Wednesday 27 December 2023

Doctor Who teaser trailer for 2024

A teaser trailer for Doctor Who season one dropped following The Church on Ruby Road on Christmas Day. The holiday special saw the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) collide with Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson).

Read the official synopsis:

"The whole universe at his fingertips!"

Doctor Who returns in May 2024 on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland.

Have you watched the teaser trailer? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 22 December 2023

Marvel Studios' What If... Saved Christmas?

It's festive Friday and the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. The first episode of Marvel Studios' What If...? second season has dropped exclusively on Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

"Season 2 of “What If...?” continues the journey as The Watcher guides viewers through the vast multiverse, introducing brand new and familiar faces throughout the MCU. The series questions, revisits and twists classic Marvel Cinematic moments with an incredible voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their iconic roles."

Marvel Studios shared the full list of What If...? season two episode titles and release dates on X (formerly Twitter):

December 22nd - What If... Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?
December 23rd - What If... Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?
December 24th - What If... Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?
December 25th - What If... Iron Man Crashed Into the Grandmaster?
December 26th - What If... Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?
December 27th - What If... Kahhori Reshaped the World?
December 28th - What If... Hela Found the Ten Rings?
December 29th - What If... The Avengers Assembled in 1602?
December 30th - What If... Strange Supreme Intervened?

Personally, I loved season one and can't wait to unwrap each episode on Disney+.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a happy and safe holiday season.

Are you watching Marvel Studios' What If...? on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me

Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK & Ireland.

Russell T Davies (It's A Sin), returning series showrunner, discusses the impact the titular Time Lord has had on his life in a compelling interview with Alan Yentob.

imagine... Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me. The documentary follows Davies as he prepares to return to the series for the 60th anniversary and beyond on iPlayer.

Have you seen imagine... Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 15 December 2023

Hasbro and McFarlane Toys join forces

On Tuesday, McFarlane Toys announced an exciting licensing agreement with Hasbro.

"Page Punchers is an exciting program for us because it gets comic books into people’s hands, along with a fun toy product, who might not otherwise shop at comic stores. Parents enjoy them because they encourage reading and collectors like them because they provide unique and interesting character stories. With articulated figures, plus a full comic book in each Page Punchers item we offer incredible value with this brand,” said Todd McFarlane, founder and CEO of McFarlane Toys.

Hasbro will be leveraging its own intellectual property (IP). G.I. Joe and Transformers celebrate their 60th and 40th anniversaries respectively in 2024, and will be the first releases.

“From TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE to POWER RANGERS, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and others, a number of Hasbro brands are known for their rich history and continued storytelling through comics. Page Punchers is a natural extension of these brands, providing the action and adventure our multi-generational fans have come to expect. We can’t wait for fans and collectors, alike, to get their hands on the first product drop coming out in early 2024,” said Casey Collins, President of Licensed Consumer Products at Hasbro.

Toy collecting witnessed a surge in popularity during the pandemic whilst we were in lockdown. For me, a childhood passion for toy photography was reignited. However, consumer demand has declined due to a cost of living crisis.

Page Punchers is a good fit for Marvel Legends and Star Wars! Hopefully, Disney will license the beloved brands in the future. The combination of a Marvel Comic and toy would be dynamite.

Hasbro inked a similar co-branding deal with Mattel earlier in the year.

Are you looking forward to G.I. Joe and Transformers Page Punchers? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

The Goblin Song number one on iTunes

The BBC has released the Goblin Song from the Doctor Who Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road. The single, which is raising money for Children in Need, has topped the iTunes singles chart, beating the 'Queen of Christmas' herself, Mariah Carey.

The musical number reminded me of Labyrinth, starring David Bowie as the Goblin King.

Russell T Davies, returning showrunner said: "We're releasing this as an early Christmas present for everyone. And if you want to see how the Doctor and Ruby escape from the Goblin King at the end of the song, you'll have to watch on Christmas Day!"

The Goblin Song, composed by fan-favourite composer Murray Gold, is available to stream now on Apple Music and Spotify.

The Doctor Who Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road, will be aired at 5.55pm on BBC One on Christmas Day in the UK, and available at the same time worldwide on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Doctor Who on Christmas Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 11 December 2023

All I want for Christmas is Who!

On Saturday, the BBC officially announced Doctor Who is back on Christmas Day! A trailer dropped following the broadcast of the third and final 60th anniversary special.

Read the official synopsis:

"Long ago on Christmas Eve, a baby was abandoned in the snow. Today, Ruby Sunday meets the Doctor, stolen babies, goblins and perhaps the secret of her birth."

The Church on Ruby Road sees the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) collide with Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). This will come as no surprise to eagle-eyed fans (myself included) as the holiday special is part of Season's Streamings on Disney+.

