Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Classic Peanuts holiday specials on Apple TV+

Ahead of the new Snoopy Show beginning next February and Snoopy in Space renewal, classic Peanuts holiday specials will be exclusively streaming on Apple TV+ as part of a partnership between the Cupertino-based company and WildBrain, Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film Productions.

Starting this week with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for subscribers. The Halloween special will be available for free from 30th October until 1st November. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will be available on 18th November for subscribers and free from 25th November until 27th November. And the holiday season peak, A Charlie Brown Christmas, will be out on 4th December for subscribers and free from 11th December through 13th December.

Reruns of the beloved holiday specials, on the BBC, were a childhood staple in the run-up to Christmas. This year, I'll be able to watch them all in 4K with Dolby Vision for the first time on a new 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. Incidentally, December marks 25 years of Apple Macintosh ownership beginning with a Performa 5200. It was a quantum leap from a Commodore 64.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Special look at The Mandalorian on ESPN

Lucasfilm released a special look trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian during Monday Night Football on ESPN.

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."

“I’ll be going toe-to-toe with Mando,” Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon) recently told 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 8-part second season will premiere new episodes every Friday and continues with the use of chapters:

Chapter 9: Friday, Oct. 30
Chapter 10: Friday, Nov. 6
Chapter 11: Friday, Nov. 13
Chapter 12: Friday, Nov. 20
Chapter 13: Friday, Nov. 27
Chapter 14: Friday, Dec. 4
Chapter 15: Friday, Dec. 11
Chapter 16: Friday, Dec. 18

The series' pioneering use of real-time graphics rendering, powered by Epic Games' Unreal Engine, is being used for upcoming blockbusters. This is the way.

Start streaming the new season on 30th October exclusively on Disney+.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Once Upon a Snowman on Disney+

Disney has released a trailer for Once Upon a Snowman coming to Disney+. Frozen franchise fans (myself included) will learn the origins of everyone's favourite summer-loving snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad).

Here is the synopsis to Once Upon a Snowman:

"The previously untold origins of Olaf, the innocent and insightful, summer-loving snowman who melted hearts in the Academy Award®-winning 2013 Disney animated feature, Frozen, and its acclaimed 2019 sequel, are revealed in the all-new Walt Disney Animation Studios animated short, Once Upon a Snowman. The film follows Olaf’s first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle. Once Upon a Snowman is directed by Trent Correy (animation supervisor, “Olaf” in Frozen 2) and Dan Abraham (veteran story artist who boarded Olaf’s “When I Am Older” musical sequence in Frozen 2)."

Once Upon a Snowman premieres 23rd October exclusively on Disney+.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

His Dark Materials returns November on HBO Max

The second season of His Dark Materials, based on Sir Philip Pullman's second book The Subtle Knife, begins 16th November on HBO Max and a full trailer has been released.

The BBC has yet to announce an airdate for the new season, which had completed principal photography prior to lockdown earlier this year - a standalone episode, centring on Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), was abandoned. However, Sunday evenings proved popular for the first season on those long November nights.

Are you looking forward to the continuation of Lyra's (Dafne Keen) adventure in His Dark Materials? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Star Wars legends join LEGO Holiday Special

Lucasfilm has announced further cast members reprising their roles for the upcoming The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+.

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO join the cast.

“We’re particularly thrilled that these great actors from the Star Wars family chose to reprise their roles and came to play in this LEGO sandbox,” Josh Rimes, director of animation development at Lucasfilm, says.

Set after The Rise of Skywalker, Rey sets out with BB-8 to learn more about the Force and meets friends and foes from the entire Skywalker Saga. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special arrives on 17th November on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to a LEGO Star Wars spin on the maligned television special from 1978? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Walt Disney Company pivots to Disney+

The runaway success of Disney+ since launching last November, combined with an ongoing global pandemic forcing further cinema chain closures, sees The Walt Disney Company refocus on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market to the understandable concern of cinema owners and their employees. The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) released a scathing statement in response.

It reads: “The vast majority of cinemas across Europe and indeed many regions of the world are now open and able to offer a safe and enjoyable return for audiences.

“Cinema operators have invested massively in offering the safest possible experience to their audiences on the basis of a promising schedule of new film releases. Yet again, however, they find a distributor delivering another blow.”

The corporate restructuring means the vertically integrated multimedia and entertainment giant will be streamlined into content producers and distributors such as Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will continue to operate under its existing structure. Mirroring moves by competitors Netflix, Warner Bros. and Apple TV+. The latter is an emergent streaming powerhouse and beneficiary of the Cupertino-based company's wealth worth trillions of dollars.

