Monday 31 July 2023

It's almost time for Loki

After the disappointment of Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion (my least favourite spin-off series), Loki is here to save the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) timeline on Disney+! The House of Mouse has dropped an official trailer for the second season.

The first season of Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston as the titular god of mischief, was a timey-wimey treat that eclipsed Doctor Who: The Flux. The second season follows on from the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be.

Loki's second season premieres on 6th October on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to the return of Loki? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

HasLab Ghost gets backed on Hasbro Pulse

On Tuesday, the Star Wars The Vintage Collection The Ghost HasLab was successfully backed and will go into production after the deadline of 7th September on Hasbro Pulse.

This is great news for Star Wars fans (myself included) and collectors alike. After missing out on Star Wars HasLab Jabba's Sail Barge (The Khetanna) and Razor Crest, the Ghost, based on its live-action appearance in Ahsoka, would be an awesome addition to my collection that began with the R2-D2 action figure in 1978.

Due to the cost of living crisis, like many, I've drastically cut back on collecting this year. As I've written previously, £499.99 for the Ghost, the fan-favourite spaceship and home to those Star Wars Rebels, is a big outlay for a collectable that won't be released until late 2024. This sounds churlish, but the Ghost may be too big to display (a friend resold their HasLab Razor Crest due to its size). I appreciate this is a good problem to have.

Now that the goal of 8,000 backers has been reached, there will be upward momentum for the stretch goals featuring Ghost crew members Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus and Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios. This will mitigate the cost, which will only increase in the secondary market. Also, Ahsoka will be streaming on Disney+ during the crowdfund. This may lead to a fear of missing out (FOMO).

Will you be backing the Star Wars The Vintage Collection The Ghost HasLab on Hasbro Pulse? Are you going to wait and see if all the stretch goals are met? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Hasbro Pulse Con 2023

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) has concluded. This year's Christmas in July for geeks was filled with amazing announcements that have hurt collectors' wallets (mine included).

Hasbro celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023 and announced the incredible Star Wars The Vintage Collection The Ghost HasLab, which has almost reached 8,000 backers and will surely go into production. This may be my first Star Wars HasLab after missing out on Jabba's Sail Barge (The Khetanna) and Razor Crest.

The Star Wars Retro Collection Star Wars: Return of the Jedi multipack soon sold out on Hasbro Pulse in the UK. I was able to pre-order the sought-after set as it includes Yak Face and Mon Mothma. Yak Face is one of the rarest vintage action figures released by Kenner. I passed on Yak Face and Sy Snootles and the Rebo Band in favour of Transformers back in the day. Where's a TARDIS when you need one, eh?

During SDCC, the fourth Hasbro Pulse Con was announced and I've got my eye on the G.I. Joe Classified Series Crimson Strike Team (Tomax, Xamot, and the Baroness) exclusive. Who doesn't want to see the Baroness in red, evoking the Red Shadows from Action Force?

Read the official Hasbro press release:

"Hasbro Pulse Con is BACK! That’s right, we’re returning for our 4th Hasbro Pulse Con event and it’s due to be the best one yet! Just announced today at SDCC, this event is bringing your favorite brands, like Star Wars, Marvel, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, Dungeons & Dragons, Avalon Hill, and more to your screens for a product packed one day celebration on September 22nd, 2023 beginning at 11:00am ET. Mark your calendars, set a reminder, and get ready your shelves ready, fans! More information coming soon, so stay tuned!"

Are you looking forward to Hasbro Pulse Con 2023? What announcements are you hoping for? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Lower Decks crossover on Strange New Worlds

Paramount+ has dropped the hotly-anticipated Star Trek: Strange New Worlds live-action crossover with the animated adult spin-off series Star Trek: Lower Decks episode early following a screening at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC).

Read the official synopsis for Those Old Scientists:

"An accident while investigating a time portal sends Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid, Lower Decks) through time from the 24th Century, and Captain Pike (Anson Mount, Strange New Worlds) and his crew must get him back where he belongs before he can somehow alter the timeline."

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ second season on Paramount+ came in hot after the stellar conclusion to Star Trek: Picard. And, you know something, it’s some of the best Trek I’ve ever seen.

In related news. Star Trek: Lower Decks' fourth season premieres on 7th September on Paramount+.

