Sunday 27 February 2022

That's a wrap for Indiana Jones 5

On Sunday, producer Frank Marshall tweeted Indiana Jones 5 had wrapped principal photography.

The upcoming sequel in the storied franchise created by George Lucas (Star Wars), directed by James Mangold (Logan), will be the first from Lucasfilm following its acquisition by Disney in 2012 and without Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark) at the helm.

"I understand wariness, I live it," Mangold took to Twitter after some fans reacted negatively to leaked photos last summer. "I don't know if I'll make you happy but my team and I will knock ourselves out trying to make something good. We admire the craft of the originals. I hope when you see real images, they'll look better to you than paparazzi shots from bushes.

"Maybe, just maybe, I won't let you down. I cherish old Hollywood pictures. Give me a little air to make the film. Then make your judgements, okay?"

John Williams is back composing music for the man in the hat played by Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones).

Will Indiana Jones 5 be a legacy sequel comparable to stablemate Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Fans (myself included) will find out on 30th June 2023.

Friday 25 February 2022

Megatron mash-up for G.I. Joe's 40th

Hasbro's G.I. Joe and Transformers took pride of place alongside Masters of the Universe, M.A.S.K., Star Wars and Zoids in my toy room. This collection was amassed from the much-missed Exeter's Pram and Toy Shop. Mostly.

In the UK, G.I. Joe was rebranded as Action Force by Palitoy. The beloved Coalville-based toy company recently featured on A Toy Store Near You, licensed and produced a range of products (including Star Wars) from Kenner and Hasbro. Ultimately, Hasbro bought both companies.

The Transformers soon followed. I first discovered the Decepticon cassette 2-packs during a half-term holiday trip to one of dad's customers based in Tiverton. The rebranded puzzle toys (based on Diaclone and Micro Change) instantly captured my childhood imagination.

Alongside Takara Tomy stablemate Zoids, Transformers cemented a fascination for Japanese pop culture that had begun with the Micronauts in the wake of Star Wars.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of G.I. Joe, Hasbro Pulse has announced a Megatron H.I.S.S. Tank with a vintage Baroness action figure. The Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank was renamed Hyena and included Red Jackal in the UK. The Hyena quickly became a favourite combined with the Red Shadows' Shadowtrak, Laser Exterminator and Roboskull from Palitoy.

Read the official product description:

"Transformers robots have always been -- More Than Meets the Eye -- but now, through the Transformers Collaborative, fans can experience these larger than life characters as they team-up, mash-up, and meet up with other characters, teams, and people who share this same special quality. Worlds collide in this Transformers-G.I. Joe mash-up pack! The Decepticons and Cobra team up to conquer the world! Baroness and Megatron, disguised as a H.I.S.S. Tank, plan the next Cobra attack. The Megatron H.I.S.S. Tank toy converts from robot to tank mode in 28 steps and comes with G.I. Joe Retro Baroness figure. Both figures feature deco and details based on the worlds of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Includes fusion cannon, backpack, and weapon accessories. Accurate scale to the 1983 H.I.S.S. Tank toy. Display Baroness figure at the turret and in the H.I.S.S. tank vehicle mode. Packaging is inspired by a mash-up of the classic ’80s toys with retro artwork. Baroness toy comes on a card back with file card."

This would have been a dream toy back in the day and it's surprising Hasbro took this long.

I've pre-ordered mine for toy photography from Hasbro Pulse but it's also available from selected retailers including Amazon (affiliate link).

What are your thoughts on the new Megatron H.I.S.S. Tank mash-up? How does it compare to Star Wars and Marvel Transformers crossovers? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home is coming home

On Wednesday, Sony Pictures announced Spider-Man: No Way Home is coming home digitally this March.

A popular internet meme based on the sixties animated Spider-Man series was recreated featuring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire.

Nick Smith raved about the blockbusting movie in his spoiler-free review. Soon fans (myself included) will be able to watch it digitally on 22nd March and on 4K UHD Blu-ray on 4th April. No news on when it'll premiere on Netflix.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is available to pre-order (affiliate link).

