Monday, 12 April 2021

The hunt for Han Solo begins May

Whilst Star Wars fans (myself included) wait for The Book of Boba Fett, starring Temuera Morrison as the titular bounty hunter and co-starring Ming-Na Wen as fan-favourite Fennec Shand, this December on Disney+. Marvel Comics is publishing an epic Star Wars crossover event entitled Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters running from May through October.

Like Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, War of the Bounty Hunters chronicles events between Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi as Boba Fett transports Han Solo in carbonite to Jabba the Hutt.

War of the Bounty Hunters will crossover into all Star Wars comics including Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra and a Jabba the Hutt one-shot special this July.

“Getting to work on a comic at Marvel, especially a Star Wars comic about one of the most perpetually under-appreciated criminal masterminds in the whole galaxy, has been a trip,” Justina Ireland told “It’s exciting, a little scary, and really makes me wish I could time travel to tell my twelve-year-old self reading comics in the grocery store self ‘All of this will pay off one day.'”

Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters Alpha #1 hits newsstands 5th May and is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Self-transforming Optimus Prime is a thing

During Friday's first-ever Hasbro Pulse Fan Fest, the Pawtucket-based company announced the most advanced Transformers toy in history.

For $700, Transformers fans (myself included) can purchase a 19-inch app-controlled self-transforming Optimus Prime. Filmmaker Kevin Smith and longtime friend Jason Mewes demonstrated the voice-controlled fan-favourite Autobot Leader (featuring the voice of Peter Cullen). This is the stuff of childhood dreams.

"After over 11 years of rigorous R&D, the talented team at Robosen was able to produce the first-ever consumer robot that features a comprehensive set of functions, including automatic convertible movement from vehicle to robot, bipedal walking ability in robot form, race function in vehicle form, programmable/code development, and robot control/commands by either voice or mobile app," reads the press release from Hasbro.

The transforming technology is impressive and would make Sphero's Star Wars app-enabled droids blush.

"We are thrilled to collaborate with Hasbro and look forward to ushering in a new standard of robotics with the most advanced Transformers robots for consumers ever created," said Robosen USA director Sean Tang. "The team is working hard to deliver an amazing user experience for fans of this esteemed franchise and produce Transformers that will be a premium addition to their collection with its superior functionality."

Optimus Prime is currently only available in the US and beyond my price range as a casual collector. So, I've pre-ordered Kingdom Commander Rodimus Prime and evil Autobot Blurr from IDW's Shattered Glass for toy photography on Instagram.

What do you think? Would you spend $700 on a robotic Optimus Prime? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Netflix becomes first-run home for Sony

The streaming space is reaching saturation point with Apple TV+, Disney+, Discovery+, Paramount+, HBO Max... You get the cord-cutting picture.

So, it makes sense for Sony, which has had a chequered history adapting to a digital era disrupted by tech titans such as Apple, to form a multi-year distribution deal with streaming incumbent Netflix.

“At Sony Pictures, we produce some of the biggest blockbusters and the most creative, original films in the industry. This exciting agreement further demonstrates the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment,” said Keith Le Goy, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution.

Netflix dominates but is losing ground to competitors during the pandemic.

Netflix film head Scott Stuber added, “This not only allows us to bring their impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new IP to Netflix in the U.S., but it also establishes a new source of first-run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”

With competing studios releasing theatrical films, simultaneously in cinemas and direct-to-consumers, this is a smart move.

Disney+ doesn't get to play with all the Marvel toys.

It's a win-win for both companies and will see PlayStation Productions' live-action Uncharted, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 and Marvel Studios' Spider-Man: No Way Home debut first on Netflix from 2022.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

The Nevers on Sky Atlantic

The Nevers, from Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), begins on HBO Max and Sky Atlantic this spring.

However, given the recent controversy surrounding the show's creator, the upcoming sci-fi series is distancing itself ahead of the first season premiere this Sunday on HBO Max.

