Sunday, 27 September 2020

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness coming to Netflix

Netflix has added an animated Resident Evil series following news the streamer is working on a live-action series based on Capcom's seminal survival horror franchise.

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness was announced during the Tokyo Game Show 2020.

"Since the first game was released in 1996 on Sony PlayStation, the Resident Evil series is nearing its 25th anniversary. With the series continuing to evolve even now, a new title carves itself into the series’ history. This series is entitled RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness."

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is expected to debut in 2021. Are you excited for the further adventures of Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

The Haunting of Bly Manor trailer teases fright fest

The Haunting of Bly Manor, the follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House, arrives this October on Netflix and reunites co-stars Henry Thomas and Victoria Pedretti.

The streaming service has released an official trailer that jealously guards ghoulish goings on in 1980's England.

"After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires a young American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew (Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller). But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance. At Bly Manor, dead doesn’t mean gone."

The Haunting of Bly Manor bookends a year that will be remembered for a life-changing global pandemic and began with supernatural stablemate Locke & Key.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Supergirl hangs up her cape

The CW's Supergirl is to end with season six. This is surprising news soon after DC FanDome.

Whilst I ultimately stopped watching, due to superhero series saturation, Melissa Benoist embodied the titular role and was always a standout during the annual Arrowverse crossover events with stablemates Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

“To say it has been an honor portraying this iconic character would be a massive understatement. Seeing the incredible impact the show has had on young girls around the world has always left me humbled and speechless. She’s had that impact on me, too. She’s taught me strength I didn’t know I had, to find hope in the darkest of places, and that we are stronger when we’re united. What she stands for pushes all of us to be better. She has changed my life for the better, and I’m forever grateful,” Benoist touchingly wrote on Instagram.

Like Wonder Woman and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer before it, The CW's Supergirl championed inclusivity, something that is needed more than ever in these troubled times.

“I’m so excited that we get to plan our conclusion to this amazing journey, and I cannot wait for you to see what we have in store. I promise we’re going to make it one helluva final season.”

The Arrowverse is in transition. Arrow ended last year with the death of Oliver Queen, but a Superman & Lois spin-off series is in production.

Supergirl maybe hanging up her cape, but DC's Stargirl picks up the mantle with a breakout first season worthy of anything shown on HBO Max. The second season moves to The CW. So, expect Stargirl to crossover with The Flash and friends.

Will you miss Supergirl? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Microsoft buys Bethesda, begins next-gen pre-orders

It's the autumn equinox, heralding my favourite season of all, in the northern hemisphere and Microsoft began pre-orders for Series X and S (affiliate link) with selected retailers this morning.

Having successfully pre-ordered a PlayStation 5 (PS5), I was ambivalent about a Series X on day-one (currently own an Xbox One X) until yesterday's surprise announcement Microsoft had bought Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion dollars, eclipsing Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. The latest acquisition brings Xbox Game Studios first-party total to 23 developers working on current and next-gen titles.

"As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

Bethesda has a storied history with Xbox beginning with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. This will further bolster Game Pass, which was already a great value with the addition of EA Play later this year - I can't wait to play The Sims 4 Star Wars: Journey to Batuu expansion. Doom, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout will now become Xbox Game Studios franchises.

“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans," said Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of ZeniMax, in a statement. "We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together."

What impact (if any) this has on the future of multi-platform releases and PS5 timed-exclusives remains to be seen. Microsoft was previously linked with buying Warner Bros. Interactive from AT&T and there were fervent denials regarding approaching Bungie. In related news. From today Destiny 2 joins Game Pass and major expansion Beyond Light will be playable from launch on 10th November.

Unlike the chaos of PS5 pre-orders, Series X and S was a relatively leisurely experience in comparison. The Redmond-based company had announced global pre-orders would begin at 8:00AM local time.

My Alexa alarm woke me early and, as I drank my first cup of tea of the day serenaded by a robin in the garden, I was able to order a Series X via the Amazon app with ease. However, some sites crashed including Xbox All Access partners Game and Smyths Toys. Both retailers stopped taking online orders and urged customers to order in-store. This may not be an option for everyone due to coronavirus and the threat of a second wave this winter.

The Verge and IGN have reported a surge in Xbox One X sales. Microsoft's confusing nomenclature may mean some gamers could be left disappointed when they realise it's not a Series X under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

Microsoft's purchase of ZeniMax Media doesn't mark the end of the company's acquisition trail. Rumours suggest Sega, the Japanese publisher famous for ending Nintendo's dominance during the 16-bit console era, is next. Only a few months ago there were suggestions of a Sega-branded Series X and S being released in the territory. The stunning Shock Blue wireless controller has only added to the speculation ahead of Xbox at Tokyo Game Show 2020.

Did you try pre-ordering an Xbox Series X or S? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 21 September 2020

WandaVision first look during Emmys

During the Emmys, Marvel Studios released an official trailer for upcoming Disney+ live-action spin-off WandaVision. The existential series acknowledges Vision's (Paul Bettany) death in Avengers: Infinity War.

"Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision” blends the style of classic sitcoms with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany)—two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. The new series is directed by Matt Shakman; Jac Schaeffer is head writer. Debuts on Disney+ this year."

WandaVision will be released on Disney+ later this year.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

PS5 pre-order midnight madness

Following last evening's PlayStation 5 (PS5) showcase and the announcement that pre-orders, for the disc-based and all-digital systems, would go live on Thursday morning, some retailers started taking pre-orders at midnight: leading to chaos, confusion and online retail sites crashing. Thereby souring the excitement for many consumers during the shared trauma of a global pandemic.

Without warning, Game, Smyths Toys, Walmart and Best Buy in the US began taking pre-orders and these sold out within minutes. I was fortunate enough to secure the disc-based PS5 from Smyths Toys (before switching to Amazon and ordering accessories) and alerted members of my PlayStation group on Facebook.

This morning (affiliate link) sold out of its initial allocation. There is no guarantee of further stock until early 2021. However, pre-orders begin at Argos on Friday morning. So, it's worth following the likes of IGN UK Deals on Twitter.

Regarding the showcase itself. It was curious to see selected PS5 exclusives confirmed for PS4. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Horizon Forbidden West will be available for the current gen console.

However, some gamers are concerned this flies against the platform's ethos of generational change, seemingly holding back the development of PS5 titles and negates the need to upgrade for the foreseeable future. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan countenances this during an interview with The Washington Post.

“No one should be disappointed,” Ryan said. “The PS5 versions of those games are built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set, and we have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free. It’s about people having choice. I’m really quite pleased about the situation.”

Sony taking a page out of Microsoft's cross-gen playbook for Xbox and it's worth noting the PS4 has an install base of over 112 million units since launching in 2013. That's a lot of money to leave on the table.

“The PS4 community will continue to be incredibly important to us for three or four years,” Ryan said. “Many will transition to PS5, we hope if we do our job well, but tens of millions will still be engaged with the PS4.”

God of War: Ragnarok was officially announced as a PS5-only exclusive.

The PlayStation Plus Collection will grant existing PlayStation Plus subscribers (myself included) access to the following curated first and third-party titles day-one on PS5:

God of War
The Last of Us: Remastered
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Battlefield 1
Monster Hunter World
Fallout 4
Final Fantasy XV
The Last Guardian
Ratchet and Clank
Infamous: Second Son
Days Gone
Detroit: Become Human
Batman: Arkham Knight
Mortal Kombat X
Persona 5
Until Dawn
Resident Evil: Biohazard

It's no Game Pass rival for sure. But, it does mean I can trade-in physical copies to partly fund my PS5 purchase.

The formation of PlayStation Studios will only strengthen the brand and Sony is now exploring new ways to capitalise on its franchises with live-action adaptations of Uncharted and The Last of Us.

The PS5 goes on sale 19th November in the UK. A week after Microsoft's Xbox Series S and X. However, pent-up demand for Sony's latest console may far exceed that of Microsoft's leading to scalpers making hay on the secondary market this holiday season.

Did you try pre-ordering a PS5? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Jedi search begins in The Mandalorian

This is the way! The official trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian dropped on Tuesday. The titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is tasked with searching for the Jedi and safely handing over The Child AKA Baby Yoda.

Here’s the official synopsis: "The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire."

The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens when Luke Skywalker is building a new Jedi order before his reckless actions lead to the Knights of Ren and the founding of the First Order.

