronounceable by humans since their language in general seems to have been made up by a man throwing a coin down a water drain. Which makes sense when you meet a prawn named Christopher Johnson. That's just easier to spell than KRRSTIKKKLYPPLR JKKTIKNSNNN.

The film goes back and forth between documentary style and omniscient third-person narrative. Wikus' mustache brings a camera with him to District 9 in order to document the eviction (which doesn't go over very well, as you might imagine). Several people are interviewed, and these interviews are interwoven with the narrative to give a sort of background on Wikus and the organization for which he works, MNU. It's a very interesting way of shooting. On the one hand you have people fully aware that a camera is there, but just as easily you get insight into the characters when they don't recognize the cameras. It made the narrative both real and realistic.

The animation of the aliens is truly spectacular! Nearly flawless. It's as if they were puppets, except that they did things puppets just can't do. This is a giant leap in CG realism the likes of which I am totally looking forward to seeing progress in the future. Soon enough we won't need actors except for the voices! (That's a lie. There will always be actors.)

District 9 tells the story of clearly superior aliens being beaten and dominated by humans and what they do to react. What really got me about the story was what could humanity's motive possibly be for not allowing them to take steps to actually get back home? This opened a disturbing and poignant line of thought: humans are always trying to dominate. They always need something to be able to kick around and be better than. If it's not racial discrimination, it's species discrimination. It's sad, really, but the only reason the humans let the prawns stay (aside from trying to learn how to work their weapons) is because they want to lord over them and feel like the superior species by sheer virtue of the fact that this species was living in a slum while they had nice beach-side houses. It's very sad, but very poignant. A lesson well learned in the end when Wikus' mustache walks a mile in the prawns' shoes. Er... bio suit?

Go see District 9! It is perhaps the best original sci-fi movie of this century! And if there isn't a district 10 movie forthcoming, someone is going to get hurt.

8/12/09

Some Quick Movie Reviews


I've actually managed to watch a few critically acclaimed movies this week that I'd like to pass along my thoughts on. In my infinite laziness I have decided to make these mini-reviews. Your ADD will thank me.


Julie & Julia: Who knew that an elderly woman with an afro could be so cute? Meryl Streep charms and impresses as usual in her role as the stubborn but lovable Julia Childs. Amy Adams is also cute with her newly cropped hairstyle but her character came off as overly annoying to me. This movie is based on two books, the first being the story of Julie, a real life foodie who blogged about her journey through a year of Child's recipes, and the second being the memoirs of Julia Childs herself. In my opinion this movie may have actually been better if it was a little less Julie and a little more Julia. The movie wraps up a little anti-climactically but Streep is very fun to watch so I suggest checking it out.






The Hurt Locker: This has been touted as the first great war movie about the current war in Iraq. I can see where people who say this are coming from, but this movie fell a little flat for me. The movie follows a team of soldiers in Iraq whose job it is to defuse or render safe un-exploded ordinance. The film starts with some great tension and impressive visual effects of explosions. The acting is top notch and the movie explores some interesting ideas about the psyches of the soldiers who have to do these jobs. The problem for me is that the movie really doesn't go anywhere past the three-quarter mark, or perhaps more accurately the places it goes don't amount to much. This movie also ends somewhat anti-climactically but in this case I can only suggest checking this movie out if you aren't expecting it to live up to any of its buzz.


Scott's Top Pick:
500 Days of Summer: This movie was excellent! Cute, inventive, and enjoyable. A boy meets girl story that takes all of the typical scenes from typical movies of this type and shuffles them up to terrific effect. This movie has great performances, great writing, a great visual style, laughter, sadness, and even a musical number! I can see how this movie may not appeal to older audiences but everyone else should check it out for sure! Also, if you do see this movie and like it as much as I did, check out Away We Go. Its another indie romantic comedy that was in theatres a couple months ago that you'll probably enjoy just as much.

Wow, that wasn't so bad. Maybe I'll do this more often.

Scott

8/7/09

G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra


I have to admit I was never a fan of G. I. Joe when it was a cartoon in the 80's. However, I have grown to love the idea of G. I. Joe in more recent times. Rather, I love the ironic interpretation of it's intended purpose. When I think of why I like G. I. Joe, I think of Cheat Commandos. And when I think of why I like The Rise of Cobra, I think the same thing. This is something that is so over-the-top macho that it's hillarious. Dennis Quaid delivers his lines like Tony Little, the technology would leave Scotty drooling, the backstories are more contrived than Stargate Infinity, and the testosterone may as well have been dripping from the walls.

Wether or not this movie was good is entirely dependant on the director's intentions, which I don't know. If he wanted to make a serious action movie, he completely failed. If he wanted to make a hilarious, ironic take on the G. I. Joe universe, job well done, sir! The trouble is how difficult it is to divine the director's intentions. If he was being ironic, he was being very subtle. If he was being serious... well, he just plain failed.

