Those of you who frequent the Critic section of the site may have noticed a new page appearing in the last few days. Quite why anyone would frequent that section leads to questions of sanity since it is not exactly kept what one might call up-to-date. Which is sort of the point of the new page, Ones To Watch. It is an entirely personal list of the films on my radar that I intend to see, along with the reasons that I am interested. Since it will look forward by around six months, the idea is that it should never end up totally out of date. There is no real guarantee of quality on the films listed, and my opinion may well change as further information emerges, but the descriptions should let you know if it’s likely to be up your street. There is also a higher probability that films in the list will get the full review treatment, but given my dismal performance last year I make no promises at all. The list is sparse right now, just to give you an idea, but should fill up over the next week or so.
Virtually all of the first year trainees are heading off to Diss in Norfolk this weekend for a potentially debaucherous weekend of fun in a large cottage. This is the result of some sterling work by Edwin in arranging the entire affair, including the provision of a worrying amount of alcohol. For the sake of everyone’s health I rather hope there is some left over. Expect a fuller report once recovered next week.
Several bits and pieces I’ve been meaning to mention:
Google Maps has added a transit layer for a host of major cities including London. Quite how useful you’ll find it in the long run is a good question, but my impression is it may be more helpful as a tourist in one of the other 58 cities added so far.
I’m definitely suffering inauguration fatigue from the excessive Obama coverage, but arguably one of the more interesting things to emerge from it is the best demonstration to date of Microsoft’s PhotoSynth technology in CNN’s “The Moment”.
Wired’s long article The Plot to Kill Google discusses the wrangling behind the search giant’s deal with Yahoo!, the potential criminal prosecution that resulted in Google pulling out, and from where the next threat may come.
There are various ways one might approach the US election results: a victory for the Democrats, African Americans or simply common sense. Others will slyly ponder that perhaps Americans have at last proven they can be trusted to elect their own leader. There is little doubt that the result fulfilled the desires of the silent majority, by which I mean the rest of world (inexplicably illegible to vote on some technicality), made clear by the flood of supportive global congratulations.
While people are not wrong to characterise Obama’s victory speech as sounding “historic”, McCain’s concession speech was also notably magnanimous and one can’t help but wonder whether, had he campaigned in that manner throughout, the finish might have been somewhat tighter. The fact Obama is “untested” remains the chief concern amongst many Republicans, but then this is a job for which there is no real test. For that matter, in what way exactly was Bush tested before he landed the role? Unless pretzel choking featured substantively, I’m fairly sure he would have failed. Obama’s campaign attracted some excellent minds and the people with which he now chooses to surround himself will greatly impact his effectiveness moving forward.
Last night I headed out with Ben and Anna from law school to see Quantum of Solace for a second time, taking the bold move of actually remaining awake throughout on this occasion. While Ravi’s suggestion of an opening night screening last Friday had been conceptually good, the practicalities of end-of-the-week exhaustion and an 11:30pm start, possibly exacerbated by the beer in my hand, led to a somewhat inevitable conclusion. As it turns out, I didn’t miss much in the additional half hour and my original views were pretty much spot on. This way, however, I can proffer my review without risk of reproach. I can say with certainty: Quantum of Solace is definitely a film I have seen.
The flood of gaming titles continues with the much anticipated sequel to Gears of War. While already impressed with its improved graphics (less, though still some, texture pop but particularly more open areas and a brighter palette with actual colours!) and continuing cinematic flair, I want to take a moment to praise the design of the limited edition box. You heard me. Metal cases are becoming commonplace for collectors releases and they do look and feel great. However the oversize tins required to stuff in extras like artbooks end up unwieldy and seem slightly tacky. To get around this, The Gears 2 discs come in a slim metal case the size of an ordinary game, which is then packed with a book inside a larger card case and slipcover. It’s an elegant solution that I’d like to see other releases follow.
Now that things have settled down, in both work and life, I should be in position to resume writing here more frequently. It probably won’t be regular because I’m still never quite sure when things of note are actually going to happen, but they do seem to. Which is nice.
This post was actually written before the American elections finished so I will only touch on Obama’s victory briefly (at least until I can digest the results fully). While his platform of change became popular enough to secure the White House, actually effecting that change will still be an uphill struggle, particularly in the current economic climate where massive financial bailouts have left America’s national debt even more monstrous than previously. The rest of the world, however, is breathing a collective sigh of relief —arguably less that Obama is in and more that Bush(‘s cronies) is out and Palin wasn’t allowed anywhere near! I also particularly liked ad agency Grey NYC’s recent campaign inverting the races of the two candidates, urging voters to vote on issues rather than race. Londonders will likely have seen it on the cover of yesterday’s Metro. The posters quickly became collectors’ items.
Currently I am preparing for the glut of high quality videogame titles heading this way. Although the numbers are roughly the same it seems significantly more daunting when combined with a job. Gabe and Tycho’s Operation Myriad is not far off. Better make those holidays count, I guess. I’m currently exploring the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. in Fallout 3 and the feeling of isolation they have captured is fantastic, travelling between small communities. Rather than just being quest hubs, there is a real sense that these isolated pockets are just people trying to get by.
I am also very pleased to announce that the demo for free running game Mirror’s Edge has placed it firmly at the top of the pre-orders list. I already loved the clinical art style of the metropolis and the videos they have released, but with jump puzzles generally being the bane of any first-person game, devoting an entire experience to exactly that would require a seriously impressive control system. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they have delivered with a surprisingly intuitive system for vertical interaction with the environment. The momentum you build up as you run is also key, particularly if you want to land on something soft after ziplining between buildings, since your momentum is conserved as you drop. The bottom line is that it can make you look and feel as cool as Assassin’s Creed, but without taking all control away from the player like that game’s one-button mechanic. I’m really impressed by this new EA, turned from churning out sports games, sequels and movie tie-ins to producing some really impressive and innovative new IPs.