Despite a number of oddities, Sunshine is the best Science-Fiction movie in many years. Visually stunning, excellent music, and a story with a lot of personality despite being essentially a mish-mash of sci-fi topics already used in previous movies.

The commercial success of this movie is doomed due to the strange way in which distributors have handled it, with late and staggered releases and a marketing campaign that tells too much. People will love it, hate it, or be ambivalent, but I hope it will become a cult classic.

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Games and demos

The Darkness: it’s fun, it’s creepy, it’s quite good. The 360 version looks way better than what I remember of the short PS3 testdrive I did a few weeks ago. Cutscene animations are very stiff.

Tomb Raider Legend: I finally sat down to play it through to the end. Very good platforming and puzzles, simplistic combat, and weird bosses with pretty bad (accelerated?) animations. Quite nice overall, and great value at $19.99.

Flatout Carnage demo: does all the things that made the original fun, with much better production. Might be worth it until, and even could coexist well with, the new Burnout.

Virtua Tennis 3 demo: fun but too simple. Perhaps the full game will have more depth, but I’ll to try a real demo first.

Blue Dragon demo: entertaining but repetitive, and with many quirks: crappy sound effects, way too much repetition in encounters. Final Fantasy X was the first japanese RPG that I enjoyed, and this doesn’t appear to beat it unless you just love Toriyama character designs.

Ace Combat 6 demo: nice visuals but I didn’t find it any fun.

Carcassone for Live Arcade: very neat little board game.

Oh and Prototype, the next game from Radical, has just been unveiled in the Game Informer cover.

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E3, Transformers and a new JJ Abrams Mistery

Voodoo Extreme has collected a fantastic index of coverage and trailers from E3. I suppose the new E3 format sucks for game fans and small/hobby game sites and bloggers, but looks much better and useful for developer and publishers doing actual work. As a visitor I’ll miss the old E3, as a developer I think I won’t.

The Transformers movie was exactly as expected: cheesy, long, boring and mostly irrelevant script, fast and erratic editing, saturated colors, and excellent CGI and explosions. I never watched Transformers in my youth, so I had no idea who was who, and the movie didn’t make me care one bit. In the middle of all that, Shia LaBeouf manages to put out a decent performance, and John Turturro is like a bad joke that still makes you laugh.

Before the movie, we were treated to JJ Abrams’ latest mind-bender: a surprising movie trailer (accurately described as "Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla"), without a name. When I came home I immediately went to IMDb to find out about the movie in IMDB; I found that 1-18-08 (the release date) and Cloverfield are the work-in-progress names for now, and that it *might* (JJ Abrams denies this) have something to do with some Ethan Haas prophet. Those sites spearhead a web-based ARG marketing mistery, which thousands of people already seem engaged in. Wild speculations include: a "Lost" movie, a "Godzilla" remake, Stephen King’s "The Dark Tower", a "The Host" remake, the "Gears of War" movie, the "Halo" movie, the "Rampage" movie, the Cthulhu myths, the Bible’s End of Days, and who knows what else. I for one think it’s something new.

It would be funny (and interesting) if two ARG marketing campaigns for different products somehow got mixed up.

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From zero to… a f*ng mess

A week before E3, someone unveils a Circuit City ad with a PS3 announced for $100 less. People speculate of a PS3 price drop. Sony categorically denies. E3 arrives, and Sony formally announces a $100 price drop. Ok, the deny-then-confirm tactic is old and tired, but hey… the PS3 needs all the help they can get, because they are simply not selling like they should.

E3 goes well for Sony, with a number of interesting exclusive games, and the general impression is that PS3 is going to start taking off. Details about Europe are sketchy, but I just assume that either I missed the confirmation of a price drop in Europe as well, or they left it as "announcement" for the Leipzig Games Convention in August.

Some things don’t click quite right, though…

Some Capcom boss is quoted as saying that $100 is not enough and that they expect another price drop before Christmas. Rumours of Metal Gear Solid 4 going multiplatform because of the small PS3 installed base also surface. And Sony announces a new PS3 model with 80GB instead of 60GB and bundled with Motorstorm, for the old price. This means people will pay $100 more for an extra 20GB and a game that, in market terms, is old news and will probably be the first in a hypothetical platinum line launch around christmas. Frankly, that’s a weak package to pay $100 for. Ah well, people will probably ignore it and buy the 60GB model.

And then someone gets SCEE president and does this interview. It’s too honest for someone in that position, really; They must have got the guy drunk or on drugs.

"…SCEA has given US consumers, i.e. the option to pay a lower price?
– Well, they’re not really are they, because what the US are offering from the 1st of August is a USD 599 version with one game. All they’re doing is taking their stock in trade that they’ve got at the moment of the 60GB model, marking the price down and it will all be gone by the end of July."

"- The difference between 60GB and 80GB is not really necessary. The difference in cost between a 60 and 80 is just Euro cents; it’s nothing, because the cost of memory is so small."

"- [SCEA] felt that by going down for 100 to 88 [% backwards compatibility], for example, that they’d have to add something in."

"Isn’t there a problem with the perception that [GBP 425] is an awful lot of money to shell out?
– It is, but surprisingly, people are paying that amount of money for it."

"- …because the difference in cultures is you have to go, ‘Ra-ra, I’m the best.’ We in Europe, and especially the Japanese, don’t necessarily accept that."

"- We owe a debt to Nintendo for keeping the industry going in the last couple of years."

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Call me a fanboy if you want, but I just came out of the movie theater feeling that Ratatouille is the best animated movie ever made, and one of the best movies of any kind in many years. Script, characters, visual design, animation, rendering technology, pacing, humour… I absolutely loved all of it. I spent the entire movie with an unmistakable feeling of pure joy in my chest.

It does many things against what we may consider "mainstream business sense", from the rat theme, to the french accents and the adult themes in an animated movie… and it’s probably going to pay for it with a less than stellar box office. But god bless Brad Bird and Pixar for taking the risk and giving us such a masterpiece.

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Canada Day

July 1st is Canada Day, so there was lots of partying all over the city. At night they put out a neat fireworks show up over Canada Place. I took the Nikon and a tripod, and went over there with Sergio and Diego. You can see a little gallery here. This is just a sample:

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