Blade Runner could return

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According to the Hollywood Reporter, Blade Runner may be making a “multiplatform” comeback if Alcon Entertainment manages to get the rights to the classic sci-fi icon.

If you don’t know what Blade Runner is, you owe it to yourself to watch it especially if you like science fiction and action in the same film. Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven) and released in 1982, while it wasn’t so much of a box office smash, it regularly tops lists today on being one of finest “dirty tech” thrillers to have ever been made.

Starring Harrison Ford as a ‘Blade Runner’ – a cop who specializes in hunting down renegade cyborgs that look just like humans – the film is set in a dystopian 2019 ruled over by corporate empires towering over crowded streets, bad fashion, cigarettes, and endless, dirty rain. A game even came out years later from Westwood Studios which followed the story in parallel and featured quite a bit of cutting-edge CGI for the nineties.

So that begs the question: is a game in the offing? Maybe, maybe not. All that I’m hoping for at this point is that if Alcon does get the rights, they quash some of the chatter about “rebooting” Blade Runner. The original was a solid piece of work that doesn’t need to be remade, but the world that it takes place in is filled with a lot of possibilities.

After all, this is a future where fresh eyes are ordered up like sunglasses and which had also acted as inspiration to one particular up-and-coming games designer by the name of  Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid series). Now if only he’d come up with a new Zone of the Enders…

UPDATE (3.4.2011):
io9 landed an interview with the producers and it sounds like they’re not doing a remake, period. More like an expanded set of stories around the whole Blade Runner universe which could be awesome. Check out what they have to say at this link.

Twilight screenwriter to take on Highlander reboot

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From the Hollywood Reporter comes this tidbit about writer, Melissa Rosenberg, taking over the screenwriting duties for the Highlander film reboot. You might know her best for her screenwriting work in bringing the Twilight series to the big screen. Yes, THAT Twilight with the twinkly vampires. It didn’t take long on several forums for fans of the Highlander series to roll their eyes and start worrying that she would somehow write the character as an eighteen year old, conflicted immortal with girl problems.

But hold on. Rosenberg’s obviously got talent to be able to bring enough of the Twilight films to the silver screen to appease its fanbase. She also has quite a bit of history with TV episodes from Dexter to a remake of the Magnificent Seven for the “small” screen. Still, in looking at her history, she’s done a lot of drama-driven material that doesn’t quite exactly mesh with the history-fantasy action adventure that Highlander is.

Well, time will tell whether this is a good move or not, but she wasn’t the first to take a stab at rebooting Highlander as a review or two on a purported leaked version of a previous script have proven. Still, there’s one nice thing that I can take away from all of this: we might be able to finally forget Highlander 2: The Quickening.

Kim Jong-il doesn’t exist in Japan’s version of Homefront

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He’s gone, really, according to gaming blog Andriasang, because of the rules that CERO has in place for every game. CERO is the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB, the ratings board over here in the States, though their requirements are a bit different from ours. For example, two of the rules they have against “scenes deemed malicious to an existing person/country” have apparently replaced North Korea with “A certain country in the North” and Kim Jong-il with “Northern Leader”.

If you’re not sure what Homefront is, it’s THQ’s new shooter that’s headed to retail in March. It features the somewhat sketchy premise of North Korea’s successful unification of the peninsula and its preparation in the years since for war, culminating in half of the United States falling for a surprise invasion. The story puts players in the shoes of a grassroots resistance movement in occupied America as they take up the fight. With the tensions between Japan and North Korea, it’s probably not too hard to understand why this might be a somewhat sensitive topic.

It’s also not the first time a game coming in from the States has had to go through the wringer in order to enter certain markets. Australia’s somewhat draconian rules have made headlines over the years for their handling of titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 which only entered the country via a German version that was already edited for content. Typing in “video games banned” in Google brings up “video games banned in australia” as an auto-complete term.

Even the United States has its own funny rules on censorship. One example that jumps out is how the NES’ port of Bionic Commando originally pit the player against Nazis complete with Hitler at the end – until it was whitewashed when it came over here. The Japanese fought a vast, neo-Nazi empire while we got – Badds and Master D. Now, more than twenty years later, it sounds as if they’re getting the Bionic Commando treatment. Of course, the difference is that one game was based on history and sci-fi; the other more on speculation on current events.

