Friday 31 July 2020

Beyond Light on Game Pass

Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding Halo Infinite and that bold brute. During July's Xbox Games Showcase it was all too easy to overlook Bungie's surprise announcement that current and future Destiny 2 content will be included on Game Pass from this September. Especially as Bungie and Microsoft were estranged bedfellows after a parting of ways following years of critical and commercial success with the Halo franchise.

Longtime readers may recall I was a huge fan of the original Destiny in 2014 and embraced the notion of a decade-spanning story. However, the release of Destiny 2 marred the experience to the point where I stopped playing, entirely, within weeks. More slog than compelling sci-fi space opera and it was deserted of players.

When Bungie broke free of Activision and Destiny 2 went free-to-play, I briefly revisited the looter shooter but it failed to rekindle my enthusiasm. Foolishly, I'd overlooked cross-save and created a new Titan (the original Titan remained trapped in PSN purgatory, her story unfinished).

The Game Pass announcement spurred this lapsed Guardian out of retirement and last evening imported his female Titan - via the wonder of cross-save - from the original Destiny on PS4, to be greeted by a story so far sequence that resonated more powerfully than expected.

An absence of 2-3 years made the heart grow fonder and suddenly I was reunited with old friends; struck at how much I'd missed the banter with Ghost (filling the gaping void left by one of gaming's most beloved characters, Halo's Cortana). After completing the opening story mission for Shadowkeep and a few live events. Shoot me to the moon! It's fun again, Guardians!

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Beyond Light has been delayed until November. However, there'll be plenty of content when Destiny 2's current expansions arrive on Game Pass. This should give new and lapsed Guardians (myself included) time to level up in readiness for exploring the frozen wastes of Europa.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

15 Emmy nominations for The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian, the Disney+ Star Wars live-action spin-off about a man in a mask (highly topical) protecting a child, fittingly has multiple Emmy nominations for its first season.

A total of 15 nominations: Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series (Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon), Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Taika Waititi as IG-11) along with Outstanding Production Design, Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup, Outstanding Music Composition, Outstanding Sound Editing, Outstanding Sound Mixing, Outstanding Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Stunt Coordination.

"Having so many categories recognized for our team this morning was a lovely reminder of the outstanding camaraderie and vision we experienced making this show," said Matthew Wood, Co-Supervising Sound Editor. "All of us are Star Wars fans at heart, and it’s been a dream to be able to put our energies behind that love and be heard! This is the way!"

The Mandalorian's second season is still on track for later this year on Disney+.

Baby Yoda deserves an Emmy don't you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 27 July 2020

Virtual Comic-Con needs nerd herd

Comic-Con@Home has ended. Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, reflects on the highs and lows of the five-day event as we all try to navigate our way through the Upside Down.

Guest post by Nick Smith

After a gentle start on Wednesday, Comic-Con kicked into high gear with panels featuring Marvel executive VP Joe Quesada, Henry ‘Fonz’ Winkler, the cast of BBC/HBO’s His Dark Materials and Bugs Bunny (who turns 80 this year!).

The Con was jam-packed with instructional panels geared toward kids (for example, Marvel HQ showing how to draw Venom) and adults (Comics During Clampdown covered creativity, racial politics and the shifts in working methods that have occurred during COVID). Other panels covered making action figures, breaking into comics, and making and teaching comics – the latter led by James Sturm, co-founder and director of the Centre for Cartoon Studies, a school doing excellent work producing and legitimising the medium in White River Junction, Vermont.

Some of the panels were less how-to, more chit-chat; during “All the Starfleet Ladies: Then and Now,” an all-female roster of writers and pro-fans held an in-depth discussion about the early marginalization, and later prominence, of women in Star Trek.

But for most of us, the stars were the real draw of this Con. This year’s line-up included Charlize Theron, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead), Ron Perlman, Famke Janssen, Felicia Day, Keanu Reeves, Kelly Overton and Tricia Helfer (Van Helsing). And that was just the actors. Production-wise, contributors included Eric ‘Supernatural’ Kripke, Kevin Smith, Seth McFarlane, Robert Rodriguez and J. Michael Straczynski (Thor); from comics we saw Quesada, who’s been attending since before he went pro; Todd McFarlane, the wonderfully talented Matt Kindt, Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), John Ostrander (Suicide Squad) and Jeff Smith (Bone). Quesada was particularly positive about the way Comic-Con is fuelled by, ‘the power of comics, the power of genre.’

