Friday, 15 June 2018

First look at Wonder Woman 1984

Hollywood's love affair with eighties nostalgia shows no signs of stopping. As someone who grew up during the decade of Transformers and Michael Jackson's moonwalk, I'm not going to complain.

This week, DC Universe (DCU) fans (myself included) got their first glimpse of Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman 1984, which sees the actor reunited with Chris Pine (Star Trek) and director Patty Jenkins.

Jenkins' Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air amidst the murky and, frankly, dull DCU cinematic adventures in the wake of Chris Nolan's excellent Dark Knight Trilogy. So, whilst the director has evidently drawn inspiration from seminal eighties graphic novel Watchmen, I hope Jenkins doesn't forget a sense of fun, too.

Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas November 2019.

Looking forward to new adventures with everyone's favourite Amazonian Princess? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bumblebee director inspired by Spielbergian tales

Following the first teaser trailer for Transformers spin-off Bumblebee starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena. Paramount Pictures has released a featurette introducing director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings).

“At Laika, we try to find an artful balance of darkness and light and intensity and warmth and humor and heart,” Knight said. “The idea of being able to bring that kind of philosophy to Bumblebee was really exciting.”

The first teaser for Bumblebee seemingly taps into the current nostalgia for the eighties epitomised by Netflix's Stranger Things.

“I was a child of the ‘80s. I grew up loving those classic, Spielbergian coming-of-age tales, and that was something that I wanted to bring to Bumblebee,” Knight added.

With Knight's proven pedigree in animation and storytelling, Bumblebee could be the surprise heartfelt hit of the holiday season and the Transformers film fans (myself included) deserve.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Creating Cold Soldiers

A bit of context. I met Nick Smith at Vintage Video, a club for fans of film and TV sci-fi, whilst we were undergraduates at Bournemouth University in the early nineties. We became instant friends and shared an affinity for Doctor Who and Star Wars. So much so, we worked on several video projects together. For example Ventolin Catharsis and December Duet, which channelled our mutual fascination for all things gothic.

Whilst our lives have taken distinctly different paths, we've remained in touch, through the power of communication technology, since graduation all those years ago. Heck, I still have ambitions to complete our 'gothic trilogy' one day on the streets of Miami.

When I heard about Nick's movie Cold Soldiers, filmed in Charleston, SC, I was instantly reminded of the Cybermen and watching classic Doctor Who serials together. I may have demonstrated my near-faultless impression of David Banks' Cyberleader sans voice modulation.

Here, Nick shares the highs and lows of getting his film Cold Soldiers made and distributed.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Like I always say, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has a lot to answer for. He encouraged a generation of filmmakers to tell big-screen stories, wearing their influences on their samurai sleeves, becoming part of the sideshows of movie merchandising, publicity and distribution. George’s experimentation with digital video and effects are a reason why digital filmmaking is so prevalent today. In his youth, he had an obvious passion for movies and made lots of dough following it. He made it look easy.

It ain’t.

Moviemaking isn’t all skywalking. It requires long days, sacrifices of time, money and personal life, heavy lifting and uncertainty. Where do the little guys fit into all this hard labour, the ones with the passion but no dough? If they’re like me, they find a way to keep making movies any which way they can.

There’s a lot of chitter chatter in the indie film industry, but many projects never get made. For the feature film Cold Soldiers, my co-producer Trevor Erickson and I were faced with a choice: spend our time looking for investors and distributors, pitching an idea to doctors, lawyers and business angels or make the movie. We went ahead and made the movie, released this month on Amazon. Not exactly the Grauman’s Chinese Theater, but it’s a start.

The mission, which we chose to accept, was to make an action movie with memorable characters, suspense, knock-down drag-out fights, car chases and an involving, surprising plot. We wanted to work with local actors and crew and we didn’t want interference from some executive producer from on high, taking away our creative freedom. The main obstacle was lack of budget and we knew we had one shot at this – no Special Edition.

Cold Soldiers is set in a max security hospital full of spies and military guys who’ve failed their missions. Psychiatrist John Dance interacts with the patients, reporting to the institute’s review board, which includes his wife Rebecca. Meanwhile, a shadow force busts out of the hospital to bump off board members.

