Monday 30 January 2023

Classic Doctor Who on iPlayer?

Classic Doctor Who is currently available to stream on ITVX Premium, which includes BBC content from former joint venture BritBox. However, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the beloved sci-fi series (my favourite, if you haven't already guessed).

Returning showrunner Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) has hinted it could come to BBC iPlayer: "You make all of the back catalogue available, first, on iPlayer. I can’t swear that will happen, but there are contracts. It’s our heritage, it deserves to be there so kids can fall in love with Doctor Who like they love Friends."

Davies has also spoken about the possibility of new spin-off series and a bigger budget with Sony's Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials) co-producing and Disney+ as an international broadcast partner.

He said: "It's one of the reasons I've come back – you can tell stories on a bigger scale. It's the same old problems, I still have to cut scenes because they're too expensive, and I still have to reduce the number of monsters, and things like that. But my imagination feels more free, a lot more free, actually. It's just a joy to write anyway."

Personally, classic serials should be available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and Ireland and Disney+ for international fans.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 28 January 2023

Amazon adventures for Tomb Raider

Following rumours of a new Tomb Raider video game announcement at this year's E3, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) is purportedly in talks to develop a live-action series for Amazon Prime.

The beloved video game franchise was rebooted to critical acclaim in 2013 with Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) playing Lara Croft. This is the year PlayStation exclusive The Last of Us was also released. The latter has a live-action adaptation currently streaming on HBO Max.

Waller-Bridge’s first archaeological adventure is starring alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny this June.

Are you excited about a Tomb Raider series from Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Amazon Prime? Who would you like to see play the titular character? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 26 January 2023

Steven Spielberg biopic on John Williams

Following their appearance at an American Cinematheque event, director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) has announced a documentary on legendary composer John Williams' life.

Williams' soundtracks are synonymous with Spielberg's movies. From Jaws to E.T. and Jurassic Park to The Fabelmans, Williams' scores have been the beating heart. And then there are stellar soundtracks for Star Wars, Superman and many more.

Laurent Bouzereau (Five Came Back) will direct with Spielberg acting as executive producer.

Williams is currently composing music for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and has decided he won't be retiring after all. May the Force be with him. Always.

Saturday 21 January 2023

Welcome to the Whoniverse!

The Whoniverse existed before the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Doctor Who spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in the wake of the beloved BBC sci-fi series' successful revival in 2005.

Returning showrunner Russell T Davies (It's A Sin) has teased more Doctor Who spin-offs as part of a creative partnership with Disney+. Disney+ is the exclusive home of Doctor Who outside the UK and Ireland. Bad Wolf Studios shared a photo of incoming Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa standing by a sign saying 'Home of the Whoniverse'.

Doctor Who returns for three 60th anniversary specials, starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), this November on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+.

What spin-offs would you like to see? Daleks? Cybermen? Ice Warriors? Frobisher? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 17 January 2023

The Force is with Grogu in The Mandalorian

On Monday, Lucasfilm dropped an official trailer for The Mandalorian season three during the NFL Wild Card Game.

It's been over 2 years since Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) showed up in the final episode of The Mandalorian season two and offered to teach Grogu the ways of the Force and become a Jedi.

Star Wars fans (myself included) caught up with the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu in The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+. Grogu decided to leave Luke and rejoin Din Djarin for further adventures.

A flashback to Order 66 from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is teased. Will we finally see how Grogu was saved from Darth Vader and the Clone Troopers?

The Mandalorian's highly-anticipated third season begins on 1st March exclusively on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to the third season of The Mandalorian? What did you think of the trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 15 January 2023

John Williams surprises Steven Spielberg

Oscar-winning composer John Williams (Star Wars) isn't retiring after all according to Variety!

Last year, Williams announced Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny would be his final movie soundtrack. However, during an American Cinematheque event with longtime creative collaborator Steven Spielberg (Jaws), Williams surprised everyone by saying he would no longer retire.

“Well, Steven is a lot of things,” said the 90-year-old composer. “He’s a director, he’s a producer, he’s a studio head, he’s a writer, he’s a philanthropist, he’s an educator. One thing he isn’t is a man you can say no to.”

“You never told me that before today,” said The Fabelmans director.

Continued Williams, “I had a 90th birthday and I met a woman at my age up in Boston. She was a very nice lady, exactly the same age as I, and I said to her, the greatest decade in a man’s life is 80 to 90, if you have your health, because if you get to 90, there’s an enormous compensation. You see everything with such magnetic vision that you recognize the most beautiful thing in the world are Peruvian butterflies. There’s nothing more beautiful than that. And so it’s the greatest decade. And she said, ‘No, the greatest decade in a person’s life is 90 to 100. So I’ll stick around for a while… But also, you can’t retire from music. I said earlier, it’s like breathing. It’s your life. It’s my life. And so a day without music is a mistake.”

