Tuesday, 14 July 2020

The Empire Strikes Back tops box office 40 years on

Living in strange times, we are. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is number one at the UK box office, the week Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and my dad both celebrate their 78th birthdays, 40 years since its original release in 1980. The Star Wars sequel has repeated this feat in the US too.

Cinema chains are beginning to reopen following the easing of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are confident we can look after our staff and our customers with enhanced protocols. By the time we reopen in the UK, our methods will have been responsibly and robustly deployed in the real world,” said Vue boss Tim Richards.

“We have learned how to do this from our operations in Taiwan where we never closed and have successfully operated through pandemics such as SARS in the past; and from our sites in Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland and Lithuania, where we have recently and successfully reopened to the public.”

Are you looking forward to going to the cinema again or will you wait for a home release of upcoming movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Star Wars: The Bad Batch coming to Disney+

There's a new Star Wars spin-off coming to your galaxy in 2021. The Bad Batch, a unique squad of clones first seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, are getting their own animated series on Disney+.

“Giving new and existing fans the final chapter of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been our honor at Disney+, and we are overjoyed by the global response to this landmark series,” said Agnes Chu, senior vice president, Content, Disney+. “While The Clone Wars may have come to its conclusion, our partnership with the groundbreaking storytellers and artists at Lucasfilm Animation is only beginning. We are thrilled to bring Dave Filoni’s vision to life through the next adventures of the Bad Batch.”

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is executive produced by Dave Filoni (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels).

Are you excited for The Bad Batch or would you prefer an Ahsoka Tano spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Sony invests $250 million into Fortnite creator

Following the impressive Unreal Engine 5 tech demo running on PlayStation 5 (PS5) last May. Sony has acquired a minority stake in Epic Games, creator of the Fortnite online video game franchise.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations. There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience Fortnite,” Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in a statement.

“Throughout our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape,” Yoshida added.

Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney added, “Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike.”

Epic Games most recently worked with Lucasfilm on real-time visual effects rendering for Disney+'s first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian.

Friday, 10 July 2020

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cancelled

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the latest cancellation casualty at Netflix and I suspect this has more to do with Warner Bros. launching HBO Max than the series' success!

The reboot, starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) as the titular teen, quickly established itself as a millennial successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a cult favourite amongst fans of all ages with its charismatic cast (including Doctor Who's Michelle Gomez) and macabre humour. So much so, it's become a holiday season tradition in my house.

“Working on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been an incredible honor from day one. The cast, beginning with Kiernan as everyone’s favorite teen witch, has been an absolute joy. I am beyond thankful to the crew, writers, editors, assistants and everyone for pouring so much love into this dark dream of a show,” said showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. “I’m also grateful to our partners at Netflix, Warner Bros., Berlanti Television and Archie Comics for letting us tell the story we wanted to tell, the way we wanted to tell it. We can’t wait for everyone to see part four.”

In the same way Netflix shuttered its Marvel spin-offs prior to the launch of Disney+, now the streaming giant has HBO Max vying for subscribers in the midst of a global pandemic and socio-economic change. It'll be interesting to see if other series, produced for Netflix by The CW, will get the axe too. Sabrina may reappear on HBO Max in the future.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Ready Player Two this November

The sequel to Ready Player One, adapted into a big budget feature film by director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park), will be published this November. Author Ernest Cline takes readers back to the Oasis, a virtual reality game, in Ready Player Two (affiliate link).

In the wake of Netflix's Stranger Things capturing the zeitgeist for eighties nostalgia. Spielberg's blockbuster adaptation left me cold. Mostly. A sense of wonder, a hallmark of the director's beloved classics from my formative years, was markedly absent and in its place was attention deficit disorder (ADD) and cynical commercialism.

Alan Silvestri's soundtrack playfully references his work on Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future trilogy and longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, but that zest was too short-lived to elevate the film above a series of mediocre vignettes despite charismatic leads Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts) and Olivia Cooke (Art3mis).

Personally, I preferred listening to the Ready Player One audiobook read by Wil Wheaton. Wheaton is best known to geeks (myself included) for his portrayal of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) nemesis in The Big Bang Theory.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Hilary Swank’s Away mission to Mars

Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank is following in Matt Damon’s footsteps in Netflix’s upcoming sci-fi series. Away. Swank recently appeared in sci-fi thriller I Am Mother.

An official synopsis follows:

“As American astronaut Emma Green (Hilary Swank) prepares to lead an international crew on the first mission to Mars, she must reconcile her decision to leave behind her husband (Josh Charles) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman) when they need her the most.

