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.

Happy hunting and let me know what merchandise you're looking for in the comments below.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

BBC brings The War of the Worlds spectacularly to life

The BBC has released a spectacular trailer for its upcoming 3-part live-action adaptation of HG Wells' classic sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds.

There have been several lauded adaptations of Wells' visionary work - from radio to the silver screen. Jeff Wayne's musical version was my gateway in the late seventies and I've always yearned for a live-action adaptation set in Edwardian England. The BBC's Tripods trilogy scratched that itch in the eighties but remains unfinished.

So, when news broke the BBC was embarking on an ambitious live-action miniseries, my interest was piqued to the nth degree. Then all went quiet as though the production had been silenced by a Martian heat ray...

Peter Harness, who adapted Wells' novel for the BBC, said: "There is nothing cosy or predictable about Wells’ novel, and that’s what I want to capture in the show.

‘We have an incredible cast, a brilliant director and a wonderful crew – and I can’t wait for them to explode the terrifying story of the first alien invasion on to our screens."

The War of the Worlds airs on BBC One this autumn.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Tom Holland's Spider-Man swings back to the MCU

Fellow true believers rejoice! Disney and Sony have confirmed Spider-Man will remain a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), despite seemingly going their separate ways to the dismay of fans (myself included) a few months ago, allowing Tom Holland to reprise the role in Phase 4.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said: "I am thrilled that Spidey's journey in the MCU will continue, and I and all of us at Marvel Studios are very excited that we get to keep working on it."

Feige will be dividing his time between Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm where he's producing Star Wars movies, post The Rise of Skywalker, with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

Under Feige's stewardship, Holland's Peter Parker has been a refreshing take on the beloved teen superhero appearing alongside the Avengers, and in Spider-Man: Homecoming and sequel Far From Home. Holland and Robert Downey Jr.'s (Iron Man) relationship as pupil and mentor respectively has provided some of the funniest and most poignant moments in the MCU.

Are you delighted Spidey will continue to be an integral part of the MCU? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Star Wars cast reveals Triple Force Friday merchandise

With just over a week to go, Lucasfilm's livestream from Pinewood Studios, hosted by Warwick Davis who is expected to reprise the titular role of Willow in Ron Howard's rumoured series for Disney+, showcased a selection of new Star Wars merchandise releasing on Triple Force Friday on 4th October.

Star Wars cast members were on hand to reveal new products from LEGO, Hasbro and Funko.

Highlights included Hasbro's D-O interactive droid, a vintage-style Kenner action figure collection and LEGO sets. But, what were your favourite announcements? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige to produce Star Wars

With the close of the Skywalker saga in director JJ Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will be joining Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on future Star Wars movies for Disney.

“We are excited about the projects Kathy and the Lucasfilm team are working on, not only in terms of ‘Star Wars’ but also Indiana Jones and reaching into other parts of the company including ‘Children of Blood’ and ‘Bone’ with Emma Watts and Fox,” said Walt Disney Studios co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn. “With the close of the Skywalker Saga, Kathy is pursuing a new era in ‘Star Wars’ storytelling, and knowing what a die-hard fan Kevin is, it made sense for these two extraordinary producers to work on a ‘Star Wars’ film together.”

Feige redefined the scope of the cinematic universe at Marvel Studios and I can't wait to see where he takes fans in a galaxy far, far away...

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Triple Force Friday livestream this Thursday

Lucasfilm has announced a week-long countdown to Triple Force Friday with a special livestream on YouTube this Thursday.

The global merchandise reveal, hosted by Star Wars veteran Warwick Davis live from Pinewood Studios, will feature cast members from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker including Daisy Ridley (Rey), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), John Boyega (Finn), as well as Cameron Monaghan from Respawn's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Pedro Pascal and Gina Carano from Disney+'s live-action series The Mandalorian.

Expect exciting announcements from Lucasfilm licensees including LEGO, Hasbro and Funko.

The Triple Force Friday livestream will be on Thursday 26th September at 11AM PT (2PM ET/6PM BST).

Are you excited for the launch of Triple Force Friday on 4th October? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Disney+ pre-orders open in US

Disney+ arrives in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Netherlands (there's a free 2-month trial underway) this November and the House of Mouse has opened pre-orders with a free 7-day trial.

The deep discount offered to attendees of the D23 Expo is currently unavailable.

