Saturday, 17 October 2020

His Dark Materials returns November on HBO Max

The second season of His Dark Materials, based on Sir Philip Pullman's second book The Subtle Knife, begins 16th November on HBO Max and a full trailer has been released.

The BBC has yet to announce an airdate for the new season, which had completed principal photography prior to lockdown earlier this year - a standalone episode, centring on Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), was abandoned. However, Sunday evenings proved popular for the first season on those long November nights.

Are you looking forward to the continuation of Lyra's (Dafne Keen) adventure in His Dark Materials? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Star Wars legends join LEGO Holiday Special

Lucasfilm has announced further cast members reprising their roles for the upcoming The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+.

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO join the cast.

“We’re particularly thrilled that these great actors from the Star Wars family chose to reprise their roles and came to play in this LEGO sandbox,” Josh Rimes, director of animation development at Lucasfilm, says.

Set after The Rise of Skywalker, Rey sets out with BB-8 to learn more about the Force and meets friends and foes from the entire Skywalker Saga. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special arrives on 17th November on Disney+.

Are you looking forward to a LEGO Star Wars spin on the maligned television special from 1978? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Walt Disney Company pivots to Disney+

The runaway success of Disney+ since launching last November, combined with an ongoing global pandemic forcing further cinema chain closures, sees The Walt Disney Company refocus on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market to the understandable concern of cinema owners and their employees. The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) released a scathing statement in response.

It reads: “The vast majority of cinemas across Europe and indeed many regions of the world are now open and able to offer a safe and enjoyable return for audiences.

“Cinema operators have invested massively in offering the safest possible experience to their audiences on the basis of a promising schedule of new film releases. Yet again, however, they find a distributor delivering another blow.”

The corporate restructuring means the vertically integrated multimedia and entertainment giant will be streamlined into content producers and distributors such as Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will continue to operate under its existing structure. Mirroring moves by competitors Netflix, Warner Bros. and Apple TV+. The latter is an emergent streaming powerhouse and beneficiary of the Cupertino-based company's wealth worth trillions of dollars.

“We want to let the creatives be creatives, and let the business people be business people,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said. “This is a further evolution of what we’ve already done. Given our success so far, we want to further accelerate our transition to a direct-to-consumer-first model.”

The House of Mouse has already released the live-action Mulan, at a premium for early access on Disney+, and plans to premiere Pixar's Soul, following a music teacher (Jamie Foxx) whose soul becomes separated from his body, on Disney+ this holiday.

Do you think this will accelerate the decline of mainstream cinema? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Doctor Who spotlight at New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con (NYCC) followed San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and DC Fandome with socially distanced online panels, due to the pandemic, last week. And Doctor Who was there with a sneak peek at the upcoming special, Revolution of the Daleks, this holiday season.

Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan) and Bradley Walsh (Graham O'Brien) teased some of the things to look forward to during a virtual spotlight panel.

BBC America will also have a Doctor Who marathon between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which would suggest the holiday special is going to be on New Year’s Day again. However, this is unconfirmed. HBO Max is exclusively streaming every season of Doctor Who since 2005.

Are you excited for Revolution of the Daleks? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Jurassic World: Dominion opens summer 2022

Hollywood blockbuster movies continue to be reshuffled in the wake of the global pandemic as Cineworld closes its cinemas (including The Picturehouse) for the foreseeable future this Thursday.

Director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) shared a teaser image from Jurassic World: Dominion, which is just weeks away from safely completing principal photography in the UK.

The upcoming final instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise will be released in the summer of 2022.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Batman moved to March 2022

James Bond and Batman have been pushed back to 2021 and 2022 respectively as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and politicians around the world grapple with wealth and health as local lockdowns become an integral part of the 'new normal'.

This week, Cineworld announced the indefinite closure of its cinemas (including The Picturehouse) as news broke James Bond: No Time To Die was pushed from November to April 2021. It's worth noting the chain embarked on an ambitious expansion pre-COVID. This will make many more people redundant during a deep and prolonged recession presided over by opportunistic right-wing governments espousing retraining amidst mixed messaging.

There's no fast fix. The creative arts remain under increased threat and I know many friends whose mental health will be negatively impacted - due to shielding and ideological reasons, I will not visit a cinema until if/when there is a vaccine.

Cinema played an integral role in my rehabilitation beginning with George Lucas' space opera, at The Odeon Exeter, with my late mum. Miss the sanctuary of a darkened theatre with friends and family. Thankful for memories of a dark detective and an archaeologist.

Alongside The Batman, Warner Bros. has reshuffled Dune from December to October 2021. Wonder Woman 1984 remains scheduled for this December. However, given there may be no cinemas open to show it...

Monday, 5 October 2020

It was a dark time for the... Daleks!

John Rivers, our chief Dalek operator, emerges from the Jungles of Mechanus to guide us through Time Lord Victorious, a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey transmedia stuff, over the autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere.

