Thursday 30 September 2021

Black Series George Lucas Stormtrooper

Hasbro has announced a new Black Series action figure based on Star Wars creator George Lucas to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm.

“As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I have both the honor and privilege to bring characters from the franchise to life in product form every single day,” Vickie Stratford, senior director of product design at Hasbro, tells “When the opportunity came to design the George Lucas figure, we were especially excited for this project. This figure is just one of the many ways we can honor his legacy for years to come, and we hope fans cherish it as much as we did.”

George Lucas (in Stormtrooper Disguise) (affiliate link). This isn't the first Stormtrooper action figure based on the director but is a fitting tribute to the maker of Star Wars. I've ordered mine, for toy photography on Instagram, from Hasbro Pulse UK.

Are you adding the Black Series George Lucas (in Stormtrooper Disguise) action figure to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Free Guy on Disney+

Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) as the titular video game character in Tron meets The Truman Show, may still be in cinemas, but that hasn't stopped Disney from dropping director Shawn Levy's (Stranger Things) action-comedy on Star on Disney+ in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and Canada. Due to a pre-existing deal, Free Guy will be on HBO Max in the US.

Read the official synopsis:

"In Twentieth Century Studios’ epic adventure-comedy “Free Guy,” a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story…one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way…before it is too late."

Free Guy is available to stream on Star on Disney+ from today. There's so much geeky goodness to take our minds off the shared trauma of the ongoing pandemic.

Will you be watching Free Guy on Star on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

The Last of Us first look from HBO

HBO has released a first look at its upcoming live-action adaptation of The Last of Us from writer-director Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin (Chernobyl).

Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) and Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) are perfectly cast as Ellie and Joel respectively. Seeing the former Game of Thrones co-stars standing in a field, I thought it was a screenshot from a PlayStation 5 (PS5) enhanced version of Naughty Dog's award-winning video game franchise.

The Last of Us is currently in production in Canada, which fills me with familial pride (my late maternal grandmother was Canadian). Presumably, it'll be available to stream exclusively on HBO Max and Sky Atlantic in the UK.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming HBO series? What are your thoughts on the image? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 27 September 2021

William Shatner's real-life Star Trek

William Shatner is purportedly on the verge of becoming the oldest person to travel into space.

The veteran 90-year-old actor, famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series, will boldly go into space aboard Jeff Bezos' civilian spacecraft (Blue Origin New Shepard rocket) for an upcoming documentary.

He previously expressed an interest in joining the SpaceX Crew and told a San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) audience: “There’s a possibility that I’m going to go up for a brief moment and come back down.”

Hopefully, Shatner won't encounter any Klingons or Romulans during his 15-minute spaceflight this October.

Sunday 26 September 2021

A VIC-20 kid remembers the ZX Spectrum

Following my personal tribute to Sir Clive Sinclair, I thought it would be fun to invite Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, to comment on his legacy from the perspective of a Commodore VIC-20 kid. Incidentally, Star Trek's William Shatner promoted the VIC-20 as the 'wonder computer' of the 1980s.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Sir Clive Sinclair was many things, a gentleman, an inventor, a knight of the superhighway. More than that, he was a herald of the future, offering a glimpse of shiny new tech.

Yes, we laughed at his Sinclair C5 when it was released in 1985. This one-man electric vehicle looked goofy and flimsy as if it would topple over in a stiff slipstream breeze. It was expensive and unsafe. But it was a herald of the electric vehicles and hybrids we have today.

Sinclair was no two-bit Tesla. He was a prodigal innovator in his own right, developing calculators, pocket radios and digital watches, always mindful of selling, if not successfully marketing, his gizmos. His premade personal computer, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, was designed as a low-cost alternative to the Commodore PET and was released in 1982. The PET cost approximately £700; the ZX Spectrum retailed for an introductory price of £125 (£175 if you wanted 48K of RAM!). It was the first chance for many to have a computer in their home, long before such science fiction became science matter-of-fact.

I was a Commodore VIC-20 kid and I loved my little machine but the ZX Spectrum had the best look, the best ads, and unique games: Chequered Flag, Magic Meanies, Dark Star, Dukes of Hazzard, Zombie Zombie, Stonkers, Styx, Vampire Village… some of them were text-only but they all had intriguing names and illustrated covers.

The ZX Spectrum wasn’t just for playing around. Colour support (in 16 varieties!) helped coders to create their own programs. Within two years of its release, thousands of games had been created for the system, which cornered almost half the UK market for home computers. Sinclair conquered the video game world – temporarily, at least.

There would be other computers, vehicles and gadgets. But the ZX Spectrum was the machine I would nip over to a friend’s house for, the one that had me goggling over print ads and dreaming of King Arthur’s Quest. Sinclair will always be fondly remembered for his entrepreneurship, his innovations and the risks he took to achieve his dreams.

What are your Sinclair ZX Spectrum memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Russell T Davies returns to Doctor Who

Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) is back aboard the TARDIS for the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2023 and the series beyond!

Davies successfully shepherded a rebooted Doctor Who, beginning with the iconic Rose, in 2005. During his acclaimed tenure as series showrunner (2005-2009), the beloved BBC sci-fi series attained new heights of mainstream popularity, spawning fan-favourite spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

It was an unprecedented global golden age for the long-running series. I never imagined seeing the toy aisles of Argos and Woolworths filled with Doctor Who merchandise again. Character Options captured the magic of Denys Fisher action figures (made in collaboration with Mego) and continue to do so with highly sought-after collector exclusives for B&M.