"Consumers signing up for Disney+ pre-orders will be among the first to start streaming the never-before-seen original programming being created exclusively for the service from the company’s iconic entertainment brands, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and more. In its first year, Disney+ will release more than 25 original series and ten original films, documentaries, including The Mandalorian, from executive producer and writer Jon Favreau, and Lady and the Tramp, a timeless retelling of the 1955 animated classic – both streaming on November 12. Subscribers will also enjoy unprecedented access to Disney’s vast collection of films and television shows.

Subscribers will be able to stream Disney+ on a wide selection of mobile and connected TV devices at launch, including gaming consoles, streaming media players, and smart TVs. Subscribers will enjoy high-quality and commercial-free viewing, up to four concurrent streams, unlimited downloads, personalized recommendations, and the ability to set up to seven different profiles, including the ability for parents to set Kids Profiles that have an easy to -navigate, child-friendly interface to access age-appropriate content.

Subscriptions are priced at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. They automatically renew, with the option to cancel at any time before each renewal date. All new Disney+ subscribers will be eligible for a 7-day free trial.

As previously announced, on November 12, consumers in the U.S. will have the opportunity to purchase a bundled offering of Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu (with ads) for $12.99 per month. The bundle offers an exciting value proposition with access to all of the Disney+ programming plus thousands of live sporting events, sports-themed original series and award-winning sports documentaries from ESPN+; as well as Hulu’s award-winning original content and on-demand streaming library. Consumers interested in the bundle should wait until it becomes available at launch on November 12."

Disney+ will be on the following devices at launch and supports 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos + Vision at no extra cost to subscribers:

Apple TV
Android mobile devices
Android TV
Desktop web browsers
PlayStation 4 (PS4)
Roku streaming players
Roku TV
Xbox One

You can sign up for Disney+ here. UK residents will have to wait until early 2020.

Are you subscribing to Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Dark Knight at 80 on Batman Day

Batman celebrates 80 years of fighting crime on newsstands this year and Batman Day is the perfect opportunity to honour orphaned billionaire Bruce Wayne.

From comics to video games (rumoured to be Fortnite next), the shadow of the bat looms large in popular culture.

30 years ago director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) was the cool kid in Hollywood town and brought Batman vividly to life on the silver screen in a postmodern ode to Fritz Lang's Metropolis and film noir. It coincided with my first ever visit to HMV Oxford Street, seemingly the epicentre of 'Batmania' in the UK and Prince's tie-in album reverberated around the store. However, I wanted Danny Elfman's soundtrack CD (remember those?) much to the chagrin of a member of staff. Well, I was more geek than chic.

In the wake of Burton's blockbuster, Batman: The Animated Series was born. This is considered by many fans (myself included) as the definitive dark night, with Kevin Conroy's performance regarded as one of the very best, and spawned a thrilling theatrical tie-in: Mask of the Phantasm. Conroy will next play a live-action Bruce Wayne for The CW's 5-part Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Before all that, my Batman adventures began in the mid-seventies with Saturday morning reruns of the sixties Batman live-action series starring Adam West as the titular crimefighter. Bruce Wayne's childhood trauma would become a metaphor for a life-changing head injury at primary school. You can read my tribute to the late actor here.

The Bat-Signal will be lighting up cities around the world today.

How are you celebrating Batman Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Apple and Disney may have merged under Steve Jobs

Disney CEO Bob Iger believes Apple and Disney may have merged had Steve Jobs lived.

Since becoming CEO, Iger has been on an acquisition trail. From Marvel to Lucasfilm. Disney bought Pixar, originally the Graphics Group at Lucasfilm, from Jobs in 2006 and there has always been speculation surrounding the House of Mouse and the Cupertino-based company.

"With every success the company has had since Steve's death, there's always a moment in the midst of my excitement when I think, I wish Steve could be here for this. It's impossible not to have the conversation with him in my head that I wish I could be having in real life," Iger writes in his upcoming memoir. "More than that, I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously."

Iger recently stepped down from Apple's board of directors prior to the launch of competing streaming services: Disney+ and Apple TV+. Disney+ is currently available as a free 2-month trial in the Netherlands.

The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company is available for pre-order (affiliate link) from Amazon.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Jon Favreau wants a new Star Wars Holiday Special

The Mandalorian showrunner, Jon Favreau (The Lion King), wants to do a new Star Wars Holiday Special for Disney+.

The notorious original Star Wars spin-off was broadcast, only once, on the CBS channel in November 1978, and introduced audiences to fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett prior to the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Many fans (myself included) outside the US got to see Boba Fett, for the first time, as a mail-away action figure from Kenner.

