Friday, 19 July 2019

Top Gun: Maverick takes to the skies at SDCC



San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is full of surprises, but no one saw this coming. Tom Cruise took to the stage to introduce the first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. A sequel to the original Top Gun (1986), directed by the late Tony Scott, 34 years later.



Maverick (Tom Cruise) is called back into action to battle drones. Got goosebumps hearing Harold Faltermeyer's iconic main theme and the trailer is taken from the Star Wars playbook.

Top Gun has left an enduring legacy and most recently influenced Captain Marvel.

Top Gun: Maverick is in cinemas 2020.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

That's no moon... it's War for Cybertron Unicron!



HasLab has announced its latest crowdfunded project Transformers: War for Cybertron Unicron.

Unicron (voiced by Orson Welles) made his Death Star-sized debut in Transformers: The Movie (1986) and the planet-eating menace has become an integral part of Transformers lore.



For many fans (myself included), Unicron was a dream toy in the eighties. Now, fans can own the ultimate incarnation for $575. This is as long as 8000 fans commit to the project by 31st August.

HasLab's previous crowdfunded project was Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Jabba's Sail Barge (The Khetanna) from Return of the Jedi.

Head over to the official site for further details and to pledge support.

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

These are the droids you're looking for on Prime Day



LEGO and Amazon have teamed up for Prime Day with the launch of LEGO Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set.

"Introduce creative kids to a rich LEGO brick galaxy of lovable droid robots, exciting missions and coding fun with the LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander coding toy for kids. This interactive buildable robots toy puts your child in command of 3 app-controlled Star Wars droid robots: R2-D2, a Gonk Droid and a Mouse Droid, each with their own personalities and skills. The 3 in 1 app-controlled programmable interactive robot models help to learn the basics of coding, engineering and robotics. Using the free LEGO BOOST Star Wars app, your young commander builds the droid robots, inserts the Bluetooth-controlled Move Hub into the robot that will solve each mission, and brings the robot to life using the intuitive drag-and-drop coding environment. Your youngster then constructs tools, weapons, targets, obstacles and lots more as they progress through over 40 exciting missions – they’ll love it! This great birthday or Christmas Star Wars gift idea also helps youngsters develop their critical thinking. LEGO robotics coding kits introduce them to basic engineering and robotics."

"With LEGO BOOST, children learn about loops and variables, improve STEM and creative-problem solving skills and develop their imagination as they toggle between guided and open-ended play. The LEGO BOOST app is available for selected iOS, Android and Kindle smart devices. The app offers regular updates with new challenges and coding options designed to encourage social play. Visit LEGO.com/devicecheck for a list of all compatible devices."

The LEGO Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set is available to buy (affiliate link).

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian



The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series for Disney+, doesn't air until 12th November. However, executive producer Jon Favreau (The Lion King) is already hard at work on the second season for the House of Mouse's nascent streaming service.

Speaking on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Favreau said:

“It’s honestly like turning over your toy chest and playing with all the Star Wars toys together. We’re having a great time. It’s all-new characters. It’s going to be on Disney+ coming up in the fall. And we’re done with the first season. I was actually writing part of the second season now.”

Favreau reiterated The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The Empire has fallen and the galaxy is in chaos. The story follows a lone Mandalorian warrior (Pedro Pascal). Other cast members include Giancarlo Esposito, Nick Nolte, Gina Carano as Cara Dune, Emily Swallow, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi and Carl Weathers as Greef Carga.



A sneak peek at The Mandalorian will be shown during the D23 Expo next month.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens December



When Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened in California last May, there was much disappointment surrounding the delay of its most advanced attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney Parks has confirmed it will now open on 17th January, 2020.

Disney Parks' official description of the ride:

"When it opens, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will blur the lines between fantasy and reality and will put guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Guests will be recruited to join Rey and General Organa at a secret base. Along the way, they will be captured by a First Order Star Destroyer. With the help of some heroes of the Resistance, they break out and must escape the Star Destroyer, protect the secret base, and stay one step ahead of Kylo Ren."

