Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Vanity Fair covers the 40th anniversary of Star Wars

Annie Leibovitz has photographed Star Wars actors since capturing the cast of The Phantom Menace in 1999. Subsequently the famed photographer's lavish photo shoots have become a tradition.

Now, Vanity Fair has released four variant covers to commemorate the 40th anniversary of George Lucas' space opera.

The first is Rey and Luke, the second is Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux, the third is Poe Dameron, Finn, and Rose Tico, and the fourth is General Leia. Most notably Carrie Fisher has a cover all of her own. This is in tribute to the late actress and her final appearance in the upcoming The Last Jedi.

The grouping of characters suggests the story structure of The Empire Strikes Back.

Leibovitz’s full photo shoot will be online Wednesday, along with a story on the making of Rian Johnson's upcoming sequel to The Force Awakens.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in cinemas 15th December.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A Stormtrooper story in Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront was a gorgeous game, but lacked a single player campaign. The upcoming sequel appears to address this with a story mode focussing on Imperial forces in the wake of the destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars Battlefront II will follow Iden Versio (Janina Gavankar), commander of Inferno Squad an Imperial special forces unit, from the end of Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens.

A new developer diary, posted on the official PlayStation YouTube channel, chronicles the production of Star Wars Battlefront II and Lucasfilm Story Group's involvement in the creative process.

Incidentally, Amazon Prime members can read Official PlayStation Magazine for free using the Kindle app. Star Wars Battlefront II is featured in the latest issue.

Stay tuned for further coverage of Star Wars Battlefront II during E3.

Star Wars Battlefront II is out on 17th November for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Tom Hardy cast in Spider-Man spin-off Venom

Tom Hardy, fresh from reading a bedtime story on CBBC, is playing Eddie Brock in Sony's upcoming Spider-Man spin-off. Venom.

Whilst Hardy's casting as the alien symbiote was met with enthusiasm. He played DC Comics' Bane in Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy. News the spin-off is not directly linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), possibly precluding a face-off against Tom Holland's Spider-Man, is a fly in the ointment. However, it would be a surprising missed opportunity, by the studio, in the wake of so much goodwill following Captain America: Civil War.

Venom was last seen on the big screen in Sam Raimi's middling Spider-Man 3 in 2007. Sony's gambling on Spider-Man: Homecoming successfully rebooting the franchise and there's a PlayStation exclusive Spider-Man video game to promote, too. More news on the latter at E3. Hopefully.

Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer, will usher in further spin-offs. Is the comic book cinematic universe in danger of further brand dilution? I stopped reading comics in the mid 1990s as it became expensive and, frankly, a chore to follow Marvel's or DC Comics' increasingly fractured, commercially cynical, universes. This has now transferred to film and television adaptations, where I've stopped following franchises. Because bored.

This may appear frivolous on my part and I'm no stranger to a time when geeks didn't have the luxury of Hollywood's current superhero stable featuring multi-movie story arcs and infinite reboots.

Production begins on Venom later this year with a release date of 5th October 2018. Perhaps in time for the launch of PlayStation 5. Tom, would you mind signing one for me?

Friday, 19 May 2017

A prequel to The Dark Crystal is coming to Netflix

Netflix has announced a prequel series to Jim Henson's classic tale The Dark Crystal.

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is set many years prior to the events depicted in the 1982 movie that pushed the boundaries of animatronics within a divided world, Thra, that evoked J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. The Gelflings are caught up in a battle between the peaceful Mystics and power-hungry Skeksis.

Frank Oz co-directed The Dark Crystal with Jim Henson and, as a fledgling film fan, it was impossible not to be acutely aware of story similarities between The Dark Crystal and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi the following summer. Mythological tropes I'd actively seek out evermore.

Information regarding the upcoming 10-part prequel series is scant. However, Netflix released a teaser trailer that has captured fans imaginations around the world.

Director Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans) will executive produce the series and direct. Leading the writing are co-executive producers Jeffrey Addiss, Will Matthews, and Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The 100).

“Louis Leterrier is passionate about the world of ‘The Dark Crystal’ and has an incredible creative vision for the series,” said Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company. “He brings this passion to every facet of the production as he leads the talented team of artists and writers that are bringing this entire universe to life. Netflix has a deep respect for my father’s original work and the many people it inspired. They are the perfect partners to create this next epic chapter in ‘The Dark Crystal’ story for new fans and the loyal fans who have waited so long for more adventures from this world.”

Trevor Jones' soundtrack for The Dark Crystal remains a touchstone, and I hope the prequel series will reprise those memorable motifs from Jim Henson's world of wonder...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Star Trek: Discovery is live-action Mass Effect

The first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery has dropped on Netflix. The upcoming prequel series takes place a decade before the adventures of Kirk, Spock and Bones in the original Star Trek.

The Klingons have undergone a CGI makeover, which may be divisive, and Sarek, Spock's father, has a pivotal role to play. Discovery isn't short of interpersonal conflict, but a return to exploration and a sense of wonder, a hallmark of the franchise, is welcome in the wake of the big screen Star Trek reboot with which this isn't directly connected.

However, Discovery seems more a part of the Paramount Pictures cinematic universe than the original series and it could double as a Mass Effect live-action series. The latter unashamedly borrowed from the former. So, we've come full circle. Will Sonequa Martin Green (The Walking Dead) channel FemShep?

Star Trek: Discovery's inaugural season, running for 15 episodes, is coming to CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US this Fall.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 this November

LEGO video games are becoming an annual treat for this brick fan in the wake of recent releases LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Whilst I missed out on the first installment of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes in 2013. The newly announced sequel is going to be competing for playtime with Star Wars: Battlefront II this November.

