Monday 29 November 2021

The Book of Boba Fett opens a month today

A month today, The Book of Boba Fett begins on Disney+. The highly-anticipated live-action Star Wars spin-off series was first announced at the end of The Mandalorian second season finale last Christmas!

Ahead of its release, I've bought my first-ever app-enabled Sonos soundbar, discounted in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, from John Lewis.

The Beam (Gen 2) brings Dolby Atmos support (DTS was added in the November update) in a hi-tech compact form factor. Even before using Trueplay tuning (on iOS), Finch is a room-filling sonic showcase on Apple TV+.

So, I won't miss hearing a single PEW! PEW! PEW!, ricocheting off decked halls, this holiday season.

Saturday 27 November 2021

The Book of Boba Fett teases Slave 1

Lucasfilm has released a new teaser for The Book of Boba Fett. In flashback the titular bounty hunter can be seen discovering an abandoned Slave 1, which was controversially renamed earlier this year by Disney.

The iconic spaceship is now dubbed Firespray in Marvel Comics. However, it will always be Slave 1 to a generation of Star Wars fans (myself included). The original toy was a big omission from my sizeable Star Wars collection.

Read the official synopsis:

""The Book of Boba Fett," a thrilling Star Wars adventure teased in a surprise end-credit sequence following the Season 2 finale of “The Mandalorian,” 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."

The Book of Boba Fett, starring Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones) as the titular bounty hunter and co-starring Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as fan-favourite Fennec Shand, premieres exclusively on 29th December on Disney+.

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

Thursday 25 November 2021

Star Trek: Discovery free on Pluto TV

Following a social media backlash to rival the destruction of Praxis in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country after Star Trek: Discovery was pulled from Netflix outside the US.

ViacomCBS has issued a statement (via

"To all of the International Star Trek: Discovery fans: we hear you. We love this series too. We love it for the incredible cast, the hardworking crew, the imaginative storytelling, the groundbreaking, diverse characters who bring the show to life and what it represents to so many people around the world. Star Trek has always put its fans first. We want to do the same."

As Paramount+ isn't launching into more regions until 2022, fans (myself included) were left in limbo. The fourth season will now be available to watch free on Pluto TV from Friday.

"Therefore, during this transition, we are doing everything we can to get the new season to you as soon as possible. Where Paramount+ is available in Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Venezuela, the first two episodes will be available Friday, November 26, with new episodes being released weekly. We are also offering Star Trek fans in these markets a new membership promotion on Paramount+ for 50% off for the first three months with code STARTREK."

This timely decision should assuage Star Trek fans but could have been avoided.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my US-based readers a happy Thanksgiving. Live long and prosper.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Doctor Who Day

"The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other." Happy Doctor Who Day! The beloved BBC sci-fi series celebrates its 58th anniversary! What would the First Doctor, William Hartnell, make of that?

My earliest memory of watching Doctor Who is The Sontaran Experiment! Aged 2, seeing Styre melt (before my young eyes) marked a nightmarish childhood encounter with the body horror genre and ignited a lifelong love of adventures in space and time. Also, a brief addiction to Jelly Babies as popularised by the Fourth Doctor, my Doctor, Tom Baker.

As my tweet published in Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) issue 557 suggested. Watching Doctor Who at Saturday teatime soon became a family tradition (as long as I was able to watch with dad!). That said, I was once left alone to watch Genesis of the Daleks! All the while, hiding behind the sofa, terrified the Daleks would fall out the back of the television and into our living room...

Last Sunday's Village of the Angels was a gothic callback to those treasured formative Whovian years.

The BBC has announced details regarding the New Year's Day special:

"The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends will kick-start 2022 with an action-packed spectacular episode set to air on BBC One on New Year’s Day. The festive special will feature guest stars Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living With Yourself, Quiz), Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black, Enterprice) and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless).

Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year’s Eve. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned…

The festive episode is the first of three Doctor Who Specials airing in 2022. The second Special airs in Spring and Jodie’s final feature-length Special (in where the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate), will transmit in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations."

The BBC has also announced Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen (affiliate link). The classic Second Doctor serial has been fully-animated. The story stars Patrick Troughton, Jack Watling, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling and features the Doctor's first encounter with the Yeti and the Great Intelligence.

Doctor Who: Flux continues Sunday's on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC America and AMC+. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's, our US-based Whovian, series 13 review soon.

How are you celebrating Doctor Who Day? What are your earliest memories of adventures aboard the TARDIS? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 22 November 2021

Alien and Blade Runner series teased

An Alien spin-off series is already in development for FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+.

However, Sir Ridley Scott (Gladiator), speaking to BBC Radio 4, has confirmed a live-action Blade Runner spin-off series is also in development.

Scott told the BBC's Today programme: "We [have already] written the pilot for ‘Blade Runner’ and the bible. So, we’re already presenting ‘Blade Runner’ as a TV show, the first 10 hours.”