Russell T Davies says “I’m beyond excited to be back on my favourite show. But we’re time-travelling too fast, there’s a whole series of Jodie Whittaker’s brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm – I’m still a viewer for now.”

Outgoing series showrunner Chris Chibnall says “It’s monumentally exciting and fitting that Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary will see one of Britain’s screenwriting diamonds return home. Russell built the baton that is about to be handed back to him - Doctor Who, the BBC, the screen industry in Wales, and let’s be honest everyone in the whole world, have so many reasons to be Very Excited Indeed about what lies ahead.”

Piers Wenger, BBC Director of Drama says “As the 13th Doctor prepares to embark on new and extraordinary adventures, the winds of change are blowing… bringing with them news to delight Doctor Who fans across the globe. We are thrilled that Russell is returning to Doctor Who to build on the huge achievements of Chris and Jodie. Thank you to the two of them and the team in Cardiff for all they continue to do for the show and hello Russell, it’s wonderful to have you back.”

What a coup!

Speaking to the Radio Times in January, Davies fondly recalled working on Doctor Who. "I was in the middle of running an empire," he said, "And my god I did that 10 years too soon, didn’t I?" Doctor Who had two successful spin-offs in an era before cinematic universes dominated. "There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely."

Was Davies hinting at an expanded Whoniverse months before this announcement?

And this time the former series showrunner is bringing Bad Wolf productions along for a fantastic journey through space and time.

For the past couple of years, I've championed the fine folks behind the BBC/HBO co-production of His Dark Materials. Now it's happening, well, once Jodie Whittaker bows out of the series in 2022.

HBO Max is exclusively streaming every series of Doctor Who since 2005. UK fans can watch series 1-12 on BBC iPlayer and all available classic serials on BritBox.

Are you excited about the surprise return of Russell T Davies to Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 24 September 2021

Finch is Turner & Hooch meets Chappie

Foundation debuts on Apple TV+ today. However, the Cupertino-based company has more sci-fi action to come with Invasion and Finch.

Finch (formerly titled Bios) stars Tom Hanks as the titular character and is from director Miguel Sapochnik. Apple TV+ has released an official trailer for the upcoming post-apocalyptic road movie.

Here's the official synopsis:

“In “Finch,” a man, a robot and a dog form an unlikely family in a powerful and moving adventure of one man’s quest to ensure that his beloved canine companion will be cared for after he’s gone. Tom Hanks stars as Finch, a robotics engineer and one of the few survivors of a cataclysmic solar event that has left the world a wasteland. But Finch, who has been living in an underground bunker for a decade, has built a world of his own that he shares with his dog, Goodyear. He creates a robot, played by Caleb Landry Jones, to watch over Goodyear when he no longer can. As the trio embarks on a perilous journey into a desolate American West, Finch strives to show his creation, who names himself Jeff, the joy and wonder of what it means to be alive. Their road trip is paved with both challenges and humor, as it’s as difficult for Finch to goad Jeff and Goodyear to get along as it is for him to manage the dangers of the new world.”

Finch debuts exclusively on Apple TV+ on 5th November.

Are you looking forward to Finch on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Boba Fett special on Disney+ Day

Disney+ Day is coming this November to celebrate all things Disney+ including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Star Wars.

"The inaugural Disney+ Day will be a grand-scale celebration of our subscribers across the entire company," said Disney CEO, Bob Chapek.

"This day of appreciation brings to life our mission to entertain, inform, and inspire fans and families around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, and will become an annual tentpole event to be amplified across our global businesses."

In a press release, Disney+ offers a tease at what’s to come in November:

*The streaming premiere of Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings
*The beloved Disney family-friendly adventure film Jungle Cruise, available to all subscribers
*The new Disney+ Original movie Home Sweet Home Alone, a reimagining of the popular holiday franchise
*An all-new original series of shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios called “Olaf Presents,” which sees Frozen’s beloved snowman retelling several classic Disney tales as only he can
*The domestic Disney+ streaming debut of fan-favourite shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios including “Frozen Fever,” Oscar®-winning shorts “Feast” and ”Paperman,” Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short, “Get A Horse!” and more
*An animated short film “Ciao Alberto” from Pixar, featuring characters from this summer’s animated hit breakout film Luca
*A new short from The Simpsons that pays tribute to Disney+’s marquee brands
*The first five episodes from season 2 of The World According to Jeff Goldblum from National Geographic
*A special celebrating the origins and legacy of Star Wars’ legendary bounty hunter, Boba Fett
*A special celebrating the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+ with an exciting look towards the future
*Dopesick, an original series starring Michael Keaton, which will be released in international markets as part of the Star general entertainment content offering

Of particular note for Star Wars fans (myself included) is a special celebrating bounty hunter Boba Fett. The Book of Boba Fett drops this December on Disney+.

The first ever Disney+ Day is on 12th November.

Disney+ will also expand into new Asia-Pacific markets on the same date, debuting in South Korea and Taiwan. The streaming service will debut in Hong Kong on 16th November.

