Friday, March 31, 2006

Heat Vision and Jack

Click on photo to watch.

Here's a great pilot that never took off. Directed by and guest-starring Ben Stiller and featuring Jack Black and Owen Wilson, "Heat Vision and Jack" is both a tribute to and parody of 70s and 80s shows like "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Knight Rider." Well, exactly those two shows. Right down to the cheap electronic closing music.

A bit about the premise. Jack Black plays Jack Austin, an astronaut who developed super intelligence when his space capsule traveled too close to the sun. (The brain is not unlike cookie dough, he explains. It expands under heat.) NASA naturally wanted to study his brain further by removing it. He escapes, but not before his unemployed roommate (Owen Wilson) is shot by an experimental ray gun that merges him with his motorcycle. Now the two are on the run from NASA, which has sent out ex-astronaut, mercenary and actor Ron Silver to capture them. There.

The pilot also features Stiller's now wife, Christine Taylor (hotsie totsie!) and "introduces" Ron Silver as Ron Silver -- a good comic actor, but not so good political thinker. Whatever.

Check it out. Enjoy. It's Heat Vision and Jack!

What am I listening to right THIS second on iTunes?

When they kick at your front door,
How you gonna come:
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun?

Version: Nouvelle Vague

Nothing like a sexy French chick singing these lines.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What am I listening to right this second on iTunes?

And there's blood on my teeth
When I bite my tongue to speak.
Zip me down, kiss me there.
I can smile now.
You won't find out.

(punctuation mine)

My next purchase.

I can never decide if I'm a first person shooter (FPS) kinda guy or a fella who prefers the top-down view of a real-time strategy (RTS) game. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, you're not a video game nerd like me. Stop pulling up my underwear.

Age of Empires III would be great if it worked.

I love games that put you in the management of a castle or city, as long as that at some point you either attack other castles or cities, or defend against invading forces. The Age of Empires series is perhaps the best example of a great RTS game. Except the latest one, which never loaded right on my computer. That one, and everyone involved in making it, sucks.

Car jacking: One of the joys of the GTA series.

On the other hand, I love the immersiveness of first person strategy/shooter games, like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Hitman, Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto. The last two on the list are from Rockstar Games, a maker of controversial titles that are among the most expansive, nonlinear and just plain fucking cool FPS games out there.

Anyway, I go back and forth between the RTS and FPS genres. In my last post I talked about Spore, a first-person game that evolves into an RTS. Really, though, I think of it as an RTS. It has all the hallmarks: a top-down view, large scale planning and management tasks and sprawling environments. I'll definately be buying that.

But my next purchase will be an FPS. A few days ago, EA released "The Godfather," a stunningly faithful-looking FPS/strategy video game version of the film. Lest you smell the stink of past VG/Film failures (ie, Doom), remember that typically it is Hollywood, in its ever cynical and robotic quest for content, that cribs from video games. The result is almost always bad -- with all the complex problem-solving, freedom and originality of the game replaced by a Write-Your-First-Screenplay-In-30-Days-style script, dull actors, blatant attempts at "brand synergy" and represhensible CGI.

This is why I'm buying this game.

But a video game version of a great movie? I'll bite. Especially after seeing this video clip.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What hath God wrought?

Actually, it's up to you in Spore, an unbelievably great-looking game coming out this fall. Designed by "Sims" guru and overall genius Will Wright, the game puts you in control of a single cell organism that you propel around a microscopic world in search of food pellets while avoiding becoming a food pellet to other predators. And if that were all there was to it, the game would be kinda cool. But that's not all there is to it. Not by a money shot.

That's because you get to reproduce, at first asexually, by laying an egg. Click on the egg and up comes a design interface. You get to choose which evolutionary improvements your little character gets. Swap out flagellum for fins for better hunting and faster fleeing. Slap a needle-like horn over your proboscis to increase the food you can access and the predators you can defend against.

As you evolve, your universe will grow around you -- from a dab of primordial goo, to a tidal pool, to an ocean and eventually to land. In all cases, your world is populated by other players' creations, which are carefully selected from a database by the game's logic engine to achieve ecological balance.

Pretty soon, your critter will be complex enough to crudely communicate, create music and use simple weapons. That's when the game switches from a single-player control to an RTS, allowing you to select groups of your creatures to hunt, dance and defend against other attacking villages.

As evolution continues, you will advance technologically. Sticks and spears make way for guns and lasers and all sorts of cool shit. Soon, you're traveling around the globe and even throughout the galaxy. You can visit another planet and battle the indigenous life forms (Created by other players) or terraform an uninhabited planet (watch flora spread, moss-like, from your view far above the planet) and drop off some of your creatures there to evolve anew.

What's so cool about this game is that it is built by players in a logical, tactical way. It's evolution that you have a hand in designing, or at least guiding.

I had a friend years back who was writing a book that detailed an alternate evolution. The premise was complex, but went essentially like this: Someone goes back in time to the primordial ooze and removes several organisms that were ultimately responsible for life forms as we today know them. Without these alpha critters, other organisms that would otherwise have lost the race evolved -- bizarre-looking creatures that nonetheless had to be biologically viable and logically formed. His book was to include pictures of the creatures and stats about them. This game is basically that, but you're the designer, author and, to an extent, the creature.

Check out the video walkthrough!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Thank You!

Brian, Jon, Hector and Andrew
Picture by Rebecca Lloyd.

We had our second annual Play Cole screening at the "Den of Cin" last night. The turnout was fantastic and I want to thank everyone for coming and supporting us. It's a lot of fun to make these videos, and for friends to take time out on a Thursday night to watch them with us is really great. From all of us at Play Cole: Thank you!

It's been a fun year making these films. Jon, Andrew, Bill and Nick are all incredibly talented and I'm lucky to be working with them. I'm always amazed at the energy, commitment and skill they each bring to our endeavor. You guys are the best. I'd also like to thank Jon and Andrew's friends from New York Comedy Club for coming out and entertaining everyone with their standup. It added a lot to the evening, particularly Hector's masterful job as MC.

The Lazarris

Stay tuned for more from Play Cole. We're going to keep on writing and filming, and we hope to get some other talented people involved -- like Bryan "Danger" Murphy, some members of the comedy writing class Jon and I took, the guys from NY Comedy Club and more! We really plan on raising the bar this year, so keep watching us at Play Cole.

Finally, I want to give a special thanks to Renee Clarke for really helping to make our screening happen. We're comedy writers, which means we're easily distracted. So thanks, Renee for keeping us on track.