Monday, 16 May 2022

Predator prequel this summer on Hulu



Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for Prey, a Predator prequel directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), coming to Hulu and Star on Disney+.



Read the official synopsis:

"Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries."

Prey premieres exclusively on Hulu and Star on Disney+ on 5th August.

Are you excited about Prey? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Tenth Doctor and Donna are back



Allons-y! Following last Sunday's announcement of Ncuti Gatwa as the next Doctor after Jodie Whittaker leaves Doctor Who later this year.

David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor with fan-favourite companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) for the 60th anniversary in 2023.

Russell T Davies, Showrunner says: “They're back! And it looks impossible - first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening? Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”

Are you excited about the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the television series? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Doctor Strange's House of Horrors



20 years ago, director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man reinvigorated superhero movies and foreshadowed the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) beginning with Iron Man (2008).

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, reviews Raimi's return.

Guest post by Nick Smith

One thing is constant across the multiverse: Doctor Stephen Strange and Doctor Christine Palmer love each other but they never seem to be able to make their relationship work. Kind of like Sam Raimi and Hollywood.

Raimi’s first horror movie, The Evil Dead, is revered as a genre classic despite – or because of - its low budget limitations. It has inspired many filmmakers, including myself. Raimi went on to direct several memorable films, including two Evil Dead sequels, a western (The Quick and the Dead), a slapstick comedy (Crimewave), a noir drama (A Simple Plan), a sports romance (For Love of the Game) and his own variation on a pulp superhero (Darkman).

His production company Renaissance Pictures gave us cult favourite TV shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, who in turn paved the way for the heroines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and Kill Bill. But Raimi’s best known for his horror flicks and his Marvel movies, which include 2002’s phenomenally popular Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3 was deemed a disappointment when it arrived in 2007. Raimi went back to his evil roots with Drag Me to Hell. Imagine a cross between the two and you’ll have a mental taste of Raimi’s comeback epic, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – the first film he’s directed in 9 years.

Marvel has been rolling out its movies and streaming shows at a conveyor belt pace, using the same basic parts to create products that are well made, good looking and heavily branded with the same formula – heroes face a monstrous menace, havoc is wreaked, heroes make a great sacrifice in the hopes of defeating the said menace.

Director Raimi plays it safe plotwise but the tone is dark and sometimes scary for little kiddies.

This movie’s real hook, though, is its promise to show us parallel worlds and some old favourite characters. While DC’s TV shows have been playing with the ‘infinite earth’ concept for several years with entertaining results, Marvel has had more recent success with the animated feature Into the Spiderverse. Since it earned over $375 million worldwide, a live-action trip across dimensions was inevitable.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen spectacular cameos in Spiderverse and Spider-Man: No Way Home and some of the latter’s best moments were due to the nostalgia element of seeing characters from Raimi’s trilogy. So in a way, the director is overshadowed by the ghosts of his own previous work. How can he compete with his past self?

One way is to up the scariness. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings us darker versions of beloved heroes, demonic monsters and undead creatures.

Another way is to pack in a lot of fights, magical environments and eye-bending spectacle to keep us entertained through its 126 minutes running time. The action set pieces are drawn out, leaving little room for the actors to show their chops – although kudos is due to them for holding their own amongst all the visual chaos and brutally destructive injustice that seems like it’s ripped from a Zack Snyder DC film.

As Doctor Stephen Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch does get one chance to stretch his thespianism in a touching scene about Strange’s dead sister. But it’s gone in an Agamotto blink. Thankfully, the movie does have time to include some delicious references to Alan Moore’s universe numbering system (first mentioned in the comic book adventures of Captain Britain!); the kind of monsters that were prevalent in classic Marvel Comics like Strange Tales; and the What If? animated series on Disney+.

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) loses the nuances she gained in her own Disney+ show, seemingly taking a step backwards from her character development to make her more formidable. We’re presented with a younger, more naïve version of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) than we’re used to in the comics.

Here she’s protected by Strange, who is obsessed with being in control and doing good deeds. He is willing to help one girl he’s never met before at all costs. However, he uses means that might not justify the ends – a risk Wanda takes as well. These challenges and Raimi’s dark side make the film gripping enough to make it more than just another Fin Fang Foom factory grind-out.

So come to the Multiverse to see the Steve Ditko-inspired alter planes, the themes of misused power and parenting, the star cameos and the indelible Raimi touch. Stay for the bittersweet love story between Doctor Strange and Christine (Rachel McAdams), the endearing performances by Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez and a magical, crotchety music-note battle that would make Walt Disney proud.

One cameo we do get is from Bruce Campbell, who has been a Raimi mainstay throughout his career.

At the time of writing the film has grossed half a billion dollars in its first weekend and it’s great to see the Evil Dead duo back on top. Now can we have Campbell playing Mysterio in a Raimi-directed Spider-Man 4?

Have you seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Hasbro & LEGO combine for Optimus Prime



LEGO Optimus Prime is a transforming thing this June. The heroic leader of the Autobots is an icon from the Transformers toy line.

“It has been an honour and a joy to work together with Hasbro to develop a LEGO version of Optimus Prime,” says Senior Designer at the LEGO Group, Joseph Patrick Kyde. “I am excited to see these two toy companies come together for the first time to celebrate the leader of the Autobots. Optimus Prime has become a pop culture symbol of courage, selflessness, and great leadership as well as an awesome toy that embodies the problem-solving and creativity skills that both companies value so much. It’s been a wonderful and challenging task to bring him to life using LEGO bricks, especially making sure that he can shift modes without disassembly and stay true to his signature look and style.”

Of all the Transformers, Optimus Prime is held in greatest reverence. On a personal note, my late mum bought me the original Optimus Prime toy - as a surprise gift - whilst I was off, sick, from school in 1984.

Casey Collins, Head of Licensed Consumer Products and Business Development at Hasbro, adds: “We’re excited to bring two of the world’s greatest play and entertainment companies together to celebrate this larger-than-life, iconic character – Optimus Prime. We know fans everywhere will be thrilled by this collaboration as it enables fans and families of all ages to create memories as they work together to build the LEGO Transformers Optimus Prime.”

LEGO Optimus Prime is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Optimus Prime to your collection? Which Transformers would you like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Perfect day in Westworld



Westworld returns next month on HBO and HBO Max.

By this point, after living through social distancing and lockdowns over the past 2 years, I can't remember much about the creepy and convoluted dystopian sci-fi series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

HBO has dropped a suitably enigmatic teaser trailer for the long-awaited fourth season.



Before a global pandemic affected all our lives, I was invited by HBO to preview the first four episodes of Westworld season one in 2016.

This isn't the first time a Westworld spin-off series has graced television screens following the success of Michael Crichton's classic seventies movie.

In 1980, Beyond Westworld was a short-lived live-action series chronicling an attempt to use the robots in Delos to conquer the world.

