Monday 5 November, 2018
Saturday 27 October, 2018
Monday 10 September, 2018
Saturday 8 September, 2018
Tuesday 4 September, 2018
Monday 3 September, 2018
Tuesday 28 August, 2018
Saturday 11 August, 2018
Friday 10 August, 2018
Monday 6 August, 2018
Monday 5 November, 2018 13:20
I don’t post a huge amount about games on this site any more, mainly because the site’s focus has shifted over the years to being almost entirely a Blu-ray-centric one, but also because I don’t play or spend anything like as much money on games as I used to. I’ll make an exception for a select few developers, though, and when Blizzard Entertainment announces a new game, you can bet I’ll sit up and pay attention. I’ve never had much time for their cash cow, WORLD OF WARCRAFT, and I tried and gave up pretty quickly on their online card game HEARTHSTONE, but the WARCRAFT and STARCRAFT strategy games and especially the DIABLO action RPGs are near and dear to my heart, and so, naturally, I tuned into the live feed for their annual BlizzCon convention on Friday evening to see what they were going to announce.
The internet was rife with rumours about something DIABLO-related being on the cards, with speculation ranging from a new content patch or character pack for DIABLO III to a remaster of DIABLO II (we’re getting a remastered WARCRAFT III instead, which I’m super-excited about) to a full-blown DIABLO IV — which Blizzard sought to temper, putting out an announcement a couple of weeks ago which basically said, “We know you want DIABLO IV and we ARE working on it, but we’re not ready to talk about it just yet.” Unfortunately, what we ended up getting was a concept that had long been an extended joke among the DIABLO community, in a “What’s the most ridiculous thing they could announce?” sense: a DIABLO mobile game.
DIABLO IMMORTAL is described by Blizzard as “a mobile Massively Multiplayer Online Action RPG (MMOARPG) developed by Blizzard Entertainment in partnership with NetEase, coming exclusively to Android, iPhone and iPad.” Set between the events of DIABLO II and DIABLO III, it’s less a sequel than a “sidequel”, in the vein of some of those ghastly Disney direct-to-video knock-offs that used to be all the rage a decade or so ago, or the “A Star Wars Story” line of STAR WARS movies. In other words, as the flagship announcement to an audience consisting almost entirely of hardcore PC fans — all of whom had paid in the region of $200 US for tickets, and many of whom would have travelled thousands of miles to be there — they announced a casual game for phones partially farmed out to a Chinese development studio famed for churning out pay-to-win mobile ARPGs which already look suspiciously like knock-offs of DIABLO…and whose interfaces are a virtual dead ringer for that of DIABLO IMMORTAL.
The response from the show floor wasn’t good, transitioning from stunned silence to snarky questions about off-season April Fools’ jokes to angry boos at the confirmation that the new game was being developed for mobiles only and would not be coming to PC. Bear in mind that this is the Blizzard faithful we’re talking about — the “true believers” who normally cheer every time Mike Morhaime pauses to take a breath. If THEY were willing to jeer and boo the game and its developers, you could bet the response from the wider community of Diablo fans — many of whom were already seriously irked at Blizzard for the perceived failings of DIABLO III and the lack of recent updates to the game — would be several orders of magnitude worse.
And so it proved to be. Reddit channels and below-the-line comments on fansites are currently no-go zones for those of a nervous disposition, and fans have taken to downvoting the cinematic and gameplay trailers on YouTube en masse, with Blizzard fighting a losing battle to delete negative comments as quickly as they appear (they even removed and re-uploaded the trailers, which only led to them being mass-downvoted again). Back on the convention floor, meanwhile, photos of deserted demo stations only serve to reinforce the notion that Blizzard misjudged the mood badly. Clearly, the Diablo faithful are not the target audience for this game — by Blizzard’s own admission, they’re attempting to branch out, trying to chase a more casual crowd, particularly from countries like China, where mobile gaming of this sort is massive. Which, of course, begs the question as to why this was announced at BlizzCon, and as the star attraction. Had they announced it at E3 or some other convention, I doubt there would have been anything like as much of a brouhaha about it. People would have shrugged their shoulders and treated this as the side project it so obviously is. As it stands, though, Blizzard have managed to severely tarnish their image as a developer in touch with what their core fans want, and have somehow done the impossible of uniting both DIABLO I/II and DIABLO III fans in angry condemnation.