When Rebecca is targeted, John has to find out who’s involved before he becomes a widower. In his world no one can be taken at face value, forcing the psychiatrist to analyze everything.

So far, so thrilling. There’s also a love triangle, a sword fight, car chases and gun battles. More importantly, characters that the audience will (hopefully) care about. I learned how important that was as I was filming – and how many nuances the actors could add to their parts.

While we were filming all our action shenanigans, I learned a few more handy facts:

1. Sound is Hella Important!

I thought I had it down, aware that sound quality can make a film amateurish or Hollywood level. There are still a few moments where the sound could be better. Spending as much time as possible on sound, while we were shooting, would have saved a lot of heartache in the edit suite.

2. Ask and you shall receive (sometimes)

We waited for ages before we approached the military vehicle provider Force Protection. We thought they’d turn us away, especially since their vehicles appeared in Transformers. They immediately told us that Michael Bay hadn’t given them a penny and lent us their vehicles gratis.

3. Finding a distributor is no picnic, Booboo!

One potential distributor wanted to sell DVDs in cardboard sleeves; another wanted me to use a pseudonym. We took a long time to find the right fit and really an indie-friendly company who we could have an informal relationship with. We found them in Miami-based Maverick Entertainment.

4. There are many ways to share a film!

DVD, streaming, alternate screening venues… these days there are more ways to show a movie than home video editions of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Being flexible and looking beyond a big theatrical release is the key to getting a film in front of as many eyes as possible. Since there are a lot of martial arts antics in Cold Soldiers, we screened a workprint at East West Health Arts, a dojo in Charleston, South Carolina. Didn’t see that one coming!

However you find it or view it, check out this little movie fan’s epic – it’s handmade, heartfelt and a lot of fun. Enjoy the ride and Honor the Code.

You can buy or rent Cold Soldiers on Amazon (affiliate link).

Have you seen Cold Soldiers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Respawn announces Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Vince Zampella from Respawn, the studio behind the phenomenal Titanfall franchise, has announced a new Star Wars single player (SP) video game during EA Play.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. A dark time as the last of the Jedi are hunted down by Darth Vader.

Could this be the Star Wars video game fans deserve? The title suggests a rebooting of Star Wars Jedi Knight, and Respawn has a pedigree that could wipe the slate clean in the wake of the microtransaction and loot box controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be released during holiday 2019 to coincide with director JJ Abrams' as-yet-untitled Episode IX which completes the sequel trilogy at Disney.

Are you excited at the prospect of a single player Star Wars title that's not Battlefront? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 8 June 2018

A T-Rex does flips in this hilarious Jurassic World skit

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has arrived in cinemas to mixed reviews. However, this officially endorsed skit, filmed in Hawaii by extreme sports videographer Devin Graham (better known as Devinsupertramp on YouTube), should gladden the heart of even the most jaded fan of the dinosaur franchise started by Steven Spielberg 25 years ago.

From building Tamiya model kits, on rainy days, to playing with Transformers' Dinobots, dinosaurs captured my childhood imagination. So much so, I would record myself reading passages from well-worn dinosaur books and play them back, taking inspiration from read-along books for Star Wars and Disney's The Black Hole.

I would actively seek out B-movies to satiate my fascination for the extinct species. And seeing Jurassic Park, for the first time in 1993, is a cinema experience I'll never forget, joining the Hollywood pantheon of Star Wars and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The first trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showcases a spectacular alternate universe where Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is mentored by Peter Parker (Jake Johnson).

Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast as Spider-Gwen. Steinfeld's star is in the ascendancy as she's the lead in the Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee, this holiday season.

Commenting on the announcement, producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) said, “We are lucky to have such an amazing cast of funny, genuine creative souls to populate the Spider-verse. They have generous minds and great big hearts. And they have very talented throats. Which is where their delightful voices come from.”

Lord and Miller continued: “We can’t wait for the world to see Miles Morales on the big screen. He’s such a fun and exciting new character, and telling his story through a revolutionary visual style makes for a totally fresh cinematic experience that, if we may say so, is freaking amazing.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theatres this December.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Bumblebee reboots Transformers this holiday season!

Paramount Pictures has dropped the first official teaser trailer for the upcoming Transformers live-action spin-off, Bumblebee.

"On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug."