Things have somewhat relaxed a bit since then, even for Nintendo, and I’m also sure the Japanese audiences looking at the game know exactly who Homefront’s story is really pointing to. THQ is also apparently okay with it leaving it to Spike in Japan to handle the distribution there. As long as the gameplay itself proves to be just as interesting, a relatively small change like this shouldn’t keep Japan’s gamers from finding the same amount of fun that other gamers elsewhere are hoping to get from Homefront.

Eleven things this writer wants to see in 2011

Hello, 2011. Here are 11 things I would like to see happen. File this under NEEEERRRRD!, since it’s my job to be a nerd on Tech Out.

1. I would like to see BioWare’s “Star Wars: The Old Republic” come out with specs that my computer can handle, and succeed in its developers’ declared intention to combine storytelling with MMO gameplay.

BioWare’s “Knights of the Old Republic” was terrific, and Obsidian’s “Knights of the Old Republic 2″ added a sense of moral complexity that is often absent from Star Wars stories to the series. KOTOR 2 could have been the best Star Wars story since Empire Strikes Back, if not for the rushed ending.

2. In a similar vein, someone at LucasArts needs to realize that it has been a long time since gamers got to play a Star Wars game set in the New Republic era. I can’t think of any off-hand since “Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy,” which was back in 2003. How about a new “Rogue Squadron” game with E-Wings, K-Wings and V-Wings? Please?

3. At the risk of contradicting myself, I’d like to see a little less Star Wars related content in the world. Let’s find something else to be nerdy about for a while.

4. I am really intrigued by Rockstar’s “L.A. Noire.” If it turns out to be a winner, I don’t want to forget what natural light looks like after it comes out.

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Bond Back in 2012?

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The famous words “James Bond Will Return” at the end of his films is usually a promise kept. That is, until MGM had run into money troubles that ultimately led to the storied studio filing for bankruptcy. It didn’t bode well for the projects under its roof such as Daniel Craig’s run as Bond. But now there’s word that he could be back in 2012.

Dark Horizons reports that as a part of MGM’s plan, they’re looking to shoot a new Bond film in 2011 in time for a 2012 release. Not only that, but also plan to release a new Bond every two years after that in order to keep money wheel turning. That’s pretty ambitious.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it’ll be great to see Bond back on screen but the talk that Daniel Craig may have to be replaced in order to meet this schedule isn’t that encouraging. And promises in Tinseltown are a dime a dozen.

Hideki Kamiya doesn’t hate the new Dante

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Seriously, he doesn’t, though the word seems to be that he does.

According to a few Twitter feeds captured by eagle eyed fans, Kamiya has been quoted as being somewhat indifferent to the new take on Dante that developer Ninja Theory has taken saying “Whatever. RT @Solivagant @PG_kamiya #DmC, by Ninja Theory? Do you think they will “evolve” the action game from your Bayonetta standard?”. As soon as that hit the ‘net, it stoked the still burning embers of fan rage over Ninja Theory’s new direction in debate over he meant by it.

But a follow-up series of Tweets by Kamiya and posted at Platinum Games’ official forums had indicated a wholly different meaning to what was said, tweeting “Hello all foreign fans. Recently I got lots of comments like “Dante has changed”, and someone said I was not too fond of newest Dante. But it’s not true.”

He went on to say “”Dante has changed”…that’s right. But from my point of view Dante has changed every time the sequel came out, and he was always different from whom I created first.” Elaborating further, he tweeted “But for me,Dante is the only one, the original one. RT @alessandro_r2 @PG_kamiya I think the “problem” with the new Dante is: It’s NOT Dante”.

He finishes with a few more tweets saying “It may be totally new.No one knows. RT @didyourikeit @PG_kamiya if there was a need in changing the character, why not make a whole new game” and ends with “But I was trying to release DMC as Resident evil 4 first… RT @didyourikeit @PG_kamiya I meant as in not using the DMC name.”.

So it sounds to me like a man who wants Ninja Theory’s game to stand out on its own than follow something that is already out there…just as he once did himself. It’s funny how some things get lost in translation.

Come with me if you want to be animated

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The next Terminator feature might not be live action, but a 3D, PG-13 rated animated feature called Terminator 3000. A number of sites are reporting that distribution company Hannover House had allied itself with Red Bear Entertainment to produce the movie budgeted at $70 million.

Story details are under wraps as usual, but they are also thinking about reducing the violence to keep it under PG-13. How soon we forget the last stab at making Terminator a PG-13 feature with the sleep inducing Salvation. I’m still trying to forget the ending.