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

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Star Wars: Visions on Disney+

It's the autumn equinox, heralding my favourite season of all, in the northern hemisphere. There's much to look forward to in the geek galaxy during the darker months ahead.

One such series is Star Wars: Visions, which drops on Disney+ today. Unlike Marvel Studios' What If...?, all nine episodes of the anime-inspired Star Wars spin-off are available.

Here's the official series synopsis:

"'Star Wars: Visions' will be a series of animated short films celebrating 'Star Wars' through the lens of the world's best anime creators. The anthology collection will bring ten fantastic visions from several of the leading Japanese anime studios, offering a fresh and diverse cultural perspective to 'Star Wars.'"

Lucasfilm revealed the episode titles during Anime Expo Lite:

Kamikaze Douga - The Duel
Geno Studio (Twin Engine) - Lop and Ochō
Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) - Tatooine Rhapsody
Trigger - The Twins
Trigger - The Elder
Kinema Citrus - The Village Bride
Science Saru - Akakiri
Science Saru - T0-B1
Production IG - The Ninth Jedi

In related news. Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi has completed principal photography. "We finished shooting our series, and it was really, really good fun – I really enjoyed working with [director] Deborah Chow," titular star Ewan McGregor confirmed to Variety. "I think it will not disappoint," McGregor teased. "I think it's gonna be good. I had a really good time making it, and worked with some really wonderful people, lovely people.

"The new technology we employed doing it is cool, and it was a different experience than making the original three films that I did."

Obi-Wan Kenobi will see the return of Star Wars prequel trilogy co-stars Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars) and Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) alongside McGregor on Disney+.

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

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Blake's 7 Annual 1982

For years I've tried and failed to coax Grahame Robertson, friend and fellow sci-fi geek, to write a blog post about Terry Nation's Blake's 7! The beloved BBC TV sci-fi series debuted in 1978 as Star Wars blasted its way onto cinema screens across the UK.

Finally, that day has arrived ahead of the 40th anniversary of the series finale that traumatised a generation of children (myself included) and ruined Christmas 1981.

Guest post by Grahame Robertson

My earliest memories of primary school from 1978 - 1980 were playing Blake’s 7 in the playground with friends. We made teleport bracelets out of strips of cardboard and replayed every episode in minute detail the following morning. I was always Blake.

By the time the show ended in 1981, I had moved on to high school, and the programme had become even more important to me. An official Marvel Comics magazine became a highlight of the month, sparking an interest in magazine design and graphic design that was to be instrumental in my future career path.

As with many shows at the time (Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People, Sapphire & Steel), World Distributors produced a 64-page hardback annual that was to be a staple of every kid’s Christmas. Containing fiction that sometimes only loosely resembled the programme - bizarre articles on astronomy, terrible artwork and even worse attempts at humour. But we loved them and poured over every page.

Blake’s 7 ran for four series, and thankfully World Distributors graced us with an annual for each of the first three series. An annual had been planned, and quickly shelved, for the fourth series - and until now it’s been a source of frustration to fans who like their collections to be complete.

40 years later, now we have one! It began when I sent a joke tweet out last December with a mock-up cover of how the missing Blake’s 7 1982 Annual might have looked. A day later I was inundated with messages asking if it was available to buy, so in a fit of lockdown pique, I thought ‘Why not do it? I’m stuck at home and I’ve nothing better to do!’ My background is in graphic design and magazine design, and to be honest as a fan of Blake’s 7 it was a dream project to take on.

The original plan was to produce a 64-page annual in the style and tone of the original World Distributors annuals from the 1970’s. When it was discovered that there had been tentative plans to produce a Blake’s 7 Annual in 1982, eager fans pointed me towards Mike Wild, a prolific writer for the old World annuals in the 70’s and 80’s.

Mike had written stories for the Doctor Who annuals, and previous Blake's 7 annuals. It turned out he had two Blake’s 7 stories that had been written for that shelved 1982 annual and he kindly agreed to let us publish them. What a coup, and what an incentive to make the annual happen!

After I put a call out for submissions on social media, the response was overwhelming. World-class author Dr. Una McCormack (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Firefly) and novelist Trevor Baxendale (Big Finish, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Torchwood) both offered to submit new short fiction, along with dozens of other fans of the show.

The annual also features a number of contributions from Jonathan Helm (better known as @MakingBlakes7 on Twitter). Jonathan has been incredible, and so helpful in making the annual more than I ever hoped.

Fans will learn brand new things about Series D and see pictures that had long been confined to the archives, unseen. Longtime fan Andy Spencer has also given us access to incredible amounts of information and archive material about the location filming of the final series. We’ve been so lucky to have all these amazing contributors and fans on board.

Everyone who has contributed has poured so much enthusiasm and passion into their work.

The annual also features brand new interviews with Dicken Ashworth (Gunn Sar in the episode Power), Sasha Mitchell (Arlen from the episode Blake) and Vila himself, Michael Keating. Both Sasha and Michael have nominated charities who will benefit from the sale of the Annual. It’s hugely important that nobody makes any financial gain from this project.

From the start, it’s been a passion project to celebrate the cast, crew, and writers of Blake’s 7 and to give fans something - hopefully - that they will genuinely enjoy. With that said, we felt it was important that this project benefit charity. Michael Keating has chosen Save The Children, and Sasha Mitchell has chosen Axminster & Lyme Cancer Support. £1 from each sale will go to each of these nominated charities.

