Friday, May 16, 2008

James Nares' Rome 78 screened at Anthology Film Archives in New York

Not far into Rome 78, James Nares's unlikely rendering of a sword-and-sandal costume drama on the minuscule format of Super-8 sound film, two soldiers clad in armor and togas lean against what one might generously imagine to be the walls of the Roman Senate, but is more likely a cheaply renovated East Village apartment. The pair discusses the increasingly erratic actions of Emperor Caligula without the genre's usual pseudo-Shakespearean gravitas; they sound like two deadbeat downtowners bullshitting at a bar. "

Rarely screened, Rome 78—part of this week's James Nares retro at Anthology Film Archives—has nevertheless built up its own aura over the years, no doubt due to its subcultural provenance. The cast includes a crowd that the British-born Nares remembers today as "all sort of downtown personalities": James Chance and Pat Place of the Contortions (for which Nares himself played guitar), fellow musicians John Lurie and Lydia Lunch, club heroine Patti Astor, television survivor Lance Loud, and filmmaker Eric Mitchell. Today, Nares is best known as a painter: His large-brush abstractions partake of a coolly controlled happenstance that one might faintly relate to Rome 78's more ragged insouciance.

Punctuated by in-camera flash-frames, off-kilter shots, and inappropriate laughter, Rome 78 (1978) embraces shabby-chic as a formal objective. Nares mocks up Ancient Rome by shooting in faux-classical sites like Grant's Tomb and Tribeca's American Thread Building, where a decrepit penthouse loft with a peeling-paint dome serves as an echoey stand-in for the imperial palace. The latter location required ingenuity: Posing as potential renters, Nares and associates asked the manager to show them the apartment, then unlocked the windows on the way out; a few hours later, they broke back into the space, full cast and crew in tow, to shoot the necessary scenes.

At every moment in the film, New York circa 1978 bleeds uncontrollably into a flimsy pretense of first-century Rome. Scheming courtiers allude to intrigues in Gaul, Brittany, and the Lower East Side; Mitchell chain-smokes while seducing a black-lingerie-clad Lunch on a zebra-skin rug; the Emperor himself—astonishingly portrayed by twitchy, gap-toothed ectomorph David McDermott—declares his own divinity at Grant's Tomb by screaming above the honks and engine rumbles of the West Side Highway.

Seen now, Rome 78 collapses three layers of dead civilization: The script conveys the waning days of the Roman imperium; the sets evoke the Empire State's 19th-century robber-baron capitalism; and the cast memorializes the last days of urban bohemia's counter-kingdom. "I don't think I was the first to draw a connection between the Roman Empire and the American empire," Nares states. "At that time, it really felt like things were falling apart. A real 'decline and fall' seemed very obvious, with the blocks of abandoned buildings and so forth. It was an easy call, really . . . .

"It's my only attempt at a narrative film with actors. It has its moments—quite funny at times, quite beautiful at times, too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If you speak Greek

If you or your children speak Greek, the Foundation of the Hellenic World produces several multimedia educational games about various topics in Greek history:

Searching for Alexander the Great
Travel with Jason and Danae and follow the course of Alexander the Great! Travel around the world, see museums and monuments and learn about the civilizations that were influenced by the Macedonian king all over the world!

Have fun with amazing games, collect objects that testify to the glorious history of Alexander the Great, solve the riddles and face the obstacles of the cunning Leo Foxy. At your disposal there will be a large encyclopaedia with all the necessary information! Do not waste any time! Create your own presentations and take part in the great competition of the game. Discover the ancient civilization and unfold the magic world of Hellenic history, in an educational game that combines learning and action!

In our new adventure, with Jason and Danae as the leading characters, you will discover the unique history of Alexander the Great. In the beginning of the game, listen carefully to the information provided by the teacher at school regarding the paper you must prepare, which is a presentation of the Macedonian king. Solve the initial riddle, take the book with the rules of participation, which is also the manual of the game, and prepare yourselves for a magic journey to history!

