Saturday, 24 September 2022

James Earl Jones retires from Star Wars

According to Vanity Fair, James Earl Jones is retiring as the voice of Darth Vader.

The legendary actor, aged 91, has voiced one of pop culture's greatest villains since the original Star Wars in 1977.

Jones' unmistakable baritone will continue to be heard in the Star Wars franchise. He's given Lucasfilm express permission to use his voice via Respeecher.

The Ukrainian-based company's technology was used in The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and most recently in the Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off series.

Listening to Jones' iconic voice helped with my speech therapy following a life-changing head injury 45 years ago, and I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, 23 September 2022

LEGO Holiday Main Street

It's the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere and the holidays are coming...

LEGO has announced this year's Winter Village set: Holiday Main Street.

Gather the family together and fill the room with holiday spirit as you create this highly detailed set. The LEGO Holiday Main Street includes two festive shops (with homes on the top floor), which are open-back to allow for easy access to the fun. The set also comes with four instruction booklets, making it perfect for building together.

This cosy build is packed with a host of exciting features, including a Christmas tree, a trolley car and a host of minifigures and gifts, perfect for getting younger members of the family involved.

LEGO Creative Lead Jamie Berard commented “The annual LEGO Winter Village sets are one of my all-time favorite holiday traditions. The Holiday Main Street brings together a whole downtown of activity and imagination into one set. Building as an individual or as a family, you’ll discover a model with all the hustle and bustle of a festive shopping street – complete with trolley, snow topped shops and children posting letters. I especially like the brick-built toys in the toy shop and the super-cute mini-Christmas tree in the upper apartment. They just make me smile.”

LEGO Holiday Main Street is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

What do you think of the LEGO Holiday Main Street set? Are you a Winter Village collector? And are you planning to add it to your collection this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Hulu’s Halloween Hellraiser

"What is it you pray for?" Hulu’s Halloween season includes a reboot of director Clive Barker’s body horror masterpiece, Hellraiser. Hulu has dropped an official trailer.

Read the official synopsis:

“In the all-new “Hellraiser,” a young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.“

The upcoming reboot is directed by David Bruckner (V/H/S) and written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (The Night House) along with David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy).

Hellraiser hits Hulu on 7th October. Whilst nothing has been officially announced, it will most likely appear elsewhere on Star on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Hellraiser on Hulu? What are your memories of the original movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Andor rebels this Wednesday

Andor, a gritty live-action Star Wars spin-off series set during the height of the Galactic Empire, begins this Wednesday on Disney+. Lucasfilm has dropped a special look.

Andor, created by Tony Gilroy, stars Diego Luna reprising the role of rebel spy Cassian Andor from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in a tale set five years before the events of the film.

Experience the three-episode premiere exclusively on Disney+ on 21st September.

Excited for Andor on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Blade Runner 2099 greenlit by Amazon

Not content with making the most expensive streaming series ever made in the form of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (exclusively on Amazon Prime), Amazon Studios is producing a Blade Runner series set 50 years after Blade Runner 2049.

“We recognise that we have a very high bar to meet with this next instalment [sic],” Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson, co-CEOs and co-founders of Alcon, said in a statement. “Together with Silka and our partners at Amazon, and Scott Free Productions, we hope that we can live up to that standard and delight audiences with the next generation of Blade Runner.”

Amazon Studios’ head of global television, Vernon Sanders, says Sir Ridley Scott’s (Alien) original 1982 film is one of the greatest and most influential sci-fi movies of all time.

“We are honoured to be able to present this continuation of the Blade Runner franchise, and are confident that by teaming up with Ridley, Alcon Entertainment, Scott Free Productions and the remarkably talented Silka Luisa, Blade Runner 2099 will uphold the intellect, themes and spirit of its film predecessors,” Sanders said.

Personally, I loved Blade Runner 2049 as evidenced in my review of director Denis Villeneuve's (Dune) superlative sequel to Scott's Blade Runner. There were tears of joy in the rain.

Are you looking forward to Blade Runner 2099? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Alien vs Predator in Marvel Comics

Predator follows stablemate Alien with a new line of Marvel Comics.

Our very own US-based stellar scribe, Nick Smith, grabs his latest comic book bounty, from TBS Comics in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and joins the hunt in Marvel Comics' Predator.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Predator’s quite the thing right now, thanks to a certain popular Hulu and Disney+ movie. While in TBS Comics, my local comic bookstore recently, I overheard a middle-aged man ask the clerk, ‘where are the Alien and Predator comics?’

‘In the box marked A,’ the clerk replied without missing a dour beat. While the customer dashed to this stash, I made a beeline for Predator #1, a new Marvel title written by Ed Brisson (Iron Fist) with art by Kev Walker (2000 AD’s ABC Warriors, Marvel Zombies), colours by Frank D’Armata (Wolverine, Iron man) and lettering by the Eisner-nominated Clayton Cowles (Star Wars, Batman, The Wicked + The Divine).

On the strength of this first issue, Predator wouldn’t last five pages in the comic book jungle. Walker’s art has been tremendous elsewhere but here it looks rushed and sloppy. The main character, Theta, looks different at the start of the story, compared to later on. When the Predator’s face is shown for the last time, he looks like a chubby Kabuki player – not scary or threatening at all.

Writing-wise, the introduction is confusing and there’s a predictable character-seeking-retribution plot. This is unsurprising considering that Brisson was lauded for his short-lived 2020 Ghost Rider comic, starring the Spirit of Vengeance. Since the invulnerable Theta lacks depth or originality, I found myself rooting for her computer Sandy instead. At least Sandy has a logic – the narrative breaks the Predator rules of honour when an unarmed character gets killed.

Even though five editors put this book together, they failed to get their tenses straight in a ‘story so far’ blurb. This adds to the impression that this release was rushed to tie in with the latest Predator film.

It’s not all bad news. D’Armata’s colours give the planet Damara a truly alien quality. Cowles’ clean lettering helps make the cartoonish visuals easier to follow.

Predator movies have rarely lived up to the promise of the first film, although their batting average has improved with the home run of Prey, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane). It’s been much the same story in comics, with Dark Horse publishing many insipid renditions of the alien hunter. Now Marvel Comics has the reigns, I hope it produces an adventure as fitting as Trachtenberg's take.

Its bedfellow benchmark is Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Alien comic, also from Marvel Comics. This year’s annual has a tight storyline, sort of brings back a classic character and bodes well for a new series with art by Julius Ohta (Captain Marvel).

While I won’t be picking up the rest of Predator’s 6-part story, I will be hunting for Alien #1: Icarus. The recent Alien comics have shown us how sci-fi horror should be done, accompanied by some meticulous art.

In this creative battle of Alien versus Predator, the xenomorphs have more bite.

Have you read Marvel Comics' Alien and Predator series? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Spielberg’s Super 8 dreams in The Fabelmans

“Movies are dreams that you never forget!” Judging by the trailer, director Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is his most autobiographical movie in many a year. A family in turmoil is a catalyst as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. All underscored by composer John Williams (Jaws).

