Artificial Continuum

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Following up on last week's terrible outing, The Clone Wars was already on shaky ground. With a third season that was slowly looking to be a disappointment, Hunt for Ziro had a lot to prove, and not a whole lot of time to do it. Fortunately, this week's outing, while flawed, is a vast improvement over the past several weeks.

Acting as a sequel to the season one finale, Hostage Crisis, follows Quinlon Vos and Obiwan Kenobi as they attempt to track down Cad Bane and the escaped crimelord Ziro the Hutt. Meanwhile, Ziro has hit his own problems with the Hutt Council, who have grown tired of the arrogant Hutt's shenanigans. To make things worse, his old flame Sy Snootles has reappeared.

Like Evil Plans, Hunt for Ziro focuses on some of the more irregular aspects of the Star Wars mythos. However unlike last weeks travesty, everything here seems to fit. Although Snootles may be a strange character, she already exists within the universe (see Return of the Jedi) and her role actually fit this story. The Hutt's being gangsters demand entertainment, so Snootles and her dancers make for welcome editions to the show. Not to mention that her character also takes a decidedly dark tone towards the episodes end. Even Ziro, a character I've been routinely opposed to since the shows inception, felt natural in this episode. The same cannot be said for Ziro's mother, who makes a rather poorly executed comedic appearance at the end of the second act.

Quinlon Vos also makes is Clone Wars debut in this episode. Originally introduced in the Dark Horse Star Wars: Republic comic series, Vos is one of the most well liked expanded universe characters ever imagined. While his character in this episode may disappoint some fans, it can be said that the Vos in Clone Wars is faithful to that in the comics. Any disappointment may simply come from the fact that he simply is not given much to do. This episode, at its worst is simply overcrowded. Not only do we follow Ziro and Snoodles, but we have Vos, Kenobi, and Cad Bane as well. While the script miraculously manages to sustain itself, it does feel cluttered and rushed at times.

The animation throughout Hunt for Ziro is superb. All the character models are fluid and detailed, and the environments, especially Nal Hutta, are incredibly atmospheric.

Much can also be said about the fantastic action sequence between Cad Bane, Quinlon Vos, and Obi-wan Kenobi. Based on the rocky jungle world of Teth, the multi-character duel is continuously inventive and well choreographed. The end result is one of the best sequences in the series.

Overall, Hunt for Ziro is a welcome improvement in this season of The Clone Wars. With interesting characters, a well scripted plot, and some great action scenes, it quickly becomes a memorable outing, even if you have to sort through some clutter and strangeness to get there.

Score: B

Only several times in a decade does a film like Skyline come about. A film that manages to fail so tremendously that it some how manages to become an entertainment success. Like such atrocities as The Room or the best of the Syfy Channel, Skyline is so monumentally awful that it becomes a memorable experience.

The film follows Elaine (Scottie Thompson) and her boyfriend Jarrod (also known as J-rock)(Eric Balfour) on a trip to LA to visit their successful friend effects guru friend Terry( T-money), played by Donald Faison. While partying up and experiencing drama typical to young hipsters, the group becomes intertwined in a planetary wide alien invasion.

The film's premise attempts to follow along the same lines as Cloverfield, following catastrophic events through the eyes of ordinary people. Unfortunately for Skyline, this has been executed much better dozens of times before it.

Even outside of the film's unoriginal premise the script is a muddled mess. The character's are annoyingly one dimensional and behave like imbeciles through their entire time on screen. In fact, a common pass time for J-rock and T-money seems to be watching homosexual couples have sex through a telescope. Dialogue is flat and sometimes insultingly stereotypical. The plot also moves about at a sporadic and uneven pace, and reaches moments of horrendous tedium.

Little more can be said about the acting. Every character in the film comes off as incredibly bland and uninspired. Whether this can be blamed on the capabilities of the actors is unknown, but there is nary a sympathetic actor to be found in Skyline.

There are, however, glimpses of a better film within Skyline. The special effects are impressive and often believable, and the design work on the various alien creatures in the film is superb. There are even several standout action sequences, which are unfortunately harmed by the film's budget constraints and its unwanted attention on its main cast. There even seems to be some intelligence poking out through various portions in the script. The motives for the alien race featured in the film are left ambiguous and the few glimpses we are given are, while often humorous, sometimes fairly interesting.

Where Skyline does succeed is through its unintentional humor. Whether through its cliched and plot hole ridden script, the banal and annoying characters, or moments of sheer confusion, Skyline, with the right crowd, is a comedic tour de force. In fact in many ways, the film is funnier than most of the comedies we have seen this year.

Is Skyline one of the worst films of the year? Of course, but it is also a damn good time. While seeing the film at a full price screening is not recommended, a group viewing is sure to guarantee a good time had by all.