With its tech noir trappings and knowing nods to Red Dead Redemption, I was held spellbound by HBO's Westworld reboot.

Westworld season four begins on HBO and HBO Max on 26th June. Hopefully, it will premiere on Sky Atlantic the following day.

Are you looking forward to Westworld season four? What did you think of the teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water teaser drops



On Monday, Disney dropped an official teaser trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water, which was first shown at CinemaCon and exclusively in cinemas with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Director James Cameron (Titanic) has been working on the Avatar sequel for years.



Read the official synopsis:

"Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure."

The sequel stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Winslet.

In the 13 years since the original Avatar was released, the 3D format has become niche in the home market and television manufacturers have all but abandoned it. I recently rewatched Avatar on Disney+ and my enjoyment of 'Cameron's greatest hits collection' hasn't deminished.

It remains to be seen whether or not cinemagoers suffer from the so-called 'Pandora blues' this holiday season.

The House of Mouse has bet big on Cameron's sequel and it's difficult to imagine how Avatar: The Way of Water will fail at the box office. Especially with the allure of immersive 3D. The true test will be the release of future sequels. At least there's always Disney+.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

What did you think of the Avatar: The Way of Water teaser trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Paramount+ is coming to the UK



Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) launches with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds this summer in the UK.

The ViacomCBS streaming service enters an increasingly overcrowded space as consumers face a catastrophic cost of living crisis amidst geopolitical turmoil and a global pandemic.

“The addition of Paramount+ to our strong portfolio of free-to-air, pay TV and streaming services will broaden the range of choice available to our audiences in the UK and Ireland”, said Maria Kyriacou, president, Australia, Canada, Israel and UK. “Paramount+ will be a one-stop destination for Paramount’s biggest brands, where fans of all ages can find exclusive original premium content, global hits, and discover a world of favourites from Paramount’s vast catalogue.”

Personally, I only subscribe to Apple TV+, Disney+ and NOW. However, I'll avail myself of the free 7-day trial to watch the exclusive live-action Halo series and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The latter is the best Star Trek spin-off series in years.

Paramount+ will launch in the UK and Ireland on a range of devices on 22nd June.

Will you be subscribing to Paramount+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Ncuti Gatwa is the next Doctor



Without fanfare, today the BBC announced the actor replacing Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who.

Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) will be playing the titular Time Lord in returning showrunner Russel T Davies’ (It's A Sin) new era co-produced by Sony’s Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials).

Speaking of his new role, Ncuti says: “There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared. This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care. I will endeavour my utmost to do the same.

Gatwa is the latest black actor to portray the titular character and follows Jo Martin's memorable appearance as an earlier incarnation (pre-dating William Hartnell) in series 12.

"Russell T Davies is almost as iconic as the Doctor himself and being able to work with him is a dream come true. His writing is dynamic, exciting, incredibly intelligent and fizzing with danger. An actor’s metaphorical playground. The entire team has been so welcoming and truly give their hearts to the show. And so as much as it’s daunting, I’m aware I’m joining a really supportive family. Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show.”

Russell T Davies adds: “The future is here and it’s Ncuti! Sometimes talent walks through the door and it’s so bright and bold and brilliant, I just stand back in awe and thank my lucky stars. Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those TARDIS keys in seconds. It’s an honour to work with him, and a hoot, I can’t wait to get started. I’m sure you’re dying to know more, but we’re rationing ourselves for now, with the wonderful Jodie’s epic finale yet to come. But I promise you, 2023 will be spectacular!”

Whittaker took over as the Doctor in 2017 as the first female doctor. She bows out of the long-running sci-fi series in the Centenary Special later this year.

Looking forward to Ncuti Gatwa portraying the Fourteenth Doctor? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Doctor Who overshadowed in Centenary special?



Whatever your thoughts were on Legend of the Sea Devils, the trailer for the upcoming special, to mark the BBC's centenary year, overshadowed Jodie Whittaker's penultimate episode as Doctor Who.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, fresh from swashbuckling underwater adventures, looks ahead to Thirteen's regeneration story.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Who knew the appearance of Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) from 1980s Doctor Who would be greeted with such excitement? Twitter has been tweeting non-stop since the Centenary Special trailer debuted after Legend of the Sea Devils in April, with a shot of the Doc’s regeneration overshadowed by the return of two of the toughest, least screamy classic companions.



There is a concern, however, that the mainstream show won’t treat them with the same excellence as the spin-off audios and novels have. How could it capture in an hour what the Virgin books had thousands of pages and the Big Finish stories have had decades to develop?

Beyond the show, Ace has become an adept Spacefleet combatant, a Time Vigilante, a CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency) operative and above all, an inquisitive, resourceful woman. Luckily, the character of Ace has strong origins to build from thanks to her creator Ian Briggs, who laid the foundations for a much-loved, long-term character.

School Reunion gave us just enough of Sarah Jane Smith's (Elisabeth Sladen) backstory to help us sympathize with her, allowing the audience to fill in the gap between her last televised appearance in The Five Doctors and NuWho. But current showrunner Chris Chibnall is not a ‘less is more’ kind of guy.

As with the Flux, Chibnall seems to be throwing in everything but the kitchen sink judging by the trailer: Daleks, UNIT’s Kate Stewart, Ashad the Lone Cyberman, Dan in a Bowie Base One-style space suit and a lot of gun-toting to boot.

Ironically, Chibnall is best at quiet, character-driven scenes – for example, Ryan (Tosin Cole) and his Dad (Daniel Adegboyega) in Resolution or the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) in Legend of the Sea Devils - without a bunch of sturm und drang going on. He’s challenging himself rather than playing to his strengths and giving us the kind of soap scenes we get lathered with in contemporary, earthbound, non-Who series.

It's great to see Vinder (Jacob Anderson from Game of Thrones) and Sacha Dhawan’s Master returning because they are both shining lights in the firmament of this era. Both actors are fantastic to watch and seem to bring a genuine passion to their performances.

That kind of oomph will help build momentum for the moment all the haters have been waiting for… the arrival of the 14th Doctor.

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

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

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer on Star Wars Day



"May the 4th be with you!" Lucasfilm has dropped an official trailer for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Star Wars Day, teasing a rematch between the titular Jedi Master and his fallen apprentice, Darth Vader.



Read the official synopsis:

"The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader."

The upcoming 6-part Star Wars special event series, directed by Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian), sees Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader) reprise their roles from George Lucas' prequel trilogy. The Book of Boba Fett utilised flashbacks and how cool would it be to see Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in their prime alongside Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) during The Clone Wars?

As with previous Star Wars merchandising events Force Friday and Bring Home the Bounty, Lucasfilm has announced "Obi-Wan Wednesdays". New products from Hasbro, LEGO, Mattel and more will be announced each week starting 25th May through 29th June.