Guest post by John Rivers

SPOILER ALERT - There's spoilers here for Time Lord Victorious. So, if you don't want to know, then activate your Project Indigo teleport button now.

If you're a Doctor Who fan it's been pretty hard to escape Time Lord Victorious for the past few months. Billed as a 'multi-platform Doctor Who story told across [deep breath] audio, novels, comics, vinyl, digital, immersive theatre, escape rooms and games, basically anything you might enjoy that isn't a movie or, god forbid, a TV programme.

The artwork has been pretty impactful too, David Tennant's ever-popular Tenth incarnation dressed in ruined Time Lord robes surrounded by Daleks - what's not to love?! And the appearance of both McGann and Eccleston's Doctors has guaranteed a lot of interest from fans, particularly those who enjoy Big Finish audios or the comics series.

It all seems very ambitious and the story has kicked off with some initial releases in September. I'm going to cover those off here and then post updates every month as the story unfolds and more media is released.

Here's the September releases:

A Dalek Awakens - an Escape Hunt escape room experience currently running in Reading. I haven't been able to get to this yet...

Defender of the Daleks - issue 1. The Tenth Doctor has fallen through a hole in spacetime. He is pursued by the Daleks, who, worryingly, need his help. A comics series written by Jody Houser, art by Roberta Ingranata featuring the Tenth Doctor being pursued by the Dalek Empire

The Dark Dark Times - a section of the Doctor Who Annual 2021 by Paul Lang

The Dawn of the Kotturuh - a short story by James Goss which was an exclusive to subscribers of the official Doctor Who site newsletter

Monstrous Beauty - part 1 - A three part story, given away with Doctor Who Magazine featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose set in the Dark Times as ancient Gallifreyans battle the Great Vampire. Story by Scott Gray, art by John Ross

It's also worth mentioning the extensive coverage in this month's Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) which has interviews with some of the creators, including James Goss who instigated the whole project. There's also a handy guide for fans so that you can follow your favourite Doctor (that's not for us, we're completists!). This introduction is also covered in the 'The Dark Dark Times' from the Doctor Who Annual 2021. Occupying the final seven pages of the annual (in, frankly, a tacked-on-the-end sort of way) 'The Dark Dark Times' is a couple of articles from River Song, in her Melody Malone guise, detailing the threat posed by a race called the Kotturuh, who appear to be the Big Bad of Time Lord Victorious.

The set-up is simple. In the ancient times, before the Time Lords or the Daleks, there were many races, all of whom were immortal. There are many that fans will be familiar with and are detailed for younger readers in the Doctor Who Annual 2021 - the Eternals, the Daemons, the Osirans, the Vampires - and now the Kotturuh. The Kotturuh have emerged from the Dark Times of ancient history and enjoy hopping from planet-to-planet, judging a race's worth, its contribution to the entire history of the universe and then deciding when it will die. As a race you could die instantly, or it could take months or years, but essentially Kotturuh will bring death and if you encounter them, you die.

An encounter with these terrifying creatures is detailed in James Goss' online only story 'Dawn of the Kotturuh'. The Kotturuh, robed, masked, bundles of tentacles, in the best Lovecraftian traditions of ancient evils, turn up at a planet and judge it. It doesn't go well for the inhabitants.

On then to our two introductory stories with the Doctors. First up is the Tenth Doctor in 'Defender of the Daleks', the first time Titan Comics has had permission to use the Skarosians in their publishing. The Tenth Doctor is flying solo, following an encounter with his Thirteenth self. Given that the universe doesn't like that sort of temporal anomaly, it would appear that the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS has been flung through a fissure in the vortex. Everywhere he lands, Daleks surround him and eventually he's taken to Skaro to meet with the Emperor, gloriously presented in full round-domed TV Century 21 glory. The Daleks are desperate for the Doctor's help, and want him to infiltrate an ancient building on Skaro, just as a race called the Hond have rocked-up, fully intent on wiping the Daleks out for good. They send the Doctor into this building with the Dalek Strategist, an elderly-looking, battle-scarred Dalek who appears to have come straight out of the Doctor's first encounter with them in 'The Mutants'. Jody Houser does an excellent job of detailing the Tenth Doctor's thoughts, especially when he only has the Daleks to play off, while Roberta Ingranata captures the Doctor's cockiness and the metallic, brutal beauty of Skaro. I should also mention the colouring work of Enrica Eren Angiolini, for capturing the ambers and greens of RTD era Doctor Who so well.

It's worth noting that the Doctor at this point is travelling alone and this is where the Time Lord Victorious name comes from. It's the title the Tenth Doctor gives himself after rescuing Adelaide Brook (Lindsay Duncan) from a water-infested Bowie Base One in 'The Waters of Mars'. The Doctor at this point thinks he should be using his powers in a more direct and impactful way, not shying away from intervention like the other Time Lords did. This will, of course, lead to an unhealthy dose of hubris, only resolved by regeneration in the 'End of Time'. We have a very confident and cocky Tenth Doctor presented here and it will be interesting to see if this is retained throughout the run of Time Lord Victorious.

