Saturday 30 May 2020

PS5 future of gaming event 4th June

PlayStation 5 (PS5) is, literally, emerging from the shadows on 4th June. Sony has announced a 'future of gaming' livestream showcasing PS5-only titles and seemingly teased the new console's startup chime.

Ordinarily, flaming June would be a month of major events. From the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it isn't safe and practicable for people to gather in large groups.

So, events like E3 have been cancelled and others, like WWDC, will be livestreamed. Incidentally, I mostly use the official Remote Play app for iPhone and iPad, since native DualShock 4 support was added with iOS 13, to stream games from my PS4.

"I’m excited to share that we will soon give you a first look at the games you’ll be playing after PlayStation 5 launches this holiday," writes Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan on the official PlayStation Blog.

"This digital showcase will run for a bit more than an hour and, for the first time, we will all be together virtually experiencing the excitement together. A lack of physical events has given us an amazing opportunity to think differently and bring you on this journey with us, and hopefully, closer than ever before. This is part of our series of PS5 updates and, rest assured, after next week’s showcase, we will still have much to share with you."

Scans of the July issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine (OPM) have appeared online, revealing some of the games bound for PS5 with more expected to be announced exclusively during the livestream.

A Rat's Quest: The Way Back Home (ETA 2021)
Assassin's Creed Valhalla (ETA 2020)
Battlefield 6 (ETA 2021)
Chorus (ETA 2021)
Cygni: All Guns Blazing (ETA TBA)
Dauntless (ETA TBA)
Dirt 5 (2020)
Dragon Age 4 (ETA TBA)
Dying Light 2 (ETA TBA)
FIFA 21 (ETA 2020)
Godfall (ETA TBA)
Gods & Monsters (ETA TBA)
Gothic Remake (ETA TBA)
Madden 21 (ETA 2020)
Moonray (ETA Summer 2021)
MicroMan (ETA TBA)
NHL 21 (ETA 2020)
Nth'O Infinity Reborn (ETA February 2021)
Observer: System Redux (ETA 2020)
Outriders (ETA 2020)
Path of Exile 2 (ETA 2020)
PsyHotel (ETA TBA)
Quantum Error (ETA 2020)
Rainbow Six Quarantine (ETA TBA)
Rainbow Six Siege (ETA TBA)
Redo! Enhanced Edition (ETA 2020)
Scarlet Nexus (ETA TBA)
Sniper Elite 5 (ETA TBA)
Soulborn (ETA Late 2021)
Starfield (ETA TBA)
The Elder Scrolls 6 (ETA TBA)
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (ETA 2021)
The Sims 5 (ETA TBA)
Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2 (ETA 2020)
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 (ETA TBA)
Warframe (ETA TBA)
Watch Dogs Legion (ETA TBA)
WRC 9 (ETA 2020)

Aside from software. Will PlayStation fans (myself included) get to see the 'box' itself? Well, the Tokyo-based company could borrow from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs' playbook with one more thing... Given manufacturing of the upcoming console is rumoured to have begun, Sony won't want someone to leak a photo of the PS5 and lose control of the messaging.

Sony's PS5 strategy will eclipse Microsoft's Xbox Series X as The Last of Us Part II is tracking to become the fastest selling first-party exclusive in the company's history, and the PS4 has dominated this console generation. Of course, I've championed Game Pass and PlayStation Now still lags behind.

The PS5 is on track for a holiday 2020 launch. The pre-order countdown starts now.

What are you hoping to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 29 May 2020

First look at Darkseid from Justice League

On Wednesday director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) teased Darkseid, played by Ray Porter (Argo), from his forthcoming Justice League recut for the newly launched HBO Max. The DC Comics supervillain can be seen standing in the midst of a lava field on Apokolips.

Following years of petitioning from fans. Warner Bros. has given Snyder carte blanche to refashion Justice League closer to his original vision before bowing out, due to a personal tragedy, and handing directing chores to Joss Whedon (Avengers). At the time of release, Justice League was met with derision by fans and critics alike failing to emulate Marvel Studios' Avengers blockbuster behemoth.