There’s a profound resonance with my own childhood (overshadowed by a life-changing trauma) and escaping into a darkened theatre to watch Spielberg’s movies and that of his friend and longtime collaborator, Star Wars creator George Lucas. At the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 6-year-old me desperately wanted to board the mothership with Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss).

The Fabelmans is in theatres this Thanksgiving.

Monday, 12 September 2022

The Mandalorian at D23 Expo

On Saturday, Lucasfilm dropped a teaser trailer for the long-awaited third season of The Mandalorian during Disney's D23 Expo.

The last time Star Wars fans (myself included) saw the clan of two, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu, was in The Book of Boba Fett.

The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is building a new Jedi order before his reckless actions lead to the Knights of Ren and the rise of the First Order.

The Mandalorian returns exclusively on Disney+ in 2023.

Are you looking forward to The Mandalorian? Did you spot the cameo from The Rise of Skywalker? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Willow at D23 Expo

On Saturday, Lucasfilm dropped an official trailer for Willow during Disney's D23 Expo.

The Willow spin-off series, a sequel to director Ron Howard's (Apollo 13) original 1988 movie written by George Lucas (Star Wars) and starring Warwick Davis (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) as the titular hero, will be a great addition this holiday season. The fantasy genre continues to thrive with House of the Dragon, Shadow and Bone, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, The Witcher and more on streaming services.

Christian Slater (Heathers) made a surprise appearance at the Willow panel and was announced as a cast member.

Willow streams exclusively on Disney+ on 30th November.

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

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Star Trek Day on Paramount+

It's Star Trek Day and fans (myself included) can celebrate the 56th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry's long-running sci-fi franchise with an exciting live event featuring surprise announcements, back-to-back conversations with Star Trek casts and an unforgettable tribute to the late legend Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), on Paramount+.

In related news. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a critical and streaming triumph for Paramount+.

“Star Trek fans all over the world embraced this incredible new Star Trek journey,” said Tanya Giles, chief programming officer of Paramount Streaming. “We are thrilled that the Star Trek universe continues to be one of the most-watched franchises on the service.”

“Over the past six years, Alex Kurtzman and his amazing team have brilliantly created and carefully curated a new Star Trek universe for Paramount+ with five complementary series – each different in tone, style, story and in some cases target audience,” said George Cheeks, president and chief executive officer at CBS.

“Each series is a success in its own right, and now the franchise’s newest edition, Strange New Worlds, is earning critical acclaim and delivering notable performance achievements on the service, both domestically and internationally. We look forward to the franchise’s continuing journey on Paramount+ here in the US and globally, where in the case of Strange New Worlds, we’re just getting started.”

Have you seen Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? How are you celebrating Star Trek Day? Let me know in the comments below. Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 this October

The definitive mini console of 2019, the Sega Mega Drive Mini, has been completely revamped! Its improved hardware is tucked away in a new, compact design based on the Sega Mega Drive 2!

Sega fans (myself included) may have hoped for a Dreamcast Mini, but given the cost of living crisis, this is a smart move for the upcoming holiday season.

Sega has announced 60 titles including the following games:

Fantasy Zone
Golden Axe II
Night Trap
Space Harrier II

The Sega Mega Drive (Genesis in the US due to a copyright issue and at the suggestion of Atari before a distribution deal fell through because Jack Tramiel wanted to focus on the Atari ST) ignited the 16-bit console wars and pushed incumbent Nintendo off the top spot with its futuristic looks and edgy marketing targeted at the cool kids.

As a college student, I remember flicking through the pages of Dark Horse Comics and eagerly awaiting the UK launch of the console in 1990. This would be my first new console since the Atari VCS, and the 8-bit computer era, dominated by the Commodore 64, was at an end. Near-perfect arcade ports of Sega titles, including Space Harrier and Golden Axe, were too irresistible.

Sega's 16-bit machine was a hot seller in the winter of 1990 and, as a Michael Jackson fan, I coveted, nay, obsessed over Moonwalker (Sega America had signed a deal with the pop star to develop a video game based on the movie of the same name). The console conversion did not disappoint and the music samples taken from Jackson's Bad album deserve special mention. The 'synth sound' lent itself to the medium perfectly.

I sold my Sega Mega Drive to a college classmate and switched to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1992. So, I played the Mega-CD titles (including the infamous Night Trap, which ignited a moral panic in the conservative media) on their console.

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is available to pre-order (affiliate link).

Whilst I failed to add the Sega Mega Drive Mini to my classic console collection in 2019, I've pre-ordered the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 available exclusively from Amazon this October.

Did you own a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis back in the day? What are your memories and will you be getting the new mini console? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 5 September 2022

Star Tracks: Willow

Willow returns with Warwick Davis (Star Wars) reprising the titular role this holiday season on Disney+.

In anticipation, Hollywood composer James Horner's original Willow soundtrack gets the Star Tracks treatment. Like John Williams (Jaws) and Jerry Goldsmith (Alien), Horner was integral to my formative soundtrack education as I underwent rehabilitation for a life-changing neurological injury.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based media maverick, goes on an epic fantasy adventure courtesy of the fine folks at Intrada.

Guest post by Nick Smith

With a Willow trailer previewed and a panel discussion at this year’s Star Wars Celebration, it’s the perfect time to visit the original movie and its evocative soundtrack by the late Hollywood composer, James Horner.

A new Intrada release shines a deserved spotlight on the score, with over half an hour of previously unreleased cues, all mastered from original digital stereo mixes. All told, we get over 100 minutes of music, making the original album seem brownie-sized in comparison.

Willow was released in 1988 to great fanfare. However, it lacked the same universal appeal as Executive Producer George Lucas’ other brainchildren, Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Taking some of its inspiration from The Lord of the Rings and Arthurian myth, this one was for lovers of epic fantasy, the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) crowd, families and special effects junkies, hiring 650 extras and filming in numerous international locations.

In the thick of it, was the diminutive Willow. Per film writer Marcus Hearn, Lucas has said, ‘a lot of my movies are about a little guy against the system, and this was just a more literal interpretation of that idea.’

Director Ron Howard, on a high after Splash (1984) and Cocoon (1985), had just the correct sensibilities for an adventure film with wide appeal. Willow was a hit, with a worldwide box office of almost $138 million. But it wasn’t the megahit MGM/United Artists hoped for.

Three decades later, Willow is still fun to watch, mainly thanks to the confident performances by the 18-year-old Warwick Davis (Willow Ufgood), Val Kilmer (Madmartigan), Joanne Whalley (Sorsha) and Jean ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ Marsh, who plays the deliciously wicked sorceress Bavmorda.

Willow is even more fun to listen to, with a score as lavish as the accompanying images. Dozens of instruments and several distinct melodies collide as the film builds to its climax.

What does an exotic fantasy world sound like? Acoustic instruments? Heavy drumbeats? Magical synth twinkles? Horner melded all of the above on a gig that in many ways was a composer’s dream. He had a sizeable budget and few constraints to stick by. He wasn’t depicting ‘30s New Orleans or ‘80s LA. He was able to help build a brand new world with his score, with a heavy dose of light-heartedness, strong character themes and a fast pace.

