Tuesday 30 April 2019

Fan service writ large in Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Infinity War left our heroes and true believers (myself included) beaten and heartbroken in the wake of Thanos' (Josh Brolin) snap. It was The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise and things will be forever changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Mild spoilers ahoy, folks! Please avoid reading any further, if you don't want to know anything about the sequel to Infinity War.

In an era of 24/7 digital discourse, I miraculously managed (in part due to a self-imposed social media blackout and the goodwill of fellow fans) to avoid all spoilers and arrived at a sold-out screening that rivalled the comic-con atmosphere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and last year's Infinity War.

The Russo brothers open Avengers: Endgame with a subversive salvo that sees the main villain seemingly victorious after destroying the Infinity Stones to prevent the surviving Avengers led by Captain America (Chris Evans), now joined by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) fresh from rescuing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) who were adrift in deep space aboard Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) starship, from snapping things back.

However, Thanos is seriously injured and weakened from using the Infinity Gauntlet a second time and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), riven with guilt, takes Thanos' advice from Infinity War and beheads him before wandering into the wilderness. How can our beleaguered band of heroes, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reverse the irreversible?

Ultimately, Endgame delivers fan service (in the best way) on a grand scale I've dreamed about since poring over the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars in the mid-eighties. A greatest hits compilation riffing on Back to the Future Part II, celebrating the ambitious scope of the MCU (spanning 22 interconnected movies, beginning humbly with director Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008), but at its core are the universal themes of friendship, family and what unites us.

It's an affecting and poignant tale, worthy of comparison with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, possessed of an emotional resonance that will continue to reverberate long after the end credits have finished.

Where do the Avengers go from here? Who knows. Well, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige probably does with live-action series featuring Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision for Disney+. But one thing is clear.

Make Mine Marvel. 'Nuff said!

Friday 26 April 2019

Star Wars-themed Coca-Cola at Galaxy's Edge

Fans visiting Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be able to buy Star Wars-themed Coca-Cola drinks shaped like BB-8 or a thermal detonator if you're an aspiring bounty hunter.

Disney spokesman Scott Trowbridge said: “We’ve worked very hard to make sure that every detail feels authentic and consistent with what a real ‘Star Wars’ location would provide.

“For over 40 years, people have been dreaming about stepping into the worlds of Star Wars.

“With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we want to give our guests the opportunity to finally make those dreams come true.”

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens 31st May at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and 29th August at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Michael Biehn returns as Hicks in Audible's Alien 3

Friday is Alien Day and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Alien directed by Ridley Scott, Audible has announced award-winner Dirk Maggs (Alien: River of Pain) will be directing a new audio adventure, starring Michael Biehn as fan-favourite Corporal Hicks (Aliens), based on William Gibson's unused script for Alien 3. Dark Horse Comics most recently adapted Gibson's script into a comic book.

Audible has released a brief synopsis for the upcoming audiobook:

"The story begins with the Sulaco on its return journey from LV-426. On board the military ship are the cryogenically frozen skeleton crew of that film's survivors: Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop. We travel aboard and hear an alarm blare. Our heroes are no longer alone..."

The full voice cast includes Tom Alexander, Barbara Barnes, Michael Biehn, Cliff Chapman, Samantha Coughlan, Ben Cura, Dar Dash, Harry Ditson, Mairead Doherty, Graham Hoadly, Lorelei King, Laurel Lefkow, Martin McDougall, Sarah Pitard, Michael Roberts, David Seddon, Andrew James Spooner, Siri Steinmo, Dai Tabuchi, Keith Wickham and Rebecca Yeo.

I've had the pleasure of knowing Dirk Maggs since interviewing him, as an undergraduate at Bournemouth University, in 1995. His audio adaptation of Batman: Knightfall for BBC Radio 1 piqued my interest: not only as a lifelong fan of Batman but also media production. So, while fans wait to see what Disney does with the franchise, it's worth listening - with headphones - to Maggs' awesome Alien audio dramas from Audible (affiliate link).

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home to close Infinity Saga

There's a twist to this superhero tale, fellow true believers! Spider-Man: Far From Home will close out the Infinity Saga and not Avengers: Endgame according to a Newsweek interview with Marvel Studios' president Kevin Feige.

Feige said, “It’s the end of the third phase.”

The release of Spider-Man: Far From Home has been moved forward to 2nd July.