The idea I'm trying to portray here is that this is definitely not a movie to take seriously. This is a movie to watch with your friends having nostalgic fun and reveling in the absurdity. G. I. Joe: Rise of Cobra could possibly be to the action genre what Army of Darkness is to horror. There will be some who get it, there will be some who don't and there will be those who insist there is nothing to get. My advise: enter into this movie knowing that it's hilarious. Because knowing is half the battle.

Apologies and Guitar Hero

I apologize for my long absence! It's been crazy. But now I'm here and all is well in the world!

I have a small rant to solidify my return! Guitar Hero 5. Does it annoy anyone else that there was never a Guitar Hero 4??? I'll admit to saying Guitar Hero 4 when referring to World Tour though I despised myself for it having corrected countless people when the said Call of Duty 5. "It's not Call of Duty 5! It's World at War!! It's not a true sequel, it just has Grand Theft Auto syndrome!!!"

It's exceptionally frustrating when I'm at work (good ole GameStop!) and I pull up a search for Guitar Hero games and I get the following:

Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero 2
Guitar Hero III
Guitar Hero 5
Guitar Hero World Tour

And then the many other titles they've released. It's also annoying that they switch from numbers to roman numerals but that's a different issue entirely. Don't think I'm hating on GH, either. I played that game religiously when 2 first came out and almost died when I got the Red Ring just before Legends of Rock came out. World Tour was a bit disappointing in comparison with Rock Band but what can you do? It is GUITAR Hero, afterall. End rant.

Jocelyn

8/5/09

2012 Google Bombing

I've noticed that on all the previews for the movie 2012, they implore the viewer to search for the number. I'm pretty sure at one point they even said to search Google. Is this a new way for big companies with budgets and tv ads to Google Bomb?

Google Bombing is the act of somehow getting millions of sites to link to a certain page in association with a certain search term. Google has been working to stop this practice since its beginning, and it's almost non-existant now. But 2012 is now telling you, not to go to their site, but to search for their site on Google. This is very clever, because now not only are they getting traffic to their site, they're also bringing in even more traffic by linking the search term "2012" to their website by virtue of all the searchers clicking their link directly from a Google search page.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it certainly is interesting. Google + the Internet have changed the marketing structure of the world and there's always some kind of way to game the system.

8/4/09

From Here

I have to appologize for the lack of regular updates while we get things situated over here. We've got some great ideas; it's now just a matter of where to go from here.

Things are hectic - it's just that time of year. Summer movies are wrapping up and everyone is busy preparing for the fall semester or some other big change in life. Not to mention we have at least three birthdays in the month of August alone around here!

Things will pick up once more around the 22nd when at least two (hopefully more) of us will be attending the Orlando Mini MegaCon which has several advantages over the San Diego Comic Con: 1) it's closer to me 2) you don't bump into a human sea of people while veiwing the latest geeky stuff 3) it doesn't claim to be all about comics while having an ever-shrinking actual comic book section.

After reporting from that event is over, I hope to catch a steady stream of updates from every corner of geekdom. Be sure to follow me, @LordSteve, and @GreenAsterisk on Twitter for the fastest updates on the geek world. Some stuff ends up there that never actually makes it to the blog. But soon that will change.

In the mean time, what are some things you'd like to hear about?

8/2/09

Funny People




First I'd like to express exactly how much this ISN'T an Adam Sandler movie. If you're thinking about not seeing it because for some odd reason you didn't like Waterboy or Happy Gilmore, forget about it. This is a Judd Apatow movie the just happens to have Adam Sandler in the cast. You will like this movie if you liked Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Adam Sandler doesn't play his usual stupid funny role in Funny People. In this movie he plays something I expect is much closer to his actual persona: George Simmons, a famous comedian who has become wrapped up in his fame and wealth. In the beginning of the movie we find he has a life-threatening disease for which he goes on experimental medication. When he sees Ira's stand-up act (Seth Rogen) he sees potential and asks him to be his personal assistant and writer. I suspect a hidden reason is because he wants to pass on some sort of legacy before he dies, but he's too proud to actually come out and say it.

Things get complicated when his condition attracts the sympathy of his ex-girlfriend who is now married with children. Thinking she may not have a chance to see him again, she feels it's somewhat safe to declare her undying love. But the he gets better.

Judd Apatow is a genius at bringing deep, heart-felt stories to edgy, crass humor. This is what makes his movies so appealing because we experience this same combination in every day life. Life is not all fun and games, it's not safe or pure. It's complicated, compelling, vulgar at times and funny. There's something everyone can connect with in an Apatow movie, and Funny People, even though it deals with celebrities and stardom, is no exception.

It is, however, the LONGEST comedy I have seen in a long time! At almost two and a half hours, one would expect to get an epic battle sequence or a pod race. In stead we get Eric Bana tangling around with Sandler in his back yard and Seth Rogen racing to the airport only to fail in his intentions. I liked the movie, but I also like to have a drink before I watch a comedy... and for this one that's no good for the bladder.

Kudos for another great movie in Judd's portfolio. The length is really the only thing I find wrong with it. It was otherwise compelling, hilarious and well-woven. Oh and the cameos are awesome!