Blast http://blastmagazine.com A magazine for the discerning broke American Tue, 04 Aug 2015 03:48:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 P. Goods: Hip-hop from the Perspective of Life http://blastmagazine.com/2015/08/02/p-goods-hip-hop-from-the-perspective-of-life/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/08/02/p-goods-hip-hop-from-the-perspective-of-life/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 04:59:18 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97578 “I don’t speak for the streets,” says New England-based musician P. Goods, clearing a hurdle he believes has partly confined hip-hop and rap artists for decades. “I speak for human beings, and I speak from a perspective of life.” Goods, 26, last week released Unfinished Business, what he refers to as his first ‘project.’ The […]

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“I don’t speak for the streets,” says New England-based musician P. Goods, clearing a hurdle he believes has partly confined hip-hop and rap artists for decades. “I speak for human beings, and I speak from a perspective of life.”

Goods, 26, last week released Unfinished Business, what he refers to as his first ‘project.’ The record, which is now available on Audiomack, is “not your average hip-hop,” he explains. “I look to push outside a hip-hop mode, more like a music mode.”

Throughout his career, Goods (whose off-stage name is Garvey Ducheine) has set his sights high. “I’m looking to be one of people who have touched a large population of people,” he says.

Most predominantly hip-hop/rap artists can rattle off a laundry list of predictable inspirations, from N.W.A. to Nas, but when asked whose music most galvanized his passion for performing, Goods attributes much to some key musicians outside of that genre.

“The influence of people like Michael Jackson, the Beatles and Elvis Presley, the influence that they had on people, is what truly inspires me to go above and beyond hip-hop and R&B,” he says. “My music doesn’t really fit inside the box.”

Instead, Goods notes that his career goals are right in his name.

“The ‘P’ stands for ‘plenty,’” he says. “And that’s what I feel like I have to offer to the world and to music: plenty of goods. I have all sorts of versatility.”

Unfinished Business will feature 11 tracks, including the inspirational anthem “My Destiny” and speculative “What If,” which ponders a reality unmarred by racism and hatred, referencing the results of the last presidential elections and the death of Eric Garner, among other ripped-from-the-headlines events.

“Each song has a different sound and channel of energy,” says Goods. “The project is not your average hip-hop and R&B… There’s a lot of the same messages being conveyed in the music out there today, and some of the things you would expect from an average hip-hop/R&B artist I don’t think you can really expect from me.”

Goods dislikes the idea of making music for a niche audience.

“Whether you play sports or do track and field, you’re an artist, you’re a journalist, doesn’t matter, as long as you’re someone who has a passion wants to bring their dreams and their goals to fruition, it’s the record for you,” he says of Unfinished Business.

Listeners can also expect Goods’ project to steer away from glorifying violence, drugs, alcohol and other trademarks of the ‘gangster life’ stereotype perpetuated by some other mainstream rappers.

“I can still bring aggression and passion” without spreading negative messages like those found elsewhere in the genre, he says. “The last thing I want to do is lead someone down a road where they won’t be able to turn back.”

Growing up in Boston surrounded by older cousins, Goods was introduced to hip-hop and rap, including artists with particularly aggressive lyrics, “long before I probably should have been listening to that kind of music,” he admits with a laugh.

At the age of 9, he wrote and performed his first rap, a love story about the painting Mona Lisa. “I fell in love with the fact that I was able to motivate and enable and receive all kinds of support and attention from my talent,” the musician recalls.

Before long, though, Goods found himself enamored with more dangerous ideas of rappers’ extravagant, extreme lifestyle. “The hip-hop and R&B culture had a lot to do with how I carried myself and how I acted,” he notes of his younger years.

“I was very influenced by the lights, the smoke and mirrors of the industry, the lifestyle of being an artist, which came with a lot of showing off and money,” he remembers.

As such, before adopting P. Goods, he went by a variety of stage names that leaned more noticeably into the type of hip-hop and rap he had observed. “One of the first names I had was Pay Me,” Goods says, chuckling.

“It went from that to Alpo, which was a notorious gangster from New York… That was a time when my music definitely conveyed a message which was much more aggressive and violent,” Goods explains. “It came at a time when I was still in the process of finding myself and my place in the genre.”

The rapper’s most prominent, pre-Goods nom de guerre was Point Blank. It was with that pseudonym that he was able to open for a number of big acts and start building an audience for himself. Still, Goods says he doesn’t look back fondly on his time using that name.

“That was an era where I was trying to convey and depict a message that was more conscious, more urban conscious rap, but how I was actually living and who I actually was did not match up with the music,” he says.

“I was speaking a lot about doing things the right way even though at that time I wasn’t doing things the right way,” Goods recalls. “I guess I was being a pretty big hypocrite – I was speaking about ‘let’s have peace’ but I was doing a lot of things in the neighborhood and in the city… I was definitely making a hypocritical statement.”

Goods remembers feeling like “one of those lost souls” as he witnessed and became embroiled in gang activity.

“As far as some of the stuff I was going through, I was in the streets,” says Goods. “I don’t know what I thought I was. I was homeless for a time. I was definitely indulged in a lot of activities – there was drug-dealing and I was around a lot of gangbangers, there was a lot of recklessness, things I watched some of my closest friends never come back from whether that means they are deceased now or they’re in jail.”

Goods eventually realized he was heading down the wrong path. “It took for so much to happen for me to say, ‘For me to make it out of this and that is a miracle, for me to still be here is a miracle…’” The rapper explained. “I took that as a sign, the only sign I needed to keep pushing forward and becoming more of a positive influence to those who are listening to my music, provide at least a better route, or an alternative route for them to take, versus what the rest of the industry has to offer.”

Goods partly credits his faith with helping him break away. “Music is my religion, because that’s what I practice every day, but I was called to build a greater relationship with the higher power of God and Jesus, and I feel like that’s been opening my heart up to the kind of music I’ve been releasing,” he says.

Today, Goods feels that he has finally found a way forward by prioritizing music that aims to encourage people to dream bigger and work hard for what they want in life. “With the name P. Goods, I now know in which way I’m growing,” he says.

One of Goods’ biggest hopes is that he can serve as a role model for kids who, like him, are growing up in a time when the radio is flooded with aggressive music. “I do have a responsibility to influence people in a positive light, to think twice about what I’m saying,” he says.

“I’ve been making music for a very long time… been through a lot of ups and downs,” Goods admits. “It’s hard to really remember that you can be an inspiration for others and also for yourself.”

In keeping with that mindset, Goods sees his stage name not just as an assurance to listeners but as a personal vow – a reminder that, no matter what obstacles he may face, he has much to offer, and he won’t let himself be dragged down by anything that would prevent him from pursuing his one true passion.

On the event of his first major project’s release, Goods feels both eager and excited. “After this project, I really feel like I’ll be on another level,” he says. Feedback has been overwhelming positive, and Unfinished Business seems set to further energize his career.

Still, Goods emphasizes that he still has a lot of work to do, and he hopes to communicate that through the project title.

“My manager made a great point,” he says. “She told me, ‘Why don’t you drop the record as Unfinished Business. Because, the way she perceived it, it’s like you’re almost done, you’re not right where you need to be yet but you’re almost there.”

Goods is confident that nothing will stand between him and making it big in the music business. “My drive, my hunger for this,” he says, “grows every day. I’ve got so much energy to put into making my own way.”

And with every passing day, as he writes new tracks and performs old records, Good says that he remains inspired by his own progress, by his faith and by the people around him.

“My mom always says that life looks at you the way you look at it, so that definitely opened my eyes to think positive and to think bigger and be more idealistic,” he notes. “Because life will mirror it.”

 

“Unfinished Business” is now available on Audiomack. Goods plans to launch a website, iampgoods.com, this September. 

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Gamer Louis: Reflecting on Satoru Iwata http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/30/gamer-louis-reflecting-on-satoru-iwata/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/30/gamer-louis-reflecting-on-satoru-iwata/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:12:10 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97571 Gamer Louis is a weekly Blast column written by Louis Schuler. It cover all types of video game news and opinions.   On July 11, Nintendo announced that an iconic figure in the gaming industry died from a bile duct growth at the age of 55. His name was Satoru Iwata and he was a […]

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Gamer Louis is a weekly Blast column written by Louis Schuler. It cover all types of video game news and opinions.

 

On July 11, Nintendo announced that an iconic figure in the gaming industry died from a bile duct growth at the age of 55. His name was Satoru Iwata and he was a visionary, an exemplary leader and an extraordinarily creative mind.

Iwata, former president of Nintendo, left behind a company that continues to bring joy, laughter and sheer flamboyancy to an industry that is constantly shifting its identity.

Some can certainly make the argument that Nintendo is the forerunner of the video game industry. They were the first company to introduce gaming consoles, by the likes of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo 64, to the market. Honestly, to imagine a gaming industry without Nintendo or Satoru Iwata would be a sad and dreary way of thinking about how we encounter video games.

Nintendo brings a sort of casual way of interacting with video games, a feat that is arguably seldom accomplished with other first-party developers to this day.

Here, I’ll examine Iwata’s accomplishments. While his death was untimely and occurred awhile ago, I’ve decided to take a comprehensive look at the many achievements of his life and honor a visionary who aided his company during a tenure that saw many ups and downs, stiff competition and unrelenting pressure to change its image.

 

Iwata’s beginnings

Like many gamers, Iwata’s childhood did not stem from a family who shared his love for video games at an early age. This didn’t stop him, however, from achieving a memorable legacy and providing continuity for a franchise that needed guidance during a tumultuous time in its history.

As someone who has played video games off and on for 15 years, I can relate to this trait of perhaps feeling somewhat alienated within a family that has little to no interest in video games. This is just one characteristic of many that made Iwata relatable to all gamers and Nintendo fans alike. He enjoyed video games and always considered himself a gamer despite his tie-ins with business and running Nintendo.

In 2005, Iwata gave a speech detailing his impressions upon entering the gaming industry at a Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer,” he said. Iwata’s personality truly developed over time and improved a rapport between him and Nintendo fans in his “Nintendo Directs”—a periodic online broadcast that detailed news and developments within Nintendo for their fans.

Flashback again to his early past, and you’ll find he had a desire for developing games as early as high school. Here was yet another relatable fact that not only clung to casual fans but to aspiring game developers everywhere.

After graduating from the Tokyo Institute of Technology with a degree in computer science, Iwata took part in an association created by him and friends that would eventually lend a long-lasting contribution to Nintendo’s success.

 

Life after college

Despite his father’s disapproval, Iwata elected to foster his passion for video games and eventually became an incremental part of a post-college club that later became known as “HAL Laboratory.” During a time period of about 20 years, Iwata assisted and took part in renowned games that fans, regardless of allegiance, have come to appreciate over the years.  These included many of the “Kirby” games, “Pokémon Stadium”, “Pokémon Gold and Silver”, “Pokémon Red and Green” and “Super Smash Bros.”

These titles alone were instrumental to Nintendo’s success during the glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s. While there is no argument that Miyamoto is the face of the Nintendo franchise, Iwata was surely its golden child.

Iwata was the epitome of inspiration to the gaming community, enabling many people to follow their dreams in an industry that can be extremely hard to get into on the development side, as seen in documentaries like “Indie Game: The Movie”, which delves into the complexity of the making of video games and turning it into a viable career.

Just when one would think his aspirations had plateaued, Iwata became Nintendo’s fourth president on May 24, 2002.

Unfortunately, his first year came during a fragile stage in Nintendo’s company history.

Iwata took over when the GameCube, their lowest-sold console of the 21st century, was in its infancy, and many questions were popping up all over the place about the direction of the “Mario” franchise. For the first time, Nintendo had its hands full in dealing with new competition: the inception into the industry by Microsoft and PlayStation. Before the early 2000s, Nintendo took the video game industry by storm with very little competition to speak of, aside from occasional PC titles and the SEGA franchise.

What Iwata was able to do next was truly commendable, innovative, revolutionary and ultimately helped carry Nintendo back into relevancy again and into the hearts of gamers across the world.

 

The Comeback

While there has been a lasting stigma of Nintendo refusing to pay attention to the trends of technology impacting the video game market, one can argue Iwata attempted to quell this assumption by resurrecting the franchise’s dominance in the handheld market dating back to the success it had in the late ‘80s.

After Nintendo sold much fewer units of the Game Boy Advance in comparison to its predecessor, the Game Boy, Iwata began a new trend in the handheld market that would eventually spark a consumer frenzy. The Nintendo DS featured two screens, with one having touch screen capability.

What happened next shocked the gaming world.

The DS eventually managed to sell over 150 million units, making it the most successful handheld device ever sold on the gaming market.

Subsequently, Iwata took part in the success of the Wii, which joined the 100 million units sold club, further cementing Iwata’s role in bringing Nintendo back to one of the top competitors in the industry.

Iwata had a long-lasting effect on the video game culture, its fans and competitors alike. He inspired game developers and casual gamers worldwide. We salute you, Mr. Iwata, and will miss all of the contributions you made to make the world a better place.

If anything, we can all appreciate your ultimate goal: to forget all of the controversy surrounding the world and have fun.

