Thursday 28 March 2019

Marvel Studios' new featurettes for Avengers: Endgame

Marvel Studios has revealed a running time of 182 minutes for Avengers: Endgame and released two new featurettes.

In the making of Avengers: Endgame, the Russo brothers discuss the advantages of using IMAX cameras for the climactic conclusion of the decade-spanning Infinity Saga.

Marvel Studios has also released a "We Lost" featurette with Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow). This evokes all the feels for Marvel fans (myself included).

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas 25th April.

Monday 25 March 2019

Netflix naysayer Steven Spielberg launches Apple TV+

Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the stage at the Steve Jobs Theatre to announce the Cupertino-based company’s first foray into streaming services. Apple TV+.

Rob Wainfur, the founder of The Bearded Trio and fellow Steven Spielberg fan, reacts to the news the Oscar-winning director is reviving eighties anthology series Amazing Stories exclusively on Apple TV+.

Guest post by Rob Wainfur

There was no denying that today’s announcement by Apple of its new streaming service, Apple TV+, was a glitzy affair with a bunch of A-Listers making an appearance such as Star Wars director JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Oprah, Jason Momoa, Ron Howard, Hailee Steinfeld and even Big Bird from Sesame Street!

Of course, my interest was piqued when Steven Spielberg also joined the Apple hype train on stage. Apple, it seems, has really pulled out all the stops on this announcement and, with a hefty billion dollar investment in the fledgeling streaming service, is desperate to become one of the leading subscription-based providers and sit alongside the likes of Amazon Prime and, of course, Netflix.

But, and this may be slightly controversial, especially from a huge Steven Spielberg fan such as myself, with Spielberg and Apple now the best of buddies, I can't help but wonder if the recent attack by the director on Netflix, and whether or not it should be eligible for Academy Awards, was nothing more than a strategic plan by them to just muddy the waters a little? It does seem unlikely, but when the budgets are in the billions of dollars, and Amblin have a vested interest with Amazing Stories being one of the launch titles, then asking Mr Spielberg to just rock the boat ever-so-slightly could easily be a possibility, however remote.

Apple TV+ will be available on first and third-party devices including Samsung, LG and Sony smart TVs. This is an inspired, and necessary, move if the company is serious about rivalling Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, which launches later this year bolstered by Fox’s extensive film and television catalogue.

One thing is for certain, with a new streaming service joining the party, and more on the horizon, we are most definitely going to need a bigger boat... And wallets [Apple has an app for that - Ed].

Apple TV+ is set to launch in over a hundred countries later this year. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday 22 March 2019

Is Taika Waititi voicing IG-88 in The Mandalorian?

Executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man) teased on Instagram director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) seemingly voicing IG-88 during post-production for The Mandalorian. Aside from the infamous assassin droid, Waititi is directing an episode of the Disney+ live-action Star Wars series.

IG-88 first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back as one of the bounty hunters tasked by Darth Vader to hunt down the Millennium Falcon and quickly became a fan-favourite. I owned several Kenner incarnations including the awesome 12" action figure. R5-D4, another droid from the original trilogy, will appear too.

The Mandalorian, set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, will debut exclusively on Disney+ later this year.

Thursday 21 March 2019

The kids are all grown up in Stranger Things 3

Netflix has released the first full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 3. The kids from Indiana are seemingly pitted against a new big bad in a shopping mall.

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? Let me know in the comments below.

Stranger Things season 3 will be available to stream from 4th July.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Disney merges with Fox ahead of Disney+

The Walt Disney Company has completed the acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox's film and television assets ahead of the launch of Disney+ later this year.

From Buffy to The Simpsons. The House of Mouse has further bolstered its existing portfolio (including Marvel and Lucasfilm) and brought Deadpool, Fantastic Four and the X-Men along for the ride.

“This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us—one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.

“Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”

What will this mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Woody and Bo Peep in new trailer for Toy Story 4

Disney has released a new full-length trailer for Toy Story 4.

"Everyone’s favourite pull-string cowboy sheriff Woody, along with his best friends Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, are happy taking care of their kid, Bonnie, until a new toy called “Forky” arrives in her room. According to Forky, a spork-turned-craft-project, he’s not a toy at all—and he’d rather skip this big adventure completely, if only they’d let him."

Toy Story 4 features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson, Kristen Schaal, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Garlin, Timothy Dalton, Estelle Harris, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves and Patricia Arquette.

Toy Story 4 is in cinemas 21st June 2019.

