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, 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 tried 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’ as 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 prevails. Even in this dark take on funny books, the hope that comes with capes prevails.

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

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Mandalorian at D23 Expo

The annual D23 Expo has begun and Lucasfilm has released a promotional poster for its first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian. The lavish artwork harkens back to the original trilogy and The Force Awakens.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) said:

“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy. Not just the first film, but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars.”

Alongside the poster, a long-awaited trailer was also released. The Mandalorian evokes the grit of Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Favreau previously shed light on the production process powered by ILM TV, which was founded for Disney+ content including Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios' spin-offs.

“In The Mandalorian because we’re doing live-action production, we’re using the Epic game engine and using that to do real-time in-camera visual effects. So if you visited the set for The Mandalorian you would’ve seen a completely video-wall wrapped stage and we were in there filming the characters in the foreground, and oftentimes either blue screen or full digital versions of set extensions in the background with Parallax, because the positional data of the camera was informing the backgrounds, so it was like a translight that had perspective. So that allowed us to have environments—as long as we could build them digitally and put enough work into planning it, we could have the game engine be used for creating effects in a timeframe that allows us to get a TV season done.”

Here is the official synopsis for The Mandalorian:

"After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic."

The Star Wars news at D23 doesn't end there. Ewan McGregor appeared on stage alongside Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to announce he's reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for Disney+. Mic drop. And The Clone Wars returns in February 2020.

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.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Spider-Man's future in the MCU at an end?

Marvel's late nineties movie deal with Sony, literally, culminated in handing over the golden goose (for peanuts) such was the comic book company's dire fiscal state at the time.

Subsequently, Sony built a Spider-Man cinematic franchise that has enjoyed critical and commercial success with Sam Raimi's trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire, and then stymied by a repetitive reboot despite Andrew Garfield's best efforts in the titular role. He was great.

In the meantime. Disney buys Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), starting innocuously enough with Iron Man during an era of middling superhero fare, becomes a multi-billion dollar industry unto itself. However, the beloved web-slinger was nowhere to be seen and Thanos was coming in search of six infinity stones to power his Infinity Gauntlet.

Enter Captain America: Civil War and Tom Holland's spectacular Spider-Man. I went there. Sorry, not sorry. Finally, Sony and Disney agreed to a 5-picture deal that would see Peter Parker crossover to the Avengers with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige overseeing creative chores. In effect, Marvel was curating Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's beloved superhero and Sony handled distribution. Make Mine Marvel, Sony!

Yesterday, news broke Disney and Sony were at an impasse despite Spider-Man: Far From Home becoming Sony's most successful property eclipsing Skyfall. Because shareholders and money. Reaction from fans was immediate and calls to boycott Sony started trending on social media. This tarnished news from Gamescom that Insomniac Games, long associated with the PlayStation brand, had become a first-party studio in the wake of the success of Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4.

It would be a surprise to everyone (including shareholders, I'm sure) if Disney and Sony don't resolve this amicably. It's in their mutual interest. Sony struggles to manage successful film franchises as evidenced by an ailing James Bond and the House of Mouse has the creative nous.

Disney faced a similar situation with the X-Men at Twentieth Century Fox. CEO Bob Iger bought its film and television assets including Star Wars: A New Hope. Could Disney buy Sony? Sure, its war chest is in the billions of dollars. Will it? Doubtful.

What do you think? Can you see Tom Holland's Spider-Man battling Tom Hardy's Venom in a Sony-only universe? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Kevin Smith brings Masters of the Universe to Netflix

Director Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy) is executive producer and showrunner on a new Masters of the Universe (MotU) anime series, by Powerhouse Animation (Castlevania), for Netflix announced during Power-Con 2019.

This is exciting news for fans (myself included) of the beloved eighties toy franchise from Mattel and follows the successful reboot of He-Man spin-off She-ra on the popular streamer.

The official series synopsis:

"A radical return to Eternia, Revelation is a direct sequel series to the classic era of Masters of the Universe. Featuring fan-favourites He-Man, Orko, Cringer and Man-At-Arms, the story pits our heroic warriors and guardians of Castle Grayskull against Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man and the vile legions of snake mountain!

But after a ferocious final battle forever fractures Eternia, it’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe! Her journey will uncover the secrets of Grayskull at last. This is the epic He-Man and the Masters of the Universe saga fans have waited 35 years to see!"

Here’s what Smith had to say:

“I’m Eternia-ly grateful to Mattel TV and Netflix for entrusting me with not only the secrets of Grayskull, but also their entire Universe.

In Revelation, we pick up right where the classic era left off to tell an epic tale of what may be the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor!

Brought to life with the most metal character designs Powerhouse Animation can contain in the frame, this is the Masters of the Universe story you always wanted to see as a kid!”

MotU super fan Pixel Dan interviewed Smith at Power-Con.

Some of my earliest blog posts chronicled collecting MotU action figures in the eighties and noughties, and Smith is passionate about Mattel's franchise. The brand is experiencing a renaissance with a new live-action movie and Origins toy line invading retail fall 2020. So, stay tuned for further news.

