Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Spooky reunion in Ghostbusters: Afterlife



Sony's dropped a new trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The latest instalment in the fan-favourite franchise was delayed due to the pandemic.



Here's the official synopsis:

"From director Jason Reitman and producer Ivan Reitman, comes the next chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. The film is written by Jason Reitman & Gil Kenan."

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a direct sequel to Ghostbusters II, which seemed more interested in promoting Sony products than the genuine scares and thrills of the beloved 1984 original (forever intertwined with pop culture juggernaut: Michael Jackson's Thriller), upon its release in 1989.

Please gift me Ghostbusters Plasma Series Mini-Pufts collectables from Hasbro Pulse for Halloween.

This time Ghostbusters has a nostalgic momentum behind it in the wake of the success of Netflix's Stranger Things (not least because of the meta connection), and I'm genuinely excited for the movie's release this November.

Are you looking forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

ILM hires Deepfake expert



When Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cameoed in The Mandalorian second season finale last Christmas, most Star Wars fans (myself included) were overwhelmingly surprised and delighted to see the beloved Jedi Knight at the peak of his audacious powers.

However, the de-ageing technology, utilised by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), was divisive. And independent VFX wizards quickly got to work on subjectively improving the visuals (following in the hallowed footsteps of Star Wars creator George Lucas' endless tinkering on the original trilogy).

One stood out from the rest. YouTube Deepfake star, Shamook.



His work was so impressive, it caught the attention of the fine folks at Lucasfilm who have subsequently hired him. IndieWire confirms in this quote:

“Over the past several years ILM has been investing in both machine learning and A.I. as a means to produce compelling visual effects work and it’s been terrific to see momentum building in this space as the technology advances.”

This is a mission statement suggesting there'll be more classic characters appearing in Star Wars spin-offs both on the big screen and Disney+.

“As some of you may already know, I joined ILM/Lucasfilm a few months ago and haven’t had the time to work on any new YouTube content,” Shamook wrote in a comment this month. “Now I’ve settled into my job, uploads should start increasing again. They’ll still be slow, but hopefully not months apart. Enjoy!”

Are you a fan of Deepfake technology or more concerned with the possible ethical implications therein? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con 2021



During Sunday's Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con@Home 2021, the BBC dropped a trailer for series 13.



Watch showrunner Chris Chibnall, Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), new companion John Bishop (Dan) and a very special surprise guest as they share exclusive content from Doctor Who.



“Before we started making it, there were times when we thought we were going to be unable to do the show under Covid conditions this year… there were two ways you could go,” Chibnall told Deadline. “You could go ‘let’s do lots of tiny little episodes in one room, with no monsters,’ or we could throw down the gauntlet and do the biggest story we’ve ever done. We’re going to go to all kinds of different places, we’re going to have all kinds of characters and monsters, and it’s all going to be part of a bigger whole. It’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done since we’ve been on the series.”

Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord is rumoured to be coming to an end. However, this is simply speculation, and there's the small matter of the beloved sci-fi series' 60th anniversary in 2023.

Are you looking forward to the new 8-part series later this year on BBC One, BBC America and HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Black Series Rancor teased by HasLab



The Rancor was one of my favourite large-scale action figures from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, terrorising the Rebel Alliance and Action Force, on the Jurassic Coast, in the early eighties.

HasLab has now teased Jabba the Hutt's pit-dwelling beast for the Black Series.

“Following the success of the previous two HasLab campaigns for Star Wars: The Vintage Collection, our team is so thrilled to offer fans the first-ever HasLab project from The Black Series – the Rancor!” says Michael Ballog, Hasbro’s vice president for the Star Wars brand. “We hope fans of The Black Series line are prepared for this iconic creature to join their 6-inch-scale collections.”

HasLab, Hasbro's crowd-funded toy line, has been a huge success with collector's, and Marvel Legends' Galactus is the latest to join the premium collection alongside Transformers' Unicron exclusively on Hasbro Pulse.

Will you be adding Jabba's pet Rancor to your Black Series collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 July 2021

WandaVision wows with Emmy nominations



The first season of Marvel Studios' Loki may have ended, but Disney+ is basking in the glow of Emmy nominations for its original Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars spin-off series.

WandaVision has garnered 23 nominations including nods for Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision) and Kathryn Hahn (Agatha Harkness). The live-action series was praised for how it dealt with loss and grief - themes amplified in the midst of a global pandemic.

“The grief journey was the tethering force,” showrunner Jac Schaeffer told The Times. “I aligned each episode to the stages of grief, so the story is told nonlinearly but the grief story is linear. We start in [Wanda's] denial and move all the way to acceptance.”