But seeing it as an animated feature? It’s different, but it could work. In the right hands and with the right story, it could get past that PG-13 stigma and give us something great. The Secret of NIMH is rated G, but watch it today, and you might think twice about that.

Then there’s G.I. Joe Resolute which managed to be a mature update to the franchise that turned out to be a fantastic move. With examples like these, there’s some hope for this fan that it could turn out better than I expect. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed on this one, especially if it has the potential to bring an animated Governator onscreen.

UPDATE (8.14.10): According to Deadline, there’s a future war brewing over the film. Pacificor, the outfit that owns the rights to the Terminator franchise, apparently didn’t know about this until the announcement by Hannover House and so have sent a cease and desist letter. Hannover House, in turn, claim to have certain rights that allow them to make an animated film outside of a live feature. Who is right? I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next.

Halo 2600

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Ever wonder what Halo would have been like if it came out in the early 80s on the Atari 2600? Would it be better than Pac-Man?

Ed Fries, the former VP of Microsoft’s game publishing division, cobbled Halo 2600 together while doing a little retro research into learning how to program for Atari’s classic console. It debuted at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and he even went as far as to create a hundred 2600-style carts complete with label art.

In case you happen to be like me and now have the urge to pull your Atari 2600 out of mothballs, but no RF connector on your LCD TV, no worries. You can use your browser to play the game instead. Clicking on “Reset Game” starts it up, arrow keys handle movement and the spacebar is for shooting…once you find a gun, that is. You can also only shoot left or right it seems. Fortunately, there are shields that can protect you from one hit if you can find them.

It plays partly like a mix between Swordquest, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and maybe even a little Wizard of Wor. And it’s definitely all fun.

Try it out here.

Let’s watch Inception

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One of the first movies I thought of when I heard about Inception was the afterlife flick starring Robin Williams and based off of the book of the same name, What Dreams May Come. It touched on the idea that the afterlife is literally what we make it and stood as an incredibly imaginative film that didn’t quite do as well at the box office. I also lamented about how no one had yet come out with a decent adaptation of Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Now comes Inception, a smartly slick sci-fi thriller from Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Memento) that has made hacking into other people’s dreams a new trade for a future eerily close to our own. And it is awesome.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, an “extractor” whose talents allow him to take part in people’s dreams and literally steal what they hide within their deepest thoughts when they are asleep. Thanks to technology developed by the military to train soldiers by killing each other within their heads, it’s now out in the wild and entrepreneurs like Cobb make a living in plying their trade for the highest bidders such as a corporation that wants in on a competitor’s plans.

He’s aided by a team of experts, each one trained to be the best at what they do, but the latest job goes wrong leaving Cobb and his people on the run from an employer that doesn’t accept failure. That’s when things get even more interesting.

The same man, Saito (Ken Watanabe), that Cobb was supposed to be stealing from now offers him a counter-proposal: inception. Instead of stealing an idea, he wants Cobb to plant one in the head of Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Everyone believes it’s impossible, but Cobb believes it can be done. That, and his benefactor has promised to clear the way for him to return home to the United States to see his family without being arrested like a criminal. After living in exile for so many years, it’s almost too good to be true.
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Rollercoaster Tycoon is going to be a movie

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The Heat Vision blog for the Hollywood Reporter notes that Sony Pictures Animation has bought the rights to Atari’s game, Rollercoaster Tycoon. From what the article says, it’s going to be a “live-action/CGI hybrid”, which immediately reminds me of the Wachowski’s Speed Racer.

Hollywood has been testing the waters with a buying binge of rights related to games despite the stigma of fail that they’ve been trying to get away from. But, once in awhile, something actually pans out. Just look at the Resident Evil series. Story-wise, they have little to do with the games, but you can’t really go wrong in mixing together Milla Jovovich, bullets, and zombies. Most other adaptations, though, only enforced what gamers have always known.

Not every pick had made sense, either. For example, there’s Universal Studios having picked up the rights to Asteroids last year. Asteroids is a vector-based game involving one ship shooting rocks in space leaving more than enough room for a creative scriptwriter to fit a story in there somewhere. But by itself, a movie? Really?

And now we have Rollercoaster Tycoon which is a sim-type game where you manage and build a roller coaster themed fun park. How is that going to turn into a movie? I suppose it can expand in any number of directions, though. Like Asteroids, there’s a story somewhere eager enough to star in it.

If Super Mario Bros. has taught us anything about Hollywood, it’s that it will always find a way to make it work.