Are you excited to see Darkseid take on the Justice League? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Dr Strange director helms Labyrinth sequel

Jim Henson followed up The Dark Crystal, considered too dark for children, with the more commercial Labyrinth in 1986. Executive produced by George Lucas (Star Wars), the live-action musical fantasy film starred Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) and David Bowie (Jareth), and utilised tropes from popular tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).

My most indelible memory of seeing the film, with high school friends at the local Odeon, is the opening sequence featuring a computer-generated owl and buying Citadel Miniatures' Chaos Marauders from a local model shop.

Labyrinth quickly became a touchstone of teenage lives (mine included) and I played the Lucasfilm Games' tie-in for Commodore 64 whilst listening to the iconic soundtrack. Talk of a sequel soon followed, but nothing materialised on the silver screen. Return to Labyrinth was an English-language manga series that ran between 2006-2010.

Fast forward to 2020. Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) will direct a sequel for Sony's TriStar Pictures. Without the late Jim Henson and David Bowie, it's almost impossible to envisage a follow-up to the beloved original as the world falls down...

Tuesday 26 May 2020

The Last of Us Part 2 State of Play this Wednesday

This Wednesday's State of Play is a deep dive into The Last of Us Part II (affiliate link) from PlayStation first-party developer Naughty Dog.

The livestream, with director Neil Druckmann, will be available across multiple platforms including Twitch and YouTube.

North America: 1pm PDT / 2pm MDT / 3pm CDT / 4pm EDT
UK/Ire: 9pm BST
Europe: 10pm CEST / 11pm EEST
Asia/Oceania: 5am JST / 4am AWST / 6am AEST

The Last of Us Part II review embargo lifts 12th June and is released 19th June.

Are you looking forward to this Wednesday's State of Play and The Last of Us Part II? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Star Trek: Lower Decks is not a parody

The official confirmation from CBS All Access of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has fans (myself included) excited to see Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck reprise the roles of Captain Pike, Number One and Science Officer Spock respectively. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spin-off series is some way off.

In the meantime, Star Trek: Lower Decks, an animated series from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty), is coming to CBS All Access later this year.

SlashFilm spoke to McMahan about the animated series and not turning it into a parody of the beloved franchise. Here's an extract from the interview:

“I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and nobody needs a Star Trek comedy that made fun of Star Trek or punched down on Star Trek, nor was I interested in doing that that. I was interested in writing a Star Trek that could be canon, that follows the rules of other Star Trek shows that I loved, and has everything that you love about Star Trek, including the way you tell stories. But I’m a comedy writer. I’m never gonna write a serious Star Trek, so the way that we handled it is it’s on a ship that isn’t the capital ship. It’s not about the bridge crew. It’s about the lowest officers on that ship. But when we’re breaking stories for the lower decks, every episode also has a proper Star Trek episode that’s happening to the bridge crew, and our lower deckers aren’t involved in it. However, you can’t have a big sci-fi thing happening on a starship and not have it effect them because that’s their whole world. So if you’re watching Lower Decks, you’re getting a full Star Trek episode from the perspective of people who are having their own social and emotional stories and their own sci-fi stories, but they just aren’t on the bridge. They don’t have the information the bridge is getting, and they don’t have the responsibility.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks is expected to premiere later this year on CBS All Access. It's unclear whether the spin-off will stream on Amazon Prime or Netflix outside the US.

Friday 22 May 2020

Zack Snyder's Justice League coming to HBO Max

The much-maligned Justice League (2017) is getting a $20 million dollar do-over for HBO Max by director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) who had to bow out of the production due to his daughter’s suicide. However, sources have subsequently suggested that there were studio concerns over the movie’s overly dark direction prior to Snyder’s familial tragedy.

Joss Whedon (Avengers) was parachuted in to finish Justice League but failed to replicate the critical and commercial success of Marvel Studios’ Avengers (2012) that would culminate in the Russo Brothers' Avengers: Endgame (2019). Following the movie's lukewarm reception - I bailed after the first ten minutes on Sky Cinema - fans have championed a 'Snyder cut' and their wish will be granted as a 4-hour event on HBO Max.

