Category: Film (page 1 of 7)

BB-8

A couple of months back I bought a Sphero BB-8. When I saw the video of it I just couldn’t resist…despite it being £130. Ouch.

When I got it the first thing that struck me was it was much smaller than I had thought – the size of a small orange…or a large tangerine. Like most things nowadays I had to do a firmware update on first use which took a couple of minutes (unlike most games which need a download or two to get working….Forza 6 and it’s 60 GB download on Boxing Day is the worst yet) but once that was done I was good to go.

The app allows you to steer BB-8 and it was much more controllable than I thought it would be. It was easy to steer around but also easy to steer into walls :) When you do collide with something BB-8 would glow red, spin a bit and make a groaning droid noise. What’s a shame is that the video makes it look like the noise comes from BB-8 itself but they are all generated from the iOS app. You can get BB-8 to do pre-programmed paths – in a circle, square, spin, panic and run etc. The app is also voice activated so you can say “BB-8” and the app will then listen to your voice commands like “Go Explore”, “Go To Sleep” or “It’s a Trap” which is my favourite.

There is a message mode which lets you see holograms but this are displayed on the phone and you can record your own but this is a bit weak. You can also send BB-8 on patrol and he will merrily wander around your home or office while you work away. Neat. This is all done over bluetooth and the range is pretty impressive. Battery life is around an hour for three hours of charging which is also pretty good as you tend to get a bit bored with it before the battery ever runs down.

While there have been frequent app and firmware updates to add features I’m sure that for Star Wars Episode VIII we’ll see a new version which will have better hardware and maybe feature things like in built sound and a camera. Something to make it more feature rich than the current version.

Then I saw this tweet a couple of days ago:

Mind blown.

Tickle is an app for iOS that allows you to easily build programs for a variety of smart devices. To program BB-8 you select a template, connect to it from Tickle and then you can drag and drop a variety of commands to give you a lot more control over BB-8 than the official Sphero app.

IMG_0402

You can set the colour of BB-8 to almost anything, set it on a variety of paths and loops but also detect events. So if BB-8 collides you can make it shake, change colour, reverse – whatever you want. You can also detect events from the iOS device so depending on how it is tilted or if it’s shaken you can make BB-8 do different things. This is a great extension of what the BB-8 device can do and it’s opened up another avenue that I hadn’t considered.

Digging deeper I found this post on medium – Sphero BB8 robot toy — The Missing Manual. Really useful advice for any current or prospective BB-8 owner with links to a couple of Javascript libraries that allow you to hack BB-8 even more.

Overall I like the Sphero BB-8 but it’s hard to recommend at the price given what it can do although with the Tickle app it’s clear there’s a lot more to this droid than meets the eye and I’m pleased I picked one up.

There’s Been An Awakening

Has there been a more anticipated movie than Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Maybe and that was called Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and we all know how well that went. I saw The Force Awakens last Thursday and I loved it! It was on it’s own a great film but it also ticked a lot of boxes for the Star Wars fans. I’ve got a couple of things that I want to say about it though…and that means there are spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the film yet.

Rey-and-BB-8

As I’ve said already, the film for me worked really well. I was a bit concerned that there would be too much of the old characters and not enough of the new but that fear was blown away with the first 20-30 minutes. Focussing on Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren and not giving too much back story got the film off to a great start. John Boyega was excellent throughout but the star of the film was Daisy Ridley. She carried large parts of the film and was totally believable throughout in stark comparison with many of the actors used in the prequels. I also loved that she stood out as the Jedi hero of the film and the trailers hadn’t given everything away.

I’m guessing we’ll find out more about Rey’s heritage in the next films…but is it to obvious that she’s Luke daughter? Hopefully not another brother/sister with Kylo Ren. I said Rey was the star but I’m forgetting BB-8. What a great droid and it stole almost every scene it was in. So long R2 – it was good knowing you.

Something I didn’t like about The Force Awakens is that it really did stick to the Star Wars formula and you could argue this was a bit of a remake of the original Star Wars. Surely the big bad have learned by now that a death star isn’t the way to go as the rebels will fly a few ships towards it and bomb a known weakness. This was pretty lame as was the zero explanation as to how Poe escaped the crashed Tie Fighter and also the planning for the final attack which looks like it took 5 minutes to make up before everyone was sent off on their mission.