Have you watched the animated/live-action crossover on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 22 July 2023

Ghost announced as Star Wars HasLab

On Friday, the long-rumoured and highly-anticipated Star Wars The Vintage Collection The Ghost HasLab was officially announced by Hasbro at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC).

Fans and collectors hoping for the Ewok Village from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi may have to wait a little longer.

The Ghost as it appears in the Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka is coming in hot.

Hasbro needs a win after the previous Star Wars HasLab The Black Series Rancor and Reva (The Third Sister) Force FX Elite Lightsaber both failed to be backed. Ironically, the Rancor almost got funded after one of the creatures appeared in The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+.

Hasbro and Lucasfilm have learned lessons.

Like many fans, I thought the iconic Ghost spaceship from Star Wars Rebels was going to be £599.99 or more. However, it's £499.99 (still expensive) and will go into production if it reaches a minimum of 8,000 backers by the deadline of 7th September, which it will quickly achieve.

This HasLab wisely eschews early bird incentives that can be divisive. The base offering includes General Hera Syndulla and Phantom II with a mini bust of Chopper. The stretch goals are Ghost crew members Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus and Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios.

Sabine Wren will be sold separately as a deluxe figure. There will be fans aggrieved at this. However, Hasbro could announce bonus stretch goals if the crowdfunded project is highly successful like the Star Wars HasLab Razor Crest.

I've not owned a large-scale Star Wars vehicle since Kenner's Imperial Shuttle from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The Ghost is a gigantic collectable and will look amazing alongside The Mandalorian N-1 Starfighter. Like the N-1 Starfighter, the Ghost doesn't include electronic lights and sounds. This may be a deal-breaker for some fans.

We're in a cost of living crisis, but I've backed the latest Star Wars HasLab (my first) and will worry about clearing space for the Ghost later - it's not expected to ship until December 2024 - a lot can happen in 18 months.

Whilst The Vintage Collection Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett's Throne Room sets (available in limited quantities during SDCC) are enticing after a 40-year wait, I've cancelled both my pre-orders on Hasbro Pulse to fund the Ghost.

Will you be backing the Star Wars The Vintage Collection The Ghost HasLab on Hasbro Pulse? What do you think of the price? How do you feel about crowdfunded collectables? Should it be a retail release? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 21 July 2023

Star Wars exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral

The Force is strong with Peterborough Cathedral. This summer Star Wars fans (myself included) can visit a spectacular exhibition featuring original props and toys curated by Unofficial Galaxies.

The Very Revd Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, said: "We are very excited to be bringing this extraordinary collection to Peterborough. I was at university when the first Star Wars movie was released in the 1970s and the unfolding story proved a compelling narrative for me, my children and for many millions of people around the world in the years that followed.

Among the 121 exhibits is a full-size Landspeeder from Star Wars: A New Hope purchased from London's Elstree Studios.

"I'm sure this exhibition will draw many people to see it, some of whom will discover our beautiful cathedral and city for the first time. Like many of the exhibitions we have held in the cathedral in recent years, Unofficial Galaxies will not only delight and entertain.

The exhibition also includes an array of original production items and costumes for fan-favourite characters such as Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Cosplayers are encouraged, and Ahsoka Tano will be popular with the Star Wars live-action spin-off series starring Rosario Dawson as the titular character on Disney+.

"It also has the potential to open the door to bigger conversations, in this case about the age-old struggle between good and evil and the role of a 'higher power'. These are themes at the heart of the Christian story and we will certainly be exploring those connections whilst the exhibition is here."

For further information and to book tickets, please visit the Peterborough Cathedral website.

The Unofficial Galaxies exhibition is open to the public from mid-July to 29th August.

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Robosen Grimlock coronation day at SDCC

Witness the Dinobot king's coronation at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC).

Hasbro and Robosen have announced Transformers Grimlock Auto-Converting Robot - Flagship Collector's Edition.

“We invite fans and collectors to embrace the future of robotics and experience the unmatched craftsmanship and innovation with our latest edition to our collection,” said Sean Tang, Director of Robosen USA. “We’re excited for them to own the most powerful Dinobot in the world.”

G1 Grimlock voice actor Gregg Berger has returned to lend his voice to this auto-converting app-enabled robot, which has been 7 years in the making! Grimlock joins Transformers Robosen Optimus Prime and is available for pre-order on Hasbro Pulse.