Are you excited for Masters of the Universe: Revelation? Do you think there'll be a He-Man and She-Ra crossover now both are at Netflix? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 19 August 2019

International rollout for Disney+

Disney+ launches 12th November in the US and the House of Mouse's nascent streaming service will also be available in selected international markets in fall 2019. Netherlands and Canada on 12th November and Australia and New Zealand 19th November.

That'll be great news for fellow Star Wars fans living in those countries as they'll get to see the exclusive 8-part live-action series The Mandalorian this holiday season.

Disney+ will be available on the following devices at launch:

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

There's no news regarding a UK launch. Again, it's worth reiterating DisneyLife has been available since 2015, on a range of devices, and there's a pre-existing first-run deal with Sky that is possibly holding things up. However, there's speculation pointing to an early 2020 launch. So, Avengers: Endgame may be the last Marvel Studios' film to premiere on Sky Cinema on Christmas Day.

Do you intend to subscribe to Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Ewan McGregor back as Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+?

This is the Disney+ Star Wars live-action series fans are looking for. If the rumours are true, Ewan McGregor is about to reprise the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

This isn't the first time the actor has been linked to a return to a galaxy far, far away... A Kenobi spin-off movie was highly-anticipated but seemingly shuttered in the wake of Solo: A Star Wars Story's dismal box office success.

McGregor's portrayal of a younger Kenobi was a highlight of George Lucas' prequel trilogy. The untitled Kenobi series will join Jon Favreau's The Mandalorian and a prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story focussing on Cassian Andor and K-2SO on Disney+.

With The Rise of Skywalker closing the 9-part Skywalker saga, fans may see McGregor sooner as a Force ghost this holiday season. Further news regarding the Kenobi series is expected at the D23 Expo.

Disney+ launches 12th November in the US with The Mandalorian.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Kylo Ren in the final season of Star Wars Resistance

Star Wars Resistance returns for its second and final season in the fall. Lucasfilm has released a trailer for the upcoming season set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.

Nick Smith reviewed season one and will be back for the epic finale, assuming he doesn't get into any First Order entanglements at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Walt Disney World.

Are you surprised Star Wars Resistance is ending after only two seasons? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Barbie in a galaxy far, far away...

In the run-up to the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Mattel and Disney have joined forces for a new Star Wars-inspired Barbie collection based on Darth Vader, R2-D2 and, my personal favourite and childhood crush, Princess Leia.

Star Wars x Barbie is an homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. This eponymous collection, inspired by the film’s original concept art, re-imagines iconic characters through a distinctive Barbie high-fashion filter. Darth Vader Barbie reminds me of a female Kylo Ren cosplayer I saw at Star Wars Celebration Europe, which is very cool.

Barbie is no stranger to sci-fi. Kirk, Spock and Uhura dolls were released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

The new Star Wars x Barbie figures retail for $100 dollars and are available for pre-order from (affiliate link) and (affiliate link). No doubt these will prove to be very popular with Barbie and Star Wars collectors alike.

Which is your favourite Barbie from the collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is going to be epic

With just weeks until The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Netflix has released a final trailer for the epic 10-part prequel series to Jim Henson's classic puppet-populated fable.

The trailer serves up gorgeous vista upon vista and artistic ambition to rival Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. The Gelfling clans are forced to unite to depose the tyrannical Skeksis who have corrupted the Dark Crystal.

Age of Resistance boasts a stellar voice cast from Game of Thrones to Star Wars. Included in this epic ensemble are Taron Egerton (Kingsman), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) as Deet, Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) as Tavra, Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent 2), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen), Theo James (Divergent), Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Cloverfield Paradox), Mark Strong (Shazam!), Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), and Hannah John-Kamen (Game of Thrones).

Whilst waiting for 30th August, I'm revisiting Jim Henson's The Storyteller starring the late Sir John Hurt (Alien). It remains a spellbinding tour of European fables retold by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Triple Force Friday this October

Force Friday is a merchandising event that started with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued with The Last Jedi. Who can forget the introduction of Sphero's licensed range of app-enabled droids? BB-8, BB-9E and R2-D2 have pride of place in my study.

This year, Force Friday celebrates the release of the Disney+ live-action series The Mandalorian, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and The Rise of Skywalker on 4th October.

As with previous Force Friday celebrations, retailers will be staging special events around the world. Smyths Toys recently took over my local Toys "R" Us store. So, I may venture along for a midnight opening.

Are you excited for the launch of Triple Force Friday this October? What new products are you hoping to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The Force is strong with Disney+

When Disney+ launches on 12th November, US-based Star Wars fans have much to look forward to. The original, prequel and sequel trilogies (not including The Last Jedi) will be available from day-one alongside the first live-action series The Mandalorian, executive produced by Jon Favreau.

However, due to existing distribution deals, Disney+ will, initially, be lighter on Marvel content. Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man and Iron Man 3 will be available with Avengers: Endgame premiering in December.

Fellow true believers will be looking further ahead to exclusive series Loki, Hawkeye, Falcon & Winter Soldier, WandaVision, What If...? and much more.

In the wake of Disney buying Twentieth Century Fox film and television assets, every season of The Simpsons will be available. It's also worth noting Seth MacFarlane's The Orville has been moved to Hulu.

Disney will offer a bundle package of its three streaming services - Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month starting on 12th November, CEO Bob Iger announced today. This is a serious mission statement and undercuts many of its competitors including Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO.

