Friday 29 October 2021

Star Wars: Bring Home the Bounty

Whilst there’s no Force Friday this year, Disney and Lucasfilm have announced Star Wars: Bring Home the Bounty!

Bring Home the Bounty, a global consumer product campaign in association with licensees including Funko, Hasbro, LEGO and Mattel, highlights new Star Wars merchandise every Tuesday through 28th December.

“With the Lucasfilm 50th anniversary coming to a close this year, we wanted to find a way to celebrate all of our beloved characters and stories from the classic to the new and everything in-between” said Paul Southern, Senior Vice President, Franchise & Licensing, Lucasfilm. “There will be something to excite every Star Wars fan this year with such a wide assortment of items to enjoy and engage with, whether fans are adding to their own collections or scouring for the perfect gift.”

Bring Home the Bounty (affiliate link) on Amazon. Other UK-based retail partners include Argos, Disney Store, Smyths, The Entertainer and Zavvi.

Follow the conversation on social media using #BringHomeTheBounty and #StarWars.

Whether you're looking for Galactic Snackin’ Grogu or The Bad Batch Attack Shuttle. Happy hunting.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

To infinity and beyond in Lightyear

Disney and Pixar have released an official teaser trailer for Lightyear!

Buzz Lightyear's definitive origin story stars Chris Evans (Captain America) as the fan-favourite Space Ranger from the Toy Story franchise.

“The phrase ‘a dream come true’ gets thrown around a lot, but I’ve never meant it more in my life,” Evans said in a statement. “Anyone who knows me knows that my love for animated films runs deep. I can’t believe that I get to be a part of the Pixar family and work with these truly brilliant artists who tell stories unlike anyone else. Watching them work is nothing short of magic. I pinch myself every day.”

Lightyear will be in cinemas in summer 2022.

Are you excited about Lightyear? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 25 October 2021

Tomb Raider turns 25

25 years ago, Lara Croft lept onto Sega Saturn on this day in 1996, PlayStation and PC a month later and the fan-favourite video game archaeologist never looked back.

Croft became a pop culture icon overnight in an era of girl power. The success of the original Tomb Raider spawned sequels, comic books, toys, films (starring Angelina Jolie and most recently Alicia Vikander in the titular role) and more.

Whilst there's an upcoming Netflix animated series, starring Hayley Atwell as Lara Croft, there's no new game to mark the silver anniversary.

“We’ve got big ambitions for the future of Tomb Raider,” said Will Kerslake, Tomb Raider franchise game director at Crystal Dynamics. “Our origin trilogy back in 2013 told the story of Lara’s early days when she was forged into a survivor, became a hero and ultimately the Tomb Raider.

“But the classic games featured a seasoned and confident adventurer, travelling the world, unlocking its secrets, often standing alone against cataclysmic forces.

“We envision the future of Tomb Raider unfolding after these established adventures, telling stories that build upon the breadth of both Core Design’s and Crystal Dynamics’ games, working to unify these timelines,” Kerslake said.

“With Tomb Raider’s extensive history, this is not an easy task, and we ask for patience as we go through the development process. We don’t have plans for a major game announcement in the near future.”

To celebrate my first job after graduating from university, I remember queuing outside EB Games to buy Tomb Raider, an original PlayStation and memory cards (remember those?).

What are your Tomb Raider memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 24 October 2021

When you Wish upon a Star Wars

For the past few weeks, UK-based Disney cruise ships have been moored offshore entertaining passengers eager for Hollywood-themed escapism as we emerge from the latest lockdown.

Next year, Disney Wish passengers will be able to make the jump into hyperspace. Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, uses macrobinoculars to peer across oceans in a galaxy far, far away...

Guest post by Nick Smith

Outer space may still be reserved for the mega-rich and famous but next year, somewhere out on the ocean, fans will be able to enjoy a little corner of the galaxy courtesy of Disney.

The entertainment company recently announced a Star Wars-themed immersive cruise with a children’s space and a family lounge on the Disney Wish. As earth’s disappointingly singular sun sets, however, the lounge will become a bar for grown-ups, providing what the company calls, ‘an elevated adult escape.’