Scott's Alien and Blade Runner film franchises have spawned sequels, and these upcoming series should further expand their lore.

Are you looking forward to the Alien and Blade Runner series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 20 November 2021

Natasha Liu Bordizzo to play Sabine Wren

Deadline reports Natasha Liu Bordizzo (The Society) is to play Sabine Wren in Star Wars: Ahsoka on Disney+.

Bordizzo is expected to join Rosario Dawson (The Mandalorian) as the fan-favourite character from Star Wars Rebels. Sabine promised Ahsoka she would help her find Ezra Bridger in the series finale. It's also worth mentioning when we meet Ahsoka, in The Mandalorian, she's hunting Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Sabine has a storied history with Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff). So, it's always possible she could cameo in the third season of The Mandalorian, which is currently in production.

Hayden Christensen is reportedly reprising the role of Anakin Skywalker in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off. Ahsoka was Anakin's student in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Christensen will be seen first reprising the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ in 2022.

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

Friday 19 November 2021

Return to Hogwarts this holiday season

How can it be twenty years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone debuted in cinemas? An inaugural trip to Hogwarts heralded by the spellbinding music of John Williams (Star Wars)!

The film franchise soon became a treasured family favourite. Alas, mum never got to see the conclusion of Harry, Hermione and Ron's adventures. So, it's become a holiday tradition to watch the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets in her memory.

The celebrate the twentieth anniversary, Warner Bros. is releasing a documentary on HBO Max. Watch the teaser trailer for Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.

Read the official synopsis:

"Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson join filmmaker Chris Columbus and other esteemed cast members across all eight Harry Potter films as they travel back to Hogwarts for the first time to celebrate the anniversary of the franchise’s first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which premiered 20 years ago today. The retrospective special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts will tell an enchanting making-of story through all-new in-depth interviews and cast conversations, inviting fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time."

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts debuts on HBO Max on New Year's Day. Hopefully, it'll be shown on Sky in the UK, too.

What are your Harry Potter memories? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Star Trek: Discovery only on Paramount+

Much to the chagrin of Star Trek fans (myself included), Star Trek: Discovery has been dramatically removed from Netflix outside the US ahead of the highly-anticipated fourth season debut on Paramount+ today.

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) is a late entrant into an increasingly overcrowded streaming space and is betting the farm on Star Trek.

“As we rapidly expand our global streaming footprint, we are bringing more of our top titles home to ViacomCBS for Paramount+ markets around the world,” Kelly Day, president of streaming for ViacomCBS Networks International, said in a statement.

ViacomCBS is hoping to emulate the runaway success of Star Wars spin-offs on Disney+ with Paramount+ becoming the exclusive home for all things final frontier.

“We have a strong global and local content pipeline that positions us for success across our regions, and repatriating beloved series like Star Trek: Discovery for Paramount+ is another step forward as we bring fans more must-watch series worldwide.”

There has been pushback on social media following the controversial announcement.

"I can’t stress enough how bad this decision is, and only days before the new series was meant to air. Fans are not going to wait until 2022 to find out what happens, especially when you have to subscribe to ANOTHER subscription service," one fan wrote.

Although I highly praised Discovery's first and second seasons, I quickly tired of season three! The changing showrunners, and lack of cohesive vision, undermined it. Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks remain on Amazon Prime for now.

Are you disappointed Star Trek: Discovery is no longer available on Netflix? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Spider-Man can Scooby-Doo this!

With assistance from Marvel Studios, Sony's Spider-Man Universe is about to expand exponentially if Spider-Man: No Way Home has anything to do with it.

An official trailer dropped early on Wednesday with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) making an hilarious reference to Scooby-Doo.

Read the official synopsis:

"For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero's identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse."

There have been high-profile spoilers leaked. However, this blog has a proud tradition of not opening other people's presents without warning.

Spider-Man: No Way Home, starring Tom Holland as the titular web-slinger, swings into UK cinemas on 15th December with tickets going on sale on 29th November AKA Spider-Monday. It's the perfect holiday gift for fans (myself included).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 and Marvel Studios' Spider-Man: No Way Home debut first on Netflix for those who are still reluctant to venture into a cinema (due to the ongoing pandemic) in 2022.

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

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Steven Spielberg's Halo on Paramount+

Halo has had a long journey to the screen.

Directors Sir Peter Jackson (King Kong) and Steven Spielberg (Jaws) were attached to various projects that never materialised. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was a web series released to promote the fourth instalment in Microsoft's multimedia franchise in 2012.

So, it was a surprise to see an official teaser for a live-action series, executive produced by Spielberg and announced by the man himself during the infamous launch of the Xbox One in 2013, finally coming to Paramount+.

Paramount+ dropped the teaser during the Xbox 20th anniversary celebration on Monday. Master Chief will be played by Pablo Schreiber and Jen Taylor will reprise the role of Cortana.