The fan-created, non-profit Blake’s 7 Annual 1982 will be available to buy from 28th September 2021 at 7.20pm - 40 years to the minute that the final series of Blake’s 7 aired on BBC 1 in 1981. It’s a print-to-order hardback publication (using the Lulu platform) with 252 pages, at a cost of £43.72 (including £2 charity donation). For details of how to order, follow @cult_edge on Twitter, or visit the Facebook page: Blake’s 7 Annual 1982.

Blake's 7 is available to stream exclusively on BritBox and currently airing on Forces TV.

What are your Blake's 7 memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 20 September 2021

Holy Batman Day, Batman!

This year's Batman Day has been and gone in a flash! See what I did there fellow Batfans?

However, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, donned the famous cowl in celebration of Gotham's darkest knight after I reminded him about a fabled undergraduate screening of Tim Burton's Batman.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Batman Day has been cheering up broody Bruce Wayne fans for seven years now since its launch to celebrate the 75th anniversary of his first appearance. Now the annual celebration takes place on the third Saturday of September, with special events like live appearances, new graphic novels and apps.

Before Superman: The Movie captured my imagination in the late 70s, the live-action Batman TV show was my introduction to superheroes. It was gaudy and silly and full of dastardly villains. As well as bringing the comics to life, the show took its cue from adventure serials of the 30s and 40s – hence cliffhangers where the hero was tied up and left to die by the villains. Every week I tuned in at the same bat-time on the same bat-channel to watch the bad guys get defeated by Batman and his sidekick Robin.

Now life is more complicated but Batman remains as driven as ever, swearing to his dead parents that he will bring justice to Gotham City. When I think of the character, I’m more likely to recall Tim Burton’s gothic take on the character or Frank Miller’s cynical Dark Knight rather than the 60s version. It’s been a joy to see the character mature over the years, striving to grow out of his campy reputation while acknowledging his roots as a post-depression crimefighter.

While a vigilante beating the pulp out of people seems an unlikely subject for a National Day, Batman is one of DC Comics' most recognizable superheroes. This year, an attempt has been made to appeal to kids and adults with a variety of releases, including a downloadable activity kit and a free sampler for The World, an anthology in the same vein as Europa. A new The Batman movie trailer dropped over a year after the first one was screened as part of DC FanDome; this one appears to use a lot of the same footage with added dialogue, teasing that the movie is scheduled for release in ‘?0??.’ I have faith in director Matt Reeves (Felicity), who seems to genuinely care about the world of Gotham and its terse protector.

It doesn’t take a dark detective to celebrate Batman Day with a binge on HBO Max, since the streaming service has collated all its content into lists like ‘Big-Screen Gotham’ and ‘Batmanimation.’ I plump for Death in the Family, a happy little cartoon that starts with the Joker brutally bashing Robin with a crowbar. I’m enticed by the promise that this is a ‘choose your own ending’ story with seven different outcomes, harking back to the phone-in vote that sentenced Jason Todd to death in 1988.

Unfortunately, the only interactivity with HBO Max’s version is pressing play, and rather than adapting the classic comic, this short film is mostly made up of clips from 2010’s Under the Red Hood with narration from Bruce Wayne - less Batday, more hashday. There’s only one ending with no surprises. My advice: watch the Red Hood movie instead.

2019’s Hush animated movie is a much better, and more faithful, adaption of a fan-fave narrative and perfect to celebrate Batman Day. Like an anniversary celebration, it features most of Batman’s bad guys in an epic tale of cat-and-mouse with a romance between Bruce and Selina Kyle at its core. As a Brucey bonus, there are just enough changes made from the source material to keep this film fresh.

To wrap up the day, I dip into Three Jokers Book One, with Brian Bolland-style art by Jason Fabok and an intriguing, if unlikely, premise by writer Geoff Johns. It provides another look back not just at the history of the Joker but also Batman, Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon, whose lives have all been horribly affected by the clown prince of crime.

Like Hush, Three Jokers is violent, mature and meaty. I hope that the current interest in Marvel Studios' What If...? on Disney+ leads to more fare of a similar ilk from both Marvel Comics as well as DC Comics.

As night falls, I feel like I’ve done justice to this contemporary comic book legend. But with two more books in the Three Jokers series to read and the high-quality Hush making me want to watch more animated movies, I guess my Batman Day might just become a Batweek.

How did you celebrate Batman Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Foundation first look on Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s ambitious adaptation of Foundation, dubbed Games of Thrones in space, debuts with two episodes this Friday. The Cupertino-based tech titan has released a first look ahead of its highly-anticipated premiere.

Read the official Foundation synopsis:

"Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire."

“'Foundation' is the greatest science fiction work of all time, and it's never been brought to the screen before," says series showrunner and executive producer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). "It took a while for the world to be ready for 'Foundation,' and that age has finally arrived."

Foundation casts a long shadow over sci-fi popular culture. Influencing everything from Dune to Star Wars. The former was most recently adapted for the big screen by director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival).

Foundation premieres on 24th September exclusively on Apple TV+.

Are you looking forward to Foundation on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 18 September 2021

ZX Spectrum of possibilities

The passing of Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, at the age of 81, has reminded me of the joy of discovery.