“I’ll be going toe-to-toe with Mando,” Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon) recently told Entertainment Weekly (EW). “It’s an iconic battle. I want to disarm him mentally as well. Who knows? Maybe there’s an opportunity to get him to fight some battles for me. You may think I’m a villain, but I’m trying to harness some energy and some powers for a path that could be best for all. You'll get to see him be somewhat diplomatic and more of a manipulator."

The Mandalorian's second season will launch exclusively on Disney+ on 30th October.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Movie Daleks in The Jungles of Mechanus!

In the week both Dalek movies arrived on BritBox and a five-part animated series tie-in with Time Lord Victorious, Daleks!, was announced, Character Options started fulfilling orders for its online exclusive - The Jungles of Mechanus set.

John Rivers, our newly appointed chief Dalek operator, is on hand to explain why the release has generated so much buzz from fans and collectors alike.

Guest post by John Rivers

A quick glance at Doctor Who Twitter over the past week would have shown you much excitement about some Dalek toys. Not just any old Dalek toys, but the Character Options 'JUNGLES OF MECHANUS' set. Given that Character Options produces a number of Doctor Who figures each year, why all the fuss? The reason is simple - these are MOVIE DALEKS!

Most fans are familiar with the differences between the BBC Daleks (small ears... at least until 2005) and the movie or AARU Daleks (big ears, bigger bases) created for the the show's two big screen outings: 'Dr Who and the Daleks' (1965) and 'Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.' (1966). In most classic 'Doctor Who' stories we rarely see the Big-Eared cousins, except for a couple of occasions. One of those was The Chase.

By the time The Chase went into production in April 1965 filming on 'Dr Who and the Daleks' had been completed. This meant that there were spare Dalek props available to reinforce the meagre Dalek force residing at the BBC. Despite their popularity, Dalek props from the first two stories The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth had been repurposed or given away. Thus three movie stunt Daleks (designed to be non-operable and the sort you would use to be in the background or blown-up), that had been fitted with plungers like their TV counterparts, ended-up onscreen in The Chase. They are most prominently seen on the planet Mechanus where the Dalek force has tracked down the Doctor and his companions, only to tangle with Mechanoids.

The movie Daleks would have one more notable outing in the classic series as the Supreme Dalek in Planet of the Daleks was a repainted combination of two AARU props from the second Dalek film, plus had a funky light up eye stalk/torch.

And that's why fans have been so excited - small toys of big screen Daleks! My two (I've yet to name them) look fantastic and are up to Character Options usual level of detail.

You can still buy the Jungles of Mechanus set here. And for more Dalek prop information, visit the excellent Dalek 63•88!

If you have a related product for review, please get in contact.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Daisy Ridley reveals Rey could have been a Kenobi

Almost a year after the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Daisy Ridley reveals Rey was almost a Kenobi.

"At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection, and then it really went to that she was no one," the actress told friend and Murder on the Orient Express co-star Josh Gad on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

"When it came to episode nine, JJ pitched me the film and was like, 'So yeah, Palaptine's [your] grandaddy.' Then, two weeks later, he was like, 'Yeah, we're not sure.' So it kept changing. Even when I was filming, I wasn't sure what the answer was going to be."

This has sparked further heated debate amongst fans about the divisive conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. Ridley was amazing as Rey and that's a testament to her acting ability. She stars next with Willem Dafoe and James McAvoy in upcoming video game 12 Minutes for PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

The Avengers on BritBox

In a poignant twist, The Avengers returned to BritBox on Thursday, following an accidental launch in August (highlighted by John Rivers) before being quickly removed, when the sad news of Dame Diana Rigg's passing aged 82, due to cancer, was announced.

The beloved actress, who starred in Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and most recently All Creatures Great and Small, may have been an Avenger first, but she'll always be the best Bond girl to me!

The Avengers (1961)

The two complete surviving episodes of the first season, plus the iconic Emma Peel & Tara King seasons of the series starring Patrick MacNee, Diana Rigg & Linda Thorson as the incorrigible secret agents extraordinaire. Together they defeat criminal masterminds and solve unfathomable mysteries in the original cult TV classic.

BritBox, the streaming service co-owned by the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, continues to expand its cult collection and I'll be posting more news soon.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Jump into the future with Discovery

A confession. During lockdown I cancelled my Netflix subscription for the first time since the streaming service launched in the UK in 2012.

Due to the socio-economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, I couldn't justify subscribing to BritBox, NOW TV, Amazon Prime (a necessity whilst shielding), Apple TV+ (free with the purchase of an iPhone), Disney+ and Netflix. Especially when there was a wealth of classic content available on BBC iPlayer, too.

However, with the delayed return of Star Trek: Discovery, on CBS All Access and Netflix outside the US, I'll restart my subscription after cleaning house this October. The first official trailer for season three premiered during an online panel on Star Trek Day.

Here’s the official plot synopsis for season three:

"After making the jump in the second season finale, season three of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY finds the U.S.S. Discovery crew dropping out of the wormhole and into an unknown future far from the home they once knew. Now living in a time filled with uncertainty, the U.S.S. Discovery crew, along with the help of some new friends, must together fight to regain a hopeful future."

Speaking in official Star Trek magazine, actress Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham) said: “In the… time that I spent alone, I marched to the beat of my own drum, in a way. But then I’ve also always been so duty-oriented.

“So, there’s been this interesting progression of not having to work, not having to be so principle-based, but to just be on this mission to find my crew. We see what it feels like for me to get a little rougher around the edges.”

In the wake of Discovery's success, CBS All Access has released further Star Trek spin-offs including Picard, Lower Decks and the highly-anticipated Strange New Worlds is currently in pre-production.

Are you looking forward to Discovery season three? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Dune is this year's Star Wars

With the nine-part Skywalker Saga complete there's a box office vacancy this holiday season. Hopes for director Denis Villeneuve's two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune are high - perhaps more so given the global pandemic.

The first official trailer suggests Villeneuve's follow-up to Blade Runner 2049, one of my favourite sequels, will deliver an epic space saga starring Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides.

Here’s the official plot synopsis:

"A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence — a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential — only those who conquer their fear will survive."

As I've written previously, David Lynch's adaptation of Dune (1984) failed to capture my imagination despite an excellent soundtrack composed by Toto. Dune reunites Villeneuve with Hans Zimmer who scored Blade Runner 2049 to industrial-sized effect.

Dune is scheduled to be released in cinemas on 18th December.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

The Mandalorian strikes back in EW

The Mandalorian and The Child AKA Baby Yoda are back to save 2020.

Entertainment Weekly (EW) had exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the Emmy-nominated live-action Star Wars series' second season, which had completed principal photography prior to lockdown and benefited from state-of-the-art remote technology.

Series showrunner Jon Favreau (Iron Man) explained:

"The fact that the set is much more contained is a benefit because you can limit the number of people. A lot of the people controlling it are doing it remotely from what we call the Brain Bar, which is a bank of gaming computers, essentially. The amount of people near the camera could be much smaller than [usual]. We also shoot a lot outside, which is helpful, too. We build to a moment in filming more like an animated production, where we have a lot of storyboards, a lot of discussions, and scouting in virtual reality. We use cinematic tools in VR much the same way we did for The Lion King and The Jungle Book. A lot of times the actors you are seeing on the screen aren't actually there on set."

The Mandalorian's mythology is being built a la HBO's Game of Thrones.

Executive producer Davie Filoni (The Clone Wars) said: “Everything gets bigger, the stakes get higher, but also the personal story between the Child and the Mandalorian develops in a way I think people will enjoy.”

There's no further news regarding Rosario Dawson, Timothy Olyphant, Temuera Morrison, Katee Sackhoff and Michael Biehn joining the cast lead by Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), Gina Carano (Cara Dune) and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). But I like surprises. This is the way.

The Mandalorian's high-anticipated second season begins 30th October on Disney+.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Blake's 7 arrives on BritBox

BritBox, the streaming service co-owned by the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, is rapidly becoming the home of cult sci-fi and fantasy film and television series in the UK.

Last month saw Sapphire & Steel, Space: 1999, The Prisoner, UFO and more added. Now, Blake's 7, the two sixties Dalek movies starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who among other cult classics will be available this September. Blake's 7, from Dalek creator Terry Nation, was a dystopian space opera with a series finale that ruined Christmas 1981 for a generation of geeks (myself included).