Lead Jason and Danae to the areas of their yard and speak with the heroes that are in the rooms: their advises and inventions will be very useful! If you search well and use your power of reasoning, you will manage to collect the necessary gear which will help you to travel in nearby and far away destinations and discover unknown aspects of the fearless Alexander the Great. You should ask the people you meet in your way, you will see impressive museums, mysterious tombs and traditional Greek hamlets, in order to collect as many objects as possible so you can create your own unique presentation.

When you return to school you will have the opportunity to prepare your presentation and, when you are ready, to show it to your classmates! But the most important fact is that you can save it and send it to us, participating thus in the competition that will regularly take place, with great gifts.


Mystery in ancient Miletus
"Mystery in ancient Miletus" is a game in which knowledge and entertainment coexist harmoniously. It is addressed to children above the age of 10, but also to everyone who wishes to learn about ancient Miletus in a pleasant way. Starting the application, the player has the possibility to meet the family of the heroes of the series "Jason & Danae".

He can also colour various images with the heroes and print them out in colour or black and white.

The game is essentially divided into two parts. The first part consists exclusively of cartoons. The player "experiences" the game through the eyes of its leading characters, Jason (High School student) and Danae (Primary School student). The heroes, always under the guidance of the player, must in the beginning roam through the areas of their residence, in order to collect more information about the story of the game.

In these areas there are hidden many riddles, which every time include a new element that furthers the development of the story. Their solution leads to key objects that contribute to the solution of the game.

After they collect all necessary information, the heroes are ready to "travel" to ancient Miletus.

The second part of the game includes a tour to ancient Miletus, which takes place through the use of interactive virtual reality video (QuickTime VR). Through it, the player experiences the area as it was in the Roman Period, as does the visitor of "Kivotos", FHW's virtual reality system. The successive images (QuickTime VR) that have been used allow for the 360o visual coverage of the areas, solely using the mouse. At the same time, brief historical information is provided for every area.

Historical information appears both in text form and images as well as in video format, which comes from the documentary "Miletus... A City in Four Dimensions". In addition, the CD-ROM includes a glossary and an encyclopaedia with historical data about Miletus, information about the areas and the buildings, the important people that lived in this city, general information about various sports and buildings of Antiquity, but also many ancient sayings.

And some advice!!! Try to call from the devise in the room of uncle Pericles. All telephone numbers can be found on the bulletin board. You will discover many secrets, which will help you solve the game.

Language: Greek!

Age of Conan due to be released May 20

"Cruel Gods, Mythical Creatures, Lost Civilizations and a Struggling Human Race!
In a world filled with cruel gods, mythical creatures, lost civilizations and a struggling human race, the mighty barbarian has finally seized the throne as king of Aquilonia. But Conan’s rule is on the brink of chaos, spiraling towards the doom of ancient evils.
The First Official Conan Online RPG Sends You on a Brutal Journey...
A brutal journey in the footsteps of the worlds’ greatest fantasy hero. Meet Conan’s friend and foes, battle demons and monsters known from 70 year of Conan history, and step up to the ultimate challenge and befriend the mighty king Conan himself."

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Fall of the Roman Empire gets collector's edition treatment

"The Fall of the Roman Empire is the second entry in The Miriam Weinstein Collection. (The first was El Cid.) It's one of those, big sprawling epics with an incredible cast: Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren, Omar Sharif, James Mason, Christopher Plummer and Stephen Boyd. Whew.

DVD extras include a copy of the original 1961 souvenir pogram, production stills, and a bunch of featurettes about the Madrid location shoot, the Hollywood version vs. actual history, the theatrical trailer and more.

