We've all got our annual New Year's traditions for the change of the calendar year. Some of us watch the ball drop in Times Square, while others stay up all night drinking, hoping we wake up somewhere recognizable on New Year's Day.
There are a ton of different traditions around the world, each intent on getting a head start on a prosperous and positive new start on life. Here are ten of the oddest (to us) from around the globe. < br />Photo: Nana B Agyei/Flickr CC
In Romania, some folks dress up in bear furs or costumes and walk the streets to ward off evil. That's surely one way to keep things from going wrong next year.
Dr. Doolittle has nothing on farmers in Belgium who wish their livestock a happy New Year in the hopes that they'll be healthy and productive in the coming months. If they talk back (in Romania and Hungary), that's supposed to be bad luck. Or you've been drinking too much.
If you're in Siberia, chances are there are plenty of spots along the coast where you can go ice diving to plant trees under the frozen waters. You won't catch us doing this in Alaska, I'll tell you that.
Celebrations in Denmark include jumping off of chairs into the New Year, kids in the Phillippines jump twelve times to grow taller, and beach partiers in Brazil jump over seven waves at midnight while making seven wishes. Jumping is a thing on New Year's Eve, apparently. < br />Photo: Garrett/Flickr CC
Not every video game that ties into a blockbuster movie has to be crap, destined to fill the bargain bins of your local electronics store. There are a surprising number of quality titles based on movies that belie the rather common conception of movie video games as fodder for kids and bargain hunters alike.
As we wait for Jurassic World to end up on the silver screen (with an appropriately awful tie-in video game likely to surface), here’s a list of the good ones: ten of the best film-based video game spin offs from the last couple of decades.
Photo: Telltale Games
Aladdin (1994 - SNES)
This delightfully colorful video game had kids throwing apples and leaping across dangerous bazaar stalls to re-enact some of the crazy scenes from the Disney animated movie of the same name. The title blended some Prince of Persia gameplay with the easy-on-the-eyes color palette of the Disney hit to create a very playable video game experience.
Spider-Man 2 (2004 - Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube)
Here's one of the only video game adaptations of Marvel’s web-slinger that actually captures the true joy of swinging from rooftop to rooftop in New York. Sure, the side missions are a bit repetitive, and it took some grinding to get to new story chapters, but this Activision title is worth seeking out just for the city roaming alone.
Dune II (1993 - Amiga, MS DOS)
This game was less tie-in and more franchise-based, but it surely brought the braininess of the original story — full of political and social intrigue — to the forefront, rather than sticking with David Lynch’s weird adaptation for the silver screen. You get to build the army of one of the three houses from Herbert’s sci-fi epic, and then command and conquer the rest of desert planet Arrakis.
Photo: Virgin Interactive
GoldenEye (1997 - N64)
Perhaps the only Bond game worth noting, GoldenEye holds a special place in every gamer's heart from the era. While the graphics are dated beyond belief at this point, GoldenEye might be that one game that introduced everyone to the idea of multiplayer death matches in style.
Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (2005 - PlayStation 2, Xbox 360)
Strangely compelling, this pixel-based spin-off from the celluloid film of the same name had bargain-bin written all over it. Until you played the game and realized that it was a challenging, well-conceived romp through the jungles where a giant ape can fight a big old T-Rex. Hats off to Ubisoft for making something good out of something that could have been absolutely awful and still have sold some copies.
Kung Fu Panda (2008 - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Sure, this is mainly a kids’ game, but being able to beat up other martial arts animals while controlling a giant panda is one of the great joys in life. The animation is fantastic, as should any video game based on a Dreamworks animated feature, and the difficulty curve ramps up nicely as you progress through the game. It’s a fantastic time with younger nieces or nephews who really shouldn’t watch you own noobs in Call of Duty.
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2007 - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Also available on Mac and Windows, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga launched an entire series of games that took the concept of toy bricks re-enacting entire genre movies to a whole new level. You'll thrill and laugh as you guide all your favorite Star Wars characters from all six films through their respective storylines, with a large does of humor thrown in for good measure.
Photo: Traveler's Tales
The Lion King (1994 - Sega Genesis, SNES)
Just because it's a kids game doesn't make Virgin Interactive's The Lion King any less compelling, especially when it came out in the early ‘90s. You’ll get to leap, run, dash, roar, and attack Simba’s enemies at each stage of this fun game on the Sega Genesis or Super NES. This one came out at the height of the 16-bit revolution and just hows off the fun to be had with a simple side-scroller themed with the hit movie’s lions.