Read the official synopsis:

"In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people - mostly women - who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities - some charming, some very disturbing. Starring Laura Donnelly (Amalia True) and Ann Skelly (Penance Adair) as the champions of this new underclass, on a mission to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place."

For good or bad, The Nevers is seemingly filled with Whedon's established tropes (Buffy, Dollhouse) set against a steampunk backdrop. We'll know for sure when the series begins (I haven't been sent a press screener but might give Nick Smith a nudge).

The Nevers begins on HBO Max on 11th April and Sky Atlantic on 17th May.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Batman: The Long Halloween

Warner Bros. has released a trailer for the upcoming 2-part animated adaptation of DC Comics' Batman: The Long Halloween (affiliate link). The original 13-issue comic book series inspired The Dark Knight Trilogy and The Batman.

The first trailer premiered on IGN.

Read the official synopsis:

"Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham’s young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city’s only two uncorrupt lawmen (Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent) in order to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. But when more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that, instead of ordinary gang violence, they’re also dealing with a serial killer – the identity of whom, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to discern. Few cases have ever tested the wits of the World’s Greatest Detective like the mystery behind the Holiday Killer."

Batman: The Long Halloween features the voice talents of Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) as Batman, Naya Rivera (Glee) as Catwoman, Josh Duhamel (Transformers) as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke (Most Dangerous Game) as James Gordon, Titus Welliver (Bosch) as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchiann (The Suicide Squad) as Calendar Man, Troy Baker (Batman: Arkham Origins) as Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor) as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson (Elena of Avalor) as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid (Star Trek: Lower Decks) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (Devil May Care) as Solomon Grundy and Alastair Duncan (Spider-Man) as Alfred. Also featuring are Frances Callier, Greg Chun, Gary Leroi Gray and Jim Pirri.

DC Comics has an award-winning animation pedigree with Batman: The Animated Series regarded as one of the greatest series ever produced. Are you looking forward to Batman: The Long Halloween? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Q returns in Star Trek: Picard

After a mixed first season of Star Trek: Picard, which gave us one of the best episodes in the franchise's storied history, I had little interest in seeing the second season.

However, that's changed with the First Contact Day (a fan celebration marking the first contact between humans and Vulcans) announcement of John de Lancie reprising the iconic role of Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The omnipotent Q first appeared in Encounter at Farpoint and subjected the crew of the USS Enterprise to ongoing trials throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation's seven seasons. Most notably, Q Who in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) arrogance is challenged in an inaugural confrontation with the Borg (foreshadowing events in The Best of Both Worlds Part I).

Wil Wheaton, who played Ensign Wesley Crusher, introduced de Lancie as a surprise guest during an official Zoom chat with Sir Patrick Stewart.

Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are all in production for Paramount+. Star Trek: Picard is on Amazon Prime (affiliate link) outside the US.

Are you looking forward to the second season of Star Trek: Picard in 2022? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Beast Wars: Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla and King Kong have been thrilling moviegoers for decades. Flattening foes from the Empire State Building to Tokyo. But will the pandemic stop these big screen icons?

Back from hunting shadows aboard Babylon 5, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, is ringside for a blockbuster monster smackdown on HBO Max.

Guest post by Nick Smith

In Godzilla vs. Kong, we find the jumbo-size King of Skull Island locked in a holographically enhanced dome. Man has messed up the weather on the rest of the island, turning it as grey and stormy as Glasgow on a good day. Beyond the Thunderdome, Godzilla wreaks havoc on Pensacola, Florida. Only one beast can stop him from causing more trouble in a globe-spanning adventure that takes us to Antarctica and Hong Kong, where the titans clash and destroy a crazy amount of real estate.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the apex of Legendary’s MonsterVerse, a cinematic ’reboot’ franchise that has been roaring across our screens for seven years. Over that time, plots have become simpler as the filmmakers aim for as wide-ranging an audience as possible. The latest effort stays true to Godzilla and King Kong’s monster movie origins, culminating in a satisfying knockdown conflict involving the two bad boy behemoths.

