Sunday 25 February 2024

Regal Robot's Wampa from Star Wars

Regal Robot announced a limited edition Wampa puppet prop replica from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and it's selling fast.

Read the press release from Regal Robot:

"Regal Robot’s WAMPA PROP REPLICA, the latest in their incredible Archive Collection will be available to order starting at Noon EST today! Learn more and order yours here:

During the making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back™ some shots of the Wampa were made with a costumed actor, however, the dramatic first close-ups of the creature when it attacks Luke on his Tauntaun were actually achieved with a puppet crafted by legendary creature maker, Phil Tippett!

Offered in two EXTREMELY LIMITED editions, the new resin and mixed media bust is a faithful recreation of that that puppet. Layered in details, Regal Robot’s amazing artists brought this to life using a highly detailed laser scan and extensive, hands-on research of the original prop artifact used in the film.

Don’t miss your chance to bring home a piece of the archive with this unique prop replica!"

What do you think of Regal Robot's Wampa puppet prop replica? Were you lucky enough to pre-order? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 22 February 2024

Star Wars Battlefront Classic Collection

On Wednesday, Aspyr and Lucasfilm Games announced the Star Wars Battlefront Classic Collection during a Nintendo Direct.

Featuring restored online play for up to 64 players, the classic bundle includes Star Wars Battlefront and Star Wars Battlefront II, originally developed by LucasArts, and will be available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5) and PC on 14th March.

Electronic Arts (EA) revived the Star Wars Battlefront franchise in 2015. However, it was marred by microtransaction controversy. Thanks to Aspyr, who recently released the excellent Tomb Raider I-III Remastered, gamers (myself included) can play these classic Star Wars video games unadulterated.

Will you be playing the Star Wars Battlefront Classic Collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Masters of the Air

Apple TV+ is increasingly likened to HBO and not without merit. The Cupertino-based tech titan's streaming service is home to prestige television from For All Mankind to Silo.

Masters of the Air is the latest series from executive producer Steven Spielberg (Jaws). It follows a group of World War II pilots. Unlike Spielberg's sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, these pilots aren't abducted by benevolent aliens and returned home decades later to a fanfare from legendary Hollywood composer John Williams (Star Wars).

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, is on a break from monster hunting and takes to the skies.

Guest post by Nick Smith

After reminding us that war is hell in Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010), Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have bankrolled a new nine-part World War II miniseries called Masters of the Air. This time the story is set in Norfolkshire, where bombers set off on daring raids to destroy Nazi targets.

With a reported average budget of $27 million per episode, you’d better believe this show looks grand and glossy, with fraught air combat sequences, painstaking attention to detail, and squadrons of proficient actors, including Austin Butler (who acted his blue suede shoes off in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis) and James Murray (Primeval). The greatest challenge, for the storytellers and the viewers, is to keep score of all the characters, with dozens sacrificing their lives in the line of duty.

Part One is a slow burn with an ensemble of seemingly insipid non-entities. The ending is strangely low-key, a common issue in our era of binge TV (thanks to Netflix). Stick around for the second episode, though, and the show hits high gear. The characters become more engaging and their bravery is brought to light (they fly during the day instead of bombing at night, to make sure they only hit military sites). The insanity of war is highlighted, along with the skill required to operate gremlin-gummed analogue equipment, and the heart-breaking youth of the crewmen – one is called Babyface, to hammer the point home.

By Part Four, we’re in ‘Allo ‘Allo territory with airmen hiding in occupied territory, aided by the Resistance. This allows writer John Orloff to bring wilful female characters into the show, while back in England more lives are lost and the ethical weight of war hangs heavy on the survivors.

Based on a book by historian Donald L. Miller, Masters of the Air caught the flak of development hell in 2013. Six years later, Apple took the series from the reluctant grasp of HBO, which released the first two minis. In 2021 filming finally began, only to be stalled by a different kind of threat – the COVID kind. All this turbulence shows in some loose narrative rivets, but the effects are better than most recent CGI-heavy air battles (shame on you, Red Tails) and the central characters rise from a herd of pretty boys to engage the audience.