10th September

Blake’s 7 (1978)

All 52 episodes and four seasons of the cult British sci-fi show from the mind of Terry Nation. In the third century of the second calendar, after the chaos of the intergalactic wars, a powerful dictatorship has risen to dynamic proportions and engulfed most of the populated worlds. Liberty has become a crime punishable by death, and the majority of the population lives in a drug-induced state of docility. This tyrannical authority fulfils George Orwell's prophecy of 1984 to its most terrifying extremes. This government is known as the Federation. Each world has its share of rebels who either turned to crime or the Resistance. This is the story of one such group of rebels, led by a man named Blake. His group is largely composed of escaped convicts, thieves and smugglers, who are thrown together by chance.

The Avengers (1961)

The two complete surviving episodes of the first season, plus the iconic Emma Peel & Tara King seasons of the series starring Patrick MacNee, Diana Rigg & Linda Thorson as the incorrigible secret agents extraordinaire. Together they defeat criminal masterminds and solve unfathomable mysteries in the original cult TV classic.

Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965)

The first big screen spin-off from the television series featuring the infamous Daleks. Eccentric Earth inventor Doctor Who (Peter Cushing) is demonstrating his space/time craft, the TARDIS, to his niece's boyfriend, Ian (Roy Castle), when he manages to whisk them all off to the planet Skaro. There they encounter two races: the blue-skinned, peace-loving Thals, and the biomechanical Daleks.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD (1966)

The Earth of 2150 AD is a desolate and hostile ruin of a planet, crumbling at the edge of civilisation, slowly disappearing into the darkness of space. For the future of planet Earth now belongs to The Daleks, a destructive army of alien invaders who have turned the human race into cowering slaves.

Meanwhile deep within the London Underground a group of resistance freedom fighters are planning an attack. But there's only one man who could possibly help them succeed in destroying their extra-terrestrial enemies and take back control of planet Earth. A man of mystery, a man of time and space, a man known only as... The Doctor. Starring Peter Cushing.

One Million Years BC (1966)

This spectacular prehistoric adventure was promoted as Hammer’s 100th production and gave the world the iconic image of star Raquel Welch in a fur-lined bikini. The highlight of the movie was the stop-motion dinosaurs that were subsequently added by legendary special effects animator Ray Harryhausen. The result was Hammer’s biggest commercial success, the most famous dinosaur epic until the release of Jurassic Park 26 years later.

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Hobbs End, Knightsbridge, London. Whilst working on a new subway tunnel for the London Underground, a group of construction workers uncover a strangely shaped skull amongst the rubble. Nearby is another discovery: a large, mysterious and impenetrable metal object. Initially mistaken for an unexploded bomb the origins of the object and its strange power are far more horrific and terrifying than anybody could have possibly imagined. Is it of this Earth? Could it be the ancestral link to mankind’s evolution? Or could it be an ancient link to unleashing ultimate evil? There’s only one man capable of unravelling the clues, his name is Professor Bernard Quatermass, a man of science who thrives on the dark mysteries of the world, a man with answers.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Nicolas Roeg directs this classic 70s sci-fi drama starring David Bowie as an alien who arrives on Earth in search of water to save his own dying planet. Assuming the name Thomas Jerome Newton, he soon forms a lucrative partnership with patent attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry) by creating revolutionary products. As their business develops into a hugely successful financial empire, Thomas plans to use the profits to build a ship that will return him to his home world. However, while he waits for his ship to be ready, he begins to fall prey to earthly pleasures and failings.

17th September

Survivors (1975)

All three seasons of Terry Nation's acclaimed BBC science fiction drama in which 95% of the population have been wiped out by a freak plague, leaving the remaining survivors to rebuild civilisation.

BritBox is already the exclusive home of classic Doctor Who. If you've held-off, will the arrival of Blake's ragtag rebels spur you to subscribe? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Nintendo marks Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary

Nintendo is celebrating the original release of Super Mario Bros. in 1985, on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in America and Famicom in Japan, with a plethora of products this holiday season. Most notably a limited edition Game & Watch (affiliate link), which was the first Nintendo handheld system I owned.

There'll be video game tie-ins with Animal Crossing, Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. Super Mario 3D All-Stars, bundling Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury and much more on the Nintendo Switch.

This 35th anniversary celebration is exciting news for Super Mario fans (myself included) but not without controversy. Mario is arguably the most recognisable video game character of all time and Nintendo's IP the most valuable.

However, critics have opined that Super Mario 3D All-Stars isn't a remaster a la Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for PlayStation and are questioning the decision to leave Super Mario Galaxy 2 out of the must-have collection. Is Nintendo planning free DLC or a standalone release later? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

I'm looking forward to replaying Super Mario 64, for the first time since owning the game-changing 3D title for the Nintendo 64 (N64) in the late nineties, and playing Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy for the first time ever.

There's also Nintendo's confounding decision to make this a time-limited release. During a global pandemic, this could be viewed as anti-consumer when so many people are struggling day-to-day and a cynical way to bolster earnings during the fiscal year ending March 2021.

As friends and industry pundits have pointed out, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a system seller and Nintendo Switch has an enviable library of first-party titles that eclipses Sony and Microsoft's machines. These titles are rarely discounted and sell year-after-year.

That said. Nintendo has me with all the nostalgic feels since the halcyon days of Donkey Kong on Atari VCS and therein lies part of the problem. As someone who passed on the Wii U, I've picked up all the ports released so far and Pikmin 3 Deluxe will be next.

Will you be getting Super Mario 3D All-Stars? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 4 September 2020

007's all guns blazing in No Time To Die

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond for the final time this November.

No Time To Die was pushed back from April due to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest trailer is electrifying and teases a fitting end for Craig's Bond who's debut gifted fans (myself included) one of the franchise's greatest instalments of all time, Casino Royale. It's worth noting, GoldenEye, also directed by Martin Campbell, brought this fan out of the cold in 1995.

Will No Time To Die be enough to entice cinemagoers back this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

The Mandalorian returns in time for Halloween

The second season of The Mandalorian begins streaming on Disney+ in time for Halloween.

The Emmy-nominated live-action Star Wars series returns 30th October and fans (myself included) can't wait for the further adventures of Mando and Baby Yoda AKA The Child. Timothy Olyphant, Rosario Dawson, Michael Biehn and Temuera Morrison are expected to join the cast lead by Pedro Pascal as the titular character.

A teaser trailer was rumoured to drop during Star Wars Celebration, but the official fan event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Season three of The Mandalorian is already in pre-production with showrunner Jon Favreau writing scripts.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Resident Evil live-action series coming to Netflix

An 8-part Resident Evil live-action series is coming to Netflix following the success of The Witcher. Capcom's seminal survival horror multimedia franchise was previously adapted into a live-action film series starring Milla Jovovich.

"Building on one of the most popular, best-selling survival horror video games of all time, Resident Evil will tell a brand new story across two timelines:

In the first timeline, fourteen-year-old sisters Jade and Billie Wesker are moved to New Raccoon City. A manufactured, corporate town, forced on them right as adolescence is in full swing. But the more time they spend there, the more they come to realize that the town is more than it seems and their father may be concealing dark secrets. Secrets that could destroy the world.

Cut to the second timeline, well over a decade into the future: there are less than fifteen million people left on Earth. And more than six billion monsters — people and animals infected with the T-virus. Jade, now thirty, struggles to survive in this New World, while the secrets from her past – about her sister, her father and herself – continue to haunt her."

In a press release, Andrew Dabb (Supernatural) said: "Resident Evil is my favorite game of all time. I’m incredibly excited to tell a new chapter in this amazing story and bring the first ever Resident Evil series to Netflix members around the world. For every type of Resident Evil fan, including those joining us for the first time, the series will be complete with a lot of old friends, and some things (bloodthirsty, insane things) people have never seen before."

In related news. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is coming to Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now this month. A perfect choice during a global pandemic.

Are you looking forward to the Resident Evil live-action series? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

HBO to the Max

HBO Max is the new exclusive home for all things Doctor Who (since 2005) in the US. As Sky has signed a new first-run deal with Warner Bros.; the studio's nascent streaming service won't be available in the UK for the foreseeable future.