The Doctor Who Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road, will be aired at 5.55pm on BBC One on Christmas Day in the UK, and available at the same time worldwide on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to Doctor Who on Christmas Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Doctor Who: The Giggle

The Giggle is the third and final special celebrating the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who. It marks the return of the Celestial Toymaker, an iconic villain from the First Doctor's era.

Nick Smith, our US-based veteran Whovian, ventures into Soho and discovers a magical toy shop filled with timey-wimey tricks and treats.

Guest post by Nick Smith

As returning showrunner of Doctor Who, Russell T Davies has been set with a very tricky task this year. Not only does he have to recapture the chemistry of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in new forms (the Doctor regenerated, Donna slightly older but just as cheeky), but he’s also doing it on the show’s 60th anniversary.

Needless to say, expectations are high among drop-in viewers who remember the dream team, and long-term fans who are understandably jaded after the BBC’s fair-weather treatment of the series (which includes destroying dozens of episodes).

Thankfully for all concerned, The Giggle surpasses expectations with a story that provides an epic threat, a satisfying wrap-up for two characters and an exciting new beginning for another.

The threat is created by the Celestial Toymaker, a villain who first appeared in 1966. Back then he was played by Michael Gough, an excellent actor best known to modern audiences as the long-suffering Alfred to Michael Keaton’s Batman. An equally confident actor, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), brings the Toymaker back to life.

Harris played a small but important role in Davies’ excellent miniseries It’s A Sin, but he gets to show many more talents in The Giggle. He sings! He dances! He pulls the strings of marionette companions! The Toymaker has similar powers to Star Trek’s Q, just as childish but more malicious. He’s a perfect foil for Tennant’s seemingly indomitable Doctor.

The Toymaker has been lurking behind the scenes for decades, on audio (Big Finish’s story Solitaire is very atmospheric), comic strips such as The Greatest Gamble, and even a cancelled Sixth Doctor TV story (The Nightmare Fair). Finally, he gets a moment of glory, and it’s a memorable one. Usually, he lays traps and plays deadly games; here he focuses on illusions and mind games, baiting the Doctor as if their last tussle was a mere dice roll away. That’s a testament to the acting skills of Tennant and Harris, who make a wild, brain-bending scenario believable.

Davies squeezes in many references to past stories and even some obscure Big Finish UNIT spin-off audios. There’s a hint at a character who has not appeared yet (who even the Toymaker admits he can’t beat) and a full roster of new and returning friends (Kate Stewart, Mel Bush, The Vlinx) that brand new Whovians may struggle to keep track of.

Hopefully, the new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa’s reign won’t be weighed down with textual referencing in the same way as these specials. It’s hard to move forward when one foot is stuck in the past. It would be preferable to see the Fifteenth Doctor make a fresh start, as fresh as the show’s revival felt in 2005. Sure, there were Easter eggs laid back then, but they were hatched gradually and carefully without alienating casual viewers.

The audience could enjoy the show without getting bewildered by references to Ragnarok, Wirrn and fluxes, which to the unfanned ear - along with a side serving of technobabble - soon turns to nonsensical mush. It's better to stick with gentle nudges that encourage viewers to go find out more about Who lore.

Russell T Davies has managed to gift-wrap six decades of storytelling into a cohesive package, serving up three specials that really are just that – special, reminding us that watching Doctor Who can be a joyful experience. The Giggle, in particular, is a wonderful episode with enough subtext to tickle the mind and eyeballs, lined with levity, full of surprises and allegory. It’s proof that with Davies and Bad Wolf, this 60-year-old series is full of youthful vigour and it’s in safe hands.

Have you seen The Giggle? 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).

Friday 8 December 2023

Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder

Wild Blue Yonder is the second of three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who.

The second special's promotion is steeped in redacted mystery. Nick Smith, our US-based veteran Whovian, discovers what it all means.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Since the Daleks first returned to Doctor Who in 1964, the series has performed a delicate balancing act, bringing its viewers familiar sights and themes alongside new, unpredictable adventures. At the height of its 60th anniversary, this balance is trickier than ever.

How can a nostalgic show like Doctor Who continue to surprise us? How can it give us what we crave – the Doctor being insatiably curious, exploring strange new worlds – and stay fresh simultaneously?

Wild Blue Yonder, the second of three consecutive specials, revitalizes a well-worn wedding adage by including something old (a top-tier previous Doctor and companion combo), something new (a bizarre alien spaceship), something borrowed (shades of films like Passengers and Event Horizon) and something blue (the TARDIS!).

The high-wire act works, with mystery, humour and pathos all rolled into a tightly paced story that purposefully focuses on the Doctor, giving David Tennant plenty of time to remind us what a good and charismatic actor he is.

