Friday 27 December 2019

Heroic Star Wars fan remembered as a Jedi

A Star Wars superfan, who gave his life saving fellow college students from a gunman, has been immortalised as a Jedi by Lucasfilm.

Riley Howell was a 21-year-old ROTC cadet and student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He died in April while tackling a gunman on campus.

A tribute to Riley Howell appears in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - The Visual Dictionary. The entry in the book credits Jedi master and historian “Ri-Lee Howell” with collecting “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force”.

“Riley’s courage and selflessness brings out the Jedi in all of us,” wrote fan relations team member Lucas Seastrom. “We hope that you may rejoice in his memory, and we join you in honoring his life and example.

“As a small tribute, our Story Group has incorporated a reimagining of Riley’s name as a character in the Star Wars galaxy.”

“You’re either going to run, hide and shield, or you’re going to take the fight to the assailant,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department Chief Kerr Putney said. “Having no place to run and hide, he did the last.”

Riley Howell’s mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, told the Charlotte Observer that her son would have loved the idea.

“I like the way they actually left his last name,” Henry-Howell said. “I think he would really be appreciative of that. Because, you know, they could have just said Ri-Lee – Jedi Ri-Lee – and we’d be guessing the whole time about whether or not that was really [him], but they put his last name in there just to really honor him ... and that really made me cry when I heard about it.”

Lauren Westmoreland, Howell’s girlfriend, wrote in an email that Star Wars was incredibly close to his heart.

“Though he wasn’t an artist, he loved to draw the clone trooper helmets all the time, sometimes even on my birthday cards,” Westmoreland said.

Lauren’s father, Kevin Westmoreland, said Howell was a Star Wars scholar for most of his life.

“He had a very strong sense of good and evil, and how to live life as someone who looked out for others,” Westmoreland said. “Seeing him listed as both a Jedi and a historian in Star Wars lore is a perfect way to connect him to this story and the characters he loved.”

Friday 20 December 2019

Star Wars at the speed of light

Director JJ Abrams (Star Trek) had the unenviable task of rebooting the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens in 2015. Fast forward to 2019, Abrams has the Herculean task of wrapping up the 9-part Skywalker saga in the shadow of the fandom menace.

Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi (2017) remains divisive among fans. However, I still stand by my review, but am delighted to say The Rise of Skywalker eclipses Johnson's subversive instalment with interstellar zest and ends George Lucas' space opera with an emotional flourish.

At the speed of light, The Rise of Skywalker is a deliriously brilliant conclusion to a saga that is closest to my heart than any other! It features inevitable lightsaber duels between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), that pack an emotional punch equalling those from the original trilogy, as echoes of the past reverberate around them.

Johnson laid the groundwork for 'Reylo' in The Last Jedi and this is taken to its bittersweet conclusion in standout performances from both Ridley and Driver. Their battle of wills is the beating heart of Disney's sequel trilogy underscored by composer John Williams' rich repertoire spanning the entire Skywalker story.

The maestro John Williams is on hand to finish what he started in 1977. His ninth soundtrack for the Skywalker saga is a joyous journey through light and dark, tinged with sadness in the knowledge this will be Williams’ Star Wars swan song. For 42 years, his music has been the soundtrack to many fans (myself included) lives. More than once, familiar leitmotifs evoked memories of loved ones long since passed away and I was unable to hold back tears. Rey’s theme becomes the centrepiece as her story reaches its conclusion with an ending that witnesses one of Williams’ most beautiful orchestrations with nods to Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Schindler’s List in a galaxy-spanning symphonic celebration.

The gang's back together. It's an unalloyed joy to be in the company of Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). This plays to Abrams' greatest strength. His innate ability to create compelling character relationships that began with Felicity and continued in Lost.

Where would Star Wars be without droids? C-3PO gets to shine, not just literally, in the final episode alongside best friend R2-D2, BB-8 and newcomer D-O, a delightful droid with PTSD. C-3PO and R2-D2's humorous exchanges were sorely missing from the prequel and sequel trilogies up to this point. It would be churlish not to mention Zorii Bliss' (Keri Russell) droidsmith Babu Frik.

Star Wars has always served as an anti-fascist allegory and none more so than here with the repeated stance of the First Order, about to become the Final Order under the auspices of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E Grant), making the Resistance think they're alone, which is, to invoke Marxist cultural criticism, false consciousness. Suffice to say, with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) back at the helm of the Millennium Falcon, the good guys will never give up, never surrender (borrowed from Galaxy Quest).

The Rise of Skywalker meshes Lucas' sci-fi opus with the explosive exuberance of Marvel Star Wars Weekly, school playground adventures with friends long gone and is a love letter from a superfan to fans that still believe in hope over despair. I geeked out with fellow fans, strangers brought together by the Force, as it should be.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Jimmy Kimmel Live After Darth: A Star Wars Special

Jimmy Kimmel Live has played genial host to the Star Wars franchise starting with The Force Awakens in 2015. The Rise of Skywalker, in theatres worldwide this week, is no exception and the cast (sans Adam Driver) and director appeared with Kimmel last Monday ahead of the lavish LA premiere.

"J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets."

"We are coming to you from a galaxy not so far away for our special Jimmy Kimmel Live After Darth: A Star Wars Special. It's easy to forget sometimes that Star Wars was made for kids, so we decided to give children a chance to ask questions of Director J.J. Abrams and stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Joonas Suotamo."

"J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play Force Family Feud!"

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released December 19th in the UK.

Monday 16 December 2019

Star Wars and The Rise of Accelerator Science

Science often follows art, and with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker soon to hit the big screen, Professor Carsten P Welsch, Head of Communication for The Cockcroft Institute and Head of Physics at the University of Liverpool, explores how some of the scientific fantasies in Star Wars are no longer so ‘out of this world’.

Photo: Professor Welsch with Kylo Ren, R2-D2, Rey, Darth Vader and Stormtrooper

Light Side vs Dark Side: Probing the most fundamental laws of nature
“A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware anger, fear, aggression – the dark side are they.” 
Matter and antimatter are a mystery of the real world that is close to fantasy. To some extent they are very similar to the light side and the dark side in Star Wars. In our research, we use particle accelerators to produce antimatter in a laboratory environment and this allows us to probe the most fundamental laws of nature. Today there are almost 50,000 particle accelerators in operation worldwide, in a wide range of industrial and medical applications. Our research helps optimize these machines to the benefit of science and society.

From Death Star Destruction to Tumour Reduction 
“Use the Force, Luke.” 
In the original Star Wars, Luke Skywalker uses proton torpedoes to destroy the Death Star at a very specific weak point. 40 years on, we are now using ‘proton torpedoes’ in cancer therapy. Science fact has caught up with science fiction and we are using proton beams to target something hidden deep inside the body, which is very difficult to destroy.