“Star Wars fans are gearing up for a fresh look at the roots of the iconic battle between the light side and dark side with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and these new products will give them a chance to revisit favorite characters, as well as celebrate new moments as this epic story continues,” said Paul Southern, senior vice president, Franchise & Licensing, Lucasfilm, Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.

In related news. Apple has released a film to celebrate Star Wars Day. Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound. Showing fans (myself included) how the talented artists at Skywalker Sound use Mac to bring to life sounds from the Star Wars universe and beyond.



Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres with two episodes exclusively on Disney+ on 27th May.

What did you think of the official Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Apple teases film for Star Wars Day



Apple has teased a film for Star Wars Day. Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound.

The Cupertino-based company has a storied history with Lucasfilm. From the first Star Wars: The Phantom Menace trailer premiering online in QuickTime to Skywalker Sound effects bundled with iMovie.



Read the official synopsis:

"On May the 4th, go behind the Mac at Skywalker Sound to meet the artists who make the sounds of a galaxy far, far away."

On a personal but related note. In the late nineties, I worked as a studio assistant on BBC Radio 4's The Gemini Apes, directed by Dirk Maggs (The Sandman), starring Sir Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) who later played Count Dooku in the Star Wars franchise.

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

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Star Wars in Total Film



With only a few weeks to go until Star Wars Celebration and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+, Total Film magazine has released exclusive images from the latest live-action spin-off series set in a galaxy far, far away...

Much was made of the Grand Inquisitor's (Rupert Friend) appearance in the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. Frankly, the fan-favourite big bad from Star Wars Rebels looks ready to hunt down and destroy all remaining Jedi.

Obi-Wan Kenobi sees Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader) reprise their roles from George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Disney+ is the perfect platform to fully explore the tragedy of Obi-Wan Kenobi's greatest failure: losing Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and the rise of an evil Empire.

"It was nice to come back and to bridge that gap between me and Alec Guinness. I got as much, or more, out of playing him this time than I did in the first three movies put together," McGregor told Total Film magazine. "That’s to do with the writing, and the people we were making the series with, and the technology, and how different everything is."

In an interview with Total Film, director Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian) debunked an appearance from Darth Maul and explained the rationale behind bringing back Darth Vader.

“For anybody trying to tell a story in the middle of these two trilogies, there were only certain elements that made sense in where [Obi-Wan] is,” Chow said. “With a lot of the legacy aspects, the decision to bring Vader into it was not made lightly. We’re 10 years after Revenge of the Sith. Where is Obi-Wan’s starting place? What has been important to him in his life? Anakin and Vader are a huge and very profound part of his life. We ended up feeling that he made sense in telling this story. And Vader casts such a dark shadow in this, that to have Maul as well, it might be a little bit much.”

Christensen will appear next in the Star Wars: Ahsoka spin-off series.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres with two episodes exclusively on Disney+ on 27th May.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars Day, the return of Star Wars Celebration and seeing Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water this December



The 13-year wait to return to Pandora is almost over. The first sequel to Avatar (2009), Avatar: The Way of Water, will be in cinemas this holiday season.

Director James Cameron (Aliens) made the announcement during Disney's presentation at CinemaCon 2022 in Las Vegas.

"We wanted our return to Pandora to be something really special," Cameron told the CinemaCon attendees. "We set out once again to push the limits of what cinema can do."

The sequel stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Winslet.

In preparation for the upcoming sequel’s release. The original Avatar will be remastered and back in cinemas on 23rd September. Cameron's sci-fi epic was 3D's killer app in cinemas and at home. Panasonic Hollywood Laboratories (PHL) was instrumental in the early success of the format.

A trailer will be exclusively shown with Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. There'll be a week delay before it's officially released online. Let's see how quickly someone uploads it.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

Are you looking forward to Avatar: The Way of Water? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Alien Day toy bug hunt



It's Alien Day celebrating all things xenomorph on LV-426.

So what better time to examine the plastic fantastic incarnations of the monster that first terrorised the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based collectable guru, goes on a toy bug hunt.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The internet can be a deep, deep rabbit hole, fluffy tail and all. While immersing myself in the intense video game Alien: Isolation, I was compelled to check out the toys that have accompanied the Alien saga.

I find it fascinating that there are toys associated with such a visceral, fatalistic franchise, proof that America never misses a chance to prize making a buck over childhood innocence. Sure, there have been monster movie toys since plastic was mouldable; Aurora Monster Scenes were rattling around in the ‘60s.

But the monster movies that spawned those toys were not the R-rated equivalent of plastic reliquaries for kids.

Picture little Johnny’s playroom, where tiny terrible xenos with two sets of jaws and acid blood take on Disney stablemate Buzz Lightyear. Or imagine toy developers going wild, creating alien shapes that have burst from different animals.

Fox’s films have always struggled to merge rollercoaster horror scares and iconic characterization with marketable monsters and space action that appeals to teens – and since the paintings of H.R. Giger formed the basis for those monsters, the way the Alien films have been developed and marketed is a quintessential example of art vs commerce.

Thanks to nerd culture, you don’t have to be a kid to play with action figures, as long as you don’t mind getting a few strange looks down the pub. My own online research was spurred by the recent appearance of Alien tie-in toys in my local Wal-Mart, where you’re more likely to see a hillbilly in slippers than a space marine.

The action figures are an eye-catching surprise, considering the last movie, Alien: Covenant, is four years old.

The toy range retains the late, great and rather sick H.R. Giger’s artistic xenomorph design, which helped the original Alien film transcend its B-movie trappings to become an eternally watchable classic. But there have been other, more faithful figures through the years, as well as goofy caricatures and cute Lego-like chestbursters.

Reports of Corporal Hicks’ death in ALIEN³ may have been exaggerated, since he turned up as a Kenner toy in 1992, the same year David Fincher’s gloomy movie was released. Most of Kenner’s toys were based on the earlier Aliens movie, and the figures included a gorilla alien, a snake alien and a queen hive playset.

Sadly, the toys were not remotely as popular as Kenner’s Star Wars range, probably because its target buyers weren’t even supposed to be watching the Alien saga. Kenner dropped the line in 1995 and it was a long time before we got new figures from a new company.

NECA (National Entertainment Collectibles Association) first caught the attention of collectors in 2001 with a range of 7” figures based on the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice. These were followed by toys based on Tron, Ghostbusters, A Nightmare on Elm Street and many other popular properties.

By 2013, NECA was hatching various Alien toys and figures, with a big push for Alien’s 40th anniversary in 2019. The wide range includes a replica of the original Alien and the sinister foes from Alien: Isolation. The attention to detail is excellent, although there have been reports of a limb or two coming loose in packaging. Let’s blame it on the acid blood.

The Minimates aliens are intricate and charmingly chunky, as all Minimates are designed to be. However, they are as flimsy as the plot point that brings Ripley back to life in Alien Resurrection. The alien’s tail and paws fall off at the drop of a space helmet, so keep close track of the pieces or they’ll be lost in the space behind your display cabinet. But these figures are still a lot cuter than a sci-fi horror movie toy has any right to be.

