Monday 27 February 2017

Middle-earth: Shadow of War released this August

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which was lauded for its award-winning Nemesis System in 2014, is getting a richly deserved open world sequel for PS4, Xbox One (including Scorpio) and PC this August.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

The next installment, leaked by Target, is set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the player is tasked with forging a new ring of power to rival Sauron's.

“Monolith Productions continues to innovate by introducing deeper, more personalised gameplay experiences, coupled with authentic storytelling,” said David Haddad, President, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “Middle-earth: Shadow of War truly drives the genre forward by taking the Nemesis System to new heights and allowing players to create their own personal journey within Middle-earth.”

As a fan of the original game and, more importantly, J.R.R. Tolkien's books, this'll be a day-one purchase.

“Following the amazing reception to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, we massively expanded every dimension of the game, including the world, the story, the RPG systems, the core gameplay and of course the personal player stories of the Nemesis System,” said Michael de Plater, Vice President, Creative, Monolith Productions. “As lifelong fans of Middle-earth, we are so grateful to have the privilege to bring to life the most incredible fantasy world ever created in a new way, for a new generation. With Middle-earth: Shadow of War, we can’t wait to see the amazing stories players are going to create and share.”

You can pre-order Middle-earth: Shadow of War from Amazon.

Friday 24 February 2017

Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer stars in Mass Effect

Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer makes an interstellar jump from Westeros to Andromeda in the next installment in the Mass Effect franchise released this March.

Dormer plays Dr Lexi T'Perro, a 600-year-old Asari, in BioWare's critically-acclaimed space opera and sheds light on her character in a new behind-the-scenes video posted by EA.

Lexi appears to have a pivotal role, much like Dr Liara T'Soni in the original Mass Effect trilogy.

Mac Walters, Bioware's Creative Director, says: "Having Lexi almost 'wake you up' from your 600-year sleep and being that first friendly face that you meet, there's a sense that when you arrive in Andromeda it's almost like being reborn into that galaxy, waking up and imprinting on the first person you see.

"It was very important that we treat that character in a way that you would find some interest in them but also some compassion."

The franchise is synonymous with rich storytelling and Mass Effect: Andromeda is no exception. Walters continues: "One of the things we've tried to push on Andromeda [is to] create characters who feel like their lives are going on even when the player wasn't around, and so you'll notice that with Lexi she's sort of got a rivalry with one of the other characters, PeeBee. But if you look closely too, she's also maybe got a little bit of a crush on our Krogan, and this carries on even when you're not there."

Natalie Dormer is no stranger to video games, having reprised her iconic role of Margaery Tyrell for Telltale Games' Game of Thrones, and admits to not being an avid gamer, herself, due to time constraints. "I’m not a gamer per se … I don’t have a life where I can spend hours gaming,” says the actress. A candid admission, but she adds: “I know if I did, this is exactly the kind of thing that I would play.”

Mass Effect: Andromeda is already being likened to Mass Effect 2, considered by many fans (myself included) as the best installment. This bodes extremely well and suggests March may witness 3 AAA titles worthy of game of the year, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and, PS4 exclusive, Horizon Zero Dawn, which witnesses Guerrilla Games', a Sony first-party studio, metamorphosis into Bethesda and BioWare.

Now, excuse me as I finish an original trilogy playthrough, that began on 7th November, with FemShep.

Looking forward to Mass Effect: Andromeda and channelling Captain Kirk by romancing the crew? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Rogue One is coming home this March

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is coming home only months after its cinematic release.

The first Star Wars spin-off, directed by Gareth Edwards, will be released digitally in the US on 24th March. However, UK fans will have to wait until 10th April to see Jyn Erso and her rebel band steal the Death Star plans.

Alas, deleted scenes are not included in this inaugural home release, and the summer reshoots may not be addressed. But, that won't dissuade fans (myself included) from buying the Blu-ray release and there's Easter Eggs galore:

A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM’s John Knoll came up with the movie’s concept – and why it’s the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.
Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One’s defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.
Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.
K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk’s performance.
Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.
Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.
The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary… and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.
Visions of Hope: The Look of “Rogue One” – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.
The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of Star Wars: A New Hope – as well as one of her most memorable foes­ – back to the screen.
Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One’s premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.
Rogue Connections – Uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the movie that connect Rogue One to the Star Wars universe.

I stand by my assertion Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. Seriously, I can't wait to watch Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back this spring.

Looking forward. Star Wars Celebration Orlando is the most likely venue for a teaser trailer for director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.

Rogue One is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Han Solo Star Wars spin-off blasts into hyperspace

The next Star Wars spin-off movie has begun filming in London. And the cast and crew boarded the Millennium Falcon for a first look.

The on-set photo confirms the casting of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag). She joins Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and Thandie Newton.

