Friday, 20 October 2017

JJ Abrams to take Star Wars elsewhere in Episode IX



JJ Abrams is back at the helm of a Star Wars movie, following Colin Trevorrow's departure, and shared a tantalising glimpse into his plans for the untitled Episode IX, which concludes the sequel trilogy that began with the director's The Force Awakens.

In a recent interview with the BBC, alongside composer Michael Giacchino, Abrams said, “Well, it’s certainly something that I’m aware of now working on ‘Episode IX’ — coming back into this world after having done ‘Episode VII.’ I feel like we need to approach this with the same excitement that we had when we were kids, loving what these movies were.”

Abrams added, “At the same time, we have to take them places that they haven’t gone, and that’s sort of our responsibility. It’s a strange thing – Michael’s worked on things like ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars,’ and these are the things of dreams. Yet we can’t just revel in that; we have to go elsewhere.”

From the buzz surrounding Rian Johnson's upcoming The Last Jedi, Abrams has a tough act to follow with writing partner Chris Terrio.

Star Wars: Episode IX is in theatres 20th December 2019.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

EA shutters Visceral Games and pivots Star Wars title



Following BioWare Montreal's closure in the wake of Mass Effect: Andromeda. EA has shuttered Visceral Games (formerly EA Redwood Shores), perhaps best known for the Dead Space survival horror franchise.

Visceral Games was working on an untitled Star Wars game, with Uncharted's Amy Hennig as project lead, scheduled for release in 2019 to coincide with Star Wars: Episode IX directed by JJ Abrams.

The reason for the shift in the untitled Star Wars project's focus is that EA feels it has "become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design."

"We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore."

EA, like several AAA publishers, is seemingly moving towards monetised loot boxes at the expense of single-player storytelling. For example, the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II forgoes a season pass in favour of paid-for loot, which has left a bitter taste in the video game community weeks from release.

As a Star Wars fan, I was really looking forward to Star Wars Battlefront II this November. However, I've cancelled my pre-order for the Xbox One X enhanced title for now.

Is a fixation on loot to the detriment of storytelling in modern video games? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Han Solo spin-off is titled Solo: A Star Wars Story



Principal photography on the second standalone Star Wars movie at Disney has wrapped and director Ron Howard took to social media to announce the title of the hitherto untitled prequel to A New Hope.

Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Fans reacted to the functional title with hilarious memes. It's no Han Solo at Stars' End or countless pulp Marvel comic strip titles. Ultimately, Solo: A Star Wars Story is in keeping with last December's Rogue One. And "Solo" sounds much better when said in the voice of Jabba the Hutt. Just saying.

The troubled Star Wars production witnessed the departure of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller weeks from completing the spin-off. Ron Howard has a storied history with Lucasfilm and there's no reason to think Solo: A Star Wars Story will be a disaster. However, as a fan of the franchise, I would have welcomed a December, not May, release next year.

What do you think of the title? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Predator returns to UK cinemas for 30th anniversary



Get to da choppa! Thanks to the folks at Park Circus Films, fans of the original Predator can celebrate the 30th anniversary of Arnold Schwarzenegger's classic sci-fi action movie, directed by John McTiernan, on the big screen.



Predator sees Arnold joined on his quest to defeat an invisible alien hunter by Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Elpidia Carrillo, Richard Chaves, Jesse Ventura and Shane Black. The latter is directing next year’s reboot The Predator.

The movie was a box office hit, spawning a successful video game tie-in, Dark Horse Comics series, sequels and Aliens vs. Predator spin-off franchise.

Predator returns to UK cinemas from 9th November. Park Circus Films will also release Predator in selected international markets throughout the autumn and winter.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Stranger Things gets a Friday the 13th trailer



It's Friday the 13th and Stranger Things season 2 is released this month in time for Halloween. So, the fine folks at Netflix have released the final trailer and it's a horror movie homage spectacular.



Stranger Things season 2 will be available to stream on Netflix from 27th October.

Excited about returning to Hawkins, Indiana? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Watch Daisy Ridley perform an Eminem rap for Vogue



Daisy Ridley reprises the role of Rey in director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December. She appears on the November cover of Vogue magazine and was interviewed by the publication. At one point Ms Ridley performs a rap by Eminem.



Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theatres 15th December and you can book tickets now.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 is an existential masterpiece



Director Denis Villeneuve's follow-up to Ridley Scott's seminal tech noir opus Blade Runner is a transcendental sequel that brings the cerebral to Hollywood.

If you're looking for high-octane action; you would do well to look elsewhere. Villeneuve artfully unpacks the enigmatic core of the original Blade Runner at a languid pace, befitting a transformative museum tour, that respects the source material and audience's intelligence in Blade Runner 2049.

Villeneuve presents a central protagonist, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), who embarks on a rerun of Rick Deckard's (Harrison Ford) mission to retire a replicant 30 years later. This blade runner is in a romantic relationship with a holographic personal assistant called Joi (Ana de Armas) that recalls Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) in Spike Jonze's Her.

Ultimately, K's journey is a Pinocchio parable as explored in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence and that's not the only reference to the late Stanley Kubrick as fans will discover.

Harrison Ford reprises a fan favourite role a la Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, all I'll say is that his performance as an aging Deckard is mesmeric and a career high. Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks and Jared Leto are all phenomenal. Hoeks bares an uncanny resemblance to Sean Young who played Rachael in the original Blade Runner.

Sweeping vistas are wrapped in an industrial soundscape with callbacks to the original score, composed by Vangelis, and Sergei Prokofiev's childhood classic Peter and the Wolf.

It's a treatise on existentialism in a neon-drenched dystopia and a heartbreaking love story between an android and an app achingly distilled by Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas.

Blade Runner 2049 left me melancholy and, conversely, optimistic by its enchanting end. Amidst the deafening roar of nihilistic blockbusters, there are compelling stories of the human condition being told like in fairytales of old. That's worth tears in the rain.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer embraces the dark side



The highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer dropped during Monday Night Football. Director Rian Johnson has orchestrated a masterclass in misdirection and taken expectations to the nth degree.



Well, it looks like the galaxy is in flux as it should be in the second act. Everything has gone to hell as heroes are tempted by the dark side. The space battle, lead by Kylo Ren in his TIE Silencer, evokes Revenge of the Sith and that's a good thing.

One thing is certain. Porg mania is going to be a thing this holiday season.

Book tickets to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi from Fandango. This is an affiliate link and therefore I may receive compensation for any referrals.

Is the hype real? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Last Jedi trailer during Monday Night Football



The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiered during Star Wars Celebration Orlando last April.

Now, as the holiday season and The Last Jedi's release fast approaches, a trailer will be shown during halftime on Monday Night Football, in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears, on ESPN.

This isn't news to avid Star Wars fans following Mark Hamill on Twitter. He made a cryptic announcement weeks ago before quickly deleting the tweet, but not before news spread.

Tickets will go on sale everywhere immediately afterwards.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be in theatres 15th December.

Booking tickets tomorrow or Tuesday morning? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Sphero R2-D2's rival R2-Q5 at New York Comic Con



Following the launch of R2-D2 and BB-9E on Force Friday. Sphero has brought R2-Q5 to New York Comic Con (NYCC) this week. The latest app-enabled droid is the dark side version of fan favourite R2-D2.

"R2-Q5™ is an Imperial astromech droid from a galaxy far, far away.... Control it with your smart device or keep this nefarious Droid in top shape with augmented reality training. R2-Q5’s signature front and rear LED lights are fully functional, and an integrated speaker means all sounds come right from the droid itself. Watch R2-Q5 interact with other Star Wars™ App-enabled Droids by Sphero, and view films from the Star Wars saga with R2-Q5 reacting by your side. This special droid has been brought to life thanks to Sphero technology."

The limited edition droid is on sale at NYCC. The Sphero R2-Q5 will be available for pre-order from 10th October, and is available in the UK exclusively at John Lewis from 27th October for £199.99.

Will you be bringing R2-Q5 home for the holidays? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Star Trek through the looking glass



Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery is a masterclass in mystery and suspense! After the two-part prologue aboard the USS Shenzhou, fans are finally introduced to the titular starship in a story that is to all intents a purposes another pilot.