Myself, I’m fairly sanguine about the whole affair. Ten years ago, I’d probably have been raging about this and posting all sorts of angry rants on web forums, blowing things completely out of proportion and acting like this was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone, ever. On Friday, though, when I saw the announcement, my immediate response was, “Oh well, there’s always next year.” I don’t see myself playing the game. It looks to me to be more or less a greatly simplified version of DIABLO III (itself already considerably simplified compared to its predecessors), with (most of) the same character classes and monsters, and a whole lot of re-used art assets. Why play a dumbed-down imitation when I can play the real thing on a proper computer with a proper control system? Besides, I never use my phone for gaming. Longstanding shoulder/neck problems mean that even using my phone for basic tasks like texting and web browsing becomes extremely uncomfortable very quickly, to say nothing of the sort of button-mashing (or screen-mashing) a fast-paced, slot machine-style action game like DIABLO calls for. So I doubt I’d be picking this up, even if it DID appeal to me — which it really doesn’t, beyond some mild curiosity about how they’re going to fill in the twenty-year timeline gap between DIABLO II and DIABLO III.
Of course, some of the invective that’s been hurled at Blizzard, and particular the developers they put up on the stage as effective human meat shields, has been completely over the top. Death threats or comments in the vein of “I hope they all get fired” are not cool…but, having said that, nor are attempts to cast a legitimately upset community of loyal players as entitled crybabies, not being “true” fans, or misogynists (if you’re trying to work out how they arrived at that one, it’s apparently because mobile games are primarily played by women, so if you don’t like mobile games, ergo you hate women), as so many in the gaming “press” have done. (I’m not going to link to any of these articles, as most of them are pure clickbait, but you can find them yourself if you’re curious.) I suspect, in time, Blizzard will come to accept that the manner in which they unveiled this project was a mistake. Possibly, they already had some inkling, given their belated efforts to calm fans’ inflated expectations in the run-up to the convention. But the fact they either didn’t see this almighty shitstorm coming — or, worse, DID see it and went ahead with this ill-advised announcement anyway — does make me seriously question their ability to read their own audience.
Still, WARCRAFT III REFORGED, huh?
Saturday 27 October, 2018 22:28
After an MM-free December in terms of Arrow releases, I’m starting 2019 as I mean to go on with an underappreciated gem — THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION, the first of director Luciano Ercoli’s loose trilogy of gialli starring his wife Nieves Navarro, aka Susan Scott, and the only one of the three never to have been released on Blu-ray before. This one comes with a host of extras for you to sink your teeth into, including (for the initial pressings) a booklet essay penned by yours truly.
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
Before the influence of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage permeated every corner of the giallo genre, another strain of these distinctive Italian thrillers enjoyed considerable success. These “melodrama gialli”, heavily inspired by Clouzot’s Les diaboliques, relied less on graphic violence and high body counts and more on psychological tension.
Minou (Dagmar Lassander, Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat) leads a pampered but dull life with her frequently absent husband, Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi, The Cat O’ Nine Tails). One night, while out walking on the beachfront, Minou is accosted by a mysterious blackmailer (Simón Andreu, Death Carries a Cane) who informs her that Peter is a murderer. Driven by misplaced loyalty to her husband, Minou gives in to the blackmailer’s every perverted whim in exchange for his silence. But as the blackmailer ups the ante, demanding that she submit to his increasingly obscene demands, can Minou hold on to what little remains of her sanity?
Written by the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi (Torso), infused with a seductive score by the great Ennio Morricone (The Cat O’ Nine Tails) and featuring a memorable turn by Nieves Navarro a.k.a. Susan Scott (Death Walks at Midnight) in the role of Minou’s best friend, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a trippy giallo delight that brings together the talents of many of the genre’s leading lights on both sides of the camera.
Special Edition Contents:
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
- English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine
- Private Pictures, a newly-edited documentary featuring archival interviews with actress Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli, and new interview material with writer Ernesto Gastaldi
- The Forbidden Soundtrack of the Big Three, a new appreciation of the music of Forbidden Photos and 70s Italian cult cinema by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon
- The Forbidden Lady, a Q&A with actress Dagmar Lassander at the 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films
- Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Michael Mackenzie
Monday 10 September, 2018 00:00
It’s finally here! In the Silence, my debut novel, goes on general sale today in both paperback and eBook formats. This is a story that originally began a decade ago, with a feature film screenplay with a working title of Giallo in Winter, which I dashed out over an intense two-week period, writing straight ahead with only the vaguest feeling of my ultimate destination. Along the way, the concept has metamorphisised into something very different, but the core of that script — a murder-mystery thriller set in Glasgow at Christmastime, featuring a series of violent murders sparked off by a decade-old unspeakable trauma — has remained intact.