When Disney senior creative director of Imagineering Danny Handke oversaw Star Wars-themed children’s spots on other cruise ships – the Dream and the Fantasy – he saw an opportunity to provide a space for adults, too. The Hyperspace Lounge will be, "a kind of a Dryden Vos yacht ship," he explained, "… a party ship through the galaxy. We’re jumping to different locations and getting a tour of space, and sampling amazing drinks from those different planets."

Screens will show locations like Tatooine, Mustafar and Endor and a little skirmish between TIE Fighters and X-wings, created with the assistance of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

Other than that, concept art depicts what looks like a regular bar with gold Star Wars trimmings. The vertical lighting is reminiscent of John Barry’s groundbreaking designs for Star Wars: A New Hope. The virtual view of space will be the real draw, along with gallery pieces from different planets that the space vessel visits – kind of like the memorabilia you see in the Hard Rock Café but with more Sith bits.

"It might be a volcanic crystal from Mustafar," says Handke. "We have an idol that was unearthed from Batuu. We just wanted to have different oddities that bring color to the space, but also celebrate the overall hyperspace story that we’re telling."

The Disney Wish, with its lightspeed lounge, is set to sail in summer 2022. It’s a far cry from the cantina I built when I was a kid, using a grocery box with cardboard chairs and tables for my action figures. While my set-up cost nothing but time, the real-as-you-can-get starcruiser experience will put you back almost $5000 for two nights. It’s pricey, even for an immersive experience. It might be better to save up for real space travel instead.

Yet the Hyperspace Lounge could be the experience of a lifetime and the technology behind the screens is enthralling in itself. Kids get to immerse themselves all the time and it is good to see adults get a turn. It’s childish to play pretend but, as Yoda showed us, it’s OK to act like a youngling sometimes.

The themed lounge also begs the question, what’s next? Eastenders Afloat, where you can get queasy on The Queen Vic? Carry On up the Clyde, a place to have a pint with a cackling Sid James lookalike? Or we could keep on doing what we’ve always done and use our imaginations – and save a small fortune – instead.

One last question: Do they allow droids?

Saturday 23 October 2021

Anakin Skywalker returns in Star Wars: Ahsoka

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) exclusively reports Hayden Christensen will reprise the role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Ahsoka.

Ahsoka Tano was Anakin Skywalker's apprentice during Star Wars: The Clone Wars before she turned her back on the Jedi Order. Later, they would clash in Star Wars Rebels when Skywalker succumbs to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader.

Rosario Dawson (The Mandalorian) is starring as fan-favourite Ahsoka Tano in the upcoming live-action spin-off series on Disney+.

Christensen will appear first in Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ in 2022.

Friday 22 October 2021

Hot Wheels R/C The Batman Batmobile

Mattel has produced Hot Wheels Batmobiles before, but this is one of the toy company's most detailed (and expensive) to date.

Therefore I couldn't miss mentioning this must-have for premium collectors.

Announced during DC FanDome 2021. This 1:10 scale movie-accurate Hot Wheels R/C replica of The Batman's Batmobile, featuring an animatronic 6-inch Batman and Batcave display, will cost you $500 direct from Mattel Creations or more on eBay once it's sold out.

I'll save myself $500 (before international shipping and import duties) and continue to admire my 1:18 scale Hot Wheels Batmobile from Tim Burton's Batman.

Will you be ordering a Hot Wheels R/C The Batman Batmobile? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 21 October 2021

LEGO Ideas Home Alone for the holidays

"Kevin!" LEGO Ideas has announced a Home Alone set for the holiday season. This coincides with Home Sweet Home Alone exclusively on Disney+.

This detailed set is based on the iconic McCallister home from the original Home Alone movie and was designed by LEGO fan Alex Storozhuk from Ukraine, via the LEGO Ideas platform which has previously spawned Doctor Who and TRON: Legacy sets.

In addition to the house, the set includes LEGO minifigures of Kevin McCallister, his mom Kate, robbers Harry and Marv and 'Old Man' Marley.