Not a lot of big genre movies were present, because no one’s going to the pictures right now. This really gave TV shows a chance to shine, with established hits like The 100, Power Rangers and The Goldbergs rubbing shoulders with new streaming efforts from NBC’s new Peacock service and the struggling blip-length platform QuiBi.

One of Thursday’s highlights was definitely a panel uniting the cast of Amazon’s The Boys, along with producer Kripke. Everyone was energetic, looking forward to their second season. Another panel celebrated the forthcoming New Mutants, with cast appearances including my fellow Bristolian Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who) and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).

Thursday’s crème de la make-it-so crème, however, had to be the Star Trek Universe panel, which not only included a table read of a Discovery script by the original actors, but also linked up the main Picard cast for the first time since they wrapped season one of the CBS show.

More than anything, this virtual version of Comic-Con gave attendees the chance to dip into panels. Not your cup of tea? You could jump to another YouTube video without having to get up, leave a room and try to creep into another one without everyone staring at you. This allowed regular Con-goers to soak up a wider variety of content, catching dozens, if not hundreds of the panels. There was a real sense that the organisers wanted to make this more accessible than ever and more inclusive than ever, without losing a charming social awkwardness best represented by their ‘welcome to Comic-Con’ video. The big-name events were not as slick as expected, with audio issues (Titan), semi-rehearsed introductions (Rooster Teeth) or downright disorganisation (they know who they are). Others, such as Marvel HQ’s offerings, were entertainingly edited. The sloppier panels were more like Dunder Mifflin Zoom meetings than publicity drives from a movie studio; Informality is not always a bad thing and we got to see people like Patrick Stewart warts and all.

Toy reveals have been a big part of Comic-Con for decades. This year Mattel announced new Halo Master Chief micro action figures; NECA Gremlins, including a Target Exclusive Back to School Gremlin, based on the original movie ad; a NECA glow in the dark xenomorph from Alien; Witcher toys from McFarlane. My favourite exclusive offering was a talking Dennis Nedry figure from Jurassic Park in a fake Barbasol can. My only disappointment was that it didn’t come with a real can of shaving cream.

In my Comic-Con preview I made a crack about orcs. I’m the last person to paint genre conventions as being populated by grown-ups dressed in rubber (that would be a different kind of convention) but it’s always fun to see cosplayers wearing garb from their favourite shows. Can Klingon fans still enjoy themselves when they can’t get suited up, show off and hang out together? According to the play “Klingon Lifestyles,” the answer is yes. For the 27th episode of this series, the producers have come up with a plot about singing alien warriors on vacation in ‘The Home Alone Year.’

‘I feel like I’ve learned new techniques on how to do things, especially during filming,’ said actress Denise Hanon who plays Captain Novax, ‘…and how to do fights with people who are far distant, that’s a pretty interesting thing.’

Cosplayers were encouraged to record themselves (using social distancing) and submit the videos for a contest called the Comic-Con@Home 2020 Virtual Masquerade Costume Competition.

Voting for the Con’s Eisner awards was shut down early this year due to concerns of a privacy leak and mixed-up accounts, according to Gizmodo. But the Eisners still covered a good, wide range of voices. Image’s Bitter Root won Best Ongoing Series. Top Shelf’s They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei, won Best Reality-Based Work. This graphic novel about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II tells a story still lacking from history books, and one that is sadly still relevant today.

Erica Eng’s Fried Rice was named Best Webcomic. Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran’s Snow, Glass, Apples won Best Adaptation from Another Medium. Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn) was crowned Best Writer, while Raina Telgemeier won Best Writer/Artist for her Guts.

Meanwhile back at the panels, there were loads of filmmakers and TV studios present with stuff to selling stuff. That included Kevin Smith’s new film Killroy Was Here. Smith stood in front of a camera and talked for an entertaining hour. That guy’s a talker! Also represented were NOS4A2, Archer season 11 (!) and Amazon Prime’s Upload.

