Monday, 16 May 2022

Predator prequel this summer on Hulu

Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for Prey, a Predator prequel directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), coming to Hulu and Star on Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

"Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries."

Prey premieres exclusively on Hulu and Star on Disney+ on 5th August.

Are you excited about Prey? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Tenth Doctor and Donna are back

Allons-y! Following last Sunday's announcement of Ncuti Gatwa as the next Doctor after Jodie Whittaker leaves Doctor Who later this year.

David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor with fan-favourite companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) for the 60th anniversary in 2023.

Russell T Davies, Showrunner says: “They're back! And it looks impossible - first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening? Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”

Are you excited about the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the television series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Doctor Strange's House of Horrors

20 years ago, director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man reinvigorated superhero movies and foreshadowed the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) beginning with Iron Man (2008).

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, reviews Raimi's return.

Guest post by Nick Smith

One thing is constant across the multiverse: Doctor Stephen Strange and Doctor Christine Palmer love each other but they never seem to be able to make their relationship work. Kind of like Sam Raimi and Hollywood.

Raimi’s first horror movie, The Evil Dead, is revered as a genre classic despite – or because of - its low budget limitations. It has inspired many filmmakers, including myself. Raimi went on to direct several memorable films, including two Evil Dead sequels, a western (The Quick and the Dead), a slapstick comedy (Crimewave), a noir drama (A Simple Plan), a sports romance (For Love of the Game) and his own variation on a pulp superhero (Darkman).

His production company Renaissance Pictures gave us cult favourite TV shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, who in turn paved the way for the heroines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and Kill Bill. But Raimi’s best known for his horror flicks and his Marvel movies, which include 2002’s phenomenally popular Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3 was deemed a disappointment when it arrived in 2007. Raimi went back to his evil roots with Drag Me to Hell. Imagine a cross between the two and you’ll have a mental taste of Raimi’s comeback epic, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – the first film he’s directed in 9 years.

Marvel has been rolling out its movies and streaming shows at a conveyor belt pace, using the same basic parts to create products that are well made, good looking and heavily branded with the same formula – heroes face a monstrous menace, havoc is wreaked, heroes make a great sacrifice in the hopes of defeating the said menace.

Director Raimi plays it safe plotwise but the tone is dark and sometimes scary for little kiddies.

This movie’s real hook, though, is its promise to show us parallel worlds and some old favourite characters. While DC’s TV shows have been playing with the ‘infinite earth’ concept for several years with entertaining results, Marvel has had more recent success with the animated feature Into the Spiderverse. Since it earned over $375 million worldwide, a live-action trip across dimensions was inevitable.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen spectacular cameos in Spiderverse and Spider-Man: No Way Home and some of the latter’s best moments were due to the nostalgia element of seeing characters from Raimi’s trilogy. So in a way, the director is overshadowed by the ghosts of his own previous work. How can he compete with his past self?

One way is to up the scariness. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings us darker versions of beloved heroes, demonic monsters and undead creatures.

Another way is to pack in a lot of fights, magical environments and eye-bending spectacle to keep us entertained through its 126 minutes running time. The action set pieces are drawn out, leaving little room for the actors to show their chops – although kudos is due to them for holding their own amongst all the visual chaos and brutally destructive injustice that seems like it’s ripped from a Zack Snyder DC film.

As Doctor Stephen Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch does get one chance to stretch his thespianism in a touching scene about Strange’s dead sister. But it’s gone in an Agamotto blink. Thankfully, the movie does have time to include some delicious references to Alan Moore’s universe numbering system (first mentioned in the comic book adventures of Captain Britain!); the kind of monsters that were prevalent in classic Marvel Comics like Strange Tales; and the What If? animated series on Disney+.

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) loses the nuances she gained in her own Disney+ show, seemingly taking a step backwards from her character development to make her more formidable. We’re presented with a younger, more na├»ve version of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) than we’re used to in the comics.

Here she’s protected by Strange, who is obsessed with being in control and doing good deeds. He is willing to help one girl he’s never met before at all costs. However, he uses means that might not justify the ends – a risk Wanda takes as well. These challenges and Raimi’s dark side make the film gripping enough to make it more than just another Fin Fang Foom factory grind-out.

So come to the Multiverse to see the Steve Ditko-inspired alter planes, the themes of misused power and parenting, the star cameos and the indelible Raimi touch. Stay for the bittersweet love story between Doctor Strange and Christine (Rachel McAdams), the endearing performances by Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez and a magical, crotchety music-note battle that would make Walt Disney proud.

One cameo we do get is from Bruce Campbell, who has been a Raimi mainstay throughout his career.

At the time of writing the film has grossed half a billion dollars in its first weekend and it’s great to see the Evil Dead duo back on top. Now can we have Campbell playing Mysterio in a Raimi-directed Spider-Man 4?

