Monday, June 30, 2008

IGN: The Dark Knight Review

It isn't an overstatement to call The Dark Knight the most sophisticated and ambitious work of its kind. Superior to all three Spider-Man installments and even its amazing predecessor in terms of conceptualization, writing, acting, and direction, Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins is a dark, complex and disturbing film, not the least of which because it grafts its heroics onto the blueprint of actual reality rather than that of spandex-clad supermen. And while such a distinction may make little difference to those already eagerly anticipating the return of the caped crusader, suffice it to say that The Dark Knight qualifies as the first official comic book adaptation that truly succeeds in being a great artistic achievement in its own right.

Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy who moonlights as Batman. Having eased more comfortably into a lifestyle of excess, Wayne lurks on the fringes of his family's corporation as CEO Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) runs the boardroom. But when an ambitious district attorney named Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) comes forward to challenge Gotham City's villainy through proper legal channels, the man also known as Batman sees an opportunity to replace his vigilante persona with a figure of virtue who will truly inspire the best in the citizenry.

Unfortunately, Batman's success as a crime fighter has generated new problems for Gotham, including a consolidation of the crime lords who once controlled the city independently. Meanwhile, a new adversary named The Joker (Heath Ledger) proves particularly dangerous because he seeks not only to advance the cause of Gotham's underworld, but obliterate the foundations of liberty and order that Batman protects. Torn between championing Dent and meting out justice as a masked vigilante, Wayne soon finds himself at a crossroads between being the hero that Gotham needs and the one it deserves.

The great triumph of The Dark Knight is that it manages for the first time ever in the history of the genre to transplant comic book theatrics into the real world – and moreover, to examine precisely what it could mean if a person decided to strap on a super-suit and start attacking the world's criminals. The first film certainly hinted at this possibility, thrusting the hero and his alter-ego into a world where Wayne's frivolity was as despised as Batman's vigilantism. But even with real-world explanations for such improbabilities as Scarecrow's ability to scare, this was still a world where the Batmobile was cool and the climactic battle took place on a speeding train as a bomb ticked toward its inevitable explosion. Here, the Prowler barely survives its first appearance and with the exception of one or two cooler-than-cool moves that will no doubt thrill fans, its replacement/substitute – the Batpod – serves as a largely utilitarian device for Batman to get from one crime scene to the next. (That said, I still want one.)

More important than this, however, is the idea that Batman is not just a guy in a suit, but a symbol and there are people in the film – most notably The Joker – who want to destroy that symbol. While Batman's identity remains secret and his motives unknown to Gothamites, he represents hope in a city that has little to spare and embodies a pursuit of justice – and further, a code of behavior – that quite literally threatens these criminals' way of life. By throwing Gotham into chaos and testing the limits to which Batman holds himself, The Joker is not merely plying death and destruction but willfully destroying the philosophical foundations of organized society. The closest such examination another comic book-oriented film has ever attempted was the emotional throughline of the Spider-Man films. Peter Parker's struggle was almost exclusively personal, whereas Wayne not only has to find a way to maintain his moral compass, but consider what the repercussions of his heroism are to both the public and the criminals themselves.

While all of this sounds lofty – and it is – Nolan examines these themes in beautifully human terms, projecting his examination of "the hero" into the hearts and minds of his characters. Wayne, less outwardly conflicted than in Batman Begins, sees Dent's ascension as an opportunity to stop playing dress up and reunite with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) – the one woman who knows his secret. Meanwhile, Dent and his sometimes partner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) look at Batman's existence as a good thing, a fulcrum against which they can enforce the law and sometimes bend rules to accomplish loftier goals. And, of course, The Joker wants to destroy all of that, albeit less because of some law of movie villainy than because he sees his existence as the necessary antithesis – or perhaps ultimate extension – of the murky morality of Batman's brand of justice. When, after all, was the last time a movie criminal wasn't merely mad, but had a deeper ideological motivation for his dastardly deeds?