Photo: Virgin Interactive
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004 - Xbox, Windows)
I have to be honest: the movie this game is based on is one of the two films I've ever walked out on in my life. I just hated it when I saw it in the theater. Imagine my surprise, then, when the reviews of the game came out that said what a masterpiece it was. Vivendi Games somehow created a stealth-based video game (with Vin Diesel's help, we hear) that transcended its own source material. Hooray!
Photo: Vivendi Games
Tron (1982 - Arcade)
While Disney's movie Tron doesn't quite hold up these days, what with its rudimentary green screen and awkwardly tight LED unitards, the video game still holds a special charm for those of us who remember how cool it was to launch our light bikes across the master computer grid while feeding quarter after quarter into the hungry machines at the local arcade. It's like the movie was made to be a video game, or something.
And that means Hollywood's finest are contending for coveted nominations. There are a lot of great films in the running, and we've gathered five in particular that are almost sure to be nominees, if not winners.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
The Theory of Everything
Already a strong favorite among critics and the festival circuit, this film is based on legendary physicist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his ex-wife, Jane Wilde Hawking.
With an 81% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Theory of Everything is being praised for its performances and screenplay. Eddie Redmayne's visceral portrayal of Hawking has been compared to roles like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. Expect Redmayne to be in the race for best actor.
Photo: Focus Features
The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and logician who helped crack a code that was crucial for defeating the Nazis in World War II.
This has all the makings of Oscar bait: a star-studded cast, warm festival reception, a period setting, and a strong leading man playing a character who was prosecuted for homosexuality. Best picture, director, actor, screenplay, and supporting actress nominations are probable.
Photo: The Weinstein Company
Directed by Bennett Miller of Capote andMoneyball fame, Foxcatcher is sure to receive a slew of nominations and probably a few wins.
It's hard to imagine anyone winning best supporting actor over Steve Carell's chilling performance as the wealthy wresting coach and paranoid schizophrenic John Eleuthère du Pont. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo also give stellar performances.
The story itself is portrayed in such a way that grips you from beginning to shockingly tragic end. Nominations for best picture, director, screenplay, actor, supporting actor, editing, makeup, and maybe even sound design are all very possible.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
How can a film that literally shows a boy growing up not receive Oscar attention? Boyhood was shot intermittently over an eleven-year period, which is a feat in and of itself that will place it in film studies textbooks.
The scope of such a project is mind blowing, and critics have been overwhelming favorable with a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition," reads the critical consensus. What more of a recommendation do you need?
Photo: IFC Films
Michael Keaton's Birdman is the rogue, weird, unrelentingly indie contender that hasn't stopped gaining momentum. Keaton's portrayal of a washed-up actor who once played a famous superhero (cough) is being called his best work in years. Then there's the incredible supporting cast: Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts.
Besides its witty dialogue and fascinating characters, Birdman soars on the talented wings of Gravity and Children of Men cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who effortlessly follows the story with what feels like one continuous, epic shot. Birdman is worth watching for the way it looks alone, and it's hard to imagine it not winning best cinematography.
It's the week of Halloween, which means pumpkin carving galore. If you want to take your Apple fandom to the next level, then consider replicating one of these awesome designs.Photo: Jim Shuma/Flickr CC
They key to carving a nice Apple logo is the outline. Print or draw the logo on a piece of paper first and then trace it on the pumpkin.Photo: Jim Shuma/Flickr CC
While this kind of artistic detail is beyond any of us at the Cult of Mac office, there are surely some of you out there with enough talent to recreate Steve Jobs in pumpkin form.Photo: Rick Payette/Flickr CC
This Finder carving is pretty awesome.Photo: Ben Ward/Flickr CC
It's that time of year again, when our thoughts start to turn to the macabre, we start planning costumes for all those end-of-month parties, and we re-watch all those great horror films from the past.
It's hit or miss, though, and even films that would seem to have a leg up in the quality department doe to the fact that they're based on successful novels don't always make the cut.
Here then, are five horror films based on literature that you should take time to see, and five more that you really ought to give a miss to.