In shades of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is en route to a penal colony, to serve time for treason and igniting the war with the Klingons, when the shuttle is attacked, the pilot killed and she's rescued by the mysterious USS Discovery.

Burnham boards a starship that is more Star Destroyer than exploration vessel inhabited by a militarised crew wearing black badges and seemingly on a black ops mission to defeat the Klingon threat by all means necessary. Old allies and former friends are distrusting.

In the heart of darkness lies the enigmatic Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) with his menagerie of familiar foes from the franchise's celebrated past. A morally ambiguous character hell bent on defeating an enemy with untested biological technology a la Project Genesis from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

To reiterate and develop an observation from my review of the two-part premiere. Some fans have commented that the look and feel is too advanced for a prequel series. However, what if this is the Mirror Universe, intimated through the use of reflections, colour and composition, and the Federation has focussed on empire resulting in rapid technological progress at the expense of peaceful coexistence?

Fun conjecture to be sure, but I never imagined thinking about Star Trek with such passion and genuine intrigue after Star Trek: The Next Generation ended. Deep Space Nine mined Babylon 5's episodic storytelling and still failed to capture my full attention. Voyager and Enterprise reprised too familiar Trek tropes.

Discovery doesn't shy away from body horror and the series' first away mission paid chilling homage to Aliens and John Carpenter's The Thing. Lorca's new pet has an unknown gruesome part to play in the future.

From Jason Isaacs' Captain Pike through a mirror darkly to allusions and references to Alice in Wonderland as Burnham tries to make sense of her place in a fractured universe. This is a Star Trek series I've always wanted to see since Yesterday's Enterprise.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Is Star Trek: Discovery worthy of Gene Roddenberry?



Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery is now available to stream on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US. So, I thought it might be fun to have a second opinion on the two-part premiere and have enlisted the help of Rob Wainfur, founder of The Bearded Trio and a contributor to this blog.

Rob has avidly followed the franchise since the heyday of Star Trek: The Next Generation. How does the new series stack up against such a storied legacy created by Gene Roddenberry?

Guest post by Rob Wainfur

Here are my spoiler-free thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery. I am a huge Star Trek fan and think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the finest TV ever made. How does Star Trek: Discovery do and is it worthy of the Star Trek name?

The first thing I must say about Star Trek: Discovery is it looks incredible, probably one of the best looking TV series I've ever seen. I really mean this! The battle sequences are up there with anything I've seen on the small screen or the big screen for that matter. It looks like Star Trek with a hint of Mass Effect at times. Very pleasing on the eye. The technology used sometimes looks a little advanced for the timeline, but I can forgive this for artistic licence.

The sound effects are pleasing, especially for a Trek fan like me. From time to time you hear a familiar chime or alert sound that you know all too well from previous incarnations of Trek.

For a pilot episode it has a lot of potential. Not the strongest Trek pilot in regards of story, but certainly better than Encounter at Farpoint and The Caretaker. It didn't feel obliged to introduce everyone and everything, which a lot of pilots are guilty of. Saying that, I was a little bit surprised they didn't introduce more main characters from the Federation side only stopping to introduce you to the captain, the first officer and the science officer.

The story isn't the strongest point of the pilot, but that may just be me. I was never a fan of Klingon episodes, leaning too much to combat with their honour and beliefs playing a strong part. The decision to have the Klingons speak in their native tongue with subtitles got a little tiresome and I was wishing I had an universal translator at one point. The story I felt was a cross between Star Trek: Nemesis and JJ Abrams' Trek reboot. The episode did dip, but it's a pilot episode so I guess that was inevitable.

I had low expectations for Discovery and I was all ready to describe it based on my predetermined expectations. I thought it was going to be a wine spritzer. A fine wine that has been cared for and made with love and then watered down to appeal to the masses. I was wrong. It is Trek. It deserves the name.

It could have been better, yes. The acting I hope improves, but even my favourite Trek, Deep Space Nine, suffered with that problem at first. A promising start with future potential. I hope we get more Trek stories and a little less battle and fighting in future episodes. I hope Trek on TV is here to stay and lives long and prospers.

Rating - 7/10

We'll revisit the series after the midseason finale and update with our opinions. Will the war with the Klingons dominate or exploration prevail?

This review originally appeared on The Bearded Trio.