Tuesday 30 January 2024

Rogue Trooper first look

Director Duncan Jones (Moon) has shared a teaser image from his upcoming animated adaptation of Rogue Trooper. The Unreal Engine 5 feature film stars Aneurin Barnard (Doctor Who) as the eponymous Rogue Trooper, Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) and Jack Lowden (Slow Horses).

Read the official synopsis:

"Rogue Trooper tells the story of 19, a ‘Genetic Infantryman', who finds himself the sole-survivor of an invasion force. Desperate to track down the traitor who sold him and his comrades out, the super soldier is accompanied by three killed-in-action squad mates, whose personalities have been stored in his gun, helmet and rucksack."

Jones said of the film and the acclaimed British comic: "2000 AD offers a very different flavour of comic action: Political and brutal at times, but always with a Pythonesque twinkle in the eye. Dredd (2012) was a taste of what 2000 AD has to offer and now we get to show the world another side of the beast. It is a genuine privilege to be given the opportunity to make Rogue Trooper."

As a child, along with Marvel UK titles Doctor Who Weekly and Star Wars Weekly, I avidly read 2000 AD: Rogue Trooper, created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons, was one of my favourite characters.

Rebellion CEO, Jason Kingsley CBE, will be a producer on Rogue Trooper alongside Jones, Stuart Fenegan and Chris Kingsley. He added: "We are thrilled to be working with Duncan Jones, who is a fellow British creative visionary and 2000 AD fan with global reach. Rogue Trooper highlights Rebellion's leading position within the entertainment industries. It has been filmed at our dedicated Oxfordshire film studios and combines beautiful storytelling from our iconic 2000 AD comic book universe with animation and production technology from the video game industry. We cannot wait for everyone to see these incredible stories bought to life on screen."

Rogue Trooper will be released in 2025.

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

Monday 29 January 2024

Ahsoka Tano Day

On this day in 2008, the character Ahsoka Tano was introduced at the annual Toy Fair to promote the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I had no idea Ahsoka Tano Day was a thing until watching the latest edition of Geek Week hosted by Jacob's Toys and SuperSorrell. They're an awesome duo and well worth subscribing to.

Over the years, I've celebrated Star Wars Day and wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Ahsoka! The Togruta was Anakin Skywalker's powerful Padawan during the Clone Wars. She left the Jedi Order before Skywalker was seduced by the dark side and became Darth Vader.

The fan-favourite character from Star Wars: The Clone Wars is voiced by Ashley Eckstein and played by Rosario Dawson in The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka live-action spin-off series on Disney+.

How are you celebrating Ahsoka Tano Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 22 January 2024

Asajj Ventress returns in The Bad Batch

The surviving members of Clone Force 99 are back in action for an explosive final season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+. Lucasfilm has dropped an official trailer for the Emmy-winning Star Wars spin-off series from Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels).

Read the official synopsis:

"In the epic final season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, the Batch will have their limits tested in the fight to reunite with Omega as she faces challenges of her own inside a remote Imperial science lab. With the group fractured and facing threats from all directions, they will have to seek out unexpected allies, embark on dangerous missions and muster everything they have learned to free themselves from the Empire."

Star Wars: The Clone Wars fan-favourite Asajj Ventress makes her return as the Bad Batch attempt to rescue Omega from the Empire. “We love Asajj Ventress. She’s a character that we’ve been wanting to tell more stories about,” Brad Rau, supervising director and one of the executive producers of the series, tells StarWars.com. “We don't want to spoil anything, but want fans to know that any new storytelling with Ventress will align with the events of Star Wars: Dark Disciple.”

The third and final season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres with the first three episodes on 21st February exclusively on Disney+.

Season 3 Episode Schedule:

February 21: Episode 1 (“Confined”), 2 (“Paths Unknown”), 3 (“Shadows of Tantiss”)
February 28: Episode 4 ("A Different Approach")
March 6: Episode 5 (“The Return”)
March 13: Episode 6 (“Infiltration”), 7 (“Extraction”)
March 20: Episode 8 (“Bad Territory”)
March 27: Episode 9 (“The Harbinger”)
April 3: Episode 10 (“Identity Crisis”), 11 (“Point of No Return”)
April 10: Episode 12 (“Juggernaut”)
April 17: Episode 13 (“Into the Breach”)
April 24: Episode 14 (“Flash Strike”)
May 1: Episode 15 (“The Cavalry Has Arrived”)

Are you looking forward to the final season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 21 January 2024

Hasbro Pulse Star Wars Fanstream

Hasbro has announced its first fanstream of 2024 is this Tuesday, which also happens to be my birthday. This weekend I've been reminiscing when it snowed and primary school was closed for a birthday/snow day (circa 1978)! Played with new Doctor Who and Star Wars toys before sledging with my dad.

