Monday 31 May 2021

Disney's Jungle Cruise channels Indiana Jones

The original Pirates of the Caribbean proved Disney could successfully transpose its theme park intellectual property (IP) to the big screen, combining critical and commercial success in the process.

Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: The Next Level) and Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), could repeat that trick during the pandemic as lockdowns ease and entertainment venues reopen worldwide. The upcoming action-adventure channels stablemate Indiana Jones even as far as the stunning Drew Struzan-inspired poster art.

Here’s the synopsis for Jungle Cruise:

"Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance."

Jungle Cruise is released in cinemas and on Disney+ with Premier Access on 30th July.

Are you looking forward to Jungle Cruise? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Oscar Isaac is Moon Knight on Disney+

Oscar Isaac, who played fan-favourite Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, is officially Marvel Studios' Moon Knight for Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Moon Knight on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 28 May 2021

LEGO Star Wars: The Bad Batch Attack Shuttle

Star Wars: The Bad Batch premiered on Star Wars Day on Disney+, and LEGO has announced a new set coming to your galaxy this August.

The Bad Batch Attack Shuttle set includes Clone Force 99 members Tech, Echo, Hunter, Wrecker and Crosshair. Plus, two speeders and a Gonk droid! Gonk... Gonk...

Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, Lego Star Wars creative lead said: "I’m thrilled that we can finally reveal this great new model that celebrates the launch of the new animated series. Star Wars: The Bad Batch characters are so unique and deserve an awesome ride, which they definitely got in the Attack Shuttle.

Really enjoying Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+!

"We hope it inspires many young fans to relive their favourite scenes from the new series, as well as to come up with their own storylines."

The Bad Batch Attack Shuttle set is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

Will you be adding LEGO Star Wars: The Bad Batch Attack Shuttle to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 27 May 2021

Amazon buys James Bond studio MGM

The name's Prime, Amazon Prime. Amazon has bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) bringing James Bond to Amazon Prime.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of [intellectual property] in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in announcing the deal. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

Once the $8.45 billion takeover deal is completed by the end of the year, MGM will continue to operate as a brand label within the Amazon company.

Kevin Ulrich, MGM’s chairman, said in a statement, “I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”

This isn't expected to have any material impact on the distribution of No Time To Die as Eon Productions, owned by the Broccoli family, has a significant say. However, the future of the James Bond franchise could be very different.

No Time To Die, Daniel Craig's delayed final outing as James Bond, is in cinemas this October.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Fan-favourite Fennec in Star Wars: The Bad Batch

The Mandalorian's Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) showed up in Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+ and the ruthless assassin spells trouble for Omega and Clone Force 99.

Whilst I won't go into any story-specific spoilers, the latest Star Wars spin-off series typifies (for me at least) there's no distinction between the live-action and animated series. They weave a cohesive galaxy-spanning tapestry much like stablemate the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Star Wars: The Bad Batch producer Jennifer Corbett discussed Fennec Shand's inclusion in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars spin-off. "This is a younger Fennec, she's new to the bounty hunting scene and it's an interesting introduction for her," she told the Radio Times. "She definitely comes in with a bang and proves to be a formidable force. It's been amazing to see her progression. The action that comes with that particular episode… it's really incredible."

Fennec Shand will be back alongside bounty hunter Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) in The Book of Boba Fett this December on Disney+.

What did you think of Fennec Shand's Star Wars: The Bad Batch debut and who do you think hired her to hunt down Omega? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Marvel Studios introduces Eternals

Marvel Studios has dropped an official teaser trailer for Eternals from Oscar-winning director ChloƩ Zhao (Nomadland).

Read the official synopsis:

"The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations. They have hidden themselves for thousands of years, must re-unite to protect Earth from their enemies, the Deviants."

The Eternals, god-like creations by Jack Kirby after he returned to Marvel Comics following a stint at rival DC Comics where he created the supervillain Darkseid, have never interfered in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Seemingly the Thanos Blip wasn't a big enough issue for them until the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame.