Federico Begher, Head of Global Marketing, LEGO Ideas commented: “The LEGO Ideas Home Alone House is one of our most exciting launches yet, and of course Kevin McCallister is the true hero of the story. Alex’s original design immediately struck a chord with us and we just knew we had to make it a reality. Home Alone has always united families and friends for the festive season, and we look forward to bringing people home together to build this new set.”

LEGO Ideas Home Alone is available exclusively from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links) on 1st November.

Will you be adding LEGO Ideas Home Alone to your collection this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

The Batman behind-the-scenes at DC FanDome

To conclude our DC FanDome 2021 coverage. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as the titular dark detective.

"For some reason, Batman just always stood out as one of the major characters of the 20th century that so many people connected with on such a deep level - and for so many different reasons," Pattinson says in the IGN clip. "The first conversation with Matt [Reeves] I had about it, I just knew there was something radically different from anything we'd seen in Batman movies before... Right from the beginning, there's a desperation to him. He's really working out this rage. All the fights seem very personal... He wants to inflict his kind of justice. He's just compelled to do it. There is no other option."

"I felt we'd seen a lot of origin stories," director Matt Reeves adds. "We'd seen things go further and further into fantasy, and I thought 'Well one place we haven't been is grounding it the way that 'Year One' does. To come right into a young Batman. Not be an origin tale but refer to his origins and shake him to his core."

"That great thing about this world is the grey area," Zoe Kravitz (Catwoman) explains. "Catwoman really wants to fight for those who don't have someone else to fight for them. And that's where Batman and her really connect."

Whilst filming of The Batman was delayed due to the pandemic, fan reaction (myself included) has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Batman is in cinemas (hopefully as Nick Smith suggests) on 4th March 2022.

Monday 18 October 2021

Holy DC FanDome, Batman!

DC FanDome was in response to the ongoing global pandemic and lockdowns, which saw conventions cancelled en masse last year.

Wisely, Warner Bros. has brought it back for a second year and, like many DC Comics fans, I'd be pleased to see DC FanDome become an annual online event to watch on my Apple TV.

Nick Smith, my US-based partner in comic book crime-fighting, has thoughts...

Guest post by Nick Smith

Batman is big business. After eight decades in the public consciousness, the franchise character is estimated to have earned almost $28 billion in retail, box office returns and other media. But it’s not just the Dark Knight who brings in the bucks – Bruce’s just a bonus. DC FanDome’s 2021 line-up shows how much the Bat-family has grown in popularity over recent years.

DC FanDome is a virtual event designed to showcase new or returning projects and celebrate the publishing company’s beloved characters. This year’s ‘ultimate DC fan experience’ included clips and interviews available to watch on YouTube. Many of those clips were based around the Bat.

The FanDome’s sneak peeks, presented by actors, directors and producers, included Batwoman, Batgirl, Titans, Harley Quinn, a Gotham Knights game, Catwoman: Hunted, Batman Unburied, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, Batman: Caped Crusader and Pennyworth, all birthed in the streets of Gotham.

Even Todd McFarlane got in on the act, discussing the merger with DC Direct and McFarlane Toys, focusing on Batman-related figurines in what felt more like a sales expo pitch than a guest appearance from a well-known comics creator.

DC’s emphasis on its best-known characters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (celebrating her 80th anniversary) – is understandable. They’re a known quantity that casual fans want to see and are more likely to spend money on. But the company has dozens of heroes and villains to promote in the hope that one of them will take off in movie theatres or on TV, so it would be good to see more balance and diversity on a day like this.

There were breaks from the big guns. Members of the general public don’t know Black Adam from… Adam. But they know Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who hyped up a Black Adam flick last year. With a summer 2022 release date, Johnson was back with a preview showing Adam’s intro.

Other segments had stars to help raise the stature of their projects: Jason Momoa (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom), John Cena (Peacemaker), Zachary Levi (Shazam! Fury of the Gods). News Flashes were reported by Candice Patton (Iris West-Allen on TV). All these teases and news bites led up to a new trailer for The Batman, the COVID-slowed feature film arriving (we hope) in March 2022.