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi duels Darth Vader

LRM Online exclusively reports Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) will clash twice in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off on Disney+!

The site goes on to suggest battles between the former friends will rival the very best lightsaber duels from the franchise's storied history. With the combination of Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) StageCraft and director Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian) at the helm of the six-part special event series, there's no reason to be in any doubt.

Understandably, some fans are confused as to why these titans of sci-fi clashed, again, before the original Star Wars trilogy? However, in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader suggests to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) that his former friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, had tried to turn him back from the dark side of the Force.

Therefore, there's plenty of storytelling scope during the intervening years between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope. This is an opportunity to fully explore the tragedy of Obi-Wan Kenobi's greatest failure and the rise of an evil Empire.

I'd be very surprised if Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) doesn't make an appearance along with Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) as a Force ghost and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits).

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?

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 25th May.

Are you looking forward to the latest live-action Star Wars spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

LEGO Star Wars developer diary

The fine folks at WB Games have sent over a behind-the-scenes look at 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:

"Warner Bros. Games, TT Games, the LEGO Group and Lucasfilm Games released a new, behind-the-scenes video spotlighting the evolution of LEGO® Star Wars™ video games with the development of LEGO® Star Wars™: The Skywalker Saga, the most ambitious LEGO video game to date. This epic retelling of the legendary saga with fresh LEGO humor includes a new third-person perspective, new combat mechanics for visceral in-game action, iconic ships built brick by brick, and the fan favorite, Mumble Mode. The behind-the-scenes video documents the collaboration between the partners to deliver something special for fans, along with developer insight into some of the Easter eggs players will find in the game, such as Pew Pew Mode, which humorously replaces all weapon sound effects with phonetic mouth noises that simulate blasters, lightsabers and more!"

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.

Monday 21 February 2022

Is Peacemaker good?

Peacemaker is a spin-off from The Suicide Squad, which I've yet to see on Sky Cinema. Director James Gunn's follow-up series is a hit on HBO Max.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru busy filming on location in the Imperial Sand Dunes (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), takes a break from Marvel Comics to check out DC's latest live-action series.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The world needs a lot of things right now – ambassadors, conciliators, Nobel prize-fighters. What it doesn’t need is an obnoxious assassin who thinks he’s a superhero, with a Neo-Nazi dad and a four-year prison record. But that’s what James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) gives us in his HBO series, Peacemaker.

Gunn’s 2021 movie The Suicide Squad threw a group of awkward, abnormal villains together and made them sympathetic. The square amongst these oddballs was Peacemaker (John Cena), who was incapable of fitting in with his teammates and turned out to be the most dangerous squaddie of all.

Christopher Smith AKA Peacemaker (John Cena), a Charlton comics character inherited by DC, has always been low on the hero tier. With his shiny ‘beacon of freedom’ helmet and bright uniform, he’s always been ridiculous and unsettling – with his brutal take on making peace, he was the basis for The Comedian in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Gunn uses the character’s flaws as the foundation for an eight-episode series that is by turns satirical, goofy and hilarious. Sometimes all three.

The satire is mostly aimed at toxic masculinity; Peacemaker’s years in prison mean he has to be schooled in the art of living in our polite, easily-offended modern society. When the joke’s not on the title character, it’s on his nerdy Government colleagues or on daft DC characters like Matter-Eater Lad and Judomaster. There’s even a blink-missed reference to that scourge of the skies, Kite Man, who really likes kites.

The series is well written, although no exposition goes by without the characters engaging in smack talk or comedic dialogue. Gunn, who wrote all eight episodes, obviously has great affection for comic books and the American way of life he lampoons. Cena shows great aptitude for comic timing, never afraid to make fun of his muscle-bound self. Robert Patrick gives a gung-ho performance as Peacemaker’s despicable dad, Auggie Smith. Peacemaker’s helpers are all likeable and there are some cute movie references (The Hidden, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to add an extra layer to the lavish visuals.

However, most of the adventures are grounded in a depressingly real United States of suburbs, duct-taped trailer homes, strip malls, sexist bars and car parks. No wonder the humour has such impact, spicing up the depressing land the heroes fight for.

