Saturday, 27 February 2021

Ghostly grief of Wanda's past



Spoilers for the latest episode of Marvel Studios' WandaVision streaming on Disney+. If you haven't caught up with, or started watching, WandaVision and don't want to find out what's going on, please look away from the screen now.

The penultimate episode of WandaVision brings all the feels and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has never resonated more deeply! It serves as an unfiltered exploration of loss and grief through the lens of comic book tropes.

After trapping Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in a basement of horrors, Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), revealed as a survivor of the Salem witch trials, takes Wanda on a timey-wimey tour of her traumatic past. Is Agatha a mentor or meddler?

Wanda has to confront moments that have shaped her destiny towards becoming the Scarlet Witch, the most powerful Avenger, ahead of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Surely Benedict Cumberbatch is going to cameo as Doctor Strange in the season finale?

From the violent death of Wanda's parents to twin brother Pietro's (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) death in Avengers: Age of Ultron to Vision's (Paul Bettany) death in Avengers: Infinity War, it's a heartbreaking story arc worthy of Shakespeare and, like the return of Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian, left me in an ugly mess.

Anyone who has seen a dead loved one will relate to the overwhelming sense of powerlessness and nothingness.

The myth Wanda had ghoulishly reanimated Vision is dispelled when it's revealed she conjured him back into existence in her grief-stricken state in the sitcom simulacrum of Westview. Bad Marvelites (myself included) for thinking Wanda was channelling Dr Frankenstein.

Olsen's acting prowess proves this was her show all along (not that I ever doubted it). And there's a mid-credits scene that ups the ante to the nth degree for the season finale, which I refuse to spoil.

WandaVision has been a ray of light during the seemingly endless darkness of a global pandemic. The weekly release schedule has seen fans united in their enjoyment of the series on social media and many (myself included) are going to be bereft when it ends.

Yes, there's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to look forward to next in the MCU. However, Wanda's story has been an emotive journey, far more rewarding than I ever dared dream.

WandaVision concludes Friday exclusively on Disney+.

What do you think will happen in the season finale? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Star Wars: The Bad Batch launches May Fourth



Star Wars: The Clone Wars spin-off The Bad Batch launches May Fourth AKA Star Wars Day on Disney+.

From StarWars.com:

“The series follows the elite and experimental troopers of Clone Force 99 (first introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch, as they prefer to be called — a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army — each possess a singular exceptional skill, which makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew.”

Nick Smith was impressed by the band of misfit clones in his review of The Clone Wars final season.

“Giving new and existing fans the final chapter of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been our honor at Disney+, and we are overjoyed by the global response to this landmark series,” Agnes Chu, senior vice president of content at Disney+, shared in a statement when the series was announced. “While The Clone Wars may have come to its conclusion, our partnership with the groundbreaking storytellers and artists at Lucasfilm Animation is only beginning. We are thrilled to bring Dave Filoni’s vision to life through the next adventures of the Bad Batch.”

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is executive produced by Dave Filoni (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Athena Portillo (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels), Brad Rau (Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance) and Jennifer Corbett (Star Wars Resistance, NCIS) with Carrie Beck (The Mandalorian, Star Wars Rebels) as co-executive producer and Josh Rimes as producer (Star Wars Resistance). Rau is also serving as supervising director with Corbett as head writer.

Are you looking forward to the new Star Wars spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home this Christmas



The penultimate episode of Marvel Studios' WandaVision premieres this Friday on Disney+. The live-action series, starring Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff) and Paul Bettany (Vision), connects directly to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and, supposedly, Spider-Man 3!

On Wednesday, actors Tom Holland (Peter Parker), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds) and Zendaya (MJ) teased the title of the upcoming Spider-Man sequel on social media before officially announcing it in a fun skit.



Spider-Man: No Way Home riffs on Homecoming and Far From Home, and suggests the beloved web-slinger may be on the run following the discovery of his true identity by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) in Far From Home.

Fans (myself included) will find out for sure when the upcoming sequel hits cinemas this December. However, even with the seemingly successful coronavirus vaccination rollout, I won't feel safe going to the cinema for the foreseeable future.

Previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are linked to the upcoming sequel despite denials. Because multiverse.

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

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

A Link to the Past: 35 years of The Legend of Zelda



The Legend of Zelda celebrates its 35th anniversary this week.