When I spotted a Funko Pop! of Katherine ‘Danny’ Daniels from Alien: Covenant in a bookstore bargain bin, I had to pick her up. In hindsight, the astoundingly popular, ridiculously bug-eyed pieces of plastic are my fave thing about that movie (sorry, Sir Ridley).

The Lanard Toys Aliens may be the wrong colour, but it’s a joy to see them on the shelves when I visit my local superstore. Their kid-friendly green colour is apparently deemed less disturbing than the glossy, crustacean black of the movie aliens. They lurk in Wal-Mart, waiting to draw some unsuspecting pre-teen into their nihilistic world. My favourite in the range is a glowing, semi-translucent alien that ties in, intentionally or not, with Marvel Comics' Aftermath.

As the Alien franchise has aged, it has gained a split personality, trying to please target-age cinemagoers and veteran fans who’ve been loyal since the ‘70s. Neither of these age groups is going to rush to Wal-Mart to pick up a kid’s toy.

Veterans are more likely to drop dollars on NECA’s realistic figurines. The ironically goofy-looking Minimates and Funko Pops! might appeal to 18-25-year-olds.

If Lanard Toys' Alien line is successful, maybe we’ll see more unlikely movies turned into toys. Hey kids, do you want to play a game with Jigsaw?

Monday, 25 April 2022

Warriors of the Deep



50 years ago, the Sea Devils first emerged from the murky depths to battle the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee).

The fan-favourite marine monsters, not seen since Warriors of the Deep, are back in Jodie Whittaker's penultimate special.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, goes on an Easter egg hunt beneath the waves.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The Sea Devils are back in a light, breathlessly concocted new Doctor Who adventure that balances imaginative ideas with classic Who tropes – a monster who wants to rule the world, brave companions, faux-exotic locations and a dash of historical fact.

When the Sea Devils first emerged 50 years ago they were eerie, lurking in the shadows of a sea fort or attacking Naval vessels. They glistened with seaweed creepiness and had strange, lamp-like weapons. The Sea Devils of today have flashing blades and high intelligence but they do not scare like their 1970s brethren.

They are different from the average Doctor Who antagonist because of their intriguing origins, courtesy of original scriptwriter Malcolm Hulke. If you have ants in your kitchen, what do you do? Call the exterminator. They’re not sentient enough for you to care about them. If you fall asleep and wake up to find your house full of the beggars, you freak out. No parlay. You kill ‘em and clear ‘em.

To the Sea Devils, we are ants. After putting themselves in suspended animation and then oversleeping for millions of years, the Sea Devils wake up to find their oceans peppered with ships and salty sailors. They love a good scrap, so they attack us from below.

In Legend of the Sea Devils, the creatures are bullies, too – or at least Marsissus is. He’s the only one we get to know; the others are mere background cyphers. Like the British colonists of old, Marsissus seeks to impose his will on the world and exterminate the pests around him.

As the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) once said during the classic era, you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. Marsissus has a nefarious plot but he’s not visually threatening, mysterious or scary. His quality is moderate at most.

Without a formidable foe, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor comes across as a comedic adventuress. So the emphasis is on fun rather than a threat, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

While some Doctor Who specials can be watched any time of year and there was no Easter-centric theme to this episode, it does seem specifically designed for families full of chocolate, sleepy after church sermons, relaxing together. As such, it’s the kind of holiday spectacle that Doctor Who does so well.

Have you seen Legend of the Sea Devils? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

Jurassic era ends



29 years ago, Jurassic Park revolutionised moviemaking the way Star Wars did in 1977.

Directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws) with an assist from George Lucas (Star Wars), Jurassic Park spawned a multimedia franchise worth billions and paved the way for the Star Wars prequels.

Jurassic World Dominion, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, unites the cast of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.

To celebrate this milestone, Universal Pictures has released an official legacy featurette.



Read the official synopsis:

"This summer, experience the epic conclusion to the Jurassic era as two generations unite for the first time. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are joined by Oscar®-winner Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill in Jurassic World Dominion, a bold, timely and breathtaking new adventure that spans the globe."

Jurassic World Dominion, delayed due to the pandemic, is in cinemas on 10th June.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Spice Wars



My earliest memory of David Lynch’s Dune was seeing merchandise in a toy store bargain bin, which didn’t divert me from the Star Wars aisle. Ironically, Lynch turned down directorial duties on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

A year later, mum hired Dune on rental VHS. Aside from Toto's soundtrack (an influence on Danny Elfman’s score for Batman), it was a grandiose bore and I soon returned to playing with my Star Wars action figures.

Does the latest silver screen adaptation of Dune deliver a grand space opera filled with galaxy-spanning thrills? Nick Smith, our resident US-based critic, hunts for giant sandworms.

Guest post by Nick Smith

I had high hopes for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction film adapted from the novel by Frank Herbert. The book is rich with mythology and mysticism, creating a believably sandy world ripe for an epic movie.

The 2021 adaptation held much promise. It featured likeable actors such as Oscar Isaac (Star Wars), Javier Bardem (Skyfall) and Zendaya (Spider-Man), sandwalking to a score by Hans Zimmer. I was even more eager to see the film after it earned six Academy Awards in March, despite those wins being overshadowed by Will Smith’s fresh behaviour.

Sadly, this Dune is as dull as dirt. Its grey colour palette, bland supporting performances, slow pace and unresolved ending all make it a great sleep aid. Move over Nyquil and No-Doze, this celluloid mélange is a perfect cure for insomnia.

Villeneuve has described his film as, ‘Star Wars for adults.’ I’ll take the kid’s meal option over this wasted opportunity, which tries too hard to simplify Herbert’s detailed, eco-conscious cosmos and its power plays, which are not fully explained.

Star Wars’ desert planet of Tatooine owes a thing or two to Herbert’s prose. Instead of two moons, Luke Skywalker’s home turf has two suns. Both planets have nomadic natives, a drug called ‘spice’ and beasties bursting from under the sand. But not all worlds are created equal. Tatooine has fascinating spaceports, inhabitants and pastimes. Villeneuve portrays Arrakis as nothing more than a big ol’ dune.

It’s tough to care about a wealthy, privileged white kid in this age of diversity. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalomet) becomes more relatable as his life gets harder. His relationship with his mom Jessica is delightful, though, with Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible) helping to develop an intense, touching mother-son bond that’s heartwarming and credible. The rest of the cast is packed with star names but only Stellan Skarsgard and Jason Momoa stand out, making the most of their two-dimensional characters.