With its cheeky gags and characters who show no mercy teasing each other, Peacemaker lays out a manifesto for Gunn’s controversial sense of humour. Poking fun at everything he can think of, Gunn manages to have his cake and eat it too. And nothing makes Peace like a piece of cake.

Are you watching Peacemaker on HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 19 February 2022

An end to Stranger Things

Our time in the Upside Down is coming to an end. Sadly, not the real-life pandemic but Stranger Things.

The sci-fi series premiered on Netflix in 2016 becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Upon release, I described Stranger Things as a spellbinding homage to the 1980s.

Netflix has announced season 4 will be the penultimate season.

"Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things. At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four, but – as you'll soon see for yourselves – we are now hurtling toward our finale. Season 4 will be the penultimate season; season 5 will be the last." wrote the Duffer brothers in a statement.

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

Are you hyped for the return of Stranger Things? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 18 February 2022

John Williams composes theme for Obi-Wan

John Williams recently celebrated his 90th birthday. However, the veteran Hollywood composer, intrinsically linked with the movies of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, shows no sign of retiring.

Not only is he hard at work composing music for Indiana Jones 5, but Variety also reports John Williams has composed the main theme for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, which was recorded under tight security last week.

The Oscar-winning composer composed and conducted all nine soundtracks for the Skywalker Saga and composed The Adventures of Han for Solo: A Star Wars Story. I was already excited for the six-part special event series set a decade after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith on Disney+.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 25th May.

Are you looking forward to the latest live-action Star Wars spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

The Scrapbook of Boba Fett

The Book of Boba Fett has concluded on Disney+ and I've enjoyed my Star Wars Weekly fix as we wait for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi and the third season of The Mandalorian later this year. There are going to be spicy spoilers.

Once Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) escaped the Sarlacc pit, and the dopamine nostalgia hit wore off, too much time was spent in flashback with the Tusken Raiders (replete with knowing nods to Solo: A Star Wars Story and Dune) to the series' detriment and character development (looking at you Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen)).

This is typified when Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) arrives and steals the show - with his dangerous Darksaber - as Boba Fett naps in a bacta tank. If you snooze, you lose in this galaxy.

Not for the first time, executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni make the prequels cool with thrilling callbacks as Din Djarin searches for a new starship to replace the Razor Crest with the aid of Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), her derp-droids and Jawa allies. Lucasfilm, give Peli Motto her own spin-off series.

When Din Djarin tells Fennec Shand that he has to see a small friend (Grogu) before battling the Pyke Syndicate for control of Tatooine, I assumed we wouldn’t see him again until the season finale of The Book of Boba Fett. Wrong, was I.

The Force moves in mysterious ways.

On an enigmatic forest planet, R2-D2 greets Din Djarin and I’m an ugly mess. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni bring a young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) back after his surprise cameo in The Mandalorian second season finale. Jedi Masters aren't just for Christmas.

Seeing Luke Skywalker teaching Grogu the ways of the Force, in a reprise of the training scenes in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is overwhelming. How I wished my mum was alive to see it, she would have adored Baby Yoda. Not only does Luke Skywalker return but Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), too. Seeing the fan-favourites side-by-side is the stuff of sword and sorcery.

The arrival of Jabba the Hutt's twin cousins promised a fun clash with the titular bounty hunter only for the spice-hungry duo to hastily leave Tatooine due to the Pyke Syndicate. These Hutts aren't galactic gangsters worthy of Jabba's family tree.

In the original Star Wars trilogy, Boba Fett would have gunned down the teenage Tatooine biker gang instead of enlisting them as nothing beats a pet rancor, a parting gift from the retreating Hutt twins, channelling King Kong! The cringeworthy Power Ranger rejects added nothing beyond the slowest speeder chase in the franchise's storied history and Marty McFly would have had no problem outrunning them in Back to the Future.

Grogu forsakes Jedi training. As Din Djarin and Grogu fly into an uncertain future aboard a customised Naboo Starfighter, there's a sense of impending tragedy for the survivor of Order 66 and his father figure.