Nintendo's beloved video game franchise debuted on the Famicom Disk System in 1986 and holds a special place for many gamers (myself included).

I first encountered Link and the titular Princess Zelda in an animated spin-off series, which was part of Captain N: The Game Master, broadcast on ITV in the UK.

From 1989 to 1991, Captain N: The Game Master mined Nintendo's enviable library of hit video game franchises at the peak of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System's (NES) popularity in the US - dubbed the Nintendo Nation due to the company's dominance.

Whilst I remember playing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on the original Nintendo Game Boy in WHSmith, during breaks between college lectures, it wouldn't be until the release of the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), in 1992, that I would fully appreciate the brilliance of the fantasy action-adventure franchise for myself.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past became synonymous with my gap year.

The vast majority of college friends were away studying at university and there was serious family life upheaval in the wake of an economic recession in the early nineties. Link's adventures in Hyrule were an escape from the turmoil and feelings of isolation. Not for the first or last time, video games would continue to play a pivotal role since the Atari age.

A Link to the Past, with its colourful graphics, memorable soundtrack and immersive gameplay, is a video game I treasure to this day and have subsequently replayed countless times on multiple Nintendo consoles. It has earned a place alongside The Lord of the Rings, The War of the Worlds and Doctor Who Target novelisations on the bookshelf.

The Kyoto-based company has announced The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword (affiliate link), originally released on the Nintendo Wii, this July.

Controversially, Skyward Sword made exclusive use of the Wii MotionPlus and inadvertently alienated a lot of gamers at the time of its release in 2011. Ironically, the Wii enabled many differently-abled family friends to play video games for the very first time in their lives. Incidentally, Dad and I donated a Wii console bundle to my late mum's nursing home (as part of a multimedia wall in tribute to her memory).

With all that said.

The Nintendo Switch port of Skyward Sword is an exciting opportunity to revisit this largely overlooked title and I'm looking forward to playing it for the first time. Pikmin 3 Deluxe and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury should scratch the Nintendo itch in the meantime. That's when I'm not playing Detroit: Become Human, God of War or Control: Ultimate Edition on PS5. Did I mention the PS5's DualSense is now my all-time favourite controller?

Hopefully, there'll be a The Legend of Zelda 35th anniversary collection comparable to Super Mario 3D All-Stars this holiday season. Certainly, I would welcome the chance to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Switch.

What are your favourite memories of playing The Legend of Zelda? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Steven Spielberg surprises E.T. star Drew Barrymore



Director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) surprised goddaughter Drew Barrymore on her 46th birthday with a special virtual appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show. No, you're crying.



"Director Steven Spielberg joins Drew's surprise birthday bash to share the first time he met an adorable six-year-old Drew when she came for an audition in his office for E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and his reaction to a very adult Drew Playboy spread years later in this digitally extended interview."

Spielberg talks affectionately about Barrymore's audition for the role of Carol Anne, played by the late Heather Michele O'Rourke, in director Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist (a suburban ghost story that continues to cause lively debate, among fellow film fans and friends, as to whether or not Spielberg was really at the helm as pre-production began on E.T.) and how he didn't hesitate to cast her as Gertie in E.T.

What are your memories of watching E.T., and do you think Spielberg directed Poltergeist? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 22 February 2021

When you wish upon a Star



Today is the last day you can avail yourself of an annual subscription to Disney+ for £59.99 before the Star brand launches, in non-US markets, on Tuesday.

Star launches on Disney+ on 23rd February with hundreds of films and television series from Twentieth Century Fox and Star Originals in Europe, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Lost, 24, Desperate Housewives, Family Guy, The X-Files, Die Hard and many more will be available to stream.

As Star isn't optional, an annual subscription increases by 33% to £79.99 but existing subscribers can renew for £59.99.

Given the amount of content, coupled with an ongoing global pandemic and The Walt Disney Company pivoting with new movies (such as Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon) simultaneously released in cinemas and at home, I'll be renewing like many of the 95 million subscribers to Disney+.

Are you looking forward to the arrival of Star on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Something wicked this way comes, Wanda!



Spoilers for the latest episode of Marvel Studios' WandaVision streaming on Disney+. If you haven't caught up with, or started watching, WandaVision and don't want to find out what's going on, please look away from the screen now.