The Wild Blue Yonder was a phrase coined for the official U.S. Army Air Corps (now Air Force) song in 1939. It means venturing into the unknown, mysterious territory of the sky. In this new story, the Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) find themselves on a gleaming white space vessel so vast that they need a futuristic golf cart to get around.

Donna keeps us grounded in reality, considering the cleaning routine. The Doctor is obsessed with the ship's mysteries, confounded by the appearance of two strange, bendy, gruesomely toothsome creatures.

Although there’s a real sense of threat from these monsters, the sets are too brightly lit for the story to be scary. It’s hard to lurk in the shadows when we can see every nook and uncreepy cranny. The show has been overlit in stories like Warriors of the Deep and Dragonfire, but that was back in the ‘80s when the Beeb didn’t always want to spend the time and money on effective lighting. In Wild Blue Yonder, the Doctor and Donna talk about being terrorized but we do not share their fear; it’s harder to be scared with the lights on.

Aside from that questionable directing choice, this episode is near-perfect, full of ideas and excitement, giving the lead actors lots to do and providing us with a sweet scene where the Doctor is reunited with his old friend Wilf. Sadly no longer with us, Bernard Cribbins depicts joy, hope and fear in a heart-breaking last hurrah.

Since Tennant is so confident and personable in his role, this is the story that will really make us miss him when he regenerates into the next Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa - an event that has been a year in the hyping but will still seem like a surprise, since we’re just getting comfortable with Tennant again. It’s a clever conceit and a risky one – by giving the people a treat and whisking it away, there’s a chance they’ll turn their noses up at the substitute.

Luckily, the familiar and the unfamiliar have always coexisted in the world of Doctor Who.

Have you seen Wild Blue Yonder? 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).

Thursday 7 December 2023

LEGO Fortnite is live!

LEGO Fortnite has gone live! Drop into a world of unlimited imagination – and llamas – with the ultimate survival crafting game! What will you build?

Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the LEGO Group, said: “Our partnership with Epic Games is focused on developing digital play experiences that are designed to be fun and safe, and have the potential to bridge the worlds of physical and digital play to inspire kids. Together with Epic Games, we are building digital worlds designed with kids in mind from the outset - we hope other creators and brands are inspired to do the same.”

This is the first play experience to come from the long-term partnership between Epic Games and the LEGO Group to develop fun and safe digital spaces for children and families.

Tim Sweeney, CEO & Founder, Epic Games said: “LEGO Fortnite offers players a new way to express themselves through worldbuilding and is an important step forward in the evolution of the Fortnite ecosystem. We look forward to continuing to partner with The LEGO Group to build immersive digital play spaces that are fun for kids and all types of players.”

The LEGO Fortnite journey is just beginning, with new world building, gameplay features, and more LEGO Style Outfits arriving in updates starting in early 2024.

Fortnite is available to play for free on PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC on Epic Games Store and cloud-based gaming streaming services.

Discover more and link your accounts on LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be playing LEGO Fortnite? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Star Wars: Brightstar

Whilst Star Wars fans (myself included) wait for a new movie and further spin-off series on Disney+, fans continue to produce short films based on George Lucas' space opera.

Star Wars: Brightstar, directed by Raphaël Hébert, is an award-winning fan film sans Skywalkers or Mandalorians.

Read the official synopsis:

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a fugitive family living in peace must brace itself when their past has tracked them down."

The 20-minute short film features an electrifying lightsabre duel and an emotional core evoking the original trilogy.

If you have a Star Wars fan film you'd like to share, please contact me.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Grand Theft Auto VI's first trailer

A teaser trailer for the sixth instalment in the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) video game franchise has been released early by Rockstar Games.

Rockstar Games on Monday confirmed an unauthorised third party had accessed and downloaded details of the highly-anticipated GTA sequel.

A statement from the company said: “We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorised third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto.

“At this time, we do not anticipate any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.

“We are extremely disappointed to have any details of our next game shared with you all in this way. Our work on the next Grand Theft Auto game will continue as planned and we remain as committed as ever to delivering an experience to you, our players, that truly exceeds your expectations.

“We will update everyone again soon and, of course, will properly introduce you to this next game when it is ready. We want to thank everyone for their ongoing support through this situation.”

GTA VI heads to the state of Leonida, home to the neon-soaked streets of Vice City and beyond in the biggest, most immersive evolution of the Grand Theft Auto series yet.

With a reported budget of over a billion dollars and featuring a female protagonist (Lucia), GTA VI will be released on PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series S|X in 2025.

GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas will be available to Netflix subscribers (myself included) on mobile devices on 14th December.