“Watching such inspired people from all over the world, with such unique voices, come together for the sole purpose of making art, is nothing short of miraculous,” Lord and Miller said. “We can’t think of anything funny to say, because we just feel really moved, and really lucky.”

The untitled Han Solo movie is scheduled for release 25th May 2018. This contradicts an earlier report suggesting Disney will continue to release Star Wars movies during the holiday season.

Monday 20 February 2017

Feel the Force of nostalgia with Hasbro's Black Series

Star Wars celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and the toys, too. Hasbro has announced Black Series action figures, in retro style packaging, during the New York Toy Fair. This is in homage to Kenner's original action figure line from 1977.

Like so many fans, the toys and Marvel comics tie-in were amongst my first, tantalising, glimpses of Star Wars before seeing the movie in 1978. R2-D2 was the first figure I was gifted, after persuading an aunt the diminutive droid was what I wanted, despite having no context. From small beginnings...

Magical memories of visiting Exeter's defunct Pram and Toy Shop and collecting action figures and accessories. Recall a scarcity of Stormtroopers and having to wait until we visited one of my dad's stores in South Wales. Left with a small army.

With the 40th anniversary of Star Wars and the release of The Last Jedi, there's going to be a lot of merchandise for fans of the beloved space opera.

What are your memories of collecting Star Wars toys? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 17 February 2017

Force Friday returns this September for The Last Jedi

Star Wars fans save the date. Lucasfilm has officially announced Force Friday II to celebrate Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Toys, collectibles, books, apparel and more will go on sale beginning at 12:01 a.m. on 1st September.

“The first Star Wars Force Friday event was truly unique, uniting fans across five continents in an unprecedented global live unboxing event ahead of thousands of midnight openings at retail,” says Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. “We’re excited to confirm that Star Wars Force Friday is back for ‘The Last Jedi’. Plans for this year’s world-wide event are top secret but expect something befitting the excitement around the next episode of the Star Wars saga.”

The original Force Friday in 2015, promoting Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was a merchandising success. Making Sphero's BB-8 the must-have toy that holiday season.

Jill Wilfert, Vice President of global licensing and entertainment from The LEGO Group comments, “It was so much fun to be a part of Star Wars Force Friday, and we can’t wait for fans to join this year’s celebration as we reveal new ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ products during Force Friday II – a global event that will connect fans and families, and allow them to build, create and share their experiences with others.”

Kenner's action figures were synonymous with the launch of Star Wars in 1977. So, it's no surprise the company's successor, Hasbro, has a pivotal role to play in Force Friday II.

“Toys play a unique role in the Star Wars universe, and we’re proud to have been part of that incredible legacy for the past forty years. The new line for ‘The Last Jedi’ is our most innovative yet, and we’re excited to unveil it on Force Friday II,” said Samantha Lomow, Senior Vice President at Hasbro.

The new packaging, unveiled to promote Force Friday II, showcases the heroes and gives fans a first look at Poe Dameron, Rey and Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Thursday 16 February 2017

The Last Jedi director at Star Wars Celebration

Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy will be attending a panel at Star Wars Celebration Orlando this April.

Johnson spoke engagingly about the impact Star Wars had on his life, during the Future Filmmakers panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe, and the audience will never forget when Kennedy suggested he moved the camera as well as Steven Spielberg. So, this is one fans won't want to miss.

The director recently teased updated Stormtroopers on the set of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theatres 15th December.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

A Black Widow movie after Avengers: Infinity War?

Ever since Scarlett Johansson first appeared as Black Widow, in Iron Man 2, Marvel fans have speculated on when she'd get her own standalone movie.

Talking to Total Film, Johansson said both she and Marvel are very keen to make a Black Widow movie.

“I’ve talked to Kevin Feige about it. We’re creatively really compatible. I think we both agree that the character is right for a standalone, it’s just a case of timing at this point for both Marvel and myself. Marvel has a really huge roster. They’re looking four years ahead. I also have a lot of things that I want to do. If I did it, I would dedicate myself completely to making it amazing. It would have to be the best version that movie could possibly be. Otherwise, I would never do it.”

So, it looks like we won't be seeing Black Widow's solo adventure until at least 2020 after Avengers: Infinity War. Infinity War, the culmination of a storyline that began with Iron Man, sees Thanos pitched against an Avengers in disarray. Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man join in the mayhem.

Avengers: Infinity War, directed by the Russo brothers, is currently in production for release on May 4th 2018.

Monday 13 February 2017

Scarlett Johansson's Ghost in the Shell

Scarlett Johansson is taking a break from her iconic role as Black Widow, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to play Major in director Rupert Sanders' upcoming live-action adaptation of Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell.

Her cyborg character leads an elite task force called Section 9.

