Monday 31 October 2022


It’s Halloween when the spooky season reaches its zenith. Growing up in the eighties, it was synonymous with trick-or-treating, Ghostbusters, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, teenage parties and horror movie marathons.

Hulu follows the Predator franchise-reviving Prey with a straight-to-streaming Hellraiser reboot for the selfie generation.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based horror expert, unlocks the puzzle box to discover what grotesque treats Hulu’s Hellraiser has in store for Huluween.

Guest post by Nick Smith

At the depths of its leather-bound heart, Hellraiser is for the scare junkies, the goths, the Rihannas and rule-breakers, marginalised hedonists and monster kids. The series works best when kinkily wrapped with whips and chains, oozing with dirty deeds and viscous visions.

The original Hellraiser was far from perfect, with a few bizarre transatlantic accents and medium-budget monsters. But it was a gory gateway to the mind of fantasy author Clive Barker, whose twisted sensibilities were perfect for the thrill-seeking ‘80s.

For decades, New World Pictures, Lionsgate, Miramax Films and others have been puzzling over how to take a story of sadistic demon Cenobites and make it palatable for teen horror audiences.

Now Hulu (a streaming service majority-owned by Disney) is having a crack at the franchise, with the eleventh variation on Barker’s concept, a new Pinhead (Jamie Clayton) and a higher budget than recent entries (2018’s Judgment was made for a paltry $350,000).

Disregarding its bloody baggage, the 2022 Hellraiser is a solid film with excellent cinematography and exquisite special effects makeup. The acting is credible, with Odessa A’zion portraying hell-raising addict Riley and ER’s Goran Visnjic playing Voight, a wealthy man with a big old mansion who has experienced all the earthly pleasures he can find and still wants more.

Another central character in this film is the Hellraiser puzzle box itself, an ever-morphing prop that affects the lives of all the characters. Using that cheeky little box, co-writer/co-producer David S. Goyer (Dark City) and his team deliver a cross between a Ring/Death Note story (anyone stabbed by the puzzle box could be dragged away by the Cenobites) and a young-people-trapped-in-an-old-dark-house movie.

However, there’s more to the tale than tropes; the film explores addiction, responsibility, and the positive and negative aspects of suffering. While the protagonists are under-developed with a hair’s breadth of a backstory, they’re more than mere soul fodder for Pinhead, thanks to the acting and the second act has several tense and nightmarish moments.

Like Revelations and Judgment, this Hellraiser suffers from the lack of original Pinhead Doug Bradley, although I can’t fault the franchise for trying something new; Clayton deserves another outing. After all, poor Pinhead only gets the chance to torture one character in this instalment.

If Hulu was hoping for a renewed interest in Hellraiser as with the recent Halloween trilogy, or a must-watch, fan-approved movie like Prey, it will be disappointed. However, the film is a step in the right direction back to Barker’s original world.

Have you seen Hulu's Hellraiser? How does it compare with the original? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 30 October 2022

Robosen Optimus Prime on Hasbro Pulse UK

During the 1027 Hasbro Pulse Premium Event, the Pawtucket-based company announced the official UK availability of the most advanced Transformers toy in history for the holidays.

Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime is a limited edition app-enabled robot that would make my Tomy Omnibot blush with envy, which was first released in the US for $700 in 2021.

Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime is available for pre-order from Hasbro Pulse UK to coincide with MCM London Comic Con! £999GBP is too much during a cost of living crisis. However, a slightly more affordable Elite edition has been announced for the US, too.

"We are excited to bring this lighter, more compact Optimus Prime to fans of the franchise," Sean Tang, director of Robosen USA, said in a statement.

"The re-engineered scale offers a smooth, fast conversion, making the Elite Optimus Prime more agile and speedy," he continued, "which we're thrilled to once again bring to life for all our fans and customers, through our collaboration with Hasbro."

12-year-old me would be awestruck unboxing Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime on Christmas Day.

What do you think? Would you spend £999 on a robotic transforming Optimus Prime? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 27 October 2022

The Power of the Doctor

The Power of the Doctor is the last of three Doctor Who specials marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord in 2022.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, boards the TARDIS for a final adventure with the Thirteenth Doctor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Sacha Dhawan is the Doctor! A least for a little while in the 90-minute BBC centenary special episode of Doctor Who. He shines brighter than a Castrovalvan dawn, giving the strongest performance in a story chock-full of characters.