Are you looking forward to GTA VI? What did you think of the first trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Fallout teaser trailer

Prime Video has dropped a teaser trailer for Fallout from the showrunners of Westworld.

Read the official synopsis:

"A nuclear war breaks out across Earth in the year 2077—an era of robots, hover cars, and a deep and abiding nostalgia for the America of the 1940s. After the incendiary mushroom clouds, the story flashes forward 219 years. How did humanity fair over those blighted two centuries? Lucy (played by Yellowjackets star Ella Purnell) has no clue. She has lived her entire life inside a subterranean vault, where every need and want has been satisfied while generations and generations await the day when it is safe to surface. When a crisis forces Lucy to venture above on a rescue mission, she finds that the planet above remains a hellscape crawling with giant insects, voracious mutant animal abominations, and a human population of sunbaked miscreants."

Fallout premieres exclusively on Prime Video (affiliate link) on 12th April.

What did you think of the teaser trailer for Fallout on Prime Video? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 2 December 2023

FX's Shogun this February on Disney+

Disney+ has dropped an official trailer for FX's Shogun coming to Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

"When a mysterious European ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village, its English pilot, John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), comes bearing secrets that could help Toranaga tip the scales of power and devastate the formidable influence of Blackthorne's own enemies - the Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants. Toranaga's and Blackthorne's fates become inextricably tied to their translator, Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a mysterious Christian noblewoman and the last of a disgraced line. While serving her lord amidst this fraught political landscape, Mariko must reconcile her newfound companionship with Blackthorne, her commitment to the faith that saved her and her duty to her late father."

I still have vivid memories of watching the Shogun miniseries, starring Richard Chamberlain, in 1980. Along with Star Wars, the live-action adaptation of James Clavell’s bestselling novel piqued an interest in samurai legend.

The premiere of the 10-episode limited series will include the first two episodes, followed by a new episode each week.

FX's Shogun will premiere worldwide exclusively on Disney+ on 27th February.

Are you looking forward to FX's Shogun on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 1 December 2023

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

Godzilla is back on the small screen in a live-action series sans Godzooky on Apple TV+.

After a misty-eyed timey-wimey reunion in Doctor Who, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, goes on a monster hunt.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Over the past ten years, Legendary Pictures has done a bang-up, stomp-down job of bringing a universe of monsters to a modern audience. They released the Kraken in their 2010 Clash of the Titans remake, made giants great again in 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer, and gave us giant robots versus kaiju in the same year’s Pacific Rim.

But it was 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards (The Creator, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that really proved Legendary could do monsters right, leading to a crossover series of titanic proportions that includes Kong: Skull Island and the forthcoming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, due out in 2024.

With Marvel Studios creating lucrative crossovers on the big and small screen, a Legendary streaming show set in their ‘MonsterVerse’ is an obvious move. But is it a necessary one?

Judging by the first three episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the answer is no. It’s fun to see Godzilla pop up once or twice, as well as movie big-shots Kurt Russell and John Goodman, but beyond the stars and roars, this is a show based around a shady, military-style organization with ties to the US Army – hardly a unique premise.

The characters are as forgettable as they are likeable, aside from Russell (who plays former U.S. Army colonel Lee Shaw) and his son Wyatt Russell, who plays his dad’s younger self in a nice casting move and is a charming chip off the old block.

The series is a US-Japanese co-production, with original Godzilla herders Toho involved. There are some nice nods to kaiju lore and it would be great to see more characters and creatures from the original movies.

If the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) can dip into its rich history, why can’t the MonsterVerse reintroduce some of Toho’s imaginative creations like the all-singing, all-smiling miniature worshipers of Mothra?

OK, maybe not.

Self-reference can easily become a narrative barrier to audiences, as shown when Monarch relies on familiarity with the new Legendary movies. If you don’t remember everything that happened in those films, there are some flashbacks to help but otherwise, you’re on your own.

Speaking of barriers, the title is hardly a draw. It’s as if Legendary wants to trick non-monster fans into watching before the hapless viewers realize that this is Godzilla’s party and he’s the one throwing the buildings.

The scale of the saga is impressive, as it jumps from the 1950s to the 2010s to the present day and shows what the world would be like with Godzilla disaster shelters and big Japanese signs that probably read, ‘have you seen this behemoth?’.

At their best, the Legendary movies return to the roots of their larger-than-life characters, with sympathetic monsters and richly drawn human beings. A 10-part series provides time for those characters to develop and grow on us, and the Godzilla allegory – the danger of toying with nature – will always be relevant.

While Monarch is a big, scaly bundle of joy for kaiju kids and fans of Kurt Russell (who isn’t?), it definitely needs an extra splash of imagination beyond its cool monsters.

Are you watching Monarch: Legacy of Monsters on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

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