In related news. Microsoft announced the immediate availabilty of its free-to-play Halo Infinite multiplayer. Multiplayer is much more fun than I ever imagined on Xbox Series S! More so, as I've not bothered with multiplayer (outside of Destiny 2 Fireteams) since I stopped playing Call of Duty. The AI Bots are among the best I've ever played alongside/against! It's easy to forget that they're not human!

The Halo series is expected to debut in early 2022 on Paramount+. Are you excited? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 15 November 2021

20 years of Xbox

20 years ago, the original Xbox was released in North America, marking Microsoft's holiday debut into a console space dominated by Nintendo and Sony's PlayStation.

As I've written previously, my Xbox journey began with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2002. Dead or Alive 3, TimeSplitters 2 and The Sims took up my time, too. I was impressed with the monster-sized box until an infamous fire hazard issue in 2005. Microsoft posted a cable with a trip switch to affected customers (myself included).

However, I binned the now worthless machine and never envisaged owning another Xbox...

Then, I won an Xbox 360 S after entering a LOVEFiLM competition in 2012. This introduced me to the Mass Effect trilogy, and my unexpected Xbox homecoming culminated in Halo 4. All the while, my PlayStation 3 (PS3) gathered dust.

Subsequently, I've owned an Xbox One with Kinect, Xbox One X and Xbox Series S. Having gone digital during the Xbox One generation, the Series S was a no-brainer.

Xbox backwards compatibility has enabled gamers (myself included) to discover or continue to play video games from previous console generations. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I've been able to experience classic BioWare titles Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) I & II and Jade Empire.

Game Pass Ultimate (combined with Microsoft Rewards) has saved me money, and Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite will be festive favourites during the holiday season. The former is a quintessential arcade racer set in an open world social hub and contender for Game of the Year (GotY)!

Microsoft has released an Xbox 20th Anniversary Wireless Controller (affiliate link) in classic black with green touches that hark back to the beginning.

The Redmond-based company is streaming a celebration of all things Xbox today.

What are your Xbox memories? Do you have a favourite Xbox console generation? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Predator prequel Prey

Whilst Alien franchise fans (myself included) eagerly await further details regarding the live-action spin-off series coming to FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+. A prequel to Predator was officially announced during the first-ever Disney+ Day.

Prey is set in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago with a female protagonist equipped only with a bow and arrow. She won't be following in Dutch's (Arnold Schwarzenegger) heavily-armed footsteps.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), the latest instalment in the Predator franchise is coming to Hulu and Star on Disney+ in summer 2022.

Will Prey capture the taut tension of John McTiernan's (Die Hard) beloved original after Shane Black’s (Iron Man 3) promising but disappointing The Predator?

Saturday 13 November 2021

Shang-Chi streaming on Disney+

Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now available to stream on Disney+ as part of the first-ever Disney+ Day celebration, which included exciting new announcements from the Walt Disney Studios subsidiary. From Agatha: House of Harkness to Marvel Zombies.

After years of trying and failing (spectacularly), I've finally convinced Dyl Cook to write for the blog! He's a friend and fellow Masters of the Universe fan (more on that in the future).

Is Shang-Chi, IMAX Enhanced, worth watching on Disney+? Dyl has the answer, true believers!

Guest post by Dyl Cook

It’s been a few months since its release in cinemas, I’ve managed to watch it twice, so thought enough time had passed for me to review Marvel Studios' latest superhero, Shang-Chi.

I’m sure you‘ve already watched it, but this is a spoiler-filled review, as it’ll be easier to talk about things that way.

So, full disclosure, I am half Chinese and half Welsh, so there was always going to be some anticipation for some Asian representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) (and to be fair most western films) where we were not a side character. I could go further into this, but you’re not here for that. You just want to know if the film is any good? Does it sit at the top of the heap of the MCU? Some bias aside, I can say that I would put this in my top 5 Marvel Studios movies.

If you’re interested, my top 5 MCU movies are:

Guardians of the Galaxy
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther

Anyway, what works? First, the fight sequences are phenomenal, which is no surprise considering Jackie Chan’s protege, Brad Allan, was behind it. Sadly, he passed away this year, but his legacy does live on in some fantastic moments such as the bus fight and the skyscraper attack. There are moments that feel very Jackie Chan, like when Shang-Chi uses his jacket in the fight, or running across the top of the bus and trying to jump into the bus, but bouncing off the door. There is a level of fun, but the stakes are always high.

These fights are also part of a lot of the heart in the movie. Shang-Chi only reveals himself when he reacts to a Ten Rings assassin punching his best friend. His sister, Xialing, uses a cage match against her brother for cathartic release due to him abandoning her when she was a child. Even at the start, there is a fight flirting between Xu Wenwu (the MCU version of the Mandarin) and Li (the protector of the dimensional realm of Ta-Lo), which feels exceptionally like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Not just in Wuxia style, but also in terms of the palette used.