The action movie Deep Blue Sea 3 was promoted by its director, producer and cast in an event hosted by Anthony C. Ferrante (Sharknado). Deep Blue Sea 3 will be released online this week in the US, with a disk in August. The cast talked about shooting in South Africa and how to act as if the movie’s digital sharks were real; Nathaniel Buzolic (who plays Richard) compared them to his mum… in a good way. She helps him to self-tape for auditions and he has to imagine a good actor in her place!

Beyond the hoopla there were also people who simply love comics and have devoted their careers to the medium. Karen Green (Columbia University), Dean Mullaney (The Library of American Comics), Peter Maresca (Sunday Press), and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics) discussed reprinting classic comics, their love of newspaper strips and artists like Milton Caniff. You could almost smell the musty pulp paper while they enthused about their subject. Maresca pointed out that all the panellists had helped each other in the past. ‘Once someone’s locked onto a book, the entire community is right behind them and that’s a great thing.’

And that’s the one thing this virtual con is lacking – the sense that crowds of enthusiastic fans are rooting for the Con and its participants. Views ranged from one for a live sketch event (two if you count me), to hundreds for the studious discussion panels, to thousands for the Big-Name panels.

The fans are the ones who will make this a flop or a success, and this virtual set-up brings Comic-Con closer than ever to the online culture that has helped popularise or extend the life of certain characters/franchises, such as Deadpool, Spider-Girl and Family Guy.

For many this will be their first experience of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), and at ticket prices running at $69 a day for the live version last year, I don’t know if they’ll think it’s worth the money when the Con returns to normal. Yet a live audience can be an incredibly powerful thing and I hope some viewers get bitten by the bug and visit San Diego when they get the chance.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Strange new times in His Dark Materials

HBO dropped an official trailer for the second season of His Dark Materials during ComicCon@Home. Whilst the upcoming season has one less episode, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it does see the reunion of Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott.

"I'm really thrilled about that because it's all about companionship and friendship and loyalty and that's what I feel about Phoebe in my real life so it's wonderful that it's happening," said Scott, who will play explorer Colonel John Parry.

A standalone episode starring James McAvoy (Lord Asriel) has been cut. This would have explored Asriel's journey into an alternate world in the wake of killing Lyra’s (Dafne Keen) best friend Roger (Lewyn Lloyd) in the season one finale.

“Really we did have an incredible piece of luck,” executive producer Jane Tranter said during a special His Dark Materials panel at Comic-Con@Home. “We were filming when the pandemic hit, and we did have to stop filming.

“But we were in a peculiar situation where our main unit had wrapped just before Christmas 2019. And we had one standalone episode that we were filming in March, and it was separate from the other seven episodes, because it was a standalone episode.”

“Jack had written [the episode] with the blessing and with input from Philip Pullman, which looked at what Asriel had been doing between going through the anomaly at the end of season one, and when we see Lord Asriel at the beginning of book three, the Amber Spyglass,” Tranter said.

“Because Asriel isn’t actually in The Subtle Knife. He’s very much talked about, his presence is very much felt, but he’s not actually there. So we played kind of detective with The Subtle Knife and figured out what Asriel might have been doing.”

McAvoy can be heard in Audible's The Sandman (affiliate link), an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's seminal comic book series, directed by Dirk Maggs (Batman: Knightfall).

His Dark Materials, my favourite drama series of 2019, is scheduled to return on HBO and BBC One this autumn.

Friday 24 July 2020

Halo Infinite gameplay Combat Evolved?

Like myriad gamers in 2002, I bought an original Xbox solely to play Halo: Combat Evolved.

Bungie's seminal first-person shooter (FPS) had captured my imagination when Halo was unveiled at Macworld in 1999. Ultimately, Microsoft would acquire exclusivity of Halo as the first killer app for its fledgeling console.

Master Chief and Cortana's story had me enthralled in what is lauded as one of the most influential video games of all time. As mentioned previously, I wouldn't return to the Halo franchise until Halo 4, after winning an Xbox 360 S from LOVEFiLM, in 2012. Halo 4 was the perfect homecoming for this lifelong fan of storied space operas.