Spielberg in reply: “I gotta get working, to find out what the hell I’m doing next.”

45 years ago, I began my soundtrack odyssey with the original Star Wars double LP. Like many, Williams has composed the soundtrack to my life.

I, for one, can't wait to see where Spielberg and Williams take cinema audiences next.

Friday 13 January 2023

Alien series in pre-production at FX

Alien fans (myself included) rejoice. As reported by Deadline, Noah Hawley's (Fargo) long-awaited live-action spin-off series is in pre-production for Hulu and Star on Disney+.

"Noah is currently in production on the fifth season of Fargo but he’s in active pre-production on Alien, he’s written scripts," FX boss John Landgraf said during the Television Critics Association press tour. "I think he’s meeting with his production designer in Austin this weekend, gearing up for production this year after he completes the fifth season of Fargo."

Hawley's Alien spin-off series was first announced during the pandemic in 2020. Whilst we wait for further details, you can read Nick Smith's thoughts on the state of the franchise here.

Are you looking forward to the Alien spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Titanic returns to the big screen in 4K 3D

As Avatar: The Way of Water continues to dominate the box office, James Cameron’s Titanic is returning to cinemas this February to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

In the years before its release, I avidly followed reports of Titanic's troubled production, which suggested Twentieth Century Fox had a box office disaster comparable to Cleopatra. As the budget ballooned, Paramount Pictures stepped in to distribute the movie in the US.

At the time of Titanic’s original release in the UK, I wrote that the film had transcended my (admittedly) low expectations in the wake of a preview screening on my birthday.

In a sold-out Odeon Exeter Screen 1, I got swept away by this sepia-toned ghost story based on an infamous real-life tragedy. Nothing could've prepared the audience for the audacious spectacle and sheer grandeur that leapt from the great expanse of widescreen before us.

Cameron is indeed a master magician of montage and emotion. His craft would be further honed for Avatar.

The self-proclaimed king of the world had come of age with his Oscar-winning epic romance, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, underscored by composer James Horner’s haunting orchestrations - filled with Easter Eggs from an illustrious career cut too soon. Incidentally, I owned the original soundtrack on CD and MiniDisc. Now I can stream alternate versions on Apple Music, how times and technology have changed.

Ultimately, Titanic conquered the box office and was the first film to reach a billion dollars. The moral of the story is to never bet against Cameron.

Like Avatar, Titanic has been remastered in 4K 3D. However, I'll wait to see it on Disney+. It will be available on Paramount+ in the US.

What are your memories of watching Titanic? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 9 January 2023

Icons Unearthed: Star Wars

Last summer, I avidly watched Light & Magic on Disney+. The unsentimental documentary series chronicled the founding of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) by George Lucas during the filming of Star Wars.

Suffering from withdrawal symptoms, I recently stumbled across Icons Unearthed: Star Wars on Freevee in the UK.

Icons Unearthed is produced and directed by Brian Volk-Weiss, founder of The Nacelle Company, who also created the geektastic shows The Toys That Made Us and The Movies That Made Us for Netflix.

Icons Unearthed is available free on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Saturday 7 January 2023

The Last of Us infects TV this January

The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann, was released by Naughty Dog a decade ago on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). It's that rare breed of video game I've owned across console generations, most recently on PlayStation 5 (PS5).

So, it's not entirely surprising I'm looking forward to HBO's live-action adaptation, co-written by Druckmann and Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and filmed during a real-life global pandemic, starring Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones).

Read the official synopsis:

"THE LAST OF US takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal and heartbreaking journey as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival."

The Last of Us premieres on 15th January on HBO and HBO Max in the US and 16th January on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.

Are you excited about The Last of Us on HBO? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

The Force is with Diamond Select Toys

Diamond Select Toys has released an exciting Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi diorama based on the Disney+ series exclusively for Shop Disney.

Read the official description from Diamond Select Toys:

"After many of the Jedi are lost, Obi-Wan Kenobi retreats to Tatooine to live a life of seclusion. Ten years on, he is called to help save the young Princess Leia. Dealing with demons of the past and great new dangers, Obi-Wan struggles to reconnect with the Force. Inspired by Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, this high quality PVC collectible figure captures Obi-Wan at this pivotal moment in the Star Wars saga. Intricately sculpted with a striking character likeness and exacting paint applications, it brings the hero to life. A must-have for serious fans and collectors alike, it comes with a removable Lightsaber blade and is packaged on a diorama base in a full-color window box."

Let's hope Darth Vader is announced soon from Diamond Select Toys.

Are you excited about the Obi-Wan Kenobi diorama? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 2 January 2023

Star Tracks: The Search for Spock

Happy New Year to all our readers! 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and, for many Star Wars fans (myself included) living outside London, the 45th anniversary of Star Wars! We'll be celebrating all this and much more over the coming months.

