Thursday, 23 September 2021

Boba Fett special on Disney+ Day

Disney+ Day is coming this November to celebrate all things Disney+ including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Star Wars.

"The inaugural Disney+ Day will be a grand-scale celebration of our subscribers across the entire company," said Disney CEO, Bob Chapek.

"This day of appreciation brings to life our mission to entertain, inform, and inspire fans and families around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, and will become an annual tentpole event to be amplified across our global businesses."

In a press release, Disney+ offers a tease at what’s to come in November:

*The streaming premiere of Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings
*The beloved Disney family-friendly adventure film Jungle Cruise, available to all subscribers
*The new Disney+ Original movie Home Sweet Home Alone, a reimagining of the popular holiday franchise
*An all-new original series of shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios called “Olaf Presents,” which sees Frozen’s beloved snowman retelling several classic Disney tales as only he can
*The domestic Disney+ streaming debut of fan-favourite shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios including “Frozen Fever,” Oscar®-winning shorts “Feast” and ”Paperman,” Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short, “Get A Horse!” and more
*An animated short film “Ciao Alberto” from Pixar, featuring characters from this summer’s animated hit breakout film Luca
*A new short from The Simpsons that pays tribute to Disney+’s marquee brands
*The first five episodes from season 2 of The World According to Jeff Goldblum from National Geographic
*A special celebrating the origins and legacy of Star Wars’ legendary bounty hunter, Boba Fett
*A special celebrating the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+ with an exciting look towards the future
*Dopesick, an original series starring Michael Keaton, which will be released in international markets as part of the Star general entertainment content offering

Of particular note for Star Wars fans (myself included) is a special celebrating bounty hunter Boba Fett. The Book of Boba Fett drops this December on Disney+.

The first ever Disney+ Day is on 12th November.

Disney+ will also expand into new Asia-Pacific markets on the same date, debuting in South Korea and Taiwan. The streaming service will debut in Hong Kong on 16th November.

What are you looking forward to most on Disney+ Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Star Wars: Visions on Disney+

It's the autumn equinox, heralding my favourite season of all, in the northern hemisphere. There's much to look forward to in the geek galaxy during the darker months ahead.

One such series is Star Wars: Visions, which drops on Disney+ today. Unlike Marvel Studios' What If...?, all nine episodes of the anime-inspired Star Wars spin-off are available.

Here's the official series synopsis:

"'Star Wars: Visions' will be a series of animated short films celebrating 'Star Wars' through the lens of the world's best anime creators. The anthology collection will bring ten fantastic visions from several of the leading Japanese anime studios, offering a fresh and diverse cultural perspective to 'Star Wars.'"

Lucasfilm revealed the episode titles during Anime Expo Lite:

Kamikaze Douga - The Duel
Geno Studio (Twin Engine) - Lop and Ochō
Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) - Tatooine Rhapsody
Trigger - The Twins
Trigger - The Elder
Kinema Citrus - The Village Bride
Science Saru - Akakiri
Science Saru - T0-B1
Production IG - The Ninth Jedi

In related news. Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi has completed principal photography. "We finished shooting our series, and it was really, really good fun – I really enjoyed working with [director] Deborah Chow," titular star Ewan McGregor confirmed to Variety. "I think it will not disappoint," McGregor teased. "I think it's gonna be good. I had a really good time making it, and worked with some really wonderful people, lovely people.

"The new technology we employed doing it is cool, and it was a different experience than making the original three films that I did."

Obi-Wan Kenobi will see the return of Star Wars prequel trilogy co-stars Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars) and Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) alongside McGregor on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: Visions on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Blake's 7 Annual 1982

For years I've tried and failed to coax Grahame Robertson, friend and fellow sci-fi geek, to write a blog post about Terry Nation's Blake's 7! The beloved BBC TV sci-fi series debuted in 1978 as Star Wars blasted its way onto cinema screens across the UK.

Finally, that day has arrived ahead of the 40th anniversary of the series finale that traumatised a generation of children (myself included) and ruined Christmas 1981.

Guest post by Grahame Robertson

My earliest memories of primary school from 1978 - 1980 were playing Blake’s 7 in the playground with friends. We made teleport bracelets out of strips of cardboard and replayed every episode in minute detail the following morning. I was always Blake.

By the time the show ended in 1981, I had moved on to high school, and the programme had become even more important to me. An official Marvel Comics magazine became a highlight of the month, sparking an interest in magazine design and graphic design that was to be instrumental in my future career path.

As with many shows at the time (Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People, Sapphire & Steel), World Distributors produced a 64-page hardback annual that was to be a staple of every kid’s Christmas. Containing fiction that sometimes only loosely resembled the programme - bizarre articles on astronomy, terrible artwork and even worse attempts at humour. But we loved them and poured over every page.