The Star Wars fanstream will be hosted by Jing, Emily, Chris, and Eric. As a Star Wars fan since the original trilogy, I'm excited to see all the Star Wars: The Black Series and Star Wars: The Vintage Collection reveals and pre-orders on Hasbro Pulse.

2024 marks the 25th anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Hasbro will be releasing a range of products to celebrate the Star Wars prequel's milestone.

What are you hoping will be revealed during the Star Wars fanstream? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 19 January 2024

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle

On Thursday, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle was officially revealed during Xbox Developer Direct. The upcoming Xbox and PC first-person exclusive from MachineGames (Wolfenstein) was originally announced in 2021 as one of the first titles under the relaunched Lucasfilm Games brand.

Read the official synopsis:

"Uncover one of history’s greatest mysteries in Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, a first-person, single-player adventure set between the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. The year is 1937, sinister forces are scouring the globe for the secret to an ancient power connected to the Great Circle, and only one person can stop them - Indiana Jones. You’ll become the legendary archaeologist in this cinematic action-adventure game from MachineGames, the award-winning studio behind the recent Wolfenstein series, and executive produced by Hall of Fame game designer Todd Howard."

The Indiana Jones franchise, from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, spawned classic LucasArts point-and-click adventures during the 16-bit era. Most notably, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which I last played with my best friend, Professor Michael Williams, on his Amiga A500. Alas, Indy is still lost in a frozen tundra thirty years on. In the mid-eighties, I vividly remember playing Atari's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the arcades. The adventures of the man in the hat would go on to inspire Tomb Raider and Uncharted action-adventure franchises.

Troy Baker (The Last of Us) channels Harrison Ford as the titular archaeologist later this year on Game Pass.

Are you looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Great Circle? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Alien series will ignore prequels

There are at least two Alien franchise projects currently in development for Hulu on Disney+. There's an upcoming movie from director Fede Álvarez (Don't Breathe) titled Alien: Romulus, which is set between Alien and Aliens, and a live-action series from Noah Hawley (Fargo).

Hawley said his Alien prequel series will ignore Sir Ridley Scott's Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

“Ridley and I have talked about this — and many, many elements of the show,” Hawley says in an interview with KCRW. “For me, and for a lot of people, this ‘perfect life form’ — as it was described in the first film — is the product of millions of years of evolution that created this creature that may have existed for a million years out there in space. The idea that, on some level, it was a bioweapon created half an hour ago, that’s just inherently less useful to me. And in terms of the mythology, what’s scary about this monster, is that when you look at those first two movies, you have this retro-futuristic technology. You have giant computer monitors, these weird keyboards … You have to make a choice. Am I doing that? Because in the prequels, Ridley made the technology thousands of years more advanced than the technology of Alien, which is supposed to take place in those movies’ future. There’s something about that that doesn’t really compute for me. I prefer the retro-futurism of the first two films. And so that’s the choice I’ve made — there’s no holograms. The convenience of that beautiful Apple store technology is not available to me.”

Hawley’s Alien series shut down production in August due to the SAG-AFTRA strike but is expected to resume filming soon in Thailand. The ensemble cast includes Essie Davis, Alex Lawther, Samuel Blenkin, Sydney Chandler, Adarsh Gourav, Timothy Olyphant and David Rysdahl.

As a lifelong fan of the Alien franchise (I watched the nightmarish original on rental video), I'm excited at the prospect of xenomorphs sans touchscreens.

Are you looking forward to the Alien movie and series on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 12 January 2024

Retro Games announces Atari 400

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of this blog! Early on, I wrote about how Atari was a gateway into playing video games when I was gifted an older cousin's unwanted VCS on my 8th birthday in 1980.

After school, I avidly played Space Invaders, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pitfall, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and many more with childhood friends.

Atari has a storied history with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Atari/Lucasfilm Games was founded in 1982, and the infamous E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game tie-in never reached the UK (I had to settle for the Parker Brothers board game for Christmas).

Nintendo popularised mini consoles with its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 2016. Others wanted in on the throwback action. PlayStation Classic, Sega Mega Drive Mini (Sega Genesis Mini if you're in the US), PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini (TurboGrafx-16 Mini if you're in the US) and more soon followed to scratch that nostalgic itch.

Fast forward. Retro Games, the company behind the mini Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64 and Amiga A500, has announced THE400 Mini in association with Atari. A miniaturised version of the chunky classic Atari 400, emulating the whole 8-bit Atari range, including the 400/800, XL and XE series home computers and the 5200 home console.