Fans living on the east coast of America will only have to wait until 5th December when the ride opens at Walt Disney World, Florida. You can be assured our resident roving reporter, Nick Smith, will be checking it out for the Resistance.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Meet the Star Wars Sith Trooper at SDCC



The design of Stormtroopers has evolved throughout the Star Wars saga and director JJ Abrams' (The Force Awakens) upcoming The Rise of Skywalker is no exception.

Meet the Sith Trooper, a fusion of a First Order Stormtrooper and Elite Praetorian Guard, announced ahead of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) next week. The distinctive red evoking the Royal Guards from Return of the Jedi, adding further to the Emperor's (Ian McDiarmid) return in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

"It has some really unique aesthetics to it,” said Lucasfilm archivist Madlyn Burkert. "And it has some subtle ties to previous stormtrooper designs, which I think fans will enjoy discovering."

Sith Trooper merchandise will be available from Funko, Hasbro, Hot Toys and LEGO at SDCC. Stormtrooper variants are always a highlight for me as a collector. From a trooper to Biker Scout; I amassed quite a collection from the original trilogy toy line by Kenner.

What do you think of the latest look? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Jaws back in cinemas this summer



Jaws, the original seventies blockbuster from Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, returns to UK cinema screens this summer.

Spielberg's shark story is regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, and caught my imagination at a very young age courtesy of John Williams' iconic soundtrack serenading Star Wars action figure adventures.



The classic blockbuster film will be screening at selected cinemas across the UK from 12th July, including Cineworld, Vue, Picturehouse, Showcase and selected independent cinemas, as well as in selected international territories.

For further details visit Park Circus.

What are your memories of watching Jaws? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

First step into a larger world with Star Wars Weekly



For many UK Star Wars fans (myself included) the gateway into George Lucas' space opera was via Marvel's weekly comic strip adaptation and making-of magazine. One of my earliest memories was starting at a new primary school, wheelchair-bound in the wake of a life-changing trauma, and making a new friend, Jeremy, who enthusiastically showed me his copy of Star Wars Weekly prior to seeing the movie in early 1978.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based roving reporter, goes on a galactic odyssey in the pages of a revived Marvel Star Wars. Is the Force still strong over 40 years later?

Guest post by Nick Smith

In February 1978 Star Wars was everywhere. In movie theatres. In toy stores. And in a five-year-old’s bedroom in the city of Bristol, England.

The bedroom belonged to my neighbour and best friend Stuart Barrett, who proudly showed me the first issue of a brand-new large-format comic called Star Wars Weekly. Stuart always had cool toys to show me like his Six Million Dollar Man figure [Steve Austin stood sentry whilst I was in children's hospital - Ed] and his inflatable light-up lightsaber [I had one of those too - Ed] but this was something different and within my boyhood budget. It didn’t matter that the comic’s cover had a blue-green Death Star, or that the innards were black and white. We were two little kids who loved the movie and this comic book introduced us to a brash new form of storytelling.

Being an impressionable lad, I went looking for my own copy. #1 was sold out but on my sixth birthday I was able to find #2 with a bright yellow cover depicting a “sand creature.” I was mesmerized by Roy Thomas’ dramatic prose and Howard Chaykin’s intentionally scribbled space art [Dark Horse printed my admiration for those fine folks in Classic Star Wars whilst we were at university together in the mid-nineties - Ed].

The flimsy periodical sparked a lifelong love of comics. Instead of an allowance, I asked my folks for Star Wars Weekly once a week. It was something I could count on in an uncertain world of house moves (we switched homes every year or two), fairweather friendships and school burdens. For three years, apart from a few novels, it was my go-to for original Star Wars material. My young brain was imprinted with themes of loyalty, compassion and determination against great galactic odds.

