Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Jon Favreau wants a new Star Wars Holiday Special



The Mandalorian showrunner, Jon Favreau (The Lion King), wants to do a new Star Wars Holiday Special for Disney+.

The notorious original Star Wars spin-off was broadcast, only once, on the CBS channel in November 1978, and introduced audiences to fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett prior to the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Many fans (myself included) outside the US got to see Boba Fett, for the first time, as a mail-away action figure from Kenner.

"I would love to do a Holiday Special," Favreau told Entertainment Tonight (ET) backstage at the 45th annual Saturn Awards: "If you want to see a Holiday Special, let Disney+ know."

Boba Fett is a major influence on Favreau's upcoming live-action Star Wars series.

"I love The Holiday Special -- certain sequences more than others," said the director and executive producer. "I love the introduction of Boba Fett and that rifle that he had. That animated piece still holds up. It's pretty cool. I draw inspiration from that."

Would you to like see a new Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Jon Favreau to direct The Mandalorian



Executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) recently talked to Entertainment Weekly (EW) about directing an episode for the second season of The Mandalorian Star Wars live-action series for Disney+:

“We’re working on season 2, writing, prepping with the directors and getting ready to direct myself, actually,” said the Iron Man and The Lion King director. “I didn’t get a chance the last time around because I was doing Lion King. So I’ll step in for one of them.”

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Bill Burr, Omid Abtahi and Werner Herzog.

Season one of The Mandalorian begins exclusively on Disney+ 12th November in the US, Canada and Netherlands (where subscribers currently have a free 2-month trial).

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Disney+ includes classic Marvel animated series



Disney+ is available as a free trial in the Netherlands and beta testers have unearthed classic Marvel animated series including X-Men (1992) and Spider-Man (1994). These are staples from my undergraduate years and were available, briefly, when Netflix launched in the UK with a retro rush.

The free 2-month trial runs until 12th November and there's a roster of 4K HDR content including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Free Solo, Aladdin, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns, A Wrinkle in Time, Christopher Robin, The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2.



Disney+ will pull from a vast back catalogue including Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and 20th Century Fox when it launches in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand this November. The House of Mouse's nascent streaming service will be available on a range of devices from iPhone to PS4 and will launch in the UK early 2020 due to existing distribution deals (notably with Sky).

Are you looking forward to Disney+? Will you be subscribing? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Apple Arcade launches ahead of Google Stadia



Apple Arcade is coming to macOS, iOS, iPadOS and tvOS beginning on iOS 13 devices 19th September in 150 countries.

The Cupertino-based company's new offering is akin to Xbox Game Pass and is not a direct competitor to Google Stadia launching in November. Incidentally, I recently upgraded to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (with an extra 12-months free), for Gears 5 early access, so cancelled my Stadia Founder's Edition pre-order.

Apple has signed deals with third-party developers including Lego, Konami and Sega. The fine folks at Sega contacted me to announce ChuChu Rocket Universe. ChuChu Rocket was originally released for the Dreamcast, twenty years ago, and was a free mail-away:

"20 years after ChuChu Rocket! invaded the Dreamcast and became the very first online multiplayer experience, the ChuChus are back in a brand-new episode. The storyline is new, but the objective for players remains the same: help all the ChuChus escape by placing directional arrows that lead them to their space rocket. In multiplayer, the objective for players is to help more ChuChus escape than their competitors. Using very creative methods to win is absolutely compulsory.

ChuChu Rocket! Universe will be available exclusively on Apple Arcade."