All the feels. My generation grew up with Hasbro's inspired rebranding - with a lot of help from Marvel - of Takara's Japanese puzzle toys Diaclone and Micro Change, and I wasn't expecting something that would resonate so deeply. Bumblebee was one of the very first Transformers I owned and the beloved Autobot stood sentry, alongside his leader Optimus Prime, in my childhood bedroom.

I'm getting a The Love Bug and The Iron Giant vibe. The prequel is seemingly a soft reboot of the Transformers live-action franchise harkening back to the Generation 1 (G1) era from the eighties. And with director Michael Bay no longer at the helm, there's a genuine pathos and sense of wonder that has been sorely absent since the first live-action movie which owed much to executive producer Steven Spielberg.

Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and starring Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen), is in cinemas this December. Could this be a new beginning for the Hasbro cinematic universe including G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Micronauts, ROM: Spaceknight, Visionaries and Power Rangers? Excuse me whilst I rewatch the excellent Transformers instalment of The Toys That Made Us now streaming on Netflix.

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

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Did Disney's marketing sink Solo at the box office?

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now and I've yet to see the latest spin-off from director Ron Howard! Personally, I need a break from the franchise and seemingly so do many other fans.

There's a lot of hot takes regarding its perceived failure at the box office. From a backlash against Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the franchise's move away from the holiday season due to Mary Poppins Returns. Then there's the small matter of stablemate Marvel Studios' triumphant run with Black Panther followed by the 10th-anniversary instalment Avengers: Infinity War. Somewhere amidst the superhero saturation, Star Wars has got lost in the marketing mix.

Rob Wainfur, the founder of The Bearded Trio and longtime contributor to this blog, has written a post chronicling his thoughts on the current state of the Star Wars franchise and its fandom. Here's an extract:

"Star Wars at the cinema is a good thing (even if I do have to put up with those popcorn munchers). But more Star Wars, new Star Wars, is a good thing. Like Star Trek, I'm so happy it's back. Do I like Discovery? It's okay, not my favourite but Star Trek is back. Star Wars is back. That's got to be a good thing, right?"

You can read Rob's entire post here.

Have you seen Solo: A Star Wars Story? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Apple put the "i" into Mac twenty years ago

Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) starts today and affords an ideal opportunity to reflect on the launch of the original iMac twenty years ago.

Jony Ive's product would become a cultural phenomenon, appearing in everything from Jennifer Lopez's iconic pop promo for If You Had My Love to television series, foreshadowing the Cupertino-based company's rise, Lazarus-like under the auspices of the then returning co-founder Steve Jobs, from imminent collapse into the consumer electronics giant we know today.

I purchased an iMac DV SE - affectionately dubbed 'the bubble' by my late mum - in the summer of 1999 to replace an ageing Macintosh Performa 5200. And have continued to champion the all-in-one desktop machine to this day.

An amusing anecdote from the start of the new millennium. During an interview at AOL, in the wake of purchasing Warner Bros., I was sarcastically asked by a company director, which colour had I chosen and that Apple should roll over and die! I countered by suggesting a strategic alliance between Apple and AOL. Whatever happened to AOL, again?

Apple is expected to announce an iMac refresh later today. Please add a Space Gray model to match my iPad Pro, Tim Cook.

Without the iMac, there would be no iPod, iPhone or iPad and, quite possibly, no Apple.

What are your iMac memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Logan director to helm Boba Fett Star Wars spin-off

Star Wars was released in US cinemas on this day in 1977. Fast forward 41 years and Solo: A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard, is now in cinemas around the world and garnering positive reviews despite a troubled production.

Further Star Wars spin-off movies are confirmed (via THR) with James Mangold (Logan) helming a Boba Fett spin-off after Josh Trank departed the rumoured project in the wake of negative reviews for his Fantastic Four reboot at Fox.

The infamous bounty hunter first appeared on the big screen in The Empire Strikes Back and quickly gained a cult following. He's one of my favourite characters from the franchise and the 12-inch action figure a prized possession from childhood.

Seemingly Fett's fate in the belly of the Sarlacc, in Return of the Jedi, did nothing to dent his reputation, as far as my school friends and I were concerned, he escaped with the aid of his jetpack, and it'll be interesting to see what Mangold does with the character who was introduced in George Lucas' Star Wars prequel Attack of the Clones.