So, that's where Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, comes to the rescue once again.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There is such a thing as doing your job too well. Just ask Netflix. They pioneered effective online streaming of movies and TV shows, and had a date line named after them. But an offer to ‘Netflix and chill’ doesn’t sound so fancy now that there are serious competitors – Amazon, Disney+ and Hulu [majority owned by Disney - Ed] amongst them. Will anyone be uttering the words, ‘hey baby, wanna have an Apple and chill?’ [you had me at Apple - Ed]

US-based studios, in particular, want a piece of that Netflix pie. More subscription money means more profit. One of the latest is HBO Max, which not only streams new HBO shows but also has ‘collections’ from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, Looney Tunes, DC Comics, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Sesame Street, Studio Ghibli and Crunchyroll.

It’s those collections that really have potential. Imagine an archive of all Ghibli’s output, Cartoon Network’s classics, DC Comics series and HBO specials all accessible from one screen? TCM’s offerings are problematic because the current collection is slim (like the old ones you can find on regular telly every Christmas) and it has a rep of paying its actors and filmmakers poorly. I’m just sayin’…

At first blush, there are plenty of shows and movies to ogle over, including the Max Original Doom Patrol. This glossy series initially features Brendan Fraser and Timothy Dalton, although they don’t appear in all the episodes. It captures the out-of-the-box imagination of Grant Morrison’s comics and name-drops DCU elements like STAR Labs and ARGUS. Also available: last year’s gorgeous Watchmen, where the police wear masks as well as superheroes, which takes on a whole new connotation in today’s COVID culture.

Other delights include DC Comics' animated movies; 21 Studio Ghibli flicks; Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack and Primal; the ubiquitous “not dirty” Harry Potter and blockbusters like Doctor Sleep, Birds of Prey, Ad Astra and Midway. The DC Comics section provides the first season of The CW’s Batwoman (although the rest of the Arrowverse has yet to follow her). Diversity is partly acknowledged with a small ‘Back Superheroes’ collection, which includes Watchmen, Doom Patrol and Freedom Fighters: The Ray.

Batman is heavily represented, as well as the Superman live-action movies up to Superman Returns. As Max absorbs DC Universe’s content (per CCO Jim Lee, who recently confirmed the migration to The Hollywood Reporter), we’ll see more goodies. But in the meantime, this is your big chance to rewatch George Clooney starring as the dark knight [Batman & Robin is the only movie I've walked out of during a press screening - Ed].

HBO Max also has all the 21st Century Doctor Who series up to Jodie Whittaker’s premiere season (up to 2019’s New Year special Resolution), plus all of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. What, no K-9?

The shows are bare-bones, with no behind-the-scenes clips or minisodes, but it’s nice to see each season laid out in rows so you can jump to your fave.

Max’s interface is one of its big draws – think Amazon Prime Video with a cool black background and a lot less content. There’s also an attempt at offering pick ‘n’ mix clips in sections like Sesame Workshop, where there’s currently a row about getting through a storm (in the eye of Laura), another one about making friends (for the new school year?) and one highlighting famous musical guests like Nick Jonas, OK Go, Elvis Costello and Jason Deruuuuulo.

So, lots of goodies are on offer. But are they enough to keep monthly subscribers coming back for more, or will they disappear like Mr. Snuffleupagus? [Snuffy gave me nightmares as a child - Ed]

I’m no technical genius, but it took me over a week to figure out how to watch Max! It isn’t compatible with many brands of TV. I finally figured out, after my free trial had expired, that I can only watch it via my PS4; switching from one to another isn’t a terrible chore but why restrict access when you’re trying to hook entertainment addicts on a new service?

The loading of shows is slow. It took me 4 minutes to pull up the Batwoman pilot. This seems like slow going compared to the immediacy of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+.

Max’s price point - $15 a month in America – is a lot more than, say, Starz (available for as little as $20 for 6 months) or Disney+, which seems to have a lot more content to offer. HBO has always been a pricey caviar-and-coitus service and apparently it aims to stay that way.

Despite the frustrations, the offerings are good, with the kind of solid acting and production values HBO’s known for [HBO's hitting it out of the park with His Dark Materials, Watchmen, The Plot Against America and Lovecraft Country - Ed]. But Max is one a la carte too many for me and I won’t be renewing after my first month [this so-called cord-cutting malarky is an expensive hobby - Ed].

Subscribers with deeper pockets will enjoy the refreshing change from other streaming services, and the different collections are an amusing way of sifting through viewing suggestions.

As this new rival grows in strength and content, remember: Whatever job you have, slow down a little. Sip on your tea. Take an extra break or two. Never mind what the boss says. Don’t be a Netflix.*

*Note: Generation Star Wars takes no responsibility for the consequences of following bad advice.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman's lasting legacy

During a global pandemic and civil unrest, a real-life superhero and pioneer has passed away who leaves a lasting legacy that will inspire countless generations to come.

Chadwick Boseman, who played the charismatic Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), has died, following a 4-year battle with colon cancer, aged 43. Boseman made his unforgettable debut as Black Panther in the Russo brothers' Captain America: Civil War and it foreshadowed the monumental cultural impact the character would have.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige paid poignant tribute to Boseman: “Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.”

Boseman's iconic role touched myriad lives around the world and the actor gave generously of his time supporting worthy causes. For example, visiting sick children in hospital as he privately underwent cancer treatment too. Bringing boundless joy. Lost for words...

Wakanda forever. Rest in power, king.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Timey-wimey Tenet

As things stand, my big screen adventures are bookended by Star Wars movies. Due to personal circumstances this won't change for the foreseeable future and streaming services will be my goto. Continuing with Disney's live-action Mulan on Disney+ next month.

Following the easing of lockdown, cinemagoers are cautiously beginning to return to multiplexes and independent cinemas, and director Christopher Nolan's latest epic, Tenet, maybe the catalyst the film industry needs in the 'new normal'.

Paul Moxham, our resident film critic, editor and cameraman, discovers a brave new world at his local Vue Cinema.

Guest post by Paul Moxham

I’m just back from the cinema. Such a simple sentence, but one most people haven’t uttered in months. I watched Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Another sentence I didn’t believe I would be saying in 2020 after the events of the past six months.

Firstly, the actual nuts and bolts of going to watch a movie in today’s world; pre-booking, keeping left, sanitising and mask-wearing. It feels a bit strange I’ll admit, and there’s something of a trial and error situation when combining mask and glasses so as not to watch the whole film through a fog. But when the lights went down and I could feel the bass of the subwoofers vibrate through my seat, the only thought going through my head was “Oh how I have missed this!”

Tenet carries the hopes of an entire industry on its shoulders. If a highly-anticipated Nolan film can’t tempt people back into auditoriums during a global pandemic what chance does anything else have? The film feels like it was made precisely for this task; it is the very definition of the big screen experience. From the concept, to the set pieces, the music, it bellows “This is cinema, and there’s nothing else like it!”

To explain the plot would both spoil things, and assume I know more than I do. Let’s just go with, a secret agent is shown another side of life he never knew existed, and must utilise it in order to prevent complete global annihilation. Does that sound similar to the synopsis of every James Bond film you’ve ever seen? That’s because this is a Bond film according to Christopher Nolan. Every fan wishes he’d make one, only a traditional 007 adventure is too constraining, too riddled with cliche, too shackled to fan service to be truly original. This is high espionage with the very rules of physics bent out of shape. Tenet is the product of uncompromising vision and dedication, the director demonstrating a level of confidence and control that is truly mind-blowing. Just planning something like this must add years to one’s life. But just like the lead character, we are encouraged to look at things in a different way and it is as exhilarating and rewarding as promised.

John David Washington is the coolest guy in the room as The Protagonist, confident and reactive with swagger to spare. Like Neo from The Matrix but with less of the wide eyes, and more of the tools required long ago hardwired into his brain. Rakish British intelligence operative Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki, so brilliant in Widows, provide excellent support. And whilst Kenneth Branagh brings his Russian accent from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; he is otherwise marvellous.

The story is simple, but the execution complex; near the beginning of the film, when explaining the mechanics of an object a character tells The Protagonist, “Don’t try to understand it.” I found myself recalling that a few times further down the line, and things felt much better when I considered that that’s what rewatches are for. The film is as gorgeous and glossy as you’d expect from the man behind Inception, the cinematography and soundtrack especially complimenting the themes. And it is Inception that this film cuts closest to, with its high stakes arena, wonderful set pieces and cool approach to character interaction. That’s not to say that Nolan’s films are emotionally barren, but they do cast a more clinical eye over those connections than most.