Perhaps bolstered by the success of the first film, Nolan reaches out further with his storytelling and camerawork in The Dark Knight to create an ongoing, palpable feeling of tension that never relents through the entirety of the film's two and a half hour running time. There is a hugeness to the narrative itself, which Nolan enhances first by shooting partially on IMAX film stock (which will surely be lost to those unlucky enough to be too far to see the film in the format), but he then builds this haunting atmosphere steadily from one scene to the next, building anticipation for the moments when the violence will finally erupt.

That he occasionally veers into comic book glibness with one-liners undermines none of the intensity; on the contrary, these moments provide a release that is absolutely necessary to keeping the audience from succumbing to The Joker's febrile madness. Meanwhile, the violence is quite possibly the most intense I have ever seen in a PG-13 film, leaving myself and others wondering how The Dark Knight avoided an R. But what is more disturbing is the unrelenting menace that hovers over every scene like a dark cloud. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's leitmotif for The Joker sounds like a cross between Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" (from 2001) and the scraping, metallic curlicue that was used in trailers for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and enhances the clenched-fist feeling that anything can and will happen at any moment, even scenes in which he doesn't appear.

Like few other mythology-based movies, The Dark Knight truly seems to think of everything, be it conceptual or purely logical. Credit Nolan and his brother Jonathan (who also helped conceive The Prestige) for really digging into Batman's world, turning over the soil and examining its roots for possible deficiencies. While this generally speaks to the film's plausibility, they also have the presence of mind to consider such things as Lucius Fox's considerable monetary expenditures – not to mention his entire division – and how and where a paper trail might eventually lead to it. Again, however, these are not ideas or even subplots to which vast amounts of screen time are devoted, but simply revealed, explained and dealt with as they might arise in real life.

Bale is predictably effective as both Wayne and Batman this time around, playing both with greater assurance than in Batman Begins (indeed, he and his characters seem to possess more confidence). Though Wayne is a necessary second-fiddle to Batman, he is a better defined and more poised character in this film – even when he's indulging the excesses of his trust fund – and he understands the value of being in a position to help someone like Dent, be it monetarily as himself or physically as Batman. Also great is the rest of the original cast, all of whom seem as comfortable in their characters as if they'd created them themselves. Oldman in particular creates a portrait of virtue that shows a roiling well of doubt underneath, and yet always conveys effortless authority.

Meanwhile taking over for Katie Holmes, Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes, showing how her feelings for Bruce Wayne aren't simply unrequited, but actually based in both sincere affection and common sense. And Eckhart more or less combines all of the disparate roles he's played in the past – lout, huckster, loyal companion – into one seamless portrayal of a man determined to make things better but not quite sure how to accomplish that goal in the right way.

Finally, there's Ledger, whose performance I suspect will be the subject of many analyses of all sorts in the weeks and months to come. What he does with The Joker is, quite frankly, nothing short of transcendent. Early in the film he explains the origins of his trademark facial scars, and you worry for a moment that the filmmakers are giving this psychopath some kind of convenient explanation, which, talented though he was, Ledger won't be able to overcome. But by the third time he's explained where they come from – each time telling a different tale – you realize that Ledger was a master of his craft, only in his final years finding roles that truly offered him the chance to explore that mastery. His is the definitive movie Joker, and he owns the role and achieves a level of abject insanity that is terrifying as it is irresistible.

Overall, the film does maintain a steady pace and function with such continuously unnerving momentum that it occasionally seems like a second installment. (There are plenty of appropriate comparisons to other sequels its quality mirrors, if not possibly surpasses: Toy Story 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, etc.) In fact, so well-executed is this film that even the title – or at least its true meaning – seemed to catch its audience off guard, until it gets explained, expertly and poetically, at the very end of the movie.