Standouts include Lt. Harry Crosby, played by Irish actor Anthony Boyle; Lt. Curtis Biddick, portrayed by Barry Keoghan who is also from Ireland; and Lt. Roy Frank Claytor, played by Spielberg’s son Sawyer. The opening credits tease the appearance of Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who), who will undoubtedly bring a breath of fresh air to the show with his brash personality.

The dogfights are tense and the cockpit action is thrilling, reminiscent of the Star Wars space battles they inspired. The in-flight entertainment is filmed using virtual production, with LED screens standing in for the unfriendly skies.

Masters of the Air has a long way to go to match the grit and power of Band of Brothers. The new series looks too pristine, an issue with modern drama series. In the early episodes, the lack of strong female roles is a side effect of focusing on the B-17 boys. For another perspective on World War II heroism, I recommend Big Finish’s audio series ATA Girl. The 100th Group bombers were not the only aces in the war.

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

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

Friday 16 February 2024

X-Men '97 coming to Disney+

On Thursday, Marvel Studios dropped an official trailer for Marvel Animation's X-Men '97 on Disney+.

Read the official synopsis:

“X-Men’ 97 revisits the iconic era of the 1990s as The X-Men, a band of mutants who use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them, are challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future."

X-Men ’97 picks up after the events of X-Men: The Animated Series’ finale, 1997’s “Graduation Day,” which saw an injured Charles Xavier leave his team of mutants behind to recover in outer space in the care of Lilandra among the Shi’ar Empire.

There’s a Colossus vintage action figure Easter egg at the start of the trailer. And now I want to collect the X-Men ‘97 action figures from Hasbro Pulse!

The voice cast includes Ray Chase as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale as Jean Grey, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm, Cal Dodd as Wolverine, JP Karliak as Morph, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, AJ LoCascio as Gambit, Holly Chou as Jubilee, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Matthew Waterson as Magneto and Adrian Hough as Nightcrawler. Beau DeMayo serves as head writer; episodes are directed by Jake Castorena, Chase Conley and Emi Yonemura. Featuring music by The Newton Brothers, the series is executive produced by Brad Winderbaum, Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and DeMayo.

In my teens, I sought solace in the mutant tragedy of the X-Men. They became a metaphor for disability, something I was struggling with in the wake of a life-changing childhood trauma in primary school, and I wanted to be Cyclops. How I envied actor James Marsden (Westworld) as Cyclops in director Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000) that foreshadowed a resurgence in superhero movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Following the X-Men '97 revival, I hope Marvel Animation (in conjunction with Sony) reboots Spider-Man: The Animated Series next!

The X-Men '97, an all-new series which features 10 episodes, begins streaming exclusively on Disney+ on 20th March.

Are you looking forward to X-Men '97 on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Disney x Epic Games

The Walt Disney Company is investing $1.5 billion in Epic Games.

“Our exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring together Disney’s beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite in a transformational new games and entertainment universe,” said Robert A. Iger, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. We can’t wait for fans to experience the Disney stories and worlds they love in groundbreaking new ways.”

The House of Mouse has a storied history with the maker of Fortnite. Epic Games worked with Lucasfilm on real-time visual effects rendering for the Star Wars live-action spin-off series on Disney+.

“Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio,” said Tim Sweeney, CEO and Founder, Epic Games. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities.”

What do you think about Disney buying an equity stake in Epic Games and creating an entertainment universe for Fortnite? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Stranger things in Damsel

Netflix has released an official trailer for Damsel.

Read the official synopsis:

"A dutiful damsel agrees to marry a handsome prince, only to find the royal family has recruited her as a sacrifice to repay an ancient debt. Thrown into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon, she must rely on her wits and will to survive."

Starring Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) as the titular damsel, it evokes childhood memories of Disney's dark fantasy film Dragonslayer.

“She’s a damsel who doesn’t need to be saved,” Brown told Netflix. “She saves herself in many ways. It subverts what you expect: You’re expecting the prince to turn around and save her, and… no. Don’t wait for the prince.”

Speaking with Total Film, Oscar-nominated director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo said Brown was able to convey the emotion they needed for the movie, calling her “exceptional.” The filmmaker added, “She understood that this needed to be an extreme survival experience. And in order to make that believable, you have to convey suffering and pain.”

Damsel debuts exclusively on Netflix on 8th March.