"Disney+ marketing is going to start to hit in later this month, later in August.... you will see marketing, both in traditional and non-traditional directions, basically digital and analog," Iger said. "And of course, all the touchpoints that the company has, whether it's people staying at our hotels, people who have our co-branded credit card, people who are members of D23, annual pass holders."

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

Monday, 5 August 2019

Kevin Conroy's Bruce Wayne in Crisis on Infinite Earths

The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths is shaping up to be the biggest Arrowverse crossover event yet with much speculation surrounding it, including a merger with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). This would finally put DC Comics on par with Marvel in terms of transmedia storytelling. DC Comics continues to play second fiddle to Marvel, and Disney+ will only serve to widen the gap with its roster of exclusive live-action series from Loki to WandaVision.

From Brandon Routh (DC's Legends of Tomorrow) reprising the role of Superman (he was great in the underrated Superman Returns) to rumours Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Burt Ward (Batman) and Tom Welling (Smallville) will all appear in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Now, Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) is officially confirmed to be playing "future" Bruce Wayne. To say I'm stoked about this would be a gross understatement. For a generation of animation and video game fans, Conroy is Batman.

During the seventies and eighties, Marvel UK monopolised my comic book reading (with the occasional diversion into 2000 AD, Eagle and Battle Action Force) and DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths passed me by. So, I've bought a digital copy of the reissue to catch-up before the crossover is broadcast later this year.

Are you looking forward to Crisis on Infinite Earths and who would you like to see make a cameo? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

George Lucas advised Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian

Executive producer Jon Favreau (The Lion King) recently talked to GQ and revealed what George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, advised him during a set visit to The Mandalorian live-action series:

“We had a long talk with each other,” said Favreau. “One thing he said to me was, ’remember, Jon, the real audience for all stories and all myths is the kids that are coming of age’, because he’s really a Joseph Campbell adherent. We enjoy the stories as adults, but really, storytelling is about imparting the wisdom of the previous generations on to the children who are becoming adults, and giving them a context for how to behave and how to learn the lessons of the past without making the mistakes on their own. That’s the hope, that you can teach them how to avoid all the hardship but garner all the wisdom.”

Whilst The Mandalorian is the first Star Wars live-action series, Lucas originally planned to follow-up Revenge of the Sith with a live-action television series: Star Wars: Underworld. Scripts were prepared and one of those treatments, penned by John Knoll, was used for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.

Back in the seventies, author Alan Dean Foster, the ghostwriter of the original Star Wars novelisation, wrote Splinter of the Mind's Eye for television, but the unprecedented box office success of Lucas' space opera meant movie sequels would take precedence.

The Mandalorian, set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, premieres 12th November on Disney+. Presumably, the $120 million dollar 8-part series will be shown on the Disney Channel outside the US. However, stay tuned for further news.

Favreau is already hard at work on a second season.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

B&M's 2019 Doctor Who sets from Character Options

One of my earliest memories, growing up in the seventies, was being gifted Doctor Who action figures from Denys Fisher (in collaboration with Mego: best known for Micronauts, "World's Greatest Super Heroes" and Star Trek lines) and Palitoy. Alas, neither UK-based toy companies released a Sontaran or, fourth Doctor companion, Harry Sullivan.

Fast forward forty years or so and Character Options has announced its official 2019 Doctor Who sets (exclusively available from B&M).

"Al Dewar presents the 2019 line of Doctor Who collectable figures and sets from Character Options."

The latest collection is, I'm sure you'll agree, a home run and, best of all, there's a new Sontaran set including Harry Sullivan! This is especially poignant (for me) as The Sontaran Experiment is my earliest memory of watching Doctor Who. Here's hoping my local B&M store has these in stock later in the summer.

If by any chance someone from Character Options reads this, it would be a privilege for this lifelong Whovian to review the Sontarans set.

Which B&M Doctor Who sets are you looking forward to most and would like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

A Death Star rises from the desert of Jakku

Doug Chiang, vice president and executive creative director of Lucasfilm, has shared on Instagram unused concept art depicting the Death Star II rising from the desert of Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Death Star II, destroyed during the battle of Endor, can be seen in the teaser trailer for The Rise of Skywalker.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The end of The Rise of Skywalker will melt your mind

Director Kevin Smith (Clerks) was interviewed by the fine folks over on IGN during San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). He shed light on his visit to the Pinewood Studios set of JJ Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and why he didn't want to see the final shot of the Skywalker saga:

“There was a scuttlebutt about the set there at Pinewood. They’re like, ‘You have to see this. When you see it, it will melt your mind.’ So I ask J.J., ‘They keep telling me I should see the set.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t. It’s the last shot of the movie. You don’t want this spoiled. You want to be in a theater when this happens. Trust me.'”

Ultimately Abrams and crew members dissuaded Smith:

“As inquisitive as I am, and as curious as I am, I desperately wanted to go look. But when you talk to the magician, and the magician is like, ‘Trust me on this one.’ You know, sometimes as human beings, we want to know how they pull the rabbit out of the hat, but J.J. is such a magical magician that I’m just like, ‘You know what? Do it. Trick me. I’ll wait and get tricked.’ Even though I could have seen what it was, I was like, ‘I’ll sit back. I like your plan.’ He’s never let me down so far.”