The major project delays were cheekily acknowledged, especially in a tiny tease for the live-action feature The Flash (adapting Flashpoint) and an animated pastiche plugging an unfinished new season of Harley Quinn. It might have been the music or Ezra Miller’s candid intro but the Flash tease proved less is more… right down to the final non-image of a batmobile. Which model will it be? We’ll have to wait until they film more of the movie to find out.

This brings us back to The Batman, keeping his presence felt throughout the FanDome. The latest take on the caped crusader is appropriately dark and gritty, with a Blade Runner-bricked landscape, an Edward Hopper-style opening image and other trailer tropes we’ve come to expect. Slowed-down rock song? Check. Rapid flashes to black? Check. Vengeful hero? Double-check. The focus this time is on violence (lots of punching, hitting and crashing) leavened by Zoe Kravitz’s caring Catwoman.

Director Matt Reeves has given this film a lot of TLC and attempts to give hoary chestnut images a new spin. Case in point: The Batman walks away from a wall of fire a la RoboCop and countless other movie heroes; this shot is upside down. We also get a good hard look at Batman’s bullet-proof chin; shots bounce of Robert Pattinson’s chiselled jaw.

The more I watch the trailer, the more I like it but the Flash tease gives me more goosebumps per second, even though we’ve seen Flashpoint regurgitated multiple timelines’ worth in comics, animated movies and on TV. Both new films look solid, as well as less famed features like Blue Beetle, starring Xolo Maridueña.

DC FanDome is a convention with no queues and no expensive entry fees. Everyone gets a front-row seat. There are downsides though: no Q&A this year, no one-on-one meetings with the stars and, most importantly, no in-person camaraderie among fans.

Presented as a digital storefront, this year’s DC FanDome seems more like lip service to comic book aficionados. We are told, ‘you’re the best fans ever.’ Yes, we are. But the best way to remind and reward us is to provide more collaborative content. It’s time to spend Bruce Wayne’s billions to utilize the internet’s full interactive capabilities.

Did you watch DC FanDome? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 17 October 2021

The Batman at DC FanDome

“It’s not just a signal; it’s a warning,” Batman (Robert Pattinson) chillingly intones in a voice-over for a Twitter teaser shared on Thursday. The Bat-Signal symbolises hope. Could this be the darkest Batman movie yet?

A new trailer for The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), premiered Saturday during DC FanDome 2021.

Batman fans (myself included) have taken to Twitter with their reactions.

“The Batman is nearly three hours long. It’s a full on detective noir epic. The story takes place during the week of Halloween. Batman keeps a journal and it’s read to the audience in voiceover,” one fan tweeted.

“Please inject this film into my veins. It’s absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted.”

Another wrote: “This is unlike any comic book movie we have ever seen before — it is the perfect mix of pure talent and passion. I have full faith that this holds the potential to become the greatest adaptation of Bruce Wayne ever made.”

Stay tuned to this Batchannel for Nick Smith's DC FanDome deep dive.

The Batman is in cinemas on 4th March 2022.

Are you looking forward to The Batman? What are your thoughts on the trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 15 October 2021

Doctor Who: Flux

The official trailer for Doctor Who: Flux premiered during Jodie Whittaker's appearance on The Graham Norton Show. Such late scheduling excludes younger fans. Strictly Come Dancing would have reached more viewers during primetime.

The trailer offered a tantalising preview of returning monsters - Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Cybermen, and the Ood, as well as a range of new monsters, one of which is named Karvanista who looks like a Wookie from Star Wars or Barf from Spaceballs, take your pick.

Further to my previous The Trial of a Time Lord observation, the six-part Flux is trading on the franchise's storied history and also conjures comparisons to the classic serial The War Games, which culminated in the second Doctor's (Patrick Troughton) regeneration. Are we back on Gallifrey in the Death Zone or inside the Matrix?

Matt Strevens, Executive Producer, says: “I can’t wait for the audience to come on the Flux ride with us. It’s our biggest adventure yet with so many brilliant new characters to fall in love with. We had a blast making it.”

Doctor Who: Flux premieres on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC America and AMC+ on 31st October.