The fights are almost a secondary language in themselves with the styles representing the character types and how they feel. For example, Wenwu’s fighting with the Ten Rings (which I really liked being represented like the Chinese iron bangles) is very vicious in the way he uses them. It’s about power and quiet anger, especially when he enacts vengeance for his wife’s murder.

This leads me to Wenwu himself, who I feel is one of the best villains that the MCU has come up with. He starts off as the atypical villain, existing only to gain more power. He evolves to wanting to destroy anything in his path if it gets in the way of freeing his wife. It's an interesting take on the classic villain, and humanises him. It sets him at odds with his living family, especially when it’s revealed that the voice of his dead wife is none other than a soul sucking interdimensional beastie. Major spoiler: his soul gets sucked out and he dies. A common issue in Marvel movies, they always kill the decent villains.

Wenwu does acknowledge his origins as the Mandarin, but not in the way you’d expect. In a very condescending conversation with Awkwafina’s Katy, discussing the importance of her Chinese name, he explains that he has been known by many during his millennia, but it was an American terrorist that took his identity but renamed him after a “Chinese chicken dish”. The handling of what was once a problematic character works well, making light of it, but at the same time showing his disdain. The “original” MCU Mandarin, Trevor Slattery, does make an appearance, but after a while, I was kinda done with him. His purpose is to act as a link between this and the MCU universe, but also as a translator for the odd and designed to be an exceptionally cute character, Morris. A strange, no-faced winged creature based on the Hundun from Chinese mythology. There is no denying that Morris works. He’s cute and provides moments of humour, especially due to his odd appearance.

Morris is not alone. The creature designs for this film are fantastic. Hats off to Andy Park and his team (where is the obligatory art book, guys?). Not all of them are involved in the final fight, but the creatures that inhabit Ta-Lo make it feel very real and help with the world building. It was great to see Chinese Lion dogs enter the fray, but I was really impressed with the Great Protector. A huge Chinese water dragon that Shang-Chi and his sister ride into battle, a really awe-inspiring sequence and I loved that its horns were wooden that organically met with his reptilian skin. The end villain, the Dweller in darkness is cool from a creature design perspective, but lacks something. It's basically an end of level boss and for a film that's so centred around the heart of the fight, it's a shame that the final battle is a personality devoid lovecraftian dragon.

The final fight between Wenwu and Shang-Chi is much more interesting, fighting not just over the Ten Rings (which is so cool to see), but the love of family as well. It's a testimony to Simu Liu and Tony Leung that they created such interesting characters from the source material. Simu Liu brings a tortured but upbeat persona to Shang-Chi. Much like Bucky Barnes before him, Simu’s Shang-Chi has murdered people and is haunted by this. Unlike Bucky, this was more out of vengeance, it was personal, and there is a conflict between who is and who he shows to the outside world. This is reflected in the character of Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend who starts to realise that he is more than he seems. She’s portrayed with a lot of humour by Awkwafina and is one of the characters I connected to the most.

She’s a first-generation immigrant, much like myself and there she has some of the hang-ups that some of us experience. We’re not as connected to our original culture, shown by her interactions with her Grandmother and Wenwu. We’re not as familiar with our language as we should be, shown by her trying to pronounce Shang to humorous effect, or conversing with Jon Jon (brilliantly portrayed by comedian Ronnie Chieng and I wish we saw more of him) and admitting her Chinese was not so good (it's ok, he can speak ABC). Those moments were handled with great sensitivity and highlighted another side to the ethnic community, which rarely gets shown in movies.

What I also enjoyed was that the writers and director did not go for the lazy route and made Shang-Chi and Katy fall in love. They are best friends who care for each other a lot, but that is as far as they go. It would have been easy, but not believable. Instead, they share a common bond of coasting through life, trying to find purpose and enjoying the odd night of karaoke. Especially when Wong is involved.

If I don’t mention Meng'er Zhang’s character Xialing, I would be doing her a disservice. She has such a quiet countenance but is a much more accomplished fighter than many of the males in the film. Self-taught and with a lot to prove to her father and brother, it’ll be interesting where they take her character next now that she is in charge of the Ten Rings (instead of disbanding them). Will this be the next movie or are we expecting a new Disney+ spin-off series? I’d be happy with either. Especially if it gives us a chance to see the other fun villain who needed more to do, the hulking presence of Florian Munteanu who plays the one the nose named, Razor Fist. Imposing, but also played for laughs, I have to hand it to him for making a silly D-list Marvel villain something to be feared.

The one disappointment is the waste of the character, Death Dealer. The trailers made it seem like he would be a force to reckon with, Wenwu’s hidden assassin and Shang-Chi’s teacher. However, he is nothing more than a silent henchman who is dispatched so poorly at the end. I just hope a new one is created by Xialing for her organisation, giving the character a second chance.

Something also has to be said for Joel P West’s beautiful score. It's not often you can say a Marvel movie has a memorable piece of music (unlike its DC Comics counterparts). Bar the Wakanda or Avengers theme, Marvel music is more background and incidental. West really leans into some of the Chinese instruments and conjures a great soundtrack that is at the forefront, especially heightened during the fights.

