Friday 29 June 2018

LEGO Ideas Voltron at SDCC

LEGO Voltron is a thing and will be at this year's San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), folks!

Voltron was originally submitted by fan designer Leandro Tayag to LEGO Ideas and follows successful sets based on Doctor Who and Disney's TRON: Legacy.

"It’s time to defend the universe so get ready to form LEGO® Ideas 21311 Voltron, the biggest buildable LEGO mech ever! This awesome set features buildable and highly posable black, blue, yellow, red and green lions with specially designed, extra-strong joints to combine them all and create the Voltron super robot, plus a huge sword and shield that attach firmly to Voltron's hands. Ideal for display or to recreate thrilling action from the original 1980s animated Voltron TV series and the modern DreamWorks Voltron: Legendary Defender series."

SDCC attendees will be able to buy the 2,321 piece set during the convention and then it will be available to LEGO VIP members from 23rd July. As a fan of combiners since Transformers' Devastator took on the Dinobots, I'll be hoping to get this set before it sells out.

Voltron will be sold exclusively at LEGO stores and online (affiliate link) for £159.99 from 1st August.

Thursday 28 June 2018

Disney's a step closer to buying Fox

Fellow Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans, we're a step closer to seeing the Fox fanfare at the beginning of JJ Abrams' Episode IX and the X-Men (including Deadpool) fighting alongside the Avengers.

The Justice Department has approved Disney's purchase of Fox assets so long as it doesn't encompass sports. The Mouse House is happy to oblige and Fox is seemingly in favour of the increased deal estimated to be worth $71.3 billion dollars.

Comcast had previously put in a counter offer and may do so again. However, it's difficult to envisage a scenario where Disney CEO Bob Iger will fail to secure shareholder approval. Disney needs content ahead of launching DisneyLife, globally, spearheaded by an exclusive Star Wars live-action series produced by Jon Favreau next year.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Shane Black's Predator reboot evolves the species

Director Shane Black's (Iron Man 3) Predator reboot evokes action movies from the 1980s in the latest trailer and there's an in-joke relating to Black's character in the original Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Read Fox’s full synopsis of the film:

"From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race."

The Predator will be released in cinemas 14th September.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn join forces in new novel

Author Timothy Zahn's follow-up to last year's Thrawn is Thrawn: Alliances. Thrawn: Alliances sees Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader join forces on a mission for the evil Empire. This isn't the first time the pair have crossed paths.

You can read an exclusive extract from the upcoming book on Fans attending San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) can buy a convention exclusive featuring Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) on the cover this July.

Grand Admiral Thrawn quickly became popular with Star Wars fans (myself included) when Heir to the Empire was originally published in 1991. The character most recently appeared in Star Wars Rebels.

You can pre-order Thrawn: Alliances. This is an affiliate link and you're supporting this blog, at no extra cost, if you make a purchase. Thank you.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Tom Holland announces Spider-Man: Far From Home

Tom Holland used Instagram to announce the title of the first sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, yesterday. Spider-Man: Far From Home sees Holland’s web-slinger pitched against Jake Gyllenhaal as classic villain Mysterio.

"We start filming early July," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said. "We film in London. We shot first film in Atlanta. And we shoot a lot of films in London but there's another reason we're shooting in London which is, yes, Spidey, of course, will spend some time in New York, but he'll spend some time in other parts of the globe."

Spider-Man: Far From Home will follow on from Avengers 4, which may see the heroic end of beloved Marvel characters as they attempt to undo Thanos’ seeming victory in Avengers: Infinity War.

Next up from Marvel Studios, Ant-Man and the Wasp is in cinemas August, followed by Captain Marvel next March, culminating in May's Avengers 4, which directly follows the cliffhanger ending of Infinity War.

Spider-Man: Far From Home will be in cinemas July 2019.

What do you think about the title of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Lucasfilm puts "A Star Wars Story" spin-offs on hiatus

Collider exclusively broke the news that Disney's Lucasfilm is putting its A Star Wars Story spin-offs on hiatus following lukewarm box office takings for director Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, which I'll continue to argue should have been released this December. Disney would have owned the holiday season with Star Wars and Mary Poppins Returns. Ironically, this may benefit the troubled Transformers franchise as the Bumblebee spin-off could see the beloved robots rebooted with heart, soul and a healthy dose of nostalgia.