Blake’s 7 ran for four series, and thankfully World Distributors graced us with an annual for each of the first three series. An annual had been planned, and quickly shelved, for the fourth series - and until now it’s been a source of frustration to fans who like their collections to be complete.

40 years later, now we have one! It began when I sent a joke tweet out last December with a mock-up cover of how the missing Blake’s 7 1982 Annual might have looked. A day later I was inundated with messages asking if it was available to buy, so in a fit of lockdown pique, I thought ‘Why not do it? I’m stuck at home and I’ve nothing better to do!’ My background is in graphic design and magazine design, and to be honest as a fan of Blake’s 7 it was a dream project to take on.

The original plan was to produce a 64-page annual in the style and tone of the original World Distributors annuals from the 1970’s. When it was discovered that there had been tentative plans to produce a Blake’s 7 Annual in 1982, eager fans pointed me towards Mike Wild, a prolific writer for the old World annuals in the 70’s and 80’s.

Mike had written stories for the Doctor Who annuals, and previous Blake's 7 annuals. It turned out he had two Blake’s 7 stories that had been written for that shelved 1982 annual and he kindly agreed to let us publish them. What a coup, and what an incentive to make the annual happen!

After I put a call out for submissions on social media, the response was overwhelming. World-class author Dr. Una McCormack (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Firefly) and novelist Trevor Baxendale (Big Finish, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Torchwood) both offered to submit new short fiction, along with dozens of other fans of the show.

The annual also features a number of contributions from Jonathan Helm (better known as @MakingBlakes7 on Twitter). Jonathan has been incredible, and so helpful in making the annual more than I ever hoped.

Fans will learn brand new things about Series D and see pictures that had long been confined to the archives, unseen. Longtime fan Andy Spencer has also given us access to incredible amounts of information and archive material about the location filming of the final series. We’ve been so lucky to have all these amazing contributors and fans on board.

Everyone who has contributed has poured so much enthusiasm and passion into their work.

The annual also features brand new interviews with Dicken Ashworth (Gunn Sar in the episode Power), Sasha Mitchell (Arlen from the episode Blake) and Vila himself, Michael Keating. Both Sasha and Michael have nominated charities who will benefit from the sale of the Annual. It’s hugely important that nobody makes any financial gain from this project.

From the start, it’s been a passion project to celebrate the cast, crew, and writers of Blake’s 7 and to give fans something - hopefully - that they will genuinely enjoy. With that said, we felt it was important that this project benefit charity. Michael Keating has chosen Save The Children, and Sasha Mitchell has chosen Axminster & Lyme Cancer Support. £1 from each sale will go to each of these nominated charities.

The fan-created, non-profit Blake’s 7 Annual 1982 will be available to buy from 28th September 2021 at 7.20pm - 40 years to the minute that the final series of Blake’s 7 aired on BBC 1 in 1981. It’s a print-to-order hardback publication (using the Lulu platform) with 252 pages, at a cost of £43.72 (including £2 charity donation). For details of how to order, follow @cult_edge on Twitter, or visit the Facebook page: Blake’s 7 Annual 1982.

Blake's 7 is available to stream exclusively on BritBox and currently airing on Forces TV.

What are your Blake's 7 memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Holy Batman Day, Batman!

This year's Batman Day has been and gone in a flash! See what I did there fellow Batfans?

However, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, donned the famous cowl in celebration of Gotham's darkest knight after I reminded him about a fabled undergraduate screening of Tim Burton's Batman.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Batman Day has been cheering up broody Bruce Wayne fans for seven years now since its launch to celebrate the 75th anniversary of his first appearance. Now the annual celebration takes place on the third Saturday of September, with special events like live appearances, new graphic novels and apps.

Before Superman: The Movie captured my imagination in the late 70s, the live-action Batman TV show was my introduction to superheroes. It was gaudy and silly and full of dastardly villains. As well as bringing the comics to life, the show took its cue from adventure serials of the 30s and 40s – hence cliffhangers where the hero was tied up and left to die by the villains. Every week I tuned in at the same bat-time on the same bat-channel to watch the bad guys get defeated by Batman and his sidekick Robin.

Now life is more complicated but Batman remains as driven as ever, swearing to his dead parents that he will bring justice to Gotham City. When I think of the character, I’m more likely to recall Tim Burton’s gothic take on the character or Frank Miller’s cynical Dark Knight rather than the 60s version. It’s been a joy to see the character mature over the years, striving to grow out of his campy reputation while acknowledging his roots as a post-depression crimefighter.

