GamesRead : Guillermo del Toro teaming with Ryan Gosling for Disney’s Haunted Mansion

Guillermo del Toro and Ryan Gosling are both changing gears a bit with their next project: Haunted Mansion. Based on the beloved Disney ride, the film will be aimed at family audiences unlike the former’s Crimson Peak or the latter’s beautifully violent collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn. The project is not completely outside of Gosling’s experience, though, considering he got his start on the Mickey Mouse Club along with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and other future stars.

The project has been in del Toro’s massive to-do pile for a while now, but Gosling’s involvement was just announced by TheWrap. The director and star have been getting friendly lately, with del Toro moderating a panel at SXSW featuring Gosling talking about his directorial debut Lost River. They even went to Disneyland together where they rode Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and, of course, the Haunted Mansion.

Developed by Imagineers under the partial guidance of Walt Disney himself, Haunted Mansion debuted in Disneyland back in 1969. Since then the ride has popped up in Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. It also inspired an Eddie Murphy-starring family film in 2003 and an anthology comic book from Slave Labor Graphics that launched in 2005.

This new film was first announced in 2010. High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank screenwriter DV DeVincentis is currently working on the script which will somehow integrate the basic concept of a ghost-filled Victorian house, a setting del Toro is quite familiar with after making Crimson Peak.

Gosling will next appear in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, a Terrence Malick movie, and Adam McKay’s The Big Short. Del Toro also has Pinocchio, Pacific Rim 2, another season of The Strain, and Justice League Dark in the works as well.

GamesRead : New Star Wars special features examine history of Millennium Falcon and lightsabers

As of today, Star Wars fans can now watch all six films on legitimate HD digital formats for the first time ever! Announced earlier this week, the films — which can be purchased individually or all together — each come with their own batch of new special features as well as legacy ones that carry over from one of the many previous home video offerings.

Lucasfilm and Disney released scenes from many of those new special features on the official Star Wars YouTube page. Three of the videos that caught our attention told the secret design history of the Millennium Falcon, the lightsabers and the groundbreaking sound effects.

First up, as part of the “Discoveries From The Inside: Models & Miniatures” special feature included with Phantom Menace, we learn that the original design for the Millennium Falcon was pushed aside because it looked too much like a vessel from Space: 1999. However, the ship didn’t get trashed, instead it was tweaked and used as Princess Leia’s ship!

Want more behind-the-scenes historical goodness? A New Hope features a video called “Discoveries From The Inside: Weapons & The First Lightsaber,” which not only includes Roger Christian talking about how an old piece of camera equipment inspired the Jedi’s signature weapon, but also a look at the very first prototype.

Finally, Empire Strikes Back comes with “Discoveries From The Inside: The Sounds of Ben Burtt” explains how the sound designer’s love of the old Frankenstein movies helped bring Star Wars fully to life on the big screen.

These are just tastes of the full special features, but they offer a pretty solid glimpse at what viewers can expect. Plus, all of these digital offerings will give us plenty of entertainment while we camp out waiting for the debut of JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18.

GamesRead : BitTorrent’s torrent-powered web browser goes beta

How do you build a better world wide web? If you think the way BitTorrent does, you make one that doesn’t rely on centralized servers to push content to users, and you start by building a browser that knows how to tap into the power of the swarm. It’s called Project Maelstrom, and it was alpha software just a few months ago. Today, there’s an open public beta that interested early adopters can download and install (at least if they’re running Windows on their PCs).

BitTorrent didn’t start from scratch. Like Opera did when they rebooted their own browser a few years back, BitTorrent started with the open source Chromium code. While it might look like Google Chrome, there’s at least one very important difference: Project Maelstrom knows how to handle a few more URIs than Chrome. Eventually, that means you might be able to load up Geek.com and other sites you visit without receiving a single bit of data from our own servers. Everything Project Maelstrom renders on your screen could be delivered peer-to-peer from other Geeks.

That could be a long way off, however. Though there are plenty of reasons why content publishers would want to join the torrent-powered web, it will require a bit of re-tooling. Still, if it’s easy enough to do (and it certainly looks like it is), many may jump at the chance to reduce their own server costs.