For Christmas, I was gifted Bandai's excellent electronic USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and what better way to begin than with an edition of Star Tracks featuring James Horner's soundtrack for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based media maverick, follows up his adventures with Willow by stealing the Enterprise with help from the fine folks at Intrada.

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s hard for me to listen to any James Horner music without memories of the Star Trek movies flooding Nick’s Brain! Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan score helped make the film an unforgettable experience, accentuating the plot twists and emotional moments with just the right amount of pomp.

Horner was still in his twenties when he submitted a demo tape and got selected by The Wrath of Khan’s director and producers to score a big-screen love letter to the TV show. Despite – or partly due to – the death of a major character, the movie was a huge hit, making almost $100 million at the box office.

‘For me not to do [Star Trek III: The Search for Spock], I’d have to be in a bad accident or get killed!’ Horner joked to Starlog magazine. But The Search for Spock presented different challenges, not least of which was the need to give an epic quality to a film with a simpler story, essentially a bookend to Khan. ‘Star Trek III got formulated somewhere along the end while we were doing [Star Trek II],’ said Horner. ‘I had to change the end of Star Trek II musically and they changed the cut so that it merged into the beginning of Star Trek III and it actually held me in very good stead.’

III’s themes are an extension of the Khan music (Horner called it a ‘reweaving’), just as the film itself continues the narrative. The eerie Spock tune is developed along with II’s main theme and its exciting battle music. Horner has a chance to go bigger and better the second time around; the sounds are deeper and more profound.

‘…The score for Star Trek III is just so much vastly better than Star Trek II,’ Horner told CinemaScore. ‘It's just a much more interesting score and, for me, a much more beautiful and emotional score than Star Trek II.’

Intrada’s 2-CD release does justice to this special music. Disc 1 has the original, full score from the film, remixed from the three-track mixes printed from Sony 3324 24-track masters. Disc 2 has the 1984 Capitol Records music that contemporary fans grew up with, complete with a disco-pop version of the main theme.

The first track on Disc 1, Prologue and Main Title, begins abruptly; it’s heavy on celli, building a sense of grief and disillusionment. Not only is Spock gone but the iconic starship Enterprise is in a bad state after its fight with Khan. The emotions of the surviving crew come across wholeheartedly through the music.

Spock Endures Pon Farr also has a wistful edge, subsumed with little blasts of Alexander Courage’s TV theme, followed by Horner’s excellent, atonal Klingon battle music with percussion: bamboo ang-klungs, rhythm logs, boobams, an anvil, cluster chimes, tam-tams, a thunder sheet, timbales and drums are all used to encapsulate the warrior race.

These primal beats are counterpointed by plenty of humorous moments and sheer joyfulness. Stealing the Enterprise is as fun to listen to now as it ever was, accompanying the sequence in the film where Kirk and his crew break the rules, hotwire their beloved ship and escape into space.

Disc 2 includes four alternate tracks and a shiny new version of the Capitol release. Here, the Prologue and Main Title sound slow and majestic. The menacing second track, Klingons, references the original horn trills of the TV show and echoes tunes like Surprise Attack from The Wrath of Khan. Bird of Prey Decloaks channels Holst’s Mars, the Bringer of War, and the End Title is fast, sweeping and exhilarating.

While the complete score sounds fresh and exciting, I prefer the thicker orchestration of the album score. Maybe it’s because I used to play a promo album on repeat as a teenager while I wrote, looking forward to the fun, grooved-up jazz rock of Group 87, who covered The Search for Spock on a 12” disc that was included in my gatefold copy. Although that version sounds archaic now, in step with the same year’s The Neverending Story, it’s a real treat to have an extended edition of the score, an augmented version of the vinyl album and the Group 87 jam all in one package.

Treks II through IV were a saga all their own that cemented the films as worthy successors to their TV ancestor. However, The Search for Spock was Horner’s last score for the series. He said that he was invited to compose more but he wanted to do different projects. His swan song is a high note that he was justifiably proud of.

‘I think that Star Trek III is the best of all the Star Trek [movies],’ said Horner in CinemaScore. ‘It's made with the most amount of feeling, in a certain sense, of all of them. It's made by someone who knows the characters of Star Trek so much more intimately than anybody else involved, except maybe Gene Roddenberry. The fact that Leonard Nimoy directed this film gives it a whole interesting light that it would never have had with anyone else. It was fascinating to work with him.’

The franchise and this soundtrack are all the better since The Search for Spock helped the filmmakers, including Nimoy and Horner, discover what made Star Trek tick. While both men have sadly passed away, they will always be linked to this very human adventure.

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

Nick Smith's new audiobook, Undead on Arrival, is available from Amazon (affiliate link).