While a vigilante beating the pulp out of people seems an unlikely subject for a National Day, Batman is one of DC Comics' most recognizable superheroes. This year, an attempt has been made to appeal to kids and adults with a variety of releases, including a downloadable activity kit and a free sampler for The World, an anthology in the same vein as Europa. A new The Batman movie trailer dropped over a year after the first one was screened as part of DC FanDome; this one appears to use a lot of the same footage with added dialogue, teasing that the movie is scheduled for release in ‘?0??.’ I have faith in director Matt Reeves (Felicity), who seems to genuinely care about the world of Gotham and its terse protector.

It doesn’t take a dark detective to celebrate Batman Day with a binge on HBO Max, since the streaming service has collated all its content into lists like ‘Big-Screen Gotham’ and ‘Batmanimation.’ I plump for Death in the Family, a happy little cartoon that starts with the Joker brutally bashing Robin with a crowbar. I’m enticed by the promise that this is a ‘choose your own ending’ story with seven different outcomes, harking back to the phone-in vote that sentenced Jason Todd to death in 1988.

Unfortunately, the only interactivity with HBO Max’s version is pressing play, and rather than adapting the classic comic, this short film is mostly made up of clips from 2010’s Under the Red Hood with narration from Bruce Wayne - less Batday, more hashday. There’s only one ending with no surprises. My advice: watch the Red Hood movie instead.

2019’s Hush animated movie is a much better, and more faithful, adaption of a fan-fave narrative and perfect to celebrate Batman Day. Like an anniversary celebration, it features most of Batman’s bad guys in an epic tale of cat-and-mouse with a romance between Bruce and Selina Kyle at its core. As a Brucey bonus, there are just enough changes made from the source material to keep this film fresh.

To wrap up the day, I dip into Three Jokers Book One, with Brian Bolland-style art by Jason Fabok and an intriguing, if unlikely, premise by writer Geoff Johns. It provides another look back not just at the history of the Joker but also Batman, Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon, whose lives have all been horribly affected by the clown prince of crime.

Like Hush, Three Jokers is violent, mature and meaty. I hope that the current interest in Marvel Studios' What If...? on Disney+ leads to more fare of a similar ilk from both Marvel Comics as well as DC Comics.

As night falls, I feel like I’ve done justice to this contemporary comic book legend. But with two more books in the Three Jokers series to read and the high-quality Hush making me want to watch more animated movies, I guess my Batman Day might just become a Batweek.

How did you celebrate Batman Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Foundation first look on Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s ambitious adaptation of Foundation, dubbed Games of Thrones in space, debuts with two episodes this Friday. The Cupertino-based tech titan has released a first look ahead of its highly-anticipated premiere.

Read the official Foundation synopsis:

"Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire."

“'Foundation' is the greatest science fiction work of all time, and it's never been brought to the screen before," says series showrunner and executive producer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). "It took a while for the world to be ready for 'Foundation,' and that age has finally arrived."

Foundation casts a long shadow over sci-fi popular culture. Influencing everything from Dune to Star Wars. The former was most recently adapted for the big screen by director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival).

Foundation premieres on 24th September exclusively on Apple TV+.

Are you looking forward to Foundation on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

ZX Spectrum of possibilities

The passing of Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, at the age of 81, has reminded me of the joy of discovery.

Christmas 1982 was all about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K, Horace Goes Skiing and Disney's Tron (available on Disney+)! Not to mention Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial breaking the collective hearts of cinemagoers the world over.

The first time I saw a computer in person was at dad's lighting shop in Truro. The Commodore PET looked like something out of Star Trek and captured my young imagination. Soon after, a BBC Micro materialised in middle school. However, having our own 8-bit home computer (a year after my folks bought a VCR so I could record The Five Faces of Doctor Who) was transcendental!

Computing leaned into an insatiable appetite for learning, buoyed by a reading age of 16 (I was 10).

Hours were spent and lost inputting basic code from the pack-in manual and Crash magazine at weekends. Although my coding skills fell far short of any lofty ambitions I may have had to create Tron's Master Control Program (MCP), programming helped to take my mind off of weekly rehabilitation from a life-changing brain injury.

This was further compounded by a diagnosis of asthma (after my parents sought a second opinion), which saw me missing weeks of schooling (not for the first time) until preventative medication was prescribed.

And games! So many games in the age of Atari!

Most notably from Ultimate Play the Game AKA Rare. Plugging in the Currah μSpeech peripheral unlocked voices in Atic Atac years before Atari's Gauntlet gobbled up my allowance at the arcades! Titles such as Knight Lore were revolutionary. And Ocean's Daley Thompson’s Decathlon culminated in the premature demise of lesser joysticks.

I would go on to own a Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ (the beloved original handed down to a younger cousin who soon broke it), Commodore 64 and all things Apple thereafter. But nothing will surpass discovering that little 8-bit home computer, with the rubbery keyboard, filled with infinite possibility under the Christmas tree in 1982...