While you can’t surf a whole lot of torrent-enabled websites yet, you can still take advantage of the technology in Project Maelstrom. You don’t need a standalone torrent client to download from your favorite trackers if you visit them with Maelstrom. It knows how to handle torrent and magnet links by default. Click one, and it’ll pop up in the tray just like any other file you might download in Chrome. It can even stream video files, just like BitTorrent’s standalone apps can.

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Obligatory screencap of the totally legit Big Buck Bunny torrent

One day, every site you visit could be piped to you via a decentralized peer-to-peer network. Until then, Project Maelstrom might at least be a good piece of software to recommend to your friends who still can’t figure out how to torrent things.

GamesRead : The death knell for optical media: There will be no more Simpsons DVDs

Once, at the turn of the century, we clamored for the ability to own entire seasons of The Simpsons. Then in 2001 with the release of the first season on three DVDs, we had it. Now, 14 years later, we’ve lost it. Fox Home Entertainment, who up until this week had been making DVD sets for seasons of The Simpsons, decided to shift future episodes’ distribution to streaming digital services only. Simpsons producer Al Jean broke the news to fans this week via his Twitter account:

The Hollywood Reporter backs up the bad news, and reminds us all that the series syndication rights reside at FXX, the VOD rights with FXNOW and Simpsons World app and website gives anyone with a cable subscription access to ever episode. There were already hints that The Simpsons DVD market was drying up. Many suspected this was why Fox Home Entertainment skipped releasing seasons 18 and 19 in ownable collections. Al Jean himself, while answering Twitter questions from distressed fans, admitted the DVD market for the show is done.

If The Simpsons — the longest running scripted show on television — can’t make it work, then no one can.

Jean was quick to assure everyone that this doesn’t mean the loss of bonus content the DVDs would have contained. Jean and the other producers plan to do commentary and produce extras for online episodes through FXNOW:

The news is a major blow to any Simpsons collector who is trying to own the totality of the series in the best format possible. Sure, you could go the illegal route and try to find a torrent of the entire series, but those will be at best cobbled together rips of rerun broadcasts or simply a bulk download of the Every Simpsons Ever marathon, which cropped the episodes to air them in an HD aspect ratio. Bottom line: this sucks for people who want to have it their way, while probably benefitting those Simpsons fans who prefer instant access over lasting access. There might be some hope for collectors and completists, as Jean says there might be a “master” set of every episode ever, but it would be a bittersweet gift, as it will only be considered when The Simpsons is over.

Downloadable extras are good news if you happen to live outside the US or aren’t paying an American cable provider for access to FXNOW. If they can’t make downloadable extras happen in regions FXNOW doesn’t serve, some people have just been screwed out of seeing any extras for future seasons of The Simpsons, there’s no two ways about it.

In trying to find a fitting Simpsons quote, the first to sprint to mind was this: In the fourth season episode called “Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie,” Homer is punishing Bart in the living room of Evergreen Terrace when a thieving Snake runs by the front window having just stolen a VCR. He looks down at it and exclaims: “Oh no! Beta!”

It’s funny because for our video media, the Beta format lost out to VHS. Then, LaserDisc came along to lose to DVD, HD DVD lost to Blu-ray, and now it’s transitioning to streaming.

"Oh no! Owning things"

“Oh no! Owning things!”

One day we’ll be telling a new generation about that period between 2001 and 2015 when you could own entire seasons of a TV show and put them on a shelf, where you could get them when the WiFi went down. So, I guess, a Back to the Future Part II reference is more apt.

Take it away, baby Elijah Wood:

GamesRead : Never drink a boring beer again, thanks to these beer tea bags

It’s more than just a tea bag, it’s a specially crafted infusing sachet filled with magical beer-bettering goodness, and it’ll make sure that you never have to drink a boring old beer ever again. The company behind the sachets is Hop Theory, and they’ve taken to Kickstarter to raise funds to mass-produce their flavor-enhancing beer bombs. It’s not instant beer in a teabag, but it’s still pretty cool stuff.

They call their first blend Relativity; it’s a mix of orange peel, coriander, and cascade hops (the same ones you taste in a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale). Drop it into a plain old beer — like the ones that have been sitting in the back of your fridge since who knows when — or the cheap ones your friend shares when he doesn’t want to part with his microbrews — and it quickly transforms that bland beverage as if Harry Potter waved his wand at it a uttered “humulus lupulus.”