Are you looking forward to Damsel on Netflix? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 12 February 2024

Deadpool & Wolverine teaser at Super Bowl

On Sunday, Marvel Studios dropped a teaser trailer for Deadpool & Wolverine during the Super Bowl.

Read the official synopsis:

"Everyone deserves a happy ending."

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finally arrives in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with knowing winks, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and teasing Avengers: Secret Wars this July.

Are you looking forward to Deadpool & Wolverine? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 11 February 2024

The Phantom Menace returns for Star Wars Day

Empire magazine exclusively announced Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is returning to cinemas for its 25th anniversary on 3rd May.

In 1999, anticipation for the first instalment in George Lucas' prequel trilogy was fever pitch and its coverage saturated mainstream media.

Before the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Hasbro interviewed me for a multimedia role and I saw some of the upcoming toys. I anxiously waited for QuickTime trailers to drop online - blocking my parents' landline - as I coded my first website and listened to John Williams' soundtrack on an import CD (remember CDNow?). As with the original Star Wars soundtrack, a major spoiler was contained in a track title: Qui-Gon's Noble End left little to the imagination.

Eventually, I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace six times at the Odeon Exeter. Podracing and the climactic duel between Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) pulled me back for more. And there were Pepsi cups to collect.

Stay tuned for further coverage of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’s 25th anniversary.

Are you looking forward to seeing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on Star Wars Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 9 February 2024

Future Predator movie Badlands

According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) is following up his Emmy-nominated Predator prequel Prey, which both Nick Smith and I loved, with Badlands.

Little is known about the Predator movie, but Badlands will be set in the future and, like Prey, will feature a female protagonist.

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

Thursday 8 February 2024

Hasbro announces Ahsoka E-wing

Our friends at Hasbro have sent over details on the new Star Wars: The Vintage Collection New Republic E-wing and KE4-N4. A surprise drop following the Star Wars fanstream.


(HASBRO | Ages 4 years & up | Approx. Retail Price: $99.99 | Available: Fall 2024)

The E-wing is a new advanced combat vessel introduced as part of the New Republic fleet in the years after the Empire’s fall. Astromech droid KE4-N4 served alongside New Republic E-wing pilot Lieutenant Callahan on Lothal. Fans can celebrate the legacy of STAR WARS, the action-and-adventure-packed space saga from a galaxy far, far away with this premium 3.75-inch scale STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION REPUBLIC E-WING & KE4-N4 inspired by the ship’s and characters’ appearances in STAR WARS: AHSOKA. This vehicle and figure set features premium detail and design, with folding landing gear, a sliding canopy, and cargo storage, and includes a highly articulated carded KE4-N4 figure. With packaging inspired by the original Kenner packaging and branding. Includes vehicle and figure.

Available for pre-order 2/7 at 1pm ET exclusively at Hasbro Pulse and available at Disney Stores & Parks this fall. Pre-orders at Hasbro Pulse close 3/5 at 11:59pm ET.

The E-wing looks fantastic and KE4-N4 is an homage to the vintage R2-D2 action figure (my first Star Wars toy). New Republic pilot Lieutenant Callahan will be released later.

Are you excited about the E-wing? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Hasbro celebrates Transformers 40th anniversary

On Tuesday, Hasbro announced its plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Transformers.

"For 40 years, the TRANSFORMERS franchise has continuously adapted and redefined itself, culminating in one legacy across generations through innovative products, captivating entertainment, inspiring licensed partnerships, and engaging publishing projects."

Highlights include 40th anniversary toys from Hasbro, the Generation 1 (G1) soundtrack on vinyl and digital with additional music, trading cards from Dynamite, new products from Funko, Robosen, Super7 and more.

"Beloved since its inception in 1984, TRANSFORMERS has evolved from an innovative toy line into a powerhouse franchise embraced by millions of fans around the world,” said Alyse D’Antuono, Vice President, Global Franchise Strategy & Management, Action Brands, Hasbro. “The past four decades continuously delivered a ... More Than Meets The Eye experience for fans by introducing new toys and games, as well as thrilling storytelling in animated shows, comics, blockbuster films and much more. As we build the next chapter in the TRANSFORMERS universe, we look forward to celebrating one legacy for another 40 years.”

