Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Star Wars: Squadrons a new Rogue Leader?



When Star Wars: Squadrons was announced from EA Motive, I didn't know what to expect!

Microtransactions blighted Star Wars Battlefront II at launch, before a 180-degree u-turn under pressure from Lucasfilm's parent company Disney, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order triumphantly emerged from the dark side to top many Game of the Year (GotY) lists for 2019. Fans (myself included) are hoping for a sequel from Respawn Entertainment.

Was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order a one-off return to form for a franchise with a storied gaming history from Atari coin-ops and 8-bit arcade clones such as 3D Starstrike for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (you could imagine your Quickshot II Turbo joystick as the yoke of an X-wing fighter) to the founding of Lucasfilm Games in the early eighties? Could Star Wars: Squadrons be a Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for a new generation?

When Star Wars: Squadrons appeared as a 10-hour free trial for EA Play subscribers, I breathlessly donned a flight suit in search of a starfighter simulator worthy of classic LucasArts' X-wing and TIE Fighter. To my unalloyed joy, I discovered a first-person flight simulator that didn't induce motion sickness - always a plus - and managed to evoke cherished memories of playing Star Wars Arcade during student nights at SegaWorld, Bournemouth.

The prologue introduces a single-player (SP) campaign, set, like Star Wars Battlefront II, in the wake of the destruction of the second dreaded Death Star (Return of the Jedi), where you play as the New Republic and scattered Imperial forces. The opening mission is filled with fun Easter eggs and rich characterisation wrapped in spectacular visuals. Especially if you have PlayStation VR (PS VR).

Grahame Alexander Robertson, friend and fellow Star Wars fan, shared his firsthand experiences of PS VR: "By rights, it should be a PS VR system seller. Probably the best VR experience on PS4 by a long stretch. Sitting in the cockpit of iconic Star Wars ships, reading and responding to the controls, and flying them... isn't that the dream? The thrill of dogfighting over the bow of a Star Destroyer is visceral. The fact they've added genuinely fun and story-driven missions just adds to the experience. Best played with headphones to complete the experience of fellow pilots shouting instruction and encouragement..."

Grahame pointed out that The Mandalorian DLC adds new cosmetics including The Child AKA Baby Yoda from today. A timely addition with the second season premiering this Friday, directed by series showrunner Jon Favreau (Iron Man), exclusively on Disney+.

I'll continue to play the campaign once the full game is on EA Play (bundled with Game Pass Ultimate from 10th November). But, it's abundantly clear the single-player Force is strong with this one. In the meantime, as The Sims 4 is included with EA Play, I'm going to get Star Wars Journey to Batuu.

Classic LucasArts titles Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango will be available from Thursday. Following the news of Cyberpunk 2077's latest delay, these, along with Destiny 2: Beyond Light, will keep my busy this November on Game Pass Ultimate.

Are you playing Star Wars: Squadrons? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 26 October 2020

His Dark Materials returns to BBC One



The BBC announced when the second season of His Dark Materials begins, on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, following Strictly Come Dancing. It's sooner than fans (myself included) were expecting.



The new season starts Sunday 8th November on BBC One. This is over a week ahead of the US debut on HBO Max. The BBC/HBO co-production is perfect family viewing for long November nights.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

The Christmas Chronicles 2 saves the holidays



Kurt Russell is back with Goldie Hawn to save the holidays in The Christmas Chronicles 2! The follow-up to Netflix's surprise holiday hit from 2018 reunites the couple with director Christopher Columbus (Home Alone).



Here is the synopsis to The Christmas Chronicles 2:

"It’s been two years since siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) saved Christmas, and a lot has changed. Kate, now a cynical teenager, is reluctantly spending Christmas in Cancun with her mom’s new boyfriend and his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno). Unwilling to accept this new version of her family, Kate decides to run away. But when a mysterious, magical troublemaker named Belsnickel threatens to destroy the North Pole and end Christmas for good, Kate and Jack are unexpectedly pulled into a new adventure with Santa Claus (Kurt Russell). Written and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter) and co-starring Goldie Hawn, THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 2 is an action-packed adventure for the whole family that’s full of heart, humor, and holiday spirit."

The Christmas Chronicles 2 will be in selected theatres and streaming exclusively on Netflix from 25th November.

Are you looking forward to some festive fun? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back



To mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back, collecting 40 stories by 40 authors from the unique perspective of background characters, hits bookshelves this November.

The star-studded cast of the upcoming audiobook has been announced. The cast includes Jon Hamm, Emily Woo Zeller, Dion Graham, Jonathan Davis, Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes, January LaVoy, Soneela Nankani, Marc Thompson and Sam Witwer.

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (affiliate link) is available for pre-order now and makes the perfect holiday gift for Star Wars fans.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds live on YouTube



"The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one..." Listening to Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds was synonymous with autumnal Sunday afternoons in childhood. Alongside Star Wars, it inspired me, from an early age, to pursue a career in media production. As I underwent years of rehabilitation for a head injury, I would listen to Richard Burton's (The Journalist) voice as part of speech therapy and record my own audio adventures on a Hitachi portable tape recorder.

H.G. Well’s Martian invasion of Earth is an allegorical commentary on cultural imperialism and Wayne’s album was my gateway into Victorian literature. Whilst I've owned the album on countless formats, nothing will eclipse the treasured childhood memory of listening to the double vinyl LP, borrowed from a friend's dad, on a mono Pye record player (owned by my late mum). Coincidentally, Marvel UK ran a comic book adaptation in the pages of Doctor Who Weekly.