This wasn’t Horner’s first unicorn rodeo. He’d created the distinctive music for Krull (1983) with far fewer resources at his disposal. With Willow, Horner was able to go for broke. ‘I am… a doctor of music,’ Horner said, according to Jean-Baptiste Martin who runs the James Horner Film Music website. ‘I listened to, studied and analysed a lot of music. I also enjoy metaphors, the art of quoting and of cycles. The harmonic draft of the Willow score, and most particularly its spiritual side, came from such a cycle, from such mythology and music history that I was taught, and that I myself convey with my own emotions and compositions.’

Horner pulls from a Slavic liturgy, Mozart’s Requiem, a Bulgarian peasant song, Bartok, Holst, Prokoviev, Schuman and Edvard Grieg. The musicologist’s gleeful research pays off in tracks like Airk’s Army and Elora Danan, which introduce many of the soundtrack’s major themes. There’s a potent sense of society and tradition, especially in The Nelwyns and The Nelwyns No. 2 – imagine The Dark Crystal’s Podlings dancing to an African beat, diamonds on the soles of their tiny shoes, and you’ll get a good idea of how that sequence sounds.

To further the sense that we were trotting through a weird new world, Horner turned to quaint instruments and objects like an Irish bodhran drum, a Chinese opera gong, an ocarina, conch shells, bagpipes, pan pipes (which are particularly distinct in a track called The Island) and even a plastic cup.

There are also hints of Horner’s previous scores – strings soar in Escape From The Tavern, sounding a lot like Stealing the Enterprise from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (also available from Intrada).

Other cues, particularly Tir Asleen, evoke trademark Lucasfilm moments; you can imagine Lucas saying to Horner, ‘I want this to be John Williamsy. Can you make this Williamsy?’

Despite some intentionally discordant bits, for all its elements this ambitious score is remarkably cohesive and it sounds gorgeous in its new 2-CD form. After listening, we feel like we have been on an emotionally satisfying journey through a believable world, where there are consequences to each of the characters’ actions, highlighted in the music.

When the sonic adventure is over, I miss its charm and imagination, the way it depicts the triumph of light over darkness. Fortunately, it’s almost time to visit Willow’s land again in Lucasfilm’s forthcoming series on Disney+, heralded by Horner’s majestic theme tune.

Special thanks to Roger Feigelson at Intrada for providing a copy for review.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Pinocchio on Disney+ Day

Disney has released an official trailer for a live-action adaptation of Pinnochio directed by Robert Zemeckis (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) coming to Disney+.

Pinocchio, starring Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) as Geppetto, looks incredible. I'm surprised it's not on limited release in theatres!

I first became aware of Walt Disney's celebrated animated adaptation during Steven Spielberg's magnum opus Close Encounters of the Third Kind - When You Wish Upon A Star is interpolated into John Williams' soundtrack among other references.

Shortly after that, I saw the classic Disney animation at Christmas. The tale of a wooden puppet, brought magically to life one night, facing travails with found family, deeply resonated in the wake of life-changing childhood trauma.

Pinocchio premieres exclusively on 8th September on Disney+ on Disney+ Day.

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

Friday, 26 August 2022

Steal from the Empire in Andor

Lucasfilm has released a new clip for Andor as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story returns to theatres.

Andor, created by Tony Gilroy, stars Diego Luna reprising the role of rebel spy Cassian Andor from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in a tale set five years before the events of the film.

Experience the three-episode premiere exclusively on Disney+ on 21st September.

Excited for Andor on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi: A Jedi’s Return

On Monday, Lucasfilm released an official trailer for Obi-Wan Kenobi: A Jedi’s Return, a new documentary that showcases the making of the 6-part Star Wars special event series on Disney+.

Obi-Wan Kenobi sees Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader) reprise their roles from George Lucas' prequel trilogy. The Deborah Chow-directed series is set between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: A Jedi’s Return premieres exclusively on 8th September on Disney+.

8th September is Disney+ Day, and the House of Mouse is hyping things up with exciting announcements including Marvel Studios' Thor: Love and Thunder. The D23 Expo begins the following day.

What are you looking forward to on Disney+ Day? Are you hoping a new season of Obi-Wan Kenobi will be announced during the D23 Expo? Or would you like to see a Darth Vader spin-off next? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Behind the Magic: The Book of Boba Fett

I'm currently watching Light & Magic on Disney+. The 6-part documentary series chronicles the formation of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and is required viewing for fans of filmmaking.

ILM was founded by George Lucas to produce the special effects for Star Wars. ILM has released Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of The Book of Boba Fett.

All episodes of The Book of Boba Fett are available exclusively on Disney+.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

All aboard the LEGO Hogwarts Express

All change at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters (Platform 9¾) for the Hogwarts Express.

LEGO has announced a flagship 5129-piece Hogwarts Express Collectors' Edition, which will delight both LEGO train enthusiasts and LEGO Harry Potter fans (myself included) alike this August.

Marcos Bessa, LEGO Designer commented: “The Harry Potter movies ignite that feeling of magic within us all. When we were working on this set, we wanted to bring to life different moments from across the movies. Whether your favourite is the original trio meeting on the train or moments from movies later in the series, this set really brings back spellbinding memories from all of our favourite parts of the Harry Potter films.”

To celebrate the release of the Wizarding World's iconic locomotive, LEGO is running a competition to let a Harry Potter superfan stay on a real LEGO Hogwarts Express train!

The lucky winners will get a one-night experience on the Yorkshire steam railway for a family of four, including a movie screening, a luxury stay in a custom carriage, and plenty of time to play with the new set. Dinner and breakfast will be served in the Great Station Hall and return travel is included. To enter the competition, please visit LEGO.COM.

LEGO Hogwarts Express Collectors' Edition is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

What do you think of the LEGO Hogwarts Express Collectors' Edition? Are you entering the competition? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 15 August 2022

Tatiana Maslany talks She-Hulk on GMA

Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law debuts on Disney+ this Thursday, which would have been my mum's 81st birthday.

Growing up, I religiously watched The Incredible Hulk television series, starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as the titular Hulk, with my mum as I recovered from a life-changing trauma. So, it's poignant.

Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) plays the titular lawyer and recently spoke to Good Morning America (GMA) about the upcoming 9-episode Marvel Studios superhero comedy series featuring cameos from fan-favourite characters including the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox).

Maslany told Empire magazine that She-Hulk is relatable (with shades of Ally McBeal, I'd suggest).

"She really is the antithesis of most superhero narratives," Maslany explained. "There's this great element of denial in her that's relatable. For me, it was about rejecting what's happened for as long as I could, as that's what causes the fun tension between Jennifer and She-Hulk."

"She's in a career that's male-dominated and incredibly vicious and hierarchal," Maslany continued. "When she's heading this superhuman firm, that's where we get some really fun characters that she's either defending or in opposition of. It's like this really absurd take on a legal show."

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres exclusively on 18th August on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 12 August 2022


When Prey was first announced as a straight-to-streaming prequel to Predator on Hulu and Star on Disney+, I had serious reservations!