If there are quibbles to be had they are minor and familiar; the main problem being cranking the soundtrack and effects to kidney-quivering levels whilst leaving the dialogue to be reduced to all but a mumble at times. And in a film where every detail counts, critical information was lost because I simply couldn’t hear what was being said. And it could be argued that Nolan explores these themes and ideas in different guises often throughout his filmography. For me, that’s the true nature of an auteur and why I keep returning to his work with a huge sense of excitement and wonder.

I couldn’t have picked a better film for my return to the silver screen. If this is anything to go by, I can’t wait to go back. Maybe I already have?

Thursday, 27 August 2020

The Haunting of Bly Manor first look

The Haunting of Hill House was a supernatural hit for Netflix in 2018 and followed the tragic tale of a family haunted by ghosts of the past and present (a theme also brilliantly explored in stablemate Locke & Key).

Henry Thomas, famous for playing Elliot in director Steven Spielberg's E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, will return in the sequel, The Haunting of Bly Manor, along with Victoria Pedretti who most recently appeared in the Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories reboot for Apple TV+.

Speaking about the new season, series creator Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) said: “At its foundation, the Haunting series is very much about haunted spaces and haunted people. The way we make those things dance together is really going to be what’s uniform about Hill House and Bly.

“Outside of that, though, it was really important for all of us not to play the same notes we played for the first season. The first season is very much entrenched in family dynamics and death and grief and loss and child trauma. We all collectively felt like we’d said everything we wanted to say about that.”

The Haunting of Bly Manor is rumoured to stream on Netflix this October. Just in time for Halloween.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Cult classics on BritBox

With autumn fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, BritBox, a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, has added a collection of cult sci-fi and fantasy series to lure geeks (myself included) to the streaming service since my initial review earlier this year.

Thunderbirds, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Prisoner, Sapphire & Steel, Star Cops and Space: 1999 are among the highlights along with every available episode of classic Doctor Who - the reason I resubscribed during lockdown. All the cult series Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, and me watched at the Vintage Video club where we first met as undergraduates at Bournemouth University.

Whereas Star Cops has dated horribly, Space: 1999 has never looked better and I was instantly transported back to the late seventies when I watched reruns, on ITV, as my Dinky Toys Eagle battled Kenner die-cast TIE Fighters and a Star Destroyer alongside the Millennium Falcon and Luke Skywalker's X-wing.

Dragon's Domain, with guest star Michael Sheard who appeared in classic Doctor Who serial Pyramids of Mars and played the ill-fated Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, was the stuff of childhood nightmares and is a pre-Alien haunted house in space (Alien reused sound effects from Space: 1999).

Sapphire & Steel, played by Joanna Lumley and David McCallum respectively, remains a creepy, claustrophobic paranormal thriller following the enigmatic titular time travellers as they investigate anomalies. Inspiring the overarching 'cracks in time' plot for Matt Smith's Doctor Who decades later.

The Box of Delights, starring Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who), is now streaming too, but I'd suggest waiting until November to savour that festive timey-wimey tale. Hopefully, many more series will be added to BritBox's burgeoning cult collection including The Children of Green Knowe, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Day of the Triffids, The Tomorrow People, Chocky and Blake's 7.

These cult series will be discovered by a new generation of fans. However, as John Rivers points out in comments, BritBox needs to expand the availability of its app. This is 2020.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Welcome to the FanDome

DC FanDome is over and I missed it! Mostly because of DC Comics' debatable decision to use its own online portal and not livestream the event on YouTube.

So, I opted to watch DC's Stargirl, streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime in the UK. Geoff Johns' live-action series is a superhero gem comparable to the early seasons of The CW's The Flash and Supergirl with a Wizarding World twist.

However, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, don's a virtual cowl to save the day (night if you were watching from the UK).

Guest post by Nick Smith

Unlike San Diego’s Comic-Con@Home event, a lot of which is still viewable on YouTube, the DC FanDome was live and direct, only existing for a giddy 24 hours. While some of the teases, trailers and concept art are now out and about on the internet, if you want to see Gal Gadot and Chris Pine playing Werewolf 1984, you’re out of luck.

With its FanDome, (presumably located somewhere beyond the Thunderdome round the corner from the Pleasuredome), DC Comics made a brave and bold attempt to embrace the interactivity of the internet, with rolling comments on the right-hand side of their Hall of Heroes (“Tweet with #DCFanDome for a chance to be featured”) and, in the main portion of the Hall, cast and crew talking to each other and answering questions from fans.

While the day had its tentpole movies to pitch, such as Wonder Woman 1984, The Flash and a Shazam! sequel, some of these flicks aren’t due for a couple of years and the ones in production – like The Batman, about 25% complete – whetted the appetite but weren’t worth holding your breath for (you would run out of air waiting for the release date). The trailer for The Batman looks great, suggesting that the Bat will be treated right. But more on that later…

Ironically, comic books didn’t really get a look-in; the closest we got was a laid-back, diversity-honouring interview with DC Comics Chief Creative Officer/Publisher Jim Lee (his favourite character as a kid was Matter Eater Lad!), a ‘Legacy of the Bat’ panel and a ‘Surprise DC Comics’ panel. The latter was about the return of Milestone Comics, with God Amongst Artists Denys Cowan amongst the panellists along with Lee, Reggie Hudlin, and actor Phil Lamarr (Static Shock). Yes, a Static film is on the cards – so even on a comic book panel, movies reared their powerful head.

Lee also reviewed portfolios of fan art focused on supervillains, a rare chance to hear opinions from the mentor and motivator. Other fan art was featured during the day, adding to the ‘for the fans’ aspect of the event.

A clip from the Joker documentary, “Put On a Happy Face,” included appearances by Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Frank Miller, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Christian Bale, and a whole pack more. Any film that draws attention to Mark Hamill’s incredible talents is well worth a watch.

“I’m Batman: The Voices Behind the Cowl” was a panel that brought overdue attention to actors who voice the superhero. Not just the English-speaking ones, like LEGO Batman’s Will Arnett, but Jaron Löwenburg (who dubs a German version), Sergio Gutiérrez (Spanish), Claudio Santamaria (Italian), Iván Marín (Colombian) and others.

The Sandman is receiving an audio adaptation and there was a panel to prove it, featuring Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs and Michael Sheen. The panel also covered the new spin-off comic (The Dreaming: Waking Hours) and the forthcoming Netflix show. The big news: the Netflix version of The Sandman will be set in the present day rather than the 1980s/’90s setting of the original comics.

The Twitter brigade jumped on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s comment that his Black Adam was willing to kill, while Superman was not. Henry Cavill’s Supes knobbles General Zod, they tattled. The Rock’s Q&A session was a highlight of the FanDome, as he enthused about his 2022 movie Black Adam, revealed that the Justice Society of America (specifically Atom Smasher, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Cyclone) would be involved. The project has been in development for over 10 years. The star described it as a passion project and a dream of his.

Mr. Rock likes Adam’s grey-area position on heroism (‘superhero, anti-hero… villain?’). He wants Adam to fight with Superman. I’d spend money in a comic shop where you can have a conversation with The Rock about superhero morals. This was as close as you could get.

In the new Suicide Squad game “Kill the Justice League,” they have good reason to - Superman kills somebody (he’s being controlled by Brainiac). The graphics (you can see Boomerang’s twitching whiskers!), character interplay and sense of fun made this look like a must-play from Rocksteady, developer of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Will Arnett teleported into the ‘Fanzone,’ as he called it, cracking silly jokes and interviewing Rocksteady’s steadfastly British Creative Director and Co-Founder Sefton Hill. Will proved he knew his stuff by dropping a Taskforce X reference and asking about the through-lines from the Arkham games. According to Hill, they will come to fruition in the new project.

Gotham Knights was the other game featured; Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin and Red Hood take up Batman’s mantle after his death. I guess Batman doesn’t know about this whole death thing since he has a movie coming out too, in which he’s played by Robert Pattinson. The pointy-chinned actor gave a watchable performance in Water for Elephants but I’m not on Team Edward. However, after watching director Matt Reeves talk about the gritty film – a kind of Batman: Year Two – and seeing the trailer, with Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred and Zoe Kravitz with a tea cosy on her head, I’m sold.