2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island were enjoyable, specifically because of their impressive effects and their focus on class actors Brian Cranston and Samuel L. Jackson respectively. With its kaiju-foreshadowing ending, Skull Island built anticipation for 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Sadly, the latter wasted the talents of Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown, who starred as Madison Russell. Madison’s mom (Vera Farmiga), a misguided scientist, seemed motivated by plot rather than any credible maternal instincts and the movie was epically forgettable.

Two years later, Godzilla is fighting King Kong in a movie no one really asked for. After all, they both have their fans who don’t want their favourite monster to get mashed. Will they find out their mother’s name is Martha and bond against a common foe? Or is the film’s title just an excuse to squeeze both their names on the poster? They’re too busy crushing tower blocks to care.

If the competition is for Best Animation, Godzilla’s the clear winner. One could argue that it’s easier to digitize reptilian scales than ape fur, but early on in the film Kong’s sloppy animation includes the objects around him (trees, chains) giving a video game feel that’s more Donkey than King.

I was pleased to see Pensacola featured – it’s an hour west of where I live – although this beach ball-loving little town has transformed into an industrialized megacity. Godzilla vs. Kong is apparently set in the near future, with Elon Musk-esque technology and Kong’s holodeck home. Hong Kong is depicted as a party city of multi-coloured neon, ripe for razing by the titans. Part of the fun of Skull Island’s period setting (1973) was to see that era’s weaponry struggling against King Kong. The new movie seems to suggest an alternate timeline where kaiju tech has helped the human race to progress.

Unfortunately, that’s the only progress the humans make. There’s no overt character development for them; any emotional growth is left to the titans. The original monster movies, from 1933’s King Kong on, had us caring about the humans as well as the strange creatures; in that classic, Kong was given relatable traits, desires, and a fatal flaw. Almost a century later, five men get writing credits on Godzilla vs. Kong, although apparently, they watched a kid bashing toys against each other and transcribed the result. OK done, here’s your screenplay to sell toys!

There’s definitely a sense that the filmmakers are worried about the short attention span of their target audience. Cue overly dramatic music when the bad guy makes his big speech – y’know, in case viewers get bored. The composer is telling us, “this is exciting stuff, y’all!”

The characters may not be fully developed but they are, on the whole, charming and worth rooting for. Little girl Jia (Kaylee Hottle) is reminiscent of Meiying in The Meg (2018), with trailer-worthy scenes that show Kong’s scale-up against her, rain falling, tears falling, motion slowing… it’s all very dramatic. Why not? After all, The Meg earned over half a billion dollars at the box office and Kong’s banana rations ain’t cheap these days.

For all Hollywood’s attempts at diversity (Hottle is deaf and she plays a deaf character) in some ways, it hasn’t progressed since the ‘30s heyday of Stepin Fetchit. Godzilla vs. Kong includes a scene with a comic relief African American looking scared and running. Brian Tyree Henry rises above such material, depicting Bernie Hayes as an intelligent, likeable and slightly bonkers character who is one of the more memorable in the film.

Godzilla vs. Kong repeats the formula of anchoring its plot with a good, solid actor (Alexander Skarsgard) and Millie Bobby Brown is given more to do. The same cannot be said for Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and Madison’s dad Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) who do what they can with underdeveloped roles.

The animation seems to improve over the course of the film, offering us a breathtaking Hollow Earth landscape and gravity-defying vehicles. There’s an optimism present in this timeline, a world where cybernetics coexists with prehistoric monsters and there’s hope for our future (except for that whole destruction of ecosystems part, which has apparently displaced the indigenous population of Skull island).