They have several additional sachets planned, and with enough funding they’ll complement Relativity with blends like raspberry, pumpkin, double IPA, and peach — which ought to create something a bit like Kronenberg Blanc, one of my favorite summertime beers.

Pledge $25, and you’ll receive two twelve-sachet pouches of Relativity. The sachets can be reused, too; Hop Theory says they’re good for up to five pints, and they actually infuse more quickly after the first one. Your initial pint will take about three minutes; the next four, just 30 seconds each.

Sure, some of the time you can simply spend a little more cash on a better-tasting beer, but that’s not always an option. When you’re in a real bind, Hop Theory will be there to bail you out.

GamesRead : Xbox 360 is finally getting 2TB external hard drive support

The Xbox 360 faired very well next to the PS3 during the last generation of games console hardware, but in one area it really came up short. Internal storage upgrades were limited to Microsoft’s official, and very expensive drives, and external storage support over USB was limited to just 32GB.

You’d think with the Xbox One now being Microsoft’s main focus and having been on the market for 17 months that would be the end of the matter. However, Major Nelson has confirmed that Xbox 360 owners will be getting support for external hard drives up to 2TB in size before the end of 2015.

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When the next update for the Xbox 360 Preview Program gets released, support for larger external storage will be added through the system update. The other big change is the console no longer reserving hard drive space in advance. So if you have 10GB of games, the 360 will only use that 10GB of space after the update.

Anyone not in the Preview Program will have to wait until “later this year” to get it unlocked. One side effect of the reserved space removal is the potential need to clear your Xbox 360 storage to take advantage of all the space available on the drive. Microsoft needs to explain this better before the update goes live outside of the preview release.

While Xbox 360 owners will welcome the external storage update, it really has come a few years too late. Still, if you have a 360 with a very full hard drive, or a library of digital games you have to keep juggling, this will solve that problem if you’re willing to invest in a new external hard drive. You may just want to hold off a little longer and see if any compatibility issues appear from testing in the Preview Program.

GamesRead : IndieBox Unboxing: The Next Penelope: Road to Odysseus

This month’s IndieBox game is The Next Penelope: Road to Odysseus. It’s a top-down sci-fi racer puzzle shooter game, kind of like a cross between Velocity and Rock and Roll Racing. It’s an indie game currently available on Steam and, like other IndieBox games, can only be found as a physical edition through IndieBox. And it’s a pretty cool edition.

This game’s box isn’t cardboard. Instead, IndieBox packed The Next Penelope in a plastic clamshell box like the one that used to be at video stores back when there used to be video stores. The box actually has cut-outs to hold an SNES, Sega Genesis, or N64 cartridge. The box art sleeve looks good, and there’s even a lenticular art print of the box art you can remove from the box.

The IndieBox standard additions are: Steam code for the game, USB card with DRM-free copy of the game, soundtrack CD, printed instruction booklet, stickers. The game also comes with a papercraft kit of the ship in the game, which looks kind of like an Arwing from Star Fox without the wings. Also, I’m terrible at making papercraft.

The game also comes with a mini poster of of the ship in Tron-style line art, and a slap bracelet. Remember slap bracelets? This game comes with one. I don’t know why, but it’s cool, because the art is nice. And, really, it comes in a mid-90s game cartridge rental box. I’m not gonna complain if the next IndieBox has freaking pogs.

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IndieBox is a monthly subscription that’ll run you about $25 per game, but if you want something a bit more rare and elaborate, check out Gamer’s Edition. It offers physical editions of games like IndieBox does, but they’re much more comprehensive collector’s editions. Currently, the only upcoming Gamer’s Edition is Hotline Miami 1 and 2, a $60 package with DVDs of the games, a trade paperback of the Hotline Miami 2 comic, a cassette mix tape, a stencil, and art/trading cards.

Gamer’s Editions are produced based on preorder, but they’re still currently accepting orders for the Hotline Miami release. Gamer’s Edition also tried to get a physical edition of Paper’s Please going, but the project is currently stalled due to lack of preorders. Preorders might seem skeevy at retail, but for projects like this they make sense; small scale mixed-media products like this are much more expensive per unit, so most, if not all, copies of a pricey bunch-of-things-in-a-box boutique release need to be spoken for to pay for production.

GamesRead : Retail copies of GTA V on PC will include 7 discs

GTA V for PC is a massive launch for Rockstar in more ways than one. Not only will it finally allow millions of PC gamers to play the now 18-month-old game, it’s so big that retail copies will include 7 discs in the box.

