Tuesday 29 September 2020

25 years of PlayStation

25 years ago today, the original PlayStation went on sale in the UK. I wouldn't own Sony's upstart console with a copy of Tomb Raider until 1996. However, I first played a friend's Japanese import PlayStation and then commandeered a university housemate's for a daily dose of Destruction Derby, Ridge Racer and WipEout when I should have been writing my third-year dissertation. Because reasons.

I'd taken my 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to university where it played genial host to Super Mario Kart tournaments, with housemates and friends, until the PlayStation was launched in 1995 at the peak of the console wars between Nintendo and Sega. Incidentally, the console wars will be explored in an upcoming documentary on Netflix.

Without the SNES, there would be no PlayStation. Sony's 32-bit console began life as an aborted SNES CD-ROM add-on in 1988. However, Nintendo shunned Sony at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and partnered with Philips in 1991. The rest is gaming history.

PlayStation 5 (PS5) (affiliate link) launches this November, and it's all too easy to overlook the disruptive impact the brand has had on popular culture for almost 3 decades. The PlayStation popularised 3D visuals with landmark titles such as Tomb Raider and Resident Evil. Capcom's survival horror was nightmarish played in broad daylight at a friend's sadly defunct independent video game store.

Tomb Raider, originally released on the ill-fated Sega Saturn, became synonymous with PlayStation in the mid-nineties, and I feverishly followed the franchise for several years, collecting all manner of merchandise in the process. Lara Croft was a female protagonist possessing the chutzpah of Indiana Jones.

In the mid-to-late nineties it was fashionably cool to say you owned a PlayStation during water cooler conversations at work (in my case as an online journalist at Reuters) and the console was featured on newsstands everywhere, from Edge to FHM, nudging Nintendo and Sega off the top spots forever.

What are your favourite PlayStation memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 28 September 2020

Doom Eternal raises hell on Game Pass this week

No sooner has the gaming world picked itself up following Microsoft's shock purchase of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion dollars. id Software and Bethesda Softworks' Doom Eternal is coming to Game Pass this Thursday.

The first sequel to the 2016 reboot of a classic first-person shooter (FPS) franchise is on many Game of the Year (GotY) lists for 2020. This move is a mission statement from the Redmond-based company.

Despite Doom being the first multiplayer game I played with friends at university, Quake and Wolfenstein were far more memorable. The latter boasting compelling narratives until the co-op abomination Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Way back when this blog began, I religiously played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory on my LCD iMac G4 AKA Luxo Jr.

In the wake of last week's news I've cancelled my PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X day-one pre-orders. There's life left in my PS4 and Xbox One X. However, I will be getting an all-digital Series S for the bedroom.

Matt Charlton, our resident gaming and gadget guru, messaged me regarding the upcoming redesigned Xbox app for iOS (currently in beta on TestFlight). So, that's an additional way to access my Xbox game collection a la the official Remote Play app for PS4.

I've been a Game Pass advocate since launch and Xbox is my daily goto since lockdown. So much so, I've decided to partition my built-to-order iMac with 5K Retina display 2TB SSD, when it arrives in late October (COVID-19 permitting), to run both macOS and Windows 10 (using Boot Camp). Game Pass for PC is bundled with Game Pass Ultimate for Xbox and I'll pickup a new Shock Blue (affiliate link) wireless controller for use with the iMac, iPad Pro and iPhone SE.

Doom Eternal is available on Game Pass on 1st October. The first campaign expansion, The Ancient Gods: Part One, announced at QuakeCon 2020 is available 20th October. Expect more Doom titles to appear including Doom 64.

Have you held off subscribing to Game Pass? If so, are you now tempted? Let me know in the comments below.

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 may be 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 Amazon.co.uk (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.