The Book of Boba Fett, dog-eared and frayed around the edges like any well-read comic book should be, begins to weave the connective tissue together. Despite being a scrappier version of The Mandalorian, it was a love letter to fans of George Lucas' space opera on the big and small screen. If you've seen the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Clones Wars, Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Bad Batch, you were in seventh heaven. I know I was.

Deepfake technology is making such rapid progress, a live-action adaptation of Star Wars: Dark Empire feels closer, but may never be. Because reasons.

In a few weeks, we’ll be back on Tatooine for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. I'm ready to spend more time in a galaxy far, far away… Are you? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 14 February 2022

Doctor Strange shatters Super Bowl

To the disappointment of many Star Wars fans (myself included), Lucasfilm was a no-show during Super Bowl LVI. Perhaps the Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer is being held back for Star Wars Day?

Stablemate Marvel Studios stepped up with new trailers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Moon Knight. The former seemingly confirms a connection with Marvel Studios' What If...? and calls back to director Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead series.

The Thanos Blip continues to have consequences for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

“The multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little,” says Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). “It was the only way… But I never meant for any of this to happen.”

Doctor Strange 2 follows mind-bending events in WandaVision, Loki, What If...? and Spider-Man: No Way Home by introducing Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Doctor Strange battle evil doppelgängers as the fate of the multiverse lies in the balance.

Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is exclusively in cinemas on 6th May.

What Easter eggs did you spot in the Super Bowl trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 13 February 2022

Go Amblin' in The Adam Project

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) reunites with Free Guy director Shawn Levy (Stranger Things) for a timey-wimey nostalgia trip that Netflix has become synonymous with since Stranger Things and Lost in Space.

Netflix has released an official teaser trailer for The Adam Project.

Read the official synopsis:

"After accidentally crash-landing in 2022, time-traveling fighter pilot Adam Reed teams up with his 12-year-old self on a mission to save the future."

Like Super 8, the upcoming movie is a love letter to kids (myself included) who grew up watching E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Last Starfighter, Explorers and Flight of the Navigator.

The Adam Project is set to premiere exclusively on Netflix on 11th March.

What did you think of the teaser trailer? Did you get the Amblin and Lucasfilm feels like me? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 12 February 2022

Obi-Wan on 45th anniversary of Star Wars

Hello there! On Wednesday, The Book of Boba Fett had barely closed before Lucasfilm announced when Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney+.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi won't be released on Star Wars Day as many fans (myself included) thought. Instead, it will coincide with the 45th anniversary of the North American release of the original Star Wars movie directed by George Lucas.

Very little is known about the six-part special event series set a decade after the cataclysmic events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. However, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen will reprise the roles of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader respectively.

"I always felt there was a story between Episode III where I finished playing Obi-Wan in the movies and Episode IV where Alec Guinness is Obi-Wan Kenobi," Ewan McGregor said during an interview with Forbes magazine.

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

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 25th May.

Are you looking forward to the latest live-action Star Wars spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 10 February 2022

Life finds a way in Jurassic World Dominion

Universal Pictures has released an official trailer for Jurassic World Dominion.

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

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."

The original Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg with an assist from George Lucas, spawned a multimedia franchise and paved the way for the Star Wars prequels. Kenner's electronic T-Rex remains one of my favourite collectibles and Mattel's latest line of toys is hugely popular with generations of fans.

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

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Star Wars composer John Williams at 90

John Williams needs no introduction. The award-winning Hollywood composer is synonymous with the movies of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. He turns 90 today, and I'd like to wish him a very happy birthday.

For seven decades, John Williams has written the soundtrack to the lives of generations of movie-goers (myself included) and continues to add emotional gravitas to summer blockbusters.

When I began the long journey of rehabilitation following a life-changing childhood trauma in 1977, his music for Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Superman: The Movie gave me inspiration and hope at a time of deep uncertainty about the future.

Every weekday lunchtime at home (the primary school I was moved to wouldn't accept liability outside of classroom hours) I'd eat a snack, play a John Williams soundtrack LP, and let my imagination soar as Palitoy Star Wars and Fisher-Price Adventure People action figures embarked on another galaxy-saving adventure.

