Monday 26 June 2023

Indiana Jones is back!

It’s Indiana Jones week with the worldwide release of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny only in cinemas on 30th June! Fans (myself included) can rewatch the existing four movies directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws) on Disney+.

I passed on Raiders of the Lost Ark in favour of Clash of the Titans and Dragonslayer in the summer of 1981. Mythical and space monsters reigned supreme in my life. It wouldn't be until Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with its infamous leaning into full-blown horror, that I would become an Indy fan.

Spielberg has passed the baton to James Mangold (Logan) for the fifth and final instalment in the Lucasfilm franchise created by George Lucas (Star Wars).

Aside from John Williams’ epic soundtrack, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a big disappointment for many fans upon release in 2008.

Williams is back to compose the music for the man in the hat played by Harrison Ford. Ever since Star Wars a new Williams soundtrack is something I always look forward to. This may be one of the composer's last.

Will Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny rekindle that nostalgic matinee movie magic first conjured up in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Stay tuned for Nick Smith's review coming soon.

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

Sunday 25 June 2023

LEGO Sonic at Sonic Central

LEGO and SEGA announced a new LEGO Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration during Sonic Central 2023.

“We’re a little over 30 days away from LEGO Sonic hitting shelves, and we’re thrilled to reveal Dr. Eggman’s Death Egg Robot as the fifth entry in our fantastic range of building experiences,” said Frédéric Roland Andre, Designer at the LEGO Group. “Sonic Central is the perfect setting to introduce LEGO and Sonic fans to this amazingly villainous new set, and we can’t wait for Sonic fans of all ages to get their hands on the blue blur in LEGO brick form this summer.”

This ties in with the hotly-anticipated Sonic Superstars video game later this year!

“After the Sonic Superstars reveal, we wanted to share more details around the game and the upcoming LEGO-themed integration on Sonic Central,“ said Ivo Gerscovich, Chief Business and Brand Officer at SEGA of America. “Through our continued partnership with the LEGO Group, Sonic fans will be able to experience Sonic Superstars in brick form and also recreate favorite scenes with the recently announced Dr. Eggman’s Death Egg Robot.”

Sonic vs. Dr. Eggman's Death Egg Robot is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Looking forward to more LEGO Sonic and Sonic Superstars? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

John Williams on scoring Indiana Jones

Lucasfilm has dropped a featurette featuring music maestro John Williams' incredible body of work scoring the Indiana Jones franchise for over four decades.

Whilst director Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark) isn't returning for the fifth instalment in the franchise created by George Lucas (Star Wars), Williams is back to compose the music for the man in the hat played by Harrison Ford.

“His music gave such detail to every single heart-stopping moment, and bonded all of these films together and gave these films a musical identity,” says Spielberg in the featurette. Adds Williams: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be associated with the films for quite a long time and to, with each film, add more to the collection of musical material.”

Williams made a surprise appearance at the US premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny alongside Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy and director James Mangold. He conducted an orchestral set to the delight of the assembled audience.

“We have a tradition with Indiana Jones which is that Indy has his music in all the various moves that he has, and his action scenes and comedy, and so many modes, the music is always there,” Williams told the audience.

“The other part of the tradition,” Williams added, “Is that we usually have a theme for the heroine or leading lady. In this film, we have Phoebe Waller-Bridge. You’ll see the most brilliant duet between Harrison and Phoebe as they do their wonderful witty dialogue and action and comedy and jeopardy.”

Williams continued, “Phoebe will be represented musically by a lyrical piece, reminiscent of the ’40s and ’50s and old Hollywood… This is ‘Helena’s Theme.’ It’s all about Phoebe, not all parts of her, but a lot of it.”

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.

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

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Babylon 5: The Road Home

Finally, following years of speculation regarding a Babylon 5 reboot, series creator and showrunner J. Michael Straczynski has announced an animated movie!

Read the official synopsis for Babylon 5: The Road Home:

"Return to BABYLON 5 as the epic interstellar saga continues with THE ROAD HOME. Travel across the galaxy with John Sheridan as he unexpectedly finds himself transported through multiple timelines and alternate realities in a quest to find his way back home. Along the way he reunites with some familiar faces, while discovering cosmic new revelations about the history, purpose, and meaning of the Universe."