Aside from Dhawan and departing Doctor Jodie Whittaker, don’t blink or you’ll miss Sophie Aldred (Ace), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), John Bishop (Dan), Jacob Anderson (Vinder) and several more that I can’t mention for fear of being hauled away by River Song. Because spoilers, sweetie!

Suffice it to say that the power of nostalgia is strong; writer/showrunner Chris Chibnall bets that it’s strong enough to glue an anniversary adventure together.

We are in the age of surprise guest appearances, thanks to the success of The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Picard. Visual pyrotechnics take precedence over the deep-dive character development so many British shows, including some of Chibnall’s, are known for.

Those shows have time to broaden their heroes and villains; Doctor Who does not, hurtling through time and space at breakneck speed and hoping something sticks in our rose-tinted brains.

It’s a testament to the companion actors’ abilities that it would have been better to have a story devoted to Tegan, Ace, Dan or Yaz alone. Dhawan’s scenes are also too few but as with the other actors, he achieves a lot with the little he has.

As the Master forces the Doctor to regenerate into him and cosplays as his nemesis, Dhawan has a ball with the situation in scenes that must be a dream come true to a Who-loving actor like him.

Sadly, the conclusion to this adventure seemed rushed and we don’t get to say goodbye to the Master, most of the companions or other, very special characters who turn up. Instead, we’re told that the friends have been ‘dropped off’ out of view.

A lot of lore has grown around Ace in particular and it’s good to see that this story doesn’t go out of its way to contradict the New Adventures and the Big Finish audio stories. We meet a mature Ace with experience that could have been gained in outer space or Perivale – it’s left up to us to decide.

Another potential pitfall was the close proximity of Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary in 2023.

With so much to celebrate, Chibnall could have chosen to avoid any references to the show’s past. That’s not his style. He finds ingenious ways to commemorate old favourites without grinding the adventure to a halt.

"I didn’t want to tread on anything that might be happening in future," Chibnall told The Mirror. "I didn’t tell anyone we were going to be doing it, I just put it in the script. It’s about as metaphysical as the show’s been."

Doctor Who can be abstract, concrete, comical, scary or even silly. Chibnall has tried all these approaches with overall successful results, and the potluck The Power of the Doctor is no exception. With something to please even the grouchiest of fans, the centenary special is appropriate to a world of memes, leaked tweet pix and binge-watches, all counting on nostalgia to stir the brew.

With iconic visual elements trumping substance, I predict that Chibnall’s era will be beloved by the kids watching it, who will grow into the next adult generation of fans.

Just as the Star Wars prequels have a following, so will the Thirteenth Doctor’s stories. Which begs the question, which Doctor Who character is the equivalent of Jar Jar Binks?

The series 13 specials are available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Power of the Doctor? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Doctor Who coming to Disney+

As rumoured months ago, Disney+ is the new home of Doctor Who outside the UK and Ireland from 2023.

Today the BBC and Disney issued a joint announcement along with a new logo that harkens back to the iconic diamond logo from my childhood. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

On Sunday, Jodie Whittaker bowed out of the series in the centenary special, The Power of the Doctor. Whittaker mysteriously 'degenerated' into David Tennant ahead of three 60th anniversary specials starting in November 2023! Ncuti Gatwa takes the helm of the TARDIS during a holiday special.

Russell T Davies says: "I love this show, and this is the best of both worlds – with the vision and joy of the BBC and Disney+ together we can launch the TARDIS all around the planet, reaching a new generation of fans while keeping our traditional home firmly on the BBC in the UK."

Previously, new series of Doctor Who aired overseas on networks such as BBC America, AMC+ and HBO Max.

Charlotte Moore, BBC's Chief Content Officer says: "We are thrilled to announce this exciting global partnership with Disney who are the perfect partners to bring this very British show to the rest of the world. Russell T Davies' vision for Doctor Who has always been out of this world and we are committed to ensuring that audiences across the globe get the opportunity to enjoy the Doctor's epic adventures with the scale and ambition that they deserve. Joining forces with Disney will elevate the show to even greater heights and reach new audiences so it's an extremely exciting time for fans in the UK and across the world."