As an origin story and standalone movie, Shang-Chi excels with memorable characters, a hero you can get behind and root for and a villain with who you can empathise with. As usual, stick around for the two end credit scenes, they just ask more questions but they’ll be ones you’ll be pondering. At least until you've seen Eternals, at the very least.

Have you seen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in the cinema or on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 12 November 2021

Obi-Wan Kenobi first look on Disney+ Day

"Obi-Wan once thought as you do..." During the first-ever Disney+ Day celebration, Lucasfilm has officially released a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off series after the sizzle reel leaked online yesterday.

Very little is known about the special event series directed by Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian).

“We couldn’t tell the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi without addressing Anakin or Vader,” teases the director in the exclusive preview on Disney+.

It's fair to assume the long-standing theory that Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) will duel Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) before Star Wars: A New Hope, as implied in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, will be proven correct. Also, Inquisitors?

“It’s not safe,” Chow says. “There’s Jedi hunters out there.”

Joining the cast are Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie. Edgerton and Piesse played the ill-fated Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru respectively in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

In related news. Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett documentary is now streaming on Disney+, and the sequel to Willow is currently in production with Warwick Davis reprising the titular role.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi streams exclusively on Disney+ in 2022 along with the third season of The Mandalorian. The Book of Boba Fett debuts this December on Disney+.

I'm ready to see the former friends' duel again, are you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 11 November 2021

Crush the Rebels with LEGO Star Wars AT-AT

"Use your harpoons and tow cables!" I'll never forget the memory of unboxing an AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) toy one Christmas. The iconic Imperial Walker captured my childhood imagination in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and I'd entered a competition in Marvel UK's Star Wars Weekly without success.

This year, LEGO Star Wars fans (myself included) can build new holiday memories with LEGO AT-AT, the latest addition to the Ultimate Collector Series (UCS), when it goes on sale on 26th November.

This immense new LEGO model is massive in size and detail, paying homage to the gigantic vehicles in the film. It features 6,785 pieces, a movable head, spinning guns, adjustable legs, and side panels that open to reveal amazingly detailed interiors.

In addition, the set comes with nine minifigures and accessories, including Luke Skywalker (along with a wire so fans can recreate the famous scene of him swinging from an AT-AT’s underside in an attempt to thwart their attack), General Veers, two AT-AT drivers, a Snowtrooper Commander and four Snowtrooper minifigures, as well as two speeder bikes and an E-Web cannon set accessories — plus plenty of interactive elements and easter eggs! An amazing set for display or action, the set can also fit an army of Snowtrooper minifigures inside – 40 in total.

A must-have for any dedicated Star Wars fan, this model has been designed by legendary LEGO Design Master Henrik Andersen. Discussing the design, Andersen said, “The mega-sized LEGO Star Wars AT-AT set is the one everyone has been waiting for, and it’s been a thrill to bring this highly-anticipated build to life. The AT-AT was an engineering masterpiece and the LEGO set will make an impressive display. But we have also packed in plenty of details that will deliver hours of fun for fans of LEGO and Star Wars alike.”

To celebrate the release of the new LEGO Star Wars AT-AT set, selected LEGO stores in EMEA will be hosting exclusive midnight opening events, giving fans the opportunity to be the first to purchase the new set. Selected stores in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and the Nordics will open their doors at 00:01 to 02:00 on the morning of Friday 26th November, allowing a limited number of fans to make their purchase. Fans will also receive a midnight opening special gift, plus they can browse the store and make other purchases.

The AT-AT is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Star Wars: AT-AT to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

IMAX Enhanced Marvel movies on Disney+

The Walt Disney Company has announced IMAX Enhanced is launching on Disney+ as part of the first-ever Disney+ Day celebration! This is in partnership with IMAX and DTS.

“Disney, Marvel Studios, and IMAX have collaborated for years to bring the world’s most popular films to the big screen, and on Friday we’ll start to bring IMAX technology to subscribers with IMAX Enhanced viewing in the Disney+ app,” Michael Paull, president of Disney+ and ESPN+, said in a statement.

“We’re thrilled to create new value for Marvel fans and audiences on Disney+, and we’re looking forward to offering even more IMAX Enhanced functionality in the future.”

“For more than a decade, IMAX has helped filmmakers take fans across the Marvel Cinematic Universe in theaters and now that epic journey crosses into a new world: the home,” IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement.

“IMAX, Disney, and Marvel Studios are giving the fans what they want: the most immersive viewing experience throughout the life of a Marvel Studios film, from exclusive theatrical release to the library at-home where they can now watch the Avengers assemble with more picture than ever before.”

“We are thrilled that fans of the MCU will soon have the opportunity to experience IMAX’s Expanded Aspect Ratio, in their own homes with the launch of IMAX Enhanced on Disney+,” said Jon Kirchner, chief executive officer of Xperi.