“We want to let the creatives be creatives, and let the business people be business people,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said. “This is a further evolution of what we’ve already done. Given our success so far, we want to further accelerate our transition to a direct-to-consumer-first model.”

The House of Mouse has already released the live-action Mulan, at a premium for early access on Disney+, and plans to premiere Pixar's Soul, following a music teacher (Jamie Foxx) whose soul becomes separated from his body, on Disney+ this holiday.

Do you think this will accelerate the decline of mainstream cinema? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Doctor Who spotlight at New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con (NYCC) followed San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and DC Fandome with socially distanced online panels, due to the pandemic, last week. And Doctor Who was there with a sneak peek at the upcoming special, Revolution of the Daleks, this holiday season.

Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan) and Bradley Walsh (Graham O'Brien) teased some of the things to look forward to during a virtual spotlight panel.

BBC America will also have a Doctor Who marathon between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which would suggest the holiday special is going to be on New Year’s Day again. However, this is unconfirmed. HBO Max is exclusively streaming every season of Doctor Who since 2005.

Are you excited for Revolution of the Daleks? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Jurassic World: Dominion opens summer 2022

Hollywood blockbuster movies continue to be reshuffled in the wake of the global pandemic as Cineworld closes its cinemas (including The Picturehouse) for the foreseeable future this Thursday.

Director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) shared a teaser image from Jurassic World: Dominion, which is just weeks away from safely completing principal photography in the UK.

The upcoming final instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise will be released in the summer of 2022.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Batman moved to March 2022

James Bond and Batman have been pushed back to 2021 and 2022 respectively as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and politicians around the world grapple with wealth and health as local lockdowns become an integral part of the 'new normal'.

This week, Cineworld announced the indefinite closure of its cinemas (including The Picturehouse) as news broke James Bond: No Time To Die was pushed from November to April 2021. It's worth noting the chain embarked on an ambitious expansion pre-COVID. This will make many more people redundant during a deep and prolonged recession presided over by opportunistic right-wing governments espousing retraining amidst mixed messaging.

There's no fast fix. The creative arts remain under increased threat and I know many friends whose mental health will be negatively impacted - due to shielding and ideological reasons, I will not visit a cinema until if/when there is a vaccine.

Cinema played an integral role in my rehabilitation beginning with George Lucas' space opera, at The Odeon Exeter, with my late mum. Miss the sanctuary of a darkened theatre with friends and family. Thankful for memories of a dark detective and an archaeologist.

Alongside The Batman, Warner Bros. has reshuffled Dune from December to October 2021. Wonder Woman 1984 remains scheduled for this December. However, given there may be no cinemas open to show it...

Monday, 5 October 2020

It was a dark time for the... Daleks!

John Rivers, our chief Dalek operator, emerges from the Jungles of Mechanus to guide us through Time Lord Victorious, a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey transmedia stuff, over the autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere.

Guest post by John Rivers

SPOILER ALERT - There's spoilers here for Time Lord Victorious. So, if you don't want to know, then activate your Project Indigo teleport button now.

If you're a Doctor Who fan it's been pretty hard to escape Time Lord Victorious for the past few months. Billed as a 'multi-platform Doctor Who story told across [deep breath] audio, novels, comics, vinyl, digital, immersive theatre, escape rooms and games, basically anything you might enjoy that isn't a movie or, god forbid, a TV programme.

The artwork has been pretty impactful too, David Tennant's ever-popular Tenth incarnation dressed in ruined Time Lord robes surrounded by Daleks - what's not to love?! And the appearance of both McGann and Eccleston's Doctors has guaranteed a lot of interest from fans, particularly those who enjoy Big Finish audios or the comics series.

It all seems very ambitious and the story has kicked off with some initial releases in September. I'm going to cover those off here and then post updates every month as the story unfolds and more media is released.

Here's the September releases:

A Dalek Awakens - an Escape Hunt escape room experience currently running in Reading. I haven't been able to get to this yet...