A screenwriting professor of mine once said that what happens in a story must be surprising but expected, and Nolan's approach to The Dark Knight epitomizes this maxim. He gives you exactly what you want, but does it so well that it manages to completely catch you off guard when it happens. But there really is no better way to describe The Dark Knight than to call it a great work of art because it transcends both the boundaries of comic book moviemaking and even the parameters of good filmmaking. What Nolan and Co. have created doesn't just function as a thrill ride or even a terrific movie, but rather as a substantive and philosophical examination of why we need heroes, and then when we need them, what they mean.

This review is courtesy of and Todd Gilchrist

Sunday, June 29, 2008

44 Reasons to get Firefox

With advertising promotional pictures like these, how could you not be interested in Mozilla's hit internet browser? Some of my favorites include:

[Courtesy of Picster]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blizzard: Diablo 3 Confirmed

The ice sheath splash has finally melted, it's now official, and while I'm not exactly barreled over by the announcement because I've always felt a trifle conflicted about the merits of the Diablo series, I'm definitely intrigued.

What I (and plenty of others) speculated might happen came to pass at approximately 12:18 p.m. on June 28th at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris, France, where Blizzard finally confirmed that yes, Diablo 3 is in the works, eight prolonged years after Diablo 2, and over a decade after the original gave oceans of relentless finger-tappers a conduit for their compulsion.

Don't believe me? Peep the the Blizzard homepage Flash splash (if you can get it to come up once folks on this side of the pond start to rise and shine).

What else do we know so far? Not much, but Blizzard says it's going to be the biggest Diablo yet, that it's going to retain the series focus on cooperative play, and that it'll feature the return of Deckard Cain (the old dude from the last two who crooned "Stay a while, and listen!" when you clicked him). You'll also get a new class called the Witch Doctor who'll have access to jungle magic and be able to summon animals and insects, inflict diseases, and mind-control enemies.

As the game is now finally fully 3D, you'll be able to zoom in or out on the fly. The interface has been unsurprisingly tweaked with onscreen hotbars for skills as well as the option to swap between them quickly with the tab key or your mousewheel. Instead of quaffing potions like Professor Snape on a bender, you'll roll over red orbs to replenish your health. Environments can be pretty thoroughly pulverized, as well as utilized to effect the destruction of enemies. Certain enemies will be considerably larger, finally filling the screen like proper boss monsters. Armor now relates to class and renders uniquely depending on the character wearing it. And girls, you'll finally have the option to pick female versions of character classes, including the Barbarian and Witch Doctor.

Check out the new official page which has slightly more info, and some of the official story details and features below:

Two decades have passed since the demonic denizens, Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal, wandered the world of Sanctuary in a vicious rampage to shackle humanity into unholy slavery. Yet for those who battled the Prime Evils directly, the memory fades slowly and the wounds of the soul still burn.

When Deckard Cain returns to the ruins of Tristram's Cathedral seeking clues to new stirrings of evil, a comet from the heavens strikes the very ground where Diablo once entered the world. The comet carries a dark omen in its fiery being and it calls the heroes of Sanctuary to defend the mortal world against the rising powers of the Burning Hells--and even the failing luminaries of the High Heavens itself.

- Explore a fully-realized Sanctuary--the living, breathing gothic fantasy world of Diablo III rendered in gorgeous 3D.

- Battle the unholy forces of the Burning Hells with all-new character classes like the otherworldly Witch Doctor, or with re-imagined warriors from Diablo's past: such as the fierce Barbarian.

- Rain Hell on your enemies wielding the interactive environment as a weapon: lay cunning traps, turn destructible objects against your foes, and use environmental obstacles to your advantage--all powered by the Havoc physics system.

- Experience the intensity of multiplayer Diablo III over an all-new, wickedly-enhanced platform with numerous enhancements to make connecting with your friends easier--and cooperative gameplay more fun.