“We have a rich history in creating re-imagined, iconic home computers, and we very much hope that THE400 Mini will become an important part of that legacy. The original home computer was a gaming hero to many, and it’s important to us to re-create the machines that helped define the video games industry and are thus worthy of preservation. We believe that serious collectors and retro gaming fans will love what we’ve done, and should take the time to discover the odd Easter Egg or two as they embark upon a journey into 1970s and 1980s gaming”, said Paul Andrews, Managing Director at Retro Games Ltd.

Key features of THE400 Mini include:

• A half-sized version of the distinctively styled Atari 400, emulating the whole 8-bit Atari range from the 400 to the 800XL, and the Atari 5200 home console.
• Also included is a recreation of the classic Atari CX40 joystick, with an additional seven seamlessly integrated function buttons.
• The ability for players to side-load their own games via a USB stick, with support for cartridge, disk and cassette ROMs.
• Players can rewind time and save their games.
• HD TV output via HDMI, with 50/60Hz compatibility.
• 5 USB ports which allow for the addition of a modern keyboard, extra joysticks and more.
• Look and feel of 1979: THE400 Mini has been lovingly crafted using modern technology, from the hard-to-match colours of the original machine to the authentic textures of the plastic casing and membrane keyboard, no compromise was made relative to the iconic 1970s look and feel of the original Atari 400.

Stuart Chiplin, Head of Commercial Evaluations at PLAION said “We’re excited to be working with Retro Games Ltd. to bring back an iconic machine that meant so much to so many. Cherished memories from the past must be treated with respect, care and attention – THE400 Mini has been designed to retain the look and feel of the original home computer, while benefitting from robust design and manufacturing and an obsession with attention to detail.”

THE400 Mini comes with 25 titles preinstalled spanning Atari’s 8-bit era. Announced games include: Berzerk, Millipede, Miner 2049er, Lee (Bruce Lee was dropped for licensing reasons) and Star Raiders II (originally developed as a tie-in with The Last Starfighter movie). My favourites from the Atari 8-bit era are Dropzone, Rescue on Fractulas!, Ballblazer and Pitfall II.

Pre-order THE400 Mini (affiliate link) today. It's released on 28th March with a suggested retail price of £99.99. I hope to bring you a review in the future.

Will you be adding THE400 Mini to your retro collection? What are your favourite Atari 8-bit video games? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 11 January 2024

Halo The Series teases fall of Reach

Paramount+ has dropped a final trailer for the second season of Halo The Series.

Read the official synopsis:

"In season two, Master Chief John-117 (Pablo Schreiber) leads his team of elite Spartans against the alien threat known as the Covenant. In the wake of a shocking event on a desolate planet, John cannot shake the feeling that his war is about to change and risks everything to prove what no one else will believe – that the Covenant is preparing to attack humanity’s greatest stronghold.

With the galaxy on the brink, John embarks on a journey to find the key to humankind’s salvation, or its extinction: the Halo."

The first season of Halo The Series fell somewhat short of expectations surrounding a Steven Spielberg-produced live-action series based on the successful Xbox video game franchise. There were many meme-worthy mistakes. However, Cortana (voiced by Jen Taylor) and Dr Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) were great.

After watching the spectacular final trailer, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next to Master Chief, Cortana and the Spartans in their epic battle with the Covenant exclusively on Paramount+.

The second season of Halo The Series begins with a two-episode premiere on 8th February on Paramount+.

What did you think of the trailer? Are you looking forward to the second season of Halo The Series on Paramount+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

The Mandalorian & Grogu in a Star Wars movie

Following months of speculation, The Mandalorian on Disney+ is headed for the big screen with series creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man) at the helm!

“I have loved telling stories set in the rich world that George Lucas created,” said Favreau. “The prospect of bringing the Mandalorian and his apprentice Grogu to the big screen is extremely exciting.”

The first live-action Star Wars spin-off series is synonymous with the successful launch of Disney+ in 2019. The third season of The Mandalorian was the most streamed original series of 2023 in the US.

"Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have ushered into Star Wars two new and beloved characters, and this new story is a perfect fit for the big screen," added Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was the last Star Wars movie in theatres before the global pandemic. Since then, Lucasfilm has continued to shuffle upcoming projects with no clear vision on the big screen. The Mandalorian & Grogu will be a litmus test for the brand. However, the Force is strong with Favreau.

In related news. Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) is developing Ahsoka's second season on Disney+.

This is the way.

Are you looking forward to The Mandalorian & Grogu movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 7 January 2024

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road

The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) was introduced in the third and final 60th anniversary special, The Giggle.

In the wake of a bi-generation, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors exist in the same Whoniverse. Perhaps the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Nobel (Catherine Tate) will return in a future spin-off series?