Defender of the Daleks - issue 1. The Tenth Doctor has fallen through a hole in spacetime. He is pursued by the Daleks, who, worryingly, need his help. A comics series written by Jody Houser, art by Roberta Ingranata featuring the Tenth Doctor being pursued by the Dalek Empire

The Dark Dark Times - a section of the Doctor Who Annual 2021 by Paul Lang

The Dawn of the Kotturuh - a short story by James Goss which was an exclusive to subscribers of the official Doctor Who site newsletter

Monstrous Beauty - part 1 - A three part story, given away with Doctor Who Magazine featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose set in the Dark Times as ancient Gallifreyans battle the Great Vampire. Story by Scott Gray, art by John Ross

It's also worth mentioning the extensive coverage in this month's Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) which has interviews with some of the creators, including James Goss who instigated the whole project. There's also a handy guide for fans so that you can follow your favourite Doctor (that's not for us, we're completists!). This introduction is also covered in the 'The Dark Dark Times' from the Doctor Who Annual 2021. Occupying the final seven pages of the annual (in, frankly, a tacked-on-the-end sort of way) 'The Dark Dark Times' is a couple of articles from River Song, in her Melody Malone guise, detailing the threat posed by a race called the Kotturuh, who appear to be the Big Bad of Time Lord Victorious.

The set-up is simple. In the ancient times, before the Time Lords or the Daleks, there were many races, all of whom were immortal. There are many that fans will be familiar with and are detailed for younger readers in the Doctor Who Annual 2021 - the Eternals, the Daemons, the Osirans, the Vampires - and now the Kotturuh. The Kotturuh have emerged from the Dark Times of ancient history and enjoy hopping from planet-to-planet, judging a race's worth, its contribution to the entire history of the universe and then deciding when it will die. As a race you could die instantly, or it could take months or years, but essentially Kotturuh will bring death and if you encounter them, you die.

An encounter with these terrifying creatures is detailed in James Goss' online only story 'Dawn of the Kotturuh'. The Kotturuh, robed, masked, bundles of tentacles, in the best Lovecraftian traditions of ancient evils, turn up at a planet and judge it. It doesn't go well for the inhabitants.

On then to our two introductory stories with the Doctors. First up is the Tenth Doctor in 'Defender of the Daleks', the first time Titan Comics has had permission to use the Skarosians in their publishing. The Tenth Doctor is flying solo, following an encounter with his Thirteenth self. Given that the universe doesn't like that sort of temporal anomaly, it would appear that the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS has been flung through a fissure in the vortex. Everywhere he lands, Daleks surround him and eventually he's taken to Skaro to meet with the Emperor, gloriously presented in full round-domed TV Century 21 glory. The Daleks are desperate for the Doctor's help, and want him to infiltrate an ancient building on Skaro, just as a race called the Hond have rocked-up, fully intent on wiping the Daleks out for good. They send the Doctor into this building with the Dalek Strategist, an elderly-looking, battle-scarred Dalek who appears to have come straight out of the Doctor's first encounter with them in 'The Mutants'. Jody Houser does an excellent job of detailing the Tenth Doctor's thoughts, especially when he only has the Daleks to play off, while Roberta Ingranata captures the Doctor's cockiness and the metallic, brutal beauty of Skaro. I should also mention the colouring work of Enrica Eren Angiolini, for capturing the ambers and greens of RTD era Doctor Who so well.

It's worth noting that the Doctor at this point is travelling alone and this is where the Time Lord Victorious name comes from. It's the title the Tenth Doctor gives himself after rescuing Adelaide Brook (Lindsay Duncan) from a water-infested Bowie Base One in 'The Waters of Mars'. The Doctor at this point thinks he should be using his powers in a more direct and impactful way, not shying away from intervention like the other Time Lords did. This will, of course, lead to an unhealthy dose of hubris, only resolved by regeneration in the 'End of Time'. We have a very confident and cocky Tenth Doctor presented here and it will be interesting to see if this is retained throughout the run of Time Lord Victorious.

The Ninth Doctor meanwhile, everyone's favourite leather-jacketed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor, has found himself with Rose immersed in a battle between the ancient Gallifreyans and the Vampires, a conflict which was recounted to viewers in the season 18 story 'State of Decay'. This is excellent fun from Scott Grey, who not only manages to capture the breathless run-about nature of series 1 Doctor Who, but is clearly delighting in being able to play with show's myths and legends, including a pre-Time Lord Rassilon. Even more tantalising is Rose's encounters with the Vampires themselves. Creepy and camp, presented wonderfully in the art from John Ross, just like vampires should be, this story is great fun and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Overall, it's an exciting set-up for Time Lord Victorious with two past Doctors finding themselves having to help both sides of the previous Time War which cost our hero so much. During October, it's on to a book from veteran Who writer Steve Cole, The Master and the Eighth Doctor enter the fray and the first toys show up! Allons-y!

Are you enjoying Time Lord Victorious? Let me know in the comments below.