So, there'll be no Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movies for the foreseeable future. Instead, the franchise will double down on JJ Abrams' Episode IX, closing off the current sequel trilogy with Rey, Poe and Finn, and new trilogies from Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones' David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

Historically, Star Wars always works best when scarce and not oversaturated. Pent-up demand for The Force Awakens culminated in box office and merchandise success. The aisles of the defunct Toys "R" Us were filled with unsold products from The Last Jedi as closure loomed.

Are you disappointed given there's a live-action series from Jon Favreau and a new animated series before Episode IX is in cinemas, December 2019? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Jon Bernthal returns to The Walking Dead

There was a time when I wouldn't miss an episode of AMC's The Walking Dead on FOX UK.

Alas, not so now. We're living in an era of so-called peak TV. From Doctor Who to Westworld, there's only so much anyone can watch and The Walking Dead, along with prequel spin-off Fear the Walking Dead, is one of several series that I no longer follow due to narrative repetition and lack of character development.

However, Jon Bernthal (The Punisher) is set to return to the ailing series in an effort to bolster ratings and rekindle fan interest. Bernthal's character Shane Walsh seemingly died (twice) in the divisive second season that witnessed original series showrunner Frank Darabont's departure.

Meanwhile, co-star Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) is leaving the series. “There needs to be an end game and that is something that is definitely being talked about,” Lincoln said. “There’s certainly an endgame in my head. Whether or not that’s the same endgame that’s in the producers’ heads or the people I work with, is another matter. That’s open for discussion.”

Bernthal is expected to appear alongside fellow cast members at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) this July.

Friday 15 June 2018

First look at Wonder Woman 1984

Hollywood's love affair with eighties nostalgia shows no signs of stopping. As someone who grew up during the decade of Transformers and Michael Jackson's moonwalk, I'm not going to complain.

This week, DC Universe (DCU) fans (myself included) got their first glimpse of Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman 1984, which sees the actor reunited with Chris Pine (Star Trek) and director Patty Jenkins.

Jenkins' Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air amidst the murky and, frankly, dull DCU cinematic adventures in the wake of Chris Nolan's excellent Dark Knight Trilogy. So, whilst the director has evidently drawn inspiration from seminal eighties graphic novel Watchmen, I hope Jenkins doesn't forget a sense of fun, too.

Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas November 2019.

Looking forward to new adventures with everyone's favourite Amazonian Princess? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Bumblebee director inspired by Spielbergian tales

Following the first teaser trailer for Transformers spin-off Bumblebee starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena. Paramount Pictures has released a featurette introducing director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings).

“At Laika, we try to find an artful balance of darkness and light and intensity and warmth and humor and heart,” Knight said. “The idea of being able to bring that kind of philosophy to Bumblebee was really exciting.”

The first teaser for Bumblebee seemingly taps into the current nostalgia for the eighties epitomised by Netflix's Stranger Things.

“I was a child of the ‘80s. I grew up loving those classic, Spielbergian coming-of-age tales, and that was something that I wanted to bring to Bumblebee,” Knight added.

With Knight's proven pedigree in animation and storytelling, Bumblebee could be the surprise heartfelt hit of the holiday season and the Transformers film fans (myself included) deserve.

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

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Creating Cold Soldiers

A bit of context. I met Nick Smith at Vintage Video, a club for fans of film and TV sci-fi, whilst we were undergraduates at Bournemouth University in the early nineties. We became instant friends and shared an affinity for Doctor Who and Star Wars. So much so, we worked on several video projects together. For example Ventolin Catharsis and December Duet, which channelled our mutual fascination for all things gothic.

Whilst our lives have taken distinctly different paths, we've remained in touch, through the power of communication technology, since graduation all those years ago. Heck, I still have ambitions to complete our 'gothic trilogy' one day on the streets of Miami.

When I heard about Nick's movie Cold Soldiers, filmed in Charleston, SC, I was instantly reminded of the Cybermen and watching classic Doctor Who serials together. I may have demonstrated my near-faultless impression of David Banks' Cyberleader sans voice modulation.

Here, Nick shares the highs and lows of getting his film Cold Soldiers made and distributed.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Like I always say, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has a lot to answer for. He encouraged a generation of filmmakers to tell big-screen stories, wearing their influences on their samurai sleeves, becoming part of the sideshows of movie merchandising, publicity and distribution. George’s experimentation with digital video and effects are a reason why digital filmmaking is so prevalent today. In his youth, he had an obvious passion for movies and made lots of dough following it. He made it look easy.

It ain’t.