The franchise has spawned middling sequels (I still have a soft spot for Predator 2) and crossovers with Twentieth Century Fox stablemate Alien. All of which failed to recapture the high-octane thrills of the original Predator from director John McTiernan (Die Hard).

Nick Smith, our resident US-based streaming guru, goes back to a time before Arnold Schwarzenegger got lost in the jungle in search of an alien hunter stalking the wilds of British Columbia, which is where my late maternal grandmother was born and raised.

Guest post by Nick Smith

On the first weekend of August, two movies were released that both featured young women who are overlooked by their fathers and set out to prove their worth.

In the hyperactive fight comedy Bullet Train, The Prince (Dad wanted a boy) is driven, resourceful, evil and crafty.

In the Predator prequel Prey, Naru (Amber Midthunder) is driven, resourceful, good and crafty (we know she’s good because she shares her food with her dog, Sarii).

While Bullet Train is intentionally throwaway fun, Prey is an exciting, well-made film with much more weight. For one thing, it takes imagery from previous Predator films and melds it with North American cultural history, giving Naru’s escapades an air of realism that a menagerie of dodgy CGI wildlife can’t spoil.

The original Predator was a delight. With its exotic jungle locale, it was a pastiche of Rambo and other macho ‘80s flicks, preying on fears of a lawless, dangerous Central America. At the time, producer Joel Silver described the style as ‘exaggerated realism.’ Writers Jim and John Thomas threw an evil E.T. into the mix. Legend has it, that the concept was inspired by a joke about Rocky fighting an alien.

‘The film is basically three movie genres in one,’ Silver told Starlog in 1987. ‘It starts out as a solid war story that, suddenly, turns into a horror film along the lines of the original Alien. There are also some definite science fiction elements as well.’ Thanks to a suspenseful script and John ‘Die Hard’ McTiernan’s direction, the medley works.

At a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) ruled action cinema, Predator was exciting and innovative, locked and loaded with over-the-top, big dumb fun. Its quotable dialogue ranged from the daft (‘Knock knock!’ says Schwarzenegger after he crashes through a door) to the ludicrous (‘I ain’t got time to bleed’) and the apt (Arnie calls the alien one ugly mother...).

The concept was diluted over the years by sequels and spin-offs. Predator 2 (1990) had another great setup – it could have been called Predator: Big in the City – but lacked any real depth. Predators (2010) and The Predator (2018) were completely forgettable. In 2004, Alien vs. Predator‘s budget did not match its ideas and expectations.

In an attempt to recapture the magic of the original movie, 20th Century Studios has gone back to basics. It’s a trick that has been tried with the Alien and Terminator franchises, with mixed results. However, while Arnie’s vehicle was fuelled with testosterone (Elpidia Carrillo was a strong but supporting character), Prey injects some serious oestrogen into the franchise.

Although Prey tells the story of one woman against an alien hunter, the monster’s identity takes a back seat to Naru’s personal journey. She believes that she can excel as a hunter like her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), and also that she is capable of more than one skill – for example, she is gifted in medicine as well.

Naru sets out to prove herself and slay the mysterious beast she tracks.

The fact that the beast is a Predator adds an extra layer to the film but unlike its recent predecessors, Prey doesn’t focus on alien tech or mythology; it focuses on character. Its attention to detail depicting Comanche culture roots the film in a reality that never seems forced or didactic.

The concept seems fresh simply because there are not many period movies that feature extra-terrestrials, even though they’re a long-lived sci-fi TV trope. Before Prey, the best example of an ‘alien in the past’ film is 2001: A Space Odyssey (way back in 1968), where the visitor guides and inspires us rather than viciously hunting us for sport.

While Prey deserves to be seen on the big screen, its success will likely lead to more sequels that will get a theatrical release. According to TimeOut, director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) says additional instalments are being discussed, to ‘do things that have not been done before.’

Prey doesn’t move the franchise forward, but it’s a delightfully well-crafted, bare bones-and-arrows homage to a classic action flick.

Have you seen Prey on Hulu or Star on Disney+? Is it your favourite Predator movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Prey is Hulu's biggest hit

Disney has issued a press release for Prey stating the straight-to-streaming movie has smashed viewing records on Hulu and Star on Disney+.

Based on hours watched in the first three days of its release, the Predator prequel directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) has become the top premiering work on Hulu to date – beating out all prior film and television series debuts.

In addition, it has become the most watched film premiere on Star+ in Latin America and the ‘Star’ section of Disney+ in all other territories.

Prey has garnered critical acclaim and a sequel is hinted at in the end credits. Given its unprecedented streaming success (I watched it twice over the weekend), Prey 2 should follow the further adventures of Naru (Amber Midthunder).

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

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Mark Hamill returns to Jack in the Box

Before Mark Hamill saved the galaxy as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and played The Joker in Batman, the fan-favourite actor was fired from Jack in the Box.

Hamill recently returned to help promote spicy chicken strips and french toast sticks.

Read the official synopsis:

"Actor and movie icon Mark Hamill returns to one of his very first roles: working the Jack in the Box drive thru. He was fired the first time for doing character voices. Now he's surprising fans with voices, autographs and tales from the past."

He said that while speaking to customers, "I thought you should talk like a clown, which is what I did. I thought it was amusing — my boss thought it was annoying."

Hamill explained that his boss ordered him to stop, and he did as he was told.

"But when the work day was finished [my boss] said, 'You know what Mark, if you can't take this job seriously, maybe this isn't right for you.' In other words, go and never come back," Hamill continued.

"What are the chances of a former employee who let you go, asking you to come back? It was too good to [pass up]. I said, 'I've got to do this' because it's so personal, and it actually happened."

How cool would it be to be served by Mark Hamill at a drive-thru? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Alan Grant: 2000 AD and Batman mastermind

I was a fan long before I knew the name of the acclaimed writer who wrote many of my favourite childhood comics from 2000 AD to Batman! That writer was Alan Grant.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, remembers a comic book legend.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The world was on the brink of destruction. Only one tough-nut future cop stood between the survival of the civilized world and its bitter end. I witnessed The Apocalypse War at the tender age of 10, shelling out 16p a week to pick up an ingenious comic called 2000 AD and reading a handful of pages, flip-ticking towards doomsday.

Although Judge Dredd was a stoic, dependable protagonist, there were no guarantees of success in this epic series, which tapped into the fears of kids like me. In June 1982, the same month Dredd was depicted on the cover of 2000 AD riding a nuclear missile like a grim Slim Pickens warhead warrior, one million anti-nuke protesters marched in New York. Nuclear war was the prevalent stuff of nightmares.

Two years earlier, the British Government had distributed Protect and Survive, a pamphlet that landed through my letterbox telling me what to do in the event of a nuclear attack (‘if you are not at home… lie in a ditch,’ an accompanying public information film said reassuringly).

While disturbing at the time, the Protect and Survive materials look quaint now. Mega-City One’s trusty Judge, conversely, is as timely as ever, with better dialogue: ‘Gaze into the fist of Dredd!’

Comics fed my brain more effectively than Home Office literature. Predating the feature film WarGames and cautionary TV movies The Day After and Threads, The Apocalypse War was the most immediate representation of the threat of worldwide nuclear catastrophe, put in the hands of kids, encouraging them to think and hopefully make a better future.