‘Just like the OG animated series!’ enthused Tweeter Andre Saint-Albin. ‘The detective and the myth that is “The Batman”! Matt Reeves saying all the right things.’ Such as name-checking classic films Chinatown, The French Connection and Taxi Driver. What we really got from Reeves was an extended pitch for the movie and he’s excited, informed and intent on treating Batman as seriously as a playboy millionaire’s heart attack.

In other movie news, Aquaman 2 got a mention in a fun mini-panel with director James Wan and Ocean Master Patrick Wilson, discussing production of the first movie and the sight of, ‘Dolph Lundgren on a tater-totter.’ Wan admitted that nothing was easy underwater. Wilson reminisced about sitting on a blue oil drum, grateful he was made aware of the digital world that would be built around him. He compared the non-sets with, ‘black box theatre where there is nothing… that’s why we get into this business in the first place… we concentrate on relationships.’ Wan was friendly and confident, having done a great job with his team of creating creatures and making people look floaty in the first film.

Shazam 2’s title was announced (Fury of the Gods) in a splendidly goofy Shazoom meeting, and we were teased about the Zack Snyder Cut of Justice League; Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot formed part of the panel. The four-hour version of the Justice League epic will premiere on HBO Max in 2021.

With their Hall of Heroes day, DC Comics really attempted to provide variety and appeal to different ages; the Rock Q&A, for example, was accessible but he didn’t talk down to viewers/users/visitors. A different Q&A with an animated Harley Quinn was a lot sillier and filled with bleeped-out expletives. Like the Marvel Comics contributions to SDCC, their Distinguished Competition never forgot to be slick or fun.

This was the place to see actors from Wonder Woman 1984 play a whodunnit game – a little hard to follow but still fun. As one Tweeter said, ‘the cast… playing Werewolf on video is actually a fun and great idea for an event. Very creative #DCFanDome.’ For a Titans TV show segment, clips were shown then the panellists responded. The new season will visit a Gotham inhabited by the Scarecrow and Commissioner Barbara Gordon. CNN acknowledged real-life heroes around the globe, including the USA, India and our precious old Blighty.

A nod to Wonder Woman’s 80th anniversary next year was too short and we didn’t really get the ‘celebration’ we were promised, but it was worth popping in to see Gal Gadot and Linda Carter together. We didn’t get too much information about The Flash movie but we did get confirmation that Ben Affleck would return as Old Man Bats.

Shazaam! star Zachary Levi hit the nail on the head when he jokingly described this day as trotting out known names to sell something. There was definitely a reliance on currently popular characters like the Joker (thanks to the excellent Joaquin Phoenix movie), Aquaman (thanks to hunky Jason Momoa), the much-anticipated Wonder Woman 1984, a follow-up to the hit Arkham Asylum game, and the ever-popular Batman. Thankfully, amidst all the Hollywood hoop-la, it was made clear that comics won’t go away – if nothing else they are a great testing ground for new ideas.

With hosts from around the world, including the US, Australia and New Zealand, and fan questions from as far afield as Brazil, DC Comics showed how global its reach truly is and how its fans help to spread the comic book gospel far and wide. By acknowledging the fans, there’s an inherent intent to do right by them, placing them all in a virtual Hall of Heroes.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

The Batman first look at DC FanDome

Since the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman hasn't captured my imagination on the big screen under the auspices of Zack Snyder (Man of Steel). So, I'm hoping director Matt Reeves' The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson (Tenet) as the titular caped crusader, will be on par with last year's Oscar-winning Joker.

Fans (myself included) were treated to a first look at the upcoming movie during this weekend's DC FanDome. Nick Smith will be commenting on the state of the DC Universe in an upcoming post, but I thought I'd share the official teaser trailer with you.

Are you hyped for The Batman? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

How to watch DC FanDome

DC FanDome, a stay-at-home 24-hour online event covering all things DC Comics, is this weekend.

As a lifelong fan of Batman, reruns of Adam West's camp crusader were synonymous with Saturday morning television and collecting die-cast Corgi toys in the mid-to-late seventies, Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter was a childhood crush, and Superman, Christopher Reeve's silver screen incarnation will always be definitive underscored by Hollywood composer John Williams' heroic soundtrack (Superman: The Movie was the second film I saw at the cinema, after Star Wars, and I still have a Superman pin from the screening), I'll be watching for sure.

To kick things off, Joker: Put On a Happy Face is available for free on Apple TV. The compelling documentary celebrates the cultural impact of Batman's archenemy and argues why The Crown Prince of Crime is the greatest comic book supervillain of all time.

DC's Stargirl has begun streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime (affiliate link) in the UK. The live-action series, based on Geoff Johns' superhero (a poignant tribute to the comic creator's late sister), is on par with Swamp Thing and Watchmen. In a move surprising no one, DC Universe's original shows are moving to HBO Max as part of a wider organisation reshuffle in the wake of major layoffs.

During lockdown a childhood passion for toy photography was reignited. Beginning with Wonder Woman 1984's Golden Armour action figure, from McFarlane's DC Multiverse line, shot on my iPhone SE.

To watch DC FanDome, simply visit here. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's coverage of DC FanDome. DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse is scheduled for 12th September.

What are you most looking forward to during DC FanDome? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

First PS5 ad about all the feels

With the launch of next generation consoles PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X only months away, Sony has released the first PS5 commercial, featuring CGI and socially distanced live-action footage, during a global pandemic. All the feels.

Sony's marketing push for the PS5 has begun in earnest starting with the company's ongoing sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League. Last evening I noticed the PS4 logo had been replaced by PS5 during the semi-final clash between Lyon and Bayern Munich on BT Sport.

Much is being made of the DualSense controller's implementation of haptic feedback. As of now, the Xbox One controller remains my all-time favourite. Will that change this holiday season? Assuming I'm able to get hands-on, I'll let you know.

What are your thoughts? Are you planning on getting a PS5 at launch? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Doctor Who immersive experience coming to London

Today would have been my late mum's 79th birthday and the mood has been bittersweet. However, Classic FM, one of mum's favourite radio stations, played Adventures on Earth (From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) in a moment of perfect synchronicity. Yes, it opened the emotional flood gates, but in the best way possible. My mood was further buoyed by the following timey-wimey news concerning our favourite Time Lord.

An immersive Doctor Who experience from the team behind long-running immersive show The Great Gatsby, delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has been confirmed to premiere in London in February 2021. Featuring Daleks, Cybermen and Time Lords, the unique story arc will have a tie-in with the multimedia event Time Lord Victorious.

The official plot synopsis for the event reads, “1940 – it’s the height of the Blitz. A weapon of unknown origin destroys a small corner of Mayfair, and simultaneously opens up a rift in space and time.

“For decades, UNIT has fought to protect the people of Earth from the dangers it poses, but they’ve been beaten back as the fracture multiplies out of control.

“Earth as we know it is at stake – now is the time for you to step up and be the hero. Travelling to impossible places, confronting menacing monsters and ancient aliens along the way, it’s a journey across space and time to save our race, and our beautiful planet.”

Doctor Who: Time Fracture is directed by Tom Maller and written by Daniel Dingsdale.

Dingsdale said: "Drawing from the rich legacy of Doctor Who, which spans over half a century, we are creating an adventure that will entertain both fans that have immersed themselves in the show’s universe for years, and audience members who will walk in from the street having never seen an episode. It’s going to be an absolute blast."

Louis Hartshorn, joint chief executive of Immersive Everywhere, said: "We are delighted to be partnering with BBC Studios to bring the incredible universe of Doctor Who to life in a way that only immersive theatre can.

"We can’t wait for audiences to step into the world of The Doctor, and find themselves closer to the action than ever before, in this expansive and ambitious new show.

"Based on everything we know now, we are confident that Doctor Who: Time Fracture will be able to go ahead as planned in early 2021 and will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our audiences and full creative team."

Doctor Who: Time Fracture will hopefully be as inclusive as the wonderful Doctor Who Experience, which I visited with friends, at London's Olympia, in 2011. Tickets go on general sale from Thursday 20th August and are expected to be in high demand. An Early Bird UNIT bundle is available for £20 and includes an exclusive Operation Time Fracture premium cotton t-shirt, a lapel pin badge and an A2 poster print featuring production artwork.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Fortnite gets The Last Laugh

Epic Games' Fortnite may have been removed from both Apple and Google app stores for the foreseeable future. However, it's DC FanDome this week and the company has teamed up with Warner Bros. to bring a new DC Comics supervillain bundle including The Joker to Fortnite.