Monday 18 March 2019

Fox marks Alien's 40th with live-action fan films

Twentieth Century Fox, about to be acquired by Disney, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of Alien, the first sci-fi movie to traumatise me as a child, with a selection of short films set in the Alien franchise universe founded by director Ridley Scott in 1979.

ALIEN: ALONE — Hope, an abandoned crewmember aboard the derelict chemical hauler Otranto, has spent a year trying to keep her ship and herself alive as both slowly fall apart. After discovering hidden cargo, she risks it all to power up the broken ship in search of human life. Written and directed by Noah Miller.

ALIEN: CONTAINMENT — Four survivors find themselves stranded aboard a small escape pod in deep space. Trying to piece together the details around the outbreak that led to their ship’s destruction, they find themselves unsure to trust whether or not one of them might be infected. Written and directed by Chris Reading.

ALIEN: HARVEST — The surviving crew of a damaged deep-space harvester have minutes to reach the emergency evacuation shuttle. A motion sensor is their only navigation tool leading them to safety while a creature in the shadows terrorizes the crew. However, the greatest threat might have been hiding in plain sight all along. Directed by Benjamin Howdeshell.

ALIEN: NIGHT SHIFT — When a missing space trucker is discovered hungover and disoriented, his co-worker suggests a nightcap as a remedy. Near closing time, they are reluctantly allowed inside the colony supply depot where the trucker’s condition worsens, leaving a young supply worker alone to take matters into her own hands. Written and directed by Aidan Breznick.

ALIEN: ORE — As a hard-working miner of a planet mining colony, Lorraine longs to make a better life for her daughter and grandchildren. When her shift uncovers the death of a fellow miner under mysterious circumstances, Lorraine is forced to choose between escape or defying management orders and facing her fears to fight for the safety of her family. Written and directed by the Spear Sisters.

ALIEN: SPECIMEN — It’s the night shift in a colony greenhouse, and Julie, a botanist, does her best to contain suspicious soil samples that have triggered her sensitive lab dog. Despite her best efforts, the lab unexpectedly goes into full shutdown and she is trapped inside. Little does she know, an Alien specimen has escaped the mysterious cargo, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as the creature searches for a host. Written and directed by Kelsey Taylor.

The Alien short films will be available on IGN. Twentieth Century Fox most recently partnered with the site for a digital series based on the Alien: Isolation survival horror video game. Ironically, IGN was a review outlier and gave it a mediocre score, whereas film critics raved. I'm with the latter.

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

Friday 15 March 2019

Avengers: Endgame trailer teases the past and future

As Captain Marvel dominates the box office, Marvel Studios has released a new trailer for Avengers: Endgame. It's a character study that gives nothing away in the Russo brothers' follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War.

An emotive look back at the legacy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a decade-long saga draws to a close. Is that the voice of Peggy Carter? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas 25th April.

Thursday 14 March 2019

The Star Wars Celebration panel you're looking for

Lucasfilm has confirmed there'll be a Star Wars: Episode IX panel, with director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, on 12th April during Star Wars Celebration Chicago. It's expected the title will be announced alongside the first trailer.

Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) confirmed Episode IX marks the end of the Skywalker saga.

"It was the most fun it's been," he said. "There was just an energy and a looseness and excitement to the whole production.

"And knowing that this was the conclusion of not only our time there but the nine stories, these nine episodes of the Skywalker Saga, it's incredible."

The Star Wars actor added: "I think people are gonna be just blown away."

Star Wars Celebration Chicago runs from 11th to 15th April. Star Wars: Episode IX will be in cinemas December 2019.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Make Mine Mar-Vell

Captain Marvel is the funniest and most poignant Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) instalment since Guardians of the Galaxy! It deftly acts as an awesome cosmic origin story for the titular hero, played with wit by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, and as a prequel to Avengers: Endgame.

The nostalgic nineties setting allows for a thrilling Gen-X tour de force from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Sugar) and an opportunity to see beloved characters before the Avengers were a thing. Unlike Ready Player One, it manages to avoid fatigue from nostalgia overload. The internet cafe and CD-ROM load time gags had me in stitches: I was reminded of going online for the first time, using Netscape for Mac, in a university library.

From AOL to Blockbuster and there's a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), who took me back to my undergraduate years and Pulp Fiction, as Starforce, lead by Captain Marvel's mentor Jude Law (Yon-Rogg), attempts to end the Kree-Skrull war once and for all.

Captain Marvel succeeds or fails on the core relationship between Fury and Danvers. Suffice to say it excels and further embellishes the end credits scene from Avengers: Infinity War, where Fury pages Danvers before turning to dust in the wake of Thanos' snap.