The image above is of the retail packaging for the PC version of the game. As you can see, Rockstar has had to fit 7 DVDs into the casing. Unlike the PS4 and Xbox One, you can’t guarantee that PC gamers will have a Blu-ray drive, in fact most probably won’t. Therefore DVD is the only real option to avoid problems and lots of returns. The game is thought to be a 65GB download, expanding to roughly 100GB on your hard drive, making it clear why there are so many discs for the physical edition.

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It does seem quite a waste to ship that many discs only to see them used once and then stored away, but then 65GB is a huge download that could be too much for data capped broadband packages making the disc-version look like the better, or only real choice for some.

As with most PC games today, opting for the digital edition and pre-loading using a service like Steam is the easiest way to get the game. However, typically the price of new games on such services stays higher for longer, where as the physical copies start to drop in price within a few weeks. Rockstar will be keen not to let that happen, though, especially considering how much extra producing a 7-disc set will cost per copy.

GTA V is set to launch for PC on April 14. If you are picking it up, will you be buying digitally, or is this 7 disc retail version the way to go? It does look like quite a nice set to own.

GamesRead : Lego Dimensions melds toys-to-life gaming and minifigs

Your Lego budget is about to take a beating, gamers. Warner and Lego have finally joined forces to claim their piece of the delicious toys-to-life pie.

Years after Skylanders proved that there’s a ton of cash to be made on plastic figures that unlock in-game content, Dimensions is finally bringing that experience to Warner/TT’s immensely popular franchise. It promises to be their biggest, craziest game yet. Even Community’s Joel McHale thinks so:

You’ve played some pretty expansive Lego games before, but Dimensions promises virtually limitless possibilities. At around the two-minute mark you start to get a sense of just how massive the game is going to be: Ninjago, super heroes, the crew from The Lego Movie and the Wizard of Oz (sure, why not?)… Warner’s thrown in everything but the kitchen sink… and that’s probably in there, too, if you look hard enough.

Lego’s offering two kinds of expansions: single minifig kits called Fun Packs and Team Packs. There’s even Marty McFly (it is 2015, after all), complete with the Delorean and his hoverboard.

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The Lego Dimensions starter kit (which will retail for $99) is pretty slick. As you can see from the box art, you’ll be assembling the Stargate-esque portal yourself. That’s a neat touch, but not all of those 269 pieces are for the portal. Three minifigs — Gandalf, Wyldstyle, and Batman — and a micro-scale Batmobile are also included. You can sneak a peek at some of the other Fun Packs you’ll be able to buy in our Lego Dimensions gallery.

It looks like the minifigs aren’t glued to their bases, either, which would be a huge bonus. All you parents out there know for a fact that your kids are going to be super disappointed if that turns out not to be the case and they can’t pop their Dimensions figures into their MOCs.

Start saving your pocket change, geeks. Lego Dimensions arrives this September.

GamesRead : Nintendo proves Mario Kart 200cc speed class is insanely fast

At the beginning of April Nintendo made a surprise announcement regarding Mario Kart 8. As a way of celebrating the forthcoming second DLC pack release, a new 200cc class was being added to the game for free, meaning everyone who owns a copy has all the cups to play over again, only faster.

At the time we got a trailer showing the new 200cc class in action. However, there was nothing comparing it to the old fastest class: 150cc. Today Nintendo fixed that by releasing another trailer demonstrating just how insanely fast 200cc is. Below is that video, which has the 150cc version of the Piranha Plant Pipeway track side-by-side with the new 200cc version.

As you can see, the 200cc karts complete a lap much more quickly. I timed it as 11 seconds faster, and it looks quite difficult to pick your breaking and drifting points. But that’s great news as it means the game is challenging all over again for those who have 100-percented the existing version.

The second Mario Kart 8 DLC pack is Animal Crossing-themed and arrives on April 23. On the same day the 200cc speed class update will be made available for free, so even if you don’t want the new characters, vehicles, and tracks, you’ll still have new content to play technically.

The feedback this new 200c class has garnered is so positive Nintendo will have to repeat it for future Mario Kart games. Maybe the next one will ship with the new class included, but I think unlocking it later in the game’s lifetime works much better for Nintendo, especially when combined with new content packs.