During Thursday's Xbox Games Showcase, coinciding with Comic-Con@Home, 343 Industries released a first look at Halo Infinite gameplay. Microsoft's first-party studio has seemingly gone back to Bungie's original playbook for inspiration and fan reaction is divided.

Personally, Halo Infinite evokes nostalgia for Combat Evolved and I'll be downloading day-one on Game Pass Ultimate this holiday season.

Get Game Pass for first-party and selected third-party titles (including Destiny 2: Beyond Light from Bungie) and save money. You can thank me later. xCloud, Microsoft's cloud-based gaming service, comes to Game Pass Ultimate this September.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see Master Chief return to his roots in an open world and where's Cortana? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Stay-at-home Comic-Con

Comic-Con@Home has begun. As we all continue to make sense of the 'new normal', Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, looks back to the beginning of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and forward to its possible future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic...

Guest post by Nick Smith

I have always been intrigued by Comic-Con International: San Diego but have never been able to attend due to limitations of cost, distance, time, chilblains and a totally rational fear of people dressed as orcs. You know, with big plastic axes.

If you’re like me (apart from the orc bit) then this is your year! The show will go on despite the current COVID crisis. The event is online for all to see on YouTube for a concise 5 days, from July 22nd-26th.

Despite its name, Comic-Con has always been about more than mere funny books. It started life as the Golden State Comic Book Convention exactly 50 years ago. In 1970, the big draws were writer/artist Jack Kirby and authors Ray Bradbury and A. E. van Vogt. These days the massive convention covers anything that studios and publishers want to sell, and fans want to celebrate. Anything pop culture goes.

With over 350 panels, an exhibit hall, an Eisner Awards Ceremony, game demos… the event can be overwhelming. The panels alone cover Hot Wheels, History’s Vikings show, Star Wars audiobooks, The Walking Dead TV spin-offs, Ray Harryhausen, Bob’s Burgers and American Dad, to name just a few prominent topics. The best way to get a handle on them all is to go to Comic-Con’s “My Sched” tab (whether you use the app or not). You’ll see all the panels listed here, then you can pick and choose from there. As in past years, schedules are subject to change.

Cleverly, the exhibit hall is displayed like a floor plan. Click on an exhibitor and you’ll see their merchandise. Need that Mandalorian Chia Child? Visit the Star Wars booth. On the mezzanine, click on a Fan Club table and you get more info or a link to their corresponding website.

Like all conventions, the San Diego mob thrives on its camaraderie. Not everyone dresses up, not everyone wants to socialise, but this year’s event will show a whole new crowd of fans that their interests are shared by people from all kinds of backgrounds. Comic-Con has always strived to be accessible but now fans who can’t leave their homes can attend. As the organisers joke, since you’re watching from home you can sit in a comfy seat, eat your favourite snacks and bring your pet… sort of. Orcs do not count as pets BTW.

Comic-Con International is a non-profit and the organisers are asking for donations. If enough site visitors support the Con, at least by purchasing merchandise, then this could be a format we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

How are you getting involved with Comic-Con? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge-inspired toys at Target

The Force is strong with San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) announcements.

From August US-based Star Wars fans will be able to buy an exclusive range of Galaxy's Edge-inspired toys and clothing in-store and online at Target.

The centrepiece is the Smuggler's Run Millennium Falcon, featuring electronic sound effects, from Hasbro's Kenner-branded vintage collection. Seemingly pre-orders have already sold out, listed on eBay at hugely inflated prices, to the ire of collectors. The new line also includes Black Series action figures, LEGO sets and Funko Pops!

Look out for the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Trading Post collection at Target.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Black Series Wampa likes it Hoth

This week geeks from around the world would have descended on San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and need for social distancing, the physical event was cancelled. Therefore, panels will be livestreamed free as part of Comic-Con@Home from 22nd-26th July.

So, exhibitors are making their own announcements online. The Hoth Wampa joins The Empire Strikes Back Black Series collection later this year from Hasbro. The icy brute comes in vintage Kenner packaging, which suggests there'll be a Luke Skywalker and Tauntaun too.