Grant took the comic book form and used it to explore vast topics – politics, philosophy, personal freedom and vigilantism. In RoboHunter, he created downtrodden mechanical people more deserving of our sympathy than some humans. In the finale of the Judge Child saga, he helped John Wagner combine space opera with a family of hillbilly killers (the Angel Gang) and a young, bald boy who could do strange telepathic things on the planet Xanadu. Grant and Wagner made all these elements work in a tour de force of cohesive world-building.

As I thrilled to Grant’s Future Shocks, Blackhawk, Ace Trucking Co. (written with Wagner), Judge Dredd, and Doomworld (in a relaunched Eagle comic), little did I know that he was born in my hometown of Bristol, England. Sensibly, he moved to Newtongrange, Scotland while still in nappies.

Bristol was lonely for me – I was the only writer, dreamer and 2000 AD fan I knew. But Grant’s comic book adventures helped me to escape from my loneliness and trust that there was an avenue for storytellers like me. Like him.

Later, in my teens, I was excited to find Grant’s name pop up with Wagner’s, writing Detective Comics and Batman. Cue long-lasting, vivid villains like Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Victor Zsasz, and Anarky, the latter proving that a personal philosophy could be the fuel for a story or character (at the time, Grant was an anarchist).

As always, these characters were ingenious and sympathetic and Grant obviously enjoyed playing in this world, coming up with memorable new villains. So what if Batman sounded like Judge Dredd? If you didn’t like it you didn’t have to read it, creep!

While Grant kept writing and editing comics as well as publishing through his company Bad Press Ltd, he also encouraged creativity in his own community. In 2020, he led a project with his fellow residents of Moniaive, Dumfriesshire, to make a comic about COVID and the resilient spirit of the locals. He passed away on July 20th, 2022 but his ideas and great tales and iconic heroes (and villains!) live on.

It doesn’t matter whether a story is set in the past or the future, the real world or some fantasy land. If the writing is exquisite and the characters vivid, that story will inspire as well as entertain.

Alan Grant was a master of his craft and he will be missed.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Warner Bros. Discovery to protect DC

Following news that the upcoming Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace as the titular superheroine and Michael Keaton reprising the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman has been shelved following early test screenings, the newly-merged Warner Bros. Discovery has announced a 10-year plan in hopes of emulating Marvel Studios' success.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said:

"You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman - these are brands that are known everywhere in the world," he said of some of the company's biggest characters.

Haven't DC fans (myself included) been here before with Zack Snyder?

"We have done a reset. We've restructured the business where we are going to focus, where there is going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC."

He added: "We believe we can build a much more sustainable business."

An estimated $70 million (£57.6 million) had already been spent making Batgirl for HBO Max. HBO Max will be merged with Discovery+ in 2023.

I suspect the streaming wars will witness rapid consolidation as consumers face a protracted recession and cost of living crisis. Apple TV+, Disney+ and Paramount+ will continue to gain ground on Netflix.

Do you think Warner Bros. Discovery will revitalise the DC brand? Do you care? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Andor goes rogue in Star Wars on Disney+

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has spawned a prequel series coming to Disney+ this fall. Lucasfilm has released an official trailer for Andor.

Andor, created by Tony Gilroy who oversaw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reshoots, stars Diego Luna reprising the role of rebel spy Cassian Andor from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in a tale set five years before the events of the film.

Unlike The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-offs, Andor didn't use StageCraft and made greater use of on-location filming. One such location is a Dorset quarry on the Jurassic Coast, which was used for the classic Doctor Who serial Destiny of the Daleks in the late seventies and Blake's 7 in the early eighties.

Experience the three-episode premiere exclusively on Disney+ on 21st September.

Excited for Andor on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Star Tracks: John Williams' SpaceCamp

Star Tracks is our new soundtracks feature. It's only apt that the inaugural edition focuses on Hollywood composer John Williams (Star Wars).

John Williams may be retiring from composing movie soundtracks but he leaves an enviable Oscar-winning legacy that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

So what better time to revisit one of his 'lost' soundtracks, SpaceCamp?

Nick Smith, our resident US-based media maverick, goes on a sonic space adventure courtesy of the fine folks at Intrada.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Sometimes I think it would be great to have my life scored by John Williams! Imagine how much more exciting laundry, washing up or walking the dog would be with the maestro’s trademark horn section parping around on a spin cycle.

Sadly, Williams recently announced that he is retiring from scoring after Indiana Jones 5. Furthermore, I wouldn’t dare deign to ask him to help me scrub my dishes. But there’s no arguing that if adventure music had a name, it would be John T. Williams.

After all, he’s composed some of the most iconic soundtracks of our generation – Star Wars, Superman: The Movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Heidi… he adds oomph to every score he composes.

SpaceCamp is a case in point.

The 1986 film stars Steven Spielberg's (Jaws) wife Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and a very young Joaquin ‘Leaf’ Phoenix (Joker), who I can only picture in my head with his grown-up face on a child’s body. It is an exciting, glossily-filmed romp about some kids who go to NASA space camp, end up in space and have to find a way to get home.

The family film is beloved by the two Gen-Xers that I polled. While it’s no blockbuster, it sounds like one, thanks to the incidental music. This score is not phoned home – it sounds like space if you could actually hear anything in space.

Record label Intrada obviously recognizes the simple brilliance of this soundtrack, pulling out all stops with its new 2-CD release. SpaceCamp includes new tracks and cues missing from the original ‘80s album. Intrada has taken the original three-track film mixes, adding great depth to the score program with new stereo audio. The 1986 RCA release has been remastered with a hi-res transfer.

The music is worth the fuss and holds up well, although the synth-and-slap bass-heavy training montage sounds deliciously dated. The Main Title evokes a sense of amazement from the get-go with wistful horns and strings. Percussion stands in for twinkling stars. Williams said he, ‘tried to express the exhilaration of this adventure in an orchestral idiom that would be direct and accessible.’ He wanted the music to speak, ‘directly to the “heart” of the matter.’

It's easy to forget how impressive the space shuttle was in the early ‘80s, promising to revolutionize space travel. We’d be on Mars by teatime! Tragically, the Challenger crew was lost when the ship broke apart. The promise was not kept. Since the heroes of SpaceCamp get into difficulty in a shuttle and there were similarities to the real-life Challenger disaster, the movie was not as heavily marketed as it could have been at the time and the soundtrack was not released on CD until 1992.

Williams’ track The Shuttle is imbued with majesty and innocent wonder, with little hints of John Barry’s Moonraker score. There are plucking strings for the plucky youths and a boosting crescendo.

The Computer Room is made to sound like hallowed ground, building an atmosphere of awe. Friends Forever uses flutes to represent the magical power of camaraderie.

Once the campers are In Orbit, we hear a waltzing rhythm with violin trills and plenty of horns to suggest the breaking immensity of space.

There are echoes of other movies in all the right places; the danger is evoked in White Sands (film version or album edit) with motifs reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars and the BMX bike chase from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Two other tracks have the merest nod to Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra fanfare.