Avengers: Endgame opens in cinemas at midnight and fans will be able to find out for themselves how the depleted Avengers, bolstered by the arrival of Captain Marvel, defeat Thanos following the devastating finale of Infinity War.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Infinity Saga ends in emotional Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame is released in cinemas this week and early reactions to yesterday's world premiere suggest Marvel Studios has yet another epic blockbuster on its gauntleted hands mere weeks after the release of Captain Marvel!

The follow-up to last year's all-conquering Infinity War is the conclusion to the decade-spanning Inifity Saga that began with director Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008. Those lucky few invited to the premiere have heaped superlative praise on the Russo brothers' latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) opus:

"There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the credits rolled for #AvengersEndgame."

— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) April 23, 2019

"Imagine the best possible version of #AvengersEndgame and somehow the film still surpasses all expectations. I cried 5-6 times. It’s the most emotional, most epic, MCU film. A tribute to ten years of this universe and holy shit the great fan service in this movie. Soooo good."

— Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm)

I couldn't be more stoked for Avengers: Endgame! So much so, I'll be going offline from Thursday to avoid spoilers ahead of seeing it next Monday at Vue.

Sunday 14 April 2019

The Mandalorian first look at Star Wars Celebration

Star Wars fans got their first look at the upcoming Disney+ live-action series The Mandalorian, from executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man), during a panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

The Mandalorian, starring Pedro Pascal as the titular character, is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and follows a lone gunslinger modelled on Boba Fett.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Become a Jedi in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Respawn Entertainment, the EA studio behind Titanfall and Apex Legends, is determined to rinse away any residual bitter aftertaste, following stablemate Dice's Star Wars: Battlefront II microtransactions debacle, with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for PS4 and Xbox One this November.

An official reveal trailer for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was shown during Star Wars Celebration Chicago. The canon single-player video game is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and you play as Padawan Cal Kestis, played by Cameron Monaghan (Gotham), as he's pursued by the Empire lead by the Second Sister.

EA took to Twitter to assuage Star Wars fans' concerns regarding microtransactions and loot boxes being added post-launch.

"No microtransactions. No loot boxes. And no, we won't be adding them," EA said. "A single-player Star Wars story for those of you who are ready to become a Jedi."

The thought of playing as a Padawan on the run, in the wake of Order 66, is too compelling to resist a month before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in cinemas. I'll be picking this up day-one for Xbox One X.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

So, what do you think? Is the promise of no microtransactions enough? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 12 April 2019

Star Wars: Episode IX is The Rise of Skywalker

The title and first teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX was announced during the Episode IX panel, featuring the cast and crew, at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

The teaser trailer for The Rise of Skywalker broke Twitter and left many fans (myself included) in bits. From the opening shot of Rey (Daisy Ridley), mirroring Finn's (John Boyega) introduction in the teaser for The Force Awakens, building to a mythological crescendo, via Lando Calrissian's (Billy Dee Williams) reintroduction alongside Chewie aboard the Millennium Falcon and a heartbreaking scene with Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Rey, overlooking the shattered shell of the Death Star II before fading to black and dropping an epic bombshell, which I'd yearned for since the demise of Snoke (Andy Serkis) in The Last Jedi. The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), the catalyst for the entire Skywalker saga spread over three trilogies, is back for one last hoorah...

Disney has confirmed the Star Wars movie franchise will go on hiatus after the release of JJ Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker this December. However, The Mandalorian live-action series will be on Disney+ (Disney's streaming service launches 12th November in the US). In related news. Alan Tudyk will reprise the role of K-2SO in a live-action prequel series to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story starring Diego Luna as Cassian Andor.

What do you think of the title and teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 11 April 2019

JJ Abrams teases Star Wars: Episode IX

Star Wars Celebration Chicago begins today and fans around the world will be anxiously awaiting Friday's panel with director JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens), Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and cast members from Episode IX. A title and teaser trailer are expected to be announced.

Abrams recently sat down with Fast Company to discuss Apple TV+, building Bad Robot and the seemingly impossible task of completing the Skywalker saga, that began with the original Star Wars in 1977, after Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) vacated the director's chair citing creative differences:

“Our movie was not just following what we had started [with The Force Awakens], it was following what we had started and then had been advanced by someone else [with Star Wars: The Last Jedi]. So there was that, and, finally, it was resolving nine movies. While there are some threads of larger ideas and some big picture things that had been conceived decades ago and a lot of ideas that Lawrence Kasdan and I had when we were doing Episode VII, the lack of absolute inevitability, the lack of a complete structure for this thing, given the way it was being run, was an enormous challenge.