Like Blade Runner 2049, Dune is beautiful to look at and over time its cache will doubtless increase as a moving piece of art. But movies aren’t just for looking at. The best films entertain us and stir our emotions as well. Flawed though they are, I’d much rather watch the ‘80s versions of these movies, with their tempo, style, creativity and entertainment value, than sit through Villeneuve’s dreary, overlong and ultimately pointless retreads. Unless I need help getting to sleep.

Have you seen Dune? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Stranger Things goes Game of Thrones



Netflix has released a new trailer for Stranger Things 4. Looks like the Hawkins teens are pitched against a new big bad in the Upside Down.



Read the official synopsis:

"It’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time – and navigating the complexities of high school hasn't made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down."

Speaking to Deadline, series co-creator Matt Duffer said this week: “We jokingly call it our Game of Thrones season because it’s so spread out.”

“Joyce and Byers family to have left at the end of Season 3,” said Matt, explaining the upcoming season’s epic storytelling. “They are in California – we’ve always wanted to have that like ‘E.T’.-esque suburb aesthetic, which we finally got to do this year in the desert; and then we have Hopper in Russia; and then of course we have a group remaining in Hawkins. So we have these three storylines, are all connected and kind of interwoven together, but it’s just very different tones.”

The upcoming extended season will be split into two volumes. Beginning on Netflix on 27th May and continuing on 1st July.

Are you looking forward to Stranger Things 4? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Mando+ at Star Wars Celebration



The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) was most recently seen in The Book of Boba Fett and is expected to return later this year as the titular character in the third season of the award-winning live-action Star Wars spin-off series on Disney+.

Lucasfilm has announced a Star Wars Celebration panel entitled Mando+: A Conversation with Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni. The executive producers will be joined by special guests for a look back and a look ahead at what’s to come for the popular series. The latest season finished filming last month.

Mando+ suggests the panel may include The Book of Boba Fett and Star Wars: Ahsoka.

In related news. There will be panels for Star Wars: The Bad Batch and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. The highly-anticipated six-part special event series premieres on Disney+ during the 4-day event.

The official Lucasfilm fan event, which originally began in 1999 to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, returns to Anaheim in May.

Going to Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022 and would like to cover the event for this site? Please contact me.

Which panels are you most looking forward to at Star Wars Celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 11 April 2022

James Bond on Amazon Prime



What Easter bank holiday weekend would be complete without James Bond? A point proven when my tweet was read out live on air on Scala Radio last Easter. This tradition began on ITV when I was knee-high to a grasshopper playing with Action Man toys.

Following Amazon's $8.45 billion buyout of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Amazon Prime subscribers (myself included) can watch the beloved British spy franchise for a limited time from Good Friday.

“MGM has a nearly century-long legacy of producing exceptional entertainment, and we share their commitment to delivering a broad slate of original films and television shows to a global audience,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

“We welcome MGM employees, creators, and talent to Prime Video and Amazon Studios, and we look forward to working together to create even more opportunities to deliver quality storytelling to our customers.”

Prime Video will host all 25 James Bond movies:

Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy
A View To A Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence To Kill
GoldenEye
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace
Skyfall
Spectre
No Time To Die

This coincides with 60 years of Bond on the big screen culminating in James Bond Day on 5th October.

I'll finally see No Time To Die (affiliate link) this Good Friday.

Will you be watching James Bond this Easter on Amazon Prime? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Chaos and confusion in Moon Knight



Marvel Studios' Moon Knight is the House of M's answer to DC's Batman and an unknown quantity to this true believer.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe and comic book doyen, embarks on a mystery tour in the pale moonlight.

Guest post by Nick Smith

When I think of Moon Knight, I think of a dark avenger lurking in the shadows of New York’s rooftop water towers, occasionally switching identities to no-nonsense merc Marc Spector. I don’t think of goofy comedy and double-decker London buses.

But that’s what we get with Marvel Studios' new series and, thanks mainly to Oscar Isaac’s (Star Wars, Ex Machina) charisma, the results are intriguing and enjoyable to watch.

Originated by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, the character of Moon Knight’s been kicking nocturnal butt for decades. Show creator Jeremy Slater faced a challenge – how to make him stand out in a crowd of DC and Marvel superhero shows? So although the amount of humour is surprising, it’s understandable. It also makes the darker elements of the show – tireless jackals, a life-draining bad guy – more palatable to a family audience.

By daring to focus on powers instead of glowers and comedy over brutality, Moon Knight stands a better chance of sticking in the consciousness of viewers unfamiliar with his comics.

The first two episodes are packed with information. We meet Steven Grant, a sleepwalking shop assistant in a museum. We’re left to wonder whether the voice he hears is a sign of mental illness, or if he’s a ‘sleeper identity’ for Spector the mercenary. We also meet Arthur Harrow, a mysterious cult leader played with long-haired earnest by Ethan Hawke. Then there’s the skull-beaked god Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham. Khonshu offers Steven venomous advice to fend off any threats.

The show focuses on these three characters, although May Calamawy pops up as Marc’s abandoned wife Layla El-Faouly. For most of the time, Isaac plays Steven as scared, confused and beaten down. This turns the key to unlock Moon Knight’s potential. We get a glimpse of what it’s like to have a mental disorder.

Those without such a challenge don’t have the education or experience to empathise fully. And why would they want to think like a lunatic? It’s much safer and more entertaining to watch one go through the unpredictable motions on TV.

Steven Grant questions his sanity, struggling to survive in an unsettling and sometimes frightening environment. He is belittled and fired by his boss, patronized by colleagues, given a pamphlet and sent on his way.

Moon Knight isn’t the first hero to have his mental faculties questioned.

Much has been made of Bruce Wayne dressing up as a bat and coping with childhood trauma. Bruce Banner has serious anger management issues. However, Isaac gives Grant such vulnerability that the audience is left desperate for the hero within him to take over.

It’s a great way to depict the internal struggle for control that real sufferers of dissociative identity disorder go through.

Underlying this crisis of personality, there are references to Egyptian mythology that highlight obscure gods and give Moon Knight’s story an epic scope. Cue oodles of CGI, from pyramids to Khonshu’s skeletal form to the Knight himself, depicted in an almost-seamless blend of digital and live-action filmmaking as he tumbles over distinctly British roofs.

London itself is given an old-world charm, especially when we encounter a gaggle of Harrow’s cult members. A parade of chirping chimney sweeps would not seem out of place. But there are enough contemporary touches, like a human statue and a bus ride, to anchor us in reality.

All these elements lead to convoluted results. Luckily this is Isaac’s show so we’re in good hands, whatever accent he’s using. He is an exceptional actor leading us through a meticulously paced adventure that keeps us wondering what will happen next.

Even in a landscape with a multitude of comic book-inspired viewing options, a carefully crafted show like this only comes along once in a blue moon.

New episodes of Marvel Studios' Moon Knight premiere every Wednesday exclusively on Disney+.