But there’s plenty of original material, including a discordant moment and whirling, keening violins in Andie is Stranded and playful flutes in Viewing Daedelus, which could have been titled Dancing with Daedelus. Speaking of track titles, my favourite is I Can’t Reach It, which had me looking for a track called Help I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up (there isn’t one).

Even the shortest tracks, new to this release, have weight. They’re not just functional cues but tunes in their own right. In Re-Entry, for example, you can sense the elation and relief of the heroes; the happy little trumpets gave me goosebumps before a train-like rhythm brought me down to earth. Home Again revisits earlier cues and ties the whole score together.

Intrada has created a worthy release for an overlooked film and soundtrack, reminding us that while some experiences happen once in a lifetime, magnificent music is always worth revisiting.

What are your memories of SpaceCamp and have you listened to the joyous and uplifting soundtrack? Let me know in the comments below.

Special thanks to Roger Feigelson at Intrada for providing a copy for review.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Wakanda Forever honours Chadwick Boseman

During San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), Disney dropped a teaser trailer for Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

This serves as a poignant tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman who personified the character of Black Panther from the moment he first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War.

Boseman's iconic role touched myriad lives around the world and leaves a lasting legacy.

Wakanda forever! 'Nuff said!

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Doctor Who actor Bernard Cribbins dies

"Every night, Doctor, when it gets dark, and the stars come out... I'll look up at the sky, and think of you." Bernard Cribbins has died at the age of 93.

The beloved actor appeared twice in Doctor Who. Firstly in Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and then during David Tennant's tenure as the titular Time Lord.

Returning Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies posted an extended tribute to Cribbins on Instagram. “I love this man. I love him,” he wrote. “He loved being in Doctor Who. He said, ‘Children are calling me grandad in the street!’

“And what an actor. Oh, really though, what a wonderful actor. We once took him to the TV Choice Awards and sent him up on his own to collect the award, and the entire room stood up and cheered him.

“That’s a lovely memory. He’d phone up and say, ‘I’ve got an idea! What if I attack a Dalek with a paintball gun?!’ Okay, Bernard, in it went!

“He loved [his late wife] Gill with all his heart; he mentioned her in every conversation we ever had. A love story for the ages. I’m so lucky to have known him. Thanks for everything, my old soldier. A legend has left the world.”

With a career spanning seven decades, Cribbins was a staple of our childhoods. From The Wombles to The Railway Children and Jackanory to Faulty Towers. He was like a mystical great uncle who would live forever. Thoughts go to his family & friends. Thank you for so many amazing childhood memories!

What are your enduring memories of Bernard Cribbins? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Doctor Who on Disney+?

According to Bloomberg, Disney is purportedly in talks with the BBC to bring Doctor Who to Disney+ for the long-running sci-fi series 60th anniversary in 2023.

Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) takes over the helm of the TARDIS, from Jodie Whittaker, with returning showrunner Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) back at the console controls from the autumn. Davies was instrumental in the revival of Doctor Who in 2005.

It’s worth noting Doctor Who has previously been available on Amazon Prime and Netflix and is currently on HBO Max in the US. All 13 series since 2005 are on BBC iPlayer. BritBox is exclusively streaming classic episodes in the UK.

As a lifelong fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker's era with my dad, I'd welcome seeing all incarnations and spin-off series on Disney+.

Allons-y! There's a concerted effort to rekindle the franchise's popularity with mainstream audiences. David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble respectively.

Doctor Who: Unleashed will be a reboot of the fan-favourite making of spin-off Doctor Who Confidential to coincide with the 60th anniversary. Davies has hinted there's going to be more spin-offs like Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

The new series of Doctor Who, a co-production with Sony's Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials), would be an excellent addition to Disney+. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Prey wows Comic-Con

Prey, the hotly-anticipated (see what I did there?) Predator prequel directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), is released on Hulu and Disney+ in less than a fortnight.

Following a screening at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), early reactions are overwhelmingly positive.

Trachtenberg's Predator prequel is described as a lean, mean, killing machine filled with charismatic characters like John McTiernan's (Die Hard) classic original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator). If Prey reprises composer Alan Silvestri's (Back to the Future) iconic main theme...

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 too? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 22 July 2022

Howard Shore returns to The Lord of the Rings

My journey into Middle-earth began in childhood when scholarly neighbour friends gifted me a copy of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. This was shortly before a screening of Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings at the local Odeon (I still have a copy of the free promotional brochure handed out to audiences).

A few years later, Brian Sibley's audio adaptation for BBC Radio 4 and The Hobbit video game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum cemented a love of all things Tolkien.

The latest live-action adaptation of Tolkien's fantasy epic was announced in 2017 and then seemingly lost, like the one ring to rule them all, to the mists of time. All the while new competitors entered the streaming space as a pandemic engulfed the world.

On 2nd September, Amazon Prime subscribers (myself included) will be able to watch the first season of a billion-dollar prequel series entitled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Read the official synopsis:

"Prime Video's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth's history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien's pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of NĂºmenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone."

SlashFilm reports via Deadline that Hollywood composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings) is returning to the franchise. The award-winning composer will be joined by Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica).

“With their deep understanding of the Tolkien legendarium, coupled with two of the greatest musical talents of our age, we’re thrilled that Howard and Bear are joining us on this epic journey to Middle-earth,” said Bob Bowen, Worldwide Head of Music for Amazon Studios.

McCreary said:

"As I set out to compose the score for this series, I strove to honor Howard Shore's musical legacy. When I heard his majestic main title, I was struck by how perfectly his theme and my original score, though crafted separately, fit together so beautifully. I am excited for audiences to join us on this new musical journey to Middle-earth."

McCreary has released themes for Galadriel and Sauron on Amazon Music (affiliate link).

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). Prime Video brought a new trailer along.

Are you excited to return to Middle-earth for the first time since Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Steven Spielberg directs on iPhone

In 1989, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg (Jaws) cameoed in Michael Jackson’s music video for Liberian Girl. However, Spielberg wasn’t at the helm.

Fast forward to 2022. Spielberg shot his first-ever music video, on an iPhone, for Marcus Mumford's Cannibal.

Dawson’s Creek fans (myself included) will be delighted to see Spielberg's spouse, Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), as a dolly grip.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Have you played LEGO Atari today?

Ready player one? Like many video gamers from my generation, I began playing video games during the Atari age after I was gifted a VCS for my 8th birthday.

To celebrate the beloved brand's 50th anniversary, an Atari 2600 joins LEGO Icons.

“The Atari 2600 was one of the most memorable gifts I got as a kid,” LEGO designer Chris McVeigh said in a press statement. “This is why it has been such an incredible experience to bring two icons together, Atari and LEGO, in this awesome set. We hope that building this classic console takes you back to those halcyon days when a handful of pixels meant a world of adventure.”

The nostalgic set also includes a trio of game cartridges based on the classic games Asteroids, Adventure and Centipede, which can be slotted into the LEGO Atari 2600 console, and micro vignettes.