Are you looking forward to Doctor Who: Flux? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 14 October 2021

Jamie Costa as Robin Williams goes viral

"Mork calling Orson! Come in Orson..."

Previously, I've shared Jamie Costa's Star Wars fan films. Han Solo: A Smuggler's Trade, in which he played the titular captain of the Millennium Falcon, and Star Wars: Origins.

Costa's Robin Williams (The Fisher King) test footage scene is on another level. I implore you to watch it if you haven't already.

Williams was a household name growing up in the seventies and eighties. Mork & Mindy became a welcome escape from childhood trauma and Williams one of the first actors I remember doing impressions of to amuse family and friends.

Costa's clip has, deservedly, gone viral. He effortlessly captures the late actor's zaniness with many fans (myself included) calling for an official biopic.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Tech-savvy Ghostface stalks Scream

Ghostface is back on the big screen, for the first time in a decade, but sadly not for Halloween!

Following four films and a television spin-off series, which was much more fun than I expected, the fifth film instalment in the iconic slasher franchise promises to pit a tech-savvy Ghostface against our long-suffering heroes.

Here's the official synopsis:

"Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past. Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) return to their iconic roles in Scream alongside Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Sonia Ammar."

Scream is exclusively in cinemas on 14th January.

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

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Doctor Who channel launches on Pluto TV

Variety reports new Doctor Who channels are launching in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and Spain.

A new Doctor Who channel in France will feature the first 10 seasons of the BBC action-adventure series that explores space and time, in addition to the series’ Christmas specials, including “Snowmen,” “Last Christmas” and “Day of The Doctor.”

The Doctor Who channel on Pluto TV in Spain features the series’ first nine seasons and its Christmas specials, while Pluto TV in Germany, Switzerland and Austria now offers “Doctor Who” episodes that originally aired between 1980 and 1990, in addition to a BBC Travel channel.

This forms part of a carriage deal between BBC Studios and ViacomCBS for Pluto TV.

Pluto TV is ViacomCBS' advertiser-supported digital linear platform available on a range of devices including mobile and console.

In related news. Sony is to acquire Bad Wolf productions (co-producing Doctor Who from 2023) to bolster its film and television divisions! This has reignited speculation regarding a new Doctor Who motion picture. PlayStation of the Daleks?

Monday 11 October 2021

Playmobil boldly goes to the final frontier

Playmobil has produced A-Team, Back to the Future, Doctor Who and Ghostbusters action figures and playsets for all ages.

Now the beloved toy brand journeys to the final frontier with Star Trek.

The app-enabled USS Enterprise NCC-1701 is this holiday season's must-have for the Trekkie in your life or a present to yourself.

This colossal collector's item features lights and sounds, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, Dr McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott, Lieutenant Uhura, Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov.

Playmobil Star Trek USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (affiliate link).

Are you hoping to find Playmobil USS Enterprise NCC-1701 under the Christmas tree? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 10 October 2021


Something Whovian this way comes. This weekend marks the 44th anniversary of a life-changing childhood trauma. Doctor Who has always been there in the darkest of times...

Doctor Who returns on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America this Halloween.

Series 13 spans six episodes and sees John Bishop (Dan) join Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who) and Mandip Gill (Yaz) aboard the Tardis. The Flux, which brings to mind Dr Emmett Brown's flux capacitor from Back to the Future, has shades of The Trial of a Time Lord.

Flux is an apt metaphor as Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker and series showrunner Chris Chibnall are leaving Doctor Who ahead of the 60th anniversary in 2023. Russell T Davies is returning as showrunner.

The new series of Doctor Who premieres on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC America and AMC+ on Sunday 31st October. This will be followed by three specials in 2022.

Are you looking forward to the return of Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Babylon 5 rebooted for The CW

After news broke that Russell T Davies was returning to Doctor Who, The CW announced a reboot of Babylon 5 with series creator J Michael Straczynski at the helm.