Warner Bros. Animation has a storied history featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the award-winning Batman: The Animated Series!

Returning Babylon 5 cast members include Bruce Boxleitner as John Sheridan, Claudia Christian as Susan Ivanova, Peter Jurasik as Londo Mollari, Bill Mumy as Lennier, Tracy Scoggins as Elizabeth Lochley and Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander.

The surviving cast members are joined by Paul Guyet as Zathras and Jeffery Sinclair, Anthony Hansen as Michael Garibaldi, Mara Junot as Reporter and Computer Voice, Phil LaMarr as Dr Stephen Franklin, Piotr Michael as David Sheridan, Andrew Morgado as G’Kar and Rebecca Riedy as Delenn.

Longtime readers know I'm a big fan of Babylon 5 and remain hopeful for a live-action series on Max (formerly HBO Max) in the wake of the success of Star Trek and Star Wars spin-off series on Paramount+ and Disney+ respectively. The current writers' strike and shakedown following the Warner Bros. Discovery merger means there won't be a series anytime soon.

Babylon 5: The Road Home (affiliate link) is released digitally, 4K UHD and Blu-ray on 15th August.

Are you looking forward to Babylon 5: The Road Home? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 19 June 2023

Rebel Moon at Netflix Tudum

Director Zack Snyder (Justice League) dropped a promotional poster for Rebel Moon following a behind-the-scenes preview of his upcoming sci-fi movie during Netflix's global fan event Tudum.

Read the official synopsis from Tudum:

"From Zack Snyder, the filmmaker behind 300, Man of Steel, and Army of the Dead, comes REBEL MOON, an epic science-fantasy event decades in the making.

When a peaceful colony on the edge of a galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, Kora (Sofia Boutella), a mysterious stranger living among the villagers, becomes their best hope for survival. Tasked with finding trained fighters who will unite with her in making an impossible stand against the Mother World, Kora assembles a small band of warriors — outsiders, insurgents, peasants and orphans of war from different worlds who share a common need for redemption and revenge. As the shadow of an entire Realm bears down on the unlikeliest of moons, a battle over the fate of a galaxy is waged, and in the process, a new army of heroes is formed."

The film stars Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Bae Doona, Ray Fisher, Charlie Hunnam, Staz Nair, E. Duffy, Cary Elwes, Corey Stoll, Jena Malone, Fra Fee, Cleopatra Coleman, Alfonso Herrera, Stuart Martin, Sky Yang, Rhian Rees, Charlotte Maggi and Anthony Hopkins as the voice of Jimmy, a robot knight.

Rebel Moon was purportedly pitched to Lucasfilm as a Star Wars movie before Disney acquired George Lucas' company in 2012.

Snyder's adoration of the movies of Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) and love of Star Wars shines through in Netflix's big-budget Battle Beyond the Stars for the streaming generation.

Rebel Moon is being built as a new intellectual property (IP) exclusively on Netflix. Rebel Moon will premiere only on Netflix on 2nd December.

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

Thursday 15 June 2023

Jurassic Park at 30

30 years ago, director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) unleashed Jurassic Park! Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero didn’t stand a chance against a T-Rex.

Jaws for Generation X!

Jurassic Park was adapted from Michael Crichton’s bestselling book about a malfunctioning theme park. A theme Crichton previously explored in his influential sci-fi movie: Westworld.

Spielberg’s dino blockbuster franchise (with an assist from George Lucas (Star Wars)) captured the imagination of cinemagoers worldwide and conquered toy aisles - I have Kenner’s electronic stomping T-Rex and an assortment of memorabilia including collectable drinking cups from McDonald’s in the attic!

JP (as it was fashionably known) is a groundbreaking theatrical experience my friend Professor Michael Williams and I will never forget! We still talk about it (over tea and cake).

It was the first mainstream movie with a DTS soundtrack, which was an issue for theatres that didn’t support the upstart competitor to Dolby. The dialogue kept ‘clipping’, but we were soon swept away by the lush live-action/CGI vistas and John Williams’ soaring soundtrack (available on Apple Music, etc).