Aside from Sith Troopers, there was little else surrounding Star Wars at SDCC. This is a good thing and will only build anticipation for the December release of The Rise of Skywalker.

What could the final shot be? Rey (Daisy Ridley) taking her place by the Emperor's side? Speculate away in the comments below.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Avengers: Endgame ends Avatar's box office reign

Avengers: Endgame ends Avatar's decade-spanning reign at the top of the box office.

Director James Cameron congratulated the Russo brothers on the achievement as he did previously when Endgame beat Titanic.

Cameron posted on Avatar’s official Twitter account: "Oel ngati kameie, I see you Marvel – Congratulations to Avengers Endgame on becoming the new box-office King."

Avatar is now a Disney franchise, following the acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox's film and television assets earlier this year, and the first sequel is expected in cinemas December 2021.

During San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced Phase 4 beginning with Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Star Trek: Picard trailer engages fans at SDCC

Sir Patrick Stewart announced a new teaser trailer for Star Trek: Picard at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). It's a home run, reuniting former cast members from The Next Generation and Voyager, and the stakes couldn't be higher.

In the spellbinding teaser trailer, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Data (Brent Spiner) pay a visit to Picard (Patrick Stewart) who is a shadow of his former self 20 years after events in Nemesis.

Stewart has confirmed Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis will reprise the roles of William Riker and Deanna Troi from The Next Generation respectively. How about Q (John de Lancie), too?

In a departure from Discovery on Netflix. The latest CBS All Access spin-off will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime outside the US in early 2020. Until then, I'll let my Amazon Prime subscription lapse as BritBox, a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, launches in the UK later this year featuring classic Doctor Who.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance at SDCC

Netflix has released a San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) sneak peek, deftly illustrating the artistry, passion and attention to detail invested in this prequel to Jim Henson's classic fable, The Dark Crystal.

"The idea is you watch the show and you forget you're watching puppets." Fans at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 were given a glimpse of the artistry behind the scenes of the resistance by director Louis Leterrier and executive producer Lisa Henson.

The fine folks at Funko have announced a range of Pops! and action figures based on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. These are sure to prove popular with fans of all ages.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance streams on Netflix 30th August. I won't be cancelling my subscription anytime soon.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Top Gun: Maverick takes to the skies at SDCC

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is full of surprises, but no one saw this coming. Tom Cruise took to the stage to introduce the first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. A sequel to the original Top Gun (1986), directed by the late Tony Scott, 34 years later.

Maverick (Tom Cruise) is called back into action to battle drones. Got goosebumps hearing Harold Faltermeyer's iconic main theme and the trailer is taken from the Star Wars playbook.

Top Gun has left an enduring legacy and most recently influenced Captain Marvel.

Top Gun: Maverick is in cinemas 2020.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

That's no moon... it's War for Cybertron Unicron!

HasLab has announced its latest crowdfunded project Transformers: War for Cybertron Unicron.

Unicron (voiced by Orson Welles) made his Death Star-sized debut in Transformers: The Movie (1986) and the planet-eating menace has become an integral part of Transformers lore.

For many fans (myself included), Unicron was a dream toy in the eighties. Now, fans can own the ultimate incarnation for $575. This is as long as 8000 fans commit to the project by 31st August.

HasLab's previous crowdfunded project was Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Jabba's Sail Barge (The Khetanna) from Return of the Jedi.

Head over to the official site for further details and to pledge support.

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

These are the droids you're looking for on Prime Day

LEGO and Amazon have teamed up for Prime Day with the launch of LEGO Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set.

"Introduce creative kids to a rich LEGO brick galaxy of lovable droid robots, exciting missions and coding fun with the LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander coding toy for kids. This interactive buildable robots toy puts your child in command of 3 app-controlled Star Wars droid robots: R2-D2, a Gonk Droid and a Mouse Droid, each with their own personalities and skills. The 3 in 1 app-controlled programmable interactive robot models help to learn the basics of coding, engineering and robotics. Using the free LEGO BOOST Star Wars app, your young commander builds the droid robots, inserts the Bluetooth-controlled Move Hub into the robot that will solve each mission, and brings the robot to life using the intuitive drag-and-drop coding environment. Your youngster then constructs tools, weapons, targets, obstacles and lots more as they progress through over 40 exciting missions – they’ll love it! This great birthday or Christmas Star Wars gift idea also helps youngsters develop their critical thinking. LEGO robotics coding kits introduce them to basic engineering and robotics."

"With LEGO BOOST, children learn about loops and variables, improve STEM and creative-problem solving skills and develop their imagination as they toggle between guided and open-ended play. The LEGO BOOST app is available for selected iOS, Android and Kindle smart devices. The app offers regular updates with new challenges and coding options designed to encourage social play. Visit for a list of all compatible devices."

The LEGO Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set is available to buy (affiliate link).

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series for Disney+, doesn't air until 12th November. However, executive producer Jon Favreau (The Lion King) is already hard at work on the second season for the House of Mouse's nascent streaming service.

Speaking on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Favreau said:

“It’s honestly like turning over your toy chest and playing with all the Star Wars toys together. We’re having a great time. It’s all-new characters. It’s going to be on Disney+ coming up in the fall. And we’re done with the first season. I was actually writing part of the second season now.”