“I want to thank HBO Max and Warner Brothers for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to be realized. Also a special thank you to all of those involved in the Snyder Cut movement for making this a reality,” Zack Snyder said in a statement.

Whilst I've been a lifelong fan of both DC Comics and Marvel, the DCEU has failed to capture my imagination on the big screen. Snyder's own Watchmen, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam! are notable exceptions.

Will Justice League usher in a new era of exclusive extended cuts direct-to-consumers? Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the most recent Hollywood blockbuster to witness rumours of a 3-hour cut that was subject to studio interference prior to release last December.

HBO Max launches on 27th May into an increasingly fragmented streaming market with Disney+ an unprecedented success. The new streaming service will carry content from across Warner Bros. brands including Cartoon Network, DC Entertainment, The CW and more.

“We’re going to put all of our muscle behind HBO Max,” Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, said in an interview. “We think we have a really good and valuable product to offer.”

It is unlikely HBO Max will be released in the UK anytime soon as Sky only recently renewed its first-run film and television deal with Warner Bros. So, expect Justice League to appear on Sky Cinema or Sky Atlantic in 2021.

Are you looking forward to Justice League on HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Muppets Now this July on Disney+

The Muppet Show was as much a staple of Saturday teatimes as Doctor Who in the mid seventies. So much so, Jim Henson’s creations played a profoundly personal role in my early life. If we ever meet, I may tell you the full story of the boy who lived.

So, it’s wonderful news Muppets Now will introduce a new generation of fans to their unique brand of mischief and mayhem on Disney+.

""Muppets Now” is The Muppets Studio’s first original series for Disney+. In the six-episode season, Scooter rushes to make his delivery deadlines and upload the brand-new Muppet series for streaming. They are due now, and he’ll need to navigate whatever obstacles, distractions, and complications the rest of the Muppet gang throws at him.

Overflowing with spontaneous lunacy, surprising guest stars and more frogs, pigs, bears (and whatevers) than legally allowed, the Muppets cut loose in “Muppets Now” with the kind of startling silliness and heartfelt fun that first made them famous."

Muppets Now streams on Disney+ 31st July.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Conan causes chaos at Lucasfilm

To mark Star Wars creator George Lucas' birthday on 14th May, Conan O'Brien shared a classic clip featuring his visit with producer Jordan Schlansky to Lucasfilm in 2007.

The Star Wars Show wasn't a thing. Schlansky is Conan's resident Star Wars expert and took a Lucasfilm employee to task.

Given the current lockdown, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's great that talk show hosts are sharing archive footage to bring some cheer. I hope someone fixed that AT-AT model.

Saturday 16 May 2020

Timothy Olyphant in secret role for The Mandalorian

Timothy Olyphant (Justified) is the latest actor linked to a role in the upcoming second season of The Mandalorian according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR).

Whilst Disney has not confirmed any new castings for the live-action Star Wars spin-off series, fans are eager to see whether or not the leaks are true. If so, Olyphant will be joining Rosario Dawson (Daredevil), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Temuera Morrison (Attack of the Clones) and Michael Biehn (Aliens).

I remember Olyphant for his role in Scream 2. Those 'sequels suck' debates had some serious implications for Sidney Prescott's (Neve Campbell) friends and fellow students in director Wes Craven's postmodern slasher series.

The Mandalorian season two is expected to begin this October on Disney+. Confirmed directors include Dave Filoni (The Clone Wars), Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn), Peyton Reed (Ant-Man) and showrunner Jon Favreau (Iron Man).

Friday 15 May 2020

Strange New Worlds coming to CBS All Access

Red alert! This is not a Kobayashi Maru training exercise. Fellow Star Trek fans rejoice, CBS All Access has announced a new spin-off and it's a doozy.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reunites Star Trek: Discovery season two fan-favourites, Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock.

“Fans fell in love with Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck’s portrayals of these iconic characters when they were first introduced on Star Trek: Discovery last season,” said Julie McNamara, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming, CBS All Access. “This new series will be a perfect complement to the franchise, bringing a whole new perspective and series of adventures to Star Trek.”