Within our Optimisation of Medical Accelerators (OMA) project, we have been exploring ways to better control high energy proton beams to improve cancer treatment. This is an advanced treatment technology available in the UK at the Christie Hospital since 2018, ensuring destruction of a tumour hidden deep inside the body.

Our research targets the development of monitors that can sense the beam used for cancer treatment without touching it – not by using the Force, but by measuring precisely the beam halo surrounding the beam and correlating this information to the dose delivered to the patient.

Frozen in Time and Space
“They've encased him in carbonite. He should be quite well protected – if he survived the freezing process, that is.” 
When Han is frozen in carbonite at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, there is concern that he will not survive the extreme cold of the process - although he does, of course, get thawed out at the start of Return of the Jedi.

In the real world, very cold temperatures, close to absolute zero, are needed to create a vacuum pressure in a particle accelerator that is better than outer space. This ensures that the beam accelerated and stored in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or other particle accelerators does not hit any residual gas particles. Researchers from the Cockcroft Institute take advantage of such an excellent vacuum to measure the profile of the Large Hadron Collider beam without any background noise.

Mind over Antimatter
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?”
Throughout the Star Wars series, the Jedi and Sith use the Force in a manner similar to telekinesis to hold and move things with their minds – most memorably when Yoda is attempting to teach Luke the ways of the Force in The Empire Strikes Back.

Electromagnetic fields are used in discovery science to trap particles so they can be studied. At CERN, antimatter experiments such as GBAR use ion traps to capture and store anti-hydrogen for fundamental studies and the Liverpool Group is strongly involved in the optimization of such experiments through the project AVA. The fields confine the antimatter particles within an ultrahigh vacuum chamber so that the antiparticles do not come into contact with normal matter – if they were to do so, they would annihilate instantly in a small burst of pure energy.

The Precision of Lightsabres
“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”
One of the defining and memorable things in Star Wars is the lightsabre, and although they wouldn’t be possible according to the laws of physics in the real world, there are already many exciting applications that are real, such as laser knives for high precision surgery controlled by robot arms and adaptive manufacturing using lasers for creating complex structures in metals.

We also use lasers in the EuPRAXIA project to realise extremely high electric fields and build particle accelerators that are up to 1,000 times smaller than current technology. This has huge potential to enable entirely new fundamental research and applications that benefit society.

Prof Carsten P Welsch is Head of Physics at Liverpool University and Head of Communication at the Cockcroft Institute. His research covers the development of novel beam instrumentation, as well as the design and optimization of particle accelerators.

The Cockcroft Institute is an international centre of excellence for accelerator science and technology in the UK, based on the campus of Daresbury Laboratory. To find out more about its work go to

Friday 13 December 2019

Use the Porsche, Luke!

Stuggart-based premium car manufacturer Porsche has unveiled the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter designed in collaboration with Lucasfilm. Whilst it takes design cues from the 911 and Taycan, the Pegasus Starfighter evokes conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie's unused starship design that was reused for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter will appear in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Go Figure: A Star Wars Toy Story 2

With only a week to go until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in the UK. Our resident US correspondent, Nick Smith, shares his toy stories from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Guest post by Nick Smith

For one brief moment in February, 2019 was the new 1977 at the New York Toy Fair! Hasbro revealed a line of retro Star Wars toys featuring an Escape from the Death Star board game. Replications of six of Kenner’s original action figures were displayed: Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Darth Vader, a Stormtrooper [always rarer than Hen's teeth around these parts - Ed], Han Solo and Chewbacca – enough toys to recreate classic scenes from the original movie. Forget going to the gym – this was the must-have six-pack for nostalgic fans.

The black cardboard packaging harkened back to the originals too, with photographs of the characters and loud ‘retro collection’ branding, both a selling point and a warning that the articulation of these toys is charmingly primitive. Intergalactic heroes don’t need elbows and Stormtroopers don’t really need necks.

These little guys have vinyl sheets for cloaks and lightsabres stuck in their arms. The faux-battered packaging is reminiscent of the popular, beaten-up boxes and covers of Stranger Things merchandise. To me, retro means overpriced cleaned-up junk in a thrift boutique, like lava lamps and peacock chairs all smelling of the ‘60s. These toys smell better (new plastic!), but they’re still quaint.

This rerelease is a bold move in a year focusing on a new film – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But aside from keeping merchandising on store shelves until December, it’s fitting for Hasbro to look back to where the Star Wars toy story started.

It’s hard to believe in this world full of merchandise, with billions of dollars made from the toys, but in 1978 British kids were content with a Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Darth and some random cantina aliens. Over in the US, where Star Wars (later rechristened A New Hope) was a blockbuster in the summer of ‘77, demand was so strong for toys that an ‘early bird’ deal was offered. American kids could get an empty box for Christmas – the perfect present for a cat, not so much for a human. But the venture worked since the box would be filled with four figures once they were produced. In the UK, a winter release eased the supply-and-demand problem.

Unlike larger toys like Action Man and Stretch Armstrong, the Star Wars figures fit perfectly in my young hand and were priced just right for my pint-sized piggy bank. This was a time when the coolest boy at school was the one with the die-cast Millennium Falcon (the coolest girl was the one who wanted to be Han Solo). I soon amassed a colourful collection of figures including Snaggletooth, Greedo and a ‘Sand People’ person. While we had the best ads (including a fine Brian Bolland illustration), the US Marvel comics hawked the best toys, such as the Kenner droid factory. I really wanted a Jawa Sandcrawler, never seen in my local Argos, grinding through my giddy imagination instead. I made my version of the Mos Eisley cantina out of a grocery box, complete with cardboard tables and chairs. I turned shoeboxes into freighters and the backyard became an array of alien planets. Scaling plants and dangling from fences, the little figures dealt with a vast landscape just as I navigated my way around the giant real world, so overwhelming to a kid.

My parents indulged my obsession, buying me a Falcon, an Imperial Troop Transport [hours of fun scaring the cat with electronic sound effects from the movie - Ed], an AT-AT, Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer [try flying that around a bedroom without the figures falling out - Ed], Yoda’s boggy hovel… I was spoiled and I will always be grateful. Still, I wanted more [didn't we all in the Thatcherite eighties - Ed]. The Star Wars range taught me to covet for the first time. Pity a kid bombarded by commercials for the latest, coolest playset.

While the toys gave me a sense of control over my irrepressible environment, they also helped me become familiar with the movie’s cast long before there was an easy way to rewatch the film. They also gave the opportunity to create new adventures for these characters, filling the three-year gap between episodes.

Some of those escapades were out of my hands, such as The Adventures of Luke Skywalker lost in a pub garden. Or The Empire Strives to Rescue Stormtrooper melting on the Radiator. I did manage to salvage the trooper; with one of his legs melted, I airbrushed him a random red and called him Redlighter. A poor imperial officer’s head fell off; I nailed it back on. Toy Story’s Sid would have been proud.