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2016 will be another great year for Marvel movie fans http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/29/2016-will-be-another-great-year-for-marvel-movie-fans/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/29/2016-will-be-another-great-year-for-marvel-movie-fans/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:55:25 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97567 Fans of the X-Men films should be getting excited about 2016, as Hollywood plan to release three X-Men related features. The Marvel universe is so vast and there are endless possibilities for new films to come about from the franchise. The X-Men films have been highly successful and there is talk of some new installments […]

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Fans of the X-Men films should be getting excited about 2016, as Hollywood plan to release three X-Men related features.

The Marvel universe is so vast and there are endless possibilities for new films to come about from the franchise. The X-Men films have been highly successful and there is talk of some new installments coming out next year. One of these installments will be the follow up to X Men: Days of Future Past, which saw the characters from X-Men First Class and the older characters from the original X-Men films work together. This took the films in an interesting direction and made the viewer realize that absolutely anything was possible in this world.

At the end of Days of Future Past there was a very short teaser clip that showed an old and powerful mutant moving the bricks of pyramids. Comic book readers will know that this mutant is called Apocalypse. The next film will be called X-Men: Age of Apocalypse and is set to include all the fan favorite characters from its predecessor along with some new ones. It will also be directed by the legendary X-Men man Bryan Singer.

Another X-Men related film to come out next year will see Ryan Reynolds reprise the role of Deadpool in the film that is named after the character. Viewers first got a glimpse of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where Ryan Reynolds played the talkative sword wielding hero in the elite group of mutants put together by bad guy William Striker, played by Danny Huston. Later in the film he reappears as ‘Mutant X’, a man-made amalgamation of several other mutants who harnesses all the different powers that once belonged to the individuals. Reynolds has said though that the new Deadpool character will have almost nothing to do with the character that he portrayed in the X-Men Origins film. The film is set to be released in February next year and although there hasn’t been an official trailer released yet, you can check out a clip below.

Another beloved X-Men character that viewers got to get a glimpse of in Origins was Gambit. In this film the character was played by Taylor Kitsch, but Channing Tatum will be taking over as the character in a forthcoming film. Gambit is a fan favourite character who tends to walk alone much like Wolverine. His abilities are mainly kinetic – he can control things with his mind. In the Origins film viewers see Gambit use his bio-kinetic powers to fight Wolverine, where he has the ability to effectively supercharge his staff and cause serious damage with it. He also uses his powers to manipulate a deck of cards. The card deck and staff are the character’s primary weapons. There is no doubt that Gambit would be a great gambler in real life, and many people would probably like to have that kind of power when playing games at the online arcades.

The Gambit film has been confirmed for late 2016, but fans are speculating that they may have a chance to get a glimpse of the character earlier than that. He is expected to make a cameo appearance in the Apocalypse film.

There is no doubt that 2016 will be a very exciting year for fans of the X-Men franchise. And what’s even more tantalizing is the prospect of what else the studios may have up their sleeves for the years to come. There is no doubt that many fans would like to see their favorite characters in stand-alone films. What about Storm, Mystique and Beast? These are three characters who could work excellently in their own features. Until then, though, viewers should have enough to enjoy for the time being.

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UnREAL’s Josh Kelly: The Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/26/unreals-josh-kelly-the-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/26/unreals-josh-kelly-the-blast-interview/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 01:08:08 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97553 Fans of Lifetime’s original movies are in for a shock if they tune in to the channel’s new series “UnREAL”. The scripted show replaces the expected melodrama and gushy romance with biting social commentary and mature cynicism. “UnREAL”, which parodies the reality TV genre (“The Bachelor”, to be specific), follows the manipulative employees that work behind the scenes of the fictional […]

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Fans of Lifetime’s original movies are in for a shock if they tune in to the channel’s new series “UnREAL”. The scripted show replaces the expected melodrama and gushy romance with biting social commentary and mature cynicism. “UnREAL”, which parodies the reality TV genre (“The Bachelor”, to be specific), follows the manipulative employees that work behind the scenes of the fictional show “Everlasting”.

Josh Kelly, the man behind one of these employees, cameraman Jeremy, spoke with Blast about the nature of “UnREAL”, what shocked him the most about the show and his side hobbies.

Blast: Tell me how you got involved with “UnREAL”.

Kelly: I’m pretty lazy with auditioning. I had just done a movie where I broke my shoulder and I realized that I really needed to work quickly because I might need surgery soon, so I should probably try and, like, book a gig. I ended up not needing surgery but I think the impetus behind me actually studying and going on auditions was a broken shoulder.

Blast: Of the many twists and boundary-pushing moments that have been shocking audiences, what has shocked you the most this season that they’ve done?

Kelly: You see these scenes and you’re like, “Oh man, I did not know they’d go there!” My character Jeremy is pretty much there on all of the scenes that take place during “Everlasting,” so none of those have surprised me because I’ve been there just standing there with a steady cam. But the Chet and Quinn scenes, really. There are a couple time where I’ve been like, “You go, Lifetime! You go!” I’m very proud.

Blast: The show is hard to pin down. It’s based on this light-hearted reality TV and it’s also very mature and dark. How would you describe it to a potential viewer?

Kelly: I guess if I were trying to sell it, I would say if you know someone who watches reality TV, or if you watch reality TV, or you hate that your friend watches reality TV or you love that your friend watches reality TV, you watch the show so you guys can talk about something.

Blast: Jeremy seems to be one of the few “Everlasting” employees with a conscience, but he’s also very unfaithful to Lizzie. Do you think he’s a good guy and how do you approach that side of him?

Kelly: I think he’s a good guy, but, I mean, people are just people. He’s in a different situation. He has a simpler job. The other people are manipulating people; he’s manipulating cameras. It’s a simpler life for him. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do the bad things. He just hasn’t been put in those situations. Or he hasn’t put himself in those situations.

Blast: Would you be interested to see him in a situation like that?

Kelly: I think he probably has to be put in situations like that eventually. As you grow, your life gets more complicated.

Blast: So last episode we saw him leaving Lizzie. Do you think he actually ever loved Lizzie or was she always a Rachel stand-in?

Kelly: For sure. I mean, people love people in different ways. Yah, he definitely loves Lizzie. I think he though Rachel was gone for good out of his life and without Rachel, he wouldn’t have had to worry because he would be totally happy with Lizzie. But Rachel coming back into his life changed everything for him.

Blast: And in terms of Rachel, do you think he loves her or do you think it’s a wild woman fantasy for him?

Kelly: I think it’s a combo of both. He is afraid now because she hurt him, cause he kept trying to get in touch with her when she disappeared and she never came back until she came back to the show.

Blast: We had last week’s episode ending with Jeremy being stood up by Rachel (who instead spent the night with Adam, played by Freddie Stroma.) What’s going through his head right now?

Kelly: I don’t think he suspects anything completely. He doesn’t think she would hook up with that douchebag. (Laughs) I have Freddie Stroma sitting right next to me. We just finished up golf. That’s why it’s funny. I’m trying to, like, throw in some subversive comments about Adam.

Blast: With this love triangle, do you think Jeremy’s the right one for her?

Kelly: Oh yah, for sure. Why would she ever be with that, that little slimy prick? (Stroma laughs.) I think he’s a better fit for her, like he would ground her more, but he still cares about being creative and pursuing dreams. I think Adam is just falling into the trance of Rachel.

Blast: Outside of the show, what are your projects and plans right now?

Kelly: I’m gonna golf with Freddie Stroma as often as possible! I’m just gonna write, relax, wait for season 2. See what project pop up. I’ve been studying magic.

Blast: Really?

Kelly: Yah, I’m trying to catch up with Freddie. He got to go to Hogwarts (Stroma is British), and I didn’t, so I’m studying at the Magic Castle now but, you know, it’s not as mystifying.

Blast: Is there anything else you like to do for fun?

Kelly: I like to hang out with buddies, do fun things, take my girlfriend out on dates and watch movies. I’m getting my pilot’s license. Something I always wanted to do when I was a kid, so I’m doing it.

Blast: Is there anything you want fans to know about you or your time on the show?

Kelly: It really was an incredible experience. Everyone became really good friends and it was a really great collaboration of creativity. I think it shows in the show.

A new episode of “UnREAL” airs tomorrow, Monday 7/27, at 10 EST on Lifetime.

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Adultery Website Ashley Madison Hacked http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/21/adultery-website-ashley-madison-hacked/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/21/adultery-website-ashley-madison-hacked/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 03:53:16 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97549 Internet dating site Ashley Madison has fallen victim to online hackers who claim to have gained access to millions of user’s personal information. The site offers an environment in which married people can use the internet to find potential affairs, using the tagline “Life is Short.  Have an affair.”  Brian Krebs, of the blog Krebs […]

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Internet dating site Ashley Madison has fallen victim to online hackers who claim to have gained access to millions of user’s personal information.

The site offers an environment in which married people can use the internet to find potential affairs, using the tagline “Life is Short.  Have an affair.”  Brian Krebs, of the blog Krebs on Security, first reported the breech Sunday night, reporting that hackers referring to themselves as the Impact Team claimed responsibility for the attack.  According to Krebs, the group gained access to both user and financial information, effecting roughly 37 million users.  Krebs also reported that the group stole information from Avid Life Media, which, in addition to owning Ashley Madison, also owns numerous other dating sites such as Established Men.

The hacker or hackers published some information in response to the ‘full delete’ service that Ashley Madison offered to its clients.  The service, which costs roughly $20, is purported to completely delete all user information associated with an account, although the ‘Impact Team’ claimed that the service did not completely delete things such as a user’s real identity and credit card information.  The hacker group claimed that the full delete service resulted in a $1.7 million gain for Avid Life Media last year.

They made it clear that their goal was to get Avid Life Media to cease operation of their dating sites.

“Shutting down AM [Ashely Madison] and EM [Established Men] will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more,”  the hacker group wrote in their address revealing the breech. “We will release all customer records, profiles with all the customer’s secret sexual fantasies, nude pictures, and conversations and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails,”  the statement read.  “Avid Life Media will be liable for fraud and extreme harm to millions of users.”

According to Krebs, the Impact Team has only published a small portion of hacked information, though he also reported that they may be planning to publish more information for every day Avid Life Media refuses to take down the sites.

Krebs also reported that the company believes they may be close to identifying the individuals that may be responsible for the breech.  According to Noel Biderman, the Avid Life Media CEO, the hacker may be an individual who was formerly close to the company.

A similar incident occurred in which online site Adult Friend Finder was breached nearly two months ago.

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Tahmoh Penikett: The Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/20/tahmoh-penikett-the-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/20/tahmoh-penikett-the-blast-interview/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 01:10:16 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97543 Tahmoh Penikett is used to genre fare. With major roles in “Battlestar Galactica”  (Karl “Helo” Agathon), “Dollhouse” (Paul Ballard) and a recent arc on “Supernatural” (Gadreel), the out-of-this world elements of his newest show, “Riftworld Chronicles”, aren’t exactly new to him. What he’s less experienced with is the format. “Riftworld”, which premiered on July 14, […]

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Tahmoh Penikett is used to genre fare. With major roles in “Battlestar Galactica”  (Karl “Helo” Agathon), “Dollhouse” (Paul Ballard) and a recent arc on “Supernatural” (Gadreel), the out-of-this world elements of his newest show, “Riftworld Chronicles”, aren’t exactly new to him. What he’s less experienced with is the format.

“Riftworld”, which premiered on July 14, is a web series that airs on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s online comedy channel, Punchline. Unlike Penikett’s previous show work, its first season consists of eight episodes, each of which are under 10 minutes. Starring opposite Erin Karpluck (“Being Erica”), he plays Alar, a realm-jumping wizard who finds himself stranded in Toronto, where he must team up with a journalist to find his way home. “I think there’s a little something for everyone in this,” said Penikett.

Blast’s Georgeanne Oliver spoke with Penikett about the web series format, working with Karpluck, and the future of the series.

Blast: You’re telling stories in 5 to 6 minute episodes instead of 45 like with “Battlestar”. Do you like telling them in shorter snippets? Do you find them easier or limiting?

Penikett: I think it’s great. You hook the audience in a different way. We’re all very distracted and our attention spans are very, you know, limited. If you look at your normal magazine articles, compare them to things that are online now, they’ve been cut by a fifth at least. People want to read things in snippets. Maybe in a sense that’s where we’re heading with web series.

If I’m speaking from a fan perspective, I personally like a little bit longer [episodes], you know, half hour or an hour. I want a little bit more of a drawn out story, little bit more of a character arc. The fan response has been overwhelming so far, but the problem being one thing I’m seeing from everyone is, like, they want more. They clean through, you know, all eight episodes. In one session, they’re done. They binge-watch all of them and they’re just craving more.

Blast: Do you know if there’s any talk of making longer episodes or longer segments at some point?

Penikett: That’s always been the dream. I think that’s always been the ultimate goal for Jonathan Williams, the creator and director, and production people. Given the, you know, the tremendous response already, I’m sure we might be doing more. I don’t know if it’ll be in a web series format, though.

Blast: You still have bigger companies like Netflix and Amazon that get a lot of the attention. Why should people stop binging Netflix and check out something like “Riftworld”?