For budgetary reasons and to build anticipation, Spielberg deftly kept the dinosaurs off-screen for almost an hour. This would probably be met with derision in an era of streaming and instant gratification - a theme director Colin Trevorrow explores in Jurassic World - with folks taking to social media with their instant hot takes.

The reveal of a herd of Brachiosaurs heralded a seismic change in cinema, and the T-Rex attack cemented it - the audience (myself included) collectively gasped much like when the shark struck in Spielberg’s Jaws almost two decades before.

“I hate computers!”

CGI had come of age and would pave the way for the Star Wars prequels. Decades later, AI-generated content is a thing and not without controversy.

Jurassic Park inspired the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs documentary series in the late nineties, and Prehistoric Planet continues the tradition on Apple TV+.

Visual effects and how we view and consume media may have radically changed from when dinosaurs ruled the box office in 1993. However, Jurassic Park remains a seminal moment in pop culture history.

A billion-dollar blockbuster forever preserved in amber…

This originally appeared on Stellar Scribes.

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Silo renewed at Apple TV+

Silo has been renewed for a second season on Apple TV+.

“It has been enormously fulfilling to see the engrossing, atmospheric and beautifully crafted sci-fi epic ‘Silo’ quickly become Apple’s number one drama series,” said Matt Cherniss, head of programming for Apple TV+. “As audiences around the world have become gripped by the mysteries and conspiracies buried within this fascinating subterranean world, viewership only continues to climb, and we are so excited for more secrets of the silo to be revealed in season two.”

During the extra bank holiday, I sought sanctuary in Silo, Apple TV+’s dystopian sci-fi adaptation of author Hugh Howey's Wool trilogy. Whereas Foundation was a shiny screensaver that failed to resonate with this viewer, Silo’s a prestige drama filled with conspiracy and clawing claustrophobia, themes I’ll never tire of since The X-Files’ heyday!

“We cannot wait for audiences around the world to immerse themselves in the epic world we have created to bring Hugh Howey’s novels to life,” said Graham Yost. “Apple has believed in our vision from day one and it’s an honor to have the opportunity to dig deeper into this story and peel back the layers to our characters in the Silo.”

Howey, the creator of Silo, weighs in on the controversial subject of artificial intelligence (AI) and speculates entirely AI-generated productions are only a few years away: “We are less than a year or two away from giving AI a film script and then watching that film the same day. Production costs are going to go to ZERO. Within 5 years, great-looking films will be made this way. Within 20 years, almost all films will be made this way.”

Prescient given the current writers strike and we all know what happened last time to Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica!

Featuring a stellar cast surviving day-to-day in a detailed lived-in universe reminiscent of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Fallout, I can’t wait to discover the mysterious dark secrets of a labyrinthine Silo.

Are you watching Silo on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 12 June 2023

Star Wars Outlaws at Xbox Showcase

On Sunday, Ubisoft exclusively announced Star Wars Outlaws during the Xbox Showcase.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to collaborate with the team at Lucasfilm Games to create Star Wars Outlaws, the first open-world Star Wars game," Julian Gerighty, creative director at Massive Entertainment, tells "Our team at Massive Entertainment has a great deal of experience in open-world games backed by strong technology, and it’s the perfect time to tell an original scoundrel story that will resonate with fans. With the Galactic Empire on the heels of the Rebel Alliance, and the criminal underworld thriving, an outlaw like Kay Vess has a whole galaxy of opportunity in front of her."

Official gameplay walkthrough footage was shown during Ubisoft Forward.

The upcoming open-world Star Wars video game, set between Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, will be released on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC in 2024.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars Outlaws? What are your thoughts on the gameplay footage? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 9 June 2023

Ahsoka debuts August on Disney+

On Wednesday, Lucasfilm dropped a new trailer and release date for Ahsoka on Disney+.

The trailer features footage exclusively shown at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Series showrunner Dave Filoni's highly-anticipated Star Wars live-action spin-off series sees Rosario Dawson reprise the titular role of fan-favourite Ahsoka Tano from The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Ahsoka continues her hunt for Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), Heir to the Empire.