“We like the idea of introducing an ensemble, doing an ensemble movie from the start, as opposed to building up as we did with the first Avengers,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said previously. “More like Guardians, not tonally, but in terms of introducing a new group of people… Jack Kirby did an immense, amazing epic with Eternals that spans tens of thousands of years, and that’s also something we haven’t really done, which is why that among many other things post-Endgame, we find appealing.”

Unlike Marvel Comics superheroes Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the X-Men. The Eternals are an unknown quantity to me. However, I was ambivalent about Guardians of the Galaxy and won over.

Phase 4 continues with Black Widow and Loki on Disney+, followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in September.

Eternals will be in cinemas this November.

Are you looking forward to the Eternals? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 24 May 2021

MTV Awards spellbound by WandaVision

Marvel Studios' WandaVision was a huge hit with critics and fans (myself included) earlier this year on Disney+. The live-action spin-off series deftly explored themes of grief and loss in the wake of Avengers: Endgame.

It was WandaVision's night at the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards, and here are the best moments with Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) and Kathryn Hahn (Agatha Harkness).

Agatha All Along, the satirical theme song performed by Hahn herself, spawned countless memes and topped the iTunes charts.

Hahn cites a relative on her mother's side as an inspiration for fan-favourite Agatha. "My maternal grandmother," she said. "I heard her sing-song voice, definite [during] the ’50s and ’60s [eras]; everything ended on a question. She was in there."

What are your favourite moments from WandaVision? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 22 May 2021

Amazon's bid for James Bond studio MGM

Amazon has reportedly bid $9 billion for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), which would give the tech titan access to the entire James Bond back catalogue for Amazon Prime in its battle with Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix and more.

This means ITV may lose out. James Bond has become synonymous with rainy bank holidays in the UK and Scala Radio read out my tweet to that effect during an hour dedicated to the music of the eponymous spy. A mid-nineties rerun of Moonraker, on ITV, rekindled my James Bond fandom during the franchise's hiatus between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye.

No Time To Die, Daniel Craig's swansong in the titular role, has been delayed due to the pandemic and is expected in theatres this October after rumours it may stream exclusively on Apple TV+.

Would you miss James Bond on ITV in an era of non-linear, self-curated content? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 21 May 2021

Batman: Caped Crusader coming to HBO Max

Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), JJ Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Matt Reeves (The Batman) are joining forces for Batman: Caped Crusader from HBO Max and Cartoon Network.

“We are beyond excited to be working together to bring this character back, to tell engrossing new stories in Gotham City,” said Abrams and Reeves in a statement. “The series will be thrilling, cinematic and evocative of Batman’s noir roots, while diving deeper into the psychology of these iconic characters. We cannot wait to share this new world.”

Timm, who previously worked with Paul Dini on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the eighties, has a storied history with the dark detective.

“Batman: The Animated Series was a masterpiece that shaped the perception of the character for an entire generation of fans,” said Warner Bros. Animation president Sam Register. “It is in that spirit that we are bringing together three master storytellers in J.J., Matt and Bruce – each with their own intuitive understanding and affection for the character – to create a new series that will continue in the same groundbreaking legacy.”

Abrams, having rebooted the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, has a development deal at Warner Bros. (via his Bad Robot production company) and is linked to direct a new Superman movie.

Abrams says, “I know that Hollywood is a place where it used to be that people would be inspired by something that they would see or an old film or a show or something and think, ‘Oh, here's my response to that. Here's a version of that that.’ It's become a place where, more often than not, you see something and people get inspired by it and go, ‘Let's redo that exact thing.’ I feel like, as someone who started writing in television and telling original stories on film and in TV, it is something that I really do miss. The few things that I'm working on now, as a writer, are original ideas. I just feel, as a director, I really would love to have my next projects be things that didn't pre-exist me necessarily.”

Are you looking forward to Batman: Caped Crusader? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 20 May 2021

The Walking Dead moves to Star on Disney+

The Walt Disney Company continues to pivot towards Disney+ with the closure of the Fox channel after 17 years in the UK.