Favreau reiterated The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The Empire has fallen and the galaxy is in chaos. The story follows a lone Mandalorian warrior (Pedro Pascal). Other cast members include Giancarlo Esposito, Nick Nolte, Gina Carano as Cara Dune, Emily Swallow, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi and Carl Weathers as Greef Carga.

A sneak peek at The Mandalorian will be shown during the D23 Expo next month.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens December

When Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened in California last May, there was much disappointment surrounding the delay of its most advanced attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney Parks has confirmed it will now open on 17th January, 2020.

Disney Parks' official description of the ride:

"When it opens, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will blur the lines between fantasy and reality and will put guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Guests will be recruited to join Rey and General Organa at a secret base. Along the way, they will be captured by a First Order Star Destroyer. With the help of some heroes of the Resistance, they break out and must escape the Star Destroyer, protect the secret base, and stay one step ahead of Kylo Ren."

Fans living on the east coast of America will only have to wait until 5th December when the ride opens at Walt Disney World, Florida. You can be assured our resident roving reporter, Nick Smith, will be checking it out for the Resistance.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Meet the Star Wars Sith Trooper at SDCC

The design of Stormtroopers has evolved throughout the Star Wars saga and director JJ Abrams' (The Force Awakens) upcoming The Rise of Skywalker is no exception.

Meet the Sith Trooper, a fusion of a First Order Stormtrooper and Elite Praetorian Guard, announced ahead of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) next week. The distinctive red evoking the Royal Guards from Return of the Jedi, adding further to the Emperor's (Ian McDiarmid) return in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

"It has some really unique aesthetics to it,” said Lucasfilm archivist Madlyn Burkert. "And it has some subtle ties to previous stormtrooper designs, which I think fans will enjoy discovering."

Sith Trooper merchandise will be available from Funko, Hasbro, Hot Toys and LEGO at SDCC. Stormtrooper variants are always a highlight for me as a collector. From a trooper to Biker Scout; I amassed quite a collection from the original trilogy toy line by Kenner.

What do you think of the latest look? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Jaws back in cinemas this summer

Jaws, the original seventies blockbuster from Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, returns to UK cinema screens this summer.

Spielberg's shark story is regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, and caught my imagination at a very young age courtesy of John Williams' iconic soundtrack serenading Star Wars action figure adventures.

The classic blockbuster film will be screening at selected cinemas across the UK from 12th July, including Cineworld, Vue, Picturehouse, Showcase and selected independent cinemas, as well as in selected international territories.

For further details visit Park Circus.

What are your memories of watching Jaws? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

First step into a larger world with Star Wars Weekly

For many UK Star Wars fans (myself included) the gateway into George Lucas' space opera was via Marvel's weekly comic strip adaptation and making-of magazine. One of my earliest memories was starting at a new primary school, wheelchair-bound in the wake of a life-changing trauma, and making a new friend, Jeremy, who enthusiastically showed me his copy of Star Wars Weekly prior to seeing the movie in early 1978.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based roving reporter, goes on a galactic odyssey in the pages of a revived Marvel Star Wars. Is the Force still strong over 40 years later?

Guest post by Nick Smith

In February 1978 Star Wars was everywhere. In movie theatres. In toy stores. And in a five-year-old’s bedroom in the city of Bristol, England.

The bedroom belonged to my neighbour and best friend Stuart Barrett, who proudly showed me the first issue of a brand-new large-format comic called Star Wars Weekly. Stuart always had cool toys to show me like his Six Million Dollar Man figure [Steve Austin stood sentry whilst I was in children's hospital - Ed] and his inflatable light-up lightsaber [I had one of those too - Ed] but this was something different and within my boyhood budget. It didn’t matter that the comic’s cover had a blue-green Death Star, or that the innards were black and white. We were two little kids who loved the movie and this comic book introduced us to a brash new form of storytelling.

Being an impressionable lad, I went looking for my own copy. #1 was sold out but on my sixth birthday I was able to find #2 with a bright yellow cover depicting a “sand creature.” I was mesmerized by Roy Thomas’ dramatic prose and Howard Chaykin’s intentionally scribbled space art [Dark Horse printed my admiration for those fine folks in Classic Star Wars whilst we were at university together in the mid-nineties - Ed].

The flimsy periodical sparked a lifelong love of comics. Instead of an allowance, I asked my folks for Star Wars Weekly once a week. It was something I could count on in an uncertain world of house moves (we switched homes every year or two), fairweather friendships and school burdens. For three years, apart from a few novels, it was my go-to for original Star Wars material. My young brain was imprinted with themes of loyalty, compassion and determination against great galactic odds.

I wasn’t alone, of course. Stuart picked up the occasional issue and thanks to CYRIL (the fictional editor droid of the weekly) and the letters he printed, I got my first sense of a nationwide community – a group of people who shared my passion for Star Wars and sci-fi. I was part of something bigger than my own little world. Thousands of kids, adults, families were enjoying the same adventures as me, reading the same behind-the-scenes articles and discovering more of the Marvel universe through an eclectic mix of back-up strips.

