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.

Friday 1 July 2022

Stormtrooper unboxes a new blaster in E-11

This is the unboxing video Star Wars fans are looking for! Fan films are always fun to watch and sometimes they go above and beyond (special thanks to my friend Earl Barker for the tip-off).

Read the synopsis for E-11: Standard Issues:

"Today TK-421 shows you exclusive first pictures and outstanding test results of the new E-11 - the upcoming standard blaster rifle of the Imperial Forces. Enjoy increased precision, new firing mode and a reworked cooling system for much more power!"

If you have a Star Wars fan film you'd like to share, please contact me.