Watch the teaser trailer for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 featuring Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

“With a completely original branching storyline, LEGO® Marvel Super Heroes 2 introduces amazing new gameplay features, including the ability for characters to manipulate time and a four-player competitive Super Hero battling mode,” said Tom Stone, Managing Director, TT Games. “With a huge array of brand new characters from the Marvel universe, including old favourites in new guises, this game is sure to thrill both LEGO® and Marvel fans, as well as newcomers to the series.”

“The LEGO® Group is delighted to continue the stories of the legendary Marvel characters in a new LEGO® adventure,” said Sean McEvoy, VP Digital Games, The LEGO® Group. “Fans young and old will love playing through this all-new cosmic saga spanning the Marvel Universe as seen through the LEGO® lens.”

“As we look to bring amazing games to Marvel fans of all ages, we’ve teamed up yet again with our incredible partners at LEGO, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and TT Games,” said Jay Ong, SVP, Games & Innovation, Marvel Entertainment. “LEGO® Marvel Super Heroes 2 brings characters from across Marvel’s history into an original story told in a way that only LEGO games can, offering hours of epic gameplay.”

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 will be released for PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC on 14th November.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Orville channels Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest

The Star Trek franchise has been affectionately lampooned in popular culture for decades. From Futurama to Galaxy Quest. Now, Seth MacFarlane embarks on a galactic odyssey in The Orville on Fox this Fall.

The humour evokes Galaxy Quest, a movie I adore, as evidenced by this trailer.

The pilot is directed by genre stalwart Jon Favreau (Iron Man). So, the series has pedigree and could fill the void as fans await Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US.

Looking forward to The Orville? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Marvel's mutants unleashed in The Gifted

Marvel and Fox have dropped an extended trailer for The Gifted.

The upcoming X-Men spin-off, with a pilot directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men: Apocalypse), isn't a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) over at Disney.

The Gifted joins Legion at Fox this Fall. The channel goes up against The CW with its DC Comics superhero stable including Arrow, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash and Supergirl. The multiverse goes from strength to strength and DC's Legends of Tomorrow transformed in the wake of new cast members and a soft reboot during its second series.

Could The Gifted lead to further X-Men spin-offs featuring Cyclops or Storm? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mass Effect on ice as EA focusses on Star Wars

Looks like the Mass Effect franchise is on hiatus in the wake of a much-maligned EA Access early preview and middling reviews.

You can read my initial impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda here.

Post launch patches have improved visual fidelity immeasurably. To the point that the divisive game now resembles a pretty polished product and begs the question: why didn't EA delay the release for a few more months? Andromeda was purportedly in production for several years as its budget ballooned. This isn't unique in AAA game development.

I read somewhere the alpha build used the Unreal engine before switching to stablemate DICE's Frostbite! This comparison video is insightful for anyone with an interest in the creative process.

Personally, I've sunk 40-hours or so into exploring Andromeda and am enjoying the witty banter between squad members, aboard the Nomad, and combat. The sudoku puzzles not so much. Music is a hallmark of the franchise. Curiously, there are strange silences despite a rich soundtrack worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster.

The latest Mass Effect installment and PlayStation exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn should keep me occupied until Bungie releases Destiny 2 this September. Well, unless I cave in and buy a Nintendo Switch with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the meantime.

However, Kotaku reached out to Electronic Arts and the publisher responded on the future of the franchise with a statement from BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy:

“Our teams at BioWare and across EA put in tremendous effort bringing Mass Effect Andromeda to players around the world. Even as BioWare continues to focus on the Mass Effect Andromeda community and live service, we are constantly looking at how we're prepared for the next experiences we will create. 

The teams in EA Worldwide Studios are packed with talent, and more than ever, we are driving collaboration between studios on key projects. 

With our BioWare and Motive teams sharing studio space in Montreal, we have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway. We're also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.

There will be much more to come from BioWare in the years ahead.”

Frustratingly, this leaves a subplot, that ties into a theory I have concerning Cerberus, unresolved. Hope BioWare continues to support Andromeda with free future DLC, expanding on the universe whilst tying up loose ends, as a goodwill gesture for early adopters. Unlikely. A new untitled IP has been pushed back to 2018/19 and EA's ramping up Star Wars releases.

Do you think the beloved Mass Effect franchise should be retired? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Judge Dredd is the law in Mega-City One TV spin-off

The 2000 AD sci-fi comic started in 1977 along with the US premiere of a space opera set in a galaxy far, far away... Both 2000 AD and Star Wars would form the backdrop to my youth and foundation for future friendships.

However, I didn't start reading 2000 AD until my late paternal grandfather gifted me a copy, during a holiday by the Jurassic Coast, in the summer of 1979. Until then, I was avidly reading Dan Dare reprints, Marvel's Star Wars comic and Starburst magazine.

The ABC Warriors had been unleashed and later Rogue Trooper's endless war with the Norts took over high school lunchtime discussions, and GCSE Art and Design lessons, with fellow geeks in the 1980s.

So, when news broke of a Judge Dredd television series, my interest was instantly piqued. Afterall, my nickname at high school, in an era when Harrison Ford was linked to the titular role for a future film, was Judge Dredd. Because chiselled jaw.

"This is one of those seminal sci-fi properties that seems to only become and more relevant with age," IM Global Television boss Mark Stern told Entertainment Weekly (EW). "Not only is it a rich world with biting social commentary, but it’s also fun as hell! As a fan of the comics and both films, it’s a dream come true to be able to work with Jason and Chris in adapting this for television."