You remember the story. Boy meets girl. Boy is slated to rule the empire. Boy loses both empire and girl. Boy kills her insane brother, rescues her from certain death, renounces the throne and escapes to live happily ever after while the empire collapses. Well, it’s not your typical love story.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is an action-packed epic tale, beautifully filmed, with lavish costumes, sets, and thousands of extras - the sort of grandiose undertaking which is now done using CGI. The funeral of Marcus Aurelius was one of the more impressive scenes, and the basis of the plot is the struggle to see who will succeed him. His son Commodus (Christopher Plummer) is an increasingly crazy but clever man who outmaneuvers Livius (Stephen Boyd), his competition for the throne, at every turn - in large part because Livius is the plodding, honorable, nice guy who can be relied upon to act a certain way. Lucilla (Sophia Loren) isn’t a pawn on the chessboard, she’s a real player in all the intrigue.

The action is continuous, and while enjoyable, some of it seems pointless - the chariot race was a pleasure to watch but didn’t move the plot forward. Still, the movie progresses steadily toward the inevitable, and the journey is captivating. The battle scenes were very well done, and considering that this movie lacked all of the technological tricks of today’s epic films, the film is truly phenomenal. For fans of the movie Gladiator, The Fall of the Roman Empire is a must-see."

Lego and Lucas Arts to release Lego Indiana Jones in June

"Lego and LucasArts is obviously a winning combination. The previous pairings of the two brands in the various Lego Star Wars games have been nothing but money makers for the brands and publishers involved. So it came as no surprise when LucasArts earlier this year revealed that another of its flagship characters--swashbuckling action man Indiana Jones--was getting his block on in Lego Indiana Jones. The new game--which is set for release on practically every game platform in the second quarter of this year--will cover all of the action of the first three Indiana Jones movies (no Crystal Skull here), and we got to see how the game is shaping up today at a special LucasArts GDC event.

Just like the first Lego Star Wars games, Lego Indiana Jones will break down each of the original three films into six episodes focusing on each particular movie's key action scenes. The very first location showed by LucasArts in today's demo was the game's hub world, which functions similarly to the cantina in the first Lego Star Wars. The hub world in this game is Jones' place of work (his day job, not his archaeology gig), Barnett College, and it's where players will access the game's various levels. After a brief tour of the college, the LucasArts rep jumped straight into the first level of the game, which takes place in the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. From the following cutscene, it's clear to see developer Travellers' Tales has injected this game with the same mix of reverence for the source material mixed in with a healthy dose of humor seen in previous Lego games. This level copies the opening of Raiders almost exactly, right down to Satipo (played by Alfred Molina in the film) taking out that arrow stuck in the tree and tasting the poison on it. The comic relief comes in the form of three porter characters who are following Indy and one by one get accidentally taken out by hiding natives actually aiming for Jones.

Indy's main weapon will be his trusty whip, which can be used in a variety of ways. Not only can it be used for attacking enemies, it can also be used to swing across chasms, grab objects, and pull levers. The gameplay itself is extremely reminiscent of Lego Star Wars, with the same basic platforming and team-based puzzle solving found in those earlier Lego titles. The main character of Indiana Jones will always be accompanied by a partner character which--just like in Lego Star Wars again--can be controlled by a second player at any time (that second player can also drop out at any time). This second character will always have a different set of skills from Indy, which will be needed to get past puzzles. For example, the second character of Satipo in this first level had the dig ability, which he used to unearth some buried Lego pieces that the Indy character then used to build a bridge across a large gap. Later on, Indy had to step on some pressure switches to lower spikes barring Satipo's way.

This being the iconic opening scene of Raiders, the gameplay demo included the famous scene of Indy grabbing the gold idol off the pedestal, as well as the rolling boulder chase sequence. The level ends with Indy making it out of the temple, only to be confronted by the Lego version of evil French archaeologist Belloq, who asks Indy to hand him the idol. In another comical scene, Indy pulls several things out of his bag before the idol, including C-3PO's head."

I'll have to be sure my son sees this. When he was little we teamed up to solve the puzzles in one of the first Indiana Jones games that came out on the original Atari game console - oh my, it must have been over 20 years ago now!