Moviemaking isn’t all skywalking. It requires long days, sacrifices of time, money and personal life, heavy lifting and uncertainty. Where do the little guys fit into all this hard labour, the ones with the passion but no dough? If they’re like me, they find a way to keep making movies any which way they can.

There’s a lot of chitter chatter in the indie film industry, but many projects never get made. For the feature film Cold Soldiers, my co-producer Trevor Erickson and I were faced with a choice: spend our time looking for investors and distributors, pitching an idea to doctors, lawyers and business angels or make the movie. We went ahead and made the movie, released this month on Amazon. Not exactly the Grauman’s Chinese Theater, but it’s a start.

The mission, which we chose to accept, was to make an action movie with memorable characters, suspense, knock-down drag-out fights, car chases and an involving, surprising plot. We wanted to work with local actors and crew and we didn’t want interference from some executive producer from on high, taking away our creative freedom. The main obstacle was lack of budget and we knew we had one shot at this – no Special Edition.

Cold Soldiers is set in a max security hospital full of spies and military guys who’ve failed their missions. Psychiatrist John Dance interacts with the patients, reporting to the institute’s review board, which includes his wife Rebecca. Meanwhile, a shadow force busts out of the hospital to bump off board members.

When Rebecca is targeted, John has to find out who’s involved before he becomes a widower. In his world no one can be taken at face value, forcing the psychiatrist to analyze everything.

So far, so thrilling. There’s also a love triangle, a sword fight, car chases and gun battles. More importantly, characters that the audience will (hopefully) care about. I learned how important that was as I was filming – and how many nuances the actors could add to their parts.

While we were filming all our action shenanigans, I learned a few more handy facts:

1. Sound is Hella Important!

I thought I had it down, aware that sound quality can make a film amateurish or Hollywood level. There are still a few moments where the sound could be better. Spending as much time as possible on sound, while we were shooting, would have saved a lot of heartache in the edit suite.

2. Ask and you shall receive (sometimes)

We waited for ages before we approached the military vehicle provider Force Protection. We thought they’d turn us away, especially since their vehicles appeared in Transformers. They immediately told us that Michael Bay hadn’t given them a penny and lent us their vehicles gratis.

3. Finding a distributor is no picnic, Booboo!

One potential distributor wanted to sell DVDs in cardboard sleeves; another wanted me to use a pseudonym. We took a long time to find the right fit and really an indie-friendly company who we could have an informal relationship with. We found them in Miami-based Maverick Entertainment.

4. There are many ways to share a film!

DVD, streaming, alternate screening venues… these days there are more ways to show a movie than home video editions of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Being flexible and looking beyond a big theatrical release is the key to getting a film in front of as many eyes as possible. Since there are a lot of martial arts antics in Cold Soldiers, we screened a workprint at East West Health Arts, a dojo in Charleston, South Carolina. Didn’t see that one coming!

However you find it or view it, check out this little movie fan’s epic – it’s handmade, heartfelt and a lot of fun. Enjoy the ride and Honor the Code.

You can buy or rent Cold Soldiers on Amazon (affiliate link).

Have you seen Cold Soldiers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday 10 June 2018

Respawn announces Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Vince Zampella from Respawn, the studio behind the phenomenal Titanfall franchise, has announced a new Star Wars single player (SP) video game during EA Play.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. A dark time as the last of the Jedi are hunted down by Darth Vader.

Could this be the Star Wars video game fans deserve? The title suggests a rebooting of Star Wars Jedi Knight, and Respawn has a pedigree that could wipe the slate clean in the wake of the microtransaction and loot box controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be released during holiday 2019 to coincide with director JJ Abrams' as-yet-untitled Episode IX which completes the sequel trilogy at Disney.

Are you excited at the prospect of a single player Star Wars title that's not Battlefront? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 8 June 2018

A T-Rex does flips in this hilarious Jurassic World skit

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has arrived in cinemas to mixed reviews. However, this officially endorsed skit, filmed in Hawaii by extreme sports videographer Devin Graham (better known as Devinsupertramp on YouTube), should gladden the heart of even the most jaded fan of the dinosaur franchise started by Steven Spielberg 25 years ago.

From building Tamiya model kits, on rainy days, to playing with Transformers' Dinobots, dinosaurs captured my childhood imagination. So much so, I would record myself reading passages from well-worn dinosaur books and play them back, taking inspiration from read-along books for Star Wars and Disney's The Black Hole.