The fan-favourite Time Lord is no stranger to streaming services. The beloved BBC sci-fi series has appeared on Amazon Prime and Netflix and the classic series streams exclusively on BritBox. However, Doctor Who will be alongside Marvel Studios and Star Wars franchises on Disney+.

Alisa Bowen, President, Disney+ says: "We're excited by the opportunity to bring new seasons of this beloved franchise exclusively to Disney+ and introduce the show to the next generation of audiences in more than 150 markets around the world. The series is a perfect addition to our ever-growing catalog of global content that continues to make Disney+ the home for exceptional storytelling."

All in all, this guarantees a very bright future for Doctor Who.

Ayo Davis, President, Disney Branded Television says: "Doctor Who has captivated the imaginations of families around the world for the past six decades. We are so excited about this collaboration with the BBC, and the opportunity to bring this iconic franchise – and Russell T Davies' brilliant vision – to life for a huge new global audience. Grab your sonic screwdrivers and prepare to travel through time and space!"

Whilst it's worth noting this is an exclusive distribution deal with Disney, the new series is expected to utilise Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) StageCraft developed for Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian. It's also likely there'll be new merchandising opportunities that could encompass Disney Parks.

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

Monday 24 October 2022

Masters of the Universe at 40

40 years ago, He-Man and Skeletor were unleashed on toy aisles! I was off school sick when my late mum surprised me with these amazing action figures that had seemingly stepped off the pages of Fighting Fantasy…

Fast forward to 2022. Mattel Creations' Masters of the Universe Origins Eternia Playset is already successfully crowdfunded ahead of November's deadline. Early bird backers got King Grayskull as an exclusive bonus action figure. Moaty, the moat monster tier 2 unlock, has become a social media sensation with fans (myself included) calling for Mattel to release the figure separately in the future.

To celebrate He-Man's 40th birthday, Nick Smith, our US-based pop culture philosopher, examines the enduring appeal of Masters of the Universe.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Even He-Man can’t fight the ravages of time. The muscle-bound hero turns 40 this year. He’s yet to get a middle-aged spread and his blonde locks show no sign of pattern baldness but he’s not prevalent on toy shelves the way he used to be.

Hope is not lost for this champion of Eternia. My local Walmart has a toy Battle Cat and a Masters of the Universe Origins Castle Grayskull Playset that can be purchased from Mattel Creations for $80.

To understand why collectors are willing to pay such a mighty price for a plastic diorama, we have to go back to the ‘80s, and a world that forged the sword and sorcery of Conan the Barbarian with the pew! pew! pew! sci-fi of Star Wars to make He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

After Mattel turned down the option to make Star Wars figures and watched Kenner print oodles of money, the company created its own concept, hiring Roger Sweet, Star Wars novelist Donald F. Glut and others to build a brand with a brand-new world to go along with it. Although the toy line was created in 1981, it didn’t hit stores until 1982. Filmation developed an animated series, syndicated in 1983.

Prince Adam (voiced by John Erwin) was the hunky alter ego of He-Man, who materialized up to save the day and fight the evil Skeletor (Alan Oppenheimer, who also voiced the cat and other characters). He-Man and Skelly both had a crew of strong warriors ripe for action-figure poses.

The protagonists included Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Orko, Fisto, Ram-Man, Teela and She-Ra, Princess of Power; the antagonists were legion, including Beast Man, Evil-Lyn, Faker, Tri-Klops, Trap Jaw and Hordak. Many of the characters had either animal or mechanical characteristics and they were all ready for grappling matches on a kid’s living room floor.

It’s no coincidence that these toy people bore similarities to the wrestling figures that followed in later years, making Mattel millions.

He-Man had a big sword but he didn’t use it often. At the time, violence was rarely condoned on American children’s television; He-Man was allowed to punch the bad guys and he tossed them around a lot. Shows would end with a moral, giving the action an ethical perspective and making it more than a half-hour ad for the toys.

130 episodes of classic He-man were produced, running for two years on its original release. Despite all his efforts to conquer Eternia, Skeletor never succeeded, and the pathos did not escape him; he admitted to his poor batting average in episodes like The Arena. No wonder he cheated to try to get the upper hand.