Christmas 1982 was all about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K, Horace Goes Skiing and Disney's Tron (available on Disney+)! Not to mention Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial breaking the collective hearts of cinemagoers the world over.

The first time I saw a computer in person was at dad's lighting shop in Truro. The Commodore PET looked like something out of Star Trek and captured my young imagination. Soon after, a BBC Micro materialised in middle school. However, having our own 8-bit home computer (a year after my folks bought a VCR so I could record The Five Faces of Doctor Who) was transcendental!

Computing leaned into an insatiable appetite for learning, buoyed by a reading age of 16 (I was 10).

Hours were spent and lost inputting basic code from the pack-in manual and Crash magazine at weekends. Although my coding skills fell far short of any lofty ambitions I may have had to create Tron's Master Control Program (MCP), programming helped to take my mind off of weekly rehabilitation from a life-changing brain injury.

This was further compounded by a diagnosis of asthma (after my parents sought a second opinion), which saw me missing weeks of schooling (not for the first time) until preventative medication was prescribed.

And games! So many games in the age of Atari!

Most notably from Ultimate Play the Game AKA Rare. Plugging in the Currah μSpeech peripheral unlocked voices in Atic Atac years before Atari's Gauntlet gobbled up my allowance at the arcades! Titles such as Knight Lore were revolutionary. And Ocean's Daley Thompson’s Decathlon culminated in the premature demise of lesser joysticks.

I would go on to own a Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ (the beloved original handed down to a younger cousin who soon broke it), Commodore 64 and all things Apple thereafter. But nothing will surpass discovering that little 8-bit home computer, with the rubbery keyboard, filled with infinite possibility under the Christmas tree in 1982...

Thank you, Sir Clive Sinclair. RIP.

Friday 17 September 2021

Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Ahead of DC FanDome this October, Warner Bros. has released a documentary examining the cultural impact and legacy of director Tim Burton's Batman to celebrate Batman Day this Saturday!

In the summer of 1989, Burton (Beetlejuice) was the subversive outsider who conquered Tinseltown and brought DC Comics' Batman, starring Michael Keaton as the titular dark detective and Jack Nicholson as archnemesis The Joker, to the masses in a postmodern ode to Fritz Lang's Metropolis and German expressionism.

Batman is a marketing masterclass, which took lessons from George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy, launching merchandise in-store months before the film was released in cinemas. From posters at Athena to Kenner action figures at Woolworths. This created a fever dream of hype invading the public's consciousness worldwide.

The movie's release coincided with an inaugural visit to the iconic HMV Oxford Street, London, seemingly the epicentre of 'Batmania' in the UK as Prince's tie-in album reverberated around the sadly defunct store on repeat.

However, I wanted Danny Elfman's original soundtrack much to the chagrin of a member of staff. Well, I was more geek than chic, and this was a time before The Big Bang Theory. On the long coach journey home, I listened to the cassette on a Sony Walkman.

Having been brought up on Saturday morning reruns of Adam West's sixties series, my initial reaction to Batman was mixed! However, one of my favourite undergraduate memories was attending a special 70mm screening, with Nick Smith, at the Odeon Bournemouth (one of the locations used for our undergraduate production December Duet) in the mid-nineties.

Years later, I got to work with Garrick Hagon (Star Wars) on Dirk Maggs' audio movie, The Gemini Apes, for BBC Radio 4. During a break in recording, he recounted filming the opening scene of Batman. Yes, we also talked about all things Star Wars. Poor, Biggs!

What are your memories of Batman, and how do you plan to celebrate Batman Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Hayley Atwell is Lara Croft on Netflix

I vividly remember watching Captain America: The First Avenger and thinking Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) should play Lara Croft in a live-action Tomb Raider reboot! Incidentally, The First Avenger is notable for a pre-Doctor Who cameo by Jenna Coleman.

Ultimately, the big screen baton was passed from Angelina Jolie to Alicia Vikander as Atwell continued to reprise her role as fan-favourite Agent Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Atwell has now been cast as the titular character for Netflix's animated spin-off series. It will follow the events of Square Enix's Tomb Raider video game trilogy, which starred Camilla Luddington as the archaeological heroine inspired by Indiana Jones.

Tomb Raider celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. However, there's no news on when the animated series will debut on Netflix.

Looking forward to seeing Hayley Atwell as Lara Croft? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Andrew Garfield speaks out on Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) continues to deny any involvement with Spider-Man: No Way Home, following an alleged on-set photo leak, during an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Garfield played the titular web-slinger in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before Tom Holland took over the role in Captain America: Civil War. His portrayal of Peter Parker remains underrated.

If the rumours are true that both Garfield and Tobey Maguire are reprising the role of Spider-Man alongside Holland, I don't want our holiday season surprise spoiled. And I'm sure Marvel Studios' president Kevin Feige has no intention of letting that happen. Some fans have suggested deepfake technology may be utilised, but I hope not.

Are you looking forward to Spider-Man: No Way Home? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Marvel's holiday gifts come with a bow

Marvel Studios has been crushing it in 2021 with its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin-off series on Disney+. From WandaVision to What If...?, it's been unmissable character-driven viewing for all true believers (myself included).

On Monday, Disney+ dropped some early holiday cheer with an official teaser trailer for Marvel Studios' Hawkeye.