Coincidentally, Straczynski had expressed an interest in showrunning Doctor Who and has commended the decision to bring back Davies for the 60th anniversary in 2023.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, speculates on new adventures aboard the beloved Babylon 5.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The CW is a guilty pleasure for me. The shows are formulaic and repetitive but they’re also cosy, glossy and filled with glamorous actors. The channel has proved a good home for DC Comics superheroes, teen romances and the odd spot of demon hunting. But is it the right place for Babylon 5, a show that originally left the air in the late ‘90s?

Should recycling be left to garbage, or is J Michael Straczynski’s TV opus ripe for rebooting? The show is being redeveloped by its creator, who is writing the pilot and will be, ‘running the series upon pickup,’ according to a late September tweet.

A reboot of such a fan-shipped show has its challenges. Here are my top 5 comments and concerns:

1). Reboots are rubbish (usually).

Nine times out of ten, reboots are a bad idea! Without their original creative team or cast and the rocket fuel of ingenuity that blasted them off in the first place, reheated shows are a pale imitation of their former selves. Exhibits A to Z include Bionic Woman, Knight Rider and Matthew Perry’s version of The Odd Couple (oh dear). Fortunately, there are exceptions, which build on the originals instead of simply rehashing them (including and Battlestar Galactica, so say we all). "You cannot step in the same river twice,” Straczynski told the Twitterverse, quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “for the river has changed, and you have changed.” In the years since Babylon 5, I’ve done a ton of other TV shows and movies, adding an equal number of tools to my toolbox…’ So he’s approaching the franchise as a brand-new show.

2). Arc plots are old hat.

Arc plots, where early episodes of a season or series pay off at the conclusion, are common in all kinds of shows from Heroes to Supergirl to manga/anime like Bleach and Naruto. JMS wasn’t the first arc plotter but he is one of the best. A line uttered by a character in the pilot took greater significance as the show developed. Enmity between two old foes was the starting point of their burgeoning friendship. A mysterious alien was revealed to be more powerful than the heroes ever expected. We still enjoy plotline payoffs but they’re no longer as surprising as they were in the ‘90s. In shows like Doctor Who and The Mandalorian, they’re almost expected. The original Babylon 5 was full of storytelling surprises. Will the same characters mean the same revelations?

3). Characters like Delenn, Londo Mollari and G’Kar are in Babylon 5 for a reason, symbolizing a political position or mindset. Like all the best sci-fi, these aliens provided JMS with an opportunity to comment on our own society. Other than switching the sexes or ethnicities of the actors, how many new observations can be made? How many new characters can be added without losing the sense that we’re on the same station as before?

4). Audience expectations are greater than they were a quarter-century ago.

We’re used to better effects and more metafictional nods to what we’ve seen before. With the new Babylon 5, more time and money can be devoted to computer-generated gee-whizzery – The CW’s recent Krypton (AKA in my household, ‘The Adventures of Superman’s Grandpa’) created believable alien cities and worlds - but Straczynski’s show is far more than that interstellar eye candy. Despite its primitive CGI, the original series’ makeup effects were often astounding for the time but the focus was always on characterization and plot rather than hardware. Now CGI can create everything from aliens to galactic wars, will the balance shift?

5). A new best hope.

A Babylon 5 reboot offers the chance to reinvent the saga with better effects and contemporary acting. But the emphasis still needs to be on the main cast, character motivations and their revelatory experiences.

The remake is in good hands with J Michael Straczynski. The CW seems like an appropriate home, with a teen-friendly cast and more chance of being nurtured than on a big American network. We are fortunate to have the creative talent of Straczynski with a prominent show like Babylon 5, let alone any intelligent sci-fi, on our screens at a time when what we need more than ever is hope.

Are you looking forward to the Babylon 5 reboot? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 7 October 2021

HBO Max teases House of the Dragon

On Tuesday, HBO Max released a teaser trailer for the upcoming Game of Thrones spin-off series based on author George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood.

Much like Lost and Battlestar Galactica; Game of Thrones' final season fragmented fandom.

However, House of the Dragon, currently filming in Cornwall, is set two centuries before the events of the original series. Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen will pique the interest of Doctor Who fans (myself included).

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 Sky Atlantic in 2022.