Unlike Star Trek: Picard, this is the spin-off most fans (myself included) really wanted. I'd only seen Mount in Marvel's Inhumans. So, it was a revelation when he beamed aboard the USS Discovery, with Romijn, and assumed temporary command. This was Captain Pike and Number One, no questions asked.

Given Pike's tragic fate, the series has ample opportunity to explore optimism and the tragedy to come underpinned by the chemistry between Mount, Romijn and Peck.

Strange New Worlds is set before events in the original series and harkens back to creator Gene Roddenberry's vision. The new series is in early production, but filming will be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's unclear whether the spin-off will stream on Amazon Prime or Netflix outside the US.

CBS All Access is rapidly becoming the home of Star Trek with further spin-offs in the works.

Are you looking forward to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Let me know in the comments below. Hit it.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Unreal Engine 5 demoed on PS5

On Wednesday Epic Games revealed Unreal Engine 5 running in real-time on the as-yet-unreleased PlayStation 5 (PS5), and the reaction could not have gone better for Sony!

Not only does Lumen in the Land of Nanite showcase the PS5's in-game potential, it also demonstrates what Epic Games has learned from its Hollywood partnerships. For example working with Lucasfilm on Star Wars properties including live-action series The Mandalorian.

What was your reaction to the Unreal Engine 5 tech demo on PS5? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Katee Sackhoff cast as Bo-Katan in The Mandalorian

Katee Sackhoff is expected to join the second season cast of The Mandalorian according to the latest SlashFilm scoop.

The Battlestar Galactica star is rumoured to play Bo-Katan Kryze in the Disney+ live-action Star Wars spin-off series. Sackhoff previously played the character in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated series.

Bo-Katan will be reunited with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and they'll be joined by Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison).

Newly-appointed Disney CEO Bob Chapek has confirmed the second season will not be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and is currently in post-production.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

The Empire Strikes Back at 40

This May marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Kershner (Eyes of Laura Mars), in the US. It's that rarest of sequels, one that successfully builds on the mythology of the original while taking the story to darker and unexpected places.

To commemorate this milestone, Generation Star Wars' John Hood and Taking the Short View's Andrew Lewin look back to one of the Rebel Alliance's darkest hours...

John: It's summer 1980, I've started the six-week school holiday after finishing primary school for good. Obviously, my thoughts were on seeing the next chapter in the Star Wars saga at the Exeter Odeon, where I'd seen Star Wars two years previously. However, ongoing rehabilitation following a life-changing head injury in primary school meant more hours spent undertaking hospital visits, physiotherapy and plaster casts. Alas, no recovering in a bacta tank, operated by medical droids FX-7 and 2-1B, for me!

Undaunted, I avidly listened to the latest double LP soundtrack by John Williams, played with existing Star Wars action figures and excitedly leapt upon the mention in the album liner notes that creator George Lucas was planning no less than nine movies in total. Now that was surely something to look forward to, right?

Then, following a hospital appointment with a surgeon who showed no empathy (a far cry from the surgeons who had saved my life in 1977 and set me on a cinematic path), mum surprised me with new Han Solo and Chewbacca action figures. Suffice to say, I was chuffed to bits. What I wasn't expecting was the Millennium Falcon in my bedroom adorned with Star Wars wallpaper! There was the so-called 'piece of junk', in all her glory.

I remember the hurdle my late mum and an aunt had to overcome helping me into the Exeter Odeon cinema (my legs encased in plaster cast for the umpteenth time). Of being enthralled by the AT-AT attack, traumatised by Darth Vader's scarred skull (triggering the trauma of seeing my shaved head and surgical stitches for the first time post surgery) and mesmerised when Master Yoda used the Force to lift Luke Skywalker's sunken X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp, but somewhat nonplussed by Han and Leia's romance. Too much kissing and not enough PEW! PEW! PEW! Although I needn't of worried, the movie's climax in Cloud City brought more than enough thrilling blaster and lightsaber action.