Are you watching Marvel Studios' Moon Knight on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Tomb Raider 4 using Unreal Engine 5



Crystal Dynamics used Tuesday's The State of Unreal Event 2022 to announce Tomb Raider 4 is in development using Epic Games' next-generation game engine.



Game director Will Kerslake explained that the new game will 'unify' classic and reboot timelines:

"[Crystal Dynamics'] origin trilogy back in 2013 told the story of Lara's early days [...] while 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 and Crystal Dynamics' games, working to unify these timelines."

Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) provided the voice and motion capture reference for Lara Croft in the rebooted trilogy. Hopefully, she's reprising the role for the upcoming fourth instalment.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was published by Microsoft as a timed exclusive for Xbox when the Redmond-based company bankrolled the first sequel. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s another tie-in as Epic Games emphasised Unreal Engine 5 development on Xbox. However, it’s worth noting Sony, the owner of PlayStation, has a minority stake in Epic Games and Unreal Engine 5 was publicly demoed in 2020 on PlayStation 5 (PS5).



Microsoft has been buying AAA publishers to bolster Xbox Game Pass. Crystal Dynamics could be a good fit for Xbox Game Studios.

Tomb Raider 4 is one of several popular media franchises using Unreal Engine 5. The dominance of one game engine could be anti-competitive. However, the Unreal Engine has proven its scalability, powering franchises from BioShock to Mass Effect and Epic Games' very own Fortnite.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Return to Monkey Island



Lucasfilm Games has so much nostalgia for generations of video gamers (myself included).

Rescue on Fractalus!, Ballblazer, Koronis Rift and The Eidolon are amongst my all-time favourite video games from the 8-bit era on Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. And I vividly remember playing Labyrinth: The Computer Game whilst listening to David Bowie and Trevor Jones' soundtrack on cassette (remember those?).

When Lucasfilm Games was rebranded as LucasArts in 1990, it cemented its reputation for point-and-click adventure games and arguably created one of its finest ever examples in the wake of the success of Maniac Mansion in 1987.

The Secret of Monkey Island is one of gaming’s greatest franchises and greatest games full stop. You play as Guybrush Threepwood (an homage to Star Wars' C-3PO), who’s on the quest to become a mighty pirate. Funny, atmospheric and heavily based on Disney’s own Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Now, Return to Monkey Island has been announced for release in 2022. The long-awaited sequel is by Ron Gilbert's Terrible Toybox in collaboration with Devolver Digital and Lucasfilm Games.



I first discovered the point-and-click genre playing LucasArts' Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on a friend's Amiga A500 in the early nineties - Indy remains lost in a frozen tundra. Years later, I belatedly played Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle and The Dig on an iMac G4.

Are you excited about Return to Monkey Island? What are your favourite LucasArts games? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Strange New Worlds explores final frontier



Ahead of First Contact Day AKA Star Trek Day, Paramount+ has released a new trailer and TV Spots for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.



Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reunites Star Trek: Discovery season two fan-favourites, Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock. The trifecta will be joined aboard the USS Enterprise by new series regulars Babs Olusanmokun, Christina Chong, Celia Rose Gooding, Jess Bush and Melissa Navia.

As a lifelong fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, it's an exciting time in the geek galaxy.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on 5th May. There's no official announcement regarding the UK premiere, but it will be coming soon.

Are you looking forward to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Let me know in the comments below. Hit it.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Doctor Who's swashbuckling special



Doctor Who returns with some old enemies - not seen since Warriors of the Deep - in a swashbuckling special this Easter.

Ever since the Silurians returned to Doctor Who in 2010, fans (myself included) have hoped their marine cousins, the Sea Devils, would be back. Well, this Easter the underwater menace (see what I did there?) that threatened Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison during the classic era are returning in Legend of the Sea Devils.

Looks like they'll be bringing the Myrka with them.



Read the story synopsis:

"In a swashbuckling pirate adventure, the Doctor, Yaz and Dan come face to fin with one of the Doctor’s oldest adversaries in a coastal village in 19th century China. Madam Ching is on a mission to track down the lost treasure of the Flor de la Mar, a ship that may have been washed up in the waters around the area. The fearsome pirate queen unwittingly unleashes a terrifying, monstrous alien force beneath the sea – Sea Devils and their ghostly amphibious pirate ship. Will the Doctor, Yaz and Dan emerge from this adventure to save the planet? And did Yaz really have to dress Dan up as a pirate?"

Legend of the Sea Devils, the second of three specials in 2022 marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord, is on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America on 17th April. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's review soon.

Are you looking forward to Legend of the Sea Devils? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Paramount+



Star Trek: The Motion Picture was hastily released in 1979 in the wake of Star Wars.

Official poster magazine and action figures in hand, I saw the maiden Star Trek silver screen voyage, reuniting the original television series cast, with my dad and an uncle at the Odeon Colchester.

After a promising opening Klingon battle, brought vividly to life by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Hollywood composer Jerry Goldsmith (Alien), the movie soon became a star bore to a child moviegoer brought up on a diet of heroic space operas.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan followed in 1982 and is rightly regarded as one of the greatest sequels ever made.

Years later, I would rediscover Star Trek: The Motion Picture on VHS and develop a newfound appreciation for director Robert Wise's (West Side Story) ambitious mindbending adventure. In 2001, Wise oversaw a recut of the movie for release on DVD, which more closely matched his original vision. Now, to celebrate First Contact Day, a lavish 4K remaster will premiere on Paramount+.



Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on 5th April.

Are you a fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and do you think the movie deserved better upon original release? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 1 April 2022

LEGO Star Wars Diorama series



In time for Star Wars Day, LEGO has announced a new Star Wars Diorama series for adult collectors based on classic scenes from the original trilogy.

“For years we’ve been scratching our heads about how to capture the Death Star trash compactor, an extremely iconic scene, in LEGO bricks,” Michael Lee Stockwell, LEGO Star Wars design manager, tells StarWars.com. “But what good is a trash compactor that doesn’t ‘compact’? We needed the function!”

The first wave of sets, comprising the LEGO Star Wars Death Star Trash Compactor, the LEGO Star Wars Death Star Trench Run Diorama, and the LEGO Star Wars Dagobah Jedi Training Diorama, would look great on any fan's bookshelf.

“The Diorama series is really something special, and something we are very excited about,” says Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, LEGO Star Wars design director. “The models are built on a frame. On the frame there is a small, printed plaque with a famous phrase from that particular movie scene. The frame is always the same depth — 20 LEGO modules, which is a perfect size, as it makes it fit on a regular bookshelf. So they’re perfect for display.”

The LEGO Star Wars Diorama series is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding these LEGO Star Wars Diorama sets to your collection? Which sets would you like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi at Star Wars Celebration



Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi will now premiere on Disney+ during Star Wars Celebration.

Today's announcement was made by the titular Jedi Master himself, Ewan McGregor.



Read the official synopsis:

"The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader."