Beyond its vivid covers and new Star Wars content (“At last! Beyond the movie! Beyond the galaxy!”) I was introduced to great stories and characters in the back-ups. Since the source comic was monthly, the main stories had to be spread across four or five weeks. That meant my heroes would spend a seeming eternity on Drexel the water world or the gambling-addled Death Wheel. The rest of the weekly was filled with science fiction of all stripes.

In the rear of the mag, I met the Guardians of the Galaxy, the original Star-Lord, the fatal femme Gamora and Rocket Racoon with an upper-crust British accent. I had my little mind blown by Jim Starlin’s mythical Warlock; was entertained by the big bald baby head of the Watcher, who introduced older Marvel cautionary tales; avidly read the shrinky dink adventures of Micronauts [a treasured toy line - Ed] and the Dirty Harry tactics of Deathlok the Demolisher. Deathlok and some of the one-off stories showed me that comics weren’t just for six-year-olds, that they could explore dark and mature themes. They could be gritty as a carbon-scored vaporator.

To create my own collection, I cut out the main story pages, taped them together and made a new cover. Without knowing it, I’d created my own omnibus many years before Dark Horse and Marvel published their own. When I proudly showed my Uncle Alan, he gave me that disparaging look non-fans give you when they don’t understand why you’re getting so passionate about pop culture. After that, reading the comic was never quite the same.

I cancelled the weekly when I heard a new Empire Strikes Back version was coming in 1980, only to find that it was a continuation of the same comic, missing an exceptional issue with Michael Golden art. I caught up with the series when it went monthly, with photo covers, and as US exports became more prevalent, I was able to collect the real deal – Marvel’s American edition of Star Wars [US imports were rarer than hen's teeth in my part of the UK. However, there was a gas station, near to where my Canadian grandmother lived, that had Marvel and DC Comics on the newsstand - Ed].

So why this uninvited trip down Nick’s nostalgia lane?

Last time I popped into TBS Comics, my local comic book store, I saw a little Star Wars Legends book with a Carmine Infantino-style cover. I thought it was yet another reprint and passed it by. Then I realized the truth.

As part of its 80th-anniversary hullabaloo, Marvel has published a continuation of its US comic, cancelled in 1986 when the publisher felt the proverbial fat lady had sung her last space opera. I was not happy at the time [I openly cried when it ended - Ed]! Little did I know that a staggering 33 years later, the next issue would come out. If fandom has taught me one thing, it’s patience.

#108’s “Forever Crimson” is an exercise in reminiscence, a sequel to the US #50 epic “The Crimson Forever.” That story featured killer crystals that turn Luke Skywalker red. The follow-up is fun to read, full of nods to the old comics, retaining the continuity of US #107’s “All Together Now.” Jaxxon the giant green rabbit and Amaiza from Marvel’s first original story cycle bump into Han Solo, following their own mercenary agenda. Domina Tagge, matriarch of the evil House Tagge, has a taste in jewels that tends towards the deadly.

The main character of this story – and a big draw for me – is Valance the Hunter, a cyborg who has spent years hating droids because he’s lost his own humanity, thought lost in an epic battle with Darth Vader over the ruby flame lava of Centares. Not only is Valance short some skin and bone, but he’s also missing some marbles. His character development is what really makes this book worth reading. In an earlier, classic issue, C-3PO risked sacrificing his existence to save Luke and this informs the former droid-hater’s actions. His moral choices are an echo of the original comic’s most powerful stories, wrapped up in an issue that child-me would have loved.

As an adult, I’m delighted by the cameos and the way that “Forever Crimson” works as a respectful continuation, rather than a clueless rip-off of those Star Wars Weekly stories. The comic has multiple writers and artists, including Cam Smith, Luke Ross and Leonard Kirk but the whole shebang flows well. Different covers are available from the likes of Infantino, Walter Simonson and Michael Golden and there are two short, tight articles, “Celebrating Marvel’s First Star Wars Comics” by Senior Editor Mark Paniccia and “The Stars of Marvel’s Original Star Wars,” featuring interviews with some of the key creators.

The legend of Valance the Hunter lives on. To a long-time fan like me, he is a bona fide part of the Star Wars universe, as much as C-3PO and R2-D2, Thomas’ Jaxxon, David Michelinie’s Shira Brie or Jo Duffy’s Plif the hoojib. #108 does justice to the characters who brightened my mind in the halcyon black and white days of the late ‘70s when paper-thin space tales opened the door to a world of imaginative possibilities... Beyond the movie. Beyond the galaxy. [Amen - Ed]

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

Friday, 5 July 2019

Spider-Man's on vacation in Far From Home

Paul Moxham, fellow true believer, film fan and BBC cameraman, goes on a much-needed vacation after the events of Avengers: Endgame in Spider-Man: Far From Home. What could possibly go wrong?

Guest post by Paul Moxham

A mere two months since Avengers: Endgame, tears barely dry and jaws returned from the floor after the epic sweep of that behemoth blockbuster, and we’re back to see how Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is coping with what one can only imagine has been a rather eventful year so far.

Picking up shortly after the events of the second highest-grossing film ever (at time of writing), there’s nothing Peter would love more than to relax on a school trip around Europe and spend some time getting closer to MJ (Zendaya). Alas, upon arriving in Venice he is sought out by the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a stranger from another universe, to help defeat the Elementals, large world-ending creatures who’ve nipped through the same dimensional door as Beck.

