Wednesday 28 December 2022

Classic FM interviews John Williams

It's Betwixmas! So, as I watch festive fare on a new Sony BRAVIA XR Master Series OLED, my first Sony television in twenty years, I thought I'd share this exclusive Classic FM interview with legendary Hollywood composer John Williams (Star Wars) from last summer.

Whilst Williams has announced he's retiring from composing movie music after Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, he would love to compose music for the James Bond franchise.

Williams' lost soundtrack for SpaceCamp was our inaugural Star Tracks feature reviewed by Nick Smith.

What's your favourite John Williams soundtrack from Harry Potter to Star Wars? Is it possible to choose? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 25 December 2022

Doctor Who teaser on Christmas Day

OK! There's no new Doctor Who Christmas special this year.

However, returning showrunner Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) has teased its return for next Christmas as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations with David Tennant back as the Doctor with fan-favourite companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) before Ncuti Gatwa takes control of the TARDIS.

The BBC released a new teaser trailer as a surprise on Christmas Day.

Russell T Davies, showrunner says: “We wanted to give fans, friends and families a lovely little Christmas present - with a promise that 2023 will be a riot of Doctor Who goodness!"

Beep the Meep makes his live-action debut. The malevolent beast first appeared in Marvel UK’s Doctor Who Weekly and was illustrated by Dave Gibbons (Watchmen). Does this pave the way for Frobisher and Death's Head? Yes?

Now I’m hoping Abslom Daak will appear in the strongly rumoured Dalek spin-off series!

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

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a happy and safe holiday season. I'm off to rewatch A Christmas Carol, guest starring Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins, on BBC iPlayer.

Monday 19 December 2022

Steven Spielberg on Desert Island Discs

Steven Spielberg, director of award-winning blockbusters from Jaws to Schindler's List, is a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

Along with George Lucas (Star Wars), Spielberg is the defining film director of my life. Seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind soon after Star Wars was a seminal experience. The music of John Williams is inextricably linked to both Hollywood auteurs.

Spielberg speaks of his regret regarding shark hunting in the wake of Jaws' success.

You can listen to Lauren Laverne's interview with Spielberg on BBC Sounds.

What's your favourite Steven Spielberg movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Adam Driver blasts dinosaurs in 65

Well, I didn't see this coming.

Adam Driver (Star Wars) time travels back to when the dinosaurs ruled the earth in 65. Sony Pictures has released an official trailer for the upcoming sci-fi thriller produced by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man 2).

Read the official synopsis:

"After a catastrophic crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills (Adam Driver) quickly discovers he’s actually stranded on Earth… 65 million years ago. Now, with only one chance at rescue, Mills and the only other survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), must make their way across an unknown terrain riddled with dangerous prehistoric creatures in an epic fight to survive."

65 reminds me of a 2000 AD Annual storyline from Christmas past and I'm here for it. It hits theatres on 10th March.

Are you looking forward to 65? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 9 December 2022

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at 40

40 years ago, director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) broke the collective hearts of millions of cinemagoers (myself included) with his story of an abandoned alien befriending a fatherless child, Elliott (Henry Thomas), in a thematic sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The movie was, of course, E.T the Extra-Terrestrial: a life-affirming tale of friendship in the darkest of times, yet hope prevails in Hollywood composer, and longtime Spielberg collaborator, John Williams' spellbinding soundtrack, which I vividly remember listening to on vinyl LP on Christmas morning.

Spielberg's most autobiographical movie until The Fabelmans resonated deeply with my ten-year-old self - still coming to terms with a life-changing trauma and struggling to make sense of where I fitted into the fabric of the cosmos - a crippled child who looked to the night sky for escape from earthly bounds. BMX bikes, a signature totemic icon of so many fan-favourite Spielberg productions, afforded me freedom and the means to play with able-bodied friends on an equal footing.

When a kind friend of my late mum, who worked at the ABC Exeter, offered to let us watch E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial a second time (for free), I was too upset... To this day, I can't watch Spielberg's magnum opus without becoming an ugly mess.

The officially licensed Atari video game tie-in never reached UK shores (I had to make do with the Parker Brothers board game). A boring buggy mess, it’s widely regarded as one of gaming’s greatest failures and is infamously linked to the video game crash of 1983. This primarily affected the US market as European gamers (myself included) had moved on to 8-bit home computers with the advent of the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

"Drew Barrymore sits down with the cast of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton and Henry Thomas) for a special 40th-anniversary reunion interview. Henry Thomas tells Drew what it was like playing Elliott in the film, and the rest of the cast remembers Steven Spielberg's ability to bring the best out of actors."