Read the official synopsis:

"Disney+ and Marvel Studios invite you on an unexpected holiday getaway, unwrapping a brand-new teaser trailer and poster today for “Hawkeye,” a new series set in post-blip New York City. Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a Super Hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit."

Jeremy Renner reprises his role as Hawkeye, who teams up with another well-known archer from Marvel Comics, Kate Bishop, played by Oscar-nominee Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

Renner described Steinfeld's character to Entertainment Weekly (EW) by saying, “[Kate is] a 22-year-old kid and she’s a big Hawkeye fan. She has a wonderfully annoying and equally charming manner about her, because she’s such a fangirl of Hawkeye. The relationship grows from that, but the biggest problem for Clint is Kate Bishop and the onslaught of problems that she brings into his life.”

The trappings of the holiday season certainly allow for comparisons with MCU stablemate Iron Man 3 and Die Hard and Home Alone (both available on Star on Disney+). Hawkeye is rumoured to tie into Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Hawkeye debuts in time for Thanksgiving on Disney+ on 24th November.

Looking forward to Marvel Studios' Hawkeye? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 13 September 2021

The Matrix Resurrections ignores sequels?

Following the release of an eye-popping first trailer for The Matrix Resurrections offering a semiological smorgasbord, which has enough nostalgic beats to pique this Gen Xer's interest, Warner Bros. has released an official synopsis seemingly suggesting The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions will be ignored in the third sequel.

“The Matrix Resurrections is a continuation of the story established in the first Matrix film. It reunites Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as cinematic icons Neo & Trinity in an expansion of their story that ventures back into the Matrix and even deeper down the rabbit hole.

A mind-bending new adventure with action and epic scale, it’s set in a familiar yet even more provocative world where reality is more subjective than ever and all that’s required to see the truth is to free your mind.

Twenty years after the first film, the franchise that helped define pop culture at the turn of the century is back for a continuation and extension of the original movie. The Matrix remains in the zeitgeist as a film that has changed the way we look at cinema and reality itself. With its game-changing action and visual effects, The Matrix helped pave the way for films to follow.”

This wouldn't be the first time a franchise has ignored previous sequels (see The Terminator). However, this could be a misdirect and there's always the possibility the filmmakers will deconstruct the concept of a reboot within a reboot. How very meta.

The Matrix Resurrections is in cinemas and on HBO Max on 22nd December. Our very own Agent Smith, Nick Smith, will be reviewing the highly-anticipated sequel this holiday season.

Are you looking forward to The Matrix Resurrections? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 12 September 2021

Funko Pop! Grogu at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Funko and Macy's have partnered with Lucasfilm to bring The Mandalorian's Grogu to this year's Thanksgiving Day Parade on 25th November.

“We’re no strangers to the thrill of translating Star Wars characters into the Pop! form,” Funko art director Reis O’Brien tells “Thanks to the strong creative relationship with Lucasfilm, we knew we could develop a fun, charming and iconic moment. After a crash course in how the Macy’s balloons are constructed, we started the creative process inspired by everyone’s love for Grogu. His giant ears were an unexpected challenge of their own, but once we finally got a peek at the final result we knew that all of our hard work and collaboration had paid off. There’s going to be a whole lot of cuteness floating above the streets of New York City come Thanksgiving morning.”

Surprisingly, this will be the first-ever Star Wars-inspired balloon at the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

“It’s always fun working with Funko and bringing Star Wars to fans, but this time, the fun and the unique challenges were supersized,” says Brian Merten, senior manager of product design at Lucasfilm. “Bringing Grogu to life as a 37-foot-wide balloon was no small feat and took close collaboration with the Funko design team, as well as the balloon designers from Macy’s. I am very happy with the result and can’t wait to see it in the parade!”

There's official merchandise exclusively available from Macy’s will also feature select items from Funko available for purchase at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City this fall.

Saturday 11 September 2021

Marvel fans PlayStation Showcase winners

Aside from PlayStation 5 (PS5) timed exclusive Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake, Marvel announcements from PlayStation Studios' Insomniac Games piqued my interest during PlayStation Showcase 2021.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 and Marvel's Wolverine were teased exclusively for PS5.

"We’re so thrilled to continue the journey of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales in their most epic single-player adventure yet, coming exclusively to PlayStation 5 consoles in 2023," writes Insomniac Games' head of franchise strategy and studio relations Ryan Schneider on the PlayStation Blog.

Schneider goes on to add that Tony Todd (of Candyman fame) will be voicing the alien symbiote Venom and confirmed that both Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter will be reprising their roles of Peter Parker and Miles Morales respectively.

These PS5 exclusives are some way off. But there'll be plenty of time to buy Sony's elusive consoles between now and 2023.

Are you looking forward to Marvel's Spider-Man 2 and Marvel's Wolverine from Insomniac Games? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 10 September 2021

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on PS5

During Thursday's PlayStation Showcase 2021, Lucasfilm Games announced Aspyr Media is remaking BioWare's classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as a timed exclusive for PlayStation 5 (PS5).

Aspyr Media has a storied history of porting games to macOS, iOS and Android devices. I reviewed the macOS port of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy in 2004.