"We’re very excited to be beginning the journey to get more of Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One on the television screen,” says the Kingsleys. "Thanks to the legions of fans who have kept up pressure on social media, and a lot of background work and enthusiasm, we aim to make a big budget production that will satisfy both our vast comics audience and the even greater general screen-watching public."

Mark Stern shepherded the Battlestar Galactica reboot. A seminal sci-fi series that found critical acclaim early last decade.

The two Judge Dredd movie adaptations have had varying degrees of success. Sylvester Stallone was miscast as Judge Dredd in 1995 and fans (myself included) took issue with the iconic character removing his helmet. But, James Earl Jones', the voice of Darth Vader, opening narration was the most memorable part and left me yearning for more Star Wars.

Who would you like to see playing Judge Dredd in a television spin-off? Star Trek's Karl Urban wasn't too shabby in the gritty film noir from 2012. Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Bryan Singer brings the X-Men to Fox in The Gifted

Legion isn't the only X-Men cinematic universe spin-off to grace television screens in 2017. Franchise stalwart Bryan Singer has directed the pilot for The Gifted. An upcoming series from Marvel and Fox.

Action-adventure family drama THE GIFTED, from Marvel, tells the story of a suburban couple whose ordinary lives are rocked by the sudden discovery that their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.

Amy Acker (Angel) and Stephen Moyer (True Blood) head up the cast as parents of mutant children. A Stan Lee cameo has been teased on Instagram.

The Gifted premieres on Fox this Fall.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Blade Runner 2049 gives a knowing wink to Star Wars

Ridley Scott's second foray into sci-fi was Blade Runner. An enigmatic film noir touchstone possessing a visual flair much copied and unmatched since its original release in 1982.

Scott's dystopian vision was the antithesis of the summer blockbuster with Harrison Ford, famous for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, playing Rick Deckard. A police officer charged with hunting down replicants. All the while possibly a replicant himself. Because unicorn.

The prospect of a sequel left me cold until the latest trailer for Blade Runner 2049 dropped with Ford reprising the role opposite Ryan Gosling.

The tone is pitch perfect and lush visuals promise to be as memorable as those seen in the original. The minimalist approach evokes Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey). At least it's a feast for the eyes and listen out for the Star Wars in-joke from The Empire Strikes Back.

If you've never seen the original Blade Runner. May I suggest The Final Cut from 2007.

Looking forward to Blade Runner 2049 this October? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Chris Pine's classic Star Trek spoof on SNL

Chris Pine took over the role of Captain Kirk in JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot in 2009.

Two sequels followed and now he's gone full William Shatner in this hilarious Star Trek skit for Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Pine can be seen next in the upcoming Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot this July.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

MUTHUR can't save you in Alien: Covenant

Fans of the Alien franchise will instantly recognise MUTHUR. The Nostromo's onboard computer that awoke the crew from cryogenic stasis to seemingly investigate an alleged distress signal on LV-426.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) would later discover the chilling truth that MUTHUR was programmed to divert to the unknown planet, by the company Weyland-Yutani, and crewmate Ash's (Ian Holm) primary objective to sacrifice all aboard for an alien specimen.

MUTHUR, voiced by Lorelei King, returns in Alien: Covenant. Personally, this is exciting news as I worked with Lorelei on The Gemini Apes starring the late Sir Christopher Lee.

This new trailer, highlighting MUTHUR, cleverly plays to our expectations of intelligent personal assistants such as Alexa, Cortana or Siri and the franchise's callous use of technology.

Does MUTHUR play an instrumental role in Alien: Covenant? Fans will find out on 12th May.

Excited for Alien: Covenant? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Is Jenna Coleman returning to Doctor Who?

Jenna Coleman is rumoured to be returning to Doctor Who for this year's Christmas special.

The rumour originates from a story suggesting Eddie's Diner has been booked for filming this July. The iconic location was used in The Impossible Astronaut and as Clara and Me's TARDIS in Hell Bent: the series 9 finale in which Clara wiped the Doctor's memory of her.

Peter Capaldi is leaving at the end of this year, along with showrunner Steven Moffat, and it wouldn't be the first time a former companion returned for a regeneration story. Karen Gillan reprised the role of Amy Pond when Matt Smith bowed out in The Time of the Doctor. It's worth noting Clara's theme can be heard during the current series premiere as possible foreshadowing.

Series 10, currently airing on BBC One on Saturday evenings, is proving to be a hit with fans. So much so, I was inspired to email the official Doctor Who Magazine and was delighted to see my thoughts on the season premiere, The Pilot, reprinted in the current issue.

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Andrew Lewin, fellow Whovian and blogging co-conspirator, is reviewing the current series on Taking the Short View. Hopefully, this won't dissuade him from our obligatory post-series discussion later in the year.

Coleman is filming the second series of Victoria for ITV.

Would you like to see Clara return in the Christmas special? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Carrie Fisher remembered by fans on Star Wars Day

Star Wars fans around the world are celebrating Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, and paying tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.

I updated my social media avatar with a photo taken with Carrie Fisher at Star Wars Celebration Europe last summer.

How are you celebrating Star Wars Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Netflix's Marvel superheroes unite in The Defenders

Today Netflix unveiled a trailer for Marvel's The Defenders. The upcoming series sees Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron First join forces to battle a big bad played by Sigourney Weaver.

Cue obligatory hallway fight scene.