“Robosen continues to impress me with their cutting-edge tech masterpieces. The state-of-the-art engineering on this incredible new Grimlock robot represents the Transformers brand in a way that has never been done before—until today, and we’re excited to showcase the beloved Dinobot for our passionate fans at San Diego Comic-Con,” said Casey Collins, President of Global Licensed Consumer Products and Business Development, Hasbro. “Our Transformers Robosen line proves our ongoing commitment to innovation and powering the imagination of future generations for years to come.”

12-year-old me would be awestruck unboxing Robosen Grimlock on Christmas Day - technology has progressed since my Tomy Omnibot in the mid-eighties. Due to the cost of living crisis, I won't find Grimlock under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

What do you think? Would you spend $1499 on a robotic Grimlock? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Star Wars R2-D2 from Gentle Giant at SDCC

It's San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) this week and Gentle Giant is bringing an exclusive R2-D2 (Droid Factory) jumbo action figure along!

Read the official description:

"It's R2-D2 as you remember him! For the first time, Gentle Giant LTD is releasing R2-D2 as you saw him in the 1979 Droid Factory set. Measuring approximately 7 inches tall, R2 comes with a removable third leg, so he can cruise around Mos Eisley like he owns the place! This exclusive figure comes packaged in a full-color box. Playset not included."

Kenner's vintage R2-D2 action figure was the first Star Wars toy I owned 45 years ago. There's an homage to the fan-favourite toy in Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+.

Will you be getting Gentle Giant's exclusive R2-D2 if you're at SDCC? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 16 July 2023

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

"Another visitor - stay a while - stay forever!" Oops! Wrong franchise. That's from Impossible Mission, a classic 8-bit video game originally released for the Commodore 64.

No, we're here for the latest instalment in the rebooted Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise (Top Gun: Maverick).

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, leaves the hat and whip behind for an explosive mission with Marvel Studios' Agent Carter, I mean Grace (Hayley Atwell). This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds...

Guest post by Nick Smith

With Britain’s most conspicuous secret agent pushing up daisies and Mission: Impossible’s original hero Jim Phelps dead on the wrong side of the tracks, Ethan Hunt really is ‘the world’s greatest spy,’ as billed by Paramount. Ethan Hunt, as played by Tom Cruise, certainly has plenty of experience – it’s been a whopping 27 years since the first movie was released. We’ve seen Hunt get beaten, slashed, John Woo'ed, disavowed and dangled horizontally from a long rope on more than one occasion.

In the seventh M: I instalment, Hunt goes rogue (again) in search of a key to unlock… well, he doesn’t know, and if that isn’t the definition of impossible I don’t know what is. This plot device provides plenty of opportunities for fights, car chases, betrayals and lots of running. So much running.

We’ve seen it all before, of course, in the long-running TV show, the previous M: I films and countless other beat-‘em-up spy flicks. But director Christopher McQuarrie (M: I Rogue Nation and Fallout) makes the action seem fresh and entertaining while including some grown-up talky scenes, especially in the first half. There’s a good mix of modern-day themes and old-school tropes reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock classics like The 39 Steps and North by Northwest.

There are some sweet callbacks to the original film: Henry Czerny, who plays spy boss Kittridge, is back after a five-movie gap; Vanessa Kirby is the White Widow, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave’s character Max. Kittridge asks Hunt what side he’s on, echoing Jim Phelps’ shifting allegiance in the ’96 adventure.

Kirby fills Redgrave’s shoes eloquently, giving just enough nuance to stand out in a strong roster of actresses. As outlaw Ilsa Faust, Rebecca Ferguson (Dune) gets an epic fight scene on a Venetian bridge. Marvel maven Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) is Grace, the thief with a heart of stolen gold, who causes lots of problems (and drags out the narrative) with her sticky fingers. The film’s only flaw is Grace’s stubbornness, which leads to some roundabout scenes as Hunt tries to convince her to risk her life for the Impossible Mission Force (IMF). How can she possibly resist the Cruise charm offensive?