Obi-Wan Kenobi sees Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader) reprise their roles from George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Disney+ is the perfect platform to fully explore the tragedy of Obi-Wan Kenobi's greatest failure: losing Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and the rise of an evil Empire.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres with two episodes exclusively on Disney+ on 27th May.

Are you looking forward to seeing Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ and the return of Star Wars Celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Top Gun: Maverick finally flies this May



Paramount Pictures has released a new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick.



Read the official synopsis:

"After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.” Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it."

The sequel to Tony Scott's beloved original has been delayed for a couple of years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Top Gun: Maverick will be in cinemas on 27th May.

Monday, 28 March 2022

Apple wins best picture for CODA



Apple TV+ is the first streaming service to win the best picture award at the Oscars for CODA.



"I can't believe it," Emilia Jones, who plays Ruby Rossi the child of deaf adults, told BBC News. "I honestly can't. When they called Coda out, we all just couldn't believe it. You know, we're the little underdog independent movie that kind of did it. And I'm just so grateful to everybody that has watched the movie, loved the movie and supported it. I'm on cloud nine."

Jones, daughter of singer and presenter Aled Jones, appeared as Merry Gejelh in Doctor Who and plays Kinsey Locke in Locke & Key on Netflix.

The Cupertino-based company is focused on prestige content. This win will only bolster the tech titan's position in an increasingly overcrowded space once dominated by Netflix.

Have you seen CODA on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Darkness rises in LEGO Star Wars



The fine folks at WB Games have sent over a dark side trailer for LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga coming soon to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles.



Read the press release from WB Games:

"In what will be the biggest and most visually striking LEGO Star Wars™ game yet, the trailer gives a look at the dark side of the Force featuring the saga’s greatest villains across all nine films. Players will be tested to join the dark side by many notorious villains such as Emperor Palpatine™, a shadow looming over the entire saga. With the ability to generate lightning from his fingertips, Palpatine is extremely dangerous and menacing.

General Grievous™, a spindly four-armed droid, is most notable for his powerful presence and ability to handle four lightsabers at the same time. Darth Maul™ is a formidable warrior strong with the dark side. Kylo Ren™, admirer of the villains who have come before him, wields an intimidating crossguard lightsaber with a vengeance. There is Boba Fett™, the legendary bounty hunter. And, of course, Darth Vader™ with his fearsome appearance, brutal moves and ambition to rule the galaxy. These are just some of the many villains players will encounter in their journey across the galaxy."


TT Games' latest instalment in the LEGO Star Wars video game franchise has been in development for several years and subjected to numerous delays. LEGO Star Wars fans (myself included) will soon find out if the Force is still with it.

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (affiliate link) is set to release on 5th April.

Friday, 25 March 2022

Marsh mystery Where the Crawdads Sing



2 years ago, the UK went into lockdown for the first time with a new normal in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19). Like many, I’ve lost family and friends during the ongoing pandemic, attended funeral services online and helped elderly and clinically vulnerable neighbours without access to technology. All the while socially distanced and shielding.

Normal People, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones (War of the Worlds) and Paul Mescal as ill-fated lovers, became a poetic pop culture phenomenon on BBC Three and Hulu. Subsequently, Edgar-Jones has appeared alongside Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) in Fresh on Star on Disney+ and will soon be seen in a movie adaptation of Delia Owens' novel Where the Crawdads Sing.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has released an official trailer featuring a new song by Taylor Swift.



Read the official synopsis:

"From the best-selling novel comes a captivating mystery. Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), an abandoned girl who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina. For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, isolating the sharp and resilient Kya from her community. Drawn to two young men from town, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world; but when one of them is found dead, she is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. As the case unfolds, the verdict as to what actually happened becomes increasingly unclear, threatening to reveal the many secrets that lay within the marsh."

“I fell so deeply in love with the world that Delia created, she has such a poetry to her writing. And her characters are so incredibly special, and deep and complex — particularly Kya, of course,” said Edgar-Jones in a video on Instagram. “I would describe Kya as fiercely resilient, wonderfully curious and strong. And I just feel so privileged and excited to be playing her.”

Where the Crawdads Sing is in cinemas this July.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

The 8-Bit Wonder Years



This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 8-bit home computers - sparking one of gaming's greatest school playground rivalries.

Christmas 1982, I unwrapped a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K and saw Disney's Tron. From then on I was hooked on computers, thanks to Sir Clive Sinclair and the generosity of my parents.

When Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore International, began an aggressive home computer price war in the early eighties, the fabled Commodore 64 'bread bin' would take pride of place alongside an Atari VCS and Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the summer of 1984. The first game I remember playing on the machine was Sega's Up'n Down following an especially gruelling physiotherapy session.

Com-Com 64, as I affectionately nicknamed it, became a gateway into Lucasfilm Games.

From Rescue On Fractalus! to The Eidolon, I was enthralled by early titles from George Lucas' video games division founded during the production of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It was rebranded as LucasArts before Disney purchased Lucasfilm and shuttered the studio. Disney's decided to bring back the Lucasfilm Games brand for all future licensed games.

It's only apt that Nick Smith, our very own 'Commodore kid', reflects on the 8-bit home computer and console revolution that influenced a generation of geeks (myself included).

Guest post by Nick Smith

They bleeped. They were blocky. They were simple and they took a long time to load up, if they loaded up at all. They were Commodore 64 games.

Released in 1982, the C64 amazed us with the games it offered, available on cartridge, cassette and diskette to play, rewind and repeat. But we wanted more.

In its heyday, the console provided movie tie-ins, revamps of popular arcade games, versions of Nintendo or ZX Spectrum games, or generic knock-offs from car boot sales.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 64, here are just a few of the memorable games we played back in those 8-bit heydays.

Manic Miner

Take Mario, give him a pick, stick him in tunnels and what have you got? Manic Miner, that’s what! Instead of jumping on plums or whatever Mario does, Mr. Willy dug tunnels and it was so much fun that my sister and I were hooked like gold-diggers at a millionaire’s fishing tournament.

Willy explored different caverns, collecting flashing objects before he suffocated. As if that wasn’t enough, he also faced toxic flora and slime, spiders, robots and deadly drops off his precarious platforms. So addictive were the adventures of this chip off the old plumber that Manic Miner was the most popular game of 1984, spawning the sequel Jet Set Willy.

Paperboy

Delivering papers can be an arduous, thankless task. Just ask the players of Atari and Midway’s Paperboy, released by Elite Systems for the 64 in 1986. As you cycled through blocky, green-hued streets, you delivered papers to subscribers, picked up more news en route, and smashed up the homes of neighbours who didn’t have a subscription. Encouraging vandalism was lucrative for the game makers; a sequel came out on various platforms, including the Commodore Amiga, in 1991.

Frogger

Part of the draw of this game was its splitty subject matter. As you tried to traverse busy digital streets, you risked getting run over by a car and your little froggy life just got harder as you progressed.