The trailer has given me an incentive to catch up with a Marvel Netflix backlog.

Following the breakout first season of Daredevil. The Netflix series have stalled and stagnated for the most part. Conversely, Legion, a part of The X-Men cinematic universe at Fox, has captured my imagination with its inventiveness and is now front runner for genre series of the year.

Stream The Defenders on Netflix from 18th August. Coincedently, that would have been my late mum's 76th birthday.

Excited for Marvel's The Defenders or could care less? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

House of Cards sees "One nation, Underwood!"

Netflix's adaptation of House of Cards, in 2013, proved the streaming service was more than capable of producing prestige drama. The award-winning series would be followed by Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, The Crown and many more.

House of Cards season 5 sees the Underwoods, played with gleeful malice by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, battling for re-election against Republican rival Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman).

This new trailer for the upcoming season suggests an even darker tone than previous seasons, which didn't shy away from the murkier realms of politics. The incumbent president is clearly looking to secure more than two terms in office, in a move reminiscent of Senator Palpatine in Star Wars.

House of Cards season 5 is available to stream from 30th May.

Looking forward to House of Cards or do you think the current state of real word politics has eclipsed it? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Star Wars ruined John Boyega's love life

So, it's May and Star Wars celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. However, the Force moves in mysterious ways as John Boyega (Finn) discovered whilst on a date.

Speaking on the BBC's The Graham Norton Show, he said: "I went on a date in New York City and we were driving through Times Square and she asked, 'What do you do for a living?' I just pointed up at the 'Star Wars' billboard that showed me with a lightsaber and said, 'That!' That was the end of the relationship - the poster really affected her... I blocked her on my phone."

Boyega reprises the role of Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Star Wars fan film Han Solo: A Smuggler's Trade

Whilst Star Wars fans wait for the as yet untitled Han Solo spin-off movie from Lucasfilm. Why not watch Star Wars fan film Han Solo: A Smuggler's Trade.

"The Universe's favorite intergalactic smuggler sets out on an epic quest to rescue an old friend. He uses his mechanical skills, cunning wit, and his creative interpretation of the rules to fight, flirt, bribe, and barter his way to victory. But will it be enough? Before there was A New Hope, there was Han Solo -- just an outlaw trying to survive in a galaxy more corrupt than he is... and far less forgiving."

This is a labour of love from director Keith Allen. Jamie Costa's Han Solo is not too shabby at all. There's an Indiana Jones vibe to proceedings, and that's no bad thing given both Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises are owned by Disney.

I've featured fan films in the past and am going to increase coverage going forward.

If you have a Star Wars fan film you'd like to share, please contact me.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Jeff Goldblum cast in sequel to Jurassic World

THR exclusively reports actor Jeff Goldblum is returning to the land that time forgot.

Goldblum will be reprising his iconic role as Dr. Ian Malcolm, the self-proclaimed chaotician, for the first time since The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He's joining co-stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in the first Jurassic World sequel.

Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow has handed directing chores to J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls). Trevorrow is busy over at Lucasfilm preparing for Star Wars: Episode IX.

The next installment in the Jurassic World franchise is slated for release 22nd June, 2018.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Disney reshuffles Star Wars and Indiana Jones

Disney's announced updated release dates for its Lucasfilm franchises.

Star Wars: Episode IX, directed by Colin Trevorrow, will be in theatres 24th May, 2019. A year after the Han Solo spin-off movie and not December as expected by most fans. Marking a return to the summer blockbuster ethos of the original and prequel trilogies.

Meanwhile, Indiana Jones has been moved back to 10th July, 2020. Director Steven Spielberg is at the helm with Harrison Ford reprising the titular role.

So, what do you think about the move from December to May for the final installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy? Personally, I like opening my Star Wars presents during the holiday season. Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Star Wars Day CuffLinks.com giveaway

The fine folks at CuffLinks.com are celebrating Star Wars Day with a galactic giveaway to mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars' release in the US this May.

CuffLinks.com sent over a selection of their licensed Star Wars products and, as you can see, these are high quality cufflinks that fans will want to collect and wear. The classic Star Wars branded boxes can be displayed with pride too.

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Here's the important details on the Star Wars Day giveaway:

  • Provide first/last name and email address
  • Grand Prize (1): $700 value gift of Star Wars accessories
  • Second Prize (10): 1 pair of Darth Vader socks

The competition runs 25th April thru 3rd May. The winner will be announced on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, with 40% off Star Wars items across the store.

To enter simply visit CuffLinks.com. No purchase necessary.

Good luck and may the Force be with you. Always.

The Force Is Here!
Shop the premier place for the complete officially licensed Star Wars Cufflinks Collection, brought to you by Cufflinks, Inc. Accept no imitators, our collection is officially licensed by Lucasfilm Ltd.

This blog post is sponsored by CuffLinks.com and as such I may receive compensation for any referrals.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Star Wars fan film The Force and the Fury

Star Wars fan films have thrived since the original trilogy. Now, Star Wars: The Force and the Fury continues the tradition and is dedicated to the memory of the late Carrie Fisher.

Fellow fans are going to love this.

"A Jedi crash lands on a barren planet and is pursued by a mysterious Sith who seems to know him."

Fan films can be an excellent opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their talents. Kudos to Star Wars: The Force and the Fury writer and director Jason Satterlund.

If you have a Star Wars fan film you'd like to share, please contact me.

Source: LFF

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Xbox Games with Gold celebrates Star Wars this May

Star Wars celebrates its 40th anniversary this May. So, Games with Gold has something for Star Wars fans.