I went one further, breaking my stories into seasons and jotting down episode guides. Understanding that the best Star Wars stories feature an outgunned band of heroes facing a huge, evil space weapon, I called one epic ‘The Death Star 2,’ jotted down in my C-3PO exercise book. That story could never happen on the big screen, of course. A second Death Star was an impossibility (this was years before Return of the Jedi).

As an adult, I despair at the death of my childhood heroes in the sequel trilogy. But in my toy stories, I was also guilty of killing off several main characters, only to bring them back thanks to the power of the Force to start their war all over again in a tale I called ‘Full Circle.’ My personal adventures circled around as well, in a way, as my son Sam played with my vintage toys and his own prequel ones. He went one better than me, filming his scenarios, culminating in the epic ‘The Last Jedi’ (Lucasfilm owes us big time).

Now Sam is grown and our toys gather dust in his basement. Nevertheless, our interest in Star Wars has been maintained by the TV shows, most recently The Mandalorian – and that Disney+ show’s merchandise has sparked a toy story of its own because it is not ready in time for this Christmas. The fans, too impatient are they.

In the meantime, we have the retro range to play with, a fun concept and a crimson-tinted moneymaker, with six humble characters from a simpler, more graceful time, available again so that a whole new generation of kids can create their own epics in a galaxy far, far away, in their own backyards...

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Bose celebrates Star Wars

Bose has teamed up with Lucasfilm to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The prestige audio brand has released a 360-degree augmented reality experience for compatible Bose products and limited edition Star Wars-themed Bose QC35 headphones II available in the US direct from the company.

“We’re working with authentic sound from the original film recordings, drawing from scenes that date all the way back to the initial 1977 movie release,” says Bose’s developer relations lead, Chuck Freedman. “We have been fortunate to collaborate with artists and engineers at Skywalker Sound, who advised us on sound placement and optimization for ideal spatialization and positioning. In addition to character dialogue and prominent sound effects like lightsaber movement, we also prioritized more subtle sounds, like wind and other environmental sounds, as well as the detailed effects created by the original Foley artists for the films.”

The official Star Wars app (for Android and iOS devices) works with Bose Headphones 700 (affiliate link), Bose QC35 headphones II (affiliate link) and Bose Frames.

As a Star Wars fan and owner of Bose products, I'm excited to explore a galaxy of immersive audio adventures this holiday season.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

A Star Wars Toy Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in UK cinemas on 19th December and is the culmination of an epic 9-part saga that began over forty years ago with the original Star Wars in 1977.

George Lucas' space opera revolutionised theatrical technology and merchandising. My earliest merchandise memory is being gifted an R2-D2 action figure before seeing Star Wars at the Odeon Exeter. That little droid fired my nascent imagination post a life-changing childhood trauma and ignited a lifelong love of gadgets (I most recently added Hasbro's app-enabled D-O during Black Friday).

Palitoy, the defunct Coleville-based toy company, licensed Star Wars action figures and accessories from Kenner (bought by Hasbro) and released unique playsets including the fabled Death Star. The Death Star playset topped many children's Christmas wishlists, including mine, in the late seventies. Alas, I never got to recreate the rescue of Princess Leia or Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi's final duel. Instead, I was gifted Star Bird Command Base, which served as the Imperial HQ where the Death Star plans were stored decades before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

I became inspired to become a graphic designer due to Palitoy's colourful box art and would write to the company with original ideas for extending Star Wars and Action Force toy lines. These were always politely returned, but with a letter of encouragement and an action figure!

To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Toy Empire: The British Force Behind Star Wars will be shown on BBC Four on 16th December.

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

Saturday 7 December 2019

Baby Yoda won't be home for Christmas

Baby Yoda is the pop culture phenomenon you’re looking for. The character has proven such a huge hit since appearing in the first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, demand for official merchandise was inevitable this holiday season.

However, fans (myself included) will have to wait until 2020 for Funko, Hasbro and Mattel collectables. The Child AKA Baby Yoda is available to pre-order (affiliate link). Is this showrunner Jon Favreau's knowing nod to Kenner's Early Bird Gift Certificate for Star Wars action figures in 1977?

The Mandalorian continues every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

The Rise of Skywalker final battle begins TV Spots

The final trailer may have been released, but that hasn't stopped Disney's daily dose of TV Spots in the run-up to the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The latest, entitled "Adventure", features Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) dualling in front of Darth Vader's melted mask. The location is reminiscent of Cloud City and Ralph McQuarrie's original concept art for Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens on 19th December in the UK.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Daisy Ridley talks to GQ about The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas this month and Daisy Ridley (Rey) talked exclusively to British GQ magazine about the emotional end of an era that began with director JJ Abrams' The Force Awakens in 2015.

You can read the full candid interview with Ridley here.

Sunday 1 December 2019

E.T. home for the holidays

Christmas 1982, director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) broke the collective hearts of millions of UK cinemagoers (myself included) with his story of an abandoned alien befriending a fatherless child.

The movie was, of course, E.T the Extra-Terrestrial: a life-affirming tale of friendship in the darkest of times, yet hope prevails in Hollywood composer, and longtime Spielberg collaborator, John Williams' supernatural soundtrack.

Spielberg's most autobiographical movie resonated deeply with my ten-year-old self - still coming to terms with a life-changing trauma and struggling to make sense of where I fitted into the fabric of the cosmos - a crippled child who looked to the night sky for escape but had to deal with the day-to-day reality of rehabilitation on terra firma. So much so, when a kindly friend of my late mum, who worked at the ABC Exeter, offered to let us watch the movie a second time (for free), I was too upset...

Fast forward to Christmas 2019, E.T. and Elliott (Henry Thomas) are reunited for the holiday season in a commercial for Xfinity. Peak nostalgia for children of the eighties in the wake of Stranger Things.

Speaking about the commercial, Thomas said:

"The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts. It’s really a win-win. ... Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven (Spielberg) was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling."

Does this make you yearn for a full sequel to E.T the Extra-Terrestrial? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 25 November 2019

Top Trumps for Star Wars Christmas gifts

Star Wars fans (myself included) growing up in the seventies and eighties will have halcyon memories of owning packs of Top Trumps cards. So, what better way to celebrate the conclusion of the Skywalker saga this Christmas than with Star Wars Top Trumps Quiz (affiliate link).

"Are you a Star Wars expert? Can you identify the difference between Episodes 4-6 & 1-3? Can you remember specific scenes from Episode 7: The Force Awakens? Travel to a galaxy far, far away and test your Star Wars knowledge to see if you are a force to be reckoned with. With 500 questions to answer, it’s great for the whole family, whether you want a quick game on the go or to spend some time seeing how much you really know! With a Top Trumps twist at the end to test your memory, can you remember what you learned just moments ago?"