The animation was limited – some shots are reused, especially during skirmishes – and the storylines were simple. In 1987, the plot of He-Man’s live-action movie pulled out all the stops to compete with Star Wars on the big screen; Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) had the Power of Grayskull, Frank Langella was a far-from-pathetic Skeletor and James Tolkan, the cranky principal from Back to the Future, played the even more cranky Detective Lubric.

The movie cleverly brings He-Man to our world, one year after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home showed a similar culture clash. Unfortunately, it earned less than it cost to make and a sequel, Cyborg, morphed into a non-He-Man B-movie.

As the toys dwindled, attempts were made to revive the television series, most recently on Netflix. Sympathetic loser Skeletor may have lost his battles with He-Man but he won the meme war on social media, his face popping up to taunt us as we doomscroll.

The cartoons, a live-action movie and toys all have a place in many hearts, a sign of a more innocent age where conflicts could be won with a well-aimed fist and the power of a brightly wrapped parable.

What are your memories of Masters of the Universe? Who is your favourite action figure? Are you still collecting? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 21 October 2022

Star Wars: Bring Home the Galaxy

There’s no Force Friday this year. However, Disney and Lucasfilm have announced Star Wars: Bring Home the Galaxy, a follow-up to last year's Bring Home the Bounty!

Bring Home the Galaxy, a 9-week global consumer product campaign in association with licensees including Funko, Hasbro, LEGO and Mattel, highlights new Star Wars merchandise from the original trilogy to The Mandalorian every Tuesday through 13th December.

Hasbro's releasing a retro collection on Hasbro Pulse to mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in 2023.

I vividly remember the launch of Kenner's original Star Wars: Return of the Jedi toy line in 1983!

The first time I saw Darth Vader, in person, was at my local Debenhams (now John Lewis). Mum kept it a special surprise and took me to the toy department where the lift opened to reveal the dark lord himself and Stormtroopers...

School friends were there, too. After a meet-and-greet with Darth Vader, we went to the toy aisles and discovered Biker Scouts, Ewoks and much more on pegs. This was Christmas for Star Wars fans (myself included).

Bring Home the Galaxy (affiliate link) on Amazon. Other UK-based retail partners include Argos, Disney Store, Smyths, The Entertainer and Zavvi.

Follow the conversation on social media using #BringHomeTheGalaxy and #StarWars.

Whether you're looking for LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Razor Crest or The Black Series Phase II Clone Trooper Helmet by Hasbro. Happy gift-giving this holiday season.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Harrison Ford joins the MCU

According to an exclusive report from Deadline, Harrison Ford (Star Wars) is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross in Marvel Studios' Captain America: New World Order.

The role was recast following the death of William Hurt (Lost in Space).

Ford is synonymous with Lucasfilm's Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises and Blade Runner. The Hollywood icon most recently finished filming Indiana Jones 5 for release on 30th June 2023.

The next instalment in the Captain America franchise follows events in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier live-action series on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to seeing Harrison Ford in the MCU? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 13 October 2022

NECA's 31 Nights of Fright: Prey

As part of the toy company's 31 Nights of Fright, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) has announced the Feral Predator from Prey.

Prey was released to critical acclaim on Hulu and Star on Disney+ last August. Our very own Nick Smith was most impressed by director Dan Trachtenberg's (10 Cloverfield Lane) superior breed of prequel as evidenced by his review of the latest instalment in the Predator franchise.

For Halloween month, NECA has shared a prototype of a superlative action figure collectable worthy of the fan-favourite monster. The Feral Predator looks incredible and comes with a host of awesome accessories that the alien hunter used to lethal effect in the movie. From its shield to its selection of blades, every weapon of choice is here. This should guarantee some seriously cool poses for toy photography.

What do you think of NECA's Feral Predator prototype? Will you be adding it to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 10 October 2022

An era ends in The Power of the Doctor

During New York Comic Con (NYCC), the BBC released a trailer for Jodie Whittaker’s final Doctor Who special, The Power of the Doctor.

When the official title for the centenary special was first announced, like many fans I was instantly reminded of The Name of the Doctor, The Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor and The Power of the Daleks.

Here’s the official synopsis from the BBC:

“In this feature-length Special to mark her last adventure, Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor must fight for her very existence, against her deadliest enemies: the Daleks, the Cybermen and her arch-nemesis, the Master.

