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!