I wasn’t alone, of course. Stuart picked up the occasional issue and thanks to CYRIL (the fictional editor droid of the weekly) and the letters he printed, I got my first sense of a nationwide community – a group of people who shared my passion for Star Wars and sci-fi. I was part of something bigger than my own little world. Thousands of kids, adults, families were enjoying the same adventures as me, reading the same behind-the-scenes articles and discovering more of the Marvel universe through an eclectic mix of back-up strips.

Beyond its vivid covers and new Star Wars content (“At last! Beyond the movie! Beyond the galaxy!”) I was introduced to great stories and characters in the back-ups. Since the source comic was monthly, the main stories had to be spread across four or five weeks. That meant my heroes would spend a seeming eternity on Drexel the water world or the gambling-addled Death Wheel. The rest of the weekly was filled with science fiction of all stripes.

In the rear of the mag, I met the Guardians of the Galaxy, the original Star-Lord, the fatal femme Gamora and Rocket Racoon with an upper-crust British accent. I had my little mind blown by Jim Starlin’s mythical Warlock; was entertained by the big bald baby head of the Watcher, who introduced older Marvel cautionary tales; avidly read the shrinky dink adventures of Micronauts [a treasured toy line - Ed] and the Dirty Harry tactics of Deathlok the Demolisher. Deathlok and some of the one-off stories showed me that comics weren’t just for six-year-olds, that they could explore dark and mature themes. They could be gritty as a carbon-scored vaporator.

To create my own collection, I cut out the main story pages, taped them together and made a new cover. Without knowing it, I’d created my own omnibus many years before Dark Horse and Marvel published their own. When I proudly showed my Uncle Alan, he gave me that disparaging look non-fans give you when they don’t understand why you’re getting so passionate about pop culture. After that, reading the comic was never quite the same.

I cancelled the weekly when I heard a new Empire Strikes Back version was coming in 1980, only to find that it was a continuation of the same comic, missing an exceptional issue with Michael Golden art. I caught up with the series when it went monthly, with photo covers, and as US exports became more prevalent, I was able to collect the real deal – Marvel’s American edition of Star Wars [US imports were rarer than hen's teeth in my part of the UK. However, there was a gas station, near to where my Canadian grandmother lived, that had Marvel and DC Comics on the newsstand - Ed].

So why this uninvited trip down Nick’s nostalgia lane?

Last time I popped into TBS Comics, my local comic book store, I saw a little Star Wars Legends book with a Carmine Infantino-style cover. I thought it was yet another reprint and passed it by. Then I realized the truth.

As part of its 80th-anniversary hullabaloo, Marvel has published a continuation of its US comic, cancelled in 1986 when the publisher felt the proverbial fat lady had sung her last space opera. I was not happy at the time [I openly cried when it ended - Ed]! Little did I know that a staggering 33 years later, the next issue would come out. If fandom has taught me one thing, it’s patience.

#108’s “Forever Crimson” is an exercise in reminiscence, a sequel to the US #50 epic “The Crimson Forever.” That story featured killer crystals that turn Luke Skywalker red. The follow-up is fun to read, full of nods to the old comics, retaining the continuity of US #107’s “All Together Now.” Jaxxon the giant green rabbit and Amaiza from Marvel’s first original story cycle bump into Han Solo, following their own mercenary agenda. Domina Tagge, matriarch of the evil House Tagge, has a taste in jewels that tends towards the deadly.

The main character of this story – and a big draw for me – is Valance the Hunter, a cyborg who has spent years hating droids because he’s lost his own humanity, thought lost in an epic battle with Darth Vader over the ruby flame lava of Centares. Not only is Valance short some skin and bone, but he’s also missing some marbles. His character development is what really makes this book worth reading. In an earlier, classic issue, C-3PO risked sacrificing his existence to save Luke and this informs the former droid-hater’s actions. His moral choices are an echo of the original comic’s most powerful stories, wrapped up in an issue that child-me would have loved.