"With Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Remake, our hope is to give both series newcomers and long-term fans an experience that can live alongside the very best modern releases. We’re rebuilding it from the ground up with the latest tech to match the groundbreaking standard of innovation established by the original, all while staying true to its revered story," said Ryan Treadwell of Aspyr Media on the PlayStation Blog.

Are you excited for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on PS5, and are you tempted to buy Sony's newest console to play this timed exclusive? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 9 September 2021

Watch The Matrix Resurrections first trailer

An official trailer for The Matrix Resurrections drops today following an ingenious teaser campaign.

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

The film also stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (the “Aquaman” franchise), Jessica Henwick (TV’s “Iron Fist,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”), Jonathan Groff (“Hamilton,” TV’s “Mindhunter”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Gone Girl”), Priyanka Chopra Jonas (TV’s “Quantico,”), Christina Ricci (TV’s “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story,” “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles”), Telma Hopkins (TV’s “Dead to Me,”), Eréndira Ibarra (series “Sense8,” “Ingobernable”), Toby Onwumere (TV’s “Empire”), Max Riemelt (series “Sense8”), Brian J. Smith (series “Sense8,” “Treadstone”) and Jada Pinkett Smith (“Angel Has Fallen,” TV’s “Gotham”).

Lana Wachowski directed from a screenplay by Wachowski & David Mitchell & Aleksander Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis. The film was produced by Grant Hill, James McTeigue and Lana Wachowski. The executive producers were Garrett Grant, Terry Needham, Michael Salven, Jesse Ehrman and Bruce Berman.

The Matrix Resurrections, the first new instalment in the franchise after 18 years, is in cinemas and on HBO Max on 22nd December.

Are you looking forward to The Matrix Resurrections? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Are you afraid of the Darth?

As part of its Hallowstream celebration, Disney+ announced in August LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales, which is in the spirit of last year's LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special.

An official trailer for the upcoming Halloween special dropped today.

Read the official synopsis:

“Poe and BB-8 must make an emergency landing on the volcanic planet Mustafar where they meet the greedy and conniving Graballa the Hutt who has purchased Darth Vader’s castle and is renovating it into the galaxy’s first all-inclusive Sith-inspired luxury hotel. While waiting for his X-Wing to be repaired, Poe, BB-8, Graballa, and Dean (a plucky and courageous young boy who works as Graballa’s mechanic) venture deep into the mysterious castle with Vader’s loyal servant, Vaneé. Along the way, Vaneé shares three creepy stories linked to ancient artifacts and iconic villains from across all eras of Star Wars. As Vaneé spins his tales and lures our heroes deeper into the shadowy underbelly of the castle, a sinister plan emerges. With the help of Dean, Poe and BB-8 will have to face their fears, stop an ancient evil from rising, and escape to make it back to their friends.”

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales stars Jake Green as Poe Dameron, Raphael Alejandro as Dean, Dana Snyder as Graballa the Hutt, Tony Hale as Vaneé, Christian Slater as Ren, Trevor Devall as Emperor Palpatine, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as NI-L8 and Matt Sloan as Darth Vader.

Like the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales is a follow-up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and streams exclusively on Disney+ from 1st October.

Are you looking forward to LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales this Halloween? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 6 September 2021

Shang-Chi's Labor Day record box office

Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has set a new Labor Day box office record in the US.

Disney's decision to drop its earlier plan to simultaneously release Shang-Chi on Disney+ with Premier Access has seen the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) bank an estimated $71.4 million during the long weekend.

This will only fuel further debate as studios continue to navigate through the ongoing pandemic. Personally, I would appreciate the opportunity to watch at home as consumer choice is always a good thing. However, seeing my Asian family and friends react to Marvel Studios' first Asian-led superhero movie is truly humbling.

“'Shang-Chi' is the ultimate confidence-builder for the theatrical movie industry,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “This was a very important film. This was the Marvel movie that’s opened exclusively theatrically since ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ in July 2019. ‘Shang-Chi’ is a real testament of the power of a theatrical-first strategy to drive huge numbers of moviegoers to the multiplex.”

Stay tuned for our review of Shang-Chi coming soon.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Star Wars Jumbo Grand Moff Tarkin figure

There may not be a Force Friday this September! However, Entertainment Earth has announced an exclusive Star Wars vintage action figure in association with Gentle Giant.

"Just like they were when you were a kid… only much bigger! This Entertainment Earth Exclusive Jumbo Grand Moff Tarkin Jumbo Vintage Kenner Figure, inspired by events in Star Wars: A New Hope, represents the latest in a series of Jumbo action figures spotlighting the entirety of the Star Wars saga. Featuring classically styled sculpting, details, and including a removable command staff, this poseable figure is styled to resemble the Star Wars figures of old, but at an epic 12-inch scale. It is manufactured to exacting standards, and comes packaged in a resealable clamshell blister card. May the Force be with you!"

You can pre-order Jumbo Grand Moff Tarkin (affiliate link) from Entertainment Earth.

Do you collect Gentle Giant retro figures and what are your fondest memories of playing with Kenner Star Wars toys? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 4 September 2021

The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime

Amazon's billion-dollar adaptation of The Lord of the Rings doesn't begin until next September. However, The Wheel of Time should satiate fantasy fans (myself included) as an heir to Game of Thrones.