One last grumble…anyone else think that Snoke looked like Gollum?

Looking at positives again I thought the film brought back the spectacle that the prequels had lost. No sure if it was the mix of real sets and CGI but the film looked far more believable and brought back a sense of size and scale that the prequels never had. I also loved that Han Solo was killed…the setup meant it was a fairly obvious step to take but there were still audible nooooo’s in the cinema and not from the kids either.

Thankfully there was little of C-3PO and R2 and Carrie Fisher had little to do which I think is a blessing as the acting wasn’t the best.

So where does the Force Awakens stack up compared to the other Star Wars movies? For me the order is as follows:

V > VII > VI > IV > III > II > I

Role on episode VIII which is a couple of years away. In the meantime here are some great Force Awakens links to enjoy.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review – consider me conquered
George Lucas nearly wrote a perfect prequel trilogy. He just didn’t notice
24 Delightful Star Wars: The Force Awakens Cameos You Might Have Missed
This “Star Wars” Fan Theory About Kylo Ren Is Perfect
A Gallery of Jaw-Dropping Concept Art From Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Bond

I watched Spectre a few weeks ago and while it looked amazing and clearly had a load of money thrown at it the story was half baked, the action scenes felt incomplete and the script was poop. So an average Bond film then.

It got me thinking as to which Bond films I liked the most. What was my favourite Bond film? Who was my favourite Bond? There’s 24 films to choose from so I grouped the films by actor and ranked them accordingly. That generated the following:

Sean Connery
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
You Only Live Twice
Dr No
Thunderball
Diamonds Are Forever

George Lazenby
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Roger Moore
Live and Let Die
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Man with the Golden Gun
Moonraker
Octopussy
For Your Eyes Only
A View to A Kill

Timothy Dalton
Licence to Kill
The Living Daylights

Pierce Brosnan
Goldeneye
The World is Not Enough
Tomorrow Never Dies
Die Another Day

Daniel Craig
Casino Royale
Skyfall
Spectre
Quantum of Solace

That made it a bit easier to list my favourite Bond films as follows:

Favourite Bond Films

  1. Casino Royale
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. Goldfinger
  4. Skyfall
  5. Live and Let Die
  6. Goldeneye
  7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  8. You Only Live Twice
  9. The Spy Who Loved Me
  10. Spectre
  11. Dr No
  12. Thunderball
  13. Licence to Kill
  14. The Man with the Golden Gun
  15. The World is Not Enough
  16. Quantum of Solace
  17. The Living Daylights
  18. Moonraker
  19. Diamonds Are Forever
  20. Tomorrow Never Dies
  21. Octopussy
  22. Die Another Day
  23. For Your Eyes Only
  24. A View to A Kill

So who’s my favourite Bond?

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Pierce Brosnan
  4. Roger Moore
  5. Timothy Dalton
  6. George Lazenby

Poor George – great film, shit Bond. If Daniel Craig does sign up for one more hopefully we see more of the criminally wasted Christoph Waltz who ended up being one of the weaker parts of Spectre. If you have seen Spectre, I loved this post that tries to explain it’s ending.

With only a couple of work weeks left of the year I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the old classics again over Christmas. Can’t beat some Little Nellie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

This years big Marvel movie is Avengers: Age of Ultron and I managed to watch it yesterday afternoon at a fairly quiet Braehead Imax. It’s a good watch and the Whedon strikes again with a great ensemble movie where so many have struggled in the past. I wouldn’t say it’s up there with Avengers Assemble or Captain America: Winter Soldier but definitely worth catching on the big screen. I do have further words on it, but those are spoilery so read on if you’ve watched the film or else be forever ruined!