John Williams' music for the 9-part Skywalker Saga is regarded as a touchstone - an education in the use of leitmotifs to tell a story spanning generations. The beloved composer shows no signs of retiring and is currently composing music for Indiana Jones 5.

From Harry Potter to Star Wars. What are your favourite John Williams soundtracks? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 7 February 2022

May the Fourth be with Obi-Wan Kenobi

Marvel Comics has announced a new Star Wars: Obi-Wan 5-issue miniseries, written by Christopher Cantwell with art by Ario Anindito coming this May. I'll use a Jedi mind trick on Nick Smith for a review.

"Writing Yoda was surreal. Getting that speech pattern right isn’t as easy as it sounds. And I’ve always loved Qui-Gon. He’s my favorite part of the prequels and such a fascinating character. Anakin proved trickier, because he’s as multifaceted as a diamond." Cantwell told "But it’s been a joy touching upon them all, and also playing with some beloved alien species and even creating a couple new characters that I think integrate well into the larger universe."

This coincides with Star Wars Day and it's rumoured the Disney+ live-action series, starring Ewan McGregor as the titular Jedi Master, will premiere on May the Fourth.

Very little is known about the six-part special event series directed by Deborah Chow (The Mandalorian). However, Hayden Christensen will reprise the role of Darth Vader.

Read the official synopsis for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith where Kenobi faced his greatest defeat, the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker turned evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.”

Spoiler warning for The Book of Boba Fett currently streaming on Disney+.

Anticipation for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series is fever pitch. More so since the appearance of Ahsoka, Luke Skywalker, Mandalorian, Grogu and Cad Bane in The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau are weaving George Lucas' galactic tapestry together.

There's a renewed level of excitement surrounding the storied franchise comparable to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Saturday 5 February 2022

Make Mine Spider-Man

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a box office behemoth and I can't wait to see the beloved web-slinger's latest adventure when it debuts on Netflix.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, enters a multiverse of Marvel's making.

Guest post by Nick Smith

2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took a charming swing at celebrating Spidey’s history, with turns from Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir and even Peter Porker. The animated feature was a joy to watch and a deserved hit. But was a live-action multiverse adventure feasible, or would it be a futile exercise in fan pandering? Fortunately, the former is true.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the most accomplished and heart-warming Marvel movies so far.

In Spider-Man: No Way Home, J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) has outed 17-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as – gasp! – the vigilante super-hero Spider-Man. This rotten revelation adversely affects the lives of Peter, his besties Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya) and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). The only person who seems to come out smelling of roses is Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), who proclaims himself Peter’s real BFF and has a book out to prove it.

Peter goes to fellow Avenger Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help. Strange casts a spell to help the world forget Spider-Man’s alias. Unfortunately, the spell goes wrong and worlds collide as other super-powered characters, who know his true identity, are pulled from alternate Earths.

DC does multiple worlds well, at least on TV; The CW’s shows have already schooled modern audiences on multiverses and different variations of characters. Many made charming cameos in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, from 1960s Robin (Burt Ward) to the current movie Flash (Ezra Miller) meeting his TV equal (Grant Gustin).

It’s a hard act to follow, but Marvel does it in its hyper-real, epic style that tugs at the heartstrings and leaves you wanting more. Amidst the action and character-based comedy, there are strong themes of loyalty and redemption. To say who gets redeemed would spoil this movie’s surprises – let’s just say some of the pay-offs are decades in the making.

All the Tom Holland Spider-Man films have been satisfying but this one respects its legacy by referring to previous entries in the saga, complete with music cues, familiar phrases (‘with great power…’) and several sinister villains.

Although the story presupposes knowledge of Avengers and Spider-Man lore, that’s balanced with characters popping into our world and being surprised – magic exists here? There’s a guy who turns green? – giving newbies a chance to relate to the far-fetched drama.

The actors help to sell the fairytale aspects of the plot as well as the more everyday drama (getting into college, actions having consequences). Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) gets more charismatic with each of his films. Zendaya (MJ) and Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds) are perfect supporting players. Alfred Molina picks up his sympathetic portrayal of Doc Ock, last seen in 2004’s Spiderman 2, as if he never left it. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange provides a perfect wry remedy for Peter Parker’s teenage turmoil.