The audience that’s going to be attracted to something like this is going to be people who appreciate genre. Genre, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy. We’ve got our romantic comedy elements, we’ve got a little action. It’s very quick and easy to watch and often times people are stuck on their phones and looking to pass some time.

Blast: A lot of the humor comes from [Alar] being this kind of creepy man on the street who’s essentially stalking this woman and he doesn’t understand. How did you make sure to make him likable?

Penikett: Well I think, you know, the first step is just making him, making Alar completely, you know, sincere in his intentions. This man, as odd as he looks walking around in his dragon-scale vest with no shirt on in the middle of downtown Toronto, he’s obviously pained and concerned about getting back to his world. The audience can’t help but have compassion for someone like that when they see that they’re obviously concerned about this thing that they believe in and they’re obviously working towards it.

Blast: So the bond with Kim that’s obviously at the center, it’s a very non-traditional, often weird bond but it plays so well. What did you and Erin do to make sure it seemed organic?

Penikett: We didn’t have to do a lot. Erin and I are old friends together. We went to acting school together for a couple years 15 years ago. We’ve also been roommates before in LA. We’re dear friends. She’s amazing at things like this. She has exceptional comedic timing.

Blast: One of the biggest parts of your character is this ridiculous, wonderful, molded, gorgeous, strange costuming that you have. Were you involved in that process at all?

Penikett: I wasn’t involved in the process at all. The vest is incredible. It’s heavy, heavy leather. It fits perfectly. I can be honest, I’m not really a fan of the pants. The pants were a hazard, if anything. They’ve got a lot of loose, flowing parts that would constantly catch on things. I’d be taking out extras and old people walking by and dogs and cats. I almost killed myself with those pants a couple times.

Blast: This is quite a character obviously. How did playing him compare to maybe more traditional parts you’ve had in the past?

Penikett: It’s different than most of the roles I’ve done because number one, it’s comedy and, you know, the only time I’ve been allowed to do comedy really has been in theater school. Anybody who knows me knows that I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh. It’s something that brings me a lot of enjoyment. I hope it opens up more doors and that I can do more.

Blast: What’s next for you?

Penikett: We’ve got a couple projects that I can’t yet speak of because the contracts aren’t done. I’m taking some time to do some writing for myself. In terms of work and what I want to do, as an artist I always want to be challenged. I want to do things I haven’t done before.

Blast: In terms of writing, are you interested in writing for the entertainment industry or is it a more personal thing?

Penikett: I’m interested in writing my own projects. I’ve always been interested in directing. I’ve worn the producer hat more than a few times now for some smaller projects and I kind of want to wear all three hats and bring to life some of my own projects here soon.

Blast: In terms of the future of the show, what can viewers expects from Al and from the series?

Penikett: I think we’ll see a lot of things. There’s gonna be a showdown between Alar and the assassin that’s been sent to get him. Hopefully we’ll meet this evil sister that he talks about who sent the assassin after him. We’ll learn more about these dark forces that he’s worried about that are threatening his home world. We’ll see some of the other creatures and the other characters that Alar speaks of from his world and hopefully we’ll see some more magic.

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STM Dux Case for iPhone 6 review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/20/stm-dux-case-for-iphone-6-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/20/stm-dux-case-for-iphone-6-review/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 13:00:04 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97534 One unexpected fall is all it takes for your shiny new iPhone 6 to die on you so it’s a good idea to invest in a case that can take a beating. There are plenty of cases out there that completely cover your phone and turn it into a bulletproof safe, but not only are […]

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One unexpected fall is all it takes for your shiny new iPhone 6 to die on you so it’s a good idea to invest in a case that can take a beating. There are plenty of cases out there that completely cover your phone and turn it into a bulletproof safe, but not only are these accessories expensive, they are also clunky and don’t always appealing. If you want a case that’s not only durable but lets you show off your cool device no matter how you personalize it, the STM Dux case may be the one you’ve been looking for.

Offering just enough coverage to protect your phone from all sides, the Dux case features reinforced corners made of a polycarbonate material that feels comfortable to the touch and provides a firm grip. Rubberized side bumps allow you to access your power and volume buttons while custom cut-outs provide enough room to access the mute switch, headphone jack, and lightning cable port without any issues. The speakers also have their own cut-out so your phone’s sounds are never muffled. The only thing that I don’t see a need for in its design is a small rubber loop on the bottom right corner for a lanyard attachment. Not only is it distracting, but it can dig into your palm if you grip your phone too hard. It’s great if you do decide to loop a lanyard around it, but it otherwise mars its sleek appearance.

duxcaseIn terms of durability, the Dux case is truly made to take a beating and will protect your phone from all kinds of falls. Now, I didn’t want to purposefully put my phone through some abuse, but I did with some precaution. I dropped my phone several times on purpose to test how it would fare against other cases I’ve used, and my phone also fell a few times by accident both screen-first and from its side. Fortunately, my phone survived every one of its falls ranging from 1 foot to up to 5 feet without any noticeable injuries. I also noticed that that annoying lanyard protrusion further cushioned the phone’s fall at times, so it’s surprisingly useful.

The back of the case features a cut-out for the back camera as well as a clear polycarbonate panel that exposes your phone. This reason, by far, is why you’ll want to get this case. I, myself, have attached a decal on my phone, and unless I’m using the Dux case, there’s no way anyone would be able to see what is. Its clear back is made out of a strong material too, so while it may get scratched a bit depending on how rough you are with it, you’ll rest easy knowing all parts of your device are safe from any kind of fall or accident.

Available for $20 right now on Amazon, STM’s Dux case is a great accessory for anyone wanting a stylish case that also provides great cushioning for your iPhone 6. Both red and black colors are available and its clear back allows you to show off custom skins or engravings without sacrificing protection. Sturdy and stylish, it’s the best of both worlds while still being affordable. We highly recommend you get one for yourself.

STM Dux Case for iPhone 6 review
Sleek and stylish, this is the case you want to get for your iPhone 6.
Quality
Design
Durability
Value
Things that worked
  • Durable and can take a beating
  • Clear back allows you to show off custom designs and skins
  • Material feels sturdy to the touch
Things that didn't work
  • Its seemingly useless lanyard loop protrudes too much
4.7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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Ash Vs the Evil Dead Cast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/ash-vs-the-evil-dead-cast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/ash-vs-the-evil-dead-cast-interview/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 01:26:58 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97530 24 years after the release of “Army of Darkness”, Ash Williams is back to fight the Deadites. With a new Starz series set to air this Halloween, Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Craig DiGregorio and Sam and Ivan Raimi came to San Diego Comic-Con to meet die-hard fans eager for the show’s premiere, as well as […]

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24 years after the release of “Army of Darkness”, Ash Williams is back to fight the Deadites. With a new Starz series set to air this Halloween, Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Craig DiGregorio and Sam and Ivan Raimi came to San Diego Comic-Con to meet die-hard fans eager for the show’s premiere, as well as introduce a new generation to the adventures and misfortunes of their chainsaw-wielding protagonist. After meeting legions of fans in the convention center, the group met with an audience of press to discuss their revival of the beloved franchise.

 

Bruce Campbell (Ash Williams)

 

Blast Magazine: It has been 24 years since “Army of Darkness” was released. What is it like playing Ash again?

 

Bruce Campbell: It’s very exciting but really weird. Everything about it is weird from putting on the stumps to being covered in fake blood. I had forgotten how much I hated fake blood but this definitely made me remember. It’s winter in New Zealand and everything is cold. Trust me, cold blood sucks. A nice warm bath at the end of night is always really nice. Just add some bath salts in there and take me away.

 

Audience: What has it been like doing the stunts again?

 

Campbell: It’s hard, bad and painful. I use a lot of arnica to get rid of bruises and pains. I had to fight myself the other day and just when you think you’re done, you have to do the other side of the fight. It’s a big challenge.

 

Audience: Are you saying that evil Ash is back?

 

Campbell: You said that, not me. I didn’t say he was evil. I just said I fight myself. It might be in a mirror.

 

Audience: When did it hit you that you were playing such an iconic character?

 

Campbell: I’ve never felt that I’m iconic. That’s for the pundits to say. The “Evil Dead” movies didn’t have a meteoric rise. They were films that made very little noise in the beginning. The first “Evil Dead” couldn’t even get released in the states and it had to have a successful run overseas first. The movie was like a bank loan. How do you get a bank loan? You prove to the bank that you don’t need their money. It’s so absurd. In this case, we finally got a distribution deal when they realized we didn’t need them.

 

Audience: At the beginning of this series, where do we find Ash?

 

Campbell: He’s on a one-way trip to Loserville. He’s been hiding and doing nothing for 30 years. He has one bad night and everything comes back. I’m worried for the earth because Ash is the only guy who can save us and that’s what is so sad about this. You’re stuck with the guy. I think it’s funny and it kind of cracks me up that Ash is the hero because he is so not qualified.

 

Blast Magazine: You have come to Comic Con in the past for other projects. What is it like coming this year as Ash?

 

Campbell: It’s special because you’re here for the real deal now. I haven’t come to a Comic-Con for an “Evil Dead” movie. It’s great and the maximum potential because now people aren’t going to say that I’m the guy who was Ash. Now, I am Ash. It makes people really happy. They’re not looking in the past anymore. My past is my future. Therefore we are in the present. I don’t even know what that means.

 

Lucy Lawless (Ruby Knoby)

 

Blast Magazine: Your character Ruby wasn’t in the original films. What can you tell us about her?

 

Lucy Lawless: Ruby is the thorn in Ash’s side. She is gunning for him and she’s like Jaws. It’s a bit of a slow build but by the end of the season, you’ll know exactly what she’s about. Her name is Ruby Knoby like the holder of the book in the original films, Professor Knoby. She has a family history with Ash and a huge chip on her shoulder. She’s hunting Bruce down. I mean Ash. I can’t help it; they are just so similar.

 

Blast Magazine: What was your motivation to be a part of this project?

 

Lawless: I love these guys. My husband [Robert Tapert] dropped out of college with Bruce and Sam to make the “Evil Dead” movies, so it’s part of the family business. When you marry one of those guys, you marry them all. They quote each other and are very close. At a very formative time in their lives, they were intensely intertwined so it’s fun to be a part of the gang.

 

Blast Magazine: This is not your first time here. What has your Comic-Con experience been like this year?

 

Lawless: It’s been magnificent. When you come to Comic-Con and you have a show that you are proud and confident about, that’s quite different than coming with an unknown entity that you are hoping people like. Everybody already has anticipation for this project. Bruce is fully delighted to be here. This gives the hard-core fans everything they ever dreamed. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are great. The horror is perfect and the humor is fantastic. It puts those genres together in a really beautiful way and it’s a new type of television.

 

Audience: People think of you as the original kick-ass woman because you were “Xena: The Warrior Princess” It’s more common today, but do women appreciate that and see you as a role model?

 

Lawless: There were a lot of women in history who kicked ass before me, like Joan of Arc. There was also Ripley and Wonder Woman. My character was more of a flawed hero and that’s what made her new. I get a lot of credit for that, but I’m really a link in the chain. Interestingly enough, African-American women were huge fans of the show as well as women in Turkey, Iran and the Philippines. I think it’s because the show wasn’t about American justice, but about universal themes of love, fidelity, fear and courage. People can relate to that story all over the world.

 

Audience: Ash is known for his chainsaw. Does Ruby have a signature weapon?

 

Lawless: She sure does. She has a very particular weapon that is a dagger of sorts. She has to be extremely careful because it has powers that can be problematic.

 

Craig DiGregorio (Executive Producer/Showrunner)

 

Blast Magazine: The “Evil Dead” franchise is known for mixing humor and horror. What is the balance of these two genres in this new series?

 

Craig DiGregorio: I’m not going to give you a percentage because I don’t think that’s fair. I can say that the horror is real and in those moments when it’s not a specific genre-type scene, we do lean on humor a lot more. Ash is such a great character and Bruce is so naturally funny. Even during the action and horror scenes, Bruce (and Ash) gives such a unique take on what a scene is. You can’t pull Ash out of any scene, so it is naturally going to be funny. There is really horror and action and they’ve really gone all out for this show.

 

Audience: How far out are the episodes planned? Is there an overarching idea of how far this series will go?

 

DiGregorio: I have ideas in my head for Season 2 and 3. If you looked at what we pitched for Season 1 and what it ended up being, it was pretty close. Some things shifted but the big ideas stayed, which was nice to see. I have a big idea for Season 2 that I think will work well, but I don’t want to box us into something. We can go into the writer’s room and get pitched a great idea and use that. I never want to be close-minded and I’m always open to the next great idea. The episodes are planned out lightly but not to the detriment of the show.

 

Audience: How much input do the actors get for their roles and do they improv many of their lines?

 

DiGregorio: There is a bit of improv from everyone. We always tell the actors that if they think that something would sound better a certain way, do it that way. Bruce knows his character better than anyone in the world and when he changes a line, it’s always for the better. Input from the actors is an evolving thing. This isn’t a static show, especially for the characters around Ash. They evolve as they go and the actors help us with that growth.

 

Audience: When were you first exposed to the “Evil Dead” franchise and what were your initial thoughts?