There have been accusations of "whitewashing" in the wake of Johansson's casting and calls to boycott the Paramount Pictures movie.

Responding to the controversy, the acclaimed actress told Marie Claire: “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

“Having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity,” she added. “Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that – the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

Ghost in the Shell is in cinemas 31st March.

Saturday 11 February 2017

Marvel insiders love Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

THR reports director James Gunn's upcoming sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 garnered a perfect 100 during a test screening held for Marvel insiders. These lucky individuals comprise of friends and family. However, movies are subject to rigorous testing and screenings are not a pep rally.

A test score is not necessarily indicative of a movie's popularity upon release, but this score eclipses Iron Man 3 and Avengers based on internal metrics at Disney.

The sequel's Super Bowl TV Spot was well received by fans last weekend, and there's every reason to suggest we are in for another galactic treat on 5th May.

Friday 10 February 2017

Netflix's Castlevania is in the vein of Game of Thrones

Without fanfare, Netflix has announced it's releasing a new series based on Konami's Castlevania videogame franchise.

The animated series, an adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, will be in the vein of HBO's Game of Thrones and is initially four 30-minute episodes centering around "the last surviving member of the disgraced Belmont clan, trying to save Eastern Europe from extinction at the hand of Vlad Dracula Tepe himself.”

"This is very much Castlevania done in the vein of Game of Thrones," co-producer Adi Shankar told IGN, adding: "[The series is] going to be R-rated as f***. [It’s going to be] America’s first animated series for adults."

Castlevania will join stablemates Trollhunters and Voltron: Legendary Defender as Netflix positions itself as an animation powerhouse.

Expect the Castlevania series to debut later in 2017.

Which classic videogame franchises would you like to see adapted as an animated or live-action series? The Legend of Zelda has a rich mythology and Link, along with Simon Belmont, appeared on television screens as part of Captain N: The Game Master in 1989. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Felicity Jones at Star Wars Celebration Orlando

Felicity Jones, who played Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will be among cast members appearing at Star Wars Celebration Orlando this April.

“Having Felicity Jones at Star Wars Celebration to meet all the amazing Star Wars fans is important to us,” said David Leiner General Manager and Vice President of Topps North American Sports and Entertainment. “She’s become an integral part of the Star Wars universe and was immediately loved by fans around the world. We are proud to have her in our first group of announced guests.”

Jones appeared at a Rogue One panel, for Star Wars Celebration Europe, last July. She'll be signing autographs alongside iconic villains at the Star Wars Celebration Autograph Hall. Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) will be representing the Empire.

Will you be attending Star Wars Celebration Orlando? If so, and you'd like to cover the event, please email.

Monday 6 February 2017

Stranger Things brings Halloween to the Super Bowl

The New England Patriots staged an historic comeback, lead by Tom Brady, to deny the Atlanta Falcons and win Super Bowl LI. One of the best finals I've watched since American football was popularised in the UK, in the mid 1980s, on Channel Four.

The icing on the cake in lieu of a surprise Star Wars: The Last Jedi TV Spot. Netflix dropped a trailer for Stranger Things season 2. This time the gang are dressed as Ghostbusters! Because 1984.

Stranger Things season 2 premieres on the streaming network this Halloween. That's inspired scheduling.

Looking forward to the return of Stranger Things? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Mark Hamill defends the Star Wars prequels

Mark Hamill defends the Star Wars prequel trilogy following the announcement of The Last Jedi.

Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the original and sequel trilogies, said some fans overreacted to the films and treated Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker) unfairly.

“I couldn’t believe some of the things they [Star Wars fans] wrote about the prequels, you know. I mean really beyond, ‘I didn’t like it’, ‘you ruined my childhood…’,” Hamill said.

He continued: “I’m still angry about the way they treated Jake Lloyd. He was only 10 years old, that boy, and he did exactly what George [Lucas] wanted him to do. Believe me, I understand clunky dialogue.”

On the creator of Star Wars, Hamill had this to say. "I have issues with George, but I love that man, I would never… you know I don’t talk outside the family. It’s just brutal."

Whilst the prequels have their problems (what film franchise doesn't?) they were fun at the time and I'd be remiss to suggest otherwise. Hell, I watched The Phantom Menace 6 times at the cinema...

Looking ahead to this year's Star Wars movie. Director Rian Johnson recently said that the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Rey is set to be a major part of The Last Jedi.

He added: “I don’t want to skip ahead two years,” he said. “I want to see the very next moment of what happens… part of what’s she’s [Rey] dealing with is the realisation that she has this power and this gift. She’s taking her first step to coming to terms with this thing inside her that she never knew was there and is just starting to reveal its potential.”

So, do you think the Star Wars prequels deserve better? Let me know in the comments below.