[Courtesy of PC World]

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weinstein Goes Blu

The Weinstein Company is the big studio that everyone seems to forget. Back when HD DVD vs Blu-ray was really cranking, it was common to create tables listing which studios were on what side, and somehow despite a pretty good selection of movies, everyone always forgot about Weinstein. Weinstein started out all Red all the time, but later its titles went MIA from the HD media world completely, which has left many wondering how long it would take before every major studio was releasing titles on Blu-ray. Now with less than thirty days to go until Universal goes Blu, we've learned that on August 5th, when The Mist is released, HD fans everywhere should finally have access to movies from every major studio in Hollywood for the first time ever.

[Courtesy of Engadget HD]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Microsoft releases DRM tool

Transferring Content Licenses to a New Console

Got a new Xbox 360® console? Great. But maybe you downloaded games or other content from Xbox LIVE® Marketplace onto an older Xbox 360 console, and now you want all that content on your new system. Well, now there's a way to do it.

With the license transfer tool, you can transfer the licenses of all your previously downloaded content from your old console to the new one.
Two Part Process
It's a simple two-part process.

First , you must transfer your authorized licenses here on the site.

Second, you must download the transferred licenses onto your new Xbox 360.

[Link to official article]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Gears of War 2 Multiplayer Footage

New Gears of War 2 multi-player footage has reached the internet. Gamers everywhere having been eagerly looking forward to the sequel to the 2006 GOTY for over a year. Learn about the new features of Gears of War 2 from lead designer Cliff Bleszinski. Enjoy!

For more info about Gears of War 2, visit A360P.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Samsung Launches Blu-Ray Resource Center

Samsung's been pretty good about keeping its HDM players up to date with the latest protocols, and now it's launching a dedicated site to keep prospective consumers and current owners alike informed about the Blu-ray format. The aptly-titled Blu-ray resource center is split into two sides, one of which includes topics for existing BD addicts and one with information for those "looking to buy Blu-ray." Interestingly, the forum packs some pretty noteworthy questions, with the latest explaining how upconverted DVD just isn't as good as bona fide Blu-ray. Head on over and swallow some knowledge -- just be sure to watch for falling propaganda.

View the Website Here


Monday, June 23, 2008

Guitar Hero 4 World Tour: Kotaku First Look

You may want to carve out some extra space in the living room for another full complement of plastic instruments, as Guitar Hero is set to match—and in some areas, outpace—Rock Band's feature set with Guitar Hero World Tour. With a new guitar controller that adds a few new hardware tricks to the game, plus a drum set and microphone that levels the playing field with the competition you might be convinced to upgrade your hardware. If you're at all interested in World Tour's music creation feature, you should earmark another $180 for the whole shebang.

So, what's new? An extended create-a-rocker for one thing, one that looks to one-up Rock Band across the board. Established Guitar Hero regulars are all coming back, even ones who missed out on GH III like Clive Winston and Pandora, but if you want to play as someone a bit more personal, you'll have plenty of options.

Create-a-rocker lets players choose their rocker's gender, genre (rock, punk, goth, etc.), age, face shape, nose type, mouth, eyes, make up, face paint, body shape, tattoos, hair, skin tone, outfit, accessories, stage presence and win/loss animations. Yes, that's a lot. Each aspect has loads of depth, with marginal adjustments to facial features and a handy color wheel for picking the colors of everything you wear.

Similarly, create-an-instrument lets players fiddle with just about every aspect of the game's guitars, drums and even microphones. Guitars have plenty of variety in body shapes, neck styles, color schemes, headstocks and, for the nitpicker, string sizes. You can even style your in-game guitar to look like a Guitar Hero controller, should you find that sort of thing amusing.

Drummers and vocalists may not have quite as much variety, but if you want a custom kick drum or a more interesting mic stand for your rocker, it's in there. You'll buy all of this stuff with cash you earn in-game, naturally, but Guitar Hero World Tour also features Call of Duty-style accomplishments that reward with bonus money for pulling off hot licks and cool tricks.