Hasbro has also announced 501st Legion Arc Troopers and a Heroes of Endor set that includes Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Paploo and a Speeder Bike. Given Andrew Lewin's 'enthusiasm' for all things Ewok, I know what he wants for Christmas. Hopefully, Nick Smith will be checking out these new Kenner-branded vintage collection sets in September.

Monday 20 July 2020

Russo brothers tease Secret Wars

The Russo brothers (Avengers: Endgame) are rumoured to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to direct Secret Wars! The seminal 12-issue limited series from 1984 chronicled Marvel's superheroes and villains as they battled each other for the amusement of the Beyonder.

Joe Russo was equally enthralled by Secret Wars in the mid-eighties.

“It was one of the first major books to do that — that was really event-storytelling to me at its finest. And what happens when you put all of those personalities together.”

Why, after all these years, are the Russo brothers still so enthusiastic about Secret Wars?

“I also like the idea of villains having to team up with heroes. [Anthony Russo] and I like complicated relationships between heroes and villains, we like villains who believe they’re heroes in their own stories, so it’s all sort of built into this notion of Secret Wars.”

“To execute something on the scale of Infinity War was directly related to the dream of Secret Wars, which is even larger in scale.”

As far as I know (comic book aficionados please correct me) Secret Wars was the first mainstream event series that included tie-in merchandise. I remember collecting action figures from Mattel.

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

Saturday 18 July 2020

Black Series Ahsoka Tano sold out at Walmart

Star Wars: The Clone Wars may have ended on Disney+, but that hasn't stopped Hasbro releasing a new wave of Black Series action figures including favourites commemorating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back.

Alongside Ahsoka are 332nd Clone Trooper, Mandalorian Loyalist and Mandalorian Super Commando. Pre-orders for Ahsoka Tano have already sold out on Walmart. Hopefully, these Walmart exclusives will appear on (affiliate link).

I was able to acquire Han Solo (Carbonite) (affiliate link) and 4-LOM and Zuckuss (affiliate link) from Amazon for my collection. The bounty hunter pair are among my favourite action figures from the original Kenner line. Hasbro has reissued them in their original colours and incorrectly labelled. As they're both insectoid; I never twigged these were wrongly named until many years later.

Which Black Series action figures are you most excited for? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 16 July 2020

LEGO NES: playing with power... and bricks

LEGO and Nintendo have officially announced a LEGO edition of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which follows the introduction of Super Mario sets (affiliate link).

“Super Mario has been a cherished figure in the gaming world for over thirty years now," said the creative lead in charge of the new set, Maarten Simons.

"Many adults still fondly remember that first time they saw Mario leap across the small screen, even if the graphics were a lot simpler than they are today.

"With the Lego Nintendo Entertainment System, we’re letting them truly indulge in that nostalgia, recreating one of the most-loved consoles of all time so they can see the Super Mario from their childhoods once again - and even to share the experience of gaming in the 1980s with their own children."

The NES dominated the American video game market in the mid-to-late eighties. Whilst it was released in the UK, via toymaker Mattel, I didn't own the much-vaunted machine, despite wanting R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) for Christmas 1987, until the launch of the official mini console in 2016.

The retro video game system, including controller, Game Pak and CRT TV, goes on sale in August for £209.99. You'll be able to buy it directly from LEGO here (affiliate link).

Tuesday 14 July 2020

The Empire Strikes Back tops box office 40 years on

Living in strange times, we are. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is number one at the UK box office, the week Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and my dad both celebrate their 78th birthdays, 40 years since its original release in 1980. The Star Wars sequel has repeated this feat in the US too.

Cinema chains are beginning to reopen following the easing of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are confident we can look after our staff and our customers with enhanced protocols. By the time we reopen in the UK, our methods will have been responsibly and robustly deployed in the real world,” said Vue boss Tim Richards.

“We have learned how to do this from our operations in Taiwan where we never closed and have successfully operated through pandemics such as SARS in the past; and from our sites in Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland and Lithuania, where we have recently and successfully reopened to the public.”