Supporting characters in spy movies tend to be dull these days. Thankfully, Ving Rhames (portraying Luther Stickell, Hunt’s teammate since M: I1) and Simon Pegg (as Benji Dunn, who first appeared in M: I3) are both present to add some humanity and humour to proceedings. Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) is the waspish Denlinger, and it’s a joy to see Mark Gatiss (Sherlock’s Mycroft Holmes), as American as can be, in a bigwig NSA role. Esai Morales (an unmemorable Deathstroke in Titans) is the malicious Gabriel, an unwelcome blast from Hunt’s past. All the cast members give broad performances that help give Dead Reckoning an epic Hollywood feel.

There are just enough comedic moments to keep the adventure bubbling along, and McQuarrie’s not afraid to show his influences – Hitchcock, James Bond (especially with a Huntless opening sequence involving a submarine) and John Wick (there’s some European neon club combat, albeit with an unexpected twist).

We are doubtless in the hands of a master storyteller; McQuarrie wrote The Unusual Suspects, Edge of Tomorrow and Top Gun: Maverick, as well as revising Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Despite the high-stakes seriousness of the main plot and a tragedy or two, there’s the sense that the writer/director is having fun with this movie, especially during its far-fetched third act.

Cruise’s stunts keep us grounded; he’s really speeding on a bike, jumping off a cliff and flying through the air with wind pummelling his face. The characters face relatable moral dilemmas, and the IMF learns that reliance on technology can be very dangerous indeed.

The Mission: Impossible TV show was audaciously cinematic in its day, partly because its second unit camera team would go above and beyond filming inserts and extra bits to include in each tense episode.

With Dead Reckoning Part One, Cruise is playing the long game; he spent years planning a showpiece stunt and the film has been teased for several months. When Part Two is released in the UK and the US on June 28th, 2024, it will be hard-pressed to top the close calls and thrill rides of Part One but for once, time is on Ethan Hunt’s side.

Have you seen Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Friday 14 July 2023

Steven Spielberg figure from Jurassic Park

Mattel Creations has announced an exclusive Steven Spielberg action figure from the collector-acclaimed Hammond Collection celebrating 30 years of Jurassic Park.

From Mattel Creations:

"Thirty years ago, Steven Spielberg recreated dinosaurs on the big screen and started a global phenomenon. Today we’re celebrating the man, the myth, and the movie with the Jurassic World Hammond Collection Man Creates Dinosaurs Steven Spielberg figure. He even comes with a camera, personalized director’s chair, and a Dilophosaurus with a removable frill and animatronic stand to reenact the magic of the original movie."

George Lucas was immortalised as a Star Wars Black Series Stormtrooper action figure by Hasbro to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. As a lifelong fan of Spielberg's movies too, like many, I would love to add this Mattel action figure to my collection. However, I'll have more luck discovering a new dinosaur species on the Jurassic Coast.

Mattel VP and Global Head of Action Figures PJ Lewis says, "To celebrate the 30th, we wanted to honor the visionary that brought Jurassic Park to the big screen. Spielberg is a legend and we’ve never seen an action figure of him before, and he is just as much a part of the legacy as the dinosaurs and characters in the film. The team created the first-ever action figure of Steven Spielberg based on a behind-the-scenes photo from filming Jurassic Park."

The Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary Steven Spielberg Figure will be available exclusively at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and in limited quantities on Mattel Creations.

Will you be getting the Steven Spielberg action figure? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Return of Thrawn in Ahsoka

On Tuesday, Lucasfilm released the first official trailer for Ahsoka.

The trailer gives Star Wars fans (myself included) a first look at a live-action Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen). Fans attending Star Wars Celebration exclusively saw the Heir to the Empire during the 4-day event in April.

The 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 on Disney+.

"Anakin never got to finish my training,” Ahsoka says. “I walked away from him just like I walked away from Sabine.”

Ahsoka was first introduced as Anakin Skywalker's Padawan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Later, they would clash in Star Wars Rebels when Skywalker succumbs to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader. There are rumours Hayden Christensen will reprise the role of Anakin Skywalker as he did in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Series showrunner Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is going full live-action Star Wars Rebels and I'm here for it.

Ahsoka premieres with the first two episodes exclusively on Disney+ on 23rd August.

Are you looking forward to Ahsoka on Disney+? What did you think of the official trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Journey to Ahsoka

On Monday, Lucasfilm released a featurette for the Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

"Witness Rosario Dawson’s journey to becoming Ahsoka."

Ahsoka premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 23rd August.

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

Monday 10 July 2023

LEGO Star Wars Ghost & Phantom II from Ahsoka

Ahead of the release of the Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+, LEGO has announced LEGO Star Wars Ghost & Phantom II coming in September.