The Ninth Doctor meanwhile, everyone's favourite leather-jacketed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor, has found himself with Rose immersed in a battle between the ancient Gallifreyans and the Vampires, a conflict which was recounted to viewers in the season 18 story 'State of Decay'. This is excellent fun from Scott Grey, who not only manages to capture the breathless run-about nature of series 1 Doctor Who, but is clearly delighting in being able to play with show's myths and legends, including a pre-Time Lord Rassilon. Even more tantalising is Rose's encounters with the Vampires themselves. Creepy and camp, presented wonderfully in the art from John Ross, just like vampires should be, this story is great fun and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Overall, it's an exciting set-up for Time Lord Victorious with two past Doctors finding themselves having to help both sides of the previous Time War which cost our hero so much. During October, it's on to a book from veteran Who writer Steve Cole, The Master and the Eighth Doctor enter the fray and the first toys show up! Allons-y!

Are you enjoying Time Lord Victorious? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

The Snoopy Show on Apple TV+

The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show was synonymous with childhood and, like so many, I could relate to Chuck, as I longed for the adventures of Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far, far away...

The month of October marks the anniversary of a life-changing head injury (circa 1977) and Snoopy has a special place. An older cousin gifted me a Snoopy soft toy in children's hospital. The beloved beagle stood vigil alongside the Six Million Dollar Man, The Muppets, Doctor Who and the Mr. Men.

The Snoopy Show is coming exclusively to Apple TV+ and the Cupertino-based company has released a teaser trailer to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Peanuts, created by Charles M. Schulz.

Here’s the official series synopsis:

"“The Snoopy Show” is a new animated series for kids and families that stars the internationally beloved beagle and his feathered best friend Woodstock as they tackle all new adventures. Snoopy may seem like just a happy-dancin’, bone-lovin’, doghouse-sittin’ pup, but he’s much more than that. He’s Joe Cool: hippest kid in school. He’s surfer king and famed arm-wrestler Masked Marvel. He’s World War I Flying Ace who battles the Red Baron. All of his bold, beloved personas are on full display in this brand-new animated comedy."

Each episode of The Snoopy Show will contain three seven-minute cartoons. Lucy, Linus, Franklin, Schroeder and other classic Peanuts characters are set to appear.

The Snoopy Show premieres February next year, but you can watch the Emmy-nominated Snoopy in Space and Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10 on Apple TV+ right now. This Halloween I'll be rewatching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Are you looking forward to The Snoopy Show? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Apple TV+ coming to Xbox and PlayStation

With just over a month to go until the next-gen consoles arrive, reports suggest Apple TV+ is heading to Xbox and PlayStation in the very near future.

Selected Xbox Insider Program members are purportedly testing a trial version of the app, which could be released in time for 10th November. If so, all current and next-gen Xbox systems will be compatible, and the Series S will make my Apple TV 4K redundant in the bedroom.

Well, assuming BritBox gets its app onto both console platforms this holiday season. This autumn I've started rewatching Blake's 7 and have no memory of seeing the early episodes until the one with a giant brain encased inside a Death Star-like planetoid! I was recovering from a brain injury when Terry Nation's sci-fi series started, weeks before Star Wars screened at the local Odeon. I digress.

Similarly, it appears selected users are testing an Apple TV+ app for PlayStation. And there's a suggestion AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support is coming, too. This can only be seen as consumer-friendly despite the ongoing spat over Game Pass and Epic Games' Fortnite on the Cupertino-based company's devices.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Dark Side Rey and holiday-themed Stormtroopers

Force Friday, the merchandising event that started with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, isn't happening this year and not because of the global pandemic. But that doesn't mean there won't be new Star Wars merchandise this holiday season.

The long-awaited Black Series Rey (Dark Side Vision) (affiliate link), from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was announced for next February during the first-ever Hasbro PulseCon, a 2-day online event celebrating all things Hasbro.

"While searching for the Sith wayfinder, Rey envisions her turn to the dark side. Wielding a double-bladed Lightsaber, her rage and immense power is frightening. This Star Wars The Black Series Rey (Dark Side Vision) 6-Inch Action Figure includes cape and lightsaber."

Alongside Rey are fun holiday-themed Black Series Stormtroopers (affiliate link), which includes decked-out repaints of the Range Trooper from Solo: A Star Wars Story, a Clone Trooper from the prequel trilogy, a Stormtrooper from the original trilogy, a Snowtrooper from The Empire Strikes Back and a Sith Trooper from The Rise of Skywalker.

But that's not all! The Mandalorian (affiliate link) gets a Kenner-branded vintage collection release and there's a Boba Fett (affiliate link) deluxe action figure from Return of the Jedi. And in 2021 there's going to be a Black Series Ahsoka Tano Force FX Elite Lightsaber.

There's more, much more. So, watch Hasbro PulseCon 2020 Day 1 below and lookout for exclusives at your favourite retailers.

Are you hoping to find Black Series and Kenner-branded vintage collection action figures under the tree this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.