“I’m absolutely putting it out into the universe,” Dawson said regarding a second season. “We’re joking about it, but I’m manifesting it because I feel like I helped Dave manifest this role. So I’m ready. I’m excited. I’m willing. I got my ice packs ready to go for Season 2 and beyond! I would not be mad at that.”

Doctor Who fans (myself included) will be delighted David Tennant returns in the role of droid Huyang from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Later this year, Tennant plays Doctor Who for the beloved BBC sci-fi series' 60th anniversary on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland.

Ahsoka premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 23rd August.

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

Wednesday 7 June 2023


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic. Tech titans and academics (including the creator of ChatGPT) have issued stark warnings about the adoption and development of AI mirroring apocalyptic sci-fi storytelling seen in The Terminator franchise and more.

Ironically, Hollywood itself is facing a new challenge in the form of AI-generated content.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, examines the movie M3gan - she ain't no Teddy Ruxpin - and looks ahead at the possible implications of AI on the creative industry.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Nothing warms my heart like a well-crafted cautionary tale featuring creepy killer dolls. While the Chucky saga laughed in the face of consumerism and Annabelle illustrated the importance of reading warning labels, M3gan tackles deep themes for a glossy horror flick.

Like all the best scary movies, it’s an avenue for social commentary. And there’s plenty to comment on. Parental responsibility; finding a work/life balance in our busy modern world; kids’ addiction to technology; the value of socialization versus gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

8-year-old Cady (played by Violet McGraw) lives in a world of loneliness, marketing, and staged corporate events. Adults are sympathetic after her parents die in a car crash, but they’re just as interested in technology as a healing tool. The first half of the film is more melodrama than horror; the second half gets downright sinister with the ‘uncanny valley’ near-real visage and sociopathic tactics of M3gan (Amie Donald), Cady’s robotic companion with some unique dance moves.

M3gan wants to protect Cady and be her number-one pal. She’s willing to kill to preserve her function.

Her remorseless loyalty and murderous efficiency taps into our fear of haywire machines, as seen in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Demon Seed (1977), Deadly Friend and Chopping Mall (both 1986). More recently, a high-tech Chucky’s AI chip went on the fritz in a Child’s Play reboot (2019) and Terminator: Dark Fate introduced an artificially intelligent, liquid metal simulacrum in a female form called Rev-9 (also 2019).

Concerns about AI do not involve it going wrong so much as getting too powerful. Last month, more than 350 AI researchers, ethicians, engineers, and business leaders signed a statement on AI risk, which begins, ‘Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority.’ For now, though, the most dangerous aspects of AI are hard to pinpoint. There’s a risk of an artist’s online work being appropriated, data being stolen, and resources being consumed.

In the film industry, I’m seeing recent graduates relying on Midjourney to create teaser posters and ChatGPT to write taglines, press releases and website content. It’s faster, they argue, and cheaper than hiring a marketing team. The AI-generated advertising copy and scripts I’ve read are technically competent but lack soul.

Fear of technological progress has always made popular movie fodder. Metropolis, with its soul-crushing technology and naughty maschinenmensch, was released almost 100 years ago. The bottom line is, we don’t know what will happen in our quest for a cushier, labour-light life. Our fascination with the unknown keeps us flocking to sci-fi movies like M3gan.

It’s not all gloom - AI can speed up workflows, solve complex problems and improve communication in different languages. In my short film Ask Astrid, the central human character develops a friendship with an AI device, and they try to prevent a crime together. Star Trek’s Data gives an optimistic glimpse of AI striving to become more human, rather than bending humans to its will.

M3gan will be back in January 2025, offering her idiosyncratic brand of friendship. M3gan 2.0 will be written by original screenwriter Akela Cooper, with McGraw returning as Cady and Allison Williams as her guardian Gemma.

With synthetic intelligence developing at a breathtaking pace, there’s plenty of scope for the sequel to scare us with more tech gone wild and out-of-control creepy dancing.