As the crew’s journey into space intensifies, their personal dynamics and the effects of being away from their loved ones back on Earth become increasingly complex. Away shows that sometimes to reach for the stars, we must leave home behind.”

Away was created by Andrew Hinderaker. Showrunner Jessica Goldberg executive-produced the show, as well as Swank, Jason Katims, Matt Reeves, Andrew Hinderaker, Edward Zwick, Adam Kassan and Jeni Mulein. Netflix has released an official teaser trailer.

Away begins streaming 4th September exclusively on Netflix.

Monday, 6 July 2020

The Boys are back in town this September!

The Boys, Amazon Prime's darkly satirical superhero series adaptation comparing favourably with Watchmen, returns for a second season this September.

Amazon has released a first look clip introducing Stormfront played by Aya Cash. "I think Stormfront is like a nuclear bomb that goes off in the Seven," Cash previously said of the character. "Maybe nuclear bomb isn’t the right word. We’re in Chernobyl. There you go. It’s a Chernobyl thing. I think she’s here to blow up Vought. She’s here to try to get Vought back to the original idea behind creating superheroes... And she can be quite the feminist. There’s a lot of, I wouldn’t say misdirect, but she also is a very empowered woman."

Following the death of Translucent (Alex Hassell) in season one, Stormfront will challenge Homelander (Antony Starr) for leadership of the superhero group Seven.

The Boys' second season three-episode premiere is 4th September. The first season is streaming now on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Friday, 3 July 2020

Fallout from Westworld creators

The Last of Us isn't the only video game franchise getting a live-action adaptation and The Witcher is already on Netflix.

Amazon Studios has ordered Bethesda's Fallout from the showrunners of Westworld.

“Fallout is one of the greatest game series of all time,” Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter (THR). “Each chapter of this insanely imaginative story has cost us countless hours we could have spent with family and friends. We’re incredibly excited to partner with Todd Howard and the rest of the brilliant lunatics at Bethesda to bring this massive, subversive, and darkly funny universe to life with Amazon Studios."

"Fallout is an iconic global franchise, with legions of fans worldwide and a rich, deeply compelling storyline that powers it. And Jonah and Lisa are the perfect storytellers to bring this series to life,” said Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of television at Amazon Studios. “We’re thrilled to join with Bethesda to bring Fallout to television.”

Unlike Fallout 76, this is a spin-off I can get behind. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Captain Marvel's Brie Larson joins YouTube

Brie Larson, who plays the titular Captain Marvel in the MCU, has launched her own YouTube channel in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic and was ably assisted by YouTubers including iJustine AKA Justine Ezarik.

"YouTube has been a place that I've learned so much, whether it's been like how to use my printer, or it's been watching like how to be a considerate activist, this is like the place to talk about things that are important and that matter," Larson said. "It doesn't mean that there also isn't silly content. That there are ways to express myself personally, but there will also be deep conversations, anti-racist rhetoric, inclusive content. So with all that said, the following video is just me getting warmed up and feeling this out and getting to talk to a lot of really brilliant creators."

In related news. Larson is purportedly set to play Mara Jade, a Star Wars Legends character who married Luke Skywalker, in Kevin Feige's untitled Star Wars movie.

Larson's personal YouTube channel promises to bring some sunshine into our lives and much-needed distraction from the 'new normal'. A lifelong Nintendo fan, I wonder if she also plays Animal Crossing?

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Retro Games reimagines the Commodore VIC-20

Retro Games, the company behind The C64 (affiliate link) and The C64 Mini (affiliate link), is expanding its successful 8-bit home computer line to include the Commodore VIC-20, which was the predecessor to the Commodore 64 and sold over one million units.

"We are really excited to bring you even more of the most loved retro games ever on two of the most iconic home computers of all time, combined in this latest incarnation of The C64 range - this time with full working keyboard and a classic VIC-20 style," said Retro Games' managing director, Paul Andrews.

William Shatner, best known for his role as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, featured in a memorable television commercial introducing the 'wonder computer' of the 1980s.

Whilst I didn't own a VIC-20, opting for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K and then Commodore 64, a few school friends did and we would play popular video games such as Gridrunner and Laser Zone, 8-bit classics by Jeff Minter of Llamasoft fame.

The VIC-20 (affiliate link) includes 64 built-in games from the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 back catalogue and is released 23rd October for £109.99. Koch Media is distributing and I hope to bring you a review in the future.