This May subscribers can download Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for free. Both titles are backwards compatible on Xbox One.

I've purchased them previously and would recommend any fan to try them. LEGO Star Wars games are always a treat and The Complete Saga is no exception.

What's your favourite Star Wars video game? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Battlefront game Star Wars fans are looking for

EA dropped a trailer for Star Wars Battlefront II during Star Wars Celebration. Unlike its predecessor, the new game will traverse all three Star Wars trilogies and that's a mouthwatering proposition for fans.

The upcoming sequel will include a single player (SP) campaign written by former IGN staffers Mitch Dyer and Walt Williams. The latter is best known for Spec Ops: The Line.

Star Wars Battlefront II follows Iden Versio (Janina Gavankar), commander of Inferno Squad an Imperial special forces unit, in the wake of the second Death Star's destruction in Return of the Jedi. It's an interesting premise focussing on the Empire's perspective with a female protagonist a la FemShep fighting for Cerberus in Mass Effect 2.

Will Versio side with the Rebellion by the end or remain faithful to her beloved late Emperor? Gamers will learn the answer this November.

As with Mass Effect: Andromeda. EA Access members will have early access to Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox One.

Looking forward to Star Wars Battlefront's single player? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Carrie Fisher helped write Star Wars: The Last Jedi

During The Last Jedi panel at Star Wars Celebration, director Rian Johnson revealed the late Carrie Fisher assisted with the screenplay for the first sequel to The Force Awakens.

"It was such a moving tribute... I don't know if I can add to that. I love her so much, I just adore her. I connected with her first and foremost as a writer. She's a brilliant writer, with an incredible mind. I'd go to her house and we'd sit on her bed for hours, going through the script. (We) would just have these kind of stream-of-consciousness, Jazz poetry, ad-lib sessions, and I would just scribble down everything she said on my script. And then at the end of six hours, there would be this four word line of dialogue that would be the distillation of all that, that was brilliant."

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, speaking exclusively to ABC News, clarified Carrie Fisher would not be appearing in Star Wars: Episode IX following her brother Todd's remarks to the New York Daily News.

“He was probably confused because we finished everything in VIII… we were able to complete shooting in the summer… Unfortunately, Carrie passed away, so by the time we were well underway with Episode IX in our thoughts, we had not written the script yet. But we’ve regrouped, we started over again in January. So, sadly, Carrie will not be in IX.”

This is sad news for fans. However, director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi appears to be a fitting swan song for the beloved actress and writer. The first teaser trailer dropped during Star Wars Celebration and suggests a more mythological tale with tragedy at its core.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A tribute to Carrie Fisher at Star Wars Celebration

Cast and crew pay tribute to the late Carrie Fisher at Star Wars Celebration during an emotional 40 Years of Star Wars panel featuring franchise creator George Lucas.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Force for Change on Good Morning America

Star Wars: The Last Jedi co-stars Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley appeared on Good Morning America to promote Force for Change in celebration of Star Wars' 40th anniversary.

Fans have a chance to win an appearance in the upcoming Han Solo spin-off movie, a night at Skywalker Ranch and attend the premiere of The Last Jedi. What's not to like and, best of all, you're helping a charitable cause.

Hamill and Ridley will be joining past and present cast members at Star Wars Celebration this Thursday.

Fans can donate to Force for Change here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Carrie Fisher to appear in Star Wars: Episode IX?

The late Carrie Fisher may appear in Star Wars: Episode IX after her family gave their permission to use existing footage from The Force Awakens and first sequel The Last Jedi. Carrie's brother, Todd, recently spoke to The New York Daily Times:

“She’s as much a part of it as anything and I think her presence now is even more powerful than it was, like Obi-Wan — when the saber cuts him down he becomes more powerful. I feel like that's what's happened with Carrie. I think the legacy should continue.”

General Leia's role in Episode IX, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), is unclear and Disney has said the script is not being rewritten. The final installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy is expected to begin lensing this July for release in December 2019.

Fisher will be remembered during an emotional 40th anniversary panel at Star Wars Celebration this Thursday. It is expected a teaser trailer for The Last Jedi will be shown and a standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi movie, with Ewan McGregor reprising the titular role, will be announced during the 4-day event in Orlando.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Forest Whitaker at Star Wars Celebration

Forest Whitaker, who plays Saw Gerrera in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Rebels, returns to Star Wars Celebration.

Whitaker will be making his second Star Wars Celebration appearance, and will also stop by the Star Wars Show LIVE stage with Rogue One co-star Felicity Jones, on Saturday, for a one-on-one chat.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando begins 13th April, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars' US release and rumoured to premiere the first teaser trailer for The Last Jedi.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Xbox Scorpio specs officially revealed this Thursday

This Thursday Digital Foundry will exclusively reveal the specs for Microsoft's upcoming successor to the Xbox One. Project Scorpio.

It is claimed the new Xbox is much more powerful than PS4 Pro. So, the announcement will be of great interest to gamers ahead of a full unveiling at E3. It has been confirmed the console will include a 4K Blu-ray disc player and internal power supply like the Xbox One S.

Quite a coup for Digital Foundry, which is known for its in-depth critical analysis of hardware and software. The Xbox brand has been subject to fair criticism since the bungled launch of the Xbox One in 2013 and PS4's subsequent domination of the current console generation.

Phil Spencer, and his team at Microsoft, must have something special if the company is prepared to take this kind of risk. Spencer alluded to an early Scorpio reveal during IGN's Unlocked Podcast in which he said the emphasis would be on games at E3.