In related news. HBO Max launches in Europe on 26th October. This doesn't initially include the UK as Sky and Warner Bros. renewed a first-run deal. The BBC also co-produces HBO series including His Dark Materials.

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

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Black Widow on Disney+

Following the simultaneous release of Marvel Studios' Black Widow in cinemas and on Disney+ with Premier Access last July, Scarlett Johansson's standalone movie is now available to all Disney+ subscribers.

This comes days after the settlement of a legal dispute between the star and Walt Disney Studios in which the actress alleged loss of earnings from the movie.

Read the official synopsis:

“In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller ‘Black Widow,’ Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.“

Are you going to watch Marvel Studios' Black Widow on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Star Wars: Droids exclusive to Target

Hasbro has announced Star Wars: Droids action figures as part of Lucasfilm’s 50th anniversary celebration.

The Target exclusive features Boba Fett, C-3PO and R2-D2 in Kenner-branded vintage collection packaging. Each 3.75-inch figure includes a coin just like the original toy line, which briefly appeared on store shelves in 1985.

There's also a solitary premium 6-inch Black Series Boba Fett in animated series deco. However, Hasbro's missed a Star Wars Holiday Special trick here.

The Star Wars: Droids animated series was an afterschool favourite and spawned a range of colourful action figures and accessories from Kenner. Alas, by the time of its release in the mid-eighties, I'd outgrown 'childish things' and didn't collect any of them.

The Target exclusive is available on Hasbro Pulse outside of the US. I've already pre-ordered mine for toy photography on Instagram.

Star Wars: Droids is available to stream as part of the Star Wars Vintage Collection on Disney+.

Are these the Star Wars: Droids action figures you’re looking for? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 4 October 2021

Bond surpasses Skywalker

No Time To Die, Daniel Craig's pandemic-delayed final outing as James Bond, has opened in more UK cinemas than Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The previous record-holder opened in 744 cinemas in December 2019. Bond surpassed Skywalker with 772 cinemas during its record-breaking opening weekend.

Have you seen No Time To Die? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Ask Astrid

Digital assistants are no longer the stuff of Star Trek or Tony Stark's lake house laboratory.

Amazon announced Astro, an Alexa-based autonomous home robot, last week. The love child of WALL-E and an iPad is a far cry from my original Omnibot.

Tomy's programmable toy robot was an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of Star Wars' R2-D2 during the Atari age. With its built-in cassette deck, remote control and tray, Omnibot hinted at future app-enabled devices such as Astro and Sphero.

Ambient computing is as cool as it sounds and broadly describes smart devices used in everyday life. From wearables to automobiles, there's no escaping this omnipresent technology and privacy threat therein.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, explores the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and the trials and tribulations of filming during a global pandemic.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Despite months or even years of preparation, filmmaking doesn’t always go as planned. It’s impossible to anticipate every setback. Ask Astrid, a new sci-fi short filmed in Florida, is a case in point.

There I was merrily making movies with my friends, setting up what is known as the ‘martini shot’ – the last setup of the day – when a lady popped her head through a curtain of black velour onto the set and asked what we were doing. I explained and, off the cuff, asked if she wanted to help out?

Her husband barged in and shoved a cell phone in our faces, telling us to remove our COVID-19 masks and give him our names, threatening to call the police. He was right to be shocked – imagine coming home to find an uninvited movie crew in your living room!

I had arranged to film in this cranky man’s office via a management company. I had written permission to use the property, I had met with a representative and I’d visited the location twice during preproduction. But the company had neglected to tell the private owners of the office space.

The red-faced man asked me why we were making a film and that was a deep question for me. The reasons are many: creativity, the social aspect; we do it for fun, to develop our skills and give opportunities to actors.

I called the management company, smoothed things over with the owners and befriended them. My crew packed up its gear and left the office considerably cleaner than we’d found it. Most importantly, we finished the film.

In hindsight, I should have carried the location agreement paperwork in my hand all day in case we were challenged. But how was I to know we’d be interrupted? Every film has its surprises, and this was the shocker reserved for Ask Astrid.