Score: D
Friday, November 12, 2010
Primeval stands as one of the most unique shows on television. Featuring movie quality creature effects and a quirky British premise, the underground science fiction show has become a sleeper hit around the world, and thanks to fan enthusiasm the show will be back for a fourth season. Check out the cool trailer below.

With today's release of the science fiction film Skyline, the alien invasion genre seems alive and well in Hollywood. Nowhere is there better proof then in next year's action sci-fi Battle: Los Angeles. African director Jonathan Liebesman's project has been described as a mix between Black Hawk Down and Independance Day and stars Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo and Michael Peña.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The link between the superhero Iron Man and Disney studios has grown deeper then previously expected.

According to Variety, Iron Man director Jon Favreau is slated to direct the upcoming Disney feature, Magic Kingdom, which draws inspiration from the theme park of the same name. Taking themes from the popular children's book Kingdom Keepers, Magic Kingdom features a world where the rides and attractions gain life. Reportedly it is to have a similar tone to the popular family franchise Night at the Museum.

Perhaps one the most shocking and unconventional scenes in 2008's the Dark Knight involved the film's love interest, Rachel. Not only was it revolutionary for a superhero film, but was a powerful emotional punch. However, this also left the series devoid of female characters, something that director Christopher Nolan plans to rectify in the upcoming sequel.

According to Deadline and, Nolan has approached actresses Anne Hathaway, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz for a villainous role and that of a new love interest. This adds fuel to the fire that Catwoman may appear as the villain for the upcoming Batman film. However, there is also Tom Hardy to consider, who was also recently cast for an atagonistic role.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Despite the mixed opinions regarding the Star Wars prequel trilogy, there is one fact that is stands undisputed among fans: Darth Maul is awesome. Which is why the announcement that the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars would explore this character and his close relative Savage Opress became one of the most talked about announcements of the summer.

Following a string of less then stellar episodes, Lucasfilm plans to return with a bang January 7th with the premiere of the first installment in a multi-part examining the character. However, certain lucky fans will have the pleasure of viewing these episodes early. On December 8th, Lucasfilm will hold free screenings of the arc throughout the country. Check Star for the details.

"Due Date" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis is yet another "get him to the church on time" movie in the current string of such movies, like "The Hangover" and "Get Him to The Greek". The slight change of plot afforded by the birth of Peter Highman (Downey's character)'s daughter wasn't large enough to distract from this. There are several crude jokes made, including but not limited to a self-stimulating dog (yes, they do show it all). The interaction between Downey and Galifianakis is interesting, and there is a specially fun scene involving the Mexican Border Police. In a slightly predictable way, the characters become friends, learn something on their journey, and stay in touch once the ordeal is over. One particularly shining bit is the soundtrack, with some recognizable and fitting tunes. The movie does try hard to be different, but it fell short of that when the storyline was laid out.

Personal rating: C+
Friday, November 5, 2010

Despite the quality of the previous installment of The Clone Wars, Evil Plans may be one of the worst episodes of the show ever produced.

The plot of the episode follows C-3P0 and his trust companion R2D2 as they struggle to find supplies for a party being planned by Padme Amidala. Meanwhile, the bounty hunter Cad Bane hunts the two to gain the schematics for the senate building.

This episode made the bizarre choice of acting as a prequel to the season one finale Hostage Crisis. While Hostage Crisis was a generally well liked episode, the fact that it could possibly warrant a prequel is absurd. The episode was incredibly self explanatory and lacked any true need for further exploration of the plot.

The plot itself feels incredibly unnecessary, and this is compounded by the fact that nothing substantial happens in the episode. There are no interesting action set peices, no unique characterization, and little long term plot development. Cad Bane recovers his plans, which comes as no surprise to the audience. At the end our heroes are whiped of memory of the entire incident so any character development is lost. The only interseting development is a talk between Jabba the Hutt and his bretheren regarding their wayward brother Ziro. This comes off as interesting as Ziro has always stood as an odd inclusion to the Star Wars mythos, and this may lead the end of his inclusion in the series.

Perhaps the most asinine and annoying sub plot developed in this episode is the inclusion of a droid spa. Yes. A droid spa. Its as stupid as it sounds. Obviously created as a type of poorly conceived gag R2D2 goes through a spa treatment that serves absolutely nothing to the episode as a whole. Humor is welcome, and even whole episodes focusing on the more light hearted aspects of Star Wars are apprecaited. However, back dropped with a darker plot and executed to the poorest degree does nothing but hurt the series as a whole.

The only two real plusses to this episode are the continually stellar animation and Anthony Daniels portrayel of 3P0. Despite the chaos and terrible scripting, 3P0 comes off as the only thing in this episode that actually seems to work. Daniels has spent decades playing this character and he continues to feel genuine.

Overall though this is an incredible disappointment and a low mark for the series as a whole.