Have you seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Hasbro & LEGO combine for Optimus Prime

LEGO Optimus Prime is a transforming thing this June. The heroic leader of the Autobots is an icon from the Transformers toy line.

“It has been an honour and a joy to work together with Hasbro to develop a LEGO version of Optimus Prime,” says Senior Designer at the LEGO Group, Joseph Patrick Kyde. “I am excited to see these two toy companies come together for the first time to celebrate the leader of the Autobots. Optimus Prime has become a pop culture symbol of courage, selflessness, and great leadership as well as an awesome toy that embodies the problem-solving and creativity skills that both companies value so much. It’s been a wonderful and challenging task to bring him to life using LEGO bricks, especially making sure that he can shift modes without disassembly and stay true to his signature look and style.”

Of all the Transformers, Optimus Prime is held in greatest reverence. On a personal note, my late mum bought me the original Optimus Prime toy - as a surprise gift - whilst I was off, sick, from school in 1984.

Casey Collins, Head of Licensed Consumer Products and Business Development at Hasbro, adds: “We’re excited to bring two of the world’s greatest play and entertainment companies together to celebrate this larger-than-life, iconic character – Optimus Prime. We know fans everywhere will be thrilled by this collaboration as it enables fans and families of all ages to create memories as they work together to build the LEGO Transformers Optimus Prime.”

LEGO Optimus Prime is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Optimus Prime to your collection? Which Transformers would you like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Perfect day in Westworld

Westworld returns next month on HBO and HBO Max.

By this point, after living through social distancing and lockdowns over the past 2 years, I can't remember much about the creepy and convoluted dystopian sci-fi series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

HBO has dropped a suitably enigmatic teaser trailer for the long-awaited fourth season.

Before a global pandemic affected all our lives, I was invited by HBO to preview the first four episodes of Westworld season one in 2016.

This isn't the first time a Westworld spin-off series has graced television screens following the success of Michael Crichton's classic seventies movie.

In 1980, Beyond Westworld was a short-lived live-action series chronicling an attempt to use the robots in Delos to conquer the world.

With its tech noir trappings and knowing nods to Red Dead Redemption, I was held spellbound by HBO's Westworld reboot.

Westworld season four begins on HBO and HBO Max on 26th June. Hopefully, it will premiere on Sky Atlantic the following day.

Are you looking forward to Westworld season four? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water teaser drops

On Monday, Disney dropped an official teaser trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water, which was first shown at CinemaCon and exclusively in cinemas with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Director James Cameron (Titanic) has been working on the Avatar sequel for years.

Read the official synopsis:

"Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure."

The sequel stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Winslet.

In the 13 years since the original Avatar was released, the 3D format has become niche in the home market and television manufacturers have all but abandoned it. I recently rewatched Avatar on Disney+ and my enjoyment of 'Cameron's greatest hits collection' hasn't deminished.

It remains to be seen whether or not cinemagoers suffer from the so-called 'Pandora blues' this holiday season.

The House of Mouse has bet big on Cameron's sequel and it's difficult to imagine how Avatar: The Way of Water will fail at the box office. Especially with the allure of immersive 3D. The true test will be the release of future sequels. At least there's always Disney+.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

What did you think of the Avatar: The Way of Water teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Paramount+ is coming to the UK

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) launches with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds this summer in the UK.

The ViacomCBS streaming service enters an increasingly overcrowded space as consumers face a catastrophic cost of living crisis amidst geopolitical turmoil and a global pandemic.

“The addition of Paramount+ to our strong portfolio of free-to-air, pay TV and streaming services will broaden the range of choice available to our audiences in the UK and Ireland”, said Maria Kyriacou, president, Australia, Canada, Israel and UK. “Paramount+ will be a one-stop destination for Paramount’s biggest brands, where fans of all ages can find exclusive original premium content, global hits, and discover a world of favourites from Paramount’s vast catalogue.”

Personally, I only subscribe to Apple TV+, Disney+ and NOW. However, I'll avail myself of the free 7-day trial to watch the exclusive live-action Halo series and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The latter is the best Star Trek spin-off series in years.

Paramount+ will launch in the UK and Ireland on a range of devices on 22nd June.

Will you be subscribing to Paramount+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Ncuti Gatwa is the next Doctor

Without fanfare, today the BBC announced the actor replacing Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who.

Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) will be playing the titular Time Lord in returning showrunner Russel T Davies’ (It's A Sin) new era co-produced by Sony’s Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials).

Speaking of his new role, Ncuti says: “There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared. This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care. I will endeavour my utmost to do the same.

Gatwa is the latest black actor to portray the titular character and follows Jo Martin's memorable appearance as an earlier incarnation (pre-dating William Hartnell) in series 12.