Over forty years on, Wayne's adaptation remains my favourite followed by the 1953 Oscar-winning Hollywood movie - the action transposed to McCarthy-era America - and Orson Welles' infamous radio drama, broadcast live as a Halloween special in 1938. The recent BBC and Anglo-French television adaptations fell flatter than a Martian Fighting Machine after its occupant had finally succumbed to the common cold. The former lacked focus and the latter lacked, well, tripods!

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 arena tour of The War of the Worlds was postponed and will now tour from March 2022. Fans will be able to stream a live performance starring Liam Neeson and Jason Donovan, recorded at the O2 Arena and conducted by Jeff Wayne, for 48 hours on 23rd October from 7:00PM (BST).



Whilst free, The Shows Must Go On! YouTube channel is asking audiences to make a voluntary donation to support the arts during the pandemic.

What are your memories of listening to Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Geek Retreat to open 100 new shops



Online and grocery retailers and tech giants are not the only sectors to have prospered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Geek Retreat, an inclusive comic book store, cafe and events hub rolled into one, plans to further expand with 100 new shops nationwide over the next 2 years. This is due to the popularity of entertainment brands such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).

Geek Retreat boss Peter Dobson told the BBC, "During the pandemic, while our gaming events have had to stop and the hospitality side of our business is more difficult, our stores still have loyal communities who support our retail side.

"We have made sure all of our stores are welcoming and accessible to gamers whatever their interests, providing a place for our loyal customers to get out of the house and play safely post-lockdown."

The retailer, which opened its first store in Glasgow in 2017, said it expected to open sites in Bournemouth, Northampton and Liverpool in the coming months.

It is always a pleasure to share a positive story from the geek community.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Classic Peanuts holiday specials on Apple TV+



Ahead of the new Snoopy Show beginning next February and Snoopy in Space renewal, classic Peanuts holiday specials will be exclusively streaming on Apple TV+ as part of a partnership between the Cupertino-based company and WildBrain, Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film Productions.

Starting this week with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for subscribers. The Halloween special will be available for free from 30th October until 1st November. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will be available on 18th November for subscribers and free from 25th November until 27th November. And the holiday season peak, A Charlie Brown Christmas, will be out on 4th December for subscribers and free from 11th December through 13th December.

Reruns of the beloved holiday specials, on the BBC, were a childhood staple in the run-up to Christmas. This year, I'll be able to watch them all in 4K with Dolby Vision for the first time on a new 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. Incidentally, December marks 25 years of Apple Macintosh ownership beginning with a Performa 5200. It was a quantum leap from a Commodore 64.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Special look at The Mandalorian on ESPN



Lucasfilm released a special look trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian during Monday Night Football on ESPN.



Here’s the official synopsis: "The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire."

“I’ll be going toe-to-toe with Mando,” Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon) recently told EW. “It’s an iconic battle. I want to disarm him mentally as well. Who knows? Maybe there’s an opportunity to get him to fight some battles for me. You may think I’m a villain, but I’m trying to harness some energy and some powers for a path that could be best for all. You'll get to see him be somewhat diplomatic and more of a manipulator."

The 8-part second season will premiere new episodes every Friday and continues with the use of chapters:

Chapter 9: Friday, Oct. 30
Chapter 10: Friday, Nov. 6
Chapter 11: Friday, Nov. 13
Chapter 12: Friday, Nov. 20
Chapter 13: Friday, Nov. 27
Chapter 14: Friday, Dec. 4
Chapter 15: Friday, Dec. 11
Chapter 16: Friday, Dec. 18

The series' pioneering use of real-time graphics rendering, powered by Epic Games' Unreal Engine, is being used for upcoming blockbusters. This is the way.

Start streaming the new season on 30th October exclusively on Disney+.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Once Upon a Snowman on Disney+



Disney has released a trailer for Once Upon a Snowman coming to Disney+. Frozen franchise fans (myself included) will learn the origins of everyone's favourite summer-loving snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad).



Here is the synopsis to Once Upon a Snowman:

"The previously untold origins of Olaf, the innocent and insightful, summer-loving snowman who melted hearts in the Academy Award®-winning 2013 Disney animated feature, Frozen, and its acclaimed 2019 sequel, are revealed in the all-new Walt Disney Animation Studios animated short, Once Upon a Snowman. The film follows Olaf’s first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle. Once Upon a Snowman is directed by Trent Correy (animation supervisor, “Olaf” in Frozen 2) and Dan Abraham (veteran story artist who boarded Olaf’s “When I Am Older” musical sequence in Frozen 2)."

Once Upon a Snowman premieres 23rd October exclusively on Disney+.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

His Dark Materials returns November on HBO Max



The second season of His Dark Materials, based on Sir Philip Pullman's second book The Subtle Knife, begins 16th November on HBO Max and a full trailer has been released.



The BBC has yet to announce an airdate for the new season, which had completed principal photography prior to lockdown earlier this year - a standalone episode, centring on Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), was abandoned. However, Sunday evenings proved popular for the first season on those long November nights.

Are you looking forward to the continuation of Lyra's (Dafne Keen) adventure in His Dark Materials? Let me know in the comments below.