Are you looking forward to going to the cinema again or will you wait for a home release of upcoming movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 13 July 2020

Star Wars: The Bad Batch coming to Disney+

There's a new Star Wars spin-off coming to your galaxy in 2021. The Bad Batch, a unique squad of clones first seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, are getting their own animated series on Disney+.

“Giving new and existing fans the final chapter of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been our honor at Disney+, and we are overjoyed by the global response to this landmark series,” said Agnes Chu, senior vice president, Content, Disney+. “While The Clone Wars may have come to its conclusion, our partnership with the groundbreaking storytellers and artists at Lucasfilm Animation is only beginning. We are thrilled to bring Dave Filoni’s vision to life through the next adventures of the Bad Batch.”

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is executive produced by Dave Filoni (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels).

Are you excited for The Bad Batch or would you prefer an Ahsoka Tano spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 11 July 2020

Sony invests $250 million into Fortnite creator

Following the impressive Unreal Engine 5 tech demo running on PlayStation 5 (PS5) last May. Sony has acquired a minority stake in Epic Games, creator of the Fortnite online video game franchise.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations. There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience Fortnite,” Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in a statement.

“Throughout our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape,” Yoshida added.

Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney added, “Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike.”

Epic Games most recently worked with Lucasfilm on real-time visual effects rendering for Disney+'s first live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian.

Friday 10 July 2020

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cancelled

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the latest cancellation casualty at Netflix and I suspect this has more to do with Warner Bros. launching HBO Max than the series' success!

The reboot, starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) as the titular teen, quickly established itself as a millennial successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a cult favourite amongst fans of all ages with its charismatic cast (including Doctor Who's Michelle Gomez) and macabre humour. So much so, it's become a holiday season tradition in my house.

“Working on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been an incredible honor from day one. The cast, beginning with Kiernan as everyone’s favorite teen witch, has been an absolute joy. I am beyond thankful to the crew, writers, editors, assistants and everyone for pouring so much love into this dark dream of a show,” said showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. “I’m also grateful to our partners at Netflix, Warner Bros., Berlanti Television and Archie Comics for letting us tell the story we wanted to tell, the way we wanted to tell it. We can’t wait for everyone to see part four.”

In the same way Netflix shuttered its Marvel spin-offs prior to the launch of Disney+, now the streaming giant has HBO Max vying for subscribers in the midst of a global pandemic and socio-economic change. It'll be interesting to see if other series, produced for Netflix by The CW, will get the axe too. Sabrina may reappear on HBO Max in the future.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Ready Player Two this November

The sequel to Ready Player One, adapted into a big budget feature film by director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park), will be published this November. Author Ernest Cline takes readers back to the Oasis, a virtual reality game, in Ready Player Two (affiliate link).

In the wake of Netflix's Stranger Things capturing the zeitgeist for eighties nostalgia. Spielberg's blockbuster adaptation left me cold. Mostly. A sense of wonder, a hallmark of the director's beloved classics from my formative years, was markedly absent and in its place was attention deficit disorder (ADD) and cynical commercialism.

Alan Silvestri's soundtrack playfully references his work on Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future trilogy and longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, but that zest was too short-lived to elevate the film above a series of mediocre vignettes despite charismatic leads Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts) and Olivia Cooke (Art3mis).

Personally, I preferred listening to the Ready Player One audiobook read by Wil Wheaton. Wheaton is best known to geeks (myself included) for his portrayal of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) nemesis in The Big Bang Theory.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Hilary Swank’s Away mission to Mars

Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank is following in Matt Damon’s footsteps in Netflix’s upcoming sci-fi series. Away. Swank recently appeared in sci-fi thriller I Am Mother.

An official synopsis follows:

“As American astronaut Emma Green (Hilary Swank) prepares to lead an international crew on the first mission to Mars, she must reconcile her decision to leave behind her husband (Josh Charles) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman) when they need her the most.

As the crew’s journey into space intensifies, their personal dynamics and the effects of being away from their loved ones back on Earth become increasingly complex. Away shows that sometimes to reach for the stars, we must leave home behind.”