There's also the excellent Star Wars Top Trumps Match (affiliate link), which makes for an excellent stocking filler.

"Top Trumps Match is the crazy cube game. Match 5 of your favourite Star Wars characters in a row to win, but everything could change when the cards are turned!"

Special thanks to Top Trumps for sending this lifelong Star Wars fan sets of Top Trumps Quiz and Top Trumps Match.

Friday 22 November 2019

NOW TV Boost with Full HD and 5.1 ahead of Disney+

Since NOW TV launched in 2012, the Sky-owned streaming service has lagged behind competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime by offering only 720p and stereo sound. With new entrants including Apple TV+ and Disney+ entering the fray, NOW TV has to level up.

Today the company has announced NOW TV Boost, which adds 1080p and 5.1 surround sound (on compatible devices) for an extra £3 per month and works with the Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and Kids Passes. That's £62 combined!

"NOW TV Boost is an important step in offering our customers a higher quality viewing experience," said NOW TV's managing director, Marina Storti.

"It’s launching ahead of the Christmas season so you can enjoy the best and biggest blockbusters and box sets of the year, together with live coverage of your favourite sports in Full HD with surround sound."

Whilst this is a welcome improvement, behind a questionable paywall, NOW TV falls short of 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos + Vision already available on Sky Q and its competitors. Disney+ will launch in the UK with 4K support in March 2020.

I'll be trying out a free 7-day trial of NOW TV Boost with the premiere of Captain Marvel on Sky Cinema Disney.

Will you be subscribing to NOW TV Boost in addition to the existing Passes? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Rey is full of the Force says The Force Awakens writer

Rey's (Daisy Ridley) enigmatic affinity for the Force has been a point of fevered discussion among fans since The Force Awakens (2015). Co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, talking exclusively to Entertainment Weekly (EW), sheds some light on the pivotal moment when Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber flies into her hand, sparking speculation she was a clone of Luke's father.

"Rey is full of the Force — you know that pretty early on," he said, adding that the signs had always been there: "We've seen other demonstrations that she did earlier in the movie that she has in her. You know she's not unimportant.

"The saber flies into her hand because it belongs in her hand. While the secret to Kylo is that he's massively insecure. He wants to be Darth II, but he isn't because he's very conflicted about everything he wants."

Kasdan went on to tease that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a conflicted character.

"[Kylo] says right before, 'That lightsaber, it belongs to me'," he continued. "So when it flies by him into her hand everything he worries about is confirmed."

Following the events of The Last Jedi (2017), fans won't know exactly how Rey and Kylo's story will end in The Rise of Skywalker this December. Will there be a surprise twist given the return of the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid)?

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Entertainment Weekly shares new Star Wars images

A month from today Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be in UK cinemas and I've booked tickets for a day-one IMAX with Laser screening at Cineworld.

Entertainment Weekly (EW) has shared new exclusive photos featuring Rey (Daisy Ridley), Kylo Ren (Adama Driver) and more here.

Are you looking forward to the conclusion of the Skywalker saga? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 16 November 2019

The subscriber Force is strong with Disney+

Disney+ launched last Tuesday in the US, Canada and the Netherlands (following a free 2-month trial) and has garnered over 10 million subscribers. This will only increase when the House of Mouse's nascent streaming service launches in Australia and New Zealand on 19th November. Expanding, exponentially, in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain from 31st March 2020. It's not difficult to foresee an embattled Netflix merging with another competitor such as Apple.

Among exclusive fare such as Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Disney's Gargoyles and Darkwing Duck are enjoying a new lease of life on Disney+.

There's an option to suggest other Disney-owned properties. So, Star Wars fans (myself included) are urging the Walt Disney Company to add mid-eighties Lucasfilm curios Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and animated series Ewoks and Star Wars: Droids.

What classic Lucasfilm titles would you like to see added? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The Good, the Bad and the Mandalorian

So, the first episode of Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+ and it's a love letter from filmmaking fans Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Dave Filoni (The Clone Wars) to George Lucas' sprawling space opera.

My review contains only the mildest of spoilers. Over a surprisingly brisk 35 minutes, Favreau and Filoni deliver a shimmering multimillion-dollar masterclass in spaghetti western genre tropes popularised by director Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), much like Lucas did with the original Star Wars in 1977. Underscored by Ludwig Göransson's (Black Panther) ode to the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone.

The pilot episode is an homage to the executive producers' childhoods. The Star Wars Holiday Special, introducing bounty hunter Boba Fett, looms large as does Marvel's Star Wars Weekly and the celebrated Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson comic strip set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It's tantamount to unleashing the contents of a Kenner toy box with the power of Epic Games' Unreal Engine.

The titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) channels the steely cool of fan-favourite Boba Fett (The Empire Strikes Back). However, this is a bounty hunter with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a tragic past that will serve as a rich backstory as the season continues.

Gamification has influenced production. The silent protagonist levelling up as the story progresses with an armour upgrade courtesy of the Armorer (Emily Swallow).

Like the original trilogy, there's much humour here too. None more so than during a barnstorming shootout with IG-11 (Taika Waititi). Hope we see more of the assassin droid as it's the perfect foil to the droid hating Mandalorian as he carries out a bounty for The Client (Werner Herzog).

Longtime Star Wars fans (myself included) will relish countless Easter eggs from the franchise's rich lore. See it on the biggest screen you can and brace yourself for the ending...

Episode two is released this Friday on Disney+.

Have you seen The Mandalorian? Did it evoke original trilogy feels? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Disney+ launches with The Mandalorian

This will be a day long remembered in the streaming wars. Disney+ launches with the first-ever Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. Controversially, there are no plans to stream Jon Favreau's series on DisneyLife in the UK before 31st March 2020.

Ahead of today's launch, Lucasfilm released an exclusive clip from The Mandalorian during Monday Night Football on ESPN.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Gina Carano, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte.

In related news. The entire Star Wars saga will be available for the first time ever in 4K on Disney+. George Lucas' space opera has a storied history with Dolby since the original trilogy. Fans of all ages will be able to enjoy mesmerising space battles and lightsaber duels in Dolby Atmos + Vision.

Aside from Star Wars. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin-off series including Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision.

The launch has been dogged by technical issues that will keep Disney CEO Bob Iger awake at night. Disney in a tweet on Tuesday morning: “The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations. We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience.” Really? Nick Smith, our resident US-based roving reporter, will be looking into the new streaming service soon.

Without posting any spoilers for folks (myself included) who are unable to watch The Mandalorian. What are your initial reactions to the series and Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Jim Henson’s Dark Materials

In the early eighties, Jim Henson and Frank Oz transported cinemagoers to a world without human inhabitants in The Dark Crystal. The film took an audacious artistic twist by populating its tale with puppets only and eerily foreshadowed events in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi the following year.