Goose may be the greatest space feline since Jones survived a xenomorph in the original Alien. The galactic ginger made me misty-eyed in memory of my cat, Leo, who passed away 12 years ago. Leo was one of the most loyal pets it's been my privilege to befriend.

An area where the MCU continues to fall foul is the soundtrack. Whilst there's nothing inherently wrong with Pinar Toprak's score; it's buried deep in the mix and there are no standout leitmotivs other than a reprise of the Avengers theme composed by Alan Silvestri. After a decade, Marvel Studios could still learn something from Harry Potter and Disney stablemate Star Wars.

There are nods to Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, The Right Stuff and Independence Day. Watching Captain Marvel, I was reminded of Supergirl and Superman: The Movie. Heroic heights indeed and a touching tribute to the late Stan Lee.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Win a signed Stormtrooper helmet with Comic Relief

Disney and Lucasfilm have donated a First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: Episode IX, signed by director JJ Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver, in aid of Comic Relief.

Fans can donate to Comic Relief and enter the competition here. May the Force be with you.

Thursday 7 March 2019

Chasing Colin Baker: Pensacon 2019 review

Nick Smith, our North America correspondent, goes to Pensacon in search of two Doctors.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Pensacon 2019, Pensacola, Florida. My eyes have been as big as saucers for 45 minutes, mesmerized by a Q&A with Peter Davison and Colin Baker, the fifth and sixth Doctors respectively from Doctor Who. They make a great team – Baker is simultaneously humble and gregarious while Davison is more reserved and paternal. The actors and the audience have a blast.

“We’ll stay after this for autographs,” Baker wraps, “in case anyone got a photo with us earlier and didn’t get the chance to have it signed…”

Wait a minute, I think to myself, I got a photo with them earlier and didn’t get the chance to have it signed. The Doctor’s talking about me! But no, I couldn’t even dream… I mean, these guys helped buoy me up as a teenager. They were a bright constant in my greying grown-up world as I faced what Winston Churchill called the ‘black dog’ of unhappiness. Later, as an actor and filmmaker, I learned from their hard work and candour.

My accommodating girlfriend Dana whispers at me to hurry and I leave the Saenger Theatre as fast as the shuffling, exiting audience will allow. A few blocks away in my car there’s a photo of me with the two Doctors, the TARDIS behind us. All I have to do is grab the pic, take it back to the theatre and get it signed by my childhood heroes.

It’s the climax of an eventful weekend at this six-year-old convention, a labour of love for the local organizers. I’ve explored the vendor floor in a crowded stadium and encountered an Ewok (Kiran Shah) and a prop making veteran - the humble Bill Hargreaves, posing by a speeder bike, describing himself as a nosy kid working on the original Star Wars trilogy.

I’ve attended panels devoted to Doctor Who series 11; another on Star Wars novels, with Timothy Zahn (Heir to the Empire) and Claudia Gray (Bloodline). I expect to be jealous of fan-turned-Star Wars author Gray but she and Zahn are so damned nice and approachable that I warm to them in seconds and they give solid info about the pressures of writing for Lucasfilm (Bloodline was written in 40 days).

I’m really in Pensacola because the short movie I produced, X’s and O’s, has been selected for the film festival portion of Pensacon. The film is a Twilight Zone-type yarn about disappearances in a creepy Florida forest, perfect for a convention that celebrates otherworldy storytelling. And there are some very talented guests; it’s exciting to think that one of their representatives might see X’s and O’s.

William Shatner knows a thing or two about storytelling or as he calls it, rambling. He commands the stage in his own Q&A, the audience Laughing Out Loud at his cracks about his country album, the birth pangs of the Star Trek movies (what was the name of that second one again, he asks?) and the time he invited Rush Limbaugh to watch Monday Night Football with Henry Rollins. Shatner’s famous ego is quashed by the man himself and he has fun in the process.

Another big draw is Jonathan Frakes, equally self-effacing, equally playful. He’s willing to compare directing Star Trek: Discovery with The Orville (he likes them both!) and rattles off anecdotes about The Next Generation, poking fun at Patrick Stewart or as Frakes likes to call him, Sir Great Baldie. Mainly he pokes fun at himself and that’s one of the big draws of the convention – to see the genuine versions of our heroes and find out that they put their trousers on one leg at a time just like us. This has a twofold purpose: first, we can relate to them on a new level. Second, we know that their success is attainable.

Not every guest exudes charm and positivity. I expect Gil Gerard to be a little cocky and full of himself like his character, Buck Rogers – another boyhood hero of mine. In my mind’s eye, I expect Gerard to be the same as that space buccaneer in the shows I watched with my family as if frozen in space since the ‘70s… but that’s not realistic.

