Saturday, 26 September 2020

The Haunting of Bly Manor trailer teases fright fest

The Haunting of Bly Manor, the follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House, arrives this October on Netflix and reunites co-stars Henry Thomas and Victoria Pedretti.

The streaming service has released an official trailer that jealously guards ghoulish goings on in 1980's England.

"After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires a young American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew (Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller). But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance. At Bly Manor, dead doesn’t mean gone."

The Haunting of Bly Manor bookends a year that will be remembered for a life-changing global pandemic and began with supernatural stablemate Locke & Key.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Supergirl hangs up her cape

The CW's Supergirl is to end with season six. This is surprising news soon after DC FanDome.

Whilst I ultimately stopped watching, due to superhero series saturation, Melissa Benoist embodied the titular role and was always a standout during the annual Arrowverse crossover events with stablemates Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

“To say it has been an honor portraying this iconic character would be a massive understatement. Seeing the incredible impact the show has had on young girls around the world has always left me humbled and speechless. She’s had that impact on me, too. She’s taught me strength I didn’t know I had, to find hope in the darkest of places, and that we are stronger when we’re united. What she stands for pushes all of us to be better. She has changed my life for the better, and I’m forever grateful,” Benoist touchingly wrote on Instagram.

Like Wonder Woman and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer before it, The CW's Supergirl championed inclusivity, something that is needed more than ever in these troubled times.

“I’m so excited that we get to plan our conclusion to this amazing journey, and I cannot wait for you to see what we have in store. I promise we’re going to make it one helluva final season.”

The Arrowverse is in transition. Arrow ended last year with the death of Oliver Queen, but a Superman & Lois spin-off series is in production.

Supergirl maybe hanging up her cape, but DC's Stargirl picks up the mantle with a breakout first season worthy of anything shown on HBO Max. The second season moves to The CW. So, expect Stargirl to crossover with The Flash and friends.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Microsoft buys Bethesda, begins next-gen pre-orders

It's the autumn equinox, heralding my favourite season of all, in the northern hemisphere and Microsoft began pre-orders for Series X and S (affiliate link) with selected retailers this morning.

Having successfully pre-ordered a PlayStation 5 (PS5), I was ambivalent about a Series X on day-one (currently own an Xbox One X) until yesterday's surprise announcement Microsoft had bought Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion dollars, eclipsing Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. The latest acquisition brings Xbox Game Studios first-party total to 23 developers working on current and next-gen titles.

"As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

Bethesda has a storied history with Xbox beginning with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. This will further bolster Game Pass, which was already a great value with the addition of EA Play later this year - I can't wait to play The Sims 4 Star Wars: Journey to Batuu expansion. Doom, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout will now become Xbox Game Studios franchises.

“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans," said Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of ZeniMax, in a statement. "We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together."

What impact (if any) this has on the future of multi-platform releases and PS5 timed-exclusives remains to be seen. Microsoft was previously linked with buying Warner Bros. Interactive from AT&T and there were fervent denials regarding approaching Bungie. In related news. From today Destiny 2 joins Game Pass and major expansion Beyond Light will be playable from launch on 10th November.

Unlike the chaos of PS5 pre-orders, Series X and S was a relatively leisurely experience in comparison. The Redmond-based company had announced global pre-orders would begin at 8:00AM local time.

My Alexa alarm woke me early and, as I drank my first cup of tea of the day serenaded by a robin in the garden, I was able to order a Series X via the Amazon app with ease. However, some sites crashed including Xbox All Access partners Game and Smyths Toys. Both retailers stopped taking online orders and urged customers to order in-store. This may not be an option for everyone due to coronavirus and the threat of a second wave this winter.

The Verge and IGN have reported a surge in Xbox One X sales. Microsoft's confusing nomenclature may mean some gamers could be left disappointed when they realise it's not a Series X under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

Microsoft's purchase of ZeniMax Media doesn't mark the end of the company's acquisition trail. Rumours suggest Sega, the Japanese publisher famous for ending Nintendo's dominance during the 16-bit console era, is next. Only a few months ago there were suggestions of a Sega-branded Series X and S being released in the territory. The stunning Shock Blue wireless controller has only added to the speculation ahead of Xbox at Tokyo Game Show 2020.

Did you try pre-ordering an Xbox Series X or S? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 21 September 2020

WandaVision first look during Emmys

During the Emmys, Marvel Studios released an official trailer for upcoming Disney+ live-action spin-off WandaVision. The existential series acknowledges Vision's (Paul Bettany) death in Avengers: Infinity War.

"Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision” blends the style of classic sitcoms with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany)—two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. The new series is directed by Matt Shakman; Jac Schaeffer is head writer. Debuts on Disney+ this year."

WandaVision will be released on Disney+ later this year.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

PS5 pre-order midnight madness

Following last evening's PlayStation 5 (PS5) showcase and the announcement that pre-orders, for the disc-based and all-digital systems, would go live on Thursday morning, some retailers started taking pre-orders at midnight: leading to chaos, confusion and online retail sites crashing. Thereby souring the excitement for many consumers during the shared trauma of a global pandemic.

Without warning, Game, Smyths Toys, Walmart and Best Buy in the US began taking pre-orders and these sold out within minutes. I was fortunate enough to secure the disc-based PS5 from Smyths Toys (before switching to Amazon and ordering accessories) and alerted members of my PlayStation group on Facebook.

This morning (affiliate link) sold out of its initial allocation. There is no guarantee of further stock until early 2021. However, pre-orders begin at Argos on Friday morning. So, it's worth following the likes of IGN UK Deals on Twitter.

Regarding the showcase itself. It was curious to see selected PS5 exclusives confirmed for PS4. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Horizon Forbidden West will be available for the current gen console.

However, some gamers are concerned this flies against the platform's ethos of generational change, seemingly holding back the development of PS5 titles and negates the need to upgrade for the foreseeable future. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan countenances this during an interview with The Washington Post.

“No one should be disappointed,” Ryan said. “The PS5 versions of those games are built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set, and we have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free. It’s about people having choice. I’m really quite pleased about the situation.”

Sony taking a page out of Microsoft's cross-gen playbook for Xbox and it's worth noting the PS4 has an install base of over 112 million units since launching in 2013. That's a lot of money to leave on the table.

“The PS4 community will continue to be incredibly important to us for three or four years,” Ryan said. “Many will transition to PS5, we hope if we do our job well, but tens of millions will still be engaged with the PS4.”

God of War: Ragnarok was officially announced as a PS5-only exclusive.

The PlayStation Plus Collection will grant existing PlayStation Plus subscribers (myself included) access to the following curated first and third-party titles day-one on PS5:

God of War
The Last of Us: Remastered
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Battlefield 1
Monster Hunter World
Fallout 4
Final Fantasy XV
The Last Guardian
Ratchet and Clank
Infamous: Second Son
Days Gone
Detroit: Become Human
Batman: Arkham Knight
Mortal Kombat X
Persona 5
Until Dawn
Resident Evil: Biohazard

It's no Game Pass rival for sure. But, it does mean I can trade-in physical copies to partly fund my PS5 purchase.

The formation of PlayStation Studios will only strengthen the brand and Sony is now exploring new ways to capitalise on its franchises with live-action adaptations of Uncharted and The Last of Us.

The PS5 goes on sale 19th November in the UK. A week after Microsoft's Xbox Series S and X. However, pent-up demand for Sony's latest console may far exceed that of Microsoft's leading to scalpers making hay on the secondary market this holiday season.

Did you try pre-ordering a PS5? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Jedi search begins in The Mandalorian

This is the way! The official trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian dropped on Tuesday. The titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is tasked with searching for the Jedi and safely handing over The Child AKA Baby Yoda.

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."

The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens when Luke Skywalker is building a new Jedi order before his reckless actions lead to the Knights of Ren and the founding of the First Order.

“I’ll be going toe-to-toe with Mando,” Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon) recently told Entertainment Weekly (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 Mandalorian's second season will launch exclusively on Disney+ on 30th October.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Movie Daleks in The Jungles of Mechanus!

In the week both Dalek movies arrived on BritBox and a five-part animated series tie-in with Time Lord Victorious, Daleks!, was announced, Character Options started fulfilling orders for its online exclusive - The Jungles of Mechanus set.

John Rivers, our newly appointed chief Dalek operator, is on hand to explain why the release has generated so much buzz from fans and collectors alike.

Guest post by John Rivers

A quick glance at Doctor Who Twitter over the past week would have shown you much excitement about some Dalek toys. Not just any old Dalek toys, but the Character Options 'JUNGLES OF MECHANUS' set. Given that Character Options produces a number of Doctor Who figures each year, why all the fuss? The reason is simple - these are MOVIE DALEKS!