Photo: New World Pictures
Bram Stoker's Dracula
The best horror films based on books
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Say what you want about this 1992 version of the infamous proto-vampire, there’s a lot to like here. Directed by auteur-extraordinaire Francis Ford Coppola, it also starred Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. In this film, Dracula comes to England an old man, growing younger by the minute, and turning into a monster in the process. It’s a lush, operatic film with some serious eroticism to it. Coppola uses old-school film tricks like reversing the film, multiple exposures and varying shutter speed to create a visually stunning movie about the seriously overplayed vampire king that tries to re-create the original novel via its multiple points of view. While it’s frequently campy, this big budget film is worth a re-watch.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
The Exorcist: William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel about demonic possession and exorcism was based on an actual 1949 case that the author heard about while attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC, leading him to set his book there. The 1973 movie, directed by William Friedkin and written by Blatty himself, is a faithful re-telling of the horrifying story about a young girl’s rapid transformation into a vomit-spitting, head-rotating demon from hell, scaring the crap out of everyone who went to see it in theaters. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Linda Blair, The Exorcist is an exercise in tight, creepy horror storytelling with solid practical special effects that still look convincing today.
Photo: Warner Bros.
Frankenstein: The original film based on the original novel by Mary Shelly, 1931’s Frankenstein, stars Boris Karloff in the tale of the proto-mad scientist who creates life in his lab from an assembled collection of body parts gathered from corpses. What makes this film still worth the watch is both the superb make-up effects and the inherent loneliness of Karloff’s portrayal of the monster. When it happens upon the young girl at the pond and exchanges the flower, you’ll be hard pressed not to empathize with the creature, even as he tosses the child into the pond.
Let The Right One In
Let the Right One In: If you like atmospheric genre films, you’ll love this 2008 film from Sweden, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of the book its based on. The acting is subdued and the two young leads are absolutely mesmerizing as the human and vampire protagonists. Oskar is a 12-year-old pacifist of a boy who’s constantly bullied in school. Beautiful 12-year-old Eli moves in next to him at the same time a series of gory deaths and attacks start to happen around town. It’s a beautiful meditation on friendship, loneliness, and adolescence that also happens to be an incredibly scary movie. Be sure to have someone with you when you view it, so you can hold hands and scream together in fear.
Photo: Magnet Releasing
The Legend of Hell House
The Legend of Hell House: This 1973 horror film was produced in the UK and directed by John Hough. Starring Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin, it’s based on the 1971 novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, the same guy who wrote I Am Legend; he also wrote the screenplay. A group of both physicists and parapsychologists spend a week in a English manor house that they’ve been told is haunted, and at which previous researchers were horribly murdered. It’s a haunted house movie done right, with plenty of over-the-top acting and sweaty ‘70s actors, and I mean that in a good way.
Photo: 20th Century Fox
The Wicker Man
The worst horror films based on books
The Wicker Man: This 2006 re-do of the 1973 classic horror film stars Nicolas Cage as a sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a small island. He finds out there’s a bigger mystery to be solved, though, among the secretive neo-pagan islnd community. It sounds like a ton of fun, right, but ends up detouring into a crazy, barely comprehensible mess of a plot with enough misogynous activity from Nic Cage in a bear suit than you can handle. When you set out to remake a classic of the genre, you need to bring more to the table than director Neil LaBute (In The Company of Men) was able to.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Queen of the Damned
Queen of the Damned: While Interview with a Vampire was a low point for both Tom Cruise and Anne Rice fans, the second movie to come from her novels is an utter travesty. Starring Aaliyah, the young R&B singer who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001, the film plays more as a goth-club flavored TV movie with Rice’s famous vampire Lestat taking up much of the overwrought screen time. The soundtrack is awful, the special effects questionable at best, and the dialogue super melodramatic and cheesy. Stay away from this one.
Photo: Warner Bros.
Dreamcatcher: Even the acting chops of Morgan Freeman and Demian Lewis combined with the directing talent of Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and a screenplay by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) can’t save this awful adaptation of one of Stephen King’s worst books, Dreamcatcher. The original novel is about a young man with mental retardation who becomes a group of boys’ unofficial mascot. When the men reunite for a hunting trip decades later, they discover an…alien invasion. Yeah, it’s that disjointed. USA Today called it “A moviegoer's nightmare,” writing that “the story is incoherent, inane and interminable.” Honestly, there’s no need to watch this one.
Photo: Warner Bros.