 

DiGregorio: I was really young and my dad was a huge fan of “Army of Darkness.” He showed me that one first and then I watched the other two films on my own. I was a huge fan of the franchise from the beginning and I love the idea of mixing genres. When I heard this was happening, I wanted to at least talk to these guys about how to do it. I guess I talked well enough.

 

Blast Magazine: Do you think it helped to be a fan of the films before being a part of this television series?

 

DiGregorio: It does help to be a fan but you also have to objective. I think I would be doing the franchise a disservice if I said that everything was perfect. There is a long process of talking ideas through.  There are certain things that we can add now that I always wanted in the originals. Because of the transition from feature film to television, we do have to adjust certain things we do. In the end, we come to exactly what it should be.

 

Sam and Ivan Raimi (Head Writers/Executive Producers)

 

Blast Magazine: How did you balance creating something for die-hard fans who know everything about Ash and people who have never seen an “Evil Dead” film before?

 

Sam Raimi: It wasn’t difficult for us because Ash is so dumb and he doesn’t have anything in his life that is too complex for new viewers to understand. He’s basically fighting for his life again against the evil dead but he’s still the same blow-hard, ego-inflated and socially-challenged guy we started with. The show will start 30 years after “Army of Darkness” and Ash has been hiding out and living this basic life when he reawakens the evil dead again. He is called to service and has to battle with them. The show is definitely focused on moving forward and we aren’t exploring the missing 30 years in the first season.

 

Audience: When you approached Bruce with the idea of doing this show, what did he think about the stunt work he was going to have to do?

 

Sam: He didn’t pause for a minute. Bruce has always been really eager to do his own stunts and take all of the physical abuse. He never complained but I did see him putting on a lot more pads and limping around between takes. He told me he does a lot more stretching now.

 

Audience: What was the decision behind half-hour episodes over a full hour?

 

Ivan Raimi: In the beginning, we were wondering which way to go. Comedies are traditionally 30 minutes, while horror and drama are an hour. Our show falls right in between those two. We never like to give a lot of the backstory that often pads the later parts of episodes. We wanted to stick to the main story and the action and focus on Ash. We thought that 30 minutes allows us to be more fun and punchy and leaves the audience wanting more at the end of each episode.

 

Audience: What can you tell us about some of the new characters that we are going to see this season?

 

Sam: Ray Santiago plays a character named Pablo Simon Bolivar and he is an illegal immigrant from Honduras. He has been hiding out in the states and he meets Ash at the Value Mart where they both work. The authorities are hunting him down to kick him out of America while he works to save the world. He strives for the American dream yet the authorities want to get rid of him. He is going to become Ash’s conscience like Sancho Panza to Don Quixote, if you believe Ash is that noble. He is the only person who can see some tiny spark of nobility and goodness in Ash, although it’s deep down there.

 

Blast Magazine: Evil Dead was released in 1981. Why do you think that 34 years later, Ash is still such a beloved character?

 

Ivan: I think that people want to believe that they could be a hero, even though they are flawed. They may not be the smartest or bravest or most athletic, but they still think that they could be a hero in their own mind. I think that Ash is easy to identify with and deep down he usually chooses good over evil.

 

Sam: Unlike Peter Parker, who is a good kid and really smart but just kind of awkward, Ash’s intelligence is challenged and he’s really backward socially. He’s got a lot of real human flaws. It’s kind of like we tell the audience that there are four different monsters that want to destroy them and one human who will fight for them. Who do they want to identify with? Well, the human is an idiot and an egotist, but he’s all you’ve got. The audience is left in a horrible position, but for some reason, they like being stuck with him.

 

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Ant-Man – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/ant-man-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/ant-man-movie-review/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:32:36 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97525 Ant-Man - Movie Review4.0Overall ScoreI am a Marvel Zombie, to say the least. I was raised on bread-and-butter “Spider-Man” comics, the terrible ’90s “X-Men” cartoon and some wonderful “Avengers” sheets. As such, the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far has really fit with my love of Marvel Comics. With some minor missteps in “Iron Man 2″ […]

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Ant-Man - Movie Review
4.0Overall Score

I am a Marvel Zombie, to say the least. I was raised on bread-and-butter “Spider-Man” comics, the terrible ’90s “X-Men” cartoon and some wonderful “Avengers” sheets. As such, the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far has really fit with my love of Marvel Comics. With some minor missteps in “Iron Man 2″ and “Thor”, the MCU has been an entertaining and satisfying ride through a new portrait of the Marvel Universe. I am happy to say that Marvel’s new film, “Ant-Man”, continues to deliver with the thrills and hijinks of the past while also pushing the universe forward as a whole. Though there are a few stumbles along the way, “Ant-Man” proves itself as a suitable part of the MCU.

Scott Lang, a lovable rogue recently released from prison, has decided to give up his former life as a cat burglar and focus on becoming the hero his daughter already thinks he is. After a meaningless job at Baskin Robbins falls through, Scott is forced back to make money for child support. So begins a long chain of events that lead to Scott meeting the famed scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily), who need his special brand of skills to destroy technology that will lead to the world’s destruction. To do so, he must become the Ant-Man, a trained warrior with the ability to shrink and grow through the use of Pym particles, a compound created by Pym years before. Surrounded by a colorful cast of allies, Scott must use these abilities wisely to save not just his world, but more importantly, his daughter’s future.

With that basic premise in mind, “Ant-Man” becomes stuck between two extremely different stories. The first is that of the classic Marvel film, somewhere in between “Iron Man” and “Captain America”. Hero is given power beyond what they thought possible and must use it to save the world and repair the relationships around him. It’s not strikingly original or ingenious, but “Ant-Man” does execute this time-honored trope well. Scott feels heroic, though perhaps too much so when the film begins to roll. There is little new character trajectory for him, but Paul Rudd brings real pathos and emotion to the character. You give a damn about Scott and his daughter, and are actively rooting for him from the very start. The viewer can tell this is someone who wants to do good at his very core; he just gets confused sometimes and loses his way. Though “Iron Man” remains the pinnacle for this idea, “Ant-Man” does satisfy the need to see someone heroic becoming a true hero.

Where “Ant-Man” truly comes into its own, however, is with its second story: a simple heist film in the style of “Ocean’s Eleven”. It is in this section that the movie truly shines. The quick wit and tongue of Lang matches with the upbeat movement, Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly’s Hope provide perfect counters as frustrated and scared mentors and Scott’s former crook friends bring a different level of comedy that never wears thin. You can tell the Edgar Wright-ness of the script in these moments. His sharp, quick style is everywhere in these sections from the movement to the dialogue. Whereas other parts of the dialogue feel hammy and forced, you can tell the actors enjoyed what they were saying here and brought the movie to life.

As for the characters themselves, all feel incredible fleshed out and human, with one major flaw. The three main characters are all exceptional, and I can’t wait to see them appear in other Marvel films. Hank Pym is the appropriate jerk we all wanted him to be, without touching into the much more grim aspects of the character’s comic book history. Hope van Dyne, though created for the film, feels like the classic Janet van Dyne (aka the Wasp) of the comics, and brings real emotion to her scenes with her estranged father (never thought I would say that about Evangeline Lilly but here we are). And Scott is a brilliant hero, with wit and skills to match.

The problems come from the film’s main villain, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). There is no real establishment or threat provided about Cross outside of “He’s gone mad with power and must be stopped”. There is a quick throwaway line that establishes how he became a megalomaniac, but the film never bothers to flesh it out or explain how that thing happened. It flirts with the idea of a spurned protege and with a scientifically-altered madman, but never settles. Cross feels flat and phony, which is a shame in a film surrounded by more detailed characters, even if they only have smaller parts. He is by far the weakest of the MCU villains, stealing the crown from Malekith (“Thor: The Dark World”).

Visually, the film is simply stunning. The CGI on the ants that work with Scott is incredible, even pulling off making them seem cute and adorable. I found myself attached to some ants and was rooting for them to pull through. It’s brilliant CGI work, helped by some stunning views when Scott is small. The miniature environments are incredible, mostly created by digitally adding Rudd to pre-shot environments. That’s right. Many of the sets are real, shot up-close with a Phantom camera. It brings a level of realism to the film that is much appreciated during its more climatic moments. I highly recommend seeing the film in 3D as well. Usually I cannot stand 3D movies, but “Ant-Man” uses it to enhance its already brilliant designs in some really key ways.

“Ant-Man”, while not the strongest MCU film, is still a must-see for Marvel fans. Some brilliant cameos and links back to the upcoming films prove that “Ant-Man” is a lynchpin for what is to come (make sure to stay for both after-credit scenes). Brilliant performances from the lead actors help sell a film that stumbles a little bit in the tone and originality department. “Ant-Man” is a fun romp that doesn’t hit the lofty heights of other MCU films, but ask yourself this: does it really need to? Or can it just have some fun?

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The only thing missing from the Phorus PS5 is a battery http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/the-only-thing-missing-from-the-phorus-ps5-is-a-battery/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/18/the-only-thing-missing-from-the-phorus-ps5-is-a-battery/#comments Sat, 18 Jul 2015 18:54:59 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97522 We have been using the Phorus PS5 for a few weeks now, and all impressions so far are good. It is one of the better wireless audio appliances I have ever tested, but that’s not necessarily the best news about the PS5. You see, it is an appliance. You plug it in, station it somewhere, […]

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We have been using the Phorus PS5 for a few weeks now, and all impressions so far are good.

It is one of the better wireless audio appliances I have ever tested, but that’s not necessarily the best news about the PS5.

You see, it is an appliance. You plug it in, station it somewhere, and beam whatever audio you want to it. And it handles that audio with grace and ease. The PS5 supports computer streaming, aptX and AAC Bluetooth, Airplay, app interface using Kindle, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Android, or iOS. It pumps DTS sound right through you that is comparable in quality to a stereo system that costs 2-3x more than the PS5.

At under $230, it’s a steal. You should go out and buy one right now. You can buy five of them and use DTS Play-Fi to create wireless multi-room audio that runs directly from your WiFi network.

Not done reading yet? Good. Because I wish it was ALSO portable.

Yes, I know I’m asking too much. The PS5 is a damn good appliance, but I wish it wasn’t just a refrigerator. I wish it was an Igloo cooler too. I wish I could take it outside and not need a power cable, because for $250 you can have a wireless speaker system that sounds just as good that also goes out with you.

I will also say that while the sound quality is good, it’s not great. The PS5 is small, and it feels small sometimes. The sound is not distorted, but it can be a bit…directional? It doesn’t have that Bose Wave Radio effect that fills a room. It sort of fills your desk space.

That said, I still like it.

The only thing missing from the Phorus PS5 is a battery
Overall
4.0Overall Score
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Get Ready to Fall for Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance” http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/17/get-ready-to-fall-for-aziz-ansaris-modern-romance/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/17/get-ready-to-fall-for-aziz-ansaris-modern-romance/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:15:31 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97504 Get Ready to Fall for Aziz Ansari’s "Modern Romance"4.0Overall ScoreMotivated by his own romantic woes, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with renowned social scientists to investigate one of humanity’s greatest conundrums: love. Ansari’s debut novel has no shortage of satisfied readers (it’s now a New York Times Bestseller), and for good reason. The […]

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Get Ready to Fall for Aziz Ansari’s "Modern Romance"
4.0Overall Score

Motivated by his own romantic woes, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with renowned social scientists to investigate one of humanity’s greatest conundrums: love. Ansari’s debut novel has no shortage of satisfied readers (it’s now a New York Times Bestseller), and for good reason. The book is much like Ansari himself – witty, charming, and always funny – but also uses cold, hard data to analyze romance in a deeply thoughtful and practical way.

 

At first glance, “Modern Romance” may seem like any other biographical novel written by a celebrity, but that is certainly not the case. While technically written by Ansari (his comedy does indeed translate well onto the page), “Modern Romance” gets its scientific credibility from Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University and author of “Going Solo”. It’s the contributions of leading social scientists from around the world that really make this book worth reading for more than just amusement. Modern Romance is a novel that provides insight into the history, culture, and science of love, while also providing some tips for finding your soul mate (hint: don’t send “w’sup” texts).

 

In order to bring “Modern Romance” to fruition, Ansari and Klinenberg used various research methods to collect the necessary data. These methods consisted of in-person focus groups and interviews in major cities around the globe, as well as crowdsourcing information online using a subreddit forum. Armed with this data, Ansari set out to understand how society’s perceptions of romance have changed over generations as a result of emerging technology and cultural shifts.

 

Ansari examines the effects of technology on our romantic lives with humorous historical overview, spanning from the days of newspaper classified ads and video dating services, to the rise of online dating giants like Match.com and OkCupid. There are also numerous graphs and pictures included in “Modern Romance” to aid the visual learners amongst us!  By analyzing the data, Ansari draws some apt conclusions about us and our online interactions that could be rivaled only by Rudder’s “Dataclysm.”

