Making movie games more faithful than ever

Thanks to a new technology that allowed people to drive a rover across the world of Pandora from the smash hit film "Avatar," we might soon see a wide range of games or other projects that use the exact same 3D models as the films they're based on.

In December, McDonald's launched a game called PandoraRovr, in which anyone could explore James Cameron's fantastical moon. While an otherwise normal Flash-based promotion put together on behalf of one of the film's corporate partners, what made the game unusual is that the imagery in it was … Read more

The 404 Podcast 501: Where we play with each other's tools

The 404 Podcast Tip of the Day: it's an unspoken rule that every nerd has to include a multitool of some kind in his or her EDC arsenal. My most recent addition is the Leatherman Skeletool CX, a 7-in-1 with carbon inserts to lower the weight. I also own the comprehensive Leatherman Wave for heavier jobs, and Wilson's choice is the blade-less version because he likes to travel with it on his person. It doesn't matter which one you choose, but it's always good to be prepared!

The first story of the day is one that Jeff holds very close to his heart: ESPN might finally come to Xbox 360. According to the latest rumor in The New York Times, ESPN could partner with high-speed ISPs to offer streaming sporting events right on the gaming console. You can already stream Netflix movies and purchase videos within the interface, but sports content might make the perfect complement to their 3D sports channel supposedly happening within the next year.

After a very short run in theaters, China has stopped screening "Avatar" due to concerns over its financial success and fear that the underlying themes of revolution might plant inappropriate thoughts in the minds of its citizens. Having already scored $73.2 million in China, Fox has already confirmed its cancellation-- the movie is already replaced with a Chinese movie about the life of Confucius.

Quick side note: we initially threw this story in the rundown hoping Wilson could provide valuable insight based on his six-month sojourn in China, but his post-dentistry medication keeps him from really opening up on the subject. Unfortunate timing or blessing in disguise? We'll let you decide.

In addition to a big Calls From the Public and a few hilarious reader e-mails, we check out the new "MacGruber" movie trailer and also discuss the the most successful "SNL" movies, like "Superstar" and "The Blues Brothers." Of course, no 404 episode would be complete without us ripping on something, so we also talk about the biggest "SNL"-adapted movie flops.

Just can't get enough of The 404? Have you heard all the back episodes? If not, be sure to check out The 404 Wikia for an extremely detailed episode guide with links to every show we've ever recorded, guest breakdowns, top content, editable entries, etc...enjoy and thanks to everyone who maintains our page!

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On Lego Pandora, everyone gets along just fine

I'd like to give a tiny Golden Globe to all the fine people who put together these incredibly detailed Avatar Lego dioramas. That's my kind of 3D.

Many of these are repurposed from older Lego sets, such as Halo and (gasp!) "Toy Story," which in a way is an apt metaphor for Avatar itself, no? Either way, another win for the hobbyists! (More photos after the jump.)

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The 404 Podcast 500: Where Wilson brought his happy pills

We're surprised that Wilson is still standing after going under the knife yesterday to get his wisdom teeth pulled. Luckily, Wilson explains that his disturbingly small mouth, combined with the supreme skills of his dentist, led to a speedy recovery--less than 24 hours after the surgery, we've got our Wilson back! And besides, all of his wisdom is localized to his hair.

Speaking of folks left half-standing from the three-day weekend, my sincerest apologies for my raspy voice on today's episode; we celebrated my birthday on Sunday by laying waste to the hits of Madonna, Weezer, Third Eye Blind, Four Non Blondes, and many more songs (sans Lady Gaga - BOO) at Maru Karaoke Bar in NYC. After a weekend of partying it up for 26 years ill-spent, it sounds like I'm in worse condition than my post-op co-host.

Wilson's happy pills come in handy when he tells Jeff and I about how the U.S. stacks up against the rest of the world in average broadband speed trends over the past few years. We're down in 18th place compared with the rest of the world; we're behind Japan, Hong Kong, Romania, and Sweden, with many countries reporting 50Mbps! What's our excuse? Listen in for the full story.

We also have news on ATM skimmers, like the one in "Terminator 2," making a serious comeback in the new millennium and an absurd story from CNN about folks reporting "Avatar" withdrawal. It sounds like a story you'd find on the Onion News Network, but the phenomenon is very real, and very pathetic. We can make a convincing argument that these individuals reporting depression after seeing "Avatar" were actually disturbed prior to watching the film, but we'll withhold our clinical diagnoses and just say that these people are straight up crazy.

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Is 'Avatar' giving you the blues?

I haven't been to see "Avatar" because I have feared it would make me depressed. I have feared I would be depressed that so much money had been spent on a movie which, like "Titanic," made me manicure the fingernails of my right hand using the fingernails of my left.