30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night: As someone who lives in Alaska and has visited Barrow, where this horror flick about zombies in the coldest, darkest place in the US, is supposed to be set, I found it to be utterly unrealistic. Sure, I can handle supernatural killers who lurk in the dark to eat human beings during the longest night of the year during the winter, but — seriously — Barrow isn’t a frontier town anymore with Western movie-style saloons and such. I could probably even forgive that horrifying oversight if this 2007 movie based on a fantastic graphic novel (written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, and published by IDW Publishing) itself wasn’t a long slog through a lot of half-hearted attempts and jump scares and tons of “shredding and gurgling,” as Entertainment Weekly calls it, saying, “30 Days of Night is relentless, but it's also relentlessly one-note.” Pass.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Pet Sematary: I really wanted to like this movie, since I enjoyed the heck out of the 1983 Stephen King novel of the same name. The 1989 movie was directed by Mary Lambert, whose resume includes 1992’s Pet Sematary II and 2005’s Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, so you know how she rolls. Add to that a screenplay by the master himself (have you seen Maximum Overdrive? It's awful) and a set of actors that no one knew, and you’ve got yourself a pretty horrible movie. King’s novels are so successful because they give readers a sense of the inner fear of their characters, something we can all relate to. Translating that to the screen is hard, as evidenced by the incredible hit or miss quality of the cinema adaptations of King’s work. This one? Don’t bother.
Sure, folks have been lining up for several days now, causing equal parts consternation and praise, but with pre-orders selling out in hours – leading to record breaking pre-sales – it’s no wonder that the lines at Apple retail stores around the globe are beginning to super size themselves as well.
Reports of scarce supplies of the iPhone 6 Plus are only adding to the madness and we’re only going to see even crazier lines the countdown nears zero. It can only get more wild from here.
One Apple fan in Arizona told Cult of Mac he wants an iPhone 6 Plus so bad he actually paid a teen for their top spot in line at a local Apple Store. She charged him $80. Half up front as a down payment to hold the spot until 4AM, when he’ll come back and maybe get to buy a gold iPhone 6 Plus.
“Doing an after work drive-by to make sure.” he told us. “They seemed cool, and I grilled them. So, hopefully we are good.”
Other fans aren’t as nearly hopeful, but the lines are just getting crazy around the world. Take a look:
The big iPhones are here at last, and so – as surely as indigestion follows a burrito – are the oversize iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases. Also new on the scene this week: a game controller for all your iDevices, plus some sweet retro-style cameras.
Waterfield Spinn case for iPhone 6 Plus
A big-ass phone needs a big-ass case, and the Waterfield Spinn is both big and sits by your ass. The leather holster clips to your belt, the bottom is open for hooking up headphones and hearing the speaker, and the closing clasp doubles as a winder for unused headphone cabling. Pretty cool for a dorky holster. $59
Fujifilm’s successor to the amazing X100S changes little. You get refined buttons and dials, and more of these can be given custom functions. You get a double-resolution LCD on the back, plus Wi-Fi inside, and a sweet new hybrid viewfinder that can overlay a digital rangefinder on the pure optical view. $1,300
The Tivo Mega really is mega, with 24TB of DVR storage for 4,000 hours of HD and 26,000 hours of SD programming. At roughly 20 minutes each, that’s enough space to keep the entire series of Big Bang Theory 490 times over. It’s rack mountable, has six tuners and you can stream direct to your phone. How much? $5,000
Grovemade Maple & Leather iPhone 6 case
Grovemade puts a lid on its gorgeous wooden iPhone cases with the new Maple & Leather model for the 6 and 6 Plus. It has the usual bumper-like wooden surround, but with a new leather flap on the front that doubles as a kickstand, thanks to a stiffening wooden liner. It looks gorgeous. $129
Moga Rebel controller
What could be a better accessory for your new iPhone 6 Plus than the Moga Rebel, a Bluetooth game controller for your iPhone or iPad that boasts an adjustable arm and clamp to hold even a giant phone? $80
Leatherman By The Numbers
Leatherman By The Numbers is a range of 10 new tools that each pack at least four tools into one lightweight little package. There are no moving parts (except on the No. 4, which has a removable screwdriver bit), and you can pick the combo that best suits your needs. From $11
Quit trying to squeeze a cylinder into your bag with your computer and books – try the book-shaped Memobottle instead. These plastic water bottles slide straight into your bag, and come in A4, A5 and U.S Letter sizes. Made from dishwasher-friendly Tritan, the only problem might be drinking from them – probably a two-handed task. From $22.