A Disney spokesperson said: “On 30th June the FOX channel in the UK will close. Many titles will become available on Star on Disney+ and will be announced in the near future. We appreciate the support of our UK fans and can’t wait to keep sharing the best stories with you.

The linear channel's shuttering is not entirely surprising as Disney+ continues to grow its subscription base buoyed by Star Wars and Marvel Studios' spin-offs during the pandemic. The Walking Dead will be joining War of the Worlds and more.

“Star on Disney+ serves as the home of movies and television from Disney’s creative studios, including Disney Television Studios (20th Television and ABC Signature), FX Productions and 20th Century Studios.”

The Walking Dead’s final season will be shown exclusively on Star on Disney+ this August. With the loss of the Fox channel in the UK, NOW (formerly NOW TV) looks less and less appealing as NCIS will very likely move to Star, too.

Will you be subscribing to Disney+ to watch the final season of The Walking Dead? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Star Wars: Droids coming to Disney+

The Star Wars Vintage Collection launched in April on Disney+ with the Ewoks television movies and animated spin-offs as part of Lucasfilm’s 50th anniversary celebration.

According to the latest Disney+ newsletter, Star Wars: Droids, which was announced for later this year, will be added on 18th June.

I remember watching Star Wars: Droids on Children's BBC around the launch of the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. All 13 episodes (including the special) of the fan-favourite animated spin-off series, following the adventures of C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 retroactively between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope, will be available to stream.

In related news. Star Wars: A Droid Story is currently in production for Disney+.

Are you looking forward to seeing Star Wars: Droids on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

DualSense controllers get 'galaxy' theme

Does the DualSense wireless controller come in black?

That was the question many PlayStation fans (myself included) asked when the DualSense was officially unveiled back in April 2020.

It does now.

Whilst the PlayStation 5 (PS5) itself remains rarer than hen's teeth, Sony's announced new DualSense colourways. Cosmic Red (affiliate link) and Midnight Black (affiliate link).

Leo Cardoso from the PlayStation design team said: “Our goal is to always find designs that will surprise and entice our fans, and these new colours are the result of an extensive selection process. We wanted the new controller colours to complement each other, as well as the original DualSense wireless controller and PS5 console, so we designed the colours around the theme of ‘galaxy’ as it felt like a natural progression from the original PS5 and accessories designs.”

I'm currently playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, a bittersweet reminder of BioWare's brilliance, and am tempted to pick up a DualSense Cosmic Red wireless controller.

Which galaxy-themed colour is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 17 May 2021

See you at the Marvel movies!

I've been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since its humble beginnings with Iron Man, which I watched with my dad back in 2008.

Marvel Studios has shared an emotive message spanning its movies past, present and future...

"The world may change and evolve. But the one thing that will never change, we’re all part of one big family."

"I love being with people,” the late Stan Lee can be heard saying in the voiceover. “It’s the most incredible thing in the world.” It's given further resonance during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and cinema closures.

Whilst this meant Black Widow has been delayed for over a year, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have entertained true believers (myself included) on Disney+.

Phase 4 movies include:

Black Widow -- July 9, 2021
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings -- September 3, 2021
Eternals -- November 5, 2021
Spider-Man: No Way Home -- December 17, 2021
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness -- March 25, 2022
Thor: Love and Thunder -- May 6, 2022
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever -- July 8, 2022
The Marvels -- November 11, 2022
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania -- February 17, 2023
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 -- May 5, 2023
Fantastic Four is teased

On the day cinemas reopen, as much as I miss seeing movies on the big screen with family and friends, it will be sometime before I set foot inside a multiplex for the first time since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. However, Black Widow will be in cinemas and available exclusively on Disney+ with Premier Access on 9th July. Excelsior!

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

Saturday 15 May 2021

Netflix's Masters of the Universe first look

He-Man and Skeletor are back to battle for the future of Eternia!

As a fan of Mattel's Masters of the Universe franchise since the classic toy line's original release in the early eighties, I've been excited to see what director Kevin Smith's (Clerks) animated reboot would look like at Netflix.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation, picking up where the original animated series ended in 1985, builds on the success of Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power reboot in 2018. Some of my earliest blog posts chronicled collecting Masters of the Universe action figures in the eighties and noughties, and Smith is passionate about the beloved franchise.