The Fifteenth Doctor's first solo story is in a Christmas special.

Does Nick Smith, our US-based veteran Whovian, find festive cheer in The Church on Ruby Road?

Guest post by Nick Smith

Doctor Who has riffed on movies before – Hammer’s Frankenstein and Dracula, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Groundhog Day, to name a few. For the 2023 Christmas special, returning series showrunner Russell T Davies has chosen Labyrinth as his blatant inspiration.

Labyrinth is a 1986 Jim Henson film starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, which tells the story of a kidnapped baby and a girl’s brave attempt to rescue the ungrateful little brat; along the way, she meets magical allies and comes a cropper of a goblin king and his cohorts. And there is quite a bit of singing.

While Labyrinth has an epic scope, a significant character arc for the heroine, and twists and turns befitting its title, The Church on Ruby Road does not. Its simple plot introduces a new Doctor, (Ncuti Gatwa in his first full adventure), Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), her family, friends and neighbours.

That’s a lot of introductions to make, so there isn’t much room left for a knotty plot.

However, the special is lavish and entertaining, with a delightful tone and charismatic leads. There are fun set pieces, including a giant snowman head crashing down on the Doctor in a Buster Keaton bit, and a rooftop sequence where the Doctor and Ruby defy gravity.

The threadbare plot is reminiscent of late ‘60s Doctor Who, where tight deadlines led to simple runaround stories with memorably eccentric characters, all glued together by the charm of the TARDIS team.

Unusually, this special is hooked around a musical number; Murray Gold’s Goblin Song is not strong enough to make a centrepiece, with garbled lyrics and an instantly forgettable tune. Spoiled by Gold’s immense talent, we have heard better in The Rings of Akhaten and A Christmas Carol, which both incorporated beautiful songs into the storyline.

The rest of the narrative takes its cue from the classic Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life, again (we experience a world without Ruby, instead of Jimmy Stewart), and an episode of Supernatural (in Bad Day at Black Rock, a calamity-causing curse impedes the Winchester Boys). Throw in an orphaned infant straight out of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and there isn’t much new to find here.

It’s as if RTD wants the main characters to be the only new elements in this special, giving it a lean, easily accessible quality that will hopefully suit the show’s new audience on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland.

Luckily, Gatwa and Gibson are special enough to make The Church on Ruby Road a joy to watch. We care about the characters and when she enters the TARDIS, Ruby’s nuanced reaction bodes well for the forthcoming season. It’s packed with excitement, trepidation, happiness and anticipation – just like us viewers.

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

Have you seen The Church on Ruby Road? 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 4 January 2024

The Mandalorian is most streamed series of 2023

The third season of The Mandalorian on Disney+ surpassed Ahsoka, Loki, and The Witcher to become the most-watched streamed series of 2023 in the US.

1). The Mandalorian (Disney+)
2). Loki (Disney+)
3). Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
4). You (Netflix)
5). Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
6). Black Mirror (Netflix)
7). Secret Invasion (Disney+)
8). The Bear (Hulu)
9). Ahsoka (Disney+)
10). The Witcher (Netflix)

The list is dominated by Netflix and Hulu. The merger of Disney+ and Hulu will see the House of Mouse bolstering its streaming service.

Ahsoka failed to beat Din Djarin and Grogu to the pole position despite a limited theatrical release. It'll be interesting to see how successful the Star Wars spin-off series will be in 2024 on Disney+. I'm looking forward to Skeleton Crew and The Acolyte.

What was your favourite streaming series of 2023? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 1 January 2024

Star Wars composer John Williams hasn't retired

Legendary Hollywood composer John Williams (Jaws) said he would consider scoring a new soundtrack if the right film came along. This follows the Star Wars composer's candid comments about potentially retiring after scoring Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Williams, 91, told The Times newspaper: “If a film came along that I was greatly interested in, with a schedule that I could cope with, then I wouldn’t want to rule anything out. Everything is possible. All is before us. Only our limitations are holding us back. Or, to put it more simply: I like to keep an open mind.”

On the subject of commercial versus classical music, the Oscar-winning composer said:

“Thirty or 40 years ago, when I would take a programme of film music to one of our big orchestras, there might be condescension. I understood it; I understand the value of things made in the commercial world and their place in the art world. But now things are different. I’d love to come back in 50 years’ time and see what cinema is contributing to the development of new music, because I think young composers will want to work across both.”

A new Star Wars movie, following the continuing adventures of Rey (Daisy Ridley), is currently in pre-production at Lucasfilm. Could the maestro return to a galaxy far, far away?

What are your favourite John Williams soundtracks? Let me know in the comments below.