Once you're in game, you'll see that Guitar Hero has looked to Rock Band for its step into the full band world. Screen layout is almost a carbon copy, with slight differences in the UI making little in the way of improvements. The vocal track pathway has its own look, but note chart highways stick to what works. Really the only major difference is the addition of accent notes for drummers, which rewards more powerful drum hits.

Oh, let's get this out of the way. Here is a sampling of some of the game's artists.
* Linkin Park
* The Eagles
* Van Halen
* Sublime – “Santeria”
* Billy Idol – “Rebel Yell”
* Foo Fighters – “Everlong”

We heard plenty more and saw some famous names that may very well be included as guest characters, but we're forced to stay silent for now. With 85 master tracks in the game, we don't think you'll be left wanting for content for a while.

Something the noobs will appreciate is a new Beginner difficulty. This is the kind of thing geared toward your parents or younger siblings, as guitar playing requires only strumming, no fret buttons to play, and drumming requires that the player hit any drum head in time.

Guitar Hero World Tour adds Band Careers to the series, a la Rock Band, but lets lonely bass players have their shot at fame and takes the whole career experience online. The Band Career system is said to be non-linear, letting players pick up gigs out of order.

Perhaps the most in-depth of World Tour's new features is the Music Studio. This is where you'll create your own music in a virtual recording space, laying down tracks with the guitar controller and drum kit. Players can choose from a variety of sound banks and pre-built drum loops that can be mixed up, slowed down and modified in all manner of fashion to create totally unique tracks. The game features drum sounds and effects pedals from real-world manufacturers

We were shown a quick demonstration that just about ten minutes, whipping up a serviceable song in virtually no time at all. Using the strum bar to hit notes, the fret buttons to choose notes and chords and the angle of the guitar to change the octave, it was apparent that the guitar controller works relatively well as a digital instrument.

You can save up to 100 songs of your own creation locally, mix them via GH Mix and upload them to GH Tunes for other World Tour owners to download, play and rank a la YouTube.

While I can't personally see myself having the patience or attention span required—not to mention musical talent—to write my own songs in Guitar Hero's Music Studio, I'm certainly looking forward to what others will create. There's an incredible amount of variety in here for those who want to dig in, and, say whip up a few Metallica instrumental covers. Hint, hint.

Overall, it looks like Guitar Hero is matching, and in some cases, besting what Rock Band brought to the table. We'll have to wait until we go hands-on with the thing before tossing our old plastic instruments in the trash.

Guitar Hero DS Released

Most musicians dream of one day reaching platinum success. A new Nintendo DS bundle lets aspiring axe shredders claim that coveted status right from day one. The new Silver/Black Nintendo DS branded with the Guitar Hero® logo will be available exclusively as part of a limited-time bundle with Guitar Hero®: On Tour. For the first time, this smash-hit franchise is playable on a portable video game system using the revolutionary Guitar Hero Guitar Grip peripheral and fully tapping into the distinctive abilities of the Nintendo DS hardware.

Available on June 22, 2008, at North American retailers nationwide, the bundle provides a cool combo package for grads about to head off to college as well as summertime, road-tripping rockers of all ages.

“This one-of-a-kind bundle makes Nintendo DS even more appealing to our ever-growing audience of players,” said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of Sales & Marketing. “Like Nintendo DS itself, the Guitar Hero franchise has attracted millions of new players to the world of video games.”

“We are thrilled to be the first third-party publisher to partner with Nintendo on this unique offering,” said Dusty Welch, Head of Publishing for RedOctane. “With the Guitar Hero-branded Nintendo DS and our Guitar Hero: On Tour game and peripheral, this amazing bundle delivers gamers a complete Guitar Hero experience they can enjoy anytime, anywhere.”