I would actively seek out B-movies to satiate my fascination for the extinct species. And seeing Jurassic Park, for the first time in 1993, is a cinema experience I'll never forget, joining the Hollywood pantheon of Star Wars and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 7 June 2018

Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The first trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showcases a spectacular alternate universe where Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is mentored by Peter Parker (Jake Johnson).

Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast as Spider-Gwen. Steinfeld's star is in the ascendancy as she's the lead in the Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee, this holiday season.

Commenting on the announcement, producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) said, “We are lucky to have such an amazing cast of funny, genuine creative souls to populate the Spider-verse. They have generous minds and great big hearts. And they have very talented throats. Which is where their delightful voices come from.”

Lord and Miller continued: “We can’t wait for the world to see Miles Morales on the big screen. He’s such a fun and exciting new character, and telling his story through a revolutionary visual style makes for a totally fresh cinematic experience that, if we may say so, is freaking amazing.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theatres this December.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Bumblebee reboots Transformers this holiday season!

Paramount Pictures has dropped the first official teaser trailer for the upcoming Transformers live-action spin-off, Bumblebee.

"On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug."

All the feels. My generation grew up with Hasbro's inspired rebranding - with a lot of help from Marvel - of Takara's Japanese puzzle toys Diaclone and Micro Change, and I wasn't expecting something that would resonate so deeply. Bumblebee was one of the very first Transformers I owned and the beloved Autobot stood sentry, alongside his leader Optimus Prime, in my childhood bedroom.

I'm getting a The Love Bug and The Iron Giant vibe. The prequel is seemingly a soft reboot of the Transformers live-action franchise harkening back to the Generation 1 (G1) era from the eighties. And with director Michael Bay no longer at the helm, there's a genuine pathos and sense of wonder that has been sorely absent since the first live-action movie which owed much to executive producer Steven Spielberg.

Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and starring Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen), is in cinemas this December. Could this be a new beginning for the Hasbro cinematic universe including G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Micronauts, ROM: Spaceknight, Visionaries and Power Rangers? Excuse me whilst I rewatch the excellent Transformers instalment of The Toys That Made Us now streaming on Netflix.

Looking forward to Bumblebee? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Did Disney's marketing sink Solo at the box office?

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now and I've yet to see the latest spin-off from director Ron Howard! Personally, I need a break from the franchise and seemingly so do many other fans.

There's a lot of hot takes regarding its perceived failure at the box office. From a backlash against Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the franchise's move away from the holiday season due to Mary Poppins Returns. Then there's the small matter of stablemate Marvel Studios' triumphant run with Black Panther followed by the 10th-anniversary instalment Avengers: Infinity War. Somewhere amidst the superhero saturation, Star Wars has got lost in the marketing mix.

Rob Wainfur, the founder of The Bearded Trio and longtime contributor to this blog, has written a post chronicling his thoughts on the current state of the Star Wars franchise and its fandom. Here's an extract:

"Star Wars at the cinema is a good thing (even if I do have to put up with those popcorn munchers). But more Star Wars, new Star Wars, is a good thing. Like Star Trek, I'm so happy it's back. Do I like Discovery? It's okay, not my favourite but Star Trek is back. Star Wars is back. That's got to be a good thing, right?"

You can read Rob's entire post here.

Have you seen Solo: A Star Wars Story? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 4 June 2018

Apple put the "i" into Mac twenty years ago

Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) starts today and affords an ideal opportunity to reflect on the launch of the original iMac twenty years ago.

Jony Ive's product would become a cultural phenomenon, appearing in everything from Jennifer Lopez's iconic pop promo for If You Had My Love to television series, foreshadowing the Cupertino-based company's rise, Lazarus-like under the auspices of the then returning co-founder Steve Jobs, from imminent collapse into the consumer electronics giant we know today.

I purchased an iMac DV SE - affectionately dubbed 'the bubble' by my late mum - in the summer of 1999 to replace an ageing Macintosh Performa 5200. And have continued to champion the all-in-one desktop machine to this day.

An amusing anecdote from the start of the new millennium. During an interview at AOL, in the wake of purchasing Warner Bros., I was sarcastically asked by a company director, which colour had I chosen and that Apple should roll over and die! I countered by suggesting a strategic alliance between Apple and AOL. Whatever happened to AOL, again?

Apple is expected to announce an iMac refresh later today. Please add a Space Gray model to match my iPad Pro, Tim Cook.

Without the iMac, there would be no iPod, iPhone or iPad and, quite possibly, no Apple.

What are your iMac memories? Let me know in the comments below.