Whilst The Dark Crystal failed to ignite the box office, considered uncommercial and too dark for children, over subsequent decades Henson's opus has built a cult following.

Sequels were often mooted but seemingly mired in development hell. Forever. Then, out of nowhere, Netflix announced a live-action prequel series chronicling the rise of evil that would envelop the world of Thra...

Guest post by Nick Smith

1982 was the year of E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Tron and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Sci-fi fantasy movies were the big box office draw of the time, just as Marvel rules the airwaves today. So, at the tender age of ten, I took my little sister, Becky, to see an ostensibly sweet little flick called The Dark Crystal. It came from the house of Jim Henson, manufacturer of the must-see Muppet Show [a pivotal series in my life - Ed] that was such a hit. But, the movie we saw was cut from a different cloth than Miss Piggy and her felt friends.

Becky and I watched a twisted tale about back-stabbing bipedal vultures, raving pod people and a soul-sucking electric chair. Independent from Disney’s family fare, this film was no Mickey Mouse operation. It depicted the end of a decaying civilisation, rotten from the core. As we left the cinema humming impressions of the UrRu Mystics, The Dark Crystal left an indelible impression on our young minds.

Apparently, it had a lasting effect on other members of our generation too, as 37 years later, Netflix has gone all-out with a prequel series called Age of Resistance. While this initially seems an unlikely candidate for a contemporary series with an hour-long pilot, it’s an effective fantasy packed with thrills, a careful balance of toy store charm and Henson’s grotesque touch.

The Age of Resistance builds on the mythos of The Dark Crystal, fleshing out the original movie’s backstory. We find out how the antagonists’ soul-sucking machine was made and where the hero’s crystal shard came from. We see more of the celestial beings that split, Jekyll and Hyde-like, into gentle Mystic and rotten Skeksis – the same luminous form they will eventually return to. While the feature film showed a desolate world with a few good Gelflings left, the series is full of the little rascals, some peace-loving, some militant, all cute as a button.

The new series follows the adventures of do-good Gelflings Rian, Brea and Deet, opposing the crafty Skeksis. Aughra the grunting old Keeper of Secrets is back, younger and more powerful than she can admit. We catch a flash-forward glimpse of Jen, the hero from The Dark Crystal, and other beloved characters.

The series uses its lengthy 10 episodes to build a twisty-turny tragic plot, but also to develop its characters in a way the feature film could not; we get up close and too personal with the ugly Skeksis in their fortress, giving plenty of rancid meaty dialogue for the voice actors to get their teeth into. Mark Hamill (Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker) is the standout as the hard-hearted skekTek, simply because Hamill seems to be having so much fun playing the Scientist. Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter’s Lucius Malfoy) is convincing as the Emperor, while Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible) relishes the role of the snivelling Chamberlain.

The Gelflings are voiced by equally dependable actors such as Helena Bonham Carter, Taron Egerton and Eddie Izzard. Thanks to their skill and the lifelike puppetry, we grow to care about the creatures. Although there are no humans on the planet Thra, where Age of Resistance takes place, the characters are very human, with relatable feelings and goals. With their selfish plotting and in-fighting, vain beauty treatments, mistreatment of their environment and focus on industry over nature, the Skeksis are sadly the most human of all. As we explore Thra with Rian and his pals through amazing landscapes, facing danger, cruelty and loud Podling music, it’s hard not to shed a tear when some of the heroes die or even sacrifice their lives for the greater good [proper choked me up - Ed].

The series isn’t perfect. The adventure plot can be repetitive and unoriginal at times. It’s hard to take the Fraggle-like Gelflings seriously when they bounce around the screen. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and a lot of death. The show has a delicious sadistic streak that will have you watching some scenes through your fingers. Others, like the one where a little Gelfling almost gets his head crushed and a Mystic risks his existence to save the day, had me blubbing. So, be prepared for a Kermit-in-a-blender emotional whirlwind.

The Dark Crystal movie has a distinct ending, with the Skeksis empire ending its ragged reign. So far, most attempts at a spin-off have been prequels: the four novels by J. M. Lee, Barbara Kesel’s manga and Archaia Entertainment’s graphic novels. There’s obviously something rich and appealing about the world of Thra and since Age of Resistance has a big Roman numeral I in its title logo, there will be more prequel series [exploring Deet’s dark fate - Ed] to come.

Like all the best fantasy and sci-fi, The Dark Crystal turns an orrery lens on our own society. Thra is a scrambled almost-version of Earth, with greedy creatures reflecting the evil that men do. We are the Skeksis. But at our best, when we wake up feeling honourable and kind, we can be Gelflings… just for one day.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is streaming now on Netflix.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Classic Doctor Who materialises Boxing Day on BritBox

Whilst Star Wars fans (myself included) wait for the launch of Disney+ with The Mandalorian in March 2020. There's the exciting prospect of streaming every surviving episode of classic Doctor Who this Christmas on BritBox!

BritBox is a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, which launched in the US in 2017. The subscription service features an extensive catalogue of past and present television and film series for £5.99 per month.

Alas, there is currently a dearth of British-made genre material on BritBox in the UK. For example, Sapphire & Steel and Blake's 7 are missing, presumably for licensing reasons. However, it could become a go-to destination for Doctor Who fans (myself included) when the vintage back catalogue (1963 - 1989) arrives on Boxing Day.

BritBox is entering an increasingly fragmented streaming space with Apple and Disney the latest entrants to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV. The app is available for selected Samsung smart TVs, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android phones and tablets, Mac and PC.

Alas, I'm in the midst of a free 1-month trial. So, urge fellow Whovians to wait until Christmas before starting their subscription. You're welcome.

Friday 8 November 2019

The Mandalorian on Disney+ in the UK this March

The Walt Disney Company confirmed on Twitter that Disney+ is coming to the UK on 31st March 2020. As expected, DisneyLife will be rebranded and existing subscriptions migrated to the new streaming service.

Now, how will UK-based fans (myself included) be able to watch Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian in the meantime? Avoiding spoilers will be all but impossible and piracy an issue once the highly-anticipated series starts streaming exclusively on Disney+ next week. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a thing in this era of instant gratification and it's surprising DisneyLife isn't streaming the Star Wars series day and date with Disney+.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced that Disney+ will be available on a host of devices at launch including Amazon Fire TV, LG and Samsung smart TVs. “We’re pleased to announce partnerships with Amazon Fire [TV], LG, and Samsung devices.”

Disney+ launches in the US, Canada and the Netherlands 12th November and Australia and New Zealand 19th November.

Thursday 7 November 2019

Avengers: Endgame streaming at launch on Disney+

It was inevitable. Avengers: Endgame has moved from 11th December to 12th November on Disney+. The record-breaking conclusion to the Infinity Saga will be available to stream at launch in the US, Canada and Netherlands from next Tuesday.