“So much of this show has been possible because of the love and affection for this world at every level of production and the fandom surrounding this franchise,” Smith said in a statement.

“So many of us were touched by these stories and these characters early in our lives and we're so happy to come back to Eternia. But even if you’ve never watched a single episode of the show or don’t know this universe at all, you can jump right into the story. It’s a really classic, universal action-adventure epic about growth, discovery, magic, and power. This series explores destiny in a fresh way. There’s a lot of reconciling with secrets, betrayal, trust, acceptance, love, and ultimately, loss.”

Read the official series synopsis:

"The war for Eternia culminates in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, an innovative and action-packed animated series that picks up where the iconic characters left off decades ago. After a cataclysmic battle between He-Man and Skeletor, Eternia is fractured and the Guardians of Grayskull are scattered. And after decades of secrets tore them apart, it’s up to Teela to reunite the broken band of heroes, and solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to restore Eternia and prevent the end of the universe."

The five-episode series from Mattel Television has a star-studded cast including Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn, Chris Wood as Prince Adam/He-Man, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms, Stephen Root as Cringer, Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops, Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena and Jason Mewes as Stinkor. Hollywood composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) is on hand to underscore the fantastical world of Eternia.

The Netflix series, a love letter to grown-up fans (myself included), will of course be supported by obligatory toys and related consumer products from Mattel. The initial wave of 7" Masterverse action figures arrives in-store and online (affiliate link) on 15th June. Further waves are expected to be revealed at Power-Con 2021.

“Last year, we set the stage for the 2021 reboot of Masters of the Universe through the launch of nostalgic action figures and a Castle Grayskull playset, that offer a retro play experience, to much fanfare,” said PJ Lewis, VP, Global Head, Action Figures at Mattel.

“Our new line, designed for collectors and new fans alike, provides a modern interpretation of these classic characters, and I can’t wait for you to check it out.”

Masters of the Universe: Revelation premieres on Netflix on 23rd July.

Are you excited for more Masters of the Universe, and what are your favourite memories of the franchise? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 14 May 2021

20 years of Xbox and Halo

Microsoft is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Xbox and Halo through November with a plethora of related products and Xbox FanFest.

Like many avid gamers in the early noughties, 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 by Steve Jobs at Macworld in 1999. However, Microsoft would acquire exclusivity of Halo, as the first killer app for its fledgeling console, much to Jobs' annoyance.

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 (now Prime Video), in 2012. Halo 4 was the perfect homecoming for this lifelong fan of storied space operas.

Xbox also introduced me to BioWare's fabled Mass Effect trilogy - arguably one of the greatest space operas in any medium. What gave Mass Effect 2 its edge was working with the enemy, lead by Martin Sheen's Illusive Man, propelling the game into The Empire Strikes Back of the saga. So, I'll be playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (affiliate link) this weekend as FemShep (Jennifer Hale) and will be an ugly mess by the end.

The next game in the Halo franchise, Halo Infinite, is set to launch later this year after being delayed, during the launch of Xbox Series X|S, due to the pandemic.

343 Industries‘ studio head Chris Lee said: “The extra time will let us finish the critical work necessary to deliver the most ambitious Halo game ever at the quality we know our fans expect.”

Personally, Halo Infinite evokes nostalgic feels for Halo: Combat Evolved and I'll be downloading day-one on Game Pass Ultimate.

What are your favourite Xbox and Halo memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Star Wars Celebration returns May 2022

Star Wars Celebration is coming back to Anaheim in 2022 following a brief hiatus during the pandemic.

The official Lucasfilm fan event, which originally began in 1999 to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and expanded outside of the US with Star Wars Celebration Europe in 2007, has moved forward from August to May of next year.