You'll be able to download the new The Last Laugh bundle (affiliate link) for £24.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch through Fortnite's in-game store or as a physical copy from retailers this November. “It will also arrive in time for the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X next-generation consoles,” Epic Games said. The company has previously worked with Marvel Comics.

With regards to the app store lawsuit. “For players on mobile and PC platforms, we've got you covered,” the Fortnite creator said. “We'll share how you'll be able to purchase the Fortnite: The Last Laugh Bundle soon.”

Stay tuned for further Fortnite and DC FanDome coverage.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

John Williams’ classic film scores in Dolby Atmos

Hollywood composer John Williams, who celebrated his 88th birthday in February, is known to generations of film fans for his Oscar-winning soundtracks from Jaws to Star Wars. I can't listen to Adventures on Earth (From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) without breaking down in tears such are the bittersweet memories it evokes - amplified by my late mum's birthday being in the month of August.

Fans (myself included) can enjoy a brand new recording of the maestro's work, performed with gusto by Wiener Philharmoniker and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and conducted by the composer himself, in Dolby Atmos on Amazon Music HD or Blu-ray. Incidentally, Dolby has a storied history with the Star Wars franchise for which Williams' music is synonymous.

3D audio is no stranger to the company, says Clemens Trautmann, President of Deutsche Grammophon. “As the label that was founded by the inventor of the Gramophone, Deutsche Grammophon has always embraced technological innovation. Building on the long tradition of our engineers, who produced multi-track and quadraphonic recordings in the 1970s and 1980s, Deutsche Grammophon was the first label to create Dolby Atmos mixes of entire symphony cycles starting in 2017. There are so many wonderful details and spatial effects in classical music that are lost in the standard stereo mix, but which are brought to life through the Dolby Atmos technology, adding another dimension to the listening experience. The ‘John Williams in Vienna’ album is a perfect showcase for that: the world’s most renowned film music composer with one of the top orchestras in the fabled acoustics of Musikverein.”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released in cinemas 40 years ago and the Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) received top treatment. “It was honestly one of the best presentations of that March I’ve ever heard,” Williams said of the performance. “They played it as though they owned it.”

“Performing at such a prestigious venue as the Musikverein with the magnificent Wiener Philharmoniker and the incomparable Anne-Sophie Mutter was a very great privilege indeed,” recalls Williams. “I’m delighted that listeners will be able to share that experience through the special technology of Dolby Atmos.”

John Couling, Senior Vice President, Commercial Partnerships, Dolby Laboratories added: “John Williams is undoubtedly one of the greatest film composers of all time and for him to have performed with the world-renowned Wiener Philharmoniker at what many consider the home of classical music is an unmissable spectacle. We’re thrilled to present this once-in-a-lifetime concert in Dolby Atmos for fans around the world, ensuring they can enjoy it as though they are sitting in the best seat in the house, any time they like.”

You can subscribe to Amazon Music HD (affiliate link) or buy the Blu-ray (affiliate link).

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite

In the midst of a global pandemic a new Fortnite season is heralded by a stage-managed spat between Epic Games, Apple and Google, which has divided gamers following the removal of Fortnite from the tech titans' app stores due to the company bypassing storefronts and a 30% charge.

“Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS in-app payment processing market,” the company said in a statement.

Epic Games released a parody of Apple's 1984 commercial directed by Ridley Scott (Alien).

Whilst some commentators have suggested it's a David and Goliath battle, Epic Games has profited hugely from the runaway success of Fortnite, a $200 million dollar investment from Sony and licensing its Unreal Engine for use in video games and productions including Disney+ live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.

“We applaud Epic Games’ decision to take a stand against Apple and shed further light on Apple’s abuse of its dominant position,” a Spotify spokesperson said late on Thursday. “Apple’s unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long. The stakes for consumers and app developers large and small couldn’t be higher and ensuring that the iOS platform [Apple’s operating system] operates competitively and fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications.”

The coronavirus pandemic has seen Apple's sales increase exponentially with the iPhone SE (I finally moved over to iOS devices full-time when the new model was launched earlier this year) being the biggest beneficiary. xCloud, Microsoft's upcoming streaming service free for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers (myself included), won't be available at launch. Clearly, a battle royale is in the making courtesy of clever marketing with Facebook entering the fray.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish streaming season one of Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, an acerbic video game industry satire, on Apple TV+.

Friday, 14 August 2020

LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+

The holiday season is almost upon us as the year passes by in the blink of an eye due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There's some festive cheer to look forward to with the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special coming to Disney+.

Our beloved band of heroes celebrate Life Day, introduced in 1978's infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and most recently mentioned in The Mandalorian, on Chewbacca's homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Set after The Rise of Skywalker, Rey sets out with BB-8 to learn more about the Force and meets friends and foes from the entire Skywalker Saga. There's a tie-in with this year's LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar and DK Books.

LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special streams on 17th November on Disney+.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Halo Infinite delayed until 2021

Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox Series X will be released this November. However, Halo Infinite will no longer be a launch title and this could be damaging when the PlayStation 5 (PS5) is launching with an exclusive edition of Marvel's Avengers (including Spider-Man in 2021) and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales this holiday season.

Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, delaying Halo Infinite is a wise decision irrespective of how poor the response was from the gaming community during Xbox Games Showcase. That said, please keep everyone's favourite bald brute as an Easter egg. Personally, I'm more than happy with my Xbox One X and Game Pass, and will be playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Microsoft's mid-gen machine later this year.

Literally, as the UK enters its worst recession in decades, there's no incentive to buy an Xbox Series X at launch and the PS5 has that sleek alien form factor advantage that appeals to my sci-fi fandom too. Make Mine Marvel, Make Mine PlayStation.

Are you planning on getting an Xbox Series X at launch or has Halo Infinite's delay changed your mind? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Star Wars in crisis?

In this opinion piece regarding the current state of Star Wars, Matt Charlton, our resident Disney superfan, reflects on recent rumours in the wake of the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. Does the Force have a future?

Guest post by Matt Charlton

Like the whispers of a planetary blockade in place above the planet Naboo over a 'trade dispute', with news only just reaching the Galactic Senate and prompting the dispatch of two Jedi Knights to investigate, could there be any truth in a recent revelation from a YouTuber that we could well be facing a Star Wars Expanded Universe-esc (EU) retcon, which might result in the sequel trilogy being spun off to an alternative reality?

Be warned, spoilers will be afoot for those who have not yet seen the Skywalker Saga - if you would like to avoid them, please navigate away now.

It's no secret that the sequel trilogy wasn't well received by an especially vocal segment of the Star Wars fanbase. There were many people who were upset with story lines, casting decisions and many other issues that came to light from what many perceive to be a disjointed way of thinking, combined with conflicting ideas from The Walt Disney Company along with directors, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, screenwriters and an urgency to recoup the $4 billon dollar invested in acquiring Lucasfilm from George Lucas in 2012.

If there's one thing that we've learned in the Information Age, there is nought as fickle as a pop culture fanbase and given 24/7 access to the internet, boy do they like every one to know about it [the fandom menace casts a long shadow- Ed].

A lot of people were overly critical that director JJ Abrams' The Force Awakens followed George Lucas' A New Hope too closely. Some of the plot points certainly seemed to mirror those tropes we saw in 1977. Simply replace Starkiller Base with the Death Star and take Jakku's sandy landscape for what we saw in Tatooine with a teenager staring out into the sky wondering what might be possible and you can certainly see what people are saying - if you were that way inclined.

Personally, I loved The Force Awakens. I liked the new direction. I liked the teases about Rey's (Daisy Ridley) parentage, wondering about where Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) got Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) lightsaber from when we last saw it dropping through the middle of Cloud City on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back and wondering what on earth had happened to make Luke up sticks and run away, and why the heck R2-D2 ended up with a map to where he was if he didn't want anyone to find him?

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was the perfect embodiment of the dark side. Wonderfully played by Adam Driver with a depth we've not seen in the Star Wars universe for some time. It was a great start to the trilogy and I remember wondering if that was a gravestone we saw where Luke was on the cliff top, to the point where I would freeze frame the digital copy that I bought on the Apple TV in order to try to find clues in what The Last Jedi might bring us.