Thank you, Sir Clive Sinclair. RIP.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Ahead of DC FanDome this October, Warner Bros. has released a documentary examining the cultural impact and legacy of director Tim Burton's Batman to celebrate Batman Day this Saturday!

In the summer of 1989, Burton (Beetlejuice) was the subversive outsider who conquered Tinseltown and brought DC Comics' Batman, starring Michael Keaton as the titular dark detective and Jack Nicholson as archnemesis The Joker, to the masses in a postmodern ode to Fritz Lang's Metropolis and German expressionism.

Batman is a marketing masterclass, which took lessons from George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy, launching merchandise in-store months before the film was released in cinemas. From posters at Athena to Kenner action figures at Woolworths. This created a fever dream of hype invading the public's consciousness worldwide.

The movie's release coincided with an inaugural visit to the iconic HMV Oxford Street, London, seemingly the epicentre of 'Batmania' in the UK as Prince's tie-in album reverberated around the sadly defunct store on repeat.

However, I wanted Danny Elfman's original soundtrack much to the chagrin of a member of staff. Well, I was more geek than chic, and this was a time before The Big Bang Theory. On the long coach journey home, I listened to the cassette on a Sony Walkman.

Having been brought up on Saturday morning reruns of Adam West's sixties series, my initial reaction to Batman was mixed! However, one of my favourite undergraduate memories is attending a special 70mm print screening, with Nick Smith, at the Odeon Bournemouth (one of the locations used for our undergraduate production December Duet) in the mid-nineties.

Years later, I got to work with Garrick Hagon (Star Wars) on Dirk Maggs' audio movie, The Gemini Apes, for BBC Radio 4. During a break in recording, he recounted filming the opening scene of Batman. Yes, we also talked about all things Star Wars. Poor, Biggs!

What are your memories of Batman, and how do you plan to celebrate Batman Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Hayley Atwell is Lara Croft on Netflix

I vividly remember watching Captain America: The First Avenger and thinking Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) should play Lara Croft in a live-action Tomb Raider reboot! Incidentally, The First Avenger is notable for a pre-Doctor Who cameo by Jenna Coleman.

Ultimately, the big screen baton was passed from Angelina Jolie to Alicia Vikander as Atwell continued to reprise her role as fan-favourite Agent Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Atwell has now been cast as the titular character for Netflix's animated spin-off series. It will follow the events of Square Enix's Tomb Raider video game trilogy, which starred Camilla Luddington as the archaeological heroine inspired by Indiana Jones.

Tomb Raider celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. However, there's no news on when the animated series will debut on Netflix.

Looking forward to seeing Hayley Atwell as Lara Croft? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Andrew Garfield speaks out on Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) continues to deny any involvement with Spider-Man: No Way Home, following an alleged on-set photo leak, during an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Garfield played the titular web-slinger in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before Tom Holland took over the role in Captain America: Civil War. His portrayal of Peter Parker remains underrated.

If the rumours are true that both Garfield and Tobey Maguire are reprising the role of Spider-Man alongside Holland, I don't want our holiday season surprise spoiled. And I'm sure Marvel Studios' president Kevin Feige has no intention of letting that happen. Some fans have suggested deepfake technology may be utilised, but I hope not.

Are you looking forward to Spider-Man: No Way Home? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Marvel's holiday gifts come with a bow

Marvel Studios has been crushing it in 2021 with its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin-off series on Disney+. From WandaVision to What If...?, it's been unmissable character-driven viewing for all true believers (myself included).

On Monday, Disney+ dropped some early holiday cheer with an official teaser trailer for Marvel Studios' Hawkeye.

Read the official synopsis:

"Disney+ and Marvel Studios invite you on an unexpected holiday getaway, unwrapping a brand-new teaser trailer and poster today for “Hawkeye,” a new series set in post-blip New York City. Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a Super Hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit."

Jeremy Renner reprises his role as Hawkeye, who teams up with another well-known archer from Marvel Comics, Kate Bishop, played by Oscar-nominee Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

Renner described Steinfeld's character to Entertainment Weekly (EW) by saying, “[Kate is] a 22-year-old kid and she’s a big Hawkeye fan. She has a wonderfully annoying and equally charming manner about her, because she’s such a fangirl of Hawkeye. The relationship grows from that, but the biggest problem for Clint is Kate Bishop and the onslaught of problems that she brings into his life.”

The trappings of the holiday season certainly allow for comparisons with MCU stablemate Iron Man 3 and Die Hard and Home Alone (both available on Star on Disney+). Hawkeye is rumoured to tie into Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Hawkeye debuts in time for Thanksgiving on Disney+ on 24th November.

Looking forward to Marvel Studios' Hawkeye? Let me know in the comments below.