Who is attacking a speeding bullet train on the edges of a distant galaxy? Why are seismologists going missing from 21st century Earth? Who is defacing some of history’s most iconic paintings? Why is a Dalek trying to make contact with the Doctor? And just what hold does the mesmeric Rasputin have over Tsar Nicholas in 1916 Russia?

The Doctor faces multiple threats…and a battle to the death.”

I'll miss her and the TARDIS fam. Series 11 was the first I've watched, since the Tom Baker era, with my dad. Rosa Parks, The Haunting of Villa Diodati and Ascension of the Cybermen/The Timeless Children are among some of the best episodes in the beloved sci-fi franchise's storied history. Hopefully, Andrew Lewin and I will be on hand to discuss the 90-minute special following its transmission.

For the 60th anniversary in 2023, Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) will be playing the titular Time Lord in returning showrunner Russell T Davies’ (It's A Sin) new era co-produced by Sony’s Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials). David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor with fan-favourite companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). However, mystery surrounds this and rumours suggest Whittaker regenerates into Tennant for an unannounced Christmas special.

The series 13 specials are available for pre-order (affiliate link).

The Power of the Doctor premieres on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America on Sunday 23rd October.

What are your hopes for the centenary special? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 8 October 2022

LEGO Ideas Dungeons & Dragons

LEGO is following up its Transformers collaboration with LEGO Ideas Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Both brands are owned by Hasbro and it's great to see the two toy companies continuing to work together.

Fans (myself included) are invited to submit their ideas to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D&D here. Entries will be judged by a panel made up of LEGO Ideas and Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, team members.

Read the full press release from LEGO:

Join us in celebrating 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons!

"We want to share news of an exciting new collaboration. Gather your adventuring party, prepare your spells, and don your gear because we invite you to join us in celebrating 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons! We, at The LEGO Group, have partnered with Wizards of the Coast to bring our two epic brands together through the LEGO Ideas platform.

LEGO Ideas is a platform where fans can share their creations and creativity, enter prize challenges, showcase their proposals for new LEGO Ideas sets and vote for awesome models dreamt up by fellow fans. Some of these incredible creations will be selected to become official LEGO sets.

We are preparing a celebration of an incredible 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons! For this, we are looking for you to ignite your imagination and showcase your favorite elements of the world’s greatest roleplaying game using LEGO bricks.

You could create your ultimate builds, based on your favorite storylines, monsters, characters, adventurers, and locations.

Once built, submit your product idea to where a panel of judges consisting of members of the LEGO Ideas team and members from Wizards of the Coast, will choose entries among these submissions for a Fan Vote.

Excitingly, all entries that reach the Fan Vote phase, will stand a chance of becoming an official LEGO Ideas set! A mighty reward for any fan!

We look forward to where this adventure is going to take us!"

The competition closes on 14th November. Get going and good luck!

What LEGO Ideas for D&D will you be submitting? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

60 years of James Bond

“Bond… James Bond!” Today is the 60th anniversary of Dr. No. For over six decades, there have been 25 official James Bond movies starring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and most recently Daniel Craig who bowed out in No Time To Die.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, Roger Moore was my James Bond, much like Tom Baker was my Doctor Who. Mum and dad took me to see Moonraker in the wake of Star Wars and I was hooked. Hooked on collecting licensed Corgi toys, too.

A few years later, I watched On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS) on ITV as I played with Action Man and Action Force toys following a hospital outpatient appointment. Lazenby's one and only appearance as the titular spy became my favourite instalment in the beloved franchise. A hero's journey with a tragic twist.

Like many fans, a lifelong love of gadgets was sparked by the adventures of 007. Incidentally, the Walther P38, used in From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, was Decepticon leader Megatron's alt mode in Transformers: Generation 1.

British composer John Barry's soundtracks still leave me shaken and stirred on car journeys. Sorry, not sorry.

Who is your favourite James Bond? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Masters of the Universe Origins Eternia Playset

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Masters of the Universe franchise, Mattel has announced the Masters of the Universe Origins Eternia Playset goes on sale on Mattel Creations on 12th October, which marks the toy line's 40th birthday.

"Join the Battle for Eternia! Locked in an everlasting war, this Eternia playset is swarming with action-packed features and hidden surprises. The Grayskull Tower and the Viper Tower flank the Eternia Tower as the forces of good and evil wage war. March into combat and fund the playset for the ultimate centerpiece to your MOTU collection."

Whilst I was fortunate enough to own both Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain playsets as cherished Christmas and Halloween gifts respectively, I never saw the original Eternia playset, a holy grail, at my local toy store.

This Mattel Creations crowdfunded project requires a minimum of 5,000 backers for the $550.00 playset (before international shipping and import duties), which will ship on or before 29th March 2024.

The 5,000 backer threshold is lower than most HasLab crowdfunding projects. So, it's evident Mattel wants to produce the Eternia playset as the highlight of its Masters of the Universe celebrations. Early bird backers will receive King Grayskull.

Personally, I stopped collecting Masters of the Universe action figures after the Four Horsemen Studios' amazing Classics line concluded on Matty Collector. This Eternia playset looks amazing. However, I won't be backing it due to the cost of living crisis.

Will you be backing the Masters of the Universe Origins Eternia Playset? Did you own the original? Are you enjoying MOTUesday? What are your thoughts on multinational toy companies pivoting to crowdfunding? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 2 October 2022

Indiana Jones at Hasbro Pulse Con

Hasbro Pulse Con 2022 has concluded. There were exciting announcements for fans (myself included) of Hasbro’s own and licensed brands, and pre-order controversy.

The Selfie Series was announced for the Hasbro Pulse app in the US only. Allowing action figure fans to see themselves immortalised as their favourite characters. I’ve always pictured myself as Luke Skywalker (Stormtrooper) rescuing Princess Leia. Toy Galaxy's Dan Larson shared his hilarious Power Rangers selfie that looked like something out of the Nintendo 64 (N64) era.

As a lifelong Lucasfilm fan, I was looking forward to the new Indiana Jones toy line based on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Like many kids of my generation, I missed out on Kenner’s classic action figures when its Star Wars license ruled the toy aisles in the early eighties. Frankly, I never knew the toy line existed until years later when a friend pointed them out to me in a local comic book store.

Hasbro's new series looks phenomenal and includes The Adventures of Indiana Jones and a Kenner-branded Retro Collection (affiliate link). As a generalist collector of franchises, The Adventures of Indiana Jones piqued my interest with the first wave including the titular archaeologist, Marion Ravenwood, Sallah, René Belloq and Major Arnold Toht (affiliate link).

Further movie-themed sets are sure to follow given the renewed interest in the franchise with the release of Indiana Jones 5 in 2023.

Given all the buzz surrounding Hasbro Pulse Con and no longer a Hasbro Pulse Premium member, I patiently waited on my iPad for 11:00 PM (BST). I pre-ordered the man in the hat and Staff of Ra Headpiece (affiliate link) electronic roleplay collectable.

And, seemingly against the odds, successfully pre-ordered G.I. Joe Classified Series Serpentor & Air Chariot! The coveted con exclusive sold out within four minutes of going on sale to the general public, leaving disappointed fans taking to social media to vent their frustration.

To celebrate securing Serpentor, I added ‘Cover Girl’ and CRIMSON B.A.T. They'll look great alongside Croc Master & Fiona. For better or worse, G.I. Joe is now a Hasbro Pulse exclusive outside the US.

Further to last week's surprise announcement that Hasbro is producing Dungeons & Dragons cartoon classics action figures, I pre-ordered the first wave. Soon Hank, Bobby & Uni and Diana (affiliate links) will be battling Venger under the watchful gaze of Dungeon Master.

This Transformers: Generation 1 fan couldn't resist Transformers Generations Legacy A Hero is Born 2-Pack. The mythology of Orion Pax being rebuilt, by Alpha Trion, as Optimus Prime is something special from my childhood in the wake of the Autobot leader's death in Transformers: The Movie.

I know nothing about Transformers Legacy Evolution Comic Universe Tarn (affiliate link). However, he's too cool to pass up with his awesome Decepticon insignia face mask and scoped blaster. It more than makes up for the disappointing Megatron H.I.S.S. Tank. Cancelled my pre-order after reading this excellent review of the Transformers Collaborative: G.I. Joe Mash-Up.

Nothing from Ghostbuters, Marvel Legends Series, Power Rangers or Star Wars The Black Series caught my eye, which is probably for the best given the cost of living crisis.

Overall, not a shabby Hasbro haul for toy photography on Instagram.

Did you watch Hasbro Pulse Con 2022? What did you think? Were you able to pre-order the products you wanted? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Star Tracks: Lifeforce

This edition of Star Tracks is suitably spooky for Halloween month with Henry Mancini's score for Lifeforce.

Director Tobe Hooper's (Poltergeist) space vampire movie is an indelible teenage memory and a far cry from Star Wars for which John Dykstra also produced the award-winning special effects.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based media maverick, goes on a dangerous space shuttle mission to Halley’s Comet courtesy of the fine folks at Intrada.

Guest post by Nick Smith

‘With an insatiable hunger, they are coming ... Mankind is their prey.’ Thus warns the tagline of Tobe ‘Poltergeist’ Hooper’s wild sci-fi horror shocker, Lifeforce.

Best known for its comely alien antagonist (Mathilda May) who breakfasts on lustful men, Lifeforce is based on Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires. Hooper was attracted by the ‘gothic opening of the book’ and referenced the Quatermass movies, Giallo and 1950s sci-fi invasion classics. ‘I thought I'd go back to my roots,’ the director said, ‘and make a 70 mm Hammer film.’

With an overall production budget of $25 million to play with, the music for this space-horror tale was intended to match the extravagance of the visuals. After James Horner was considered, Henry Mancini was in the pink to work on a space epic, following in the footsteps of former colleague John Williams (who was the pianist on Mancini’s Peter Gunn TV theme). According to biographer John Caps, Mancini wanted to turn the tale of interstellar vamps into ‘a kind of tone poem.’ The score is performed by the 100-piece London Symphony Orchestra, responsible for the original Star Wars and Superman themes.

‘The original first twenty minutes of the film were like a ballet to me,’ Mancini said in 1987. ‘That’s one of the reasons I was so interested in doing the film—and it was just beautiful.’

Test audiences had other ideas, however, and the film was cut down by 12 minutes and Michael Kamen (The Dead Zone) was brought in to tie the music together and fill in any gaps. The majority of dropped scenes were from the opening, where the Space Shuttle Churchill investigates a mysterious craft concealed by Halley’s Comet.

Fortunately, the original, full soundtrack was preserved by MGM and can now be heard in all its glory on a new Intrada release. The music, edited and mastered from two-track quarter-inch stereo mixes made at Abbey Road Studios, sounds crisp, clean and at times, breathtaking.

Mancini’s score does make this eclectic movie hold together, barely. While most viewers recall the space vampire, there’s a lot more going on – astronauts exploring a spaceship, hypnosis, shapeshifting and a climactic sequence set in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Some of the music would fit snugly into a biblical epic: The Discovery, The Vampire Lives and Anyone for Turns suggest a mythical, cursed tomb being opened.

House of Blue Lights is heavy on choral – Mancini sampled female voices with a Fairlight CMI and combined them with live vocals for an echoing spectral effect. Martial Law is suitably militaristic and Star Wars-y, while Evil Visitation evokes Hooper’s hallowed Hammer films, and The Web of Destiny Part III is lush and powerful with a grand dramatic build-up. There are also moments of sorrow and craving (The Web of Destiny Part I), unnerving, sliding, darkening strings (Carlsen Sleeps) and conventional, heroic sci-fi music (The Web of Destiny Part II).

Mancini wanted his soundtrack to be impressionistic. If he had gone with his original vision, the score could have been composed of atonal sounds. There are hints of this in the stingers and cues included on disc 2, which bring Forbidden Planet’s bleepy-bloppy score to mind. The brief stings are included, ‘simply because they were part of the sessions,’ says Douglass Fake, who produced, edited and mastered the CDs, ‘and are at times eerie, grotesque, outlandish, ethereal and even haunting.’

While an abstract score might have made for a more memorable movie, thankfully the soundtrack presented here is melodic, enjoyable and as imaginative as the film itself. Unlike the majority of American scores, it does not tell you how to think or feel. It is as strange and majestic as an unidentified space object, drenched with dread and perilous adventure.

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