 

“Modern Romance” also addresses the sociological theories that come into play when dating and searching for love. Ansari discusses “the paradox of choice” that arises as a result of online dating, the difference between “passionate” and “companionate” love and the distress that stems from “settling down” versus just plain “settling”. At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey in the hopes of finding love — it’s a universal human desire — and reading about the theories considered in this book will undoubtedly feel like reading about your own experiences.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I must admit that it’s nothing groundbreaking. The material discussed in “Modern Romance” has certainly been covered elsewhere, in perhaps more exhaustive manners. What makes “Modern Romance” truly worth a read is Ansari’s ability to interpret the madness that is love and present it in a way that is compassionate and wildly entertaining.

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Nyrius Aries Home+ review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/17/nyrius-aries-home-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/17/nyrius-aries-home-review/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97509 Able to transmit video and audio data wirelessly, the Nyrius Aries Home+ Wireless HDMI 2 Input Transmitter and Receiver is essentially a substitute for an HDMI cable and a pair of devices that let you enjoy your favorite shows or video games in different rooms. This means you can hook up your television to your cable box in your […]

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Able to transmit video and audio data wirelessly, the Nyrius Aries Home+ Wireless HDMI 2 Input Transmitter and Receiver is essentially a substitute for an HDMI cable and a pair of devices that let you enjoy your favorite shows or video games in different rooms. This means you can hook up your television to your cable box in your bedroom, and then wirelessly transmit the broadcast to your living room projector, both eliminating the need to loop an obtrusive cable around your house and freeing you from having to do much other than flip a switch. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It is, and while it may not be everything it promises to be, you definitely get a great HD transmitter that does its job and does it well.


Out of the box, you get a digital wireless HD transmitter which comes complete with its own stand and stays rather inconspicuous among your other devices. The transmitter comes with ports for HDMI input, two HDMI output sources, and for the IR remote extender. The extender, which is entirely optional, lets you hook use your device’s remote controller by sending the signal wirelessly to the television or console in the room where it’s located. As you’d expect, without this extender you won’t be able to do anything to the TV you’re streaming from unless you’re close enough to reach it.

The HD transmitter sends your television or console’s signal to the HD receiver, which plugs into the other television you want to stream to. This small plastic box features an HDMI output slot, a power and source button, and a status light that tells you when it’s off or in stand-by mode.

In addition to these main components, you also get an AC adapter for both transmitter and receiver, a 5-foot long HDMI cable, some screws and pieces to mount your device with, and a remote controller that lets you switch inputs and power off your Home+ devices.

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Setting everything up couldn’t be any simpler and it took us less than 10 minutes to get everything up and running. Simply connect the Transmitter to your video source and plug your HDMI receiver into the television or monitor you want to broadcast to. Then all you have to do is pair up your device and you’re good to go. A quick start guide also comes with everything, but it doesn’t go into much detail as to what to do in case you run into issues pairing up your devices. It’s a little inconvenient, but you’ll have to go to the Aries website and download an instruction manual for more detailed instructions.

Aries advertises its Home+ as being able to broadcast up to 100 feet away, but this number is far from accurate. We had issues receiving any signal at over 30 feet away, so 100 feet seems like wishful thinking. What the number on the box doesn’t take into consideration is the number of walls that may stand between your two devices and other outside signals that can interfere with your broadcast. If you’re hoping for anything over 30 feet—and 40 feet if you’re lucky— you probably need to make sure you have plenty of free space between both transmitter and receiver.

Zero lag is also a promise, and fulfilling it depends on what you’re using your device for. If you’re using it to watch television and movies, you won’t have any issue with the crisp quality that’s streamed to your second device. The image and sound, consistent and natural, never faltered and it was as if we were watching television directly from the source instead of wirelessly a few rooms over. Changing channels or using your remote for anything else doesn’t produce any noticeable lag either, so it’s great to know enjoying your favorite show on multiple displays is painless as it is easy.

AriesGaming, on the other hand, is a bit more precarious than watching a movie as input lag is always an issue even when using a wireless gaming controller. It just so happens that your wireless controller also gives the Home+ some issues as the IR extender can’t be used to increase its range as it uses a different frequency. This can definitely put a dent in your plans, but, as we tested, the Aries doesn’t work more than 30 feet away from a device, which is well within the range of a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One controller. This means you can still play games from your console even if you’re in another room. Wired controllers are another issue, however, as there’s really no way you can play from afar without the hassle of dragging the cord to another room. And the whole point of using the Home+ is to avoid dealing with this in the first place.

To test the actual lag when playing a game, we decided to transmit a PS 4 from our living room to our bedroom and play some Mortal Kombat X matches and see how it fared. We also used two wireless PS4 controllers that were still in range of the PS4 so the real test was to see if the Home+ would stream the game with little to no noticeable lag. All games ideally require a fluid connection, but fighting games in particular depend on a smooth experience to ensure your punches, kicks, or blocks come out as soon as you press their buttons.

While the image and sound looked like they were directly connected to the console, we did notice some slight lag when as we played. Our attacks were coming out a few half-seconds after we pressed their buttons. Because both of us were playing a local match, we adapted to this lag, and within minutes we were able to enjoy the game. Still, it definitely felt different than playing it with an HDMI cable. Taking the match online felt even laggier our opponents weren’t using a Home+, so we were the only ones who had to adapt to the speed. Plus, online matches, whether wired or wireless, are bound to have a slight delay, so it doesn’t help that the Home+ inevitably comes with its own share of lag as well.


As we saw, the Home+ is a great tool for anyone who wants to stream to multiple televisions in areas where a simple cable just won’t do. Say you have your cable box in your living room but don’t want to pay for an additional one in your bedroom. If you’re not going to use both televisions at the same time, you can get a Home+ instead and let it pay for itself over a few months. It also eliminates the need to loop wires, create holes for cables to go through, and any unnecessary prep work just to get your television, cable box, or game console connected. As great as it is for television and movies, the Home+ doesn’t fully deliver when it comes to gaming. Unless you’re simply streaming footage from your PC or game console to a big television for your friends to watch, the Aries will give you latency issues. They’re not game-breaking by any means, but you will definitely notice a difference if you decide to play a game that requires precise and quick inputs.

On its own, the Home+ is a great tool for anyone that wants to broadcast to multiple devices without being bothered by wires or cables. You may not get a perfect gaming experience, but you will definitely enjoy the screen and sound quality this small yet powerful device offers. We definitely recommend you give it a try.

Nyrius Aries Home+ review
Look no further if you want to stream your favorite shows to multiple devices in your home.
Quality
Design
Ease of Use
Value
Things that worked
  • Crisp sound and picture
  • Easy to set up
  • Eliminates the need for HDMI cables
Things that didn't work
  • Low range of up to 40 ft
  • Device can get hot
  • Lag during gaming
4.5Overall Score
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12 Monkey’s Emily Hampshire: The Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/12-monkeys-emily-hampshire-the-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/12-monkeys-emily-hampshire-the-blast-interview/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 01:48:30 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97487 Not too many actors can say they’ve walked in Brad Pitt’s footsteps. One of the rare few, Emily Hampshire, earned that honor portraying Jennifer Goines on Syfy’s “12 Monkeys.” The series, based on the 1995 dystopian film of the same name, features Hampshire as a female version of Pitt’s iconic character from the film, Jeffrey […]

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Not too many actors can say they’ve walked in Brad Pitt’s footsteps. One of the rare few, Emily Hampshire, earned that honor portraying Jennifer Goines on Syfy’s “12 Monkeys.” The series, based on the 1995 dystopian film of the same name, features Hampshire as a female version of Pitt’s iconic character from the film, Jeffrey Goines. Don’t let the similar name and personality fool you, though. She isn’t copying Pitt. “I think Jeffrey Goines, the Brad Pitt character, and Jennifer share a certain DNA, but they’re separate people,” said Hampshire. “And I think that’s what this show does, too. It shares some DNA from the movie, but it has turned into its own complete thing.”

That complete thing has been renewed for a second season by Syfy, for which Hampshire has been upgraded to series regular status. She spoke with Blast’s Georgeanne Oliver about her first trip to Comic-Con, her experience with the show, and how she inadvertently nailed her audition.

Blast: Did you go to Comic-Con?

Hampshire: Yah, I did! It was my first Comic-Con. I went to New York Comic-Con, but that was before the show had aired so this was my first official Comic-Con after the show has been on and it was insane. I mean, we did our panel and this girl asked me a question and I looked and she was wearing like my Jennifer Goines whole outfit. It was amazing!

Blast: Have you ever been involved in a show that really gets into the fandom aspect before?

Hampshire: No, never. Never in this way. This is a whole new experience for me, especially with social media on Twitter. It’s amazing that you get this immediate reaction from the fans and they, a lot of the time, well, most of the time, know more than you do about it, about the character, about the show. And I think the creators love it too. A lot of the time they’re like, “Wow, that’s a really good idea for an episode!” when they read some fan stuff that is written online.

Blast: You mentioned the girl in the Jennifer Goines outfit. Do you have a favorite moment from your first Comic-Con?

Hampshire: Nothing trumped that for me. And then I wanted to get my picture with her after and they brought her backstage and she had done all like drawings from the show, like replicas of the drawings that Jennifer Goines does.

Blast: How did you get to this point and why were you interested in it?

Hampshire: I was shooting a show called “Shitt’s Creek” [in Canada] and my agent called me with an audition for “12 Monkeys”. It was kind of a last minute thing so I didn’t do what I would normally do before an audition which is research stuff. I knew it was based on the movie and I knew of the movie but I hadn’t seen it. I think I’d maybe seen bits of it a long time ago but I wasn’t really familiar with the movie. I didn’t have much time so I read the script and that’s where I fell in love with Jennifer Goines. It was only later that I watched the movie and realized the huge amount of pressure I felt I was under given that it’s the Brad Pitt part and he’s genius in it. Luckily, I think that’s partly what worked in my favor, is that I didn’t feel that pressure or feel the pressure to do an imitation of it. And that’s I guess what the creators had told me later was what they liked about my audition, was that I had brought something new to it.

Blast: Is there a favorite change that they’ve made, a favorite twist that you like? I mean, maybe it’s the change up with the Jennifer character, but is there something that they’ve done and twisted that you’ve particularly liked now that you’ve seen the movie?

Hampshire: Well, I mean that would be the number one is that I, in retrospect, think it was a genius move of theirs to change it to a woman!

You have all this time to flesh out the story and to really delve into backstory of characters and I think what they’ve done on this show is just give every character an opportunity to have a history. Well, it is time travel, so they have a history and they have a future and we get to play all that.

Blast: Is there something that you loved in the movie that you’re hoping that they’re going to bring in?

Hampshire: I love when they do bring in little homages to the film. I mean, there was my velour sweater that was a replica of Brad Pitt’s sweater.

Blast: I know you’ve been upgraded to series regular. The last time we saw Jennifer it was kind of a cliffhanger. What can you tell me about how this changes things?

Hampshire: I was in your position about two weeks ago before I read the first scripts of season 2 and I was like “Where are they going?” It blew my mind what they’ve done and I wish I could tell you!

We know that Jennifer is tied into the 12 Monkeys but what you will find out this season is that she is tied into the mythology of the show in a much, much deeper way than just the plague and the virus, and I think this year it does definitely go beyond this virus. You know, the virus that kills 7 billion people? It’s bigger than that.

Season 2 of “12 Monkeys” will premiere on Syfy in 2016.

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Creative Sound Blaster Roar has everything that’s missing from most Bluetooth devices http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/creative-sound-blaster-roar-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/creative-sound-blaster-roar-review/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 21:34:00 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97489 Five speakers, two amplifiers, no wires. It’s got some weight to it, and that’s about where the similarities end between Creative’s Sound Blaster Roar and most other wireless Bluetooth speakers. For starters, the Roar doesn’t sound like a battery-powered wireless device, and if it does, it sounds like something that’s powered by eight “D” batteries […]

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Five speakers, two amplifiers, no wires.

It’s got some weight to it, and that’s about where the similarities end between Creative’s Sound Blaster Roar and most other wireless Bluetooth speakers.

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For starters, the Roar doesn’t sound like a battery-powered wireless device, and if it does, it sounds like something that’s powered by eight “D” batteries that you carry on your shoulder.

In a tiny, compact, dense brick frame, the Roar delivers the sound quality you need at a price that’s comparable to the other major brands. On that note..there is certainly no shortage of competition, and most of the competition is garbage. (Hint: If it’s on sale for $20, it’s garbage.) The Magicbox is the only real exception to this rule. The most popular product in this lineup is the Jawbone JAMBOX at $150, and the best is probably the Bose Bluetooth Speaker III at $300. So at an MSRP of $200, you’d expect the Sound Blaster Roar to be right in the middle, and you’d be right.

However, the Roar is much closer to the Bose than it is to the JAMBOX. The JAMBOX is great, and it ushered in this style of product, but the Roar is so much better. It has a richer, fuller sound, better 6000mAh Li-ion battery that also charges your phone, and a microSD slot that lets you play your own audio library without a separate device or a phone, which also saves battery life.

87cda313-5e3d-461b-8271-4a7605a88adf.png._V308530266__SR300,300_There is a lot of versatility with the Roar as well. It charges via full-size USB and can plug into your computer to double as your computer’s speakers via USB audio. It has NFC technology, letting you tap your phone and play, rather than going through an often clunky pairing process. It also works with the PHONE function of your smartphone, doubling as an effective speakerphone.

