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
OutRun
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.