Astrid (voiced by Power Rangers’ Ann Marie Crouch) handles surprises very well. She is an AI device that sits in your home, answers your questions, takes shopping lists from you and tells jokes. Unlike Alexa or Google Home, Astrid has human colleagues collecting your data and hitting you with targeted marketing… OK, maybe Astrid isn’t so different after all.

Ask Astrid is set in the near future where digital assistants have advanced enough to become almost human. Marcy (Megan Caulfield), an office worker, bonds with the machine and teaches it to become even more of a ‘person.’

Gadgets have been a longtime fascination with our generation, as we yearn for the high technology of films like Aliens and Blade Runner but fear the dystopia that could come with them. A machine-driven future looks lonely – Ellen Ripley and Rick Deckard live in solitude, no picket fences or garden parties for them. Ask Astrid explores our risky over-reliance on gizmos but also heralds their great potential; when Marcy and Astrid overhear a crime being committed, they work together in an attempt to save the day.

I was determined to tell this story even though production had ground to a halt in Florida due to COVID-19. In order to complete the film, I trimmed the on-camera cast down to one (Megan) but involved as many actors as possible by asking them to record their voices from home. They played the homeowners and customers that Marcy and Astrid listen in on. That way I could highlight their comedic and dramatic skills while focusing on Marcy and her relationship with Astrid.

With Marcy’s office as our central location, we had to get the look of the film precisely right. Director of Photography Kevin Almodovar lit the office space with blue and green hues, just the right side of future-gloomy. Set designer Brandon Alan Perdue mixed traditional mahogany furniture with future tech cobbled together from laptops, an intercom system and even equipment from an abandoned chicken farm, making the most of our limited resources.

Since hitting the circuit in May, the film has been screened twice at the Pensacon Short Film Festival and was part of the FantaSci Short Film Festival as well. Audiences have been intrigued by Ask Astrid’s concept and the execution. They appreciate the way the movie explores an all-too-plausible future and how humans handle a world where friendship is artificial but still existent. After all, what else are friends – mechanical or otherwise – for, if not to tell each other entertaining stories?

Saturday 2 October 2021

IMDb TV launches with Babylon 5

Amazon has launched IMDb TV in the UK. The new ad-supported streaming service is available to both members and non-members of Amazon Prime from the Prime Video app.

“IMDb TV has created a free-to-consumer destination by combining a hybrid of exclusive Originals from Amazon Studios and highly sought-after movies and television,” said Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, co-heads of content and programming, IMDb TV.

IMDb TV first launched in 2019 in the US and has scale in a competitive, and increasingly crowded, streaming space.

“Free streaming services are not unique, especially in the UK, where there’s several broadcaster options [such as BBC iPlayer and Channel 4’s All4],” Pirozzi told Variety. “I think what is unique about us is ambitious, premium original series from Amazon Studios inside a free service: that is much more unique.“

“You might see some overlap in licensed content [with Prime Video], but the selection will be unique and bespoke because we’re obsessing over UK customers,” added Pirozzi. “So we’ll tailor our selection to our customers in the UK.”

All five remastered seasons of Babylon 5 (affiliate link) are available to stream on IMDb TV, which is perfect timing following the announcement of a reboot at The CW. I've begun a rewatch after several decades! You can read Nick Smith's review here.

Will you be watching Babylon 5 on IMDb TV? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 1 October 2021

The Book of Boba Fett opens December

The Book of Boba Fett, teased at the end of The Mandalorian second season finale, premieres exclusively on 29th December on Disney+.

This is a little later than many fans (myself included) expected and misses the countdown to Christmas. However, Marvel Studios' Hawkeye will be on hand this Thanksgiving.

Here's the official synopsis for the highly-anticipated Star Wars spin-off this holiday season:

"The Book of Boba Fett, a thrilling Star Wars adventure, finds legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigating the galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate."

More details about The Book of Boba Fett will be revealed during the first-ever Disney+ Day, which celebrates the 2nd anniversary of the launch of The Walt Disney Company's streaming service. There's also a documentary on the infamous bounty hunter who captured Han Solo in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Are you looking forward to The Book of Boba Fett? Let me know in the comments below.