LEGO is certainly knocking it out of the park these days. I thought their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was fantastic, but this upcoming Atari 2600 set looks incredible.

LEGO Atari 2600 is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Atari 2600 to your collection? What are your favourite memories of playing Atari? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Light & Magic on Disney+

Lucasfilm has released an official trailer for Light & Magic, the upcoming Disney+ original docuseries chronicling the history of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

ILM was founded by George Lucas to produce the special effects for Star Wars. The award-winning studio is synonymous with state-of-the-art movie magic.

Light & Magic features George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, James Cameron, Kathleen Kennedy, and Lynwen Brennan, as well as ILM and VFX legends Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, Rose Duignan, Phil Tippett, Richard Edlund, Jean Bolte, Doug Chiang, and many more.

Light & Magic, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, streams exclusively on 27th July on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Light & Magic on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Cobra H.I.S.S. makes HasLab history

The 6-inch scale G.I. Joe Classified Series Cobra H.I.S.S. (High Speed Sentry) is the first HasLab campaign I've backed (since joining Hasbro Pulse Premium) because of nostalgia! Nostalgia I had for Star Wars The Black Series Rancor too. However, due to the lack of HasLab backers, The Black Series Rancor didn't go into production.

The record-breaking crowdfunded campaign was successfully backed within the first day.

The Cobra H.I.S.S. is £299.99GBP but comes with 4 action figures (including the misprinted 'Mickey Mouse' Cobra Commander) and awesome accessories. Early adopters have helped fellow G.I. Joe fans (myself included) by securing an exclusive early bird Cobra HISS Tactician action figure for free.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Action Force (the international name for G.I. Joe). I collected Q Force, SAS Force, Space Force, Z Force and Red Shadows. Palitoy used the Cobra H.I.S.S. mould for the Red Shadows' Hyena + Red Jackal (Destro repaint).

During a family vacation to Italy, the futuristic design instantly caught my childhood imagination in the pages of the Battle Action Force summer special. The Hyena soon became a firm favourite from the toy line alongside Roboskull.

HasLab has knocked the Cobra H.I.S.S. out of the park as evidenced by the crowdfunded campaign smashing through all 4 stretch goals before it ends on 16th August. Some collectors think there may be further announcements during San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC).

What are your thoughts on the HasLab Cobra H.I.S.S.? How do you feel about crowdfunded collectables? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Top Gun: Maverick soars

Top Gun soared at the box office when a material girl and moonwalker defined the popular culture zeitgeist of the 1980s.

The sequel has been a long time in the making, further delayed on the release runway due to the pandemic. Was the wait worth it?

Nick Smith, our US-based hot shot critic, experiences a thrill ride for the ages.

Guest post by Nick Smith

I’m slammed back into my seat as my jet ascends, tilting left and right, thrusting into the sky, banking down through an underground trench, spinning into a zero-G roll and slamming through a wall of steam with breath-taking speed. For a few brief minutes, I am Maverick, a Top Gun pilot, flying along the border between North and South Carolina.

I’m on the Top Gun rollercoaster ride at Carowinds, Paramount’s theme park in Charlotte, North Carolina. The feeling of being chucked about in a jet is exhilarating (I jump in the ride again and enjoy it twice in a row). The icing on this adrenaline-centred cake is the movie it’s based on, a Tom Cruise vehicle from 1986 that did rather well at the box office.

When I first saw Top Gun on TV in the ‘90s, I appreciated the iconic music and the energetic flight sequences, the key ingredient to the film’s success. Rotten Tomatoes spells it out. ‘Though it features some of the most memorable and electrifying aerial footage shot with an expert eye for action,’ the site summarizes, ‘Top Gun offers too little for non-adolescent viewers to chew on when its characters aren't in the air.’

Some viewers beg to differ. The characters are considered memorable and relatable enough to be revisited in the 2022 sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

My friend Terri Moore, who lives in Northwest Florida, has been waiting to see the follow-up film for a long time. Years, in fact (it was originally scheduled for release in 2019). She’s watched the original 50 times – she was stationed at a remote base with her husband and it was one of the only films she had on VHS! As soon as my girlfriend Dana and I saw a giant poster of The Cruiser as Maverick in our local movie theatre, we snapped a pic and sent it to Terri.

We were lucky enough to see the new film with Terri and other friends. We were all enthralled by the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it plot. Top Gun: Maverick takes the plot of 633 Squadron and gives it a twist. A group of elite pilots are tasked with destroying a nigh-impossible-to-hit target in a heavily defended valley; their chances of getting out alive are slim. Switching off their targeting computers is not an option. The twist? They’re trained by Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, a cocksure son of a gun whose stubbornness could be their downfall.

The target belongs to some bad guys of some indeterminate nationality; although this is understandable – the movie wouldn’t play well in, say, Russia if the antagonists were Russians – but as Stanley Kubrick said of his own first feature, Fear and Desire, a film’s reception can suffer from lack of such specifics. We’re given just enough clues to who the foes might be (enemy territory is snowbound and Siberia-level chilly) to help make the situation fly.

Val Kilmer makes a bravura appearance despite his throat cancer but more than that, his presence is felt throughout the movie, tying it closely to the first film. Cruise balances his act between everyman and action hero with seasoned aplomb. As his love interest, Jennifer Connelly (The Rocketeer) gives the right level of intensity and sass to make her character matter without stealing the show.

Top Gun: Maverick has been well received and has earned over half a billion dollars worldwide at the box office. I have no doubt the Terris of this world will see it more than once. To watch it with her was a true joy, her eyes wide with excitement and happiness. That excitement is palpable, thanks to the ‘real F18s, real Gs, real speed,’ as Tom Cruise made a point of mentioning in his intro that appeared before cinema screenings. You can see the actors being lurched around in genuine cockpits, giving that same sensation that the little Carowinds ride tries to muster.

The Top Gun ride has a new name now, Afterburn since Paramount Parks was bought by Cedar Fair. The jets got repainted and they just didn’t seem as fast after that. Cedar Fair didn’t think the original Top Gun had enough magic left to keep the name, little more than a throwaway Gen X joke about riding tails. I’ve heard a few comments from new viewers who’ve gone back to the ‘80s film and are inclined to agree that Top Gun doesn’t hold up. Call it a wingman to the new movie at best.

The step from Hollywood blockbuster to satire is a small one; the tentpole movies are self-referential because that’s what the audience wants – familiar stars, situations and motifs (cocky hero put through the wringer, taken down a peg or two, earns the respect of supporting characters). Those big budgeters retell stories, following tried and tested oral and theatrical traditions. It’s easy to knock commercial, masses-friendly summer films. Top Gun begat Days of Thunder, which spawned Talladega Nights; Top Gun itself had its own spoof, Hot Shots!

To avoid being considered popcorny by future audiences, is it time for a more canny, cynical take on Hollywood movies? That was tried before, most recently in the late ‘60s and ‘70s after the runaway success of Easy Rider, with lower budgets, less predictable situations and more emphasis on characters filling our screens. Box office returns were hard to predict. The success of Jaws, Star Wars and their crowd-pleasing ilk shifted the industry back to the model we have today.