Confirmed titles for Apple Arcade include:

Atone: Heart of the Elder Tree
Ballistic Baseball
Beyond a Steel Sky
Cardpocalypse
ChuChu Rocket Universe
Doomsday Vault
Down in Bermuda
Enter the Construct
Exit the Gungeon
Frogger in Toy Town
HitchHiker
Hot Lava
Kings of the Castle
Lego Arthouse
Lego Brawls
Lifelike
Monomals
Mr. Turtle
No Way Home
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
Overland
Pac-Man Party Royale
Projection: First Light
Rayman Mini
Repair
Shayonara Wild Hearts
Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Shinsekai: Into the Depths
Skate City
Sneaky Sasquatch
Sonic Racing
Spidersaurs
Steven Universe: Unleash the Light
Super Impossible Road
The Bradwell Conspiracy
The Enchanted World
The Pathless
UFO on Tape: First Contact
Various Daylife
Where Cards Fall
Winding Worlds
Yaga

Apple Arcade will cost £4.99/$4.99 per month with a free 1-month trial for new members.

Will you be subscribing? Were you hoping for the AAA titles available on Stadia? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Hailee Steinfeld to play Kate Bishop in Hawkeye?



Variety has exclusively revealed Hailee Steinfeld (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) is under consideration for a lead role in Hawkeye, the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin-off series for Disney+.

Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, alongside Jeremy Renner reprising the titular role from the MCU, who is a member of the Young Avengers. Clint Barton is expected to pass on the baton of Hawkeye to Bishop in the limited-run series. The character of Bishop will most likely appear in further spin-offs and movies.

Disney+ has a raft of exclusive Marvel series in production including Loki, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Hawkeye comes to Disney+ in late 2021.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Hayden Christensen's rumoured return to Star Wars



With only a few more months to go until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in cinemas, fan theories are reaching boiling point.

This time, the cancellation of Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Hayden Christensen's (Anakin Skywalker) appearance at Salt Lake's FanX, because Disney purportedly feared leaks, has only added to the fevered speculation.

McDiarmid is already confirmed to be reprising his iconic role as the Emperor in the final chapter to the epic 9-part saga. So, is Christensen's return hiding in plain sight?

Christensen, who has been criticised (by some fans and critics) for his performance in the prequels - let's not forget other talented cast members suffered a similar fate - was a guest at Star Wars Celebration in 2017 and this isn't the first time he's been linked with returning to the franchise.

It was suggested Anakin would appear as a Force ghost to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in The Force Awakens, but this idea was ultimately dropped. Now, many fans think the title of JJ Abrams' sequel refers to Anakin and not Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

What do you think? Will Anakin return to bring balance to the Force a final time? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 6 September 2019

The Mandalorian and the rise of the First Order



The Mandalorian, starring Pedro Pascal as the titular character, begins streaming, on Disney+, this November and is Entertainment Weekly's (EW) cover story.

Producer and director Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) says of the first live-action Star Wars series:

“This doesn’t turn into a good guy universe because you blew up two Death Stars. You get that the Rebels won and they’re trying to establish a Republic, but there’s no way that could have set in for everybody all at once. You have in a Western where you’re out on the frontier and there might be Washington and they might have some marshals, but sometimes good luck finding one.”

Series showrunner Jon Favreau (Lion King) teased:

“What could happen in the 30 years between celebrating the defeat of the Empire and then the First Order? You come in on Episode VII, [the First Order are] not just starting out. They’re pretty far along…So somehow, things weren’t necessarily managed as well as they could have been if [the galaxy] ended up in hot water again like that.”

The Mandalorian's 8-part season one begins streaming, weekly, in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand exclusively on Disney+ this November. The House of Mouse is sparing no expense for its Star Wars and Marvel live-action series.

What do you hope to see from Favreau's highly-anticipated live-action series with creative input from Star Wars creator George Lucas? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Rey turns to the dark side in The Rise of Skywalker?



During the D23 Expo, Lucasfilm dropped a special look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Deftly mixing the legacy of the original trilogy with the prequels and sequels, the special culminates with Rey (Daisy Ridley) brandishing a Sith lightsaber, seemingly seduced by the dark side of the Force.