We’ve seen Doctor Strange’s eye-bending, twisted planes of existence before but a crack between dimensions opens new realms of possibility. It would be fantastic to see the Negative Zone or Jack Kirby starfields in full effect.

There’s no dispute that DC lay the multidimensional groundwork for contemporary viewers to accept different takes on favourite characters and stories. Nevertheless, since Spider-Man: No Way Home captures the humanity and down-to-earth concerns of its characters – the heroes and villains – there’s no contest. Marvel does it better.

Have you seen Spider-Man: No Way Home? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 4 February 2022

Back to The Matrix

The summer of 1999 was all about George Lucas' Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Britney Spears.

Then there was a glitch in the Hollywood studio system. The Matrix happened.

I went along to The Picturehouse to see the much-heralded movie (ironically using a free complimentary ticket following a disastrous first screening of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) with a friend (from work) and we found ourselves immersed in a high-octane version of Dark City. We were spellbound. The next day, I went back to see The Matrix with another friend to ensure I wasn't suffering from celluloid false consciousness.

Like the original Star Wars, The Matrix sent seismic shocks through popular culture. At the time, I was coding my first-ever website on an iMac DV SE (using a free copy of Claris Home Page included with Macworld magazine) and always regret not reviewing it.

The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions soon followed with diminishing returns. I still haven't seen the latter for various reasons.

Can The Matrix Resurrections reboot the franchise like Star Wars: The Force Awakens did for a galaxy far, far away..? Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, plugs back in.

Guest post by Nick Smith

In 1999 the information superhighway was a scary place for many. There was a genuine concern over the Millennium Bug, where computer errors seemed likely as data ran the risk of resetting for the year 2000. Raised on a diet of The Terminator, The Lawnmower Man and, most terrifying of all, You’ve Got Mail, we knew computers – and more specifically the internet they served – could only be trusted with a very long barge pole.

The Wachowskis tapped into these fears with The Matrix, a movie that blended action with existentialism, loss of identity with the finding of faith wrapped up in a wham-bam Hollywood package.

Although the internet was still new to the public, they had been using and exploring it for a few years. America was Online and it had questions. How did the internet fit in with the real world? Could a second life be lived in cyberspace? How did this almost abstract tech fit with other abstract concepts, like unconditional belief?

23 years later, some of the fears expressed in The Matrix have come true. We have given up our identities, or at least our personal information, to white men in suits – companies like Google and Amazon – in return for a discount on a nice juicy steak or distractions from the real world.

Educational, collaborative sites such as Wikipedia reflect the internet’s original intention. But Wiki continues to beg for money while social networks like Twitter and Instagram share its Top 10 popularity as some of the world’s most-visited websites. We all want to live our best lives; if some of us can’t do it IRL, we can Photoshop ourselves to succeed online.

There are plenty of benefits to our souped-up society. Access to information, digital technology, TikTok. You’d have to be crazy to question your existence in our slipstream Eden. But that’s just what Keanu Reeves’ character, Thomas Anderson, does in The Matrix Resurrections.

When I saw The Matrix in the late ‘90s, it had been hyped up as a great movie. I was impressed with the special effects but disappointed by the acting and derivative storytelling. A lot of the narrative seemed to come from comic books, Hong Kong action flicks, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I was not surprised when I later learned that the Wachowskis developed the concept as a graphic novel before it became a film – the main characters crashed around like superheroes.

I noted, sadly, that it continued a filmmaking trend of rehashing previous ideas, an inclination that could only lead to creative bankruptcy. Sure, Hollywood has done that since it started cranking out feature-length versions of its silent shorts but surely there were other avenues to explore?

The sequels took a twist, focusing more on the dystopian ‘real world’ than the made-up matrix built by machines to keep humans in a dream state. The third film wrapped up tightly with the death of some major characters but a hopeful future for the rest. How could the Matrix be resurrected?