“We were using the superhero space to explore mental health, conflict resolution, self-acceptance. So many superhero stories right now deal with things like PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and crisis of identity. The terrain of our current mythology has to do with emotion and psychology. Something that Marvel is doing well is an examination of all the different motivations in a given conflict as opposed to good versus bad. We all, as consumers, have grown up a bit and know the world is far messier than that.”

Marvel Studios' stablemate The Falcon and the Winter Soldier garnered 5 nominations.

Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian received 24 nominations and is tied with Netflix's The Crown. Disney+ is a relative newcomer to the streaming space, quickly establishing itself as a prestige drama series powerhouse. To infinity and beyond...

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Daisy Ridley stars in Twelve Minutes



5 years ago, I was with friends at Star Wars Celebration Europe, which will always be a treasured memory.

Whilst the Star Wars sequel trilogy may have ended, Daisy Ridley (Rey) is starring in Twelve Minutes, an upcoming video game releasing for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.



Read the synopsis:

“In Twelve Minutes, you keep living the same specific time period over and over again. While a man and his wife are sharing an evening in peace, a man comes in and claims to be a cop. He accuses the woman of murder. After this, the 12 minutes start repeating. You need to fully understand the situation and the underlying truth. You also need to find some clues and take a closer look at the details.”

Twelve Minutes, co-starring James McAvoy (X-Men) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), will be available on Game Pass on 19th August.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Power of the Force Cantina Showdown



To commemorate the first 50 years of Lucasfilm, Hasbro has announced Star Wars The Black Series Cantina Showdown in vintage The Power of the Force packaging.

This isn't the first time Hasbro has released a Cantina Showdown collectable set. There was a Han Solo vs. Greedo Comic-Con exclusive in 2014.

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES THE POWER OF THE FORCE CANTINA SHOWDOWN

(HASBRO/Age 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $104.99/Available: Fall 2021)

Commemorate the first 50 years of LUCASFILM with figures inspired by the original STAR WARS trilogy featuring STAR WARS The Power of the Force-themed packaging. Recall intense moments from the STAR WARS Galaxy with this STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES THE POWER OF THE FORCE CANTINA SHOWDOWN Playset, featuring DR. EVAZAN, PONDA BABA, and OBI-WAN KENOBI 6-inch-scale figures. STAR WARS fans can display these fully articulated figures featuring poseable heads, arms, and legs, as well as premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. The playset combines with additional CANTINA SHOWDOWN playsets to create the full scene inspired by STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE. Additional playsets sold separately. Includes Cantina bar, 3 figures, and 3 accessories. Available exclusively on Hasbro Pulse in the US, Canada & UK in Fall 2021.


The Power of the Force toy line ran from 1995 to 2000. I remember collecting action figures from a defunct local comic book store and Toys "R" Us, Norwich.

I joined Hasbro Pulse Premium when it launched last March in the UK. However, exclusive products such as the Transformers-Jurassic Park mash-up pack sell out fast, so it's unlikely I'll renew as the Pawtucket-based company continues to pivot towards the premium collector's market.

Cantina Showdown will be made available during Hasbro PulseCon 2021. Happy toy hunting fellow Star Wars collectors, and watch out for anyone with a death sentence in 12 systems.

Have you joined Hasbro Pulse Premium, and are you excited about The Power of the Force products? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 12 July 2021

What Boba Fett did next...



It's the 25th anniversary of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and whilst we wait for The Book of Boba Fett this Christmas on Disney+, Marvel Comics takes us back to a time between Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in War of the Bounty Hunters.

Our very own US-based stellar scribe, Nick Smith, grabs his latest comic book bounty, from TBS Comics in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and goes in pursuit of the infamous Boba Fett.

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s a story as old as that galaxy far, far away – a protagonist does a favour for a friend in lieu of payment and has to face a series of challenges, eventually finding that the favour could prove fatal thanks to an obstacle that’s bigger and more threatening than he ever expected.

However, in War of the Bounty Hunters, that protagonist is the legendary Boba Fett and the payment concerns that scruffy Corellian smuggler Han Solo. “Precious Cargo,” from Marvel Comics, sets off a chain of events that will span what’s being described as the biggest crossover in Star Wars comics history, filling all 4 monthly titles and a dedicated title (War of the Bounty Hunters). In all, it will take more than 30 issues to tell this story through October 2021. Boushh and IG-88 will get their own comics, while 4-LOM and Zuckuss have to share one.