What’s most impressive is the two amplifiers and five drivers. This makes it larger than the JAMBOX and most other “brick” speakers, but the sound quality is that much bigger as well. The second amp powers a subwoofer, and the other four drivers handle left and right stereo sound. The discrete drivers give the Roar clear highs and solid lows, even at low volumes.

You can find the Roar online for under $135, and I say go for it.

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“Behind the Music” at Comic-Con http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/behind-the-music-at-comic-con/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/16/behind-the-music-at-comic-con/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 04:53:16 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97481 The following article contains spoilers for “American Horror Story,” “Homeland,” “Fargo,” “Empire,” “Wayward Pines” and “The Vampire Diaries”.   Last week, the composers of “American Horror Story,” “Homeland,” “Fargo,” “Empire,” “Wayward Pines” and “The Vampire Diaries” joined together for the “Behind the Music: Crime, Death and Resurrection” panel at San Diego Comic-Con. After the panel, […]

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The following article contains spoilers for “American Horror Story,” “Homeland,” “Fargo,” “Empire,” “Wayward Pines” and “The Vampire Diaries”.

 

Last week, the composers of “American Horror Story,” “Homeland,” “Fargo,” “Empire,” “Wayward Pines” and “The Vampire Diaries” joined together for the “Behind the Music: Crime, Death and Resurrection” panel at San Diego Comic-Con. After the panel, they met with an audience of the press to discuss their current projects and the way they prepare for them. Here’s a look at what they had to say.

 

Mac Quayle, “American Horror Story”

 

Audience Question: What has your experience with Ryan Murphy been like?

 

Mac Quayle: Ryan is kind of a mad genius, as you would expect. He’s always so interesting and sees things very big picture. He doesn’t look at my music and say that he dislikes this item or that melody. He either likes the whole thing or doesn’t.

 

Audience Question: “American Horror Story: Freak Show” had many separate storylines. Was it difficult to marry those threads together when creating the score?

 

Quayle: You would think so, but the show is so weird that everything worked together really well. It didn’t make sense on paper but when it all was combined, it was a great finished project. The motto was really the weirder, the better. The more I followed that, the better my work for the show became.

 

Blast Magazine Question: When you are handed the footage for each character, what is the process like of creating their individual themes?

 

Quayle: I don’t have a particular process but there are always discussions with Ryan and his team about the direction they want to go. After that, I just sit down and start writing what I feel is a good fit for the character. Sometimes, I write something for a character and send it in and it isn’t a good fit, so it goes into the library. Later, there may be a new episode that they use my piece for that works even better.

 

Sean Callery, “Homeland”

 

Blast Magazine Question: The music in “Homeland” is so important but does not dominate the story. Was it a conscious decision to score the show that way?

 

Sean Callery: Yes, because the show is almost like a documentary. It is filmed real-world style and when the music comes on, it’s very natural and realistic. I thought this was going to be an easy show to work on, but I was wrong. The show is so transparent that if you make one piano line or add an instrument in and change one note, it changes the way the show feels completely. It’s amazing and fans pick up on it. I play it back many, many times before it is submitted for the final episode.

 

Audience Question: Since the show moves around between different cultures and countries, does that affect the way you create the scores?

 

Callery: Not necessarily. The whole idea for our show is that the music should never inform the viewer how to feel. In the first season, there was a lot of mystery about a certain character and whether he was a good guy or a terrorist. It’s amazing how the music really does effect what people think. If we put happy and high music, then the character becomes good versus low and moody music makes people think he’s bad. Our job is to find a way to make the music sit almost ambiguously so that the viewer has to make their own decisions about the story. That’s the agonizing part that takes a lot of tweaking to make perfect.

 

Audience Question: Do you write the music based on the story or the actor’s portrayal of the character? Does their performance ever make you want to change the score that has already been written?

 

Callery: When I watch an episode for the first time, I watch it the same way that you do. I feel the emotions intended and pay attention to exactly which ones I feel for each scene. In Season 4, there was a very controversial scene involving Carrie Mathison [played by Claire Danes] and the baby in the bathtub. I probably scored that scene four times and they edited it differently because they weren’t sure exactly how much to show to indicate whether it was real or not. The first time I watched that scene, there was such a sense of dread. I thought about how I would express dread musically without being over the top because the visuals are already a lot. I try to create music that plays to the picture but is not overly conscious.

 

Blast Magazine Question: Was the bathtub scene in Season 4 the most difficult scene that you have scored for the show?

 

Callery: I definitely worked on that scene a lot. It was visually unsettling to watch but once I got over the emotion, I started to think about how I could tackle this scene analytically. There have been a couple of really wonderful and complex moments between Carrie and Brody that were somewhat difficult to score. They have a connection to each other that’s almost societally incompatible and yet it’s very real. You play on the connection and sadness and occasional happiness that the two of them share. When Brody met his end, it was a tough scene emotionally to watch and score.

 

Jeff Russo, “Fargo”

 

Audience Question: You write the music for “Fargo” on television. How much were you influenced by the original score from the film?

 

Jeff Russo: I wasn’t really influenced directly by it, but I did pay attention to the vibe created by Carter Burwell, who wrote the score for the film. I drew from the way that he made the audience feel certain emotions throughout the movie. “Fargo” is all about juxtaposition, because you have a beautiful score against a beautiful backdrop against a guy getting his throat cut. It’s that absurd violence against that backdrop that makes this project unique. I definitely had to tip my hat a bit to that. Everything else was all mine and I wrote all new scores and pieces of music.

 

Blast Magazine Question: Do you prefer creating music for darker content or more light-hearted projects?

 

Russo: I perfect dark, emotional content because that’s the place that I write from. I was in a band and I was a songwriter, so I find it difficult to write happy songs. Happy songs are terrible and it’s the same with scores. It’s difficult to write effective happy music because you tend to be too on-the-nose. Most composers are terribly unhappy in general and conflicted inside. When you create something from nothing, it comes from somewhere and that’s normally from your deep subconscious. I’ve never written a good song when I was in a happy place. Really great art comes from dark emotions because you’re trying to express something you can’t get out in another way.

 

Audience Question: For Season 1 of “Fargo”, who was your favorite character to write for?

 

Russo: I split up my music into characters, character relationships and locational narrative. The narrative is actually my favorite. I loved the piece of music in episode 4 when the money is found hidden under the snow. It was the one thing that connected the show to the movie. It wasn’t about a character, but about a statement and a mind-frame.

 

Fil Eisler “Empire”

 

Audience Question: “Empire” is a show that centers on music. What is your role in deciding the songs that will be a part of the episode?

 

Fil Eisler: I’m not really responsible for the songs in the episode. I score the subtext and create music to express the emotions that the words of the songs can’t say.

 

Blast Magazine Question: How has your experience been working with music supervisors on this show and what is that collaboration like?

 

Eisler: For “Empire”, it is very hand-in-glove. I have to work very closely with the supervisors because we have on-camera performances and so many situations that I am already dealing with for Season 2. Someone may be sitting at a piano and playing, but they are not really playing and I have to time my music to that. There are a lot of moving parts, such as original songs for the show that may need to be queued up. There are also the licensed songs that change at the last minute. We had a Prince song in one episode that came in at the very last second and was a different key than what we had planned, so the set up had to be changed.

 

Audience Question: Would you be interested in being a music supervisor or do you enjoy your work more?

 

Eisler: For a guy who came from bands, I know so little about what’s out there. I spend most of my time in a cave writing and I rarely get to see daylight. I love studying old composers but I have so little time to do that. Every now and then, something comes along that makes my head explode, but I haven’t listened to the radio in half a decade. I would love to do it, but I would make a bad music supervisor.

 

Charlie Clouser “Wayward Pines”

 

Blast Magazine Question: For different emotions, are there specific instruments you prefer to use?

 

Charlie Clouser: I prefer a kind of unsteady and unstable sound, so I use things like bowed metal instruments that sound very unsteady on their feet. In the beginning of “Wayward Pines”, Matt Dillon’s character is recovering from a heady injury and you are not sure if he is still in a coma and dreaming. To create that uncertainty, those kind of instruments were really useful. Even as the show progressed and I started to use more traditional orchestral sounds, the ones I prefer are unique, like string sections playing tremolos slowed down in the computer so it sounds wobblier. This accentuated that unsteady, possibly brain-dead feeling that I was going for. It’s about finding a way to manipulate a sound to give the desired emotion, but you always have to start from something in the right category.

 

Blast Magazine Question: You’ve worked on “Saw” and now you are writing for “Wayward Pines”. Is there a reason why you primarily score darker projects?

 

Clouser: My natural inclination is towards melodies and harmonies that are more of a natural fit with darker content. When I create my sound libraries, I end up with nothing that would be appropriate for a Jennifer Aniston film and everything that would be perfect for a dark and scary piece. One of the very first pieces of music that I remember seeing in a movie and loving was from 2001: A Space Odyssey. When they are on the moon and seeing the first buried obelisk, there is this choir piece that sounds otherworldly, but it’s really human voices and it was totally new and strange to me. I was about eight years old and it led to me wanting to work on dark, strange projects from then on.

 

Audience Question: You’ve done music for films and television. Would you be interested in doing scores for video games in the future?

 

Clouser: I have done a couple of video games in the past and they were actually much harder than television or movies. The story isn’t finalized until the player participates in the game. The producers think it’s a dream job for the musician because they don’t have to follow a direct script and can set their own tone. However, for me, it’s actually much harder because you don’t have any specific events to hang your coat on that help you sync things perfectly to the action. It was much more challenging than I thought it was going to be. It was a free form space and I couldn’t really pin myself to the story.

 

Mike Suby “Vampire Diaries”

 

Audience Question: Your current projects, “The Vampire Diaries”, “The Originals” and “Pretty Little Liars”, are all long-running series. Do you find that you are limited by having to repeat themes or does the time allow you to develop large overextending themes?

 

Mike Suby: The repeating themes are not always up to me. I write the music, but there are other people who cut it and make decisions without me. For the first four or five seasons, we wanted to keep everything brand-new and fresh. By the time we got to season 6, things start to fit well in new places that we already used so those melodies were reused, but that was out of my control. I don’t watch the shows because I work on them, but I have realized that my favorite pieces that didn’t get used in the beginning are now being used in other scenes. I wrote my favorite piece for Rose dying in Damon’s lap, but it ended up getting used much later for Damon and someone else. It’s not under my control as much as it used to be.

 

Blast Magazine Question: You are producing so much content every week. Do you ever feel yourself falling into a formula for ease?

 

Suby: The whole process is a formula now. I can sit down and write a two-minute cue in 45 minutes, but it’s all I do. I hike and write music. I get the scene and interpret what the emotion is supposed to be. As I play what’s in my mind, the rest just comes to me. I’ve done it so many times that it’s much easier now than it was in the beginning.

 

Audience Question: For “Pretty Little Liars”, they keep you in the dark about who A really is. How do you create music when you think that someone is A based on the script you’re given and then it turns out that they are really innocent?

 

Suby: I love the challenge. It’s fun to be able to cast shade everywhere and keep people questioning what’s really going on. It’s neat how it could be anyone and I think that’s part of the fun of the show. It’s a great challenge and I really like that I get to be a part of it.

 

 

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The Best Video Games of Comic-Con 2015 http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/15/the-best-video-games-of-comic-con-2015/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/15/the-best-video-games-of-comic-con-2015/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 21:02:36 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97470 This weekend, I got the chance to check out some of Comic-Con’s biggest games at both the Xbox and Nintendo game lounges. Needless to say, there were plenty of great games this year from all of the first party developers. Some titles, however, left a bigger impression than others. Here are the top three games […]

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This weekend, I got the chance to check out some of Comic-Con’s biggest games at both the Xbox and Nintendo game lounges. Needless to say, there were plenty of great games this year from all of the first party developers. Some titles, however, left a bigger impression than others. Here are the top three games I encountered at the Con and why:

 

Fable Legends

 

“Fable Legends” offers an experience that steers far away from past “Fable” games. While many of the past installments placed the player in a third-person perspective and gave them choices to affect the player along a path of good or evil, Lionhead Studios decided to introduce a slightly new way of approaching the plot line.

“Now, in previous games, the option to play evil was to essentially play a good guy through the main story but to be kind of a dick,” said David Eckelberry, game director. “In ‘Fable Legends’, the experience we’re giving you is something completely different. The villain gets to look at the world from a top-down perspective. He controls all the creatures, traps and spells that these four heroes are playing against. So [during the match], it’s four heroes against one villain.”

This innovative way of introducing the newest iteration in the “Fable” series paid off, as it was truly challenging to evade all of the creatures the villain was throwing at me and my other three compatriots. The enemy inflicted chaos on us all by instantly placing walls on the map to separate our forces from helping each other.

“The previous ‘Fable’ games have all focused on playing basically one hero through the twilight of an age of heroes,” said Eckelberry. “The other thing we’re doing here from the gameplay perspective is to open up the opportunity for you to play with your friends. In ‘Fable Legends’, you’ll have the option to play along with four different heroes and play cooperatively [against a villain].”

“Fable Legends” truly left an impression on me as one of the best games at the Xbox lounge. It will also feature online multiplayer –one of the few games in the series to have that option- and is set to release on Oct. 16 for Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.