"I would love to do a Holiday Special," Favreau told Entertainment Tonight (ET) backstage at the 45th annual Saturn Awards: "If you want to see a Holiday Special, let Disney+ know."

Boba Fett is a major influence on Favreau's upcoming live-action Star Wars series.

"I love The Holiday Special -- certain sequences more than others," said the director and executive producer. "I love the introduction of Boba Fett and that rifle that he had. That animated piece still holds up. It's pretty cool. I draw inspiration from that."

Would you to like see a new Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Jon Favreau to direct The Mandalorian

Executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) recently talked to Entertainment Weekly (EW) about directing an episode for the second season of The Mandalorian Star Wars live-action series for Disney+:

“We’re working on season 2, writing, prepping with the directors and getting ready to direct myself, actually,” said the Iron Man and The Lion King director. “I didn’t get a chance the last time around because I was doing Lion King. So I’ll step in for one of them.”

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Bill Burr, Omid Abtahi and Werner Herzog.

Season one of The Mandalorian begins exclusively on Disney+ 12th November in the US, Canada and Netherlands (where subscribers currently have a free 2-month trial).

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Disney+ includes classic Marvel animated series

Disney+ is available as a free trial in the Netherlands and beta testers have unearthed classic Marvel animated series including X-Men (1992) and Spider-Man (1994). These are staples from my undergraduate years and were available, briefly, when Netflix launched in the UK with a retro rush.

The free 2-month trial runs until 12th November and there's a roster of 4K HDR content including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Free Solo, Aladdin, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns, A Wrinkle in Time, Christopher Robin, The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2.

Disney+ will pull from a vast back catalogue including Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and 20th Century Fox when it launches in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand this November. The House of Mouse's nascent streaming service will be available on a range of devices from iPhone to PS4 and will launch in the UK early 2020 due to existing distribution deals (notably with Sky).

Are you looking forward to Disney+? Will you be subscribing? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Apple Arcade launches ahead of Google Stadia

Apple Arcade is coming to macOS, iOS, iPadOS and tvOS beginning on iOS 13 devices 19th September in 150 countries.

The Cupertino-based company's new offering is akin to Xbox Game Pass and is not a direct competitor to Google Stadia launching in November. Incidentally, I recently upgraded to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (with an extra 12-months free), for Gears 5 early access, so cancelled my Stadia Founder's Edition pre-order.

Apple has signed deals with third-party developers including Lego, Konami and Sega. The fine folks at Sega contacted me to announce ChuChu Rocket Universe. ChuChu Rocket was originally released for the Dreamcast, twenty years ago, and was a free mail-away:

"20 years after ChuChu Rocket! invaded the Dreamcast and became the very first online multiplayer experience, the ChuChus are back in a brand-new episode. The storyline is new, but the objective for players remains the same: help all the ChuChus escape by placing directional arrows that lead them to their space rocket. In multiplayer, the objective for players is to help more ChuChus escape than their competitors. Using very creative methods to win is absolutely compulsory.

ChuChu Rocket! Universe will be available exclusively on Apple Arcade."

Confirmed titles for Apple Arcade include:

Atone: Heart of the Elder Tree
Ballistic Baseball
Beyond a Steel Sky
ChuChu Rocket Universe
Doomsday Vault
Down in Bermuda
Enter the Construct
Exit the Gungeon
Frogger in Toy Town
Hot Lava
Kings of the Castle
Lego Arthouse
Lego Brawls
Mr. Turtle
No Way Home
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
Pac-Man Party Royale
Projection: First Light
Rayman Mini
Shayonara Wild Hearts
Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Shinsekai: Into the Depths
Skate City
Sneaky Sasquatch
Sonic Racing
Steven Universe: Unleash the Light
Super Impossible Road
The Bradwell Conspiracy
The Enchanted World
The Pathless
UFO on Tape: First Contact
Various Daylife
Where Cards Fall
Winding Worlds

Apple Arcade will cost £4.99/$4.99 per month with a free 1-month trial for new members.

Will you be subscribing? Were you hoping for the AAA titles available on Stadia? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Hailee Steinfeld to play Kate Bishop in Hawkeye?

Variety has exclusively revealed Hailee Steinfeld (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) is under consideration for a lead role in Hawkeye, the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin-off series for Disney+.

Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, alongside Jeremy Renner reprising the titular role from the MCU, who is a member of the Young Avengers. Clint Barton is expected to pass on the baton of Hawkeye to Bishop in the limited-run series. The character of Bishop will most likely appear in further spin-offs and movies.