Hasbro Pulse recently revealed the next Transformers HasLab of powerful proportions. Transformers: Legacy Robots in Disguise 2001 Omega Prime, which needs 10,000 backers by 15th March to go into production.

"When you have a franchise that goes 40 years in this business, it's pretty remarkable," said TRANSFORMERS voice-over talent and original voice of Megatron, Frank Welker, "to watch the franchise just build and build and build it is amazing to watch." Added fellow voice cast member and original voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, "I've always had the feeling this was going to go a long time."

As longtime readers know, I've been a fan of the Transformers since 1984. The war between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons captured my childhood imagination in the pages of Marvel UK's comic. One of my favourite Transformers, Shockwave, was never officially released in the UK. However, I had Galactic Man, which was licensed by Tandy from ToyCo. So, I'm looking forward to pre-ordering Shockwave based on an iconic Marvel Comics cover.

How are you celebrating the 40th anniversary of Transformers? Are you backing the Transformers HasLab? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Carl Weathers, Predator and Star Wars actor, dies

Carl Weathers, whose credits include fan-favourite roles in Rocky, Predator, The Mandalorian and more, has passed away aged 76.

“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” said his family in a statement. “Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend.”

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) described Weathers as an integral part of his life. “Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success … I give him incredible credit,” he said. “When he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness but I didn’t realise how great. I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him. He was absolutely brilliant. Rest in power and keep punching.”

In a statement, Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator) wrote: “Carl Weathers will always be a legend. An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor, and a great person. We couldn’t have made Predator without him. And we certainly wouldn’t have had such a wonderful time making it. Every minute with him — on set and off — was pure joy. He was the type of friend who pushes you to be your best just to keep up with him. I’ll miss him, and my thoughts are with his family.”

Weathers leaves behind a lasting legacy on the big and small screen. This is the way.

Friday 2 February 2024

To boldly go with Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro is launched today in the US, and Star Trek fans (myself included) will soon be able to explore Gene Roddenberry's beloved sci-fi franchise with an exclusive spatial app.

In conjunction with OTOY Paramount Game Studios, the Roddenberry Archive spans the entire franchise.

"Through our multi-decade collaboration with OTOY, we have been working to push the frontiers of immersive technology to fulfill my father's legacy, creative intent, and ideas," Rod Roddenberry, President of Roddenberry Entertainment, said in a statement to Deadline, "in ways that can be experienced today and by generations yet to come."

"This release also fulfills one of my mother's greatest wishes," he said. "She recorded her phenoms in 2008 before her passing, to have her voice live on in posterity."

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry recorded the voice of the ship's computer in Star Trek, foreshadowing Alexa and Siri voice assistants.

"It is deeply moving for me to be able to have her voice now narrate portions of the archive," he continued.

Stay tuned for Nick Smith's hands-on with Apple Vision Pro, the Cupertino-based tech titan's spatial computing platform, at his local Apple Store.

Which Star Trek series or movie would you like to explore? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 1 February 2024

25 years of LEGO Star Wars

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and LEGO Star Wars.

“The LEGO Star Wars collaboration has enjoyed a most impressive 25 years with products, video games, animated content, big builds, merchandise, and more! We want to celebrate all those years and milestones with everyone who helped us get here, but especially with the fan community as we would never be where we are today without their creativity and passion,” says Mike Ilacqua, Head of Product at the LEGO Group.

To start things off, LEGO announced five new sets at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. This includes R2-D2, Millennium Falcon, Invisible Hand, Tantive IV and Boarding the Tantive IV diorama released on 1st March.

“It’s been 25 years of true fun combining Lucasfilm’s expansive Star Wars galaxy with the ingenuity of the LEGO Group, offering fans exciting ways to recreate their favorite scenes, vehicles and characters from our stories,” said Paul Southern, Senior Vice President, Lucasfilm Franchise and Licensing, Disney Experiences. “With the enthusiasm of our fans to engage with the Star Wars galaxy and express creativity through building, we look forward to continuing the legacy of fun for decades to come.”

Throughout 2024, the LEGO Star Wars team plans to celebrate with fans (myself included) front and centre of it all.

Discover LEGO Star Wars on LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

What are your favourite LEGO Star Wars sets from the past 25 years? Let me know in the comments below.