It’s difficult to adequately convey with words just what a momentous occasion this is for me. I often have to remind myself that I’m not imagining things, that this really is happening. I can’t thank the people at Bloodhound Books enough for taking a chance on me, or my editor, Ben Adam, whose guidance was instrumental in finessing the final draft. Thanks also to everyone involved in the blog tour, and everyone who’s read the book and published a review.
Saturday 8 September, 2018 23:45
Tuesday 4 September, 2018 15:46
My murder-mystery novel, In the Silence, can now be pre-ordered in both Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon! For a limited time, the Kindle version will be available for only 99p (UK) and $1.28 (US). Follow the links below to head over to your locality’s Amazon website and reserve your copy today.
Update, Wednesday 5 September 2018:
Updated with paperback listings.
Monday 3 September, 2018 11:31
Tuesday 28 August, 2018 15:12
I’m only overseeing one title from this month’s batch of Arrow announcements, but it just happens to be one of my all-time favourites…
Children of Men
No children. No future. No hope.
Academy Award®-winner Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Y Tu Mamá También) is renowned for his bold and ambitious camerawork, pushing technology to its limits in his pursuit of cinematic truth. With 2006’s Children of Men, he delivers one of the most chilling and visceral works of cinematic speculative fiction in recent memory.
In 2027, following eighteen years of global human infertility, the world is a bleak and hostile place. Former activist Theo (Clive Owen, Gosford Park, Shadow Dancer) drifts through the violence-riven streets of London without hope or purpose. However, when he reluctantly agrees to help former lover Julian (Julianne Moore, The Fugitive) smuggle a miraculously pregnant woman out of the country, he is unwittingly thrust into the role of all that stands between the human race and its extinction. As the country descends into anarchy and the authorities close in, Theo must race against time to secure safe passage for the humanity’s only hope of salvation.
Based on the dystopian novel by P.D. James and co-starring Michael Caine (Pulp) and Clare-Hope Ashitey (Seven Seconds), Children of Men offers a powerful and frightening glimpse at a future that, more than a decade later, feels even more chillingly prescient than at the time of its original release.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original 5.1 DTS-HD master audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- New audio commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman
- There is No Future, a new video appreciation by film historian Philip Kemp
- Fertility & Progeny, a new video essay by author and critic Kat Ellinger
- The Possibility of Hope, an archival documentary featuring interviews with activist Naomi Klein, philosopher Slavoj Žižek and others, exploring the film’s resonance with contemporary current affairs
- Comments by Slavoj Žižek, an archival featurette on the film’s themes
- Creating the Baby, an archival featurette on the film’s visual effects
- Futuristic Design, an archival featurette on the film’s sets
- Theo & Julian, an archival featurette on Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and their characters
- Under Attack, an archival featurette on the film’s ground-breaking camerawork
- Deleted scenes
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mark Cunliffe and Amy Simmons
Saturday 11 August, 2018 10:47
Friday 10 August, 2018 13:55
Monday 6 August, 2018 13:32
My debut novel now has a revised title, as well as a cover and a confirmed release date!
On the advice of my publisher, I chose to retitle it IN THE SILENCE, which they felt would be more marketable and sales-friendly than its previous title, KELVINGROVE PARK. Its release date has been confirmed as Monday September 10th, and the fabulous cover art was unveiled this morning. NetGalley members can request a copy now, with Amazon pre-order links to follow before long.
And here’s the official blurb…
Anna Scavolini hasn’t set foot in Glasgow for ten years. And for very good reasons…
Anna, a criminology lecturer, returns to Glasgow from Rome during the coldest winter in memory. While out with her best friend from school, Anna has a chance encounter with a former flame, Andrew Foley. Tragedy strikes later that night when Anna discovers Andrew stabbed and dying on a blanket of snow.
Soon Anna finds herself at the centre of the investigation as the star witness for the police, and embarks on investigating the case herself. But Anna doesn’t realise the danger she is in and soon finds herself in trouble.
When another body shows up, who has links to the first victim, it appears that the motive may lie buried in the past.
As Anna gets closer to the truth, the killer starts closing in.
But can she solve the gruesome mystery before the killer strikes again?