“However, to answer your question—truly, finally—now that I’m back, the difference is I feel like we might’ve done it. Like, I actually feel like this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas, and a kind of shoving-in of answers and Band-Aids and bridges and things that would have felt messy. Strangely, we were sort of relentless and almost unbearably disciplined about the story and forcing ourselves to question and answer some fundamental things that at the beginning, I absolutely had no clue how we would begin to address.

“I feel like we’ve gotten to a place—without jinxing anything or sounding more confident than I deserve to be—I feel like we’re in a place where we might have something incredibly special. So I feel relief being home, and I feel gratitude that I got to do it. And more than anything, I’m excited about what I think we might have.”

Friday will be a day long remembered by fans. What announcements are you hoping for during the 5-day event? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 5 April 2019

Alien franchise to continue at Disney

You can't keep a 40-year-old xenomorph down for long. The Alien and Planet of the Apes franchises aren't going anywhere now that Disney has completed its acquisition of Fox's film and television assets.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox’s Emma Watts, speaking during CinemaCon, said the Walt Disney Company has plans for the Avatar, Kingsman, Alien and Planet of the Apes franchises:

“We intend to do our part, and it is in that spirit that we will continue to create new stories.”

Given Disney's successful reboot of the Star Wars franchise, don't be surprised to see a new series of Alien movies with big-name directors at the helm.

In the meantime, director James Cameron's toiling away on his Avatar sequels for the House of Mouse. Expect these to fill the December void vacated by Star Wars, after this Christmas' conclusion to the Skywalker saga in Episode IX, for the foreseeable future.

IGN continues to showcase selected fan films to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Alien in the run-up to Alien Day on 26th April.

What Alien stories would you like told? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 4 April 2019

Joaquin Phoenix's dark descent in Joker teaser trailer

"I used to think my life was a tragedy. But now I realise... it's a comedy." Thirty years since Jack Nicholson played the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, Joaquin Phoenix (Her) plays Batman's nemesis in Joker, a dark origin story inspired by Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, directed by Todd Phillips this October.

What do you think of Joaquin Phoenix's incarnation of the Joker? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Avengers: Endgame tickets go on sale crashing sites

Tickets for Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame have gone on sale and crashed booking websites around the world. I'm currently stuck in a queue for Vue cinemas, which may last longer than an hour. So, here's a new trailer whilst fans wait.

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas 25th April.

Monday 1 April 2019

Sega Mega Drive Mini launches this September

This isn't an April Fools' Day joke. The Sega Mega Drive Mini (Sega Genesis Mini if you're in the US) has been officially revealed with a price and launch date.

Sega's following the success of Nintendo, and hopefully avoiding Sony's PlayStation Classic faux pas, with its own mini console, which has been developed in-house in the wake of concerns regarding previously licensed Mega Drive/Genesis consoles from third-parties, later this year. M2, the developer lauded for Sega Ages, is handling emulation. The £69.99GBP machine will include 2 control pads and 40 games (regions vary).

Sega has announced the following games for the Western version:

Altered Beast
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Comix Zone
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Ecco the Dolphin
Gunstar Heroes
Shining Force
Sonic the Hedgehog
Space Harrier II
ToeJam & Earl

The Sega Mega Drive (Genesis in the US due to a copyright issue and at the suggestion of Atari before a distribution deal fell through because Jack Tramiel wanted to focus on the Atari ST) ignited the 16-bit console wars and pushed incumbent Nintendo off the top spot with its futuristic looks and edgy marketing targeted at the cool kids. As a college student, I remember flicking through the pages of Dark Horse Comics and eagerly awaiting the UK launch of the console in 1990. This would be my first new console since Atari VCS, and the 8-bit computer era, dominated by the Commodore 64, was at an end. Near-perfect arcade ports of Sega titles, including Space Harrier and Golden Axe, were too irresistible.

Whilst I already own Sega Mega Drive Classics for Xbox One, I'll be adding the Sega Mega Drive Mini to my classic console collection this September.

Did you own a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis back in the day? What are your memories, will you be getting the mini console and which games would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

The Sega Mega Drive Mini is available to pre-order (affiliate link).