Most fans are familiar with the differences between the BBC Daleks (small ears... at least until 2005) and the movie or AARU Daleks (big ears, bigger bases) created for the the show's two big screen outings: 'Dr Who and the Daleks' (1965) and 'Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.' (1966). In most classic 'Doctor Who' stories we rarely see the Big-Eared cousins, except for a couple of occasions. One of those was The Chase.

By the time The Chase went into production in April 1965 filming on 'Dr Who and the Daleks' had been completed. This meant that there were spare Dalek props available to reinforce the meagre Dalek force residing at the BBC. Despite their popularity, Dalek props from the first two stories The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth had been repurposed or given away. Thus three movie stunt Daleks (designed to be non-operable and the sort you would use to be in the background or blown-up), that had been fitted with plungers like their TV counterparts, ended-up onscreen in The Chase. They are most prominently seen on the planet Mechanus where the Dalek force has tracked down the Doctor and his companions, only to tangle with Mechanoids.

The movie Daleks would have one more notable outing in the classic series as the Supreme Dalek in Planet of the Daleks was a repainted combination of two AARU props from the second Dalek film, plus had a funky light up eye stalk/torch.

And that's why fans have been so excited - small toys of big screen Daleks! My two (I've yet to name them) look fantastic and are up to Character Options usual level of detail.

You can still buy the Jungles of Mechanus set here. And for more Dalek prop information, visit the excellent Dalek 63•88!

If you have a related product for review, please get in contact.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Daisy Ridley reveals Rey could have been a Kenobi

Almost a year after the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Daisy Ridley reveals Rey was almost a Kenobi.

"At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection, and then it really went to that she was no one," the actress told friend and Murder on the Orient Express co-star Josh Gad on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

"When it came to episode nine, JJ pitched me the film and was like, 'So yeah, Palaptine's [your] grandaddy.' Then, two weeks later, he was like, 'Yeah, we're not sure.' So it kept changing. Even when I was filming, I wasn't sure what the answer was going to be."

This has sparked further heated debate amongst fans about the divisive conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. Ridley was amazing as Rey and that's a testament to her acting ability. She stars next with Willem Dafoe and James McAvoy in upcoming video game 12 Minutes for PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

The Avengers on BritBox

In a poignant twist, The Avengers returned to BritBox on Thursday, following an accidental launch in August (highlighted by John Rivers) before being quickly removed, when the sad news of Dame Diana Rigg's passing aged 82, due to cancer, was announced.

The beloved actress, who starred in Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and most recently All Creatures Great and Small, may have been an Avenger first, but she'll always be the best Bond girl to me!

The Avengers (1961)

The two complete surviving episodes of the first season, plus the iconic Emma Peel & Tara King seasons of the series starring Patrick MacNee, Diana Rigg & Linda Thorson as the incorrigible secret agents extraordinaire. Together they defeat criminal masterminds and solve unfathomable mysteries in the original cult TV classic.

BritBox, the streaming service co-owned by the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, continues to expand its cult collection and I'll be posting more news soon.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Jump into the future with Discovery

A confession. During lockdown I cancelled my Netflix subscription for the first time since the streaming service launched in the UK in 2012.

Due to the socio-economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, I couldn't justify subscribing to BritBox, NOW TV, Amazon Prime (a necessity whilst shielding), Apple TV+ (free with the purchase of an iPhone), Disney+ and Netflix. Especially when there was a wealth of classic content available on BBC iPlayer, too.

However, with the delayed return of Star Trek: Discovery, on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US, I'll restart my subscription after cleaning house this October. The first official trailer for season three premiered during an online panel on Star Trek Day.

Here’s the official plot synopsis for season three:

"After making the jump in the second season finale, season three of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY finds the U.S.S. Discovery crew dropping out of the wormhole and into an unknown future far from the home they once knew. Now living in a time filled with uncertainty, the U.S.S. Discovery crew, along with the help of some new friends, must together fight to regain a hopeful future."

Speaking in official Star Trek magazine, actress Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham) said: “In the… time that I spent alone, I marched to the beat of my own drum, in a way. But then I’ve also always been so duty-oriented.

“So, there’s been this interesting progression of not having to work, not having to be so principle-based, but to just be on this mission to find my crew. We see what it feels like for me to get a little rougher around the edges.”

In the wake of Discovery's success, CBS All Access has released further Star Trek spin-offs including Picard, Lower Decks and the highly-anticipated Strange New Worlds is currently in pre-production.

Are you looking forward to Discovery season three? Let me know in the comments below.