It appears, however, that I am not alone in experiencing "Avatar"-related dysthymia. According to the erudite CNN discussion I have embedded, thousands of people have been flooding "Avatar" chat sites and saying that the movie did, indeed, depress them. But their reasons are somewhat different than mine.

They seem to feel miserable that the idyllic world of Pandora is nothing more than a box of 3D tricks. They want it to exist. They are sad that it doesn't.

CNN quoted one depressed post-"Avatar" poster who wrote: "It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning." On the Facebook Avatar-Forums group, a wall poster called Paul Neumann wrote: "ALL I SAID WAS " I DON'T WANT TO BE ON EARTH AND HUMAN ANYMORE, I JUST WANT TO BE ON PANDORA WITH THE NA'VI!"!"

Jo Piazza, a CNN entertainment writer declared: "I think the depression is widespread enough that it is an actual phenomenon."… Read more

Modern Warfare 2 joins 'Avatar' in ultra-elite $1 billion club

For an entertainment property to hit $1 billion in sales is a very rare feat. For two separate properties to pass the 10-figure mark at the same time may well be a first.

On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard announced that its mega-hit video game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, had crossed the billion-dollar mark, after just two months on store shelves--and the entertainment industry's single-day sales record. That milestone came shortly after it was announced that James Cameron's uber-blockbuster movie, "Avatar," had also reached that financial promised land.

To be sure, these are just round numbers, and don't have any formal meaning, but there's no arguing with the fact that it sure sounds good for the entertainment business to be sporting two separate billion-dollar titles at the same time, especially since they come from such different corners of the world.

In the history of video games, a billion-dollar hit is an extreme rarity. It's hard to tell precisely how many there have been, but it's possible that number is as small as two.… Read more

Hands-on with PS3 in 3D

After spending 20 minutes playing Wipeout in 3D at Sony's CES 2010 booth, I'm officially a believer in gaming in the third dimension. It was only after I was made aware of the fine print did I become grounded in reality. But before we get into the gory details about what you'll need to get this working, let's discuss how it played.

Sony had a few games playable in 3D including Super Stardust HD, Avatar, and Wipeout. The experience playing Wipeout in 3D is truly immersive, with layered graphics giving you a surreal sensation of being … Read more

The 404 Podcast 491: Where we're all cast in new roles for 2010

We're back! Jeff and Wilson are joined in the studio today with "Kenri," and Justin chimes in from San Francisco via phone. It's back to our usual shenanigans again, and we recount our holiday break. Plus, we have an apology to make to James Cameron.

Jeff tells us about his near-death experience on the ski slopes. Listen to how a patch of ice almost did away with our favorite CNET emcee. Wilson recounts his Christmas vacation to visit his dear ole Ma. Finally, Justin tells us about how he's currently sunbathing in California, while we all freeze to death here in NYC.

With the exception of "Kenri," we all caught James Cameron's "Avatar," and boy was it mind-blowing! The film is just incredible to watch, and we're pleasantly surprised to see it bring in more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide. Wilson is not sure though that the movie is any good in 2D. The clips and trailers still look silly, so we're still recommending people catch it in IMAX 3D or Real3D. (Editors' note: please catch "Up in the Air." Two words: Vera Farmiga.)

Tomorrow is the first day of CNET's annual International CES coverage. There won't be a show tomorrow because we'll be en route to Las Vegas. We'll be hosting a live show Wednesday at 5 p.m., Thursday at 4 p.m., and Friday at 4 p.m. PST. We have some surprises up our sleeves, but honestly, we're just trying not to kill ourselves while partying it up in Vegas. If you're there, come by the CNET booth in the North Hall at the Convention Center.

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Digital City Podcast 63: 'Avatar,' 3D PS3, CES, oh my!

In this week's preholiday edition of the Digital City Podcast, we all get ready for our one long break of the year, accompanied by special guest smartphone guru (and new CNET East Coaster) Bonnie Cha.

Scott and Joe have seen James Cameron's "Avatar"; Bonnie and Julie haven't. We also discuss Intel's new Atom Netbooks, 3D Blu-ray on the PS3, holiday smartphones, and upcoming laptops and phones at CES 2010. Best of all, Scott gets a chance to show off his one and only Batjew T-shirt. Watch it on video or you'll miss it. … Read more

ILM steps in to help finish 'Avatar' visual effects

Update (11:49 a.m.): Weta Digital has been contacted for comment, and this story will be updated when and if the company responds.

SAN FRANCISCO--About a year ago, with James Cameron's science-fiction epic "Avatar" well under way, it became clear that Weta Digital, the visual effects studio doing much of the computer generated imagery, or CGI, on the project, was a bit in over its head.

At that point, the movie, which opened Friday, was about 40 minutes longer than it ended up being, and what was needed to finish the project was another company that … Read more