"Current ticket holders that wish to keep their existing tickets will have their order automatically transferred to the new event dates and will receive a new confirmation email in the coming months. If fans want to keep their tickets, no further action is required on their part," an announcement on said. "If a ticket holder wishes to request a refund for their 2022 ticket order, they can do so by visiting Ticket refunds requests must be submitted before June 11, 2021. All ticket holders will receive an email with detailed instructions on how to submit a refund request, if they choose to do so."

Lucasfilm uses Star Wars Celebration to announce upcoming projects. The runaway success of The Mandalorian, propelled in part by Grogu AKA Baby Yoda, will be bolstered by Star Wars: The Bad Batch, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka and Andor spin-off series on Disney+.

Are you attending Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

An Arthurian tale in The Green Knight

The Green Knight, a fantasy retelling of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from director David Lowery (Pete's Dragon) and starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton, was delayed last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A24, the studio behind Lady Bird and Ex Machina, released a new trailer, which has become an internet sensation amongst fantasy fans (myself included).

Arthurian tales captured my nascent imagination in George Lucas' Star Wars saga, and The Green Knight distils the visionary oeuvre of directors Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). Incidentally, Edgerton is reprising the role of Owen Lars in Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

The Green Knight is in cinemas on 30th July.

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Star Wars: Andor filming on Jurassic Coast

Game of Thrones' House of the Dragon isn't the only prequel series shooting in South West England.

Star Wars: Andor, featuring alleged cameos from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), has begun filming in the UK. One of the locations is a Dorset quarry on the Jurassic Coast, which was used for the classic Doctor Who serial Destiny of the Daleks in the late seventies and Blake's 7 in the early eighties.

The upcoming live-action Disney+ Star Wars spin-off, starring Diego Luna in the titular role, is a prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Sharing his excitement at reprising the fan-favourite role, Luna said: "I think it's a nice challenge, it's a good way to approach a show.

"What happens when you already know the ending? Everything is in how you tell the story, how many layers you can find, this cant be a show where we surprise you, like oh no it wasn't him, he didn't die.

"We know the ending... the last scene was a scene we all know so it makes a different part of your brain work, you cant use the same storylines people are used to, now we start with a character that people already know what he's capable of."

Winspit Quarry is closed to the public until the end of May for filming.

Roger Khanna, Worth Matravers parish clerk, said: "It's a major enterprise.

"I've been impressed by how well it's being controlled and managed. There's been no impact on locals. They've been very considerate of the area."

Star Wars: Andor is one of several Star Wars spin-offs for Disney+. Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi is currently being filmed in Los Angeles and The Book of Boba Fett opens in time for Christmas on Disney+.

Excited for Star Wars: Andor? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 10 May 2021

Rosario Dawson uses the Force over Zoom

Rosario Dawson, who plays the live-action Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian on Disney+, appeared on Jimmy Kimmy Live to celebrate Star Wars Day.

"Rosario talks about Star Wars Day, her significant other Cory Booker posing with a lightsaber, keeping spoilers from him, revealing Baby Yoda’s name, her new movie The Water Man, her new Star Wars series for Disney+, and she shows Jimmy how she has learned to harness the Force over Zoom."

Rosario Dawson will be back as Ahsoka Tano in her own live-action Star Wars spin-off series on Disney+.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Elon Musk as Wario on SNL

Elon Musk, the tech tycoon who founded Tesla and SpaceX, hosted Saturday Night Light (SNL) this weekend.

The announcement was greeted with some controversy. However, Musk took to the stage with an opening monologue in which he revealed a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, which touches many of our lives directly or indirectly.

"I don't always have a lot of intonation or variation in how I speak... which I'm told makes for great comedy," he joked in his opening monologue. "I'm actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger's to host SNL."

This claim is debatable as Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters), also diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, has previously hosted SNL.

An avid video game player himself, Musk appears as Wario in court facing an allegation of Mario's murder during a Mario Kart race.

Did you see Elon Musk on SNL? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Mortal Kombat

My earliest memory of playing Mortal Kombat is during a gap year in the early nineties. I would visit a local seafront amusement arcade to play the newest releases and share a KFC bucket with friends.

Mortal Kombat instantly captured our imaginations with its lurid digitised animations.