Disney+'s first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian has piqued my interest, but may not be available until early 2020 in the UK. So, The Rise of Skywalker is my most anticipated franchise instalment for many reasons. It is the culmination of a cinematic journey that began in 1978, igniting a lifelong love of the creative arts, cherished childhood memories and friendships forged amidst the clash of lightsabers and John Williams' soaring strings.

Is Rey a clone as suggested in The Last Jedi and a puppet of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)? Let me know your theories in the comments below.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Boys: Never meet your superheroes



Firstly, a confession. I’m suffering from small screen superhero fatigue and am not alone. This may sound disingenuous from a self-confessed comic book geek, but the proliferation of franchises, from virtually every competing Hollywood studio, has become exhausting! So much so, I’ve stopped following most of The CW’s Arrowverse - annual crossover event notwithstanding - and quickly abandoned the defunct Marvel Netflix spin-off series before Disney did.

However, Amazon Prime's The Boys came out of left field. Here is a darkly visceral deconstruction of the superhero trope as chilling commodity with a protagonist/antagonist suffering from PTSD.

Worthy of comparison to Watchmen?

Guest post by Nick Smith.

We human beings are advanced. Like, really advanced. We can reach for the stars, share pictures of ourselves worldwide in the blink of an eye, and twiddle knobs like nobody’s business. Ever see a turtle crank up the volume on a boombox? Didn’t think so. Despite all our abilities and achievements, we still dream of being greater. Stronger. Faster. Less visible in a world where our anonymity is dwindling. It’s part of our evolutionary survival instinct, to be extraordinary.

Our fascination with superpowers has accelerated over the past century. No longer the province of gods, special abilities can be owned by the boy or girl next door – at least in fiction. Millions flock to see such miracles in Hollywood blockbusters. V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight, graphic deconstructions of these high-flying guys and the comic books that spawned them, are regarded by some as literature.

The super-obsession has trickled down to TV and streaming services, with dozens of adaptations vying for our attention. A mere ten years after the movie version, HBO is launching a lavish-looking series based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen comic book. But before those capes have had a chance to unfurl, way out of left field comes The Boys, currently the darling of fanboys, housewives and Amazon-and-chillers alike. There are similarities with Moore’s work as well as Grant Morrison’s Zenith (superheroes as pop stars), John Smith’s New Statesmen (superheroes as political pawns) and Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass (superheroes boosted by social media), inevitable considering the cross-pollination of comics and the popular central question, "what if these larger-than-life characters existed in real life?"

In the case of The Boys, the answer would be: a disaster! Imagine a rock star terrorizing a hotel room, give him the powers of a deity and make the hotel room the entire planet. You’d better bring him some red M&Ms real quick before he throws a heat vision tantrum or undresses the housemaid with his X-ray vision. The death of wrong-doers is justifiable to this kind of supreme being, as is exploitation of women and religious faith.

Sound cynical? Welcome to the world according to Garth Ennis, writer of Preacher, another sceptical look at the shock-and-aw-shucks land of the USA, co-developed for the small screen by Ennis fan Seth Rogen. Rogen and Supernatural guru Eric Kripke help to keep The Boys palatable and entertaining, although the show yaws from comedy to dark drama and back again. Like Shazam!, this adaptation works best when focused on comedy – but this humour is sometimes crass and pitch dark.

The Boys tells the tale of a team (one could almost say a league) called the Seven, owned by the Vought International company. The Seven are led by Homelander (Antony Starr), an aloof figurehead with mommy issues who considers himself above the law. "I'm the world's greatest superhero," he boasts, "I can do whatever the *@!* I want." He’s accompanied by The Deep (Chace Crawford), an amphibian HR nightmare; Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), whose powers and disregard for human life almost match Homelander’s; Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), who speaks only with his fists; A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), fast as lightning and a little bit frightening; Translucent (Alex Hassell), who uses his invisibility for some peeping Tomfoolery; and Starlight (Erin Moriarty), a wide-eyed newcomer who helps the audience navigate this arena in time-honoured TV pilot fashion. It’s Starlight who adds a ray of optimism to the cynical proceedings. She asks, "since when did hopeful and naive become the same thing?"