If this sounds like classic summer blockbuster-fare, that’s because it is. A refreshingly light and breezy riposte to the universe-ending darkness of Endgame. The chemistry and tone of Homecoming is recaptured within minutes, director Jon Watts still successfully taking his cues from 80s high school movies. Credit to Marvel Studios, 23 films in now, and still able to refocus with ease from enormous cosmic shenanigans to a young guy from Queens trying to get a girlfriend.

The humour and action sit well alongside recurrent themes of self-doubt and lost father figures, writers McKenna and Sommers skilfully allowing the drama to flow from the action as much as dialogue. We learn probably just as much about the characters from what they do as what they say. The film mines a huge amount from Peter’s determination and inherent goodness in the face of grief and the expectation of others.

Although it’s not a complete home-run. Despite certain plot points seemingly flagged up early on, the first half an hour seems determined to hammer them home, resulting in a slower pace. The sharp wit and cast chemistry thankfully allaying fears of a slog ahead. And whilst full of lovely visual touches the third act is a rather typical Marvel bashy-crashy conclusion. That stellar character work and performance once more the real hero, elevating proceedings above the typical.

Those visuals are wonderful, especially one particularly Steve Ditko-inspired sequence, with the action being reliably quick, exciting and ready with an angle or perspective you didn’t know you needed.

Ultimately the film is a joyous testament to why Peter Parker has been loved for so long by so many people; he’s a good person, with cool superpowers, doing the best he can for others often at the expense of his own happiness. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone like that?

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Daisy Ridley teases emotional ending to Star Wars

Whilst promoting her new movie Ophelia, Daisy Ridley (Rey) talked to USA Today about the backlash against director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and that Rey's parentage will be revealed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: “[Director JJ Abrams] did say the question is answered. So at the end of the film, you do know what the dealio is.”

Ridley went on to describe how the final chapter in the Skywalker saga differs from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi: “Genre-wise, it’s different from the other two, which will become clear when the film comes out. It’s quite emotional. There’s a different drive than the previous two films, but there’s a lot of fun. I really missed John [Boyega] during the last one, but we’re back together and now Oscar [Isaac] is part of it. To me, it felt like kids going on an adventure.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas this December.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Exclusive Funko Pop! Millennium Falcon with Han Solo

Funko has teamed up with Amazon to produce Funko Pop! Deluxe: Star Wars - Millennium Falcon with Han Solo for Prime Day.

"From a long time ago, in a galaxy far away... The Millennium Falcon with Han Solo as a Pop! Deluxe from Funko! This Pop! Deluxe captures all the amazing little details of the iconic spaceship and is among the largest figures Funko has ever produced! Don't miss out on your chance to own the ship that made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs as only Funko can deliver! The figure measures 5. 5" tall, is 10. 5" wide and 13. 25" long and come in a window box display. This item will surely become the centrepiece of your Funko Pop! Star Wars collection!"

Click here to pre-order (affiliate link).

Will you be adding Funko Pop! Deluxe Millennium Falcon with Han Solo to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The Witcher and The Dark Crystal at SDCC

Netflix has released new images for The Witcher series starring Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) as Geralt, Freya Allan as Ciri and Anya Chalotra as Yennefer.

"Based on the best-selling fantasy series of books, The Witcher is an epic tale of fate and family. Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts. But when destiny hurtles him toward a powerful sorceress, and a young princess with a dangerous secret, the three must learn to navigate the increasingly volatile Continent together."

The Witcher may fill the void vacated by Game of Thrones as Amazon prepares a multimillion prequel series to The Lord of the Rings.

Netflix is bringing The Witcher and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) on 19th July. So, expect plenty of further details soon.

Fantasy fans (myself included) have much to look forward to when The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and The Witcher arrive on Netflix later this year.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Limited Run's Star Wars: Bounty Hunter for PS4

Limited Run Games is re-releasing classic Star Wars video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and more. Now, the company has announced Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, originally released for GameCube and PS2 in 2002, for the PS4.

"The hunt begins. You are Jango Fett, the galaxy's most dangerous bounty hunter, hired to hunt down the elusive leader of a mysterious cult--dead or alive. Through 18 action-packed levels across six diverse worlds, face-off against galactic scum, fearsome beasts, and brutal competition that stand between you and your prey: a deranged dark Jedi. This hunt will lead you to the darkest corners of the Star Wars universe where no one else has dared to go, but you are the fearless, ruthless, and relentless Jango Fett. For the galaxy's most wanted, there is no place to hide."

You can pre-order Bounty Hunter and more here.

What Star Wars titles would you like to see Limited Run Games re-release? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Victoria Pedretti returns in The Haunting of Bly Manor

Victoria Pedretti is returning to The Haunting of Hill House franchise for season 2 on Netflix. Pedretti played the ill-fated Eleanor "Nell" Crain to devastating effect.

Pedretti says: "Hey everyone. I'm very excited to announce that I will be returning to the Haunting universe, in season 2: The Haunting of Bly Manor. I play Dani, a governess who takes care of two very unusual children.

"Our incredible writing team is writing the new season right now and I'm so excited to get going. It will hit Netflix in 2020 and I think you're gonna love it."

“Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy are masterful at creating authentically frightening stories that leave audiences on the edge of their seats, but unable to look away,” said Cindy Holland, Vice President, Original Content at Netflix. “We’re excited to continue our partnership with them on The Haunting series and future projects to come.”

Flanagan and Macy added: “Netflix has been an important part of our story, and we’re proud to have worked with them on The Haunting of Hill House, not to mention Gerald’s Game, Hush, and Before I Wake… They’ve enabled and supported a great deal of our work and we look forward to much more.”

No spoilers because that would be a disservice to the series and fellow horror enthusiasts who haven't seen the first season. The Haunting of Hill House is gothic genius. Every frame is chillingly captivating as a dysfunctional family, led by Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), is haunted by ghosts of the past and present. Hopefully, many of the original cast including Carla Gugino will be brought back for this anthology series.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Daisy Ridley won't be in the new Star Wars trilogy

The first instalment in the next Star Wars trilogy, from Game of Thrones' David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, won't see the return of familiar faces from the sequels when it enters cinemas in December 2022.

"I mean, I can say I’m not in the next trilogy," Daisy Ridley (Rey) told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview. "No. I think, 'cause Rian always said … if it’s the Rian one … or it’s the guys that did Game of Thrones. I’m not sure. Whichever one it was, they always said it was going to be a separate story. So I’m not. No."

Ridley wasn’t clear about whether or not she would ever return to the franchise after the conclusion of the Skywalker saga, in The Rise of Skywalker, this December. "I mean, it’s a great universe. I’ve had a great time,” she said. Here's hoping Ridley reprises the role, as she has previously with Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, for Disney+.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The CW's summer sci-fi series Pandora premieres July

The CW has released key art and announced the premiere date for Pandora starring Priscilla Quintana (Traffik) as Jax.

"Set in the year 2199, PANDORA is a sci-fi action series about a resourceful young woman who has lost everything but finds a new life at Earth’s Space Training Academy where she and her friends learn to defend the Galaxy from threats, both alien and human. When secrets about the nature of her own identity begin to surface, she must uncover the truth, and whether she will be humanity’s savior or the instrument of its destruction."

Banita Sandhu (October) plays Delany Pilar in memory of Michael Piller, the late executive producer and writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

Pandora premieres 16th July on The CW.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order extended gameplay demo

Further to E3 earlier this month, EA has released an extended gameplay demo for Respawn Entertainment's upcoming title set in a galaxy far, far away... Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

"Order 66 has been executed. Once, staying alive meant hiding your abilities. Now, you must embrace them. Use the Force to manipulate your environment, master lightsaber combat, explore dangerous terrain, and remain one step ahead of the Empire."

The extended gameplay footage shows Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan) and his droid sidekick, BD-1, commandeer an AT-AT in a manner mixing God of War and Uncharted gameplay mechanics.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (affiliate link) is released this November on PS4 and Xbox One for console-owning fans.

Are you excited for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Does it evoke the original Dark Forces? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Stranger Things brings back New Coke

Coca-Cola is reviving New Coke, the company's infamous formula change, for Stranger Things season 3 and has released an extended commercial. Steve (Joe Keery) and Dustin's (Gaten Matarazzo) friendship is one of the best character arcs in the series.

The third season of Stranger Things sees the return of cast members Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Charlie Heaton, Natalia Dyer, Joe Keery, Cara Buono, Dacre Montgomery, Sadie Sink and Priah Ferguson, while new additions include Francesca Reale, Maya Hawke, Cary Elwes and Jake Busey.

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

Stranger Things season 3 streams on Netflix on 4th July.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance at the BFI

To celebrate The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix, an exhibition will open at the BFI Southbank this summer.

Jim Henson's original opus, inspired by the works of Brian Froud (my late mum knew Wendy Froud who worked on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), enthralled me as a young child. However, that first fateful viewing at the ABC Cinema, Exeter, was a little too intense - Garthim and Skeksis anyone? Rediscovering The Dark Crystal, on a special edition DVD in 1999, I was beguiled by its lyrical beauty once again!

In a post-Game of Thrones world, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance offers a rich universe populated by fantastical characters played by a cast of stars including Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Dormer, Eddie Izzard and Mark Hamill.

The exhibition, featuring workshops, Q&A sessions, and a making-of gallery, will be open to the public and will run from 23rd August until 6th September.

The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance will premiere on Netflix on 30th August.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Action-packed final trailer for Stranger Things season 3

Netflix has released the final trailer for Stranger Things season 3 and it's an all-out war for the kids from Hawkins, Indiana.

Stranger Things season 3 streams exclusively on Netflix from 4th July.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Game of Thrones prequel begins filming

The final season of Game of Thrones may have divided fans. However, HBO has begun filming a promising pilot for the prequel series in Northern Ireland, set thousands of years before Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) bravely battled the Night King, penned by Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class).

“Westeros is a very different place,” George R.R. Martin told EW. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens — Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We’re dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”

Naomi Watts stars along with Naomi Ackie, Denise Gough, Miranda Richardson, Josh Whitehouse, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sheila Atim, Ivanno Jeremiah, Alex Sharp and Toby Regbo.

If all goes according to plan, the prequel series is expected to premiere in late 2020 or early 2021 on HBO.