Lomo LC-A 120
Forget full-frame digital. The way to get maximum photographic quality is medium-format film. Then you can proceed to ruin that film with the plastic-fantastic Lomo LC-A 120, a relatively tiny medium-format camera with automatic exposure, four-zone manual focus and a square format. $430
SanDisk 512GB Extreme Pro SD card
Put all your photos of eggs on a single SD card, with SanDisk's new 512GB Extreme Pro SDXC card. Pointless for photos, the super-fast UHS Speed Class 3 card is better for capturing video from your movie-making DSLR. Just $800.
AeroClam bike saddle bag
The Aeroclam switches a saggy, baggy saddle bag that rattles on the rails of your racing seat for a tightly-fitted clamshell bag that stays permanently – and tightly – attached to your undercarriage. There’s space for a patch kit and maybe a multitool, but not a pump. Fits most non-Brooks saddles. NZ$50
This week we get creative, making our own photo filters with Vibrance, writing stuff in the amazing Matcha text editor, and scheduling efficient days to fit it all in with Timeful. What are you waiting for? Check out the most interesting new iOS apps and updates in our weekly roundup.
Camu is a fantastic new camera app that combines all the essentials into one slick, superbly-designed and fun to use app. Plus, thanks to smart design and gestures, you can use it one handed. Swipe to change filters, swipe again to change their strength, tap to take split-screen (diptych) pictures, add captions and blur and share. A really nice photo app and – amazingly – it’s $Free
Matcha is so well designed you’ll want to write, just to use it. The text editor syncs with Dropbox and iCloud, and gives a great Markdown preview, but the point here is the details (and the beautiful, simple interface). You get full text search, right from a nav box at the top of the screen. And this means full – it digs into your entire Dropbox to search file names and paths, and inside local files’ contents. It has full (external) keyboard control, lots of (on-screen) keyboard tweaks, plus way more. It’s so well put together that it’s my new favorite text editor on iOS. $5
1Password iOS 8 Extension
You know how some smart apps have a little 1Password icon next to the login field, to quickly take you to the 1Password iOS app to grab your details? In iOS 8, that button could pop open a 1Password window right there in the app, allow you to auto-fill passwords and even payment fields without leaving the app. You know, like you can already do in OS X. Want to know how this awesome feature works? Read the AgileBits blog post.
Somewhat inexplicably there are almost no decent blogging apps on the Mac – you’re forced to contend with your blogging service’s lame web interface instead. Blogo brings together a text editor, an image editor, offline mode and Evernote sync. It also looks fantastic, which is a boon if your job is to stare at a text editor all day long. $15
Contexts offers four ways to switch windows on your Mac. Hover over its mini Dock-like switcher at the side of your screen and click, or hit ⌘-Tab and access the keyboard-triggered popover. This floating popover lets you keep tabbing between windows, or get direct access by tapping a number key, or by search to narrow down your windows by title or app. It’s dead simple, and it acts on individual windows in apps, not just the whole app itself. $9 with free trial
Vibrance lets you create your own photo filters on-the-fly. Take or load up a photo from your camera roll and either choose a built-in filter or make your own. A slider runs from dark to light, and you can tweak the color of any tone along that slider, giving, say, bluish shadows, yellow highlights and a little purplish kick in the dark mid-tones. It’s simple and powerful, but the interface is a little clunky. Free with IAP
Timeful combines your calendars and reminders, and then helps you with your scheduling. It will suggest times for new tasks and appointments, and even help to schedule routine tasks like exercise or shopping. It’s location -aware, it syncs with your existing calendars and it even makes adding a new event easy, letting you pick between reminders of calendar entries as you go. $Free
Lytro’s new app lets you view its light-field camera photos on your iOS device. The Lytro is that weird camera that lets you adjust the focus of you picture after you take the shot. Previously you needed a desktop computer with a desktop browser to display these interactive photos, but now you have this Universal app. It’s basic, just like the camera, but it’ll let you view your own publicly-shared Lytros, along with anyone else’s. $Free
500px for Lightroom
This plugin lets you upload your photos from Lightroom, straight to the “thinking person’s photo-sharing site,” 500px. Just drag the pictures you want to share to the new 500px publish service and they’ll be sent to your online portfolio. It can even read and write comments and lets you view your site stats from within Lightroom. $Free