“Precious Cargo” kicks off five preludes to the war, opening with Boba in his ship Slave 1 [Disney's subsequently renamed it as Boba Fett's Starship - Ed]. He’s just left Bespin with Han encased in carbonite and he’s en route for Tatooine where Solo will become Jabba the Hutt’s favourite decoration. Since The Empire Strikes Back focuses on Luke Skywalker, we’ve never seen What Fett Did Next – until now.

In this kind of crossover, there is no possible character progression for Boba, and the story’s conclusion is inevitable; we know Solo will end up with Jabba. The fun lies in finding out why the other bounty hunters, as well as Luke and the gang, are involved in the war, along with Valance the Cyborg, Domina Tagge and Doctor Aphra. Since the latter three are Marvel creations, they can be further developed. Their fates are unknown to us. Those characters are given just enough traits and twists to keep us reading.

Boba’s situation is complicated thanks to some gangland entanglements with the Kanji Hutts and it becomes apparent that his journey to Tatooine won’t be a straight run. Over in Star Wars issue 13, the rebel alliance searches for their carbon-cosy pal in “The Hunt for Han Solo.” They’re one issue behind Boba so they don’t catch up with him or his cargo. But they, too, face the Kanji. With an image of Boba on a wall and the good guys facing aliens, the cover of this story is reminiscent of the original Star Wars issue 7.

Next up is Bounty Hunters issue 12, which develops the relationship between Valance and Han Solo; and Darth Vader issue 12, continuing a captivating conflict between the Dark Lord of the Sith and his Emperor. The animosity between them makes Vader’s ultimate betrayal of his master less sudden and more believable in Return of the Jedi.

The final prelude is in Doctor Aphra issue 10. Although Aphra is a character with great potential – imagine a Lucasfilm version of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider – “The Invitation” feels the least like a Star Wars story, despite its stomping Stormtroopers and exploding machinery. There’s no direct mention of the Han Solo situation and we’re launched into a confusing situation, even with a ‘story so far’ at the beginning of the book. If you’re not familiar with Aphra’s past and her allies, beware.

Despite this weak link, the War of the Bounty Hunters saga has strong artwork, entertaining characters and situations, and Star Wars references aplenty. Whether that’s enough to hold our attention through 34 comics remains to be seen. But fans have plenty to look forward to in these ‘deleted scenes’ from The Book of Boba Fett, which will lead to Marvel’s contemporary take on Return of the Jedi.

Are you reading War of the Bounty Hunters (affiliate link)? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Witcher celebrated at WitcherCon



A teaser trailer for The Witcher's second season dropped during the first-ever WitcherCon, a digital celebration of all things The Witcher from Netflix and CD Projekt Red.



The first series had a stumbling start but quickly transcended those early episodes becoming an unmissable heir to Game of Thrones in 2019. And the second season promises further monster-hunting tales this Christmas.



During the three-hour WitcherCon, series star Henry Cavill provided his take on Geralt of Rivia’s journey.

“I played the Season One way deliberately, which was him out in the wilds and without the opportunity for vast swathes of dialogue. I thought it best to be the man who says less because that seems like he’s thinking more. And that was the intention with that. But once you get into a scenario with Cirilla, and the Witchers and his home space and with those people who he already knows, I was of the opinion that you had to let him be verbose and be philosophical and speak more and be intellectual, because that’s what he is. He’s not just a big old white-haired brute.”

Whilst Cyberpunk 2077 was mired in controversy when it was released to coincide with the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X|S last holiday season, The Witcher continues to be CD Projekt's most beloved multimedia franchise.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt next-gen update is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC for free this year! And it'll include free DLC inspired by the Netflix series. Glad I never continued a playthrough on Xbox Series X from 2017.

The Witcher's second season starts streaming exclusively on 17th December on Netflix.

Are you looking forward to the second season of The Witcher? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Enter the multiverse in Marvel Studios' What If...?



Marvel Studios has released an official trailer for What If...?, its first-ever animated series for Disney+.



Marvel Studios' What If...? is an excellent primer for all things multiverse as hinted in WandaVision and soon Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The impressive voice cast includes Hayley Atwell as Captain Peggy Carter, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes, Chris Sullivan as Taserface, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, and Taika Waititi as Korg.

It's especially poignant that fans (myself included) get to hear the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa.

Now that Loki Wednesdays are a thing, Marvel Studios' What If...? starts streaming 11th August with new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+.

In related news. Marvel Studios' Black Widow is now in cinemas and available exclusively on Disney+ with Premier Access.

Are you looking forward to Marvel Studios' What If...? on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.