This new building set featuring both iconic ships from Star Wars Rebels will be popular with LEGO Star Wars fans (myself included). It comes with 5 LEGO Star Wars minifigures: General Hera Syndulla and Lt. Beyta, each with a blaster pistol, Jacen Syndulla and First Officer Hawkins, and Chopper.

LEGO Star Wars Ghost & Phantom II is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO Star Wars Ghost & Phantom II to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Rosario Dawson addresses Ahsoka rumour

Ahsoka begins this August on Disney+. The 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.

Dawson recently talked to Total Film magazine regarding whether or not Hayden Christensen would appear in the upcoming series as Anakin Skywalker. Ahsoka was first introduced as Skywalker's Padawan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Later, they would clash in Star Wars Rebels when Skywalker succumbs to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader.

“It’s pretty remarkable and exciting. We were teenagers, and then I saw him right immediately afterwards go into this universe. I never could have fathomed that I would have had any part of that, besides just being a fan of his, and being really proud of him.

Christensen most recently reprised the role of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the Obi-Wan Kenobi special event series on Disney+.

“It’s just been really cool that at this moment, I’m joining it, and he’s been able to come back and also get embraced by the Star Wars family in a way that I think is much deserved. It’s definitely one of those things that would be super cool if he was [in Ahsoka], but I’m just really grateful that we’re in the same universe.”

Whilst Dawson is understandably coy about confirming Christensen's return, I would love to see a flashback featuring the duo.

Doctor Who fans (myself included) will be delighted David Tennant returns in the role of droid Huyang from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Ahsoka premieres exclusively on Disney+ on 23rd August.

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

Friday 7 July 2023

Ghost teased as next Star Wars HasLab?

Is Hasbro teasing the Ghost for its next Star Wars HasLab on Hasbro Pulse? Many fans (myself included) think so after decoding a cryptic message in Aurebesh.

After the previous Star Wars HasLab The Black Series Rancor and Reva (The Third Sister) Force FX Elite Lightsaber both failed to be backed, Hasbro desperately needs a win with the Disney-owned property because in-house brands G.I.Joe and Transformers have been a runaway success.

The Ghost has become an iconic ship since its debut in Star Wars Rebels. It will appear next in the upcoming Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+. Its August premiere follows San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) later this month. It's expected the next Star Wars HasLab will be announced at SDCC as there have been no further announcements since Star Wars Celebration.

Due to the cost of living crisis, like many, I've cut back on collecting this year. However, I have pre-ordered the Star Wars The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter and Speeder Bike from The Mandalorian on Hasbro Pulse. I already own the Speeder Bike from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but you can never have too many. And, as Transformers celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2024, I couldn't pass up pre-ordering Transformers Collaborative G.I. Joe x Transformers Soundwave Dreadnok Thunder Machine, Zartan & Zarana.

Would you back a Ghost HasLab? How much would you be willing to pay for it? What stretch goals would you like? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 6 July 2023

The Abode

Brace yourself for summer scares! Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, unleashes his latest supernatural horror film, The Abode.

Read the official synopsis:

"In the 1800s, a young, handsome native American named Talako is caught with the wife of a merciless pirate known as Redbeard, who then orders for him to be burned alive at the stake. Witnessing Talako's execution, Redbeard's wife Lara hangs herself. Talako's spirit never ascends and haunts anyone who comes near the old house. Almost 300 years later, Lara and Talako meet face to face and learn that everything happens for a reason."

The Abode is directed by Claudia La Bianca (Steven Spielberg’s On the Lot). It is written by Andre Alves (Unfelt) with additional dialogue by Nick Smith (Drops of Jupiter), and produced by Alves, Smith, Antonio Paz-Bezerra (Porque Te Amo) and Karmel Bortoleti (Love in Quarantine), who also stars. It is a co-production from Eagle Star Films, Krygell Films and Cherry On Top Productions.

The Abode will be released on 11th July on digital, on demand and on 18th July on DVD by Dark Star Pictures in the US.

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

Tuesday 4 July 2023

Stormtroopers on the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July to all our US-based readers!

Following months of successfully touring film festivals and comic cons, the next chapter in the Star Wars fan film Stormtroopers is released today.