Disney+ has a raft of exclusive Marvel series in production including Loki, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Hawkeye comes to Disney+ in late 2021.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Hayden Christensen's rumoured return to Star Wars

With only a few more months to go until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in cinemas, fan theories are reaching boiling point.

This time, the cancellation of Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Hayden Christensen's (Anakin Skywalker) appearance at Salt Lake's FanX, because Disney purportedly feared leaks, has only added to the fevered speculation.

McDiarmid is already confirmed to be reprising his iconic role as the Emperor in the final chapter to the epic 9-part saga. So, is Christensen's return hiding in plain sight?

Christensen, who has been criticised (by some fans and critics) for his performance in the prequels - let's not forget other talented cast members suffered a similar fate - was a guest at Star Wars Celebration in 2017 and this isn't the first time he's been linked with returning to the franchise.

It was suggested Anakin would appear as a Force ghost to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in The Force Awakens, but this idea was ultimately dropped. Now, many fans think the title of JJ Abrams' sequel refers to Anakin and not Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

What do you think? Will Anakin return to bring balance to the Force a final time? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 6 September 2019

The Mandalorian and the rise of the First Order

The Mandalorian, starring Pedro Pascal as the titular character, begins streaming, on Disney+, this November and is Entertainment Weekly's (EW) cover story.

Producer and director Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) says of the first live-action Star Wars series:

“This doesn’t turn into a good guy universe because you blew up two Death Stars. You get that the Rebels won and they’re trying to establish a Republic, but there’s no way that could have set in for everybody all at once. You have in a Western where you’re out on the frontier and there might be Washington and they might have some marshals, but sometimes good luck finding one.”

Series showrunner Jon Favreau (Lion King) teased:

“What could happen in the 30 years between celebrating the defeat of the Empire and then the First Order? You come in on Episode VII, [the First Order are] not just starting out. They’re pretty far along…So somehow, things weren’t necessarily managed as well as they could have been if [the galaxy] ended up in hot water again like that.”

The Mandalorian's 8-part season one begins streaming, weekly, in the US, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand exclusively on Disney+ this November. The House of Mouse is sparing no expense for its Star Wars and Marvel live-action series.

What do you hope to see from Favreau's highly-anticipated live-action series with creative input from Star Wars creator George Lucas? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Rey turns to the dark side in The Rise of Skywalker?

During the D23 Expo, Lucasfilm dropped a special look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Deftly mixing the legacy of the original trilogy with the prequels and sequels, the special culminates with Rey (Daisy Ridley) brandishing a Sith lightsaber, seemingly seduced by the dark side of the Force.

Disney+'s first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian has piqued my interest, but may not be available until early 2020 in the UK. So, The Rise of Skywalker is my most anticipated franchise instalment for many reasons. It is the culmination of a cinematic journey that began in 1978, igniting a lifelong love of the creative arts, cherished childhood memories and friendships forged amidst the clash of lightsabers and John Williams' soaring strings.

Is Rey a clone as suggested in The Last Jedi and a puppet of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)? Let me know your theories in the comments below.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Boys: Never meet your superheroes

Firstly, a confession. I’m suffering from small screen superhero fatigue and am not alone. This may sound disingenuous from a self-confessed comic book geek, but the proliferation of franchises, from virtually every competing Hollywood studio, has become exhausting! So much so, I’ve stopped following most of The CW’s Arrowverse - annual crossover event notwithstanding - and quickly abandoned the defunct Marvel Netflix spin-off series before Disney did.

However, Amazon Prime's The Boys came out of left field. Here is a darkly visceral deconstruction of the superhero trope as chilling commodity with a protagonist/antagonist suffering from PTSD.

Worthy of comparison to Watchmen?

Guest post by Nick Smith.

We human beings are advanced. Like, really advanced. We can reach for the stars, share pictures of ourselves worldwide in the blink of an eye, and twiddle knobs like nobody’s business. Ever see a turtle crank up the volume on a boombox? Didn’t think so. Despite all our abilities and achievements, we still dream of being greater. Stronger. Faster. Less visible in a world where our anonymity is dwindling. It’s part of our evolutionary survival instinct, to be extraordinary.

Our fascination with superpowers has accelerated over the past century. No longer the province of gods, special abilities can be owned by the boy or girl next door – at least in fiction. Millions flock to see such miracles in Hollywood blockbusters. V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight, graphic deconstructions of these high-flying guys and the comic books that spawned them, are regarded by some as literature.