"Russell T Davies is almost as iconic as the Doctor himself and being able to work with him is a dream come true. His writing is dynamic, exciting, incredibly intelligent and fizzing with danger. An actor’s metaphorical playground. The entire team has been so welcoming and truly give their hearts to the show. And so as much as it’s daunting, I’m aware I’m joining a really supportive family. Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show.”

Russell T Davies adds: “The future is here and it’s Ncuti! Sometimes talent walks through the door and it’s so bright and bold and brilliant, I just stand back in awe and thank my lucky stars. Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those TARDIS keys in seconds. It’s an honour to work with him, and a hoot, I can’t wait to get started. I’m sure you’re dying to know more, but we’re rationing ourselves for now, with the wonderful Jodie’s epic finale yet to come. But I promise you, 2023 will be spectacular!”

Whittaker took over as the Doctor in 2017 as the first female doctor. She bows out of the long-running sci-fi series in the Centenary Special later this year.

Looking forward to Ncuti Gatwa portraying the Fourteenth Doctor? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Doctor Who overshadowed in Centenary special?

Whatever your thoughts were on Legend of the Sea Devils, the trailer for the upcoming special, to mark the BBC's centenary year, overshadowed Jodie Whittaker's penultimate episode as Doctor Who.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, fresh from swashbuckling underwater adventures, looks ahead to Thirteen's regeneration story.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Who knew the appearance of Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) from 1980s Doctor Who would be greeted with such excitement? Twitter has been tweeting non-stop since the Centenary Special trailer debuted after Legend of the Sea Devils in April, with a shot of the Doc’s regeneration overshadowed by the return of two of the toughest, least screamy classic companions.

There is a concern, however, that the mainstream show won’t treat them with the same excellence as the spin-off audios and novels have. How could it capture in an hour what the Virgin books had thousands of pages and the Big Finish stories have had decades to develop?

Beyond the show, Ace has become an adept Spacefleet combatant, a Time Vigilante, a CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency) operative and above all, an inquisitive, resourceful woman. Luckily, the character of Ace has strong origins to build from thanks to her creator Ian Briggs, who laid the foundations for a much-loved, long-term character.

School Reunion gave us just enough of Sarah Jane Smith's (Elisabeth Sladen) backstory to help us sympathize with her, allowing the audience to fill in the gap between her last televised appearance in The Five Doctors and NuWho. But current showrunner Chris Chibnall is not a ‘less is more’ kind of guy.

As with the Flux, Chibnall seems to be throwing in everything but the kitchen sink judging by the trailer: Daleks, UNIT’s Kate Stewart, Ashad the Lone Cyberman, Dan in a Bowie Base One-style space suit and a lot of gun-toting to boot.

Ironically, Chibnall is best at quiet, character-driven scenes – for example, Ryan (Tosin Cole) and his Dad (Daniel Adegboyega) in Resolution or the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) in Legend of the Sea Devils - without a bunch of sturm und drang going on. He’s challenging himself rather than playing to his strengths and giving us the kind of soap scenes we get lathered with in contemporary, earthbound, non-Who series.

It's great to see Vinder (Jacob Anderson from Game of Thrones) and Sacha Dhawan’s Master returning because they are both shining lights in the firmament of this era. Both actors are fantastic to watch and seem to bring a genuine passion to their performances.

That kind of oomph will help build momentum for the moment all the haters have been waiting for… the arrival of the 14th Doctor.

Doctor Who returns this autumn on BBC One, BBC America and BBC iPlayer.

Are you looking forward to the Centenary Special? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer on Star Wars Day

"May the 4th be with you!" Lucasfilm has dropped an official trailer for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Star Wars Day, teasing a rematch between the titular Jedi Master and his fallen apprentice, Darth Vader.

Read the official synopsis:

"The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader."

The upcoming 6-part Star Wars special event series, directed by Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian), sees Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader) reprise their roles from George Lucas' prequel trilogy. The Book of Boba Fett utilised flashbacks and how cool would it be to see Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in their prime alongside Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) during The Clone Wars?

As with previous Star Wars merchandising events Force Friday and Bring Home the Bounty, Lucasfilm has announced "Obi-Wan Wednesdays". New products from Hasbro, LEGO, Mattel and more will be announced each week starting 25th May through 29th June.

“Star Wars fans are gearing up for a fresh look at the roots of the iconic battle between the light side and dark side with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and these new products will give them a chance to revisit favorite characters, as well as celebrate new moments as this epic story continues,” said Paul Southern, senior vice president, Franchise & Licensing, Lucasfilm, Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.

In related news. Apple has released a film to celebrate Star Wars Day. Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound. Showing fans (myself included) how the talented artists at Skywalker Sound use Mac to bring to life sounds from the Star Wars universe and beyond.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres with two episodes exclusively on Disney+ on 27th May.

What did you think of the official Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer? Let me know in the comments below.