In 2058, will Top Gun: Maverick seem fresh and original to the hologram-watching, interacting audiences of the day? Probably not. But they’ll always appreciate Cruise’s drive, his maverick archetype, and those real Gs.

Have you seen Top Gun: Maverick? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 9 July 2022

LEGO Super Mario big boss Bowser

This October, LEGO in partnership with Nintendo is releasing an interactive 12-inch LEGO Super Mario The Mighty Bowser as part of the beloved brick building brand's Sets for Adults.

In the wake of a global pandemic, adults (myself included) have turned to LEGO for nostalgia and mindfulness. It's worth reiterating LEGO was instrumental in my recovery from a life-changing brain injury in childhood.

LEGO Space deserves a special mention in the late seventies, and I'm really looking forward to building the Galaxy Explorer when it goes on sale in August (those LEGO VIP Points will come in handy).

However, I do have a backlog of builds including Forest Hideout, Optimus Prime and T. rex Breakout. But you can never have too much LEGO, eh?

“Bowser is, quite simply, the ultimate boss – and we’re delighted to announce that we’re introducing this oversized version to the LEGO Super Mario adult line for a little added peril,” said Carl Merriam, Senior Designer, LEGO Super Mario. “Since we launched LEGO Super Mario two years ago, we’ve been on such a journey – gradually expanding with the most iconic and recognizable characters of the LEGO Super Mario universe.

The nearly 3000-piece set is mighty in every sense and a must-have for LEGO and Nintendo fans (myself included) this holiday season.

“Adding LEGO Super Mario The Mighty Bowser really is a blast from the past for many Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs). He might be the big boss, but he still brings back a warm feeling of nostalgia to adult Super Mario fans worldwide. Just as defeating Bowser was always the ultimate challenge in the Super Mario games, here we’re challenging fans to build the King of the Koopas from nearly 3,000 pieces. We know they’re up to the task and will be chomping at the bit to get their hands on this great new addition to the Super Mario line.”

LEGO Super Mario The Mighty Bowser is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Super Mario The Mighty Bowser to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 8 July 2022

Apple TV+ aims at Pixar with Luck

Following an Oscar win for CODA, Apple looks to an animated success with Luck.

Read the official synopsis:

"From Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation comes the story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world, who when she stumbles into the never-before-seen Land of Luck, sets out on a quest to bring some good luck home for her best friend. But with humans not allowed, her only chance is teaming up with the magical creatures who live there to do it."

The Cupertino-based tech titan is aiming at Pixar. Disney bought Pixar, originally the Graphics Group at Lucasfilm, from the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2006.

The fan-favourite animation studio that once overshadowed the House of Mouse with Toy Story has been in decline in recent years. Most recently, Lightyear failed to capture the imagination of critics and audiences alike.

Luck streams exclusively on Apple TV+ on 5th August.

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

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

LEGO Ideas "E.T. Phone Home" diorama

LEGO Ideas previously gave us Doctor Who, TRON: Legacy, Voltron, Sesame Street and Home Alone.

How about a diorama to celebrate the 40th anniversary of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? In 1982, director Steven Spielberg's (Jurassic Park) tale of an abandoned alien befriending a boy left audiences spellbound.

That's the ultimate goal of two talented brick designers, CabbageFaceBricks (CFLEGO) and Boom Brickz, and, like Elliott and E.T., they'll be over the moon with your help here.

"We wanted to re-create this iconic scene in LEGO form and what better way to do this than in a diorama. We have created a diorama with the large moon in the background, as it's seen in the movie, flying over the forest, grasses and bushes. Included in the build are 2 plaques, one with the E.T. Logo and the other with the quote “E.T. Phone Home”, Elliot and E.T. Minifigures, Elliott's bicycle and a brick-built moon."

LEGO Star Wars dioramas are a thing. So why not expand the theme with iconic scenes from fan-favourite movies?

What do you think of this LEGO Ideas creation? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 4 July 2022

John Williams retiring from movie music

Happy 4th of July to all our US-based readers! As has become an annual tradition, I'll be watching director Steven Spielberg's seminal summer blockbuster, Jaws.

The shark was brought vividly to life by Hollywood composer John Williams' unforgettable Oscar-winning soundtrack.

Williams, who celebrated his 90th birthday in February, has suggested the soundtrack for Indiana Jones 5 may be his last for the big screen. He most recently composed the main theme for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

“At the moment I’m working on ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ which Harrison Ford — who’s quite a bit younger than I am — I think has announced will be his last film,” Williams says. “So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.”

The legendary movie music maestro, synonymous with the films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, has wowed generations of moviegoers and, by extension, scored the soundtrack to our lives. Oftentimes those lush scores transcend the movie itself.

SpaceCamp is a perfect example.

For years I've had to settle for listening to a suite from SpaceCamp on Star Tracks II, performed with gusto by Erich Kunzel and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. I'm hoping to review the highly sought-after original soundtrack newly re-released by Intrada.

Williams has intuitively drawn on the timeless tapestries of forebears such as Erich Korngold, Gustav Holst and many more. As a child, I vividly remember listening to Holst’s Mars: The Bringer of War and excitedly thinking it reminded me of the Death Star trench battle from Star Wars: A New Hope. Mum graciously indulged this revelation.

It’s virtually inconceivable to think there potentially won’t be any further movie soundtracks bearing Williams’ name. However, he leaves an enviable legacy spanning six decades that will be listened to for generations to come.

Somewhere an aspiring cinephile will be discovering his soundtracks for the first time on Amazon Music, Apple Music and Spotify like I did in HMV.

What are your favourite John Williams soundtracks? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Return of Star Wars Celebration Europe

"I've got a bad feeling about this!" 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Tickets for Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 went on sale last Thursday.

Like many fans, I joined the queuing system (seemingly more of a lottery) and waited for over an hour to discover the 4-day tickets were, unsurprisingly, sold out!

When I could purchase tickets, individual tickets for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday were still available at hugely inflated prices. Profiteering much in these challenging times, ReedPop and Disney?

To compound matters. As a disabled Star Wars fan, I couldn’t see any information regarding whether or not I needed to buy 1 or 2 tickets for the 4-day event in April! As a consequence, like others, I have most likely missed out.

Of course, I was delighted a few friends had managed to secure 4-day tickets. I have reached out to ReedPop for a comment. ReedPop's reply is nebulous and misses the point.

“Thank you for reaching out. Star Wars Celebration is dedicated to creating an accessible event for all. Detailed information regarding accommodations for deaf and disabled fans will be available at a later date. Please check our website frequently for updates."

As I've written previously, Star Wars Celebration Europe is fantastic fun (with a bit of judicious planning) and a unique opportunity to meet fellow fans and forge new friendships through all things Star Wars. For example, I'm still in contact with fans I met from Australia in 2016.

As a blogger, I've had the exciting opportunity to work with Lucasfilm licensees since the first-ever Star Wars Celebration Europe in 2007. In fact, I was kindly invited along as a guest by Dorling Kindersley (DK). However, I couldn't attend due to personal matters.

Are you attending Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023? Did you manage to get a 4-day pass? Let me know in the comments below.