“DTS is proud to be an integral part of IMAX Enhanced and we are looking forward to unlocking more exciting technology for Disney+ subscribers in the future, which will include immersive IMAX signature sound by DTS.”

Here’s the full list of 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies that will be certified as IMAX Enhanced on Disney+ on 12th November:

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
Black Widow
Captain America: Civil War
Captain Marvel
Doctor Strange
Iron Man
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Thor: Ragnarok

IMAX Enhanced is a new entrant into the streaming space and a challenger to Dolby Vision for a premium home cinema experience. Fortunately, you can get some benefits of this new standard on most modern TVs without needing to upgrade. I'm looking forward to rewatching Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, both of which were filmed entirely in IMAX. Star Wars fans (myself included) will be hoping IMAX Enhanced movies will be announced soon.

Stay tuned for our review of Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings later this week.

What are you looking forward to seeing in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Patty Jenkins' Star Wars movie delayed

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) exclusively reports the much-hyped Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has been delayed indefinitely.

The upcoming standalone Star Wars movie, from director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman 1984), was announced with considerable fanfare in 2020. But Wonder Woman 1984 was met with a mostly muted response from fans, and any initial enthusiasm soon simmered down.

However, there's purportedly a scheduling conflict, which would mean the first film since Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker won't be completed in time for release in 2023.

Jenkins recently teased Wonder Woman 3 for Warner Bros. during DC FanDome 2021 and has been seen in New York with Lynda Carter who is starring alongside Gal Gadot.

Beginning with The Mandalorian, Lucasfilm has pivoted towards Disney+ and is enjoying deserved success with its animated and live-action Star Wars spin-offs. The Book of Boba Fett premieres over the holiday season and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi and the third season of The Mandalorian are on Disney+ in 2022.

Are you disappointed Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has been delayed? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 8 November 2021

Avengers-level threat this Thanksgiving

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." Marvel Studios' Hawkeye premieres this Thanksgiving on Disney+ and there's a new look at the upcoming live-action spin-off series ahead of Disney+ Day.

This could be the most festive fun since Iron Man 3. 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 (Dickinson).

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (EW), Steinfeld and executive producer Trinh Tran shared their thoughts on the upcoming series. Steinfeld said, "Diving into all the information out there on Kate Bishop felt like a dream." She's stoked to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). "It's very, very exciting to be in the MCU at all. I still haven't been able to get over that."

Tran confirms Hawkeye takes inspiration from the acclaimed Fraction/Aja comic book series:

"The Fraction/Aja style and tone is what we were really gravitating towards. Once they encounter each other and go off on this journey together, there's so much they can bounce off each other."

Unwrap the first two episodes of Hawkeye exclusively on Disney+ on 24th November.

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

Saturday 6 November 2021

Stranger Things Day

Netflix has dropped a mysterious new teaser trailer for Stranger Things 4 on Stranger Things Day. 6th November marks the anniversary when Will Byers disappeared and the world turned upside down in 1983.

Stranger Things 4 starts streaming summer 2022.

How are you celebrating Stranger Things Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 5 November 2021

The Five Faces of Doctor Who at 40

40 years ago, The Five Faces of Doctor Who began on a chilly November night! Coincidentally, mum and dad bought our first-ever Panasonic VCR, which I promptly set up to record the fabled retrospective season.

This was only a few months after the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), my Doctor, had regenerated into the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), ruining Saturday teatime forever.


With the 6-part Doctor Who: Flux currently on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, looks back to a time before BritBox when my parents spent a small fortune on a VHS recorder and tapes.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Life was different in the early ‘80s. There were no blogs or vlogs. No lamb and mint-flavoured crisps. No Prom Night approbation for sci-fi telly. And worst of all, no official videos of old Doctor Who stories.

Thanks to a battered copy of The Making of Doctor Who and some cherished Target novelisations, I had an inkling of the show’s past. But as far the general public was concerned, Tom Baker was the Doctor. He had been for a record-setting seven years - an eternity in TV terms. His face was on annuals, jigsaw puzzles, comics and toys.

Though it’s hard to fathom now, since the Doctor’s had more incarnations than you could comfortably fit in a phone booth, 40 years ago Tom had made such an indelible mark on the role that he was indelibly knit with the witty time-flitter.

When Peter Davison was announced as the Fifth Doctor, he was best known as another fictional character, Tristan Farnon. A frisky, baby-faced troublemaker, Tristan was my favourite character in All Creatures Great and Small and I presumed Davison would bring the same personality to the TARDIS.

He was heralded as the youngest actor thus far to play the Doctor, strengthening his relatability with young viewers like myself. Yet it did not escape my attention that older, some would say wiser, heads were fixated on Four.

To take away the impending ache of being Bakerless, we needed a reminder of a pre-Tom TARDIS. It came in the form of The Five Faces of Doctor Who, a season of reruns commencing in November 1981. Then-producer John Nathan-Turner (aka JNT) chose a fantastic selection of stories, some obvious, others inspired.