As many fellow true believers guessed correctly, the neighbourly Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) is in fact Agatha Harkness (Russell T Davies, a former Doctor Who showrunner, named Captain Jack Harkness in homage to the original comic book character).

Agatha Harkness, a witch mentor to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in the comic books, has been toying with Wanda all along, and is responsible for the appearance of a recast Pietro (Evan Peters) who appears in a surprise mid-credits scene, which many fans missed (much like the reveal of The Book of Boba Fett at the end of The Mandalorian).

After the twins, Billy and Tommy, go mysteriously missing, Agatha lures Wanda into a basement (House of M meets Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) before revealing her true identity and Darkhold can be seen. Ruh-roh!

Whilst Wanda and Vision (Paul Bettany) channel Modern Family's Claire and Phil Dunphy with exquisite comedic results. Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) gets her own superhero origin story as she forces her way back through the barrier into Westview. And Ultron (James Spader) was mentioned again.

This can't be a throwaway and suggests Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) twisted titan could be back to reclaim Vision's body following events in Avengers: Age of Ultron - much better than I remembered.

New episodes of WandaVision premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

What do you think will happen next? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 19 February 2021

For All Mankind is back on Apple TV+



The second season of For All Mankind, an alternate reality sci-fi series created by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), begins streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.

This is a day after NASA successfully landed its Perseverance rover on Mars AKA the "Red Planet" with technology from a Devon-based company.



Here's the official synopsis:

"For All Mankind is created by Emmy® Award winner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi. Told through the lives of NASA astronauts, engineers and their families, For All Mankind presents an aspirational world where NASA and the space program remained a priority and a focal point of our hopes and dreams."

The Cupertino-based company has released an official companion podcast and augmented reality (AR) app for iPhone and iPad.

Ironically, I still haven't seen season one since availing myself of a free annual subscription to Apple TV+ (bundled with an iPhone SE) last year. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm flying to the moon and back this weekend.

Are you watching For All Mankind? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

WandaVision on Good Morning America



An exclusive teaser for tomorrow's episode of WandaVision premiered on Good Morning America (GMA).



Fan theories continue to surround the Marvel Studios live-action series following last week's haunting Halloween special.

“I’m loving it. I’m loving it being disseminated to the fans. And I love how frustrated they are of not being able to see it all in one fix. I love reading their theories of what might happen. And some of them are incredibly accurate, actually. I keep thinking, ‘Marvel should give that person a job,’” Paul Bettany (Vision) told Marvel.com.

He continued, “It’s been a whole lot of fun watching them go through this. I mean, I know they’ve been waiting a long time. So, have we. It’s really special to watch it on the platform without my name across the middle of it [on early screeners]. So yeah, it’s been really fun.”

WandaVision has resonated with viewers because, at its core, the series is an exploration of trauma as we, the audience, share in the collective trauma of a global pandemic.

"It means you don't have to just be this reactive person in the world, that you can take ownership of your life experience and make that power you up for the rest of your life... that's really the gravity of the show, I believe, with Wanda." Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff) recently said in an interview.

New episodes of WandaVision premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

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

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

The pursuit of Boba Fett in War of the Bounty Hunters



Whilst Star Wars fans (myself included) wait for The Book of Boba Fett, starring Temuera Morrison as the titular bounty hunter, this December on Disney+. Marvel Comics has announced War of the Bounty Hunters, an upcoming Star Wars crossover event, running from May through October.

The five-issue miniseries from Charles Soule (Star Wars: The High Republic) and Luke Ross chronicles Boba Fett's travails as he transports Han Solo in carbonite to Jabba the Hutt.

“Boba Fett clearly doesn’t take Han Solo directly to Jabba’s palace,” Soule tells StarWars.com. “Something had to happen in between that intervening time between Empire and Jedi. And I was like, ‘I would like to tell that story, and I would like it to be about Boba Fett and what happens to him.”

“I remember the chill that ran down my spine when I saw Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and the bounty hunters all came on screen. They only appeared for a split second, but left a lasting impact. And it's a dream come true we can bring them all to life again, and pit them against each other, in STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS, our first big galaxy-spanning crossover of the post-ESB era,” Editor in Chief CB Cebulski said. “Bossk, Dengar, 4-LOM, IG-88... all hot on the trail of Boba Fett, looking to score the biggest bounty out there... Han Solo!”

Does War of the Bounty Hunters remind you of Shadows of the Empire? Let me know in the comments below.