Digital Foundry will reveal the specs, via Eurogamer, on Thursday at 2PM (BST).

Are you excited about Xbox Scorpio and native 4K gaming? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Hayden Christensen at Star Wars Celebration

May marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars' release in the US. So, this year's Star Wars Celebration is extra special for fans.

Hayden Christensen is appearing at Star Wars Celebration for the first time since 2002, which has fuelled ongoing speculation he's reprised his role as Anakin Skywalker in director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi. The actor's likeness appeared in Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Christensen's portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, in the Star Wars prequels, was met with mixed reaction until the latter moments of Revenge of the Sith. Most notably when a dismembered Skywalker solidifies Obi-Wan Kenobi's (Ewan McGregor) failure. However, Natalie Portman delivers a bland performance herself. This could be attributed to the director, dialogue and an over-reliance on special effects. Therefore, I'm optimistic given Johnson's focus on a character-driven story.

Hayden Christensen joins Mark Hamill and more at a special "40 Years of Star Wars" panel on 13th April. Lucasfilm teased the lineup:

"Never before have this many involved in bringing Star Wars to life — from the original trilogy to the prequels to the current Star Wars Rebels animated series — joined together in one place to discuss a galaxy far, far away. Plenty of surprises are in store so fans will not want to miss this very important kick-off to Celebration."

Stay tuned for more coverage of Star Wars Celebration.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Destiny 2 reboots the franchise this September

Bungie's Destiny promised more than it delivered upon launch in September 2014. A so-so story was overshadowed by fun Fireteam adventures with friends on PSN and Peter Dinklage's infamous Ghost. Dinklage was ultimately replaced by Nolan North best known for playing Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series.

Subsequently, Destiny has evolved with expansion packs, but I stopped playing after completing the original campaign and never went back.

Earlier this week Bungie released a teaser trailer for Destiny 2 featuring Cayde-6 (Nathan Fillion) and it was comedy gold. Could this be the sequel fans are looking for?

On Thursday Bungie released a full trailer and announced the release date for the upcoming sequel. 8th September on PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One and PC. As before, PlayStation owners have access to exclusive content before anyone else. Time-limited exclusivity remains a point of contention within the gaming industry. I think it's a mistake across all platforms, but that's business for you.

Bungie won't be revealing any gameplay footage until 18th May. E3 will only be weeks away and presumably the developer will appear on the PlayStation stage.

There are several editions of Destiny 2 available for pre-order and I've already pulled the trigger. Because Beta.

Are you looking forward to Destiny 2 and the promise of a more story focussed adventure? Does it matter that loot won't carry over from the original game? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II at Star Wars Celebration

EA has officially announced Star Wars Battlefront II. A trailer will premiere in April during Star Wars Celebration. This will be livestreamed from the convention in Orlando along with a panel including in-house developers Dice, Criterion and Motive.

Star Wars Battlefront was roundly criticised for lacking a single player campaign, but established an enduring multiplayer following. So, that's been addressed in the upcoming sequel with EA interacting with the Lucasfilm Story Group.

I was a critic of Star Wars Battlefront at launch and promised myself I wouldn't buy it! It became my most played game of last year, well until my PlayStation Plus subscription lapsed.

The new game is expected to be released for PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One and PC this November prior to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The previous game coincided with The Force Awakens and included DLC based on the movie in 2015. It's a safe bet there'll be The Last Jedi DLC.

Be sure to subscribe for more coverage of Star Wars Battlefront and Star Wars Celebration.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming gatecrashed by Vulture

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man's latest adventure just became my second most anticipated movie of 2017 behind The Last Jedi. Because Star Wars.

The new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer dropped yesterday and features Peter Parker (Tom Holland) facing Vulture (Michael Keaton) with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) confiscating his Spider-Man suit. An hilarious cameo from Captain America (Chris Evans) is icing on the cake.

There's a sense of momentum following Spider-Man's celebrated cameo in last year's Captain America: Civil War and news the beloved character will appear in Avengers: Infinity War. Sony has confirmed there'll be at least 3 Spider-Man movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I'd suggest this remains the new status quo.

Looking forward to Spider-Man: Homecoming? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is no stranger to the silver screen. Angelina Jolie played the titular character to mixed reviews in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, last decade.

Now, Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) assumes the mantle in a cinematic reboot following the recent critical and commercial success of the original video game franchise, which was in decline until Tomb Raider wiped the slate clean and deftly mixed movie inspirations in 2013. Actress Camilla Luddington breathed new life into the role with a script by acclaimed writer Rhianna Pratchett.

Director Roar Uthaug elaborates on his reboot based on the 2013 game of the same name:

"Being a longtime fan of the game, it’s important to me to honor the Lara Croft legacy and capture that spirit. It’s great to know that there’s such a passionate global fan base for Lara and her world, and our commitment to that will be evident in our movie. What’s different about this “Tomb Raider” movie is that it’s an origin story for the big screen, focusing not only on Lara’s strength and physical accomplishments but her humanity. We see Lara as a young woman, smart and capable but largely unfocused, and follow her on a dangerous journey that will push her to her limits in every sense, and allow her to hone the skills she needs to ultimately become who she was meant to be. As Lara Croft, Alicia Vikander is brilliant. She brings great depth to a complex role that is both physically and emotionally demanding. We hope this film will delight fans around the world and add another intriguing chapter to the Tomb Raider story."

Tomb Raider, originally released on the ill-fated Sega Saturn, become synonymous with PlayStation in the mid 1990s, and I followed the franchise for several years, collecting merchandise in the process. Here was a female archaeologist possessing the chutzpah of Indiana Jones.