As an adult, I’m delighted by the cameos and the way that “Forever Crimson” works as a respectful continuation, rather than a clueless rip-off of those Star Wars Weekly stories. The comic has multiple writers and artists, including Cam Smith, Luke Ross and Leonard Kirk but the whole shebang flows well. Different covers are available from the likes of Infantino, Walter Simonson and Michael Golden and there are two short, tight articles, “Celebrating Marvel’s First Star Wars Comics” by Senior Editor Mark Paniccia and “The Stars of Marvel’s Original Star Wars,” featuring interviews with some of the key creators.

The legend of Valance the Hunter lives on. To a long-time fan like me, he is a bona fide part of the Star Wars universe, as much as C-3PO and R2-D2, Thomas’ Jaxxon, David Michelinie’s Shira Brie or Jo Duffy’s Plif the hoojib. #108 does justice to the characters who brightened my mind in the halcyon black and white days of the late ‘70s when paper-thin space tales opened the door to a world of imaginative possibilities... Beyond the movie. Beyond the galaxy. [Amen - Ed]

What are your memories of reading Star Wars comics? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Spider-Man's on vacation in Far From Home



Paul Moxham, fellow true believer, film fan and BBC cameraman, goes on a much-needed vacation after the events of Avengers: Endgame in Spider-Man: Far From Home. What could possibly go wrong?

Guest post by Paul Moxham

A mere two months since Avengers: Endgame, tears barely dry and jaws returned from the floor after the epic sweep of that behemoth blockbuster, and we’re back to see how Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is coping with what one can only imagine has been a rather eventful year so far.

Picking up shortly after the events of the second highest-grossing film ever (at time of writing), there’s nothing Peter would love more than to relax on a school trip around Europe and spend some time getting closer to MJ (Zendaya). Alas, upon arriving in Venice he is sought out by the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a stranger from another universe, to help defeat the Elementals, large world-ending creatures who’ve nipped through the same dimensional door as Beck.

If this sounds like classic summer blockbuster-fare, that’s because it is. A refreshingly light and breezy riposte to the universe-ending darkness of Endgame. The chemistry and tone of Homecoming is recaptured within minutes, director Jon Watts still successfully taking his cues from 80s high school movies. Credit to Marvel Studios, 23 films in now, and still able to refocus with ease from enormous cosmic shenanigans to a young guy from Queens trying to get a girlfriend.

The humour and action sit well alongside recurrent themes of self-doubt and lost father figures, writers McKenna and Sommers skilfully allowing the drama to flow from the action as much as dialogue. We learn probably just as much about the characters from what they do as what they say. The film mines a huge amount from Peter’s determination and inherent goodness in the face of grief and the expectation of others.

Although it’s not a complete home-run. Despite certain plot points seemingly flagged up early on, the first half an hour seems determined to hammer them home, resulting in a slower pace. The sharp wit and cast chemistry thankfully allaying fears of a slog ahead. And whilst full of lovely visual touches the third act is a rather typical Marvel bashy-crashy conclusion. That stellar character work and performance once more the real hero, elevating proceedings above the typical.

Those visuals are wonderful, especially one particularly Steve Ditko-inspired sequence, with the action being reliably quick, exciting and ready with an angle or perspective you didn’t know you needed.

Ultimately the film is a joyous testament to why Peter Parker has been loved for so long by so many people; he’s a good person, with cool superpowers, doing the best he can for others often at the expense of his own happiness. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone like that?

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Daisy Ridley teases emotional ending to Star Wars



Whilst promoting her new movie Ophelia, Daisy Ridley (Rey) talked to USA Today about the backlash against director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and that Rey's parentage will be revealed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: “[Director JJ Abrams] did say the question is answered. So at the end of the film, you do know what the dealio is.”

Ridley went on to describe how the final chapter in the Skywalker saga differs from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi: “Genre-wise, it’s different from the other two, which will become clear when the film comes out. It’s quite emotional. There’s a different drive than the previous two films, but there’s a lot of fun. I really missed John [Boyega] during the last one, but we’re back together and now Oscar [Isaac] is part of it. To me, it felt like kids going on an adventure.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas this December.