Read the official synopsis:

"An Imperial Base Station is laid siege by battleship attack & haunting PTSD within its ranks."

I want to give huge congratulations to director Micheal Fitzgerald and his team, who've worked tirelessly on their latest Star Wars fan film.

What did you think of the latest Stormtroopers instalment? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 3 July 2023

May the Toys be with you

May The Toys Be With You is a new Star Wars exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester.

The vintage memorabilia collection, which includes toys produced by Kenner and Palitoy, is curated by fellow Star Wars fan Matt Fox.

Like myself, Mr Fox was aged five when Star Wars was released in 1977.

"It was the first movie I saw and straight away afterwards we were down to the toy shop and I got my first ever Star Wars figure, which was a Darth Vader," he said.

May The Toys Be With You exhibition runs until 30th September.

For further information and to book tickets, please visit the museum website.

What was the first Star Wars toy you owned? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 1 July 2023

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Hollywood star Harrison Ford (my late mum's favourite actor and coincidentally the same age as dad) has successfully reprised his iconic roles in Star Wars and Blade Runner. Will it be a hat trick with the man in the hat, Indiana Jones?

Following an infamous premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, expectations for the fifth and final instalment in the Indiana Jones franchise were dramatically dialled down.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, bravely dials I for Indy... Will adventure answer?

Guest post by Nick Smith

I usually wait until the opening weekend crowds die down before going to see a new movie but just for you guys, I entered a packed theatre and immersed myself in the entertaining, surprisingly thoughtful flick that is Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny!

To the left of me sat a lady dropping food on the floor like she was feeding pigeons in the dark. To the right, a couple of teenage boys were way more interested in their mobile phones than in the film.

Their loss.

The fifth Indiana Jones is one of the best of the bunch, treating its title character with respect, and providing thrills without making it seem like a string of set pieces (see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade if that’s your bag).

Dial of Destiny is not for little tykes! It has moments of (gasp!) character development and some emotional depth; Indy carries the weight of experience, he’s got an iffy spine, he's been shot nine times and he’s lost loved ones like his father. A couple of scenes give Harrison Ford (Star Wars) a chance to show introspection and remind us why he’s an international treasure.

With Ford in his 80s, looking more like the Golden Idol than a matinee idol, it’s great to see him involved in so many scrapes and stunts throughout the film. Director James Mangold (who brought us Logan, another film about a cranky old bloke) succeeds in making Indy vulnerable, so we genuinely worry about the crumbling character.

As with the previous film in the saga, the pithily titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the movie stands or falls on the merits of its supporting cast. While Crystal Skull had Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) to lean on, Dial of Destiny yields a treasure trove of strong actors: Antonio Banderas is a grungy frogman with one good leg; Mads Mikkelsen, the hardest working bad guy in showbiz™, is Indy’s Nazi nemesis Doctor Voller AKA Schmidt; and Toby Jones is Basil Shaw, keeping a long-standing Indiana Jones trope running in the role of a demented father figure.

However, it’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), playing Shaw’s daughter Helena, who really holds the film together and carries much of the heavy stunt work on her shoulders. She does it with exquisite confidence.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a superlative template for action movies in the ‘80s onwards, balancing violence, tension, horror, humour and romance with confidence only a hungry young George Lucas (Star Wars) and Steven Spielberg (Jaws) could have. It’s been a hard act to follow, as we’ve seen from the sequels. But Dial of Destiny manages to recapture that balance and strives for the sense of wonder engendered by Indy’s original quest for the Ark of the Covenant.

Raiders also benefited from its use of practical effects, which made the adventure seem all the more real. I was worried about CGI after seeing a sea of plastic people in The Flash movie. Animation can’t approximate the tics and pocks of a real human face, but there’s nothing too jarring here. I cared about the characters and I had tears in my eyes by the end, although I wasn’t about to blub beside the teen moby zombies or the lady who brought Tupperware (?) [sounds like something out of Eerie, Indiana - Ed].

All movie directors are under pressure, but James Mangold must have felt more than most, taking over from Steven Spielberg to make the last, last Indiana Jones adventure. With such a strong cast and whip-smart writing, he needn’t have worried.

Dial of Destiny is packed with Nazi punching, outlandish set pieces, a sense of awe and character-driven adventures, which all deserve to earn this film a place in the history books.

Have you seen Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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