The Good

  • Hawkeye – given more to do in this film and was very much the emotional heart. Don’t like the actor but the character is great.
  • The Twins – thought they were well played and given a good enough back story to make them a worthwhile addition. Quicksilver was a much better character than the one in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  • The opening sequence reminded me of how the good Bond films start and was a great welcome back to the Avengers.
  • The Vision was a great addition especially as the character was hidden from all trailers although it was pretty weird hearing/seeing Jarvis. Expect any people will hate the character but the aloofness was pretty funny.
  • Who can wield the hammer – very well done.
  • The hulkbuster scene was pretty intense and I regret seeing the trailer for this as it took away some of it’s impact…but not all :) One flaw – how can Hulk take down Levithians in Avengers but not a metal robot in Ultron?
  • Enjoyed the payback for watching the other Marvel universe films and TV shows as well as the comics. Makes for a much richer experience but if you hadn’t seen Winter Soldier then much of this wouldn’t make sense?
  • Killing Quicksilver – shame for the character as I thought he added a lot to the film but at least one of them died. Needs to be a bigger threat in these movies.
  • I’m amazed that each character got a little more backstory and they were mostly well told adding a bit of richness and warmth to the film.

The Bad

  • Ultron was the big bad in this film, so why did he carry so little menace? Voiced well by James Spader he never carried a big enough threat in my opinion. Some good one liners but defeated rather tamely at the end. At times he felt like a slightly camp Ironman.
  • Pacing and film length were poor. As a viewer you were dropped into certain scenes without explanation and I thought Thor and The Vision were short changed. Initial rumours were of a three hour film but the actual release was forty minutes shy of that and it showed. I’d like to think a Blu-Ray release showing a directors cut would come out later this year but thats not the Marvel way. I’m sure there’s stuff that was in the trailers but not in the film – ah – there was!
  • Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Wakanda-cave

  • Too many characters, some only on screen for a few seconds. It was all just a bit too much at times and the film suffered.
  • Marvel films have a definite template and while thats the same for many, like Bond for example, they come along every 3 years or so where as we are getting 2 to 3 Marvel films per year. I felt the end of Ultron was so predictable that it took all tension away and made for a slightly disappointing finish. On reflection the film was better than it’s ending but it left me flat when I left the cinema.
  • Ultron lacked some of the scale of the first Avengers film – the set pieces never seemed to match the first film…or the trailers.
  • Spotty CGI in places, especially Black Widow on the bike. I also wish movies would stop with the “Sorry”, “Excuse Me”, “Oop’s” type comments when a hero is driving through traffic/people. “Get out the fucking way” while ruining the chances of getting a 12A certificate would be far more entertaining.

marvel_universe

The Future
Next up for Marvel is Ant-Man which I can’t say I’m expecting much from but after that is far more interesting. The above graphic from Empire a couple of months back shows the upcoming films and how everything is linked in the Marvel universe. Some of it is speculation but what we do know is that Captain America: Civil War will feature Team Captain America vs Team Ironman and will be directed by the Russo brothers who were behind the Winter Soldier. This is “a good thing” as Winter Soldier was one of the best Marvel movies so far. They will also take over from Joss Whedon for the next Avenger films and all I can say is good luck for all three as juggling so many characters in the one film isn’t easy.

I never thought I’d say this but I’m getting a bit jaded by superhero films – all much of a muchness and thanks to the money Marvel have made, Fox and DC are cashing in too. Look at just how many superhero movies are coming out in the next few years! They need to start offering something different and hopefully some of the Marvel titles will do that as they are branching out from their main titles which should see them offering something a but fresher – like Guardians of the Galaxy.

But thats in the future. For now, go and enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron and the mix of fun and action that Joss Whedon has delivered. It was over-hyped and he deserves credit for almost delivering on the promise.

Alfonso Cuaron Returns to the Bigscreen After Seven Years With ‘Gravity’

I watched Gravity tonight and loved it. Possibly the best movie I’ve watched this year and one of the best I’ve enjoyed on IMAX in 3D. The effects were stunning and as I watched I was wondering how they shot some of the film…which this Variety article explains. Do not read this if you haven’t watched the film!

What’s interesting is that Shak found the film dull – polar opposite to what I felt. I’ve found others say the same, and I wonder if it’s because there is not much actual story. I love space and everything to do with it so I got sucked into the film early on and it never let go but I can understand how people can find it quite an empty film apart from the visuals.

Still, I highly recommend you catch this at an IMAX to enjoy it at it’s best – it won’t have the same impact watching at home.

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