Vought wants the Seven to become part of the American military, increasing the company’s controlling political interests. When Hughie Campbell witnesses a tragic A-Train accident and Vought tries to buy his silence, he’s enlisted by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and a motley, barely-CIA-sanctioned group called “The Boys.” They exist, as Butcher puts it, to "spank the bastards when they get out of line."

Twists, turns, hijinks and laser-eyed babies ensue. But the show stands out from its sea of super friends for many reasons – it’s jaw-dropping and jawbreaking, the acting is spot-on, the cinematography captures the DC murkiness we’re used to, inspired by pulp printing and reused ink, and the special effects are excellent. As one friend put it, "the physics are right."

The performances certainly help give this show its cinematic quality. Karl Urban is always entertaining to watch as the bruiser Billy Butcher; he’s also entertaining to listen to, as his accent wavers from Aussie to Cockney. Hughie is brought to life by Jack Quaid, son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, although from some angles he looks like a young Bill Hader, running around with a big ol’ Haderface, and his comic timing is perfect. Other stand-outs include Elisabeth Shue as a horrible boss and Simon Pegg who gets the opportunity to act for a change instead of just goofing around as comic relief.

More than anything, though, The Boys succeeds because it reflects our times. Comic book creators have always sought fresh ways to tell their stories, from social interest to soap opera, tapping into cultural mores, becoming more visually sophisticated along with the audience, aping and spawning movies. This time around, the ‘heroes’ are charismatic bullies and corporate pawns portrayed with a modern sensibility. As the Seven flex their muscles, Ennis and Kripke explore contemporary fears (conglomerate power and political interference, smartphone-fueled narcissism). Spider-Man was a swingin’ teen with high school hang-ups and campus riots to deal with; Superman had identity issues as an immigrant living the American Way. For heroes in 2019, their kryptonite is their reputation.

Despite attempts through the years to make comic books more mature or relevant, they still examine hope in many forms. We hope to get fitter and faster, or at least prolong our lives. We hope to be better as we gain emotional experience. We hope for excitement and escapism. We hope that the bad guys – even the ones disguised as smiley-face heroes – are defeated, and fairness shines through. Even in this dark take on funny books, the hope that comes with capes prevails.

Sign up for a free trial of Prime Video (affiliate link) and stream The Boys now.

Have you seen The Boys? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Mandalorian at D23 Expo



The annual D23 Expo has begun and Lucasfilm has released a promotional poster for its first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian. The lavish artwork harkens back to the original trilogy and The Force Awakens.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) said:

“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy. Not just the first film, but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars.”

Alongside the poster, a long-awaited trailer was also released. The Mandalorian evokes the grit of Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.



Favreau previously shed light on the production process powered by ILM TV, which was founded for Disney+ content including Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios' spin-offs.

“In The Mandalorian because we’re doing live-action production, we’re using the Epic game engine and using that to do real-time in-camera visual effects. So if you visited the set for The Mandalorian you would’ve seen a completely video-wall wrapped stage and we were in there filming the characters in the foreground, and oftentimes either blue screen or full digital versions of set extensions in the background with Parallax, because the positional data of the camera was informing the backgrounds, so it was like a translight that had perspective. So that allowed us to have environments—as long as we could build them digitally and put enough work into planning it, we could have the game engine be used for creating effects in a timeframe that allows us to get a TV season done.”

Here is the official synopsis for The Mandalorian:

"After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic."

The Star Wars news at D23 doesn't end there. Ewan McGregor appeared on stage alongside Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to announce he's reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for Disney+. Mic drop. And The Clone Wars returns in February 2020.

The Mandalorian is exclusive to Disney+ when it launches in the US, Canada and the Netherlands 12th November and Australia and New Zealand 19th November.