The resulting sample of classic and new Who served as a powerful introduction to the show’s early years, instrumental in making me the fan I am today. It was a televisual mixtape borne of a passion for a program that was still in its teens, looking forward to its 20th anniversary celebrations.

The season opened with An Unearthly Child, a mysterious, atmospheric story that introduced the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his granddaughter, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). The misty black and white opening titles and the eerie theme tune hooked me immediately.

Beyond the introductory episode, there was so much to enjoy in 100,000 BC: the captivating cavemen with their distinct way of seeing the world, brought to vivid life by writer Anthony Coburn; the bleak landscape; and the sense of vulnerability, with the elderly Doctor getting kidnapped, the travellers trapped in a cave of skulls, and the brutal fight between Za and Kal.

More monochrome magic followed with a simpler, cosier, but equally entertaining story, The Krotons. I instantly loved Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor because he had the perfect balance of light-hearted curiosity and concern about the dangerous situations he found himself in. Part One’s cliffhanger, where a serpentine probe waggles at him threateningly, managed to be both tense and comedic. While clunky, the Krotons were succinctly alien, with unusual voices and an iron grip on the Gonds. I’ve had a soft spot for those metal dorks ever since.

Another big chunk of this story’s charm came from its all-time-great TARDIS team. The Doctor was funny and fallible, Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) was a know-it-all and Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) was a pragmatic foil for them both. Philip Madoc was excellent and scriptwriter Robert Holmes got his foot in the door of the Whoniverse with a traditional story that served as the foundation for his classics to come.

The season burst into colour with The Three Doctors. Two brought the banter as he met his successor; the mystery element at the beginning of the story had the appeal of an ITC adventure story; Time Lord lore was developed and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) took the TARDIS’ transcendental dimensions in his stride. The Doctors, Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) all gave endearing performances that made this tale a joy to watch, balanced with the dark tragedy of Stephen Thorne’s sympathetic bully, Omega.

While The Three Doctors captured the ethos of the UNIT family, Carnival of Monsters showed Jon Pertwee’s protagonist going out on an interstellar limb. It began with another mystery with an imaginative resolution, making use of set period pieces the Beeb does so well and space tech stuff too.

Robert Holmes had come a long way since The Krotons, writing effective dialogue for the Third Doctor and Jo, building aliens worlds that were brash on a budget, and introducing us to not one but two of his treasured double acts (Vorg and Shirna, Kalik and Orum). With all that, a villain hoist by his own petard, and Drashigs too, this was a story to cherish.

Logopolis existed in my recent memory and I’d really enjoyed the story first time around, with its inventive imagery. There was the enigmatic Watcher, standing in the distance; the Doctor and the Master shaking hands; the horrific shrinking of Aunt Vanessa and an occupied TARDIS. All this played out in an epic sweep of locations ranging from everyday England to the cerebellar streets of Logopolis and the towering Pharos Project. Best of all, the story hinged on mind-expanding ideas from Christopher Bidmead’s mighty mind.

Logopolis was a jewel in the 18th season’s crown. Anthony Ainsley’s Master was new and fresh, an energetic enemy for the Doctor, before the villain became a pale pantomime phantom of his former self in later years. Tom Baker received a satisfying send-off and we glimpsed the genial new face for the Doctor.

And that was the end - but the moment had been prepared for. Castrovalva would follow soon after, heralding a shiny new era for the show. The Five Faces of Doctor Who held us over, the finest season JNT never produced.

The first four Doctors were re-established with their wit and charm and confidence on display, and I couldn’t wait to see Peter Davison kick-start the character in his intro Escher adventure. He embodied a youthful optimism for the future, not just of the show but of the decade and my life to come. The possibilities were endless. Timeless.

Perhaps the success of The Five Faces of Doctor Who, a sporadic celebration of Who’s past, and recurring references to its history, was part of its downfall. The show would get caught in its own recursive occlusion of chases, escapes and self-referential nods to prior adventures. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 1981, the past was a fantastic prologue to Davison’s neon-logoed, brand new bright-as-cricket-white wanderings.

Would the conceit work today? Absolutely! A similar, lengthier season would encourage new fans to get hooked on classic Doctor Who and it would warm the cockles of veterans like me. With the Sixtieth anniversary approaching, it’s time for The Thirteen Faces of Doctor Who.

Which stories would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 4 November 2021

Hallmark's The Book of Boba Fett ornament

Hallmark is a brand synonymous with the holiday season, which is always my favourite time of the year.

Artist Jake Angell has produced a stunning Christmas tree ornament to celebrate the release of The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ this December.

"A self-proclaimed "simple man making his way through the galaxy" (like his father before him), Boba Fett endures as one of the most infamous bounty hunters in Star Wars lore. After falling into the belly of the Sarlacc, his reappearance in season 2 of The Mandalorian thrilled fans—even more so as he returned to Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine and usurped the throne held by Bib Fortuna. This Christmas tree ornament depicts that triumphant moment, which teased the upcoming arrival of The Book of Boba Fett."