Tomb Raider is released in theatres in March 2018.

Looking forward to seeing Vikander as Ms Croft? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Carrie Fisher's death won't alter The Last Jedi

In the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's box office success. It's no surprise Disney plans to continue the Star Wars saga beyond a sequel trilogy.

"We’re starting to talk about what could happen after Episode IX. About what could be another decade-and-a-half of Star Wars stories," Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Thursday during a talk to film students in Santa Monica.

During the talk, Iger confirmed that The Last Jedi has not been altered in light of Carrie Fisher’s death last December. At the time there was speculation surrounding what impact it might have on the upcoming Star Wars sequel directed by Rian Johnson.

"When we bought Lucasfilm, we were going to make three films — Episodes VII, VIII and IX," he said.

"We had to deal with tragedy at the end of 2016. Carrie appears throughout VIII. We are not changing VIII to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it is in VIII. In Rogue One, we had some digital character. We are not doing that with Carrie."

Looking forward to further adventures in a galaxy far, far away? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Watch footage from the beginning of Ghost in the Shell

Paramount Pictures has released five minutes of footage from director Rupert Sanders' upcoming live-action adaptation of Japanese Manga Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson.

Here’s the official synopsis:

"Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic¹s advancements in cyber technology."

The movie has courted controversy surrounding the casting of Johansson as Major. However, the footage reveals stunning art direction underscored by composer Clint Mansell (Moon). Mansell's known to Mass Effect fans for his haunting orchestrations in Mass Effect 3.

Ghost in the Shell is in cinemas 31st March.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Gareth Edwards on Darth Vader's Rogue One massacre

Much of the success of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first Star Wars standalone movie, can be attributed to the exhilarating final act, which, as I suggested in my review, took Star Wars to the nth degree and into A New Hope.

During the SXSW Film Festival, director Gareth Edwards spoke to Fandango and shed light on Rogue One's extensive summer reshoot that included the addition of Darth Vader boarding the Rebel ship, with horrifying consequences, in the final moments.

“He arrives and obliterates the Calamari ship, and then the blockade runner gets out just in time and he pursues the blockade runner. And then Jabez was like, ‘I think we need to get Darth on that ship,’ and I thought, yeah, that’s a brilliant idea and would love to do it, but there’s no way they’re going to let us do it. It’s a big number and we had, what, like 3 or 4 months before release.

Kathy [Kennedy] came in and Jabez thought, f--k it, and pitched her this idea, and she loved it. Suddenly within a week or two we were at Pinewood shooting that scene. [They] came up with a whole shopping list of ideas. 70% we used, and maybe 30% felt a little too extreme. They were things you hadn’t seen him do before…

It just felt right; it felt like the right thing to do. It really is just the greatest hits of Darth; that corridor. And we really didn’t want to do anything you haven’t seen him do so it didn’t throw people off. We kept it to what had been established.”

Fans finally witnessed the wrath of Darth Vader in a way the prequels failed to convey.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released on Blu-ray this April.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Loving the Alien

Are directors Sir Ridley Scott and James Cameron seemingly in friendly competition at 20th Century Fox? Both are expanding their respective sci-fi franchises.

Alien and Avatar will serve up a sequel avalanche over the next decade as the studio battles Disney with its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars sequels. The latter once had pride of place at 20th Century Fox before the House of Mouse bought Lucasfilm in 2012.

Speaking to Fandango, a booking site dedicated to film fandom, at SXSW Film Festival, Ridley Scott outlined his vision for four more Alien prequels.

"It will go Prometheus, Awakening, Covenant.. fairly integral where this colonization ship is on the way...."

Presumably the director meant Prometheus, Covenant and Awakening, which begins principal photography as early as 2018. Actress Katherine Waterston called him out on potential spoilers. "You're giving away too much!", she screamed.

Scott continues, “If this is successful, and then the next one, and then there will definitely be three more.”

Will the franchise remain truly alien after six prequels? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Phantom Menace haunts Mass Effect: Andromeda

What follows are my initial impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda first trial on EA Access.

As I only finished the original Mass Effect trilogy - arguably one of the greatest space operas in any medium - a couple of weeks ago. Commander Shepard and the fabled crew of the Normandy are still fresh in one's mind.

Possible mild spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't played Mass Effect...

Andromeda seemingly has an identity crisis. At first blush it's a disparate mishmash of the original Mass Effect, Halo and Batman: Arkham franchises. Too familiar tropes and first contact degenerates into a firestorm with rock people before you draw breath. So much for the Prime Directive. This is Star Trek funded by Cerberus. More on Cerberus later.

There's a nagging feeling of The Phantom Menace, surrounding the opening act, in spite of a sense of awe I haven't experienced since playing Phantasy Star Online (PSO) for Sega Dreamcast. Why should I care about the fate of the main protagonist, and her crew, when the writers rushed the introduction and the role of Pathfinder doesn't feel earned? That said, I'm enjoying playing as female Ryder and there's plenty of fun callbacks to the original trilogy: from familiar soundtrack cues to sound effects and much more.

Boarding the Tempest evoked emotions once reserved for the Normandy, USS Enterprise, Millennium Falcon and TARDIS.

Appreciate the more nuanced dialogue options in Andromeda. Paragon and Renegade, inherited from Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), was perfect for Shepherd's war with the Reapers in the original trilogy. Amusingly, it's too easy to unintentionally start romancing other characters, and this levity is welcome in the first few hours of the game. At its heart, Andromeda should be about exploration and hope.