According to a report from the BBC, Disney+ launches in the UK in March 2020.

Are you looking forward to the launch of Disney+? What will you be streaming first? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Ming-Na Wen's Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian

With less than a week to go until the launch of Disney+ in America, Canada and the Netherlands, Lucasfilm has released a new TV spot for the Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian. Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) enters the fray as Fennec Shand.

“We got our inspiration really from the name. The idea of a fennec fox came to mind,” Wen tells Vanity Fair. “She’s tricky, and yet she’s able to maneuver and survive, and be stealthy—so very graceful and agile. I just love that whole image with the name.”

“It will evolve, it will change. I mean, I think that’s what’s so wonderful about creating a new character,” she continues. “I think she has a good sense of humor about it all as well, which is also fun. You can’t really pinpoint which direction she’s going to go.”

Executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) recently spoke to CNBC about the upcoming series, the impact Star Wars has had on his life and the implications of fragmented streaming services.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Disney CEO says less is more with Star Wars

Disney CEO Bob Iger, in an exclusive interview with BBC Radio Four, admitted: “I have said publicly that I think we made and released too many Star Wars films over a short period of time.

“I have not said that they were disappointing in any way.

“I’ve not said that I'm disappointed in their performance.”

Looking to the future of the franchise, Iger added: “I just think that there’s something so special about a Star Wars film, and less is more.”

The Skywalker saga ends this December with JJ Abrams' (The Force Awakens) The Rise of Skywalker. The next trilogy is slated for 2022, 2024 and 2026. Game of Thrones' showrunners have left the project. However, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is producing the next Star Wars movie with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

So, will a director or directors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) take the helm of the new trilogy? The Russo brothers (Avengers: Endgame) are firm favourites with Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi) purportedly still working on his own trilogy.

Whilst Star Wars is taking a break from the big screen, Jon Favreau's (The Lion King) live-action series, The Mandalorian, is an exclusive launch title on Disney+ from 12th November. And Marvel is rebooting the long-running comic book series in 2020.

Saturday 2 November 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel coming 2022

Producer Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) took to Twitter to announce a sequel to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The animated Spider-Man spin-off quickly became a darling of both critics and fans when it was released in cinemas last December.

During the long hot summer, I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Sky Cinema and was awestruck by its audiovisual fidelity, and bittersweet storyline given life by a stellar cast including Mahershala Ali (Alita: Battle Angel) and Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

Are you looking forward to a sequel? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Ewan McGregor talks Star Wars on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Ewan McGregor talks to Jimmy Kimmel about Halloween, Doctor Sleep and keeping his long-awaited return to the Star Wars franchise a secret.

"It just got difficult, I was brought up to tell the truth and I was in a situation where I wasn't really allowed to," McGregor shared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "The studios, and the big franchises, rightly so, want to keep everything very secret and as closed as it can be. But, at the same time, there's this overwhelming amount of speculation online and on social media and what have you, and wherever I went for the last 15 years, people would ask me, 'So, would you do it again?'"

McGregor, whose voice can be heard in The Force Awakens during Rey's (Daisy Ridley) vision, is reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for Disney+. Production on the live-action Star Wars series is slated to begin in 2020.

Star Wars prequel trilogy co-star Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) recently visited Galaxy's Edge, further fueling speculation of a cameo in The Rise of Skywalker this December.

Tuesday 29 October 2019

New The Mandalorian trailer teases tragic past

Lucasfilm has released a new trailer for the Disney+ Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian from showrunner Jon Favreau (Iron Man). It ups the ante and teases a tragic backstory for the titular bounty hunter portrayed by Pedro Pascal.

30 minutes of the new Star Wars series, set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, was shown to an invited audience of critics who took to Twitter with rave reactions. The New York Times claims there's a major Star Wars universe spoiler in the first episode that has repercussions for the entire saga.

The Mandalorian's 8-part first season begins streaming, weekly, in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand exclusively on Disney+ this November. Though when we'll see it in the UK remains to be seen, we'll keep you posted on how you might be able to watch it.

Monday 28 October 2019

Hasbro's vintage The Mandalorian at London Comic Con

Triple Force Friday was only the beginning for new Star Wars merchandise this holiday season. Over the weekend, Hasbro announced The Mandalorian vintage collection action figure at MCM London Comic Con. The Mandalorian is the titular character, played by Pedro Pascal, from the first Star Wars live-action series for Disney+.

More Black Series action figures were also announced, including Zorii Bliss and Knight of Ren from The Rise of Skywalker.

The Mandalorian is exclusive to Disney+ when it launches in the US, Canada and the Netherlands 12th November and Australia and New Zealand 19th November. It is rumoured DisneyLife may show The Mandalorian in the UK.

Saturday 26 October 2019

R2-D2 is the droid you're looking for at the V&A

R2-D2, the beloved diminutive droid from the Star Wars saga, is on loan to V&A Dundee from franchise creator George Lucas. The droid is part of the upcoming Hello, Robot exhibition.

Museum curator Kirsty Hassard brought the highly-anticipated exhibition to Dundee: “As part of the Scottish Design Galleries there was a Queen Amidala costume (from Episode II — Attack of the Clones) and I got to courier that back from Skywalker Ranch which was a massive privilege to get to see their stores and to be able to tour around that as well.

“This is the only time it will come to the UK, which is really exciting.

“Since the moment people knew R2-D2 was going to be part of it, there’s been a massive thrill of ‘he’s in the building but he’s still in his crate’ so to have him uncrated has been really exciting.

“A lot of people definitely seem to have quite a lot of affection for him as a character and that’s been really lovely to see.

“I’m sure when he goes upstairs that will be even more exciting.

“We’re expecting big visitor numbers.”

R2-D2 will be appearing alongside his onscreen counterpart, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in cinemas this December.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker smashes Endgame

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set to dominate the box office this holiday season and may surpass stablemate Avengers: Endgame after setting a new record for pre-sale tickets in the US.

“A year after the events of The Last Jedi, the remnants of the Resistance face the First Order once again—while reckoning with the past and their own inner turmoil. Meanwhile, the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its climax, altogether bringing the Skywalker saga to a definitive end.”

Director JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens) has the unenviable task or opportunity to overcome, as my dad would say, of closing the epic Skywalker saga that began in 1977.

After seeing the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, I think Abrams has every hope of sticking the landing this December. The mysterious movie's runtime is currently 155 minutes. So, get comfy, it's going to be an emotional thrill ride for generations of fans...

Tuesday 22 October 2019

IMAX posters for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dropped during Monday Night Football and tickets went on sale everywhere. IMAX has released two art posters to celebrate.

Booked tickets to see Star Wars: The Rise on Skywalker in IMAX with Laser at Cineworld on 19th December. When are you seeing the final chapter in the Skywalker saga? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 21 October 2019

Final Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer today

The final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be shown during ESPN's Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. Expect the trailer to appear online and here shortly thereafter. Tickets will go on sale around the world following the trailer's debut.

The Rise of Skywalker is the culmination of the Skywalker saga spanning three trilogies and purportedly Lucasfilm is test screening eight possible endings to George Lucas' space opera.

"This is about bringing this thing to a close in a way that is emotional and meaningful and also satisfying in terms of actually answering [as many] questions as possible," director JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens) said.

"So if years from now, someone's watching these movies, all nine of them, they're watching a story that is as cohesive as possible."

Abrams added: "While there were many things that were planned for and discussed — George Lucas himself said when he created this he saw it as three, three-act plays — that doesn't mean there isn’t discovery, that doesn't mean there aren’t things that come up that make you realise, 'Oh, here’s an opportunity.'

"It also doesn't mean that there's a list of payoffs that we have to do because of setups. But we also were very much aware this is the end of the trilogy and it needs to satisfy. We went into this thing knowing it has to be an ending. We're not screwing around."

Will you be booking tickets for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker today? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith in Star Wars?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in cinemas exactly two months today and fellow Doctor Who fans may have uncovered the role former Doctor Who Matt Smith plays in director JJ Abrams' (The Force Awakens) upcoming sequel.

Eagle-eyed fan @reysrepublic spotted a Topps trading card and shared the above photo of what appears to be Smith playing a blue-skinned alien with the cryptic title: A New Face.

Both of Smith's former TARDIS companions, Karen Gillan and Jenna Coleman, have appeared in Disney stablemate the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

In related news. The final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker premieres during Monday Night Football.

What do you think? Is this Matt Smith? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 18 October 2019

New look at Keri Russell's mysterious Zorii Bliss

Entertainment Weekly (EW) has shared an exclusive photo of the mysterious Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) and her helmet design evokes the art deco aerodynamics of Disney's The Rocketeer.

I'm looking forward to unboxing Hasbro's Kenner-branded vintage collection action figure (affiliate link), part of my online haul from Triple Force Friday, when it arrives from Amazon.

With only two months to go until the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Cineworld is opening a new IMAX with Laser cinema later this month in Plymouth. I'll be booking tickets to see the final chapter in the Skywalker saga as soon as they go on sale.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Daisy Ridley says 'Reylo' will be addressed in Star Wars

The sexual tension between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to fuel fan speculation in the run-up to the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker this December. That tension reached boiling point in director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.

“It does not bother me, people writing theories,” Daisy Ridley said. “It’s really fun hearing them. Plus, because I know what’s sort of going to happen, I think it’ll be really interesting to see people’s reaction to [the final film]. Obviously, there’s this whole Reylo thing and some people are very passionate about it, some aren’t.”

Ridley goes on to suggest the romantic connection is addressed in The Rise of Skywalker. “J.J. does deal it [it],” she added. “It’s a very complex issue. People talk about toxic relationships and whatever it is. It’s no joke and I think it’s dealt with really well because it’s not skimmed over.”

Original trilogy fans (myself included) all too clearly remember Luke and Leia's tangled romantic relationship and how it was revealed they were twins in Return of the Jedi. Nice one, George!

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Tony Gilroy joins Disney+ Rogue One spin-off

Variety exclusively reports Tony Gilroy, who masterminded reshoots on director Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is joining the Cassian Andor live-action Rogue One prequel series for Disney+.

Gilroy will write and direct episodes of the upcoming spin-off series with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising the roles of Cassian Andor and K-2SO respectively.

Disney+ launches on 12th November with the first-ever Star Wars live-action series, The Mandalorian, from Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels). December sees the release of the final chapter in the nine-part Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker, directed by JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens). Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will then join Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to produce the next Star Wars movies.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Breaking Bad's Robert Forster has passed away

American actor Robert Forster has passed away at the age of 78.

In the wake of Star Wars' success, Forster played Captain Dan Holland in Disney's The Black Hole and was forever immortalised as an action figure from Mego. In the nineties, he starred in director Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, for which he was Oscar-nominated, and most recently appeared in Twin Peaks and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie for Netflix.

He'll always be Captain Dan Holland to the Star Wars generation! RIP Robert Forster.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Wedge Antilles returns in The Rise of Skywalker

The latest rumour surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the return of Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson), the Rebel Alliance pilot who appeared in all three movies comprising the original trilogy.

There's no official confirmation. However, eagle-eyed fans spotted Wedge on the cover of Resistance Reborn. Planeta Cómic quickly deleted the Twitter post but not before savvy fans had saved the image and reshared it.

The fan-favourite character most recently appeared in Star Wars Rebels.

Would you be excited to see Wedge Antilles back for the final chapter of the Skywalker saga this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 7 October 2019

Star Trek: Picard gets Short Treks prequel

New York Comic Con (NYCC) was filled with exciting announcements for Star Trek fans (myself included). A poignant new trailer for Star Trek: Picard dropped and Discovery's Short Treks spin-off will dovetail into the upcoming series starring Sir Patrick Stewart as a haunted Jean-Luc Picard.

CBS All Access has confirmed several Short Treks will be based aboard Captain Pike's (Anson Mount) USS Enterprise. How about commissioning a full Pike-led series? Discovery's incarnation is a fan-favourite and Mount, alongside Rebecca Romijn (Number One), instantly won me over in Discovery season two.

Star Trek: Picard premieres 23rd January, coincidentally my birthday, on CBS All Access (in the US). Amazon Prime will be streaming the series outside the US and Canada.

Saturday 5 October 2019

Marvel Star Wars strikes back in January

Marvel's announced, at New York Comic Con (NYCC), it's rebooting the Star Wars comic book series after 75 issues. The new run is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

"In the wake of the events following The Empire Strikes Back, it is a dark time for the heroes of the Rebellion. The Rebel fleet…scattered following a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Hoth. Han Solo…lost to the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, after being frozen in carbonite. And after being lured into a trap on Cloud City and bested in a vicious lightsaber duel against the evil Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker…learned the horrible truth about his past. Vader did not kill Luke’s father Anakin–Vader is Luke’s father!

Now, after narrowly escaping the dark lord’s clutches, and wounded and reeling from the revelation, Luke, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, the Wookiee Chewbacca and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 must fight their way back to the Rebel Alliance—for the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake! After so many losses is victory still possible? But, what Leia, Luke and their ragtag band of freedom fighters do not realize is that they have only traded one Imperial trap for another! Enter the cunning and vengeful Imperial Commander Zahra, at the helm of the Tarkin’s Will!"

Star Wars #1 will go on sale in January 2020. More details soon.