 

Splatoon-658x370-093d10540d7e475e

 

Photo credit: Nintendo and Sound on Sight

 

Splatoon

 

My initial visit to the Nintendo lounge concluded with only two things on my mind: squids and ink. Many avid Nintendo fans flocked to the “Splatoon” (arguably the most popular game at the lounge) demo booths on Nintendo’s show floor, with myself following close behind them.

After playing a total of three rounds (and unfortunately losing the match), I found myself feeling comfortable with the controls, despite my gripes with the Wii U controller. This was one of the draws to the game: the simplicity of it.

Many first-person shooter games like “Call of Duty” and “Halo” involve fast-paced, intense matches. However, “Splatoon” makes its case as a truly unique game within the shooting game genre simply through its goal.

“It’s this action-shooter where the objective isn’t necessarily to splat your opponents, but instead you have to spray as much turf with ink as possible,” said Corey Olcsvary from Nintendo Treehouse. “So you got these kind of chaotic matches where you have ink guns and rollers to ink as much territory as possible in three minutes during a four-on-four player match.”

Of course, “Splatoon” has been out on store shelves for a while now, but that did not detract from my appreciation for its creativity. In a genre that is comprised largely of guns and bullets, Nintendo’s ink shooter has brought a refreshing new take to the video game industry.

The simplicity, creativity and charisma of “Splatoon” kept me coming back for more, and it still serves as a great incentive to purchase a Wii U for all avid and non-Nintendo fans.

 

imgres

Photo credit: Turn 10 Studios, Microsoft Studios and Master Herald

 

Forza Motorsport 6

 

Before you use the argument, “If you’ve played one Forza, you’ve played them all,” let me explain the allure of the newest addition to the “Forza” series.

As a fan of racing games ranging from “Cruis’n USA” (Nintendo 64) to “Gran Turismo”, I had high expectations for Turn 10’s “Forza Motorsport 6” demo booth at the Xbox lounge.

One exciting change I noticed is that “Motorsport 6” has more options for fine-tuning my car than in the past games. Turn 10 has gone so far as to change the way the weather works, too.

“You can race in the rain for the first time. You can also tune your cars, paint, customize and make them the way you want them to be,” said Brian Ekberg, community manager at Turn 10. “You can take photographs with them and basically express what you love about cars in your own way in ‘Forza 6’.”

In an effort to make the game feel realistic, the weather conditions will dictate how the car will handle.

“If you play it [during stormy weather in the game], you’ll start to feel your car losing traction, especially when driving through puddles,” said Ekberg. “As you move left and right, the rain droplets will move left and right with the motion of the car. We also got night racing, which hasn’t been in the game since 2005. It’s the same type of deal. We wanted to make sure that it felt like night depending on the course selected by the player.”

“Forza Motorsport 6” will release exclusively for the Xbox One on Sept. 15.

 

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Bif Bang Pow’s Jason Lenzi: The SDCC Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/15/bif-bang-pows-jason-lenzi-the-sdcc-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/15/bif-bang-pows-jason-lenzi-the-sdcc-blast-interview/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 04:26:58 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97476 Since 2004, Bif Bang Pow! has been selling contemporary toys and collectibles to fans around the world. At San Diego Comic-Con, fans could find the company’s products at the Entertainment Earth booth. Jason Lenzi, the co-founder of the company, spoke to Blast about the beginnings of the company and what products we can expect to […]

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Since 2004, Bif Bang Pow! has been selling contemporary toys and collectibles to fans around the world. At San Diego Comic-Con, fans could find the company’s products at the Entertainment Earth booth. Jason Lenzi, the co-founder of the company, spoke to Blast about the beginnings of the company and what products we can expect to see in the future.

 

Blast: Bif Bang Pow! sells a wide variety of pop culture products. What is your overall best selling item and what has been the most popular here at San Diego Comic-Con?

 

Jason Lenzi: At Comic Con, the “SNL” Amy Poehler and Tina Fey figurines are really popular. We have so many licenses and categories that it’s tough to pinpoint exactly what the best-selling item is, but “Doctor Who” and “Twilight Zone” have sold really well in the past. The best would probably be “Big Bang Theory” action figures and toys.

 

Blast: What do you think the next big trend in pop culture memorabilia is?

 

Lenzi: I have a hunch that stacking dolls are going to be the next bobble heads. We can create the dolls for superheroes, television shows and anything else the public wants. People will start to collect them and want the next one in the series. We have prototypes of our black and white “Twilight Zone” and “Batman” ones at the booth [at Comic-Con].

 

Blast: Has there ever been a product that hasn’t sold as well as you predicted?

 

Lenzi: Absolutely. None of this is a sure thing. You can love something and think that other people will too, only to find out that it just doesn’t appeal to them. I don’t want to name names because it’s nobody’s fault. Sometimes audiences like or dislike certain things that are different than what you predicted. For example, “Venture Bros.” fans seem to be an audience that buys cloth items, like t-shirts. However, they don’t love action figures quite as much. Our products did okay but not quite as well as we thought they would.

 

Blast: Bif Bang Pow! has been selling products for over a decade. What was the motivation to create your own toy company in 2004?

 

Lenzi: I am a big geek and I have loved this stuff my whole life. I moved to Los Angeles about 20 years ago to do production work and write for voice-over projects. I wanted to start a company that would earn me money while I was in between jobs. I just really love toys and I wanted to create the things that I never had as a kid. The “Flash” set that we sell never existed when I was young, and neither did “Big Lebowski” or “Twilight Zone” toys. I thought maybe I would be the guy to get the ball rolling. That was my selfish idea and then I found like-minded people and it just worked. The first physical exclusive we had at Comic-Con was a bobble head of “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski”. We wanted to start with action figures and bobble heads and expand from that. Since then, it’s just grown and grown.

 

Blast: Since you are creating the toys that you never had as a child, what product is your personal favorite?

 

Lenzi: The “Flash” figurine set is my favorite because when I was a kid and saw the movie, I ran to look for something like this and it didn’t exist. I loved the movie and it’s great to see that other people still love it and want to buy these products.

 

Blast: You are currently selling your products at San Diego Comic Con and fans can buy all of your items online on Entertainment Earth. Do you sell in regular comic book shops as well and where do you think you sell best?

 

Lenzi: We sell in lots of brick-and-mortar and mom-and-pop shops. Our products sell best online just because of the ease of purchasing it and the worldwide access to us.

 

Blast: You have released hundreds of products throughout the years. Is there a product that you dream of creating that hasn’t been made yet?

 

Lenzi: There are some things that I’ve thought about that are so cult, I’m not sure if they would sell. You can be cult, but you can’t be too cult that no one shows up to the party except your mom to buy one thing. I would really like to do more music stuff, like products for Queen and The Beatles. I want to do whatever I can to leave behind a tribute to the things that I love.

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The Cast of Spongebob: The SDCC Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/14/the-cast-of-spongebob-the-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/14/the-cast-of-spongebob-the-blast-interview/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 01:41:06 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97464 After 16 years, “Spongebob Squarepants” is still making viewers laugh as much as it did when the show aired in 1999. The show’s lead characters joined together for a panel to preview a new episode titled “Lost in Bikini Bottom” and perform a table read for the fan-favorite choice, “Idiot Box”. Tom Kenny, who voices […]

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After 16 years, “Spongebob Squarepants” is still making viewers laugh as much as it did when the show aired in 1999. The show’s lead characters joined together for a panel to preview a new episode titled “Lost in Bikini Bottom” and perform a table read for the fan-favorite choice, “Idiot Box”. Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob Squarepants, and Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of Patrick Star, sat down with Blast at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss the longevity of the show and their journey to become these iconic characters.

Blast: Why do you think that “Spongebob Squarepants” has outlasted almost every other television program?

Kenny: I think that people come back to television shows because of the characters. They want to spend time with them and go on new adventures with them, even though they’ve seen them a million times. As long as people want to see the characters and demand new episodes, a network would be stupid to not provide them with that.

Fagerbakke: I think people are just too lazy to change the channel.

Kenny: A lot of people lost the remotes in 1999 and can’t get off Nickelodeon now.

Fagerbakke: There is something unique about the characters and the way they interact with one another that you can’t concretely explain. You just can’t copy it.

Kenny: You can analyze it and try to figure the exact reasoning out, but the bottom line is that it’s just something that happened that works really well. [Stephen] Hillenburg, the show’s creator, made this weird combination of personalities, graphic style, music and comedy that people really love. People are still discovering “Spongebob” every day and I’m always amazed when I hear people say that they just started watching the show this year. It’s been on the air for 16 years, but Steve created something that just worked and really connected with people. It’s just a perfect diaspora of elements that congealed into something that people love.

Fagerbakke: The recipe was right.

Kenny: It’s like the Krabby Patty secret formula. When you come to events like Comic-Con, you get to talk to people who are in their 20s that watch “Spongebob” every day or friends who met because of “Spongebob” and knew the other one was cool because they could make a striped sweater reference. The show has become a barometer and it’s mind-blowing and such a trip.

Blast: Both of you have done a variety of other voices for television in the past. How do you decide how you want to make the characters sound when you get assigned the role? Is there a specific process you go through?

Kenny: I look at the breakdown of the character and the basic picture they provide you with and try to make my best guess. You need to give them something better than the other 150 people auditioning for the role. It’s a right-brain meets left-brain kind of thing-half Rubik’s cube and half artistic.

Fagerbakke: Since you record first, you don’t have an animated character to base your ideas on. It’s all based on stills. The one lead you can get is if it’s humor-based, because then you can play on your comedic instinct.

Kenny: There are drawings of the character but there’s no finished animation yet. They animate to the voice tracks that they’re going to get. You really have to look at the small clues you’re given when you audition and try to put a different twist on it.

Fagerbakke: You really are guessing in the dark because you have such a minimal idea of what the finished project is going to look like. Tom is a lot more experienced than me. When I auditioned for “Spongebob”, I had no idea what the tone was for the show. It wasn’t a conventional script for animation, because they normally include stage directions. It was just dialogue on the page with each character’s lines. I had no idea of the tone and thought it was some preschool drivel. I didn’t know there was going to be an awesome Tiny Tim song in the pilot with incredible visual humor and flourish. When I saw the pilot, I was amazed. It was really lucky for me.

Blast: Earlier this year, the latest “Spongebob” movie, “Sponge Out of Water”, was released and grossed $56 million in the first weekend. Is there potential for more films in the future?

Kenny: The movie did really well and exceeded the box office expectations that Paramount had for us. “Spongebob”’s an anomaly as it’s been on the air for 16 years. Paramount had a certain projection of how the movie would do and we definitely surpassed it. As Mr. Krabs knows, money drives everything. I think if a studio does really well with a film, they are thinking about a sequel as soon as the box office receipts start coming in.

Fagerbakke: Paramount wasn’t sure how the film would do because it’s difficult to transform TV content into a feature film. However, if you were having this conversation with some Paramount executives now, I’m sure they would say there will definitely be another film.

Kenny: If there is a future film, it’s probably in a very embryonic state right now. It’s really about figuring out what the story will be and how to best relay that idea. I think that if the film grossed as well as it did, the studio is going to want a little bit more of that cake.

Blast: “Spongebob Squarepants” has been on the air since 1999 and there have been a lot of great episodes. Do you have a favorite?

Kenny: I always say “Band Geeks.” “Sweet Victory” is just an anthem to live by. It’s so stupid, it’s good.

Fagerbakke: For me, it’s the pilot and always will be. There was such a personal discovery and I got to share it with my kids. We got a VHS tape of the pilot way before it aired or got picked up. I thought it was fantastic and did my own testing of the show with some of my kid’s friends that would come over. They loved and it and so did their parents.

Kenny: The pilot had that kind of effect on people. I remember showing it to my dad on a VHS. He wasn’t a show-biz person or into animation and we didn’t really share any of the same obsessions. I was a kid who loved cartoons and he was very patient with that but I don’t think he quite understood it. When he saw that pilot, he laughed and thought it was amazing. He told me that this show was going to make it for the long run. He’s an accountant for an air conditioning company and I said, “How do you know it’s going to succeed Dad?” He was right and sixteen years later, here we are.

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Batman: Arkham Knight Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/13/batman-arkham-knight-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/13/batman-arkham-knight-review/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 19:15:39 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97446 This review contains spoilers for “Batman: Arkham Knight”. It’s hard to follow up projects that consumers still see as the pinnacle of a genre. This is the mountain that Rocksteady has been attempting to climb with its series of “Arkham” games since it released “Batman: Arkham Asylum” in 2009. “Asylum” revolutionized licensed games while also […]

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This review contains spoilers for “Batman: Arkham Knight”.

It’s hard to follow up projects that consumers still see as the pinnacle of a
genre. This is the mountain that Rocksteady has been attempting to climb with its series of
“Arkham” games since it released “Batman: Arkham Asylum” in 2009.

“Asylum” revolutionized licensed games while also revolutionizing combat in third-person action
games. Its careful blend of fast-paced, frenetic mashing and careful counters is a gameplay choice
that has been copied time and time again since. The “Asylum” story was gripping, and, most
importantly, it made you feel like the Batman. You became a badass, silent guardian swooping into
combat and kicking thugs down with a variety of gadgets and martial arts. For fans of Batman, or
just people who wanted to feel powerful, “Asylum” gave them an experience unlike anything that
had come before.