More importantly, there’s hope for the MonsterVerse’s future – it has opened with a reported $50 million box office take – and for movie-going, despite its availability on HBO Max. Hence hyperbolic headlines like, “Godzilla vs. Kong Defeats Pandemic” (The Hollywood Reporter) and “Godzilla vs. Kong Propels Domestic Box Office Out of Pandemic Depression” (Deadline).

Godzilla vs. Kong deserves its mantle as a savage saviour. It’s fun, better than Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and continues the legacy of both beasts in a respectful manner. It’s a treat for those who find the Transformers franchise too Dostoyevskyan, and for monster movie fans of all ages.

Watch Godzilla vs. Kong (affiliate link).

Have you seen Godzilla vs. Kong? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Black Widow confronts her past

Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

Marvel Studios has dropped a new trailer for the much-delayed Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson as the titular character and features Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz.

Here's the official synopsis:

“In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller ‘Black Widow,’ Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.“

The Phase 4 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie is set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

Black Widow will be in cinemas and available exclusively on Disney+ with Premier Access on 9th July.

Are you looking forward to Black Widow? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Star Wars Vintage Collection on Disney+

It's the Easter bank holiday weekend, and Lucasfilm has dropped the Star Wars Vintage Collection on Disney+ as part of its 50th anniversary celebration!

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

The Towani family's starcruiser crashes on the forest moon of Endor and the separation of two children from their parents sets into motion an incredible adventure that takes four-year-old Cindel, and her older brother, Mace, into the unfamiliar world of the Ewoks.

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

The exciting adventures of the Ewoks continue as the heroic Wicket and his young friend Cindel escape the evil Marauders with the help of their new allies, the gruff hermit Noa and his swift-footed sidekick, Teek.

Story of the Faithful Wookiee

After Luke Skywalker and Han Solo succumb to a suspicious sleeping virus, Chewbacca hunts a cure with help from an unlikely ally -- the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Chewie's Wookiee instincts warn him that all is not what it seems. This rare, animated short features the voices of the original Star Wars cast.

Star Wars: Ewoks

Journey to the forest moon of Endor for an out-of-this-world visit with your favorite, furry Star Wars heroes -- the small-but-mighty Ewoks -- in their own action-packed, animated series! Join Wicket, his friends Princess Kneesaa, Teebo, and Latara, and their entire tribe, as they experience fantastical adventures in Bright Tree Village.

Clone Wars 2D Micro-Series — Volume 1 & 2

Feel your heart race and your pulse pound as every chapter of this Emmy award-winning animated series envisions the story arc between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Packed with action, this landmark "microseries" is essential viewing for all fans of the Force!

Star Wars: Droids will arrive later this year exclusively on Disney+. The beloved animated series was an afterschool favourite and spawned a range of colourful action figures and accessories from Kenner. Alas, by the time of its release in the mid-eighties, I'd outgrown 'childish things' and didn't collect any of them.

What will you be watching first from the Star Wars Vintage Collection on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 2 April 2021

ILM showcases StageCraft for The Mandalorian

The fine folks at Lucasfilm have given Star Wars fans (myself included) a peek behind the curtain at The Mandalorian on Disney+. The Volume, an LED-based virtual set technology, will define special effects for years to come.

"A behind the scenes look at the groundbreaking virtual production technology used on The Mandalorian, season two.

For the second season of Lucasfilm’s hit Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, Industrial Light & Magic reengineered their StageCraft virtual production platform rolling out version 2.0 in which ILM introduced among other things, Helios, Industrial Light & Magic’s first cinematic render engine designed for real-time visual effects. Engineered from the ground up with film and television production in mind, Helios offers incredible performance, high fidelity real-time ray tracing, the ability to rip through scenes of unparalleled complexity, all while leveraging ILM’s unrivaled color science, and was designed from the start to work seamlessly with ILM StageCraft.

The purpose-built, production-hardened platform allows filmmakers to explore new ideas, communicate concepts, and execute shots in a collaborative and flexible production environment."

The Volume will be utilised next for the Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off series starring Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader), which begins filming this month.