What do you think about this news? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 3 October 2019

First look at Star Wars droidsmith Babu Frik

'Twas the eve of Triple Force Friday and not a Mouse Droid did stir... Lucasfilm has released a photo of Babu Frik from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Is the diminutive droidsmith behind a hacked C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)?

This first look at the tiny Anzellan arrives alongside sweepstakes to attend the red carpet premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, as well as news that Disney has partnered with major brands - United Airlines, Porsche, Bose, Samsung, General Electric, McDonald's, General Mills and Dannon, who will all be "hosting individually curated and innovative programs leading up to the debut of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

Triple Force Friday begins at 1 minute past midnight and fans can expect to see new merchandise from Hasbro, Lego and Funko. Our resident US correspondent, Nick Smith, will be checking out the vintage collection from Hasbro. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas 19th December.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Mission to the Unknown recreated 54 years later

Whilst fans wait for news on the next season of Doctor Who. Mission to the Unknown, a classic standalone episode unique for not featuring William Hartnell as the titular Time Lord, has been brilliantly remade by students at the University of Central Lancaster with Nicholas Briggs performing the voices of the Daleks. This was a passion project of Andrew Ireland, friend and fellow Bournemouth University alumni.

Luke Spillane, Digital Publishing Manager for Doctor Who at BBC Studios, said: “It is such a fantastic recreation, made lovingly with real craft and expertise by everyone at the University of Central Lancashire.

“I hope audiences around the world can imagine that it’s tea time on the 9th October 1965 as they rather excitingly watch a black and white episode of Doctor Who premiere on their television sets, mobile phones and tablets.”

Andrew Ireland, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Digital and Creative Industries at the University of Central Lancashire, added: “It is such a loss to our cultural heritage that so many episodes of 1960s Doctor Who are missing from the BBC archives.

“This project presented us with an exciting opportunity to address that, to explore a new way of bringing these missing slices of TV history to life, and in the process, help students learn their craft by comparing contemporary production methods with historical approaches.

“The project gave so many people great experiences, and it is wonderful to see the Daleks menacing a black and white jungle once more.”

Mission to the Unknown will premiere on 9th October at 5:50PM (BST) on the Doctor Who YouTube channel.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

New look at The Mandalorian ship

IGN has revealed a new look at The Mandalorian ship, the Razor Crest. The titular character, played by Pedro Pascal, flies alone to underscore the lone gunman ethos of the live-action Star Wars series.

"Well, first of all, you have to treat it like you're making a movie for the big screen," Jon Favreau described his creative approach to Variety. "The fact of the matter is that, if you look at Lion King, for example, we were very cognizant that, as many people are seeing it in the theaters, there are gonna be more people seeing it at home. And everybody has these beautiful 16 by 9 flatscreen TVs and you wanna create beautiful imagery that takes advantage of what people have. The Mandalorian, whether you watch it on your TV or if you saw it projected, it should feel just as much like Star Wars as any of the features."

He continued, "Dave Filoni and I, who are partnering on this, we've been working so hard to try to honor the traditions of Star Wars and try to present something we would be delighted to see, as fans. Because we started a while ago, it's gonna be available, day one, on Disney+, on November [12th]. I think they're going one episode at a time, but it will be there, premiering on the platform, so if you have it, you'll get to see it."

Are you excited for The Mandalorian? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 30 September 2019

Star Wars vintage toys for Force Friday

4th October is Force Friday and this year's Star Wars merchandising event is a triple celebration of The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with new collectables from Lego, Hasbro and Funko.

Personally, I'm most excited for Hasbro's Kenner-branded vintage collection featuring Luke Skywalker's and Poe Dameron's X-Wing fighters! I owned Luke's 'battle damaged' X-Wing from The Empire Strikes Back toy line. So, am particularly interested in picking up his vintage X-Wing (affiliate link) on Force Friday. It's worth remembering there'll be retail exclusives such as the AT-ST Raider from Best Buy (in the US).


(HASBRO/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $12.99/Available: Fall 2019)

Celebrate the legacy of STAR WARS, the action-and-adventure-packed space saga from a galaxy far, far away, with premium 3.75-inch scale figures from STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION. Figures feature premium detail and design across product and packaging inspired by the original line, as well as the movie-inspired collector grade deco that fans have come to know and love. Characters in this assortment include REY, KNIGHT OF REN (LONG AXE), ZORII BLISS, SITH JET TROOPER, and LUKE SKYWALKER. Each figure sold separately. Available at most major retailers.


(HASBRO/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: Starting at $79.99/Available: Fall 2019)

Fans and collectors can imagine scenes from the STAR WARS Galaxy with this premium STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION THE MADALORIAN AT-ST RAIDER vehicle, inspired by THE MADALORIAN live-action TV series on Disney Plus. With realistic detail including an opening cockpit, articulated legs, adjustable laser cannons and side-mounted weapons pods, and movable command viewpoint blast shields, this vehicle can be displayed in STAR WARS action figure and vehicle collections. Includes vehicle, figure, and accessory. Available at Best Buy.


(HASBRO/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: Starting at $99.99/Available: Fall 2019)

This STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION POE DAMERON’S X-WING FIGHTER vehicle is inspired by the starships in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER and makes a great gift for STAR WARS collectors and fans. With realistic detail including an opening cockpit, functioning landing gear, separating wings, and a ladder accessory, the STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION POE DAMERON’S X-WING FIGHTER can be displayed in action figure and vehicle collections. Includes vehicle and ladder accessory. Available at most major retailers.


(HASBRO/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: Starting at $99.99/Available: Fall 2019)

Inspired by the X-wing fighter LUKE SKYWALKER piloted in STAR WARS: EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE, this STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION LUKE SKYWALKER’S X-WING FIGHTER vehicle makes a wonderful gift for fans of the original trilogy. Premium deco and design features on this X-wing include landing gear, a hinged cockpit canopy, adjustable wings, and a mini projectile launcher. Details like weathered paintwork and interior cockpit deco make this an impressive collectible display item. This STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION LUKE SKYWALKER’S X-WING FIGHTER is compatible with 3.75 inch-scale STAR WARS action figures, making it a great addition to any STAR WARS toy collection. (Figures and additional vehicles each sold separately. Subject to availability). Available at select retailers.


(HASBRO/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: Starting at $14.99/Available: Fall 2019)

Kids and collectors alike can imagine the biggest battles and missions in the STAR WARS Galaxy with figures from the STAR WARS SKYWALKER SAGA collection! Commemorating the STAR WARS SKYWALKER SAGA, this series of figures includes iconic characters from the full SKYWALKER SAGA in action figure 2-packs, including HAN SOLO & LEIA, LUKE SKYWALKER & CHEWBACCA, and more! Each figure has been treated with a gold finish to stand out in any STAR WARS fan’s collection! Each 2-pack sold separately. Available at Walmart.

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