Fast-forward seven years and Rocksteady has released the third follow-up to “Arkham Asylum”
with “Batman: Arkham Knight”. The previous two follow-ups, “Batman: Arkham City” and “Batman:
Arkham Origins”, were both evolutions of the series while also having major flaws that held them
back. “City”, opting for an open-world and more free experience, was undone by some bizarre
combat choices and an interesting but somewhat empty open space. “Origins”, which
I’ve never played, focused more on the narrative while allowing the combat to edge away
into ramshackle boss encounters that all focused in odd ways. It seemed, truly, that “Arkham” had
peaked with its beginning, starting the show with the show-stopper.

As it turns out, Rocksteady still had some cards to play, and “Arkham Knight” is one of the
most pure and powerful executions of a game I have ever played. It carries its roots in “Asylum”
forward while also cherry-picking the parts of “City” and “Origins” that were great additions to the
series. The open world remains, but with the additions of a new way to traverse the landscape in the
Batmobile and some clever innovations to flying above the city, so it never feels particularly empty.
There’s always some challenge around the corner or a group of thugs willing to accept some
fists to the face.

The combat has been freshened up with the addition of dual-character combat
and a more cinematic slow down to countering and jumping about, and the gadgets feel like
they are no longer tools simply for puzzles. Things like the Remote Electrical Charge and Batclaw
are vital to tougher encounters as the game unfolds, and, most importantly, the story
the game weaves is gripping and intense. From the opening bell, Batman is launched into a
story that will change his entire world, summed up in the opening lines from Commissioner
Gordon: “This is the story of how the Batman died.”

Set one year following the events of “Arkham City”, with the Joker dead and cremated,
Gotham has been existing in a state of almost peace. Some crime bosses such as the Penguin
and Two-Face have been continuing their activities, but for the most part, Gotham’s streets are
quiet. Then, an attack by Scarecrow in a diner sets the world on fire. With a threat of a massive
fear gas attack, Gotham is evacuated save the criminal lords, the police and the Batman. This
is the “Arkham Knight” playground: the expansive city of Gotham, stretched across three islands full
of thugs and mercenaries hired by Scarecrow and the mysterious new Arkham Knight, who
seems to hold some deep vendetta against Batman. The streets are open for Batman to take
his new tool, the Batmobile, out and search for Scarecrow before he has a chance to unleash
his deadly toxin.

Helping you on this journey is the usual cast of the Bat-family. Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon, once again takes her place as your main contact, with characters such as Alfred and Lucius Fox providing support in key moments. Other members of the family such as Nightwing and Robin make appearances as well, leading to some fantastic moments of dual combat (and as a die-hard Nightwing fan, a number of fan-girlish squealing from me).

Countering them is also the usual cast of Batman’s rogues gallery such as Poison Ivy, Two-
Face and the Penguin with some lesser-known villains tossed in such as Hush and Firefly. All
of these characters weave around each other in interesting and vibrant ways, brought to life by
some brilliant voice work. Kevin Conroy is incredible as Bruce Wayne, bringing a level of
grounding and pathos to his character that is not always seen in games. This next section
contains MASSIVE spoilers for “Arkham Knight”, and should be avoided until after completing the
game.
Seriously, folks. Here be spoilers.

But none are as close to perfection as Mark Hamill’s Joker. His level of psychosis and
the gripping power to his speeches are astonishing. I found myself both repulsed and enraptured by
the Joker in “Arkham Knight”, though I will not explain how he remains a player within this world. I
will say he is dead, very dead. But that may not stop the Clown Prince of Crime.

Drifting out of spoiler territory, “Arkham Knight” juggles its story missions and side
missions elegantly. There were times when I felt distracted by the side content and I just wanted to
charge forward and find out what happens next within the main story. However, the side content is
not optional; in order to gain access to both the basic ending and true ending, certain amounts of the
side missions must be completed. That being said, much of the side content is fun and interesting
and definitely worth completing. These self-contained pockets of story add new layers to Gotham
and the Batman himself, allowing players a new look into the mind of Batman. A few of the side
missions are a little too fetch-quest heavy, but for the most part the stories they tell are worth the
effort.

The combat within “Arkham Knight” is the most refined version of the combat introduced in
“Arkham Asylum”. The punches and combos feel snappy and engaging and are beneficial to players
who master each flip and counter, while also remaining simple enough to the casual player who
just wants to mash their way through it. Each new enemy type introduced has a dynamic hook
to beating them that blends easily into the already quick action sequences. Large goons with
gatling guns and scurrying medics add layers to the combat, creating a fast-paced but tactical
experience needed for surviving later game conflicts.

Visually, the team at Rocksteady added small aspects of motion-blur and slow-down to Batman as
he zips from corner to corner. It creates an almost cinematic element to the combat that mirrors the
more cinematic touches in cut scenes and presentation. It all feels like a dynamic and visually
pleasing affair that makes you feel like the power is all in your hands, as long as you take a step back
and evaluate your targets.

The Predator sequences of previous “Arkham” games returns as well, with new hooks such as
automated drones and smarter enemies that will change their ways of navigating the battlefield. In
order to combat these more intelligent foes, Batman has come armed with a new suit and a new
system called the FEAR take-down system. Charged by performing silent take- downs, the FEAR
system allows Batman to zip from enemy to enemy in an instant take-down, providing the player an
opportunity to level the playing field a bit. These sequences remain my favorite parts of “Arkham
Knight” as they give the player the most honest feeling of being Batman, of being this incredibly
intelligent and tactical person who can beat you with their fists or their mind. These light strategy
elements are welcome breaks from the raw, fast-paced combat sequences from other parts of the
game.

However, not every gameplay bit of “Arkham Knight” holds up to the high bar set by the
combat and exploration. The Batmobile, while a clever addition, falls apart in execution and is a
nuisance more than a welcome part of the “Arkham” formula. It’s not the controlling part of the car
either; the controls are snappy and responsive, and it genuinely feel like you would expect
the Batmobile to feel. Sequences where you are chasing other vehicles through the streets
of Gotham are fun and feel pretty good. The problem comes from every other sequence
involving the Batmobile, things like stealthily shifting around enemies or attempting to guide it
through tight cave paths and thin rails. The sequences are simply poorly designed and don’t
allow for the player to feel any amount of power. Scenarios like tank-battling hordes of drones
are overused in both story and side content. While I respect the addition of the Batmobile to
“Arkham Knight”, I advise players to only use it when needed. There are few feelings
as cathartic as grappling and gliding through Gotham anyway, so simply fly above rather than
drive below. As for the required sections with the Batmobile, there are unfortunately many and
they may lead to headaches. Forge through them, however, and work your way to much more
interesting parts of the game.

Worse still is the execution of Riddler missions in the game. There are too many trophies and races
to be done to complete the Riddler’s content, to the point that I gave up searching for every single
trophy very quickly. I have never been enthralled by the inclusion of Riddler trophies in the
“Arkham” games, so your mileage may vary. But for me, there was too much and no real reason to
work my way through it.

Regardless, the only word I can fully use to describe “Arkham Knight” is stunning. Both visually and
mechanically, the game feels next generation in a way few games have since the beginning of
this console generation. Gotham is a dark and neon wonderland, with gorgeous rain and lighting
effects. The mechanics are sound and responsive, fully immersing players in the world of
Gotham. Besides the Batmobile and Riddler missions, “Arkham Knight” has a cohesive and
decisive experience worth being explored by fans and newcomers alike. Most importantly, the
story of “Arkham Knight” is heartbreaking and enthralling, break-neck and well-paced, soul-
crushing and uplifting. “Arkham Knight” should be a model for years to come for how to tell a
powerful story in a game. This is the story of how the Batman died, but more than that, this is the
game that proved that Rocksteady had an encore just waiting to knock us off our feet.

This review is of the Play Station 4 version of “Batman: Arkham Knight” and does not pertain to other versions.

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Sustainability Within the Hotel Industry http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/03/sustainability-within-the-hotel-industry/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/07/03/sustainability-within-the-hotel-industry/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:45:01 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97413   The Comfort Inn & Suites, located in Revere, Massachusetts, appears as a classic airport hotel. Shuttles line the front entrance, and travelers come and go in a hurry. The lobby is comfortable and relaxed, and employees greet guests with warm, genuine smiles. Nothing about this room hints at the numerous environmentally friendly practices at […]

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The Comfort Inn & Suites, located in Revere, Massachusetts, appears as a classic airport hotel. Shuttles line the front entrance, and travelers come and go in a hurry. The lobby is comfortable and relaxed, and employees greet guests with warm, genuine smiles. Nothing about this room hints at the numerous environmentally friendly practices at work behind the scenes.

Inside a guest room, the commitment of the Saunders Hotel Group, owners of both the Comfort Inn & Suites and the iconic Lenox, located adjacent to Copley Square, is slightly more apparent. Next to the small garbage can is an equal sized recycling bin, and a page in the guest book is dedicated to the environmental actions of the establishment. There are signs in the bathroom encouraging guests to use minimal water and hang towels to indicate that they will be used again. Instead of disposable shampoo and lotion bottles, there are large, wall-mounted dispensers.

The primary actions, however, remain invisible to guests. For instance, the Comfort Inn has its own cogeneration system, which produces the electricity for the hotel on site and heats or cools the building depending on season. At the Lenox, wastewater from washing machines is filtered and re-used within the hotel, a system that alone saves the hotel 4 million gallons of water per year. Throughout both properties, only non-VOC, or volatile organic compound, paints and water-based cleaners with low chemical contents are used in an effort to improve the experience of the guests as well as the health of the hotel staff.

According to Tedd Saunders, president of EcoLogical Solutions Inc and chief sustainability officer of the Saunders Hotel Group, these programs minimize both environmental impacts and overhead costs.

“From a business perspective, we are reducing costs and reinvesting those dollars and creating loyalty with all of our stakeholder groups,” said  Saunders. “Usually a business has to spend a lot of money to foster that relationship and here we are saving it.”

While guests are starting to expect a commitment to the environment, they may not be willing to pay more for sustainable services. The hotel must then find a way to provide the same or higher quality services, at the same or lower price.

“A lot of companies who haven’t implemented [sustainable practices] haven’t because they say it is too costly or think it will take a lot of time,” said David Cardenas, an assistant professor and research associate at the School of Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management, located in Columbia, South Carolina. “But we have found that it is not much more difficult and can be implemented in their routine training and can save a lot of money.”

There are no governmental regulations in the U.S. dictating ways in which hotels are required to minimize their impacts on their environment. Therefore, sustainability within the hospitality industry can only improve through the work of the owners, employees and consumers. In addition, any progress is movement towards an indefinite goal, because with constantly changing technology, there will always be new ways to make a space more sustainable.

“Things are changing, so what we thought was sustainable before might not be sustainable now,” said Cardenas. “We need to be able to modify and change our understandings.”

Each hotel is different, and what works for one may be entirely unsuccessful at another. For instance, due to the Lenox’s image as a luxury hotel, Saunders does not feel it is appropriate to post signs about environmental efforts in the same way they can at the Comfort Inn & Suites. However, they are able to serve locally sourced, organic offerings in the two restaurants and bar at the Lenox, a feature absent at the other property.

“[The Lenox] is supposed to feel more like home,” said Scot Hopps, director of sustainability for Saunders Hotel Group & EcoLogical Solutions. “A lot of efforts we’ve made to introduce sustainability to the hotel are specifically not in the lobby because we just haven’t found the right products to create that same feel.”

Many guests at the Comfort Inn & Suites were unaware of the environmental practices before arriving. However, the balance of environmental awareness and comfort can turn a one-time guest into a loyal customer. Neal Good and Beth Clinch Good, both returning guests, recently stayed at the Comfort Inn for part of their honeymoon.

“We come for the Red Sox games, so there are definitely hotels closer to the park,” said Neal. “But we come here because we know what we are going to get.”

After first being drawn to the hotel for its convenient location between her family in Lynn, Massachusetts and Fenway Park, the couple returns in large part because of the hotel’s environmental commitment.

“We are very happy to see the recycling bins,” said Neal Good. “They make it easier to help.”

Others appreciated the environmental efforts, but did not feel they served as a deciding factor as to whether or not they would return.

“The environmental efforts definitely made us think more highly of it,” said Michael Clary of Syracuse, New York. “We would definitely come back, but there are other reasons for that.”

The environmental initiatives at both locations are designed to take on responsibilities often put on the consumer. While towel reuse programs or shorter showers can help the environment, they can also decrease the customer experience, something Hopps feels strongly should be avoided. He believes that the hotel should implement enough programs and be sustainable enough behind the scenes that the guests do not need to worry about such things.

“You look at why a person goes to Whole Foods and shops, or why a person buys a Prius,” said Hopps. “It’s very different from why a person travels to Boston. They travel to Boston because they have to be in Boston for something, whether or not they care [about sustainability].”

 

Check back next week for part 2 of Blast’s latest series, “Sustainability Within the Hotel Industry”.

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