The new film is not a reboot, although it comments on the rebranding of similar franchises. It’s more of a celebration of the original trilogy, using classic clips and new footage that echoes memorable footage from The Matrix (bullet-time balletics; casings falling from a helicopter gun). Its framework takes a meta look at the franchise’s success, with characters looking back on it fondly and trying to rebrand it in a corporate meeting. ‘Our beloved parent company, Warner Brothers, has decided to make a sequel to the trilogy,’ says a boss called Smith, ‘…they're gonna do it with or without us.’ By rooting the film in a ‘real world,’ the filmmakers are able to comment on the way technology is used to distract an apathetic populace from what’s really important, like empathy and thoughtfulness.

Keanu Reeves returns as Thomas Anderson, struggling to discern what’s real and what’s digital. There’s a sense that this reluctant hero mirrors Reeves’ own reluctance to return to the role of Neo.

Director Lana Wachowski uses the new movie as an opportunity to spend more time in the matrix, develop strong female roles and give the whole saga a more positive spin. After the original trilogy ended on a real downer in its attempt to mirror the Jesus myth (saviour sacrifices himself to save mankind, does not pass Go, does not collect £200), Resurrections is an enriching addition to the series.

Rather than a cynical cash-in or retread, it adds a new layer to the saga and the climactic fight scenes look really good. That and Reeves’ performance make this movie much more than just a glitch. Go ahead, take the pill. Revisit The Matrix.

Have you seen The Matrix Resurrections? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Moonfall opening scene in LEGO

Moonfall, directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), is in cinemas on 4th February.

Lionsgate has commissioned an official LEGO remake of the opening scene, and now I want to see the whole movie like this.

Here's the official synopsis:

"In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, “Midway”) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley, “Game of Thrones”) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is."

LEGO Space was synonymous with my childhood as I underwent rehabilitation in the wake of a life-changing brain injury. Building the Galaxy Explorer in my parents' kitchen, whilst my legs were encased in a plaster cast (for weeks at a time), is an indelible memory.

Would you like to see LEGO Moonfall? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds first look

On Tuesday, Paramount+ shared a first look at Star Trek: Strange New Worlds with a teaser poster calling back to The Cage and the sci-fi series' western genre roots.

The Cage was the unbroadcast pilot episode for Star Trek: The Original Series, which featured Captain Pike at the helm of the USS Enterprise. It was released on home video in the mid-eighties and is one of my favourite episodes from the storied franchise.

Fast forward to the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. Anson Mount became an unexpected breakout star as Captain Pike. Suddenly, Star Trek fans (myself included) wanted a spin-off series following Pike's era aboard the USS Enterprise.

CBS All Access took notice and announced Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reunites 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 on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) on 5th May!

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

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

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Masters of the Universe movie on Netflix

Mattel Films and Netflix are producing a new live-action Masters of the Universe movie starring Kyle Allen (West Side Story) as He-Man. Mattel Films was previously developing a reboot with Sony Pictures.

Read the official synopsis:

"In Masters of the Universe, an orphan named Adam discovers he is a prince destined to be the savior of a faraway land and must quickly learn of his power and the importance of saving his true home from an evil force."

Mattel's Masters of the Universe was a monster hit in the 1980s, spawning an animated series and a live-action film starring Dolph Lundgren as the heroic He-Man and Frank Langella as his nemesis, Skeletor. Whilst the film bombed at the box office, it became a cult favourite on home video.

Netflix has become the home of all things Masters of the Universe beginning with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. This was followed by Masters of the Universe: Revelation, a continuation of the original classic series, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Both animated series have toy lines (affiliate link).

“Masters of the Universe is an iconic property that shaped the imaginations of an entire generation of kids with the message of becoming the best version of yourself,” says Robbie Brenner, executive producer of Mattel Films. “With our partners at Netflix, we look forward to showing audiences that anything can happen in Eternia. We are continuing to unlock this global franchise in new ways, and we can’t wait to see Kyle battle it out with Skeletor in this epic live-action saga.”

What are your memories of the live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man in 1987, and are you looking forward to the new movie on Netflix? Let me know in the comments below.