Have you seen M3gan? What are your thoughts on AI-generated content? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Sunday 4 June 2023

Jedi: A Star Wars Toy Story

In this special edition of A Star Wars Toy Story, Nick Smith, our US-based collecting connoisseur, remembers when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ruled toy aisles a long time ago...

Guest post by Nick Smith

It was 1983 and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was in movie theatres. Almost as exciting as the film were the new toys that came along with it.

I had no qualms about buying Ewoks - Wicket, Logray, Chief Chirpa - before fan wisdom decided that they were uncool. I marvelled at their little plastic outfits and primitive weapons; I could act out their man-eating rituals and pit them against my Biker Scout, who sadly lost his delicate head in a forest accident.

Most of my toys were from Jabba the Hutt’s Palace but my favourite was Luke Skywalker in his ‘Vaderish’ black costume. Sadly, I couldn’t afford a Speeder Bike, a Rebel Transport or the Ewok Village playset, although I did buy a Rancor for my son years later [shame we didn't meet until university in 1993 as I had almost all the things - Ed].

Even in the ‘80s, the number of action figures was becoming unmanageable and I, ahem, ‘borrowed’ one or two from friends to try to keep up. (Don’t worry, I gave them back). But Kenner 'only' released 17 new figures for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a variety that pales into insignificance compared to what’s on offer today.

Hasbro is still pushing toys to commemorate Lucasfilm’s 50th Anniversary, marked in 2021. These include Black Series figures of a Tusken Raider, an Imperial Hovertank Driver, a Rogue One Shoretrooper, a Death Trooper, Darth Revan and Grand Admiral Thrawn, all 6” tall.

The good news about Hasbro’s deluge of dolls? Tie-ins have been released or are planned for all of the Disney+ live-action shows: The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor and The Book of Boba Fett.

There’s a ‘Star Wars Publishing’ line, which includes Mara Jade, plus tie-ins with The Bad Batch, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the 2023 video game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and ‘Gaming Greats.’ Who doesn’t want to own a toy of Lando in his colourful Battlefront II outfit?

In an issue of the Star Wars comic book Infinities, Darth Vader turns Jedi (and white as a pint of milk). The Black Series has resurrected this toy from 2007. A retro collection brings back figures from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, something to appease every fan, if not every wallet. You can buy ‘Boba Fett’s starship,’ nee Slave One, for a Hutt’s bounty of $200.

Gone are the days when a child could pick up a Star Wars toy for a buck or two. Hasbro has tried to cater to younger, cash-strapped fans with its basic retro figures, running about $12-15 each. The more detailed $25 Black Series is aimed at collectors and Richie Rich kids [that was me back in the day - Ed]. If parents really want to splurge, they can buy Fives from Clone Wars (a Walmart exclusive), the half-a-Han bust from Gentle Giant or a sweet-smelling Ewok from Scentsy.

What will they think of next? Expect Ahsoka tie-ins like an animatronic ‘chatter back’ Chopper, highlighted at this year’s Star Wars Celebration Europe, and a Black Series Cad Bane.

Since demand for toys seems to be increasing with every new streaming show on Disney+ the possibilities, as White Darth Vader would say, are infinite.

What are your memories of collecting original Star Wars trilogy toys? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Thursday 1 June 2023

LEGO Ideas Jaws

The summer blockbuster season began with director Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1975.

Jaws fans (myself included) will be delighted that the awesome LEGO Ideas Jaws set featuring Brody, Hooper, Quint and the titular great white shark (Bruce), created by Fan Designer Jonny Campbell AKA Diving Faces, will be released in the future by LEGO.

Jonny Campbell writes: "I built this model because JAWS is my favourite movie. I have a great passion for both LEGO and this movie and I wanted to create my own JAWS set. We reached 10k before, and hopefully we can do it again. We need a JAWS set!"

You can read more about the LEGO Ideas Jaws set here.

In the wake of a global pandemic, adults (myself included) have turned to LEGO for nostalgia and mindfulness. It's worth reiterating LEGO was instrumental in my recovery from a life-changing brain injury in childhood.

What do you think of the LEGO Ideas Jaws building set? Let me know in the comments below.