Unlike the two Doctors, Gerard still has a bit of an ego, coming across like an old Uncle Buck curmudgeon, hogging the microphone on a panel with Erin Gray (Colonel Deering) and Felix Silla (Twiki). Still, it’s great to see them together, especially when Buck banters with his diminutive friend. Gerard cares deeply about the show and doesn’t pull any punches about fighting for its integrity and its survival (season 3, anyone?).

Who needs realism? We boogie with robots, singing Evil Deadites and steampunks. Attending a Battlestar Galactica panel with most of the rebooted show’s big hitters - Tricia Helfer (aka Number Six), Tahmoh Penikett (Helo), Leah Cairns (Racetrack), James Callis (Baltar), Mary McDonnell (President Roslin), Michael Trucco (Longshot), Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh) – we sing to Edward James Olmos (Adama), who is off somewhere celebrating his birthday. Callis films us with his phone, McDonnell uses hers to FaceTime Olmos, Penikett films them filming us… for that moment we feel like we’re part of one big sci-fi family.

Another star-studded panel is devoted to Indiana Jones, where we see Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Julian Glover (Walter Donovan), Paul Freeman (RenĂ© Belloq), Wolf Kahler (Dietrich) and John Rhys-Davies (Sallah). They talk about the hardships of filming abroad and Harrison Ford’s focus. I close my eyes for a moment, hear Allen’s smoky voice and Rhys-Davies’ booming one and I’m transported back to a magical movie night in 1981, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. It’s another magical teary-eyed moment for me.

A less magical moment: I’ve run to my car to grab the photo of the two Doctors and myself. Now I have to get back to the theatre. I’m running out of steam – I’m not in shape, bigger on the outside – so I slow down. I don’t want to turn up to the signing a heaving breathless mess. In my panic, I take a wrong turn and have to walk an extra block. Dana texts me - the autographs cost $50 to sign. I text ‘ew’ and slow down some more but then speed up again. Five hours working at my day job for a quick visit with my fave physicians. Worth it!

Getting the photo is a more sedate experience. Before the photo op I sit with a bunch of convention-goers old and young, one dressed as Tom Baker, another as Matt Smith, the latter taking constant selfies. They discuss the merits of scarf-knitting, which tickles me greatly. I’m with fellow fans!

All weekend the atmosphere is light and fun. On the first day, the long lines to pick up passes are an indication of Pensacon’s growth. Dana gets a picture with Lew Temple, who played Axel in The Walking Dead, and she tells Catherine Tate, “we love you!” Sadly Tara Reid cancels at the last minute citing “Oscar business.” We see bounty hunter actors Cathy Munroe (Zuckuss), Alan Harris (Bossk) and Bill Hargreaves, builder of IG-88 from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, learning that Harris did the body cast for Han Solo in carbonite while Harrison Ford did the face. The passion of some of the fans is intoxicating; at the Jonathan Frakes Q&A, one girl is in tears as she asks a question. At other events, the people around us are nervous and excited, intelligent and kind.

I run up to the front doors of the Saenger Theatre like Dustin Hoffman at the climax of The Graduate, except instead of chasing a cute girl I’m chasing Colin Baker. The security guys are locking the front doors. “I’m here for the signing…” I pant, “my girlfriend’s inside…” “They’ve gone,” says a guard. “You should try round the side.” I go to the stage door but one of the Doctors is leaving, not by blue box but in a white SUV with tinted windows. Dana meets me on the steps and says sorry.

No worries. I determine to put the $50 towards producing my next X’s and O’s-type project. I’ll keep making movies. Maybe one day I’ll get to work with Peter and Colin and I’ll be able to thank them properly for the little bit of cardio, for giving me a run for my money, for helping in a small but important way to make my life worth living.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Winter is here in Game of Thrones' final season trailer

2019 marks a year of endings. From Avengers to Star Wars. Game of Thrones returns for its final season this April and HBO has posted a new epic trailer featuring series stalwarts Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).

The last season of the Game of Thrones begins on 14th April on HBO and simulcast on Sky Atlantic in the UK.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Oscar Isaac at Star Wars Celebration Chicago

According to Fox 32 News and Good Day Chicago anchor Jake Hamilton, Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) will be attending Star Wars Celebration in Chicago this April. The first trailer for Episode IX is expected during an official panel for the conclusion to the Skywalker saga.

It's a pretty safe bet to assume other sequel trilogy cast members will be on the panel including Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) alongside director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

Attending Star Wars Celebration and would like to cover the event? Please contact me.