Rian Johnson's movie was a fairly radical departure from what we knew. A lot of people were unhappy with the way that Luke was written out. It's difficult to know how Mark Hamill felt about the way things went but I think he probably, like the rest of us might have wanted to see a little more than Force Projection as a display of Luke's powers. It was even worse when the resulting physical and psychological damage from this ends the life of our beloved hero. I loved him throwing the lightsaber over his shoulder. It was funny - though I'm not sure it was a very 'Luke' thing to do.

We know from The Rise of Skywalker that the X-wing, we see beneath the waves, is fully operational, but it could well be that until Luke transcended the living Force and gave up his physical form that he never truly believed that he could get over that stumbling block that Master Yoda (Frank Oz) had to help him with in The Empire Strikes back and lift it out of there. The accompanying score to that piece (mirroring the Dagobah swamp sequence) certainly helped my tear ducts to produce 'something'. He finally did it. Do, or do not. But there was nothing stopping him, physically from jumping into it and heading to Crait to help out, in person, and get a proper on screen reunion with his sister and his two beloved droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

The return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) in The Rise of Skywalker was pretty cool, we got to see some pretty neat set pieces and some new Force powers. The pacing of the movie is pretty quick, it never feels as long as it is.

I think for me, looking back over the three 'new' movies as a whole - I enjoyed them, they were fun, and there are certain aspects of them that I love, but when you put them all together, as a trilogy - something isn't quite right. The poorest, out of the three was The Last Jedi. With Luke's bizarre behaviour, green milk drinking defeatist attitude and Yoda blowing up the (empty) Jedi library. The last act with them trying to outrun the First Order and having limited fuel was also a little lacking on story timing.

As a trilogy, it falls flat.

Is this down to a missing overarching vision? Was it a case of having too many different directors involved, then changing directors due to creative differences? Did Rian Johnson look to change too much of what JJ Abrams had laid the foundations for and it was too difficult to bring back to something that made sense?

One of the really jarring things, is Leia's (Carrie Fisher) Mary Poppins in space sequence, I didn't like that at all, it just felt like it went against everything we know about what would actually happen if someone found themselves out there in the vacuum of space. I know it's a movie, I know it's science fiction, but it just didn't gel for me, maybe it was the CGI, it just didn't look natural.

Although Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford all signed on for (at least) The Force Awakens, there was never a reunion of all three on screen. I think everybody expected this to happen. With Harrison Ford being taken out in the first movie, it was probably never going to be part of the plan, though he does return for The Rise of Skywalker. The untimely, devastating passing of Carrie Fisher will have also changed the direction of where they were originally going with the trilogy when it was first planned out.

There's been a lot of talk on the internet about how the fine folks at Disney aren't too happy with Star Wars - when they purchased Lucasfilm, they thought they were buying a license to print money, and it turns out that if the money you're printing isn't the denomination or the currency that the fans are wanting, they'll outright find another minting source.

I'm a big Disney fan. I love Disney. I also think that they did a stellar job with Marvel Studios since they took over, the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) shows what is possible with joined-up thinking and an overarching storyline that can culminate in the coming together of multiple superheroes and a decade of planning to give us the Russo brothers' Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame blockbuster.

However, I don't know if they've taken the right path with Star Wars. I love there's a portion of the theme parks dedicated to all things Star Wars in Galaxy's Edge, I love that there's Darth Vader meet and greets and I love some of the other stuff that's come out. I even enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story, and I don't think there are many people who didn't enjoy Rogue One. In fact, I'd quite happily watch 3-hours of footage based around Darth Vader's single-handed assault on the docking corridor of the Tantive IV.

I remember the prequels coming out - I was 18 when The Phantom Menace was released. I remember when the first teasers dropped and you had to have QuickTime (QT) to watch them [I streamed it endlessly on my graphite iMac DV SE - Ed]. I remember being excited. I remember enjoying them. All three of them.

Sure some of the acting was wooden, some of the dialogue was cheesy, Jar Jar (Ahmed Best) was annoying, but overall I love them. I know a lot of other people didn't. There were similar feelings of unhappiness, the internet was still something that not many people had access to in the late 1990s and if they did it was on a single family computer rather than in the palm of their hand. It's a lot easier now to broadcast your opinion on an iPhone and have someone read it instantly.

If we think about the timelines of the trilogies, we can see some major differences.

The Phantom Menace - Anakin is a young boy
Attack of the Clones - Set 10 years after TPM
Revenge of the Sith - 3 years after AOTC
A New Hope - 19 years after ROTS
The Empire Strikes Back - 3 years after ANH
Return of the Jedi - anything up to a year
The Force Awakens - 30 years after ROTJ
The Last Jedi - Immediately after The Force Awakens
The Rise of Skywalker - A year after TLJ

The prequel trilogy spanned 13 years.
There was a 19 year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
The original trilogy spanned 4 years. The sequel trilogy spanned 1 year.

It makes you wonder whether things got a little too granular, maybe there wasn't a big enough time jump to allow off-screen character development to take place, maybe this was influenced by the release schedule being one film every year [thankfully now abandoned - Ed]?

Say what you want about George Lucas, and him not having a 9 movie plan to start with [Lucas makes mention of the 9-part saga in the liner notes of The Empire Strikes Back - Ed] (I remember pre-internet this was something I used to excitedly discuss with my school friends). Star Wars was his baby. I know that the trade disputes/Trade federation weren't a great addition to The Phantom Menace, but it was more about bogging down the Jedi with red tape and distracting them from what else was going on, which gave Palpatine the platform that he needed to grab some emergency executive power to make things run faster so that he could 'help' Naboo. I get it, I get what he was going for.

I still would have rather had 3 movies about Anakin (Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen) at his darkest though. What we see implied with the Sand People and the Younglings is only scratching the surface at how far our young hero had to fall in order to become Darth Vader.

So anyway, back to the original point of this article. A concept was introduced in Star Wars Rebels called the Veil of the Force. If applied to the movies, this could allow for a multiverse/multiple timelines scenario. It could allow the events of the sequel trilogy to become things that are ignored/never happen. It could also give rise to something new - like a big screen version of Timothy Zahn's EU (now legends) trilogy complete with Grand Admiral Thrawn. That would be epic.

I completely understand why Disney did what they did with the EU content, by retconning/retiring all of the things that had come before, they could forge their own path. They wouldn't be constrained by stories that had been told before.

To paraphrase Doctor Ian Malcolm, just because they could do something, doesn't necessarily mean that they should have.

There's been a huge number of internet outlets pick up on the potential 'leak' from Dicktor Van Doomcock, with some mainstream UK tabloids also getting in on the act.

There's rumours that a Lucas cut of The Rise of Skywalker exists, and that it contains lots of additional footage that was left on the cutting room floor of the edit we ended up with. There are rumours that somehow Luke will be warned not to attempt to kill Ben Solo, stopping him from becoming Kylo Ren.

There are rumours that the higher ups at Disney aren't happy with the direction things have been taken in and there are rumours that things could be changing as and when contracts end.

There are also rumours that we could see additional Luke Skywalker movies, set in the Mandalorian timeframe that could also somehow tie into the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) live-action series.

I still want to know how the hell Maz got hold of the lightsaber, and like Mark Hamill want to know if it came with the hand still attached? :D

The Mandalorian has shown Disney that there is still a massive appetite for Star Wars content, and that the content doesn't necessarily have to have characters we have come to know and love in them. If the story is right, the direction is done well and there's a cute green alien involved, we're all over it.

Jon Favreau (Iron Man) is being touted as the new head of Star Wars alongside Dave Filoni, with the help of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. There are even rumours that George Lucas might be coming back to run Lucasfilm. Who knows at this point what is true or not.

I'm not sure a replacement sequel trilogy will be what we end up with, but I definitely think that Disney are doing some work, internally, to see what they can do to move forward from where they have seemingly ended up.

There are still so many aspects of the Star Wars universe that are ripe for exploration on both the big screen and on the small screen with Disney+, I don't think the stories are finished, and I'm excited to see where things end up going.

Do I think that there's enough hate to completely remove the sequel trilogy from Star Wars canon? Maybe.

Do I really believe that something like this will happen? Not really.

And besides, Master Yoda says that... Hate.... leads to Suffering.

What's next? We get Game of Thrones Season 8 redone? :D

The original YouTube video, with regards to the rumours.

Read an article on Cosmic Book News, which discusses the content of the video above and also lists Lucas' alleged demands.

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