Legend has it that Konami game designer Akira Hashimoto was inspired by a frog trying to cross a road with heavy traffic. He got out of his car and ushered the frog to the other side of the street. Since Chickener would be a terrible name for a video game, Hashimoto stuck with frog for his protagonist and a web-footed star was born.

Predator

Part of the fun of being a Commodore 64 user was seeing the progress of the graphics over the years, as designers pushed the little machine to handle more complex pixelation. While Manic Miner et al were fun, 1987’s Predator amazed us with its visuals that did their best to capture the feel of the blockbuster movie.

Predator emphasised the survival aspects of the film. No machine gun? No problem, you can use your Schwarzenegger-sized fists. Camouflaged alien lying in wait? Lay some mines to take him out. Sure, you couldn’t see the drool dripping from the predator’s mandibles. But he was still satisfyingly ugly.

Rambo

Another movie tie-in, this one turned unlikely subject matter – an alienated Vietnam veteran turned invulnerable one-man army – into a kids’ game.

Rambo was released in 1985 to tie in with Carolco’s blockbuster First Blood Part II. As Rambo, the player had to locate equipment, rescue POWs and escape while being hounded by a remorseless enemy horde.

Maybe it was the cinematic cover or the hunting-and-savaging gameplay but the Bowie knife-toting Rambo was a cut above his peers, gaining a whopping 96% score from Zzap!64 magazine.

Star Wars

Once you got used to the vector graphics, Star Wars was a blast. Not only could you play the Atari arcade game in your home, on your TV, but you also took the role of Luke Skywalker and fly an X-wing through the Death Star trenches.

Parker Brothers brought the game to the 64 around the time of Return of the Jedi’s release. By then it already felt like a classic, spawning dozens of follow-up games that continue to this day. However, few gaming experiences compare to flying through space as Red Five, blasting TIE fighters, dogging the Empire from the comfort of your settee.

Attack of the Mutant Camels

Sci-fi games were so popular in the early ‘80s that even sheep in space stood a chance at success. Dropout physician Jeff ‘Yak’ Minter added camels to his shoot-‘em-ups and the rest is dromedary history. I spent many happy hours playing Attack of the Mutant Camels, which reminded me of the AT-AT attack in The Empire Strikes Back. Piloting a jet plane, I was tasked with zapping giant yellow camels before they got to my base, the option to trip them not included.

Minter liked llamas so much that he named a software company after them and incorporated the ungainly creatures into some of his games. The surreal backgrounds and colours enhanced the fun.

Live and Let Die

One of the simplest games on this list was also one of the most difficult. Domark had already digitised James Bond with enjoyable results with A View to a Kill in 1985. 3 years later they retooled a game in development called Aquablast and gave it the more recognisable title of Live and Let Die. Tying a game to a 15-year-old movie reflects the enduring popularity of Bond in general and the film’s lengthy speedboat chase in particular.

However, piloting a boat wasn’t easy because it was vulnerable to mines, rocks, defensive cannons and random pieces of wood. We’d have to wait several years before Tiger Electronics brought us the addictive third-person shooter Goldeneye and by then, the 64 felt like a distant memory.

Elite

Elite was a highly influential trading game using vector graphics, giving it a similar look to Star Wars. This intergalactic strategy model was open-ended, giving players plenty of time to explore, mine asteroids, work as a merc or earn booty as a pirate, building up a stash while tackling Thargoid antagonists. The real joy of the game, however, came from simply flying through hyperspace and getting immersed in the daddy of all open-world games.

Moonfall

Not to be confused with the recent disaster movie, Moonfall was a trading game like Elite with humbler aspirations. This time Frontier Alfa was the setting and goods were limited as you travelled from one lunar settlement to another. While landing and piloting your ship was no picnic, the ultimate goal was a lofty one: buying all the bases and factories from aliens to free their human slaves. Never has capitalism looked so good.

Games Gone By

There were many more games and many more long summer days to play through. There have been many other game systems. The graphics have vastly improved. The load times certainly have. But back then when video games were new, we were pixel pioneers, bit-sized pathfinders, joystick journeymen pushing those platform games to their bleeping limits. The C64 was our vessel and shop-bought cassettes were our fuel and the highway promised to go on forever.

What are your memories from the 8-bit home computer and console era? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Great Scott! From DeLorean to The Mandalorian



The Hollywood Reporter (THR) exclusively reports that Christopher Lloyd is appearing in the third season of The Mandalorian, which is currently filming in California.

The beloved award-winning actor best known for the iconic role of Doc Brown in The Back to the Future trilogy is ditching the DeLorean for all things Mandalorian.

Lloyd's also starred in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Addams Family.

The titular Mandalorian, played by Pedro Pascal, most recently appeared in The Book of Boba Fett.

The Mandalorian's third season is rumoured to premiere this holiday on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to seeing Christopher Lloyd in The Mandalorian? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Damon Lindelof's Star Wars?



According to The Ankler, Damon Lindelof, who co-created Lost with JJ Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and worked with the director on the big screen Star Trek reboot, is rumoured to be in talks for an upcoming Star Wars movie.

Neither Lucasfilm nor Lindelof have confirmed this. However, in 2020 the award-winning co-creator of The Leftovers mentioned he wanted to work on Star Wars and is a lifelong fan of the franchise:

"At some point, but certainly not in the immediate future, I feel like I would love to do something in the Star Wars universe. Maybe a decade from now when I would no longer be blamed for ruining it. That would be a hoot."

Is Damon Lindelof a good fit for Star Wars after Star Trek? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Meet Marvel Studios' meta Ms. Marvel



Marvel Studios has released an official trailer for Ms. Marvel on Disney+.



Read the official synopsis:

"Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel is a new, original series that introduces Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero mega-fan with an oversized imagination—particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels invisible both at home and at school—that is, until she gets super powers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. Life gets better with superpowers, right?"

With the arrival of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in Marvel Studios' Hawkeye and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) in Ms. Marvel, Young Avengers assemble.

Ms. Marvel, which is rumoured to dovetail into the Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels, premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 8th June.

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

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds



Paramount+ has officially announced that Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries) is joining the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Wesley will play a young James T. Kirk before he replaces Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) at the helm of the USS Enterprise.

“Paul is an accomplished actor, an astonishing presence and a welcome key addition to the show,” executive producer Alex Kurtzman and showrunners/executive producers Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers said in a joint statement. “Like all of us, he is a life-long Star Trek fan and we are excited by his interpretation of this iconic role.”

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reunites Star Trek: Discovery season two fan-favourites, Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock. The trifecta will be joined aboard the USS Enterprise by new series regulars Babs Olusanmokun, Christina Chong, Celia Rose Gooding, Jess Bush and Melissa Navia.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on 5th May. There's no official announcement regarding the UK premiere, but it will be coming soon.

Are you looking forward to seeing Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Let me know in the comments below.