What are your memories of watching E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor at The Game Awards

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor gameplay will premiere at The Game Awards on 8th December.

This follows a leak on Steam suggesting the highly-anticipated sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be released in March 2023.

Read the official synopsis:

"Star Wars Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal must stay one step ahead of the Empire’s constant pursuit as he continues to feel the weight of being one of the last remaining Jedi in the galaxy."

Are you looking forward to Star Wars Jedi: Survivor? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 2 December 2022

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

On Thursday, Lucasfilm released an official trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

The upcoming sequel in the fan-favourite franchise created by George Lucas (Star Wars), directed by James Mangold (Logan), will be the first from Lucasfilm following its acquisition by Disney in 2012 and without Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) at the helm.

Oscar-winning composer John Williams (Jaws) is back composing music for the man in the hat played by Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones). Williams has said this will be his final movie soundtrack.

Will Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny be a legacy sequel comparable to stablemate Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Fans (myself included) will find out on 30th June 2023.

Are you looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? What did you think of the trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 1 December 2022

Micro Galaxy: A Star Wars Toy Story

In this edition of A Star Wars Toy Story, Nick Smith, our US-based collecting connoisseur, goes on a toy hunt to Walmart in search of micro-sized bounties for the holiday season.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Like many kids of the Star Wars generation, collecting Star Wars toys was an obsession for me. That was part of their allure – completing a set of cantina creatures or bounty hunters was a quest worthy of any nascent Jedi Knight.

I had the Millennium Falcon. I had a Star Destroyer. I had everything, it seemed, except Yoda’s Kitchen Swamp Sink. Still, I wanted more. I wanted to get exotic.

I wanted to go micro.

Somehow I got my greedy little hands on a small, colourful brochure. It showed all the toys I could buy in the Star Wars Micro Collection, a 1982 series of pint-sized playsets with tiny die-cast metal figures from Kenner. You could re-enact the Battle of Hoth (my favourite), the escape from the Death Star, or the Cloud City duel.

The sets, or ‘worlds,’ could be combined to make a bigger playset. With the dramatic backdrops of the brochure, they looked amazing and there was something about their sheer dinkiness that kept me coming back to those glossy pages.

Alas, this Bristol-born boy never got to see those sets in the flesh – not the retail toys, the mail-away ‘Build Your Army’ set or the unproduced Bespin torture scene (fun for all the family!). These days we get merchandise in various sizes; in the early '80s, li’l versions of movie tie-in toys were not de rigueur. The Micro Collection didn't catch on, cancelled by the time Star Wars: Return of the Jedi hit cinema screens in 1983.

I had to wait until 1994 when Galoob gave us Micro Machines Star Wars Action Fleet to fuel my fascination for tiny toys. These were infinitely more popular than Kenner's ill-fated Micro Collection, with spaceships, land vehicles, figurines and ‘figure heads’ – literally, just characters’ heads. My must-haves were the playsets that folded into a wee carry case – Jabba’s Palace transformed into a squished-up R2-D2; the Mos Eisley Cantina could tuck its scum inside C-3PO’s head.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who missed these minis. Hasbro's Star Wars Mission Fleet and Jazwares’ Star Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron reprise the Micro Machines with plenty of collectable attention to detail. Some of the pieces are minuscule; The Mandalorian’s Grogu is the size of a pigeon’s fingernail. No amount of midi-chlorians will help you if you lose that sucker.

The Star Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron series covers the original trilogy, the prequels and the Disney+ series. There’s a Stormtrooper carrier, a Ginivex Starfighter, an AT-ST and the Razor Crest. I’ve got my eyes on a Starfighter Class X-Wing, which is a whopping five inches and comes with its own little Luke.

Packaged in dark, glossy boxes, some of the toys have a Black Series vibe, and the minutiae make them seem aimed at serious collectors (the 7-inch Millennium Falcon costs $45). Those with more sense than money might baulk at paying so much for so little. My advice: take Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced (affiliate link) for a spin, stick it in your pocket and keep an eye on your Grogu.

Personally, I’m content admiring the toys on their store shelves. And reading the brochures.

Are you collecting Star Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron? What are your memories of the Micro Collection and Micro Machines Action Fleet? Let me know in the comments below.