Read the official synopsis for The Wheel of Time:

"The Wheel of Time is set in a sprawling, epic world where magic exists, but only women can use it. Meaning that in this series — women hold the keys to power. The story follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the shadowy and influential all-female organization called the ‘Aes Sedai’ as she embarks on a dangerous, world-spanning journey with five young men and women. Moiraine’s interested in these five because she believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, whom prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it. The series draws on numerous elements of European and Asian culture and philosophy, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism."

The first season premieres on Prime Video (affiliate link) on 19th November.

Are you looking forward to The Wheel of Time? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 3 September 2021

How ILM created ABBAtars

I rarely write about pop music acts, but when ABBA and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) join forces for the beloved bands' virtual tour, Voyage, I'm going to take notice!

ILM's visual effects wizards are synonymous with Star Wars (George Lucas founded the company to work on the original movie).

Now ILM's de-ageing Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid as ABBAtars for a concert tour beginning in spring 2022. There's a TRON: Legacy/Daft Punk vibe and a friend suggested they could transform into Star Wars' Stormtroopers during Super Trouper!

“They got on a stage in front of 160 cameras and almost as many genius [digital] artists, and performed every song in this show to perfection, capturing every mannerism, every emotion, the soul of their beings — so that becomes the great magic of this endeavour. It is not four people pretending to be ABBA: It is actually them,” explained producer Ludvig Andersson.

Four of ILM’s five global studios are working on the project, revealed Ben Morris, ILM’s creative director. “The team size is certainly somewhere between 500 and a thousand artists working on the project around the world,” he added.

I'll always associate ABBA with Christmas 1979 when my parents bought a new Panasonic record player with a built-in Dolby "B" tape recorder and a vinyl box set of their hit singles, which we still own in mum's memory.

Are you booking tickets for ABBA Voyage? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 2 September 2021

Being James Bond only on Apple TV+

Amazon is in the process of buying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for $8.45 billion and adding the James Bond film franchise to Amazon Prime Video.

Ahead of the release of No Time To Die in cinemas, MGM and Apple TV+ have announced an exclusive retrospective documentary chronicling Daniel Craig's tenure as Ian Fleming's James Bond. Presumably, this deal was inked before the movie's various delays due to the ongoing pandemic and Amazon's proposed takeover of MGM, which is expected to conclude by the end of the year.

Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story.

“The 45-minute retrospective features Daniel Craig reflecting on his 15 years playing Bond, with never-before-seen archival footage from his oeuvre and conversations with 07 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. It will be available for free to Apple TV customers in over 30 countries and regions from September 7 through October 7. No Time To Die, Craig's last outing as Bond, will be released in theaters on Sept. 30 in the U.K. through Universal Pictures International and in the U.S. on Oct. 8 through MGM via United Artists Releasing.”

“A lot of people here have worked on five pictures with me,” Craig tells Wilson and Broccoli in the film. “I’ve loved every single second of these movies, and especially this one because I’ve got up every morning and I’ve had the chance to work with you guys, and that has been one of the greatest honours of my life.”

“Daniel has just taken this, the character, the series, the whole thing, to a place that is so… extraordinary. And so emotionally satisfying,” Broccoli says.

“It’s also emotionally tough being Daniel’s last one. It’s tough on Barbara, it’s tough on me,” adds Wilson.

A final trailer for No Time To Die has also been released. It zeroes in on the premise that Bond is obsolete in an era of 24/7 cyber threats.

Read the official synopsis for No Time To Die:

"In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology."

If Craig's final outing as Bond equals Casino Royale and Skyfall, fans (myself included) are in for an early treat this holiday season.

Product placement has always been a cornerstone (sometimes to its detriment) of the franchise. I recently discovered Craig reportedly spurned a $50 million deal that would have seen James Bond using a Samsung phone (in Spectre) because the actor did not consider it good enough for 007! One would hope the super-spy would favour an iPhone.

Being James Bond debuts exclusively on Apple TV+ on 7th September. No Time To Die is in cinemas on 30th September.

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Empire falls in Foundation on Apple TV+

Witness the fall of a galactic empire in the latest trailer for Foundation coming soon to Apple TV+.

Here's the official Foundation synopsis:

"Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire."

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has hugely influenced pop culture, including George Lucas' Star Wars saga. However, the books are very dry and not the most accessible. Whilst speaking with THR, series showrunner and executive producer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) discussed why adapting the story has proven so problematic.

"There are three tricky aspects to Foundation that I think have tripped up all the other adaptations. The first is that the story is supposed to span 1,000 years with all these massive time jumps — that’s hard to tell. It’s certainly hard to capsulize in a two- or three-hour film. The second aspect is, the books are kind of anthological. You’ll have a couple of short stories in the first book with main character Salvor Hardin, then you’ll jump forward a hundred years and there’ll be a different character.

Goyer continued, “The third thing is that they’re not particularly emotional; they’re books about ideas, about concepts. So a lot of the action happens off-screen. In the books, the Empire, which is on 10,000 worlds, literally falls off-screen — like, it happens in between chapters. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for a television show. So without giving too much away, I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans. About six characters will continue from season to season, from century to century. That way it becomes half anthological, half continuing story.”

Foundation debuts on 24th September exclusively on Apple TV+. New episodes will drop every Friday. In related news. The Cupertino-based company is expected to announce the launch of iPhone 13.

Are you looking forward to Foundation on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.