The super-obsession has trickled down to TV and streaming services, with dozens of adaptations vying for our attention. A mere ten years after the movie version, HBO is launching a lavish-looking series based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen comic book. But before those capes have had a chance to unfurl, way out of left field comes The Boys, currently the darling of fanboys, housewives and Amazon-and-chillers alike. There are similarities with Moore’s work as well as Grant Morrison’s Zenith (superheroes as pop stars), John Smith’s New Statesmen (superheroes as political pawns) and Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass (superheroes boosted by social media), inevitable considering the cross-pollination of comics and the popular central question, "what if these larger-than-life characters existed in real life?"

In the case of The Boys, the answer would be: a disaster! Imagine a rock star terrorizing a hotel room, give him the powers of a deity and make the hotel room the entire planet. You’d better bring him some red M&Ms real quick before he throws a heat vision tantrum or undresses the housemaid with his X-ray vision. The death of wrong-doers is justifiable to this kind of supreme being, as is exploitation of women and religious faith.

Sound cynical? Welcome to the world according to Garth Ennis, writer of Preacher, another sceptical look at the shock-and-aw-shucks land of the USA, co-developed for the small screen by Ennis fan Seth Rogen. Rogen and Supernatural guru Eric Kripke help to keep The Boys palatable and entertaining, although the show yaws from comedy to dark drama and back again. Like Shazam!, this adaptation works best when focused on comedy – but this humour is sometimes crass and pitch dark.

The Boys tells the tale of a team (one could almost say a league) called the Seven, owned by the Vought International company. The Seven are led by Homelander (Antony Starr), an aloof figurehead with mommy issues who considers himself above the law. "I'm the world's greatest superhero," he boasts, "I can do whatever the *@!* I want." He’s accompanied by The Deep (Chace Crawford), an amphibian HR nightmare; Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), whose powers and disregard for human life almost match Homelander’s; Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), who speaks only with his fists; A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), fast as lightning and a little bit frightening; Translucent (Alex Hassell), who uses his invisibility for some peeping Tomfoolery; and Starlight (Erin Moriarty), a wide-eyed newcomer who helps the audience navigate this arena in time-honoured TV pilot fashion. It’s Starlight who adds a ray of optimism to the cynical proceedings. She asks, "since when did hopeful and naive become the same thing?"

Vought wants the Seven to become part of the American military, increasing the company’s controlling political interests. When Hughie Campbell witnesses a tragic A-Train accident and Vought tries to buy his silence, he’s enlisted by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and a motley, barely-CIA-sanctioned group called “The Boys.” They exist, as Butcher puts it, to "spank the bastards when they get out of line."

Twists, turns, hijinks and laser-eyed babies ensue. But the show stands out from its sea of super friends for many reasons – it’s jaw-dropping and jawbreaking, the acting is spot-on, the cinematography captures the DC murkiness we’re used to, inspired by pulp printing and reused ink, and the special effects are excellent. As one friend put it, "the physics are right."

The performances certainly help give this show its cinematic quality. Karl Urban is always entertaining to watch as the bruiser Billy Butcher; he’s also entertaining to listen to, as his accent wavers from Aussie to Cockney. Hughie is brought to life by Jack Quaid, son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, although from some angles he looks like a young Bill Hader, running around with a big ol’ Haderface, and his comic timing is perfect. Other stand-outs include Elisabeth Shue as a horrible boss and Simon Pegg who gets the opportunity to act for a change instead of just goofing around as comic relief.

More than anything, though, The Boys succeeds because it reflects our times. Comic book creators have always sought fresh ways to tell their stories, from social interest to soap opera, tapping into cultural mores, becoming more visually sophisticated along with the audience, aping and spawning movies. This time around, the ‘heroes’ are charismatic bullies and corporate pawns portrayed with a modern sensibility. As the Seven flex their muscles, Ennis and Kripke explore contemporary fears (conglomerate power and political interference, smartphone-fueled narcissism). Spider-Man was a swingin’ teen with high school hang-ups and campus riots to deal with; Superman had identity issues as an immigrant living the American Way. For heroes in 2019, their kryptonite is their reputation.

Despite attempts through the years to make comic books more mature or relevant, they still examine hope in many forms. We hope to get fitter and faster, or at least prolong our lives. We hope to be better as we gain emotional experience. We hope for excitement and escapism. We hope that the bad guys – even the ones disguised as smiley-face heroes – are defeated, and fairness shines through. Even in this dark take on funny books, the hope that comes with capes prevails.

Sign up for a free trial of Prime Video (affiliate link) and stream The Boys now.

Have you seen The Boys? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.