Score D+

From the start Assassin was a risk of an episode. Centering around two fan favorite characters, a plot point that has been touchy for fans, and fighting against the series's own continuity the episode seemed like an almost impossible feet to handle correctly. Surprisingly, The Clone Wars team tackled this task spectacularly. Despite its flaws, Assassin ends up being one of the series's better episodes.

Picking up shortly after last weeks Academy, Ahsoka returns to Coruscant to discuss her recent mission tracking down the dangerous bounty hunter Aurra Sing. With Sing believed to be dead the council has moved on to more pressing matters, however the Force seems to have other plans for the fledgeling padawan. Ahsoka begins to have horrific dreams featuring the deadly mercenary attacking someone close to her. Lost and faced with an incredible danger, Ahsoka must rise to the challenge to rescue a life.

Once again Ahsoka stars. The series has really hit its stride when crafting a believable and genuine pathos for the young girl that was originally universally hated by fans. Ahsoka's struggle with her new found responsibility and powers are handled skillfully delivering the necessary confusion and emotion.

The Clone Wars continues its trend of featuring incredible villains. Whether it be Cad Bane, Asajj Ventress, or General Grievous the dark side shines strong in this series. Aurra Sing is also a scene stealer. Originally making her mark in last season's Boba Fett mark, Sing acts a sinister and even maniacal foil the heroes.

Perhaps the most noticeable flaw in this episode is the noticeable lack of tension. While the fate of Ahsoka remains a mystery to fans of the series, the subject of Sing's assassination attempt is known by fans and the general public to survive to a much later date. This robs the episode, which relies heavily on doubt, of much needed tension.

It also at times feels as if Assassin is simply complex for a half hour episode. Ideas are sometimes glossed over or addressed inadequitly, especially towards the end of the episode.

Even more frustrating is the hole this episode creates in the continuity. The events surrounding the conclusion to the assisination conspiracy put several earlier episodes in the series at a far later date then originally suspected, throwing into question numerous other plot points as well.

is beautifully animated. The environments are memorable and atmospheric, the characters feel genuine, and the action is frantic and exciting.

Overall, Assassin is an exciting, if flawed, return to The Clone Wars fans have come to love. Now if we could only solve those continuity issues.

Score: B+

After the previous weeks lackluster Corruption the announcement that The Academy would act as a sequel to the much dislike episode was met with some initial dislike by fans of the series. Luckily, The Academy returns the series to where it needs to be.

Following the events regarding the tea smuggling ring, Satine requests help from the Jedi Council. With Jedi spread thin across the galaxy, padawan Ahsoka Thano arrives to help with the increasing corruption on the planet. Ahsoka begins educating some of the planets youth on the dangers of unpure politics, which ultimately leads to discovery of a deeper conspiracy then originally suspected.

Despite the fact that the episode follows never before seen characters, children in fact, it is surprising that The Academy works as well as it does. Unlike previous episodes, the plight of the characters is understandable and even relatable. Ahsoka once again steals the show acting as incredible mentor and teacher. All together she feels incredibly far removed from the head strong and rash Togruta we met at the beginning of the series.

The cast of children, including Satine's nephew, also work well. Their character's are surprisingly interesting and fit easier into the story line then other walk on roles like Baron Papanoida. However, their character models often feel awkward, and lack the fluid animation seen by most of the animated cast.

While once again lacking in action, The Academy's plot moves forward with surprising pace without ever feeling rushed. It's only issues come with predictability. The resolution to the mystery is painfully obvious even to the youngest viewers and robs the final revelation of any surprise or shock. The ending to the conflict also feels incredibly anti climactic and disappointing.

Despite its flaws, The Academy is a welcome return to a series that seems to be quickly losing its footing. While it is nowhere near as strong as the season's stellar premiere episodes, its strengths far out weigh its faults.


The Clone Wars continued its slump this week in the lackluster political conspiracy centered episode, Corruption.

Mandalore has fallen into debt. Standing as a neutral system in the growing war between the Republic and the Confederacy, the planet has found itself without trade and falling into a deep lack of supplies. Hoping to assist in this matter, Padme Amidala arrives to assist Ducchess Satine of Mandalore. Meanwhile, a group of black market criminals smuggle supplies into the planet.

Once again, this episode suffers from poor handling of an interesting scenario. The political aspect of the war is once again given attention, which while welcome feels tired after three weeks of similar material. By this point the audience has become tired of watching a series centered around trade dealings and political conspiracies. While these plots can be interesting, the episode must deliver on well executed characters dialogue and set peices. Unfortunatley, Corruption fails to do so.