Years later, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) hugged and kissed me at Star Wars Celebration Europe. Childhood me would never have believed it.

As for that shock paternal revelation, I thought Vader was lying to Luke and merely trying to coax him back from the edge of the gantry in order to kill or convert him. Ah, the gleeful mind of a young child, eh? So, what are your memories, Andrew?

Andrew: I'm afraid I'm going to be a major disappointment to you on this one, John! I have weirdly few actual first-hand memories of seeing The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, certainly far fewer than I can recall about seeing the original film three years earlier. Obviously, I did see the film on the big screen at the time - I can state with complete confidence that I've seen all 11 Star Wars first time on the big screen as a point of principle - yes, I'm including Rogue One and Solo, just accept it!

John: Controversial confession: I didn't bother seeing Solo at the cinema, nor since on Sky Cinema or Disney+! With the conclusion of The Clone Wars and season one of The Mandalorian, I've run out of excuses.

Andrew: Wow! I'm genuinely aghast. I figured that you would have at least streamed it by now. It's not at all bad, honest - if you can make it through Star Wars: The Phantom Menace then you'll definitely be able to get to the end of Solo without too much trouble!

Getting back onto safer territory, I'm strangely lacking in specific recollections of the very first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back. It would undoubtedly have been at the old Southend Odeon, which was so big and plush that it would even give today's Empire Leicester Square a run for its money in terms of capacity. (Alas long since gone and now part of the Southend campus of the University of Essex.) I remember staring at the screen curtains for hours as the lights faded endlessly from green to purple and back again - it was mesmerising, almost better than many films that followed once the curtains parted and the lights went out!

While I don't remember seeing the film itself at the Odeon, I know I did - and multiple times - because I have vivid memories of the short film that preceded it. Remember when there was a pre-feature British production on every programme? For The Empire Strikes Back it was Black Angel, the tale of an Arthurian knight returning from the Crusades who rescues a princess. It was shot in Scotland and atmospherically directed by Roger Christian, who'd actually won an Oscar for his set decoration on the first Star Wars movie. It was really quite brilliant.

John: I too remember the prothetic Black Angel and it was around this time that a neighbour friend gifted me a copy of The Lord of the Rings, which would only cement a lifelong passion for fairytales and by extension story telling. Darth Vader as a Ring Wraith... Sorry, please go on.

Andrew: Having been put off Tolkien for a long time by a forced school study reading of The Hobbit, it was many years later - almost 20 in fact - before I finally dipped my toe into The Lord of the Rings. Back in 1980, Black Angel was simply the ideal dark fantasy accompaniment to The Empire Strikes Back that followed.

Sadly, the film originals for this short film were reported lost shortly after, but I do still remember seeing it multiple times at the Odeon. In fact it's the only support feature I do remember from those days, so it follows that I must therefore also have seen The Empire Strikes Back many times too. But the rest of my recollections from that time are now all just part of a general "The Empire Strikes Back memory" in which I know every line and shot and music cue, but not whether I'm recalling it from watching it 1980, 1999, or last week!

Being slightly older at the time than your good self, I think I was more, umm, open to the idea of the Han/Leia romance for some unknown reason. I do have a strong sense that even on first viewing I completely accepted Vader's shock revelation without question as it was surely too delicious a twist to be a lie (as opposed to the similar attempted revelation between Rey and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, which simply never had an equivalent ring of satisfaction to it and therefore never felt quite right). And I do remember desperately wanting a Snowspeeder for Christmas - which I don't think I ever got, now I think of it...

John: Did someone mention toys? Not only did The Empire Strikes Back give us, arguably, the greatest instalment (spawning the prequels years later), but also a fine collection of new Star Wars action figures, playsets and accessories. Sorry you never received that coveted Snowspeeder; mine arrived alongside an AT-AT and Rebel Troop Transport, Christmas 1981. Do you have a favourite piece of merchandise from the era, Andrew?

Andrew: For me it was always all about the Millennium Falcon. I think it must rank as one of the all-time greatest, most iconic science fiction spaceship designs, up there with the likes of Space: 1999's Eagle transporter, Star Trek's Enterprise and the Liberator from Blake's 7 (and a smorgasbord of International Rescue craft, of course). I remember I had a wonderfully detailed and high-quality metal die-cast model Falcon which was small enough to almost fit into the palm of one's hand - surprisingly heavy for its size but nonetheless ideal for whooshing through the air as the leading player in many imagined thrilling chases and dog-fights.

John: I was gifted die-cast Darth Vader's TIE Fighter and Star Destroyer one Christmas along with a Millennium Falcon. The tooling on those toys was peerless, and - as you've already suggested - of a premium build quality. In fact, I've now remembered receiving Boba Fett's Slave 1. However, the very rare TIE Bomber proved too elusive.

Andrew: Alas, poor ultra-elusive TIE Bomber - the Doctor Who: The Collection Season 14 Blu-ray limited edition boxset of its day!

The apex Millennium Falcon back in those days was unquestionably the much larger playset version that you could use with all the standard-size action figures fitting inside it. Try whooshing that behemoth through the air over your head and you'd definitely do yourself an injury! Sadly, when I finally got one for Christmas, there was a part missing - one of the landing struts. I was absolutely devastated, as the model couldn't stand upright without it. My dad leapt into action, and cut and glued two pieces of soft wood together which slotted in and actually worked surprisingly well once painted the right shade of grey. In the end I grew rather fond of it, and proud of being the sole possessor of this unique "peg leg" edition Millennium Falcon.

Before we close, one final question: I trust that we still in full agreement that even four decades later, The Empire Strikes Back remains the very best of all the Star Wars films? Or do you have a controversial (and obviously wrong!) alternative opinion on this seminal matter?

John: Longtime readers will already know my answer! Not only is The Empire Strikes Back my favourite Star Wars instalment, it also, conveniently, happens to be my all-time favourite movie. Kershner's sequel to Lucas' original casts a long shadow…

Andrew: I was pretty sure that would be your verdict, but I just wanted to get you to say it anyway. After all, you are a man of rare distinction and refinement; even if you still haven't got around to seeing Solo yet!

John: Well, that's our recollections of The Empire Strikes Back. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below.

In the meantime, why not checkout our previous conversations regarding Doctor Who and Star Wars.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Boba Fett is back in The Mandalorian

Boba Fett, arguably the coolest intergalactic bounty hunter until his seemingly untimely demise in Return of the Jedi, is set to return in the second season of The Mandalorian. The first season concluded on Disney+ in the UK ahead of May the Fourth celebrations.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), Temuera Morrison (Attack of the Clones) will play Boba Fett in the Disney+ live-action Star Wars spin-off. He'll be joining a cast that includes Rosario Dawson (Daredevil) and Michael Biehn (Aliens).

Fett's cameo should come as no surprise to fans, as a mysterious Mandalorian was teased in season one.

Looking forward to Boba Fett appearing in The Mandalorian or would you like to see Rex reunited with Ahsoka Tano following the conclusion of The Clone Wars? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 7 May 2020

Are you sitting comfortably?

During the global coronavirus lockdown, many of us are looking for comfort in our favourite things. From books to video games. Personally, I've immersed myself in Star Wars and classic Doctor Who whilst friends and family are on the frontline, deserving far more than a nationwide weekly clap on a Thursday evening once this is over.

Paul is here to guide us through these uncertain, and frankly traumatic, times. Stay safe!

Guest post by Paul Moxham

My daily scrolling through Twitter was paused recently by someone who essentially wrote - if you’ve not used lockdown to enrich your life somehow, you didn’t lack time only discipline.

A sentiment I wholeheartedly agreed with. Which is why I thought to myself at the start of all this that it might be nice to try to watch all those films I’ve always said I’ll get around to. A sofa-based film festival, taking in all countries, genres, directors and time periods. There are some absolute potential doozies in the line up; Bait and Portrait of A Lady on Fire, Midsommar and Uncut Gems; via classics like The 39 Steps and Cat People. It doesn’t even cover new straight to streaming releases like The Assistant and Why Don’t You Just Die! The list goes on and on. Every evening would be a voyage of discovery into uncharted cinematic waters. Ask me how many I’ve watched. Not a single one. The voyage has become more of a sunbathe in the balmy glow of nostalgia.

At every single opportunity to watch something new, I’ve opted for something I’ve already seen. I’ve chosen the warmth of a cosy duvet over the bracing winds of discovery. I’ve been quite tough on myself about this; in the same way that I’m tough on myself for not going running. I huff disappointedly, have another biscuit and sit on the sofa. I’ve sat back and continued to work my way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the umpteenth time. Thanks, Disney+ for making that far too easy (for the curious, I’m going through them in chronological order rather than by release date). I’ve always considered myself open to the cinema in all its guises; on my shelves, you’ll find Spielberg alongside Lean, Wilder, The Cohens, Nolan, Kubrick etc. But when the chips are down I’ve bolted back into my cave. Which incidentally you can tell is not alphabetized.

The fundamental question is, is this such a bad thing? Surely there’s nothing wrong with craving certainty in uncertain times? And at the end of a day of (attempted) home-schooling and cat herding, my mind just wants to go to places with no sudden, unpredictable movements.

Seeking those sorts of experiences is not unusual, but where is the guy who was always looking for different, exciting films to rave about to his friends? Somewhere along the way I’ve conflated film exploration with effort, with fear, with eating my greens. Now, kids, greens are good for you, and they’re nothing to be scared of. You never know you might just love them.

So maybe it’s time I embraced the new again, find a new favourite, see the world in a different way. And if I commit it to print, I might just do it.

Although not right this second, Guardians of the Galaxy has just started...

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Watch The Last of Us Part 2's story trailer

The past few weeks haven't been too great for Sony's first-party studio Naughty Dog and upcoming title The Last of Us Part II (affiliate link). There was a significant leak that, inevitably in this digitally connected era, spiralled out of control amidst allegations of disgruntled employees and a server hack.

Fans who were either spoiled or actively sought out the leaked footage were seemingly incensed by the story, for the most part. It's always worth remembering that these clips are viewed out of context.

Today Sony revealed a new story trailer for The Last of Us Part II, which will be released on 19th June following a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Are you excited about The Last of Us Part II or have you cancelled your pre-order in the wake of controversy? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series coming to PS VR

ILMxLAB has announced all 3 episodes of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is coming to PS VR this summer. The title was originally released in 2019 for Oculus.

Episode I

You will need the Force to survive the journey ahead.

"Step into a galaxy far, far away and experience the first Star Wars story designed exclusively for virtual reality. Descend into Darth Vader’s mysterious fortress alongside new allies and encounter fearsome enemies, including the Sith Lord himself. Be at the center of a story in which you hold the key to the galaxy’s salvation… or destruction."

Episode II

He will not be denied.

"Continue your journey into the heart of Darth Vader’s dark fortress in Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode II. With the fearsome Sith Lord as your guide, you’ll perfect your lightsaber skills against terrifying new enemies, and master the Force as you discover the truth of an ancient mystery beneath the fiery surface of Mustafar."

Episode III

Embrace your destiny.

"Complete your journey in Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode III. With an ancient lightsaber by your side and the Force as your ally, you’ll gain an army and launch an all-out assault on Darth Vader’s fortress. Face legions of stormtroopers and a vengeful Imperial officer before facing off with the dark lord himself in a heart-stopping lightsaber battle that will determine Mustafar’s fate."

Are you excited for Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series coming to PlayStation VR? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 4 May 2020

Celebrate May Fourth on Disney+

To celebrate Star Wars Day on Disney+, there's a host of new galactic goodies for fans of George Lucas' beloved space opera.

From Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars series finale to new profile avatars including Jabba the Hutt and Porg.

With the conclusion of The Clone Wars, why not revisit Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance.

Today it was officially confirmed director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), who recently won an Oscar for his Jojo Rabbit screenplay, will direct and co-write an as-yet-untitled Star Wars film with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who co-wrote 1917. Waititi most recently directed the season one finale of The Mandalorian and voiced IG-11 in the first live-action Star Wars series.

There has been a wealth of new merchandise released. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, I've ordered a Disney Store exclusive Imperial Probe Droid Elite Series Die-Cast Action Figure and the much-sought-after Build-A-Bear The Child from The Mandalorian, which sold out in the US.

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

May the Fourth be with you.

Friday 1 May 2020

Is the Force still strong with Star Wars?

Star Wars fans can look forward to an unprecedented intergalactic bounty on Disney+ on May Fourth AKA Star Wars Day: Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, the final ever episode of The Clone Wars and The Rise of Skywalker.

Whilst I'll be eagerly watching The Rise of Skywalker for the first time since seeing it at the cinema last December. Other fans will be approaching the conclusion to the Skywalker saga from a certain point of view.

Guest post by Simon Judges

The Rise of Skywalker hitting Disney+ earlier than expected got me to thinking about my relationship with the saga.

I was there at the beginning. When I was six years old, my dad took me to see the original Star Wars at the local “fleapit”. I’d be lying if I said I could remember how I felt coming out of the film, but I do know I saw it again at a bigger, better-equipped cinema not long afterwards. And it dominated my childhood. Playground games, comics, books, toys, stickers. I lived and breathed Star Wars, and wanted more. Luckily, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi fed my hunger.

My love of Star Wars hasn’t diminished much in the 42 years since. It’s true that, as I approach 50, I tend not to play at being Han Solo so much, but I regularly watch the films, read the books, play the video games, and generally keep up with all things Star Wars.

In December last year, however, something strange happened. For the first time ever, I watched a Star Wars film and left the cinema underwhelmed.

Now, while I didn’t love the prequels, I did find something in each of them to enjoy. The pod race, the duel of the fates, the battle of Geonosis, the opening and closing moments of Episode III (although the less said about Vader’s “Nooooooo…” the better).

I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. Yes, it was a retread of A New Hope, but it had energy, pace, and genuine wit and humour. And I still don’t understand the hate for The Last Jedi. It’s certainly not the best of the bunch, but it ain’t that bad. Rightly or wrongly, Rian Johnson made some bold decisions. Personally, I loved Luke as a grumpy old man. (That’s my opinion - don’t @ me.)

But The Rise of Skywalker just felt wrong. On first viewing, it seemed to be a bad story, badly written and badly acted. A friend described it as the worst kind of fan fiction up on the screen. And I think that was the problem. JJ Abrams was facing a double-edged sword. He had to service the story, and he had to serve the fans; fans who, if Twitter and YouTube were to be believed, were VERY unhappy about the way things were going. In doing so, he managed to create a glorious mess. To me, it felt rushed and sloppy. There was just too much crammed in. The story and the characters had no time to breathe. Worse, the two main plot points - Palpatine’s return and his connection with Rey - just felt lazy.

I’ve seen it a couple of times since - once, again, at the cinema. Going in with lower expectations, I didn’t find it quite so… bad. I’ve also seen it at home. Somehow, TV seemed kinder to its flaws; while still present, they’re less glaring. And of course, I’ll be watching it again now that it’s on Disney+.

I love Star Wars. I love everything about Star Wars. I always have. And I’ll always defend the rights of Abrams and Johnson et al to make mistakes. Their intentions are good; they come from the right place. You just can’t please everyone, especially with a property as hot as Star Wars. But I think I’ll always be disappointed with the way this current saga ended.

The Mandalorian has given me hope. It’s clearly affectionate for the past - you only have to watch the Mos Eisley episode to see that - but it’s already ploughing its own furrow. Let’s see what season two brings. But, while I am looking forward to what the future holds, I’ll admit to a tiny bit of trepidation. For the first time ever, I’ve felt let down by a Star Wars film. “Faster, more intense!” may have worked for Lucas, 45 years ago. But it’s a phrase I think should be best avoided by whoever’s next in the director’s chair.

What do you think? Is The Mandalorian and further live-action spin-offs the future of Star Wars? Let me know in the comments below.