Away was created by Andrew Hinderaker. Showrunner Jessica Goldberg executive-produced the show, as well as Swank, Jason Katims, Matt Reeves, Andrew Hinderaker, Edward Zwick, Adam Kassan and Jeni Mulein. Netflix has released an official teaser trailer.

Away begins streaming 4th September exclusively on Netflix.

Monday 6 July 2020

The Boys are back in town this September!

The Boys, Amazon Prime's darkly satirical superhero series adaptation comparing favourably with Watchmen, returns for a second season this September.

Amazon has released a first look clip introducing Stormfront played by Aya Cash. "I think Stormfront is like a nuclear bomb that goes off in the Seven," Cash previously said of the character. "Maybe nuclear bomb isn’t the right word. We’re in Chernobyl. There you go. It’s a Chernobyl thing. I think she’s here to blow up Vought. She’s here to try to get Vought back to the original idea behind creating superheroes... And she can be quite the feminist. There’s a lot of, I wouldn’t say misdirect, but she also is a very empowered woman."

Following the death of Translucent (Alex Hassell) in season one, Stormfront will challenge Homelander (Antony Starr) for leadership of the superhero group Seven.

The Boys' second season three-episode premiere is 4th September. The first season is streaming now on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Friday 3 July 2020

Fallout from Westworld creators

The Last of Us isn't the only video game franchise getting a live-action adaptation and The Witcher is already on Netflix.

Amazon Studios has ordered Bethesda's Fallout from the showrunners of Westworld.

“Fallout is one of the greatest game series of all time,” Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter (THR). “Each chapter of this insanely imaginative story has cost us countless hours we could have spent with family and friends. We’re incredibly excited to partner with Todd Howard and the rest of the brilliant lunatics at Bethesda to bring this massive, subversive, and darkly funny universe to life with Amazon Studios."

"Fallout is an iconic global franchise, with legions of fans worldwide and a rich, deeply compelling storyline that powers it. And Jonah and Lisa are the perfect storytellers to bring this series to life,” said Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of television at Amazon Studios. “We’re thrilled to join with Bethesda to bring Fallout to television.”

Unlike Fallout 76, this is a spin-off I can get behind. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Captain Marvel's Brie Larson joins YouTube

Brie Larson, who plays the titular Captain Marvel in the MCU, has launched her own YouTube channel in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic and was ably assisted by YouTubers including iJustine AKA Justine Ezarik.

"YouTube has been a place that I've learned so much, whether it's been like how to use my printer, or it's been watching like how to be a considerate activist, this is like the place to talk about things that are important and that matter," Larson said. "It doesn't mean that there also isn't silly content. That there are ways to express myself personally, but there will also be deep conversations, anti-racist rhetoric, inclusive content. So with all that said, the following video is just me getting warmed up and feeling this out and getting to talk to a lot of really brilliant creators."

In related news. Larson is purportedly set to play Mara Jade, a Star Wars Legends character who married Luke Skywalker, in Kevin Feige's untitled Star Wars movie.

Larson's personal YouTube channel promises to bring some sunshine into our lives and much-needed distraction from the 'new normal'. A lifelong Nintendo fan, I wonder if she also plays Animal Crossing?

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Retro Games reimagines the Commodore VIC-20

Retro Games, the company behind The C64 (affiliate link) and The C64 Mini (affiliate link), is expanding its successful 8-bit home computer line to include the Commodore VIC-20, which was the predecessor to the Commodore 64 and sold over one million units.

"We are really excited to bring you even more of the most loved retro games ever on two of the most iconic home computers of all time, combined in this latest incarnation of The C64 range - this time with full working keyboard and a classic VIC-20 style," said Retro Games' managing director, Paul Andrews.

William Shatner, best known for his role as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, featured in a memorable television commercial introducing the 'wonder computer' of the 1980s.

Whilst I didn't own a VIC-20, opting for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K and then Commodore 64, a few school friends did and we would play popular video games such as Gridrunner and Laser Zone, 8-bit classics by Jeff Minter of Llamasoft fame.

The VIC-20 (affiliate link) includes 64 built-in games from the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 back catalogue and is released 23rd October for £109.99. Koch Media is distributing and I hope to bring you a review in the future.

What are your memories of the VIC-20? Please let me know in the comments below.