Using the revolutionary Guitar Hero Guitar Grip peripheral and a custom-designed Guitar Hero pick-stylus, Guitar Hero: On Tour leverages the unique abilities of Nintendo DS to bring a new dimension to hand-held gaming. Featuring a wide variety of music, including tracks from blink-182, No Doubt, Jet, Nirvana, Bloc Party and many others, players can rock out in career mode, join together in co-op or go head-to-head in a “Guitar Duel” using Battle Items unique to the DS platform.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Tracklist Released

The latest installment in the franchise releases June 29th.

Tier 1: “Getting the Band Together”
1. “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople (cover)
2. “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith
3. “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick
4. “Make It” by Aerosmith (re-recorded)
5. “Uncle Salty” by Aerosmith

Tier 2: “First Taste of Success”
6. “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks (cover)
7. “I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett
8. “Movin’ Out” by Aerosmith (re-recorded)
9. “No Surprize” by Aerosmith
10. “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith

Tier 3: “The Triumphant Return” (The Orpheum)
11. “Complete Control” by The Clash
12. “Livin’ on the Edge” by Aerosmith
13. “Love in an Elevator” by Aerosmith
14. “Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls (cover)
15. “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith

Tier 4: “International Superstars”
16. “Bright Light Fright” by Aerosmith
17. “King of Rock” by Run-D.M.C.
18. “Nobody’s Fault” by Aerosmith
19. “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult
20. “Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C. featuring Aerosmith

Tier 5: “The Great American Band”
21. “Always on the Run” by Lenny Kravitz
22. “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith
23. “Beyond Beautiful” by Aerosmith
24. “Dream On” by Aerosmith (re-recorded)
25. “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes (cover)

Tier 6: “Rock N Roll Legends”

26. “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent
27. “Mama Kin” by Aerosmith (re-recorded)
28. “Sex Type Thing” by Stone Temple Pilots
29. “Toys In The Attic” by Aerosmith
30. “Train Kept A Rollin” by Aerosmith
31. “Guitar Battle vs Joe Perry” by Joe Perry

Bonus Songs
32. “Combination” by Aerosmith
33. “Kings and Queens” by Aerosmith
34. “Let The Music Do The Talking” by Aerosmith
35. “Mercy” by Joe Perry
36. “Pandora’s Box” by Aerosmith
37. “Pink” by Aerosmith
38. “Rats In The Cellar” by Aerosmith
39. “Shakin’ My Cage” by Joe Perry
40. “Talk Talkin” by Joe Perry
41. “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith


Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Call of Duty 5 Trailer Released

Thanks to the universal success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, gamers are pumped for the next chapter in the series. Call of Duty: World at War is the 5th chapter in the hit-series. Produced by COD 3 Producer, Treyarch, gamers everywhere are headed back to World War II. But the prducers at Treyarch learned a thing or two from its predecessor. Packed with new guns, challenges, and perks, Call of Duty 5 is going to be a huge hit this year.

FireFox 3 Finally Released

Firefox 3 is finally available, which means you should go download it. They're trying to set a Guinness World Record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours, so if you're at work, go to everyone's cube and download FF. Even if your office computers are locked down and can't use FF, just download it anyway. If you're at school, in a computer lab, download it there too. Make your parents download it. Install Linux on your computer, dual boot, and download again so it counts twice. They're giving away free beer! Wait, not that Guinness? F this then.[Mozilla via ]World Record Page]

Lifehacker's got some more Firefox 3 coverage, with their power user's guide and the entire history of Firefox 1.0 to 3.0.


FireFox 3 has been released for a couple days now and some things I've noticed that are different than the the previous versions of FF:
-Bigger 'Back Button'. No more clicking something by accident.
-No more pop-ups asking for permission. These are now attatched to your taskbar out of the way
-Less memory usage (yay!)
-Description for websites in URL Bar
-Works on ANY system

Final Decision - The people of Gizmodo did not lie. Download it right NOW. A very nice upgrade of Firefox 2

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