Personally, I'm enjoying the banter with fellow crewmates at this early stage in the story. Liam, the most rounded member of the human crew, Peebee, a playful Asari, and Vetra, a female Turian capable of giving Garrus a run for his money, are the standouts thus far.

SAM, your AI assistant, appeared to be an annoying incarnation of Halo's Cortana in various video clips I'd watched. However, the backstory behind SAM's controversial development, begun by Ryder's father, on the Citadel, before embarking on the long journey to Andromeda, suggests a compelling mystery is in the offing. This is underscored by SAM and Ryder's rich interaction aboard the Nexus, headquarters of the Andromeda Initiative.

It's worth noting the conflict between artificial intelligence and organics drove the narrative of the original trilogy and impending apocalypse. However, there's a hopefulness here that is channelled through my favourite character. Ryder herself. Fryda Wolff embraces the role with an aplomb worthy of Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Force Awakens. I can't speak to the male incarnation.

The past couple of years I, like many other gamers, have suffered from open world fatigue, which Guerrilla Games' Horizon Zero Dawn deftly dodges. Andromeda appears to have a level of depth that may be just too overwhelming for some and is not in keeping with the franchise's legacy. Narrative fans may feel encumbered by crafting. The Witcher 3 remains atop my pile of shame as the notion of expending hundreds of hours playing a single game is too daunting a premise.

The Mass Effect universe has never looked shinier. The Frostbite 3 engine has pedigree as evidenced by stablemates Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront. There's a very rare pleasure in simply wandering around the Tempest and basking in its reflective beauty. The trial version includes the day-one patch. Hopefully, BioWare will support the game, post release, with the same fervor as CD Projekt Red.

Art direction is uniformly excellent, just don't mention the humans and their Pingu lips. In 2017 it's inexcusable given Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare's other franchise, boasts superior animations and dates back to 2014. Humanities tech alludes to Cerberus, which feeds into a rumour that Cora is the Illusive Man's daughter.

What gave Mass Effect 2 its edge was working with the enemy, lead by Martin Sheen's Illusive Man, propelling the game into The Empire Strikes Back of the saga. With that in mind, it's possible there'll be a twist to this tale of exploration leading to a chilling cliffhanger! Unless it's a self-contained installment, which I'm hoping it's not. Mass Effect, like Star Wars, warrants a sequel trilogy.

The Mako was an infamous addition to the original Mass Effect and possessed all the finesse of a helium balloon with a gun strapped to it. My heart sank at the notion of more planetside traversal with its successor. The Nomad. However, the Nomad handles really well and your squad can disembark, with ease, to explore or exterminate at will.

Whilst the combat system has been further honed since Mass Effect 2 and 3. The addition of a jet pack has lead to minutes lost frustratingly impacting against a wall, or cliff, that appears impassable as your squad mates look on from above, helplessly. I felt like telling them to get on with the mission whilst I returned to the comfort of the Tempest.

Then there's the Kett. Rock folk who prefer to shoot first and ask no questions. If these are the big bad in Andromeda, then they're Z-List canon fodder compared to the Geth, Cerberus, Collectors and the godlike Reapers.

Much has been made of the inferior character models, especially female Ryder's default appearance. Meet Jyn 'Erso' Ryder. Whilst the customisation control isn't cutting edge, a few minutes tweaking settings, and with a little help from a YouTube tutorial, I was able to create Felicity Jones' likeness.

It's odd that for all the secrecy surrounding Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA would enforce a piecemeal embargo that's culminated in the next installment imploding into nothing more than merciless memes mocking animations, online, within 24 hours. This is compounded in a month where The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn have released to critical acclaim. The latter is Sony's most successful new IP launch in the history of PlayStation.

Further to the above. Michael Gamble, producer of the original Mass Effect trilogy and Andromeda, has responded to criticisms on Twitter.

"We appreciate the critiques (and memes!), but I am very happy to see how much y'all like the game after 10 hours...and...it gets even better."

Despite coming into this with a prejudice based on memes and early impressions from other gaming sites. I've enjoyed playing the trial over ten hours. It's a slow burner that maybe too slow for some. Standing in the Pathfinder's quarters aboard the Tempest, gazing out upon the great expanse of Andromeda, I had an epiphany: this is the Mass Effect I cherish. Can't wait to properly explore the new galaxy with my Ryder. FemShep's watching from beyond...

Lastly. I did smile when FemShep was already selected as legend during character creation. BioWare, you get me!

Are you playing the trial? Are you enjoying it, or do you want to see fixes before making a final decision to buy? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Yoda to return in The Last Jedi?

During a panel at SXSW Frank Oz was asked whether or not Yoda would return in Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

"I feel like I’m a prisoner at war here, and I can only give you my name, rank and serial number," Oz said. "To be true to the people who asked me, and they are kind of my family, I have to say I’ve been asked not to talk about it. I love Yoda. I would be happy to talk to you about it at the time they let me."

A cryptic answer and one that suggests the beloved Jedi Master maybe seen on the big screen this December in director Rian Johnson's Star Wars sequel. Observant fans would have heard Yoda's voice during Rey's vision in The Force Awakens.

This feeds into an Episode VIII theory, I postulated during Star Wars Celebration Europe, that we'll see Ewan McGregor reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi on screen. His voice, blended with Sir Alec Guinness, can also be heard in The Force Awakens. It makes narrative sense, especially if The Last Jedi is centred around Luke training Rey a la Yoda training Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

Frank Oz has previously reprised the role of Yoda in Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD.