Saturday 26 November 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water on track to make millions

Tickets for Avatar: The Way of Water went on sale this week. Disney released a new trailer for director James Cameron's (Titanic) long-awaited sequel.

Read the official synopsis:

"Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure."

Directed by James Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, the Lightstorm Entertainment Production stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Kate Winslet. Screenplay by James Cameron & Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Story by James Cameron & Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver & Josh Friedman & Shane Salerno. David Valdes and Richard Baneham serve as the film’s executive producers.

The House of Mouse has bet big on Cameron's sequel and it's difficult to imagine how Avatar: The Way of Water will fail at the box office this holiday season. The movie is on track for a $175 million domestic opening and needs to bank $2 billion to break even. The true test will be the release of future sequels. At least there's always Disney+.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

Are you looking forward to Avatar: The Way of Water? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Tag! You have The Power of the Doctor

It's been a long time since the last collaboration between Generation Star Wars' John Hood and Taking The Short View's Andrew Lewin. Clearly, it would take something very special indeed to get the band back together after all that time.

So, how about the arrival of a special feature-length episode of Doctor Who marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC, packed full of spectacle and excitement not to mention a legion of familiar faces from the show's long history, and culminating in regeneration and a new Doctor? One that it turns out we really weren't expecting?

Yes, that would probably do it. In fact, it would be rude not to.

So let's buckle up and take a good look at "The Power of the Doctor". Or as the Tenth Doctor of old used to say: "Allons-y!"

Warning: contains spoilers right from the start. So many spoilers, in fact, that even the spoilers contain spoilers. You have been warned, sweetie!

Andrew: So, how was it for you, John?

John: I really enjoyed it! A fun romp down memory lane punctuated by poignant moments and I kept away from social media at a time before Elon Musk bought Twitter.

Andrew: Almost prehistoric! I also managed to stay away from spoilers right up to the time of the broadcast. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch it live, and it was impossible to dodge the spoilers that flooded in straight afterwards - not only on social media but TV, radio, and everywhere. It means I knew what happened in the shock final scene at least, long before I got to watch the episode because it was all anyone was talking about.

John: Oh, boy!

Andrew: Was it a shock though? The production team had already been obliged to publicly confirm that David Tennant was returning to the role after he was seen in costume filming on location. The only thing was, he didn't look like the Tenth Doctor used to, so how did this fit into continuity? For months, the idea that Jodie Whittaker would regenerate backwards into Tennant rather than forwards into Ncuti Gatwa had been mooted, albeit played down as much as possible by the producers.

Of course, I was by no means certain that it would happen until it actually happened. But when it did it was no longer a shock, or a surprise, more a case of "Oh, so they ARE doing that, then." What about you, John - did it catch you off-guard? How did you react to the moment when it happened?

John: It didn’t catch me off-guard per se and I punched the air seeing Tennant’s mysterious return to the titular role! What’s going on? However, I lamented not being able to spend more time (no pun intended) with Whittaker’s Doctor! Her tenure was clearly impacted by the pandemic and the series was in a state of flux. But I’m probably getting ahead of myself as this is our first opportunity to talk all things Time Lord in years.

Andrew: I really did like Jodie Whittaker in the role, right from the start. After Peter Capaldi's rather dour incarnation, it was lovely to have a Doctor that was just such a bundle of pure joy, energy and excitement. But I'm not sure the stories she was given really served her as well as they might; it would have been lovely to see her get her teeth into a Russell T Davies script.

John: Yes, that would have been really fun to see or a story penned by former showrunner Steven Moffat.

Andrew: Talking of a state of "Flux" (I saw what you did there!) I revisited last year's six-part mini-series last week in preparation for "The Power of the Doctor". I had been beset by the same work clashes during its original broadcast, which meant I was watching it in fits and starts days after the event. It rather soured my enjoyment not to mention my comprehension of what was going on. I enjoyed it a lot more this time and appreciated its strengths (the top-notch FX, costumes, prosthetics, universally strong performances, direction, the sheer aspiration) while continuing to hate the overall plotting which still made no sense and contained holes a mile wide. (Warning: I'm going to say something similar about "The Power of the Doctor" in a few minutes.)

John: I rather enjoyed "Flux" for all its foibles. Chris Chibnall never lacks for ambition even if it all goes nowhere, infuriating fans. However, Doctor Who isn't unique in this. See Lost, The X-Files, etc. And there were narrative parallels with Marvel Studios’ Loki on Disney+. However, this was totally coincidental.

Andrew: He might not lack ambition, but I do feel he lacks the fundamental understanding of the genre that the creators of those other shows you mention (I was a huge X-Files fan back in the day) possessed, as did his predecessors on Doctor Who. He has some striking ideas but then can't structure them into a coherent, satisfying plot. His dialogue (especially technobabble) is also really poor, and he just can't seem to come up with decent or memorable genre names for aliens or planets (Stenza, Pting, Ranskoor Av Kolos). Those are some of the reasons why I think I've become somewhat disconnected from the series in recent years.

John: Star Wars had Porgs; Doctor Who had Pting. I’d suggest the long breaks between series haven't helped and evokes memories of Colin Baker's ill-fated tenure, which culminated in me, briefly, departing the TARDIS in favour of MTV and hormonally-charged teenage distractions. I may have said too much.

Andrew: Or indeed, not enough! I'd also moved on by the time Colin Baker took over. I was at university in York with many other (entirely academic) distractions of my own, and where Doctor Who simply wasn't very cool. We were all too busy watching Neighbours in the common room. (The 80s were very weird times.) Ironically, while I was at York, I went to see a stage production of Ira Levin's Deathtrap at the Theatre Royal in which the lead role was taken by none other than Colin Baker. He was actually very good indeed.

John: That’s such a cool coincidence. What did you make of seeing the Doctor’s previous incarnations? Again, this wasn’t spoiled at all for me. I had to rewatch scenes as it was overwhelmingly emotional on so many levels. I wondered what our late friend and fellow Whovian, Stephen Miles, would have made of it all... And it was 45 years ago that I awoke from a coma, in a children’s hospital, having undergone a ‘forced regeneration’ of my own.

Andrew: Something that can't help but make 'regeneration' feel real and uniquely personal for you, I'm sure. Hard if not impossible for someone who hasn't been through something comparable to even begin to understand - except through the medium of Doctor Who. It would have been lovely to have been able to catch up with Stephen and chat about all this; I'm sure he would have loved it.

John: I couldn’t agree with you more. I remember when Stephen DM’d me to say that I was printed in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) and his unbound enthusiasm for all things timey-wimey was utterly infectious.

Andrew: Truly was. I think if he were still with us, he would have managed to talk me out of a lot of the more grumpy nitpicks I'm making here about the show.

John: Without a scintilla of doubt.

Andrew: Hang on, that was your cue to say "you're not being grumpy at all"! But yes, Stephen was always so positive and enthusiastic about all things Who. I'm sure he would have found all the silver linings and talked me around.

John: Talking of silver linings, I’m sure Stephen would have loved Ashad (Patrick O'Kane). The David Banks Cyberleader of this era.

Andrew: I thought the return of Ashad in "The Power of the Doctor" was very odd. So it was a clone of the original that the Master (Sacha Dhawan) killed? But then had to be part-cyber converted and disfigured again? And for what reason? Any mini-Cyberman would have been enough to infiltrate UNIT. Just the first of many plotting problems we're going to be talking about, I suspect.

John: Akin to George Lucas ‘killing off’ Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and then bringing him back for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and more. Because reasons.

Andrew: Was Lucas even behind Darth Maul's return in Clone Wars? I thought it was out of his hands by then. But yes, in many ways you're right: I remember watching Maul's demise in Phantom Muddle and thinking, "Well, that was a damn silly thing to do to one of the few new characters who showed any real promise for the future.”

John: Yes, George Lucas created The Clone Wars for the Cartoon Network.

Andrew: I stand corrected. It just feels odd to me that Lucas would give the okay to such a volte-face after making the character's death such a huge moment in the film.

John: Because toys. But all cynicism aside. The Clone Wars was excellent and further Star Wars spin-offs have subsequently enriched the franchise.

Andrew: But to return to your question about the previous incarnations: even though I was over 24 hours late to the party, I hadn't picked up any significant spoilers about who else was in the episode - although I could tell the spoilers were out there and poised to overwhelm me at any moment if I didn't get around to watching it on catch-up ASAP. We knew about Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) coming back of course after the trailer at Easter, and I thought the production team were very clever in using the excitement about this to deflect any speculation as to whether there might be anything else concealed behind it.

John: It was an ingenious sleight of hand and I never even considered we’d see any previous incarnations given the 60th anniversary looming large.

Andrew: I certainly wasn't expecting what transpired. And the reunion was very cleverly executed to cover for the fact that they all look rather different from how they used to. Except for Paul McGann, who looks younger every time I see him - I suspect he truly is a Time Lord (and the same applies to Tennant). The scenes between Ace and Sylvester McCoy, and Tegan and Peter Davison, together with mentions of Adric when Tegan faced down the Cybermen were indeed rather overwhelming with emotional significance and triggered an avalanche of memories.

John: As you know, Adric wasn't a companion I much cared for until that fateful moment in "Earthshock". [Shoosh: classic spoilers, sweetie! - Ed] Whilst I've never listened to McGann's Big Finish adventures, it always feels like we've seen his televised adventures but they're lost to time.

Andrew: And thanks to the "Night of the Doctor" minisode, we now know that all those Big Finish plays are canon. Personally, I've only listened to the McGann audio adventures that have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. But if you only ever try one, go for "The Chimes of Midnight" by Robert Shearman. It's superb, although more like a Sapphire and Steel story than a regular Doctor Who.

John: Thanks for the tip. “Alexa, open BBC Sounds...”

Andrew: Not sure it's still on there. I was actually so impressed, I ended up buying the CD. As for Adric, I liked him mainly because he was a mathematician and that was my favourite subject at school at the time, and indeed what I went on to study at university a few years later. Plus he was the same age as me and a whiny, sulky teenage brat prone to tantrums ... Actually, nope, no idea why I identified with him at all now I come to think of it. Let's move quickly on.

John: Do I start calling you Adric from now on?

Andrew: Not unless you want me to do something very anti-social with my gold star for mathematical excellence!

John: Excellent! Oh...

Andrew: You mentioned the forced regeneration. Could you help me out understanding any aspect of this part of the script? It made no sense to me, just an excuse to get Sacha Dhawan dressed up in all the Doctor's past costumes. And don't get me wrong, that was great fun. He's such a fantastic, dynamic presence. But it really was all over the place as far as I was concerned. You?

John: The forced regeneration was bonkers but brilliantly bonkers! On a par with the Timeless Child arc, which was abandoned even though I, like many fans, had assumed it would be addressed during the cosmic train heist at the beginning of the centenary special. Chibnall bouncing ideas all over time and space and then... Moving on.

Andrew: I find that problematic, to be honest - both here and with the Timeless Child and all over "Flux", which seemed like it was constructed from a load of ideas for a full ten-part run that had to be crushed up in a blender when COVID-19 forced it to become a shorter mini-series instead, leaving promising bits and pieces on show, but few of them satisfactorily integrated or properly paying off.

John: Alas, most productions were similarly affected.

Andrew: Without question. And I'm the first to applaud the production team for what they achieved in "Flux" under such circumstances. It was the script that had some very noticeable missteps as far as I was concerned, and I had the same problem with "The Power of the Doctor".

For example, with the aforementioned forced regeneration: what a palaver! We know from canon that you can 'force' a regeneration just by bumping your head too hard on the TARDIS console, so why go to the lengths the Master did here? To take over the Doctor's regenerations? How is that distinguishable in practice from his own? The repercussions of this didn't seem to have been thought through or developed and fleshed out to any degree. It did provide the hook for the Doctor's near-death experience and seeing her past lives (and incarnations) flash before her eyes, but surely there were simpler ways of setting that up?

John: The Doctor’s near-death experience would have deeply resonated with anyone facing a similar situation (myself included).

Andrew: The most interesting aspect was actually what the experience did not to the Doctor, but to the Master - the sudden vulnerability, neediness and lack of assurance mixed with flashes of the old psychopath we know and love to loath. His "Don't let me go back to being me" was perfectly tragic. But otherwise, it came down to him riffling through the TARDIS wardrobe and doing a bit of Jodie cosplay and saying "I'm the Doctor" to a galactic news cam. Not exactly a very convincing "Master's Dalek Plan" (loved that gag) in any respect. Although as many people pointed out on social media, Dhawan really rocked Jodie's ear jewellery.

John: I've never worn ear jewellery, but could be tempted.

Andrew: Photos if you do, or it didn't happen!

John: Selfies will be all over the socials.

Andrew: While the socials last, anyway.

John: Don’t mention the Mastodon in the room!

Andrew: And then there was the cosmic train heist at the start that you mentioned, which was pretty pointless except for getting things started with an incoherent bang. While well-executed, I suspect that rather than hooking the audience and drawing them in as presumably intended it more likely resulted in a lot of baffled casual viewers changing channels. And then the Qurunx was a plot device made incarnate, and the cyberised planet played almost no role of significance, and even the Daleks and Cybermen themselves were marginalised to the point of being mere background decoration.

John: The cyber planet reminded me of a neutered Death Star!

Andrew: Neutered? Which bits did you notice that had been chopped off?! It certainly looked cool, but just didn't really contribute anything beyond that. Likewise, it felt like the Cybermen and the Daleks were only there because it was a centenary special and you can't have one of those without the show's top two monsters.

John: Trimmings to the Master’s main course.

Andrew: Well put! I bet the Sontarans were pouting about not getting a party invite. Ace getting to work on one of the Daleks with her baseball bat was a great moment, but Tegan defeating all the Cybermen by cross-wiring something in UNIT's basement stretched credulity. Did no one even think of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, for heaven's sake?!

John: That would have been a fun in-joke for what’s ostensibly a Three or Five Doctors for the selfie generation.

Andrew: Well it certainly wouldn't be the first time in the NuWho era. And it's not like the special wasn't already packed to the brim with as much nostalgia and in-jokes as possible. Too much? Or is it fully justified given the fact it was a centenary celebration for the BBC?

John: A blue box of delights overflowing with timey-wimey treats.

Andrew: Away from that, it too often felt like Chibnall had an idea and stuck it in without any thought of context or where it's going. For example: why was the Master disguised as Rasputin? Or was he actually the real Rasputin? And why bother with any of that anyway? Was it really just for the moment when Dhawan got to dance to Boney M? Don't get me wrong, I laughed like a drain at that (and again, I loved Dhawan in this and every other scene he was in) but it was totally gratuitous and unnecessary and actually tied the story up in knots as it tried to bounce between 1916 and 2022. (Apparently, another scene set in Tunguska in 1908 was cut - X-Files fans will know why that's significant.) Most of all it felt like Chibnall was trying a do-over of the classic scene from 2007 when John Simm's similarly bonkers Master danced like a loon to the Scissor Sisters - only, RTD made that feel like an organic moment in the plot, rather than everything up to that point being a set-up for the gag.

John: A self-referential adventure through space and time.

Andrew: And on that self-referential note, there were other direct riffs on previous stories going on as well - the moment when six companions are at the TARDIS console was a direct lift from "Journey's End" only this one didn't have nearly the emotional impact and payoff that RTD's original scene did.

That, for me, is the problem with Chibnall's time as showrunner in a nutshell. To his credit, he tried a lot of different things like "Rosa" and the talking frog; but when he took inspiration from aspects of previous stories he did so without the inherent understanding of how to fit them in and make them work as well as they had done the first time. Too often he ended up taking refuge in an empty but fast-moving spectacle and breathless action and technobabble to paper over the cracks, hoping the audience didn't notice the flaws underneath.

John: Forgot Poundland Kermit made a cameo!

Andrew: Yes, we know all too well that it's not easy being green... But seriously, tell me I'm wrong and why I'm being deeply unfair!

John: When the Thirteenth Doctor's adventures first started, there was a lot of talk suggesting a pivot towards Quantum Leap! Personally, I didn't mind as the adventures of Dr Sam Beckett took over when Doctor Who ended on television in 1989.

Andrew: Really? I don't recall any chatter about that sort of makeover for the show at the time (clearly I wasn't paying attention). I find that weird: why junk the utterly unique format of a show that's been a success for just shy of 60 years to replace it with a clone of a long-gone short-lived US series from the early 90s? No insult intended to Quantum Leap, but still. TV executives are weird - and on the whole apparently rather dumb!

John: Judging by the lukewarm reaction to the recent Quantum Leap reboot, perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a good idea after all! What I will say, is Jodie’s first year as the titular Time Lord was the first I’ve watched with my dad since the Tom Baker era so it will hold a special place in the televisual firmament.

Andrew: I wasn't sure how the Quantum Leap reboot had gone, to be honest. It's been given a second run, hasn't it? Or did I dream that?

It's lovely you had Jodie's first run to share with your dad. Although I still think that the pair of you would enjoy sitting down and sharing David Tennant's series 3 and 4 even more. They were great times in my book. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) was very underrated, while Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) vies with Sarah-Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) as the all-time best companion. I can't wait to see her back - and how they do it!

John: Sarah-Jane Smith and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) are my all-time favourite companions. The latter was immortalised in a LEGO Ideas set, which Stephen proudly shared photographs of on socials.

Andrew: Coleman is undoubtedly a great actor, very charismatic, and it's her talent alone that salvaged Clara from the "impossible girl' train wreck that Moffat made of the character. Sorry - I interrupted.

John: As we’ve conjectured previously, Matt Smith’s exit nixed that plot line.

Dad did see a few of Tennant’s specials and is a big fan. However, Doctor Who returned to television during a familial crisis and tragedy in the wake of an NHS never event. There was little opportunity to see the series together. That said, maybe it’s time to fire up BBC iPlayer...

Andrew: They're all on there I think. And you have plenty of time before the next new episodes. So get to it!

John: Geronimo!

Andrew: I think the reason why I rate those so highly is because RTD had such an understanding of combining high-concept SF with down-to-earth domestic believability. He could shift tone and mix farce and terror in a heartbeat, whereas Moffat was more intellectual and interested in timey-wimey complexities, and framed Doctor Who as a fairy tale in a way that never worked quite so well for me.

John: Moffat’s Grimm fairy tale in space resonated more with me.

Andrew: Most recently it just feels like Chibnall simply doesn't really like working in the genre at all, if I'm honest. But it’s not just a problem with how Chibnall handles science fiction concepts. "The Power of the Doctor" also displays basic poor Scripting 101. For example, Vinder (Jacob Anderson) just happens to literally drop out of the sky onto the cyber planet at just the right moment. Talk about cosmic contrivances, Batman! Even though several years had passed, he's still carrying the communicator that the Doctor gave him when they met originally - and not only that, it's still charged! Whereas I barely remember to take my mobile with me when I pop out to the local shops.

John: Perhaps you’d be better off with an Apple Watch? Other brands are available.

Andrew: Don't confuse me with all your technobabble! Don't you still need the mobile on hand for an Apple Watch to work? Or has that changed in recent updates? But there you go, seducing me off-topic with all your Apple adulation!

John: Well, my head is usually in the iCloud+!

Andrew: So true. (There - that's what you get for not objecting to the earlier "grumpy" description!)

For me, the biggest scripting faux pas of the lot was the one that literally everyone commented on: Graham (Bradley Walsh) turning up out of the blue, totally unexplained, entirely unprepared in a random volcanic cavern deep underground halfway around the world. To quote the Tenth Doctor: "What? What?! WHAT?!?" At least the script didn't even try to explain how that made any sense and just made a joke of it.

John: Apologies for interjecting. Dad was a fan of Graham. Please, go on.

Andrew: I think we all were (and are). He was able to shine through despite a very overcrowded TARDIS during Jodie's first two years.

That said - and egregious though the "Graham in a crater" moment undoubtedly was - I'm actually minded to go easy on Chibnall for that one. It's clear that the production team was having to work very hard to cope with fast-changing cast availability, and I'm guessing Walsh suddenly came up with a couple of free days in his schedule and Chibnall gratefully snapped them up, given that Graham was such a big part of the early Whittaker years. (It does rather underline the absence of Ryan, but Tosin Cole is doing all manner of shows and pilots in Hollywood and was obviously far too busy to pop in for five minutes.)

John: Tosin was conspicuous by his absence. Even Coleman was able to film a green screen cameo for Peter Capaldi’s swan song.

Andrew: And she was busy being the Queen (Victoria) at the time if I recall correctly.

John: Yes, and filming other successful series too.

Andrew: She's definitely an overachiever. Kind of like her former co-star, Matt Smith, who is busy hanging out with dragons these days.

John: Smith is delightfully dangerous as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon.

Andrew: Sounds like you approve of his new post-Doctor career!

John: Very much so! Smith was excellent in The Crown as a younger Prince Philip, which neatly reconnects him to his former companion Coleman in terms of portraying the monarchy in prestige dramas.

Andrew: Haven't seen The Crown so I guess we'd better stick to "The Power of the Doctor" for now. The aforementioned availability issues probably also explain why Dan (John Bishop) is bundled out of the door of the TARDIS so early. It reminded me of the old classic series where a companion would suddenly decide to leave the Doctor in the last few minutes of a story on some tenuous pretext because the actor's contract had expired. (Susan being locked out and abandoned in a war-ravaged dystopia by her grandfather because she had been getting a little flirty around a local resistance fighter being the first of many such abrupt exits.)

John: Dodo disappeared without much explanation if memory serves.

Andrew: There were a lot of sudden impromptu disappearances in the 1960s, from Vicki to Ben and Polly to Dodo, and beyond. They didn't get much in the way of character arcs back in the day.

I guess Bishop was already committed to restarting his comedy tour post-pandemic and was only on hand for that cosmic train heist sequence, plus a quick cameo at the end. I suspect his original role in the script might have been somewhat clumsily reallocated to Vinder, whose return was otherwise a bit odd. It all made me appreciate the way Terrence Dicks dealt with the same problem of short-notice cast availability for "The Five Doctors". In his case, Dicks came up with a workable framework for any last minute drop-ins, whereas Chibnall wasn't able to display the same inspiration.

John: There was some suggestion Dan would make the ultimate sacrifice to save the Doctor.

Andrew: No, I don't think that would have worked. Yaz maybe, if they'd wanted to go dark and tragic. But it felt like everyone wanted to keep this Doctor light and bouncy right to the end - hence the playground "Tag, you're it!" sign-off.

I really thought that the 'Companions Anonymous' scene had probably had to be thrown together using clever editing and green screen technology with everyone shot individually and composited back together to create the final scene. I was impressed when I saw the production stills where everyone actually was in the same room together, and joined by Jodie. That was very special. It was also lovely to learn that Janet Fielding got to shoot her scenes face to face with Peter Davison on set, and Sophie Aldred likewise with Sylvester McCoy; it made those reunions much more emotionally powerful than if shot separately.

John: Davison’s voice breaking, when he mentioned Adric, really hit home.

Andrew: There you go! I knew you connected with Adric after all, despite your earlier protestations.

John: The shock of it! Sorry, not sorry.

Andrew: It was the 'Companions Anonymous' meeting which made me realise what it was about "The Power of the Doctor" that was really important and actually worked: it wasn't a story about the Doctor at all. Indeed, many fans have complained that Jodie was somewhat sidelined because of everything else going on, all the spectacle and special guests and that everyone else was given crucial things to do while she herself was relatively passive and even went completely AWOL for a spell. Maybe so, but it meant that rather than being all about her, the special became a celebration of the Doctor's impact and positive influence on her companions and the many others she has come across in her travels, like Kate Stewart (Jemima Redgrave).

John: Ah! Star Wars Celebration! Oops, wrong franchise.

Andrew: The true power of the Doctor is surely the life-long friends she has made, who have reached their full potential because of her. And it's also about how difficult it is to be in the Doctor's shadow nonetheless and how hard is must be to be left behind when their time together is over. It shows them as a remarkable group of people - from Ian Chesterton (William Russell) all the way through to Yaz Khan (Mandeep Gil), who I thought did outstandingly once she was given so much more to do, both here and in the "Flux" mini-series.

John: Couldn’t agree more! It’s a celebration of the series itself, and the fans - us! The friendships made with fellow Whovians and, personally, attending both the 20th and 50th anniversary celebrations are something I will never forget. The former is especially poignant as the fabled Longleat event was oversubscribed and my late mum spoke to a kindly army officer who invited us in as guests of the military (I like to imagine UNIT).

The Doctor and Yaz’s reflective moment sitting atop the TARDIS overlooking Earth was profoundly moving.

Andrew: That was a lovely, beautiful, poetic scene. I think it will lodge in the memory for years to come.

You can argue that the ending even gave Dan a belated character arc after all, since it shows him having moved on from being the nice but aimless and unambitious drifter he started as in "Flux", to now being ready to take control and get on with life. You know he will do something special with it, and be really good at whatever it turns out to be. That was the power of the Doctor's effect on him even in a relatively short stint aboard the TARDIS.

John: Amen to that.

Andrew: Strip away all the garish distractions and horrible plotting and I think when looked at simply as a celebration of the companions rather than of the Doctor, the episode was ultimately surprisingly effective. It turns out that all the guest stars and callbacks weren't just a load of gratuitous fan service, it was the whole point of the story. It's the emotional resonance that makes the special work despite all the script's many problems that I've been grumbling about. Chibnall might have his flaws (I may have mentioned a few) but he can do emotionally intelligent stories really effectively - as indeed he had already proved with the original run of Broadchurch. (The second, ironically, collapsed due to incredibly poor plotting. History repeats itself!)_

John: With all the recent talk of Disney dollars bolstering Doctor Who from 2023 onwards, what did you think of the special effects? Personally, I thought the centenary special looked stunning in 4K UHD on BBC iPlayer for PlayStation 5 (PS5)!

Andrew: I was watching "The Power of the Doctor" in Freeview broadcast high definition, so it's slightly hard to judge. But I did recently get hold of the Blu-Ray version of "Flux" and was actually very impressed - I thought it looked absolutely great. I'm sure "The Power of the Doctor" was just as beautiful. I can't see how they can improve on it further by throwing money at it; indeed, there's the risk of making the show all about the FX and not enough about the story and the characters. I think the show has already veered too far in that direction in recent times if I'm honest.

John: Look at all the shiny spacey things.

Andrew: Gollum and his precious! But that said, the previous special - "Legend of the Sea Devils" - had all the hallmarks of an episode that hadn't been budgeted for. It looked cheap, felt rushed, and the script seemed a good two or three additional drafts from being ready to go before the camera. One of the worst episodes of the modern Doctor Who era in my book. It didn't help that it was a pirate story, which I tend to hate with a passion whenever one shows up. ("The Curse of the Black Spot", I'm looking at you!)

John: I watched the Sea Devils’ Easter escapade during a family holiday in the Derbyshire Dales and didn’t really pay it much attention.

Andrew: It didn't really deserve any, to be honest. So what would you like to see the show do with all that additional Mickey Mouse money, John?

John: That’s the £100 million per series question if rumours are to be believed. I’ve long argued Bad Wolf should co-produce Doctor Who following the excellent His Dark Materials live-action adaptation for the BBC and HBO.

Now, Bad Wolf (owned by Sony) is co-producing RTD’s new era so I’m hoping we’ll see superlative visuals, storytelling and more spin-offs, especially as the returning series showrunner has been on a winning streak with Years and Years and It’s A Sin.

Andrew: I love that they named the production company after the mysterious arc from the first run of the Doctor Who reboot. It shows where all their hearts really lie, doesn't it? They never really fully moved on; and now, they're really back!

John: RTD has already alluded to spin-offs à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Of course, he was ahead of the curve with Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures during his first tenure as showrunner.

How about a Dalek series, taking inspiration from TV Century 21, on Disney+? The reprinted comic strips on the back page of Marvel UK’s DWM captured my childhood imagination as I played with Marx and Palitoy Dalek toys!

Andrew: That would be very much down to the Terry Nation estate I think since they license the rights to use the Daleks. The man himself tried that in the 60s in America but it never took off. The trouble is that the Daleks are too limited to headline a whole series and easily become tiresome. Their lack of humanity in any form is a problem; it's why Nation ended up devising Davros as he's a much better dramatic foil. But how about a grim, militaristic story of the Kaled/Thal war, with a young Davros growing up in the domed cities under bombardment, in the style of Andor?

However, Torchwood feels like the obvious first spin-off project. Maybe make it a hub for freelancing former companions, as UNIT was doing with Tegan and Ace? Add Yaz to the line-up, and maybe Martha Jones, and the format is flexible enough to take it anywhere you want.

John: An exciting homecoming for the 60th anniversary.

Andrew: So I've gone at some length about why I feel the recent series hasn't landed so well with me, to say the least. Perhaps the biggest factor is that ever since the Moffat residency, the show has been going over and over the character and background of the Doctor him/herself, culminating most recently with the introduction of the whole Timeless Child extra layer. I just wish they would get back to the days of the madman in the box travelling around the universe, meeting interesting people and having exciting adventures in time and space without the navel-gazing introspection. Back to how they used to do things for almost all of the entire 26 years of the classic series.

What about you? What would you like to see them do with all that cash - and with Tennant and Gatwa - that was missing from the recent Whittaker run?

John: As you’ve already alluded, make it mysterious again. Let the Doctor walk in eternity...

Andrew: I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it turns out. So let's pause for now and reconvene and continue this discussion next year when the three specials arrive. Until then, John?

John: Until then, Andrew! VWORP! VWORP!

The series 13 specials are available here (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Power of the Doctor? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Bob Iger back at Disney

Bob Iger has dramatically returned to Disney, in echoes of Steve Jobs at Apple, as Bob Chapek is publically ousted after taking the helm in early 2020 as a global pandemic engulfed the world.

Chapek's ill-fated era was defined by the pandemic and seemingly unforced errors.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board. “The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period.”

As former CEO, Iger oversaw the successful acquisition of Pixar, Marvel Comics, Lucasfilm and more. This culminated in the launch of Disney+.

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Bob Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”

A change in leadership shouldn't affect Doctor Who on Disney+. However, I will update you.

Are you glad to see Bob Iger back at Disney? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 21 November 2022

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The Guardians of the Galaxy are back this Thanksgiving on Disney+. This is the second Marvel Studios' Special Presentation, which began with the excellent Werewolf by Night.

Read the official synopsis:

"It's time to deck the galaxy! Lights, presents, trees, snowflakes, candy canes, and... Kevin Bacon? In The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the Guardians, who are on a mission to make Christmas unforgettable for Quill, head to Earth in search of the perfect present."

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, directed by James Gunn (The Suicide Squad), premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 25th November.

Are you looking forward to The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 19 November 2022

Millie Gibson is Doctor Who companion

The new Doctor Who companion was announced exclusively during Children in Need.

Actress Millie Gibson (Coronation Street) will join Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) aboard the TARDIS as Ruby Sunday during a holiday special in 2023. A poignant casting as my late mum was a big fan of Coronation Street.

Speaking of her new role, 19-year-old Millie Gibson said: “Whilst still being in total disbelief, I am beyond honoured to be cast as the Doctor’s companion. It is a gift of a role, and a dream come true, and I will do everything to try and fill the boots the fellow companions have travelled in before me. And what better way to do that than being by the fabulous Ncuti Gatwa’s side, I just can’t wait to get started.”

Ncuti Gatwa added: “Millie just is the companion. She is full of talent, strength, she has a cheeky sparkle in her eye and is sharp as a razor. From the moment she walked into the room she captured all of our attention with her effervescence and then solidified that attention with the sheer torque of her talent. This adventure is going to be so wild and so fun, I cannot WAIT to sail the universe with Millie!”

Russell T Davies, Showrunner, says: “It’s the great honour of my job to find the next generation of talent, and Millie shines like a star already. She’s brilliant, dynamic, clever and a wonderful actor. As a CORONATION STREET fan, I’ve seen Millie survive chases, guns and sieges, but that’s nothing compared to what lies ahead for Ruby Sunday.”

Ncuti Gatwa interviewed Millie Gibson following the announcement.

Disney+ is distributing the new series outside the UK and Ireland, where it will remain on the BBC.

Are you looking forward to seeing Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 18 November 2022

Doctor Who companion on Children in Need

During today's Childen in Need fundraiser on BBC One, a new companion for Ncuti Gatwa's (Sex Education) Doctor Who will be announced live.

Gatwa takes the helm of the TARDIS console from David Tennant following three specials to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fan-favourite time traveller in 2023.

Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) is returning showrunner with Disney+ distributing the new series outside the UK and Ireland, where it will remain on the BBC.

Who would you like to see announced as a Doctor Who companion? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Willow returns on Disney+

“The world needs you again, it needs your magic.” Willow returns this Thanksgiving on Disney+, and Lucasfilm has released an official clip from the upcoming live-action spin-off series.

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.

Disney+ released the following description of Willow:

“The story began when an aspiring sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, is whisked away on a journey to protect an infant empress Elora Danan and vanquish the evil Queen Bavmorda from their world of Andowyne. Now, the story continues with Davis reprising his titular role, as he leads an unlikely crew of heroes on a quest to protect Andowyne from an even larger foe than they had imagined possible.”

Willow streams exclusively on Disney+ on 30th November.

Are you looking forward to Willow on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Hallmark Keepsake LEGO in the UK

For the first time ever, Hallmark Keepsake LEGO ornaments are officially available in the UK. This is fantastic news for UK-based LEGO fans (myself included).

Last year featured LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader and Stormtrooper in fetching festive jumpers, which I missed out on due to exorbitant prices on the secondary market.

This year the limited edition collection features LEGO Astronaut, Harry Potter and Yeti minifigures:

Blue Classic Space Astronaut (affiliate link)
Harry Potter (affiliate link)
Yeti (affiliate link)

They'll be a great addition to any LEGO fan's Christmas tree.

In related news. There's a growing community of adult fans of LEGO (AFOL) on Mastodon.

What do you think of the Hallmark Keepsake LEGO ornaments for holiday 2022? Which ones would you like to see next year? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 14 November 2022

Bram Stoker’s Dracula at 30

30 years ago, I was fixated on Bram Stoker's Dracula during the holiday season of 1992.

Wojciech Kilar's soundtrack CD played on repeat as I wrote and illustrated in earnest, trying to numb the knowledge of finishing college and succumbing to imposter syndrome as the prospect of university weighed heavily on my mind.

Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) was my latest silver screen crush and I couldn't wait to immerse myself in director Francis Ford Coppola's (The Godfather) tragic tale of doomed love.

Those gothic sensibilities would form the foundation of my friendship with Nick Smith when we first met the following year at Bournemouth University. So, it only seems appropriate that Nick, our US-based stellar scribe, examines the vampiric heart of darkness in Bram Stoker's Dracula...

Guest post by Nick Smith

Never underestimate the influence of Tim Burton.

After his dark magical realism filled Warner Bros’ coffers with Batman in 1989, tenebrous fairy tales and film noir were in: Darkman, The Addams Family and Dick Tracy all sought the same audience as Burton’s stylized comic book hit. The formula worked; in a new decade, moviegoers were ready for Gothic frills and thrills after the brash 1980s.

Literal – if not literate – as ever, Hollywood was willing to bankroll a Gothic classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 30 years after its release, the movie holds up both as a frightfully big adventure and an elegiac romance.

Fresh off another girl-meets-monster smash, Edward Scissorhands, Winona Ryder brought the Dracula script to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola. He adapted it with grand Guignol glee, glorying in multiple homages to iconic film sequences. Like a vampire who did like wine (his own house label), he syphoned imagery from other films and hypnotized us with the spell of cinema.

Look closely and you’ll see bits from Todd Browning’s Dracula (‘the children of the night’ speech, for example); FW Murnau’s expressionistic Nosferatu (especially the outré use of shadows cast by Dracula); The Exorcist (Van Helsing standing in front of a fog-bound house; a vampire projectile-vomiting onto the hunter); Coppola’s own Godfather (religious ritual intercut with murder); and Hammer films (cue dramatic music!).

Imitations notwithstanding, the lush visuals are delightfully sanguine, the costumes are lavish and the sets positively operatic. The impressive cast includes Gary Oldman as Dracula, Ryder as the love of his unlife, Mina, and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, supported by Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci and, er, Keanu Reeves.

Befitting the owner of American Zoetrope, Coppola riffs on motion picture technology and techniques circa 1897, when the bulk of this story is set: light shows, shadow play, phonograph recordings, iris transitions, peep shows and a nod to the Lumiere Brothers’ Train Pulling into a Station.

Legend has it that when the Lumieres’ early silent film was shown, the audience fled the theatre thinking a real train was heading toward them. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a wolf escapes from the zoo and sends people packing. Coppola compares a filmic rumour with a literary myth; by taming the wolf, Dracula indicates that he commands the mystery of film – just like the director.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula cost $40 million to make - a whopping sum back in 1992 - and grossed almost $216 million at the box office. It helped drag the Count out of his Sesame Street doldrums into the late 20th Century, setting the stage for more classic monster revivals, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Wolfman.

Playing like a dark dream, the film works best today as a celebration of the epistolary source novel, classic Hollywood and practical makeup effects. The romance between Dracula and his reincarnated partner is splendidly intense; Mina must choose between the exotic bad boy Count and the waiflike Jonathan Harker. The choice is not easy for her, especially after Dracula points out that he has ‘crossed oceans of time’ for her.

No pressure.

This was the last big movie for Francis Ford Coppola, the godfather of modern populist cinema. Pulling out all the stops, he ends with a bloody bang. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a landmark love song for a vampire and a long, extravagant love note to the intense emotions movies can evoke.

Have you seen Bram Stoker's Dracula? What did you think? How does it compare with other adaptations? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Lucasfilm and Studio Ghibli join forces for Star Wars

Lucasfilm and Studio Ghibli have collaborated on a Star Wars project for Disney+.

The animated short featuring Grogu from The Mandalorian and Dust Bunnies from My Neighbour Toroto will have you falling in love with the fan-favourite characters again.

Grogu and the Dust Bunnies is streaming exclusively on Disney+.

Saturday 12 November 2022

His Dark Materials ends December

Before Bad Wolf begins co-producing Doctor Who in 2023, the final season of His Dark Materials will be shown this December during the holidays.

Read the official synopsis:

"Based on “The Amber Spyglass,” the final novel in Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy, in the final chapter of this epic fantasy series, Lyra (Dafne Keen), the prophesied child, and Will (Amir Wilson), the bearer of The Subtle Knife, must journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned. As her father’s great war against the Authority edges closer, they will learn that saving the worlds comes at a terrible price."

It's almost 2 years since the second season of His Dark Materials was transmitted on BBC and HBO Max. So, I've begun a rewatch in 4K UHD on BBC iPlayer, and this live-action adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy looks spellbinding.

The main cast of His Dark Materials season 3 includes Dafne Keen as Lyra (Logan), Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) as Marisa Coulter, Will Keen (The Crown) as Father Hugh MacPhail, Ruta Gedmintas (Do No Harm) as Serafina Pekkala, Amir Wilson (2020’s The Secret Garden, The Letter for the King) as Will Parry, and James McAvoy (It Chapter Two, Dark Pheonix), as Lord Asriel. However, it is unknown if he will be a leading cast member this season.

Previous cast members of His Dark Materials have included Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Andrew Scott, Bella Ramsey, and Morfydd Clark.

Are you excited for His Dark Materials season three? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 11 November 2022

Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, has died

Kevin Conroy, synonymous with being the voice of the dark detective since fan-favourite Batman: The Animated Series began in 1992, has passed away aged 66.

Growing up, I watched reruns of Adam West's Batman television series and saw Michael Keaton's Batman at the cinema with college friends. However, it's Conroy's distinctive voice I can hear inside my head as I type these words.

In the wake of director Tim Burton's blockbusters Batman and Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series was born. This is considered by many fans (myself included) as the definitive dark night, with Conroy's performance regarded as one of the very best, and spawned a thrilling theatrical tie-in: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I took my Kenner action figure collection with me to university.

Mark Hamill on the passing of Conroy: "Kevin was perfection," recalled Hamill, who redefined the Joker playing opposite Conroy's Batman. "He was one of my favourite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him - his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated."

"Kevin was a brilliant actor," Hamill said. "For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery - that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner - it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn't have done it without him. He will always be my Batman."

Thank you for voicing the dark detective in the definitive Batman series and beyond for over 30 years.

My deepest condolences to his husband and his whole family and everyone else who loved him. RIP Kevin Conroy!

What are your memories of Conroy's Batman? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Indiana Jones series on Disney+

With a Willow spin-off sequel series premiering this Thanksgiving, Variety exclusively reports an Indiana Jones series is in development for Disney+.

This isn't the first time the fan-favourite Lucasfilm franchise, created by George Lucas (Star Wars), has been on television.

Back in the early nineties, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles aired on ABC with Harrison Ford making a cameo as the titular adventurer. I vividly remember watching the pioneering award-winning series on Sky One in the UK and listening to the Varèse Sarabande soundtracks as I toiled away on undergraduate scripts with Nick Smith, wrote essays and read the latest issue of The Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine (rebranded as Star Wars Insider).

Whilst fans (myself included) wait for Indiana Jones 5, a video game for Xbox Series S|X and a new spin-off series, how about releasing The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on Disney+? I've requested the series via the app.

Would you like to see an Indiana Jones spin-off series on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Deadpool director in talks for Star Wars

Deadline exclusively reports Stranger Things director Shawn Levy is in talks with Lucasfilm to direct a Star Wars movie after Deadpool 3 hits theatres in 2024 with Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman reprising the fan-favourite roles of Deadpool and Wolverine respectively.

Levy is no stranger to a galaxy far, far away... Netflix's Stranger Things is filled with Star Wars easter eggs and Ryan Reynolds wielded a lightsaber in Free Guy.

Monday 7 November 2022

LEGO Build To Give featuring Katy Perry

LEGO Build To Give is back for holiday 2022. This is its sixth consecutive year.

"For many families, the Holidays are a time of celebration, where they can be together and enjoy playing. But, for some, it can be a tough time,” said Diana Ringe Krogh, Vice President of Social Responsibility at the LEGO Group. “That’s why #BuildToGive is so important. Over the past five years, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the initiative and want to say thank you to the families around the world who have taken part each year. Thanks to their help, we’ve been able to donate millions of LEGO sets to children across the globe, bringing them the joy and benefits of play.”

Pop superstar Katy Perry is supporting the #BuildToGive initiative.

“I love that the LEGO Group is helping turn family play into a moment of giving for families all around the world. I loved making my firework shaped gift and I can't wait to see the different designs that other families share!” said Katy Perry.

For the holiday season, all you have to do is build a gift or present out of LEGO and share it on social media using the hashtag #BuildToGive!

As a lifelong LEGO fan, I've donated sets to charity and continue to do so during a cost of living crisis. If you'd like to learn more about Build To Give, please visit LEGO.COM.

Friday 4 November 2022

The Rings of Power

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (affiliate link) has concluded on Amazon Prime. Is Tolkien's rich tapestry used to great effect or to boost sales in Alexa's walled garden on Black Friday?

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, travels back to Middle-earth to witness the forging of the rings of power in the shadow of Mordor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There was a time long ago when orcs were in. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy ruled movie theatres and everyone followed the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his furry-toed friends.

Although those moments are lost to all but memory and overpriced DVD box sets, there’s enough love for them and their Hobbit prequels to justify Amazon’s $1 billion series, The Rings of Power.

A reported sum of over $200 million secured the rights to the franchise, the rest goes towards the production of this (hopefully) five-year series.

It's good. It’s epic. The acting is excellent and the heroes are likeable – Robert Aramayo makes a perfect pointy-eared elf ambassador; Ismael Cruz Cordova is a superb, stoic warrior. Archetypes and cultures from the books are present, never looking down its nose at dwarves, depicting the orcs as ornery and formidable.

There was a time, 10,000 songs ago, when all that discerning Tolkien fans dreamed of was a conclusion to Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of the saga. The pioneering, delightfully demented filmmaker used actors as templates for his cartoon characters, giving them hyper-real movement. This was an expensive, arduous process and Bakshi fell out with producer Saul Zaentz.

Bakshi was only able to film part of the saga and fans never thought they’d see The Return of the King at the movies, let alone a lavish prequel like The Rings of Power. Now we are spoiled with stories so long that the tellers can take their sweet time to introduce and develop characters and situations, unveil mysteries and foreshadow the events of the books.

There‘s a reason why television shows were 45 minutes in length for decades. Rings strives to hold our attention for over an hour with segments that eke out the narrative. Impatient people beware. The first episode, for example, opens with several minutes of exposition before we get to the central narrative.

Through it all, we’re led by Galadriel (performed with boldness and grace by Morfydd Clark). The focus on female characters never seems forced and the sense of scale and travel, abetted by maps, is adequately grand.

There was a time, long ago, when the gentle folk of the smokin’ 60s read Tolkien’s books and found that the theme of nature versus destructive progress resonated with them and made their beards bristle. Fortunately, that same theme – developed to great effect in the movies, as the orcs destroyed the landscape – is revisited here.

There was a time, far away in years, when a linguist and educator wrote fantasy novels.

The theme of war’s futility clicked with the veterans who read them. The battle scenes glimpsed in The Rings of Power are lavish and exciting with high stakes for the heroes – one lost skirmish and they could lose their lands, their family or friends.

Magic is used sparingly and shown to be so powerful that the characters can barely control it, let alone understand it.

With The Rings of Power, Jeff Bezos wants a piece of HBO’s action. Both Rings and House of the Dragon are prequels to high-profile fantasy sagas. We know what’s going to happen thanks to references in the original texts.

However, compared to the saucy Dragon, Rings is chaste and far more family-friendly. It’s none the worse for that. Dragon has a seam of betrayal and tragedy that has yet to be mined in Rings, although this is partly redressed with a glimpse of the dreaded Mordor. There’s enough difference between the two shows to make them both worth watching.

There were other times, other themes to explore, and other battles to be fought. But they would have to wait for future years and destined streams ahead.

Have you watched The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water on GMA

On Wednesday, Disney dropped an official trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water on Good Morning America (GMA).

Director James Cameron (Aliens) has been working on the Avatar sequel for years. During this time, Disney bought Twentieth Century Fox's film and television assets. Cameron was given more time and money for his film franchise.

Read the official synopsis:

"Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure."

The sequel stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Winslet.

In the 13 years since the original Avatar was released, the 3D format has become a niche in the home market and television manufacturers have all but abandoned it in favour of 4K UHD.

The House of Mouse has bet big on Cameron's sequel for the holiday season and it's difficult to imagine how Avatar: The Way of Water will fail at the box office. Especially with the allure of immersive 3D. The true test will be the release of future sequels. At least there's always Disney+.

The original Avatar was pulled from Disney+ when the remastered movie returned to cinemas last September. Hopefully, the 4K UHD version will be on Disney+ during the holiday season.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

What did you think of the Avatar: The Way of Water official trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Special look at Willow

Lucasfilm has released a special look at Willow.

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.

Disney+ released the following description of Willow:

“The story began when an aspiring sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, is whisked away on a journey to protect an infant empress Elora Danan and vanquish the evil Queen Bavmorda from their world of Andowyne. Now, the story continues with Davis reprising his titular role, as he leads an unlikely crew of heroes on a quest to protect Andowyne from an even larger foe than they had imagined possible.”

Willow streams exclusively on Disney+ on 30th November.

Are you looking forward to Willow on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.