The subject of the conspiracy in this episode seems incredibly out of place. When there are dozens of battles being fought across the galaxy, why is it that the audience is relegated to watching a story line that essentially follows a bunch of aliens poisoning tea.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of this episode is its portrayel of Duchess Satine. Satine made an incredible impression in the original three episode Mandalore arc in season 2. A well written and intriguing character, Satine's pacifist values and her past with Obiwan Kenobi made her a fan favorite. In this episode the Satine we follow seems like a different person. Here behavior, especially for a pacifist, seems incredibly rash and even brutal. This sudden change in character is attributed to the stressing situation seen in Mandalore, but even then Satine seems to behaving irrationaly, something that has left numerous fans confused and even angry.

However, the animation in this episode is particularly superb. Characters are now incredibly vibrant and fluid in movement, and Mandalore is a beautiful location. There is also a creative and well realized action sequence.

These do little to alleviate an overall lackluster installment to the series in an increasingly disappointing third season.

Score: C

This episode marked the beginning of a span of espionage based episodes in this season. While I have long waited for a more political Clone Wars episode, Sphere of Influence continues Supply Lines trend of mediocrity.

The episode follows the the chairman of Pantora Baron Papanoida's attempts to recover his missing daughters, who have been kidnapped by a group of Seperatist criminals. Meanwhile, Ashoka Thano and her close friend senator Riyo Chuchi attempt to negotiate with the Trade Federation's blockade of Pantora.

While the premise for Sphere of Influence is novel and features plenty of espionage and political maneuvering, the pacing for the episode seems surprisingly lacking. Papanoida's investigation and search for his children lack necessary tension, primarily because he is relative unknown to even the most avid Star Wars fan. The audience simply just doesn't have much stake in whether the good natured politician recovers his family or not. Even a guest voice spot by Seth Green and cameo by fan favorite Embo does little to elevate this episode above mediocrity.

The plot following Ahshoka and Tuchi fairs much better. While their friendship is a new development that has never been mentioned before this point, the two have an interesting dynamic and allows for some good development towards Ahsoka's character. Ahsoka in general has grown to become one of the best aspects of the show.

Perhaps the strangest aspect is the inclusion of Greedo. Yes, the Rodian bounty hunter from the original film makes an appearance in this episode. He does little for the plot of this episode and his entire role feels like a poorly handed peice of fan service.

This episode also lacking in the action department. While this is sometimes handled well like in Season Two's Senate Spy , this only adds the lack of tension present in the mainplot. However, a quick shootout in a familiar cantina does much for the episode visually.

Despite the obvious issues with Sphere of Influence, the episode is not a terrible one. It just simply lacks the flare and character that have the audience has become accostomed to.

Score: C+

Despite a mixed fan reaction and massive budget cuts, it appears that the sequel to the 2007 action hit Ghost Rider has begun shooting, and according to producers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor it "kicked epic ass."

The two excited producers also blogged about the shooting for the process on Twitter and mentioned that the same Hellcycle from the previous movie would not appear. Also, they left this little tidbit: "Idris Elba, helicopters, motorcycles, Russian arm[y] and the Transfagarasanul... HOLY S#!T"

The Transfagarasnul is a massive Russian roadway, which will apparently involve a massive chase scene involving the film's protagonist.
Check out this crazy new trailer for Zach Snyder's new fantasy action epic, Sucker Punch. Due for release next March.

So here's something you don't see everyday: a free, in-browser micro MMO. Realm of the Mad God is a 3D pixel-based graphic game that is deceptively deep. You start by making a simple character and joining one of the few servers, with no sign up required and a minor cookie option on your computer. The dungeons available are interesting, the enemies present real difficulties, but the largest factor of interest is the death system.

Quite simply, when your character dies, he doesn't come back.

This doesn't spell GAME OVER and cue the Chopin's Funeral March in B Flat Minor though. Everything you accomplished with your dead Hero is passed on to his "descendant". Though I haven't personally played very far in the game, it seems confrontation with the legions of the Mad God's servants requires teamwork on the part of the players.

If you're looking for something bigger than a mini-game and smaller than a full-fledged MMO to spend an hour or two on, this is your game.

It is appears that the long anticipated Spider-man reboot is finally picking up steam. With last month's casting news and villain announcements, it appears the studio heads are finally giving this project a much needed boost. This is further shown through announcements made by Sony this week regarding certain other principle roles in the film.

First, The Hollywood Reporter has announced that critically acclaimed actor Martin Sheen (West Wing, Mass Effect 2) will play the pivotal role of Uncle Ben in the upcoming reboot. Sally Ford (Forrest Gump) has also been announced to play the kind hearted Aunt May.

Perhaps more interesting then this important casting announcement was a surprise revalation released to the press today. The Wrap reported today that fan favorite and pop cultural icon Mary Jane Watson would not appear in the film. In fact she has been in the script since the first draft. Instead the film will follow Peter's first love Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone.
That's right folks. After almost of a month inactivity, Artificial Continuum is back from the dead. Following a chaotic and busy October, we now enter into the relative peace of November. Which means more time to post, blog etc. Look for more news reviews etc.