The video game franchise’s signature fatalities - sparking a moral panic - a gory alternative to Street Fighter II in arcades and on Nintendo and Sega 16-bit home consoles. The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive was the cool kid on the block and the console of choice for an uncensored experience.

The latest Mortal Kombat live-action movie adaptation arrives in cinemas and on HBO Max. Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, returns from Victorian times for a bloody showdown.

Guest post by Nick Smith

In the illustrious and diverse history of movies, we’ve seen epics based on the works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and The Wiggles. Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat is not a literary adaptation. Spawned by a video game, it has pretensions to be something greater – a Hollywood blockbuster with a Chosen hero, a comedic sidekick, people spinning impossibly through the air and an unsympathetically evil bad guy. It does not achieve that greatness.

Mortal Kombat isn’t as facile as last year’s Jui Jitsu, which was a string of skirmishes calling itself a movie. But it still lacks the depth to make it a stand-out flight flick. The humour helps; the hero Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is fallible, Kano (Josh Lawson) is a splendidly despicable loudmouth and there’s even a joke about the spelling of the title.

Mortal Kombat follows a Hollywood action formula without really understanding why. The archetypal hero has a family so that the audience can relate to him. Here, Cole’s family is an afterthought. The Chosen One should be reluctant, otherwise what’s special about him being chosen? The prophecy should be deep-seated in the life and culture of the Outworld, not a couple of lines of dialogue that are present because, hey, that’s what other, successful movies do.

This new take on a 29-year-old franchise is entertaining, there are some satisfying salutes to the original games and the actors are likeable. Jessica McNamee stands out, doing her best to give token tough girl Sonya Blade some edge. The most novel aspects are the gory deaths - a crushed head is particularly memorable - and the redemption of amputee veteran Jackson ‘Jax’ Briggs. He learns to overcome his depression and live with prosthetics. Now that is a successful adaptation.

Watch Mortal Kombat (affiliate link).

What are your Mortal Kombat memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 7 May 2021

Eleven's origins in Stranger Things 4?

"Eleven, are you listening?"

Netflix has released a second teaser trailer for Stranger Things 4, suggesting Eleven's (Millie Bobby Brown) dark origins are going to be explored in flashback.

Stranger Things deeply resonated when it premiered on Netflix in 2016 whilst I was with friends at Star Wars Celebration Europe. Not since JJ Abrams' Super 8 had I been so enthralled by a Nancy Drew mystery peopled by characters that could have been my childhood friends (growing up in suburbia) as I underwent rehabilitation for a life-changing trauma.

Poignantly, Eleven reminded me of a girl, whom I'd befriended in a children's hospital (circa 1977), but, tragically, she died due to complications. However, I never forgot her or the times we excitedly watched Doctor Who and The Muppet Show on Saturday teatimes, solved jigsaw puzzles and played Sorry!

Disappointingly, there's still no official release date for Stranger Things 4. However, fans are looking for clues embedded in the trailer.

Are you excited to see Stranger Things 4? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Game of Thrones prequel first look

HBO has released an official first look at its upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series based on author George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood.

House of the Dragon.

The spin-off series is set 300 years before Game of Thrones and will centre on Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) ancestors' civil war. Bloodmoon, a prequel series set thousands of years before, starring Naomi Watts and written by Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class), was shelved following an abortive pilot in 2019.

House of the Dragon began filming in Cornwall in April, as reported by BBC Spotlight and ITV News West Country, for release sometime in 2022.

HBO was forced to officially confirm the multimillion-dollar series was in production when leaked images shot on location in and around St Michael's Mount, which is a favourite holiday haunt of my family, were shared on social media.

Photos showed Matt Smith (Doctor Who) and Emma D'Arcy as Prince Daemon Targaryen and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen respectively. Olivia Cooke, Rhys Ifans and Steve Toussaint co-star.

The official press release description for Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen reads: “The king’s first-born child, she is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragonrider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything… but she was not born a man.” And Prince Daemon Targaryen’s reads: “The younger brother to King Viserys and heir to the throne. A peerless warrior and a dragonrider, Daemon possesses the true blood of the dragon. But it is said that whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air…”

Game of Thrones ran for eight seasons and ended controversially for some fans. However, aside from a few minor reservations, I really enjoyed the fantasy series and am eager to return to Westeros.