Will you be adding The Book of Boba Fett Christmas tree ornament? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Finch first look

Finch (formerly titled Bios) stars Tom Hanks (Greyhound) as the titular character and is from director Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones). Apple TV+ has released a first look at the upcoming post-apocalyptic road movie.

Read the synopsis:

"Tom Hanks is Finch, a man who embarks on a moving and powerful journey to find a new home for his unlikely family — his beloved dog and a newly created robot — in a dangerous and ravaged 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.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

The Book of Boba Fett official trailer

“If you had spoken such insolence to Jabba, he’d have fed you to his menagerie.” Lucasfilm has released the first official trailer for Disney+'s Star Wars live-action spin-off, The Book of Boba Fett.

Read the official synopsis:

""The Book of Boba Fett," a thrilling Star Wars adventure teased in a surprise end-credit sequence following the Season 2 finale of "The Mandalorian," 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."

Boba Fett captured the imagination of Star Wars fans (myself included) in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. However, the mysterious bounty hunter first appeared in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special during an animated short (available on Disney+). As I've written previously, my earliest memory of Boba Fett is as a mail-away action figure.

His apparent demise in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was, erm, anti-climatic. However, there's going to be flashbacks so we may see how he escapes from the Sarlacc pit (my action figure managed it on Exmouth beach in the school summer holidays).

In the trailer, Boba Fett appears far less scarred than he did in The Mandalorian, so must be using a bacta tank to heal.

The Book of Boba Fett, starring Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones) as the titular bounty hunter and co-starring Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as fan-favourite Fennec Shand, premieres exclusively on 29th December on Disney+.

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

Monday 1 November 2021

Marvel's summer of Star Wars

With only a few weeks to go until The Book of Boba Fett debuts on Disney+, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, catches up with the notorious bounty hunter in Marvel Comics.

Guest post by Nick Smith

"I will not give up my favourite decoration. I like Captain Solo where he is." – Jabba the Hutt

Recently my office has been decorated with copies of the Marvel Star Wars crossover, War of the Bounty Hunters. Nobody converges summer titles like Marvel – see Secret Wars, House of M and Civil War for evidence – and this year it’s Luke Skywalker’s turn to face his stablemates in books like Doctor Aphra, Darth Vader and IG-88.

Doctor Aphra is the weakest link, with a throwaway plot and underdeveloped characters. The saving grace is Federico Sabbatini’s art in issue 14 (‘Repeat Offenders’), echoing Cynthia Martin’s playful pencils on the original Star Wars comic.

Bounty Hunters and Darth Vader are both well-written, with stronger character development and a sense that there’s plenty of plot to unfold. Valance the hunter thinks there’s still a chance to save Han Solo, even though the smuggler is encased in carbonite and held by the Crimson Dawn syndicate.

Meanwhile, Vader apparently wants to prove himself to the Emperor before he’s usurped by Luke as Palpatine’s number one youngling killer. Ochi of Bestoon comes across as Star Wars’ answer to Deadpool, a wisecracking sidekick to the Lord of the Sith. The cast of Darth Vader all have their own agendas and shift alliances like the sand around a sarlacc.

Some of the major combatants in this war get their own one-shots, although Zuckuss and 4-LOM share an issue called ‘Zuckuss Must Die!’. We learn a lot about Zuckuss and his relationship with his droid buddy – which is not necessarily a good thing.

Like Boba Fett, part of the bounty hunters’ appeal is their mystery. They are alien, not like us with our concerns about friendship (Zuckuss), love (Dengar) or loyalty (Valance). Playing with their Kenner action figures, kids could insert these blank-slate characters into any scenario they wished. To humanize the hunters is to do them a disservice. But how else are the writers supposed to tell stories about these space-cold killers?

The flagship Star Wars comic continues to capture the feel of the original movie trilogy. Issue 15, ‘Friends and Enemies,’ revolves around a Starlight Squadron dogfight for that good old Beggar’s-Canyon-back-home feeling.

As crossovers go, there are scant new ideas and War of the Bounty Hunters feels exceptionally slow and dragged-out. The main plot doesn’t go anywhere for months at a time. The decision to centre the action around an auction in a non-linear fashion hobbles the writers, although they obviously have fun inserting their characters into a galactic bidding war for Han Solo.

Plus we know how events will turn out since editors Mark Paniccia and Tom Groneman announced that the very first issue in this series would shed, ‘new light on Boba’s journey from Cloud City to Tatooine.’

Whilst this particular war doesn’t merit dozens of issues, it does provide some great set pieces worthy of George Lucas’ classic saga. It offers a chance to see 4-LOM become a giant metal spider, reveals Boushh’s background and shows how Chewbacca feels about Lando after Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

The overall quality of the storytelling and art bodes well for the comics once they’re free from being mashed between two immutable movies.