House of the Dragon is the first of several spin-offs based on the Game of Thrones franchise and is expected to premiere on HBO Max and presumably Sky Atlantic in 2022.

Are you looking forward to House of the Dragon? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Disney teases 'real' Star Wars lightsaber

"Light. Darkness. A balance." Disney revealed a first look at its 'real' lightsaber with a Disney Parks cast member cosplaying as Rey on Star Wars Day. The 13-second clip caused quite a sensation amongst fans (myself included) on social media.

"Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort will take you to a galaxy far, far away starting in 2022 for an all-immersive, two-night vacation experience that goes beyond anything Disney has ever created before."

Impressive. Most impressive.

Is Disney's new retractable lightsaber the ultimate Jedi cosplay accessory for Star Wars Celebration and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 4 May 2021

Celebrate Star Wars Day with The Bad Batch

Happy Star Wars Day! I'll be watching Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+ following the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Disney+ has shared a helpful recap of Clone Force 99's story so far as seen in the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If you haven't watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars, you're missing out on one of the greatest spin-offs ever made.

""Star Wars: The Bad Batch" follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch (first introduced in “The Clone Wars”) as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch—a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army—each possess a singular exceptional skill that makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew."

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is executive produced by Dave Filoni (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Athena Portillo (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels), Brad Rau (Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance) and Jennifer Corbett (Star Wars Resistance, NCIS) with Carrie Beck (The Mandalorian, Star Wars Rebels) as co-executive producer and Josh Rimes as producer (Star Wars Resistance). Rau is also serving as supervising director with Corbett as head writer.

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

May the Fourth be with you.

Monday 3 May 2021

Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Bad Batch?

Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres on 4th May AKA Star Wars Day on Disney+.

Matt Lanter played Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars for seven seasons and has teased the character's return in an upcoming animated spin-off series.

"There's some new Lucasfilm Animation going on. I've been a part of some things I can't talk about yet. You'll see Anakin again," Lanter told Entertainment Weekly (EW). "I never quite put Anakin down, whether I'm doing a video game or something new for Lucasfilm Animation."

In related news. Hayden Christensen reprises the role of Anakin Skywalker in the upcoming live-action special event series Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch begins with a 70-minute special on 4th May. New episodes drop weekly exclusively on Disney+ from Friday 7th May.

Do you think Anakin Skywalker will appear in Star Wars: The Bad Batch? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 1 May 2021

Obi-Wan Kenobi series surpasses prequels

It's Star Wars Day soon (coinciding with my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine) and spin-off series Obi-Wan Kenobi has begun filming in Los Angeles for release in 2022 on Disney+.

Ewan McGregor spoke to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) about reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels.

McGregor reiterated his criticism of Star Wars creator George Lucas’ approach to filmmaking on the 'not very much liked' prequel trilogy.

“He wanted more and more control over what we see in the background,” McGregor said. “After three or four months of that, it just gets really tedious — especially when the scenes are… I don’t want to be rude, but it’s not Shakespeare. There’s not something to dig into in the dialogue that can satisfy you when there’s no environment there. It was quite hard to do.”

McGregor praised ILM's StageCraft utilised for The Mandalorian, which is the culmination of technology developed by Lucasfilm. The Disney-owned production company, founded by George Lucas, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“If you’re in a desert, you’re standing in the middle of a desert,” McGregor said of the LED-based virtual set technology. “If you’re in the snow, you’re surrounded by snow. And if you’re in a cockpit of a starfighter, you’re in space. It’s going to feel so much more real.”

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi is set a decade after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and there's a suggestion of a rematch with Anakin Skywalker AKA Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen).

"I'm really excited about it," he says. "Maybe more so than the first ones, because I'm older — I just turned 50 — and I'm just in a much better place."

Are you hoping for lots of lightsaber action? Let me know in the comments below.