Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Stranger Things goes Game of Thrones

Netflix has released a new trailer for Stranger Things 4. Looks like the Hawkins teens are pitched against a new big bad in the Upside Down.

Read the official synopsis:

"It’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time – and navigating the complexities of high school hasn't made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down."

Speaking to Deadline, series co-creator Matt Duffer said this week: “We jokingly call it our Game of Thrones season because it’s so spread out.”

“Joyce and Byers family to have left at the end of Season 3,” said Matt, explaining the upcoming season’s epic storytelling. “They are in California – we’ve always wanted to have that like ‘E.T’.-esque suburb aesthetic, which we finally got to do this year in the desert; and then we have Hopper in Russia; and then of course we have a group remaining in Hawkins. So we have these three storylines, are all connected and kind of interwoven together, but it’s just very different tones.”

The upcoming extended season will be split into two volumes. Beginning on Netflix on 27th May and continuing on 1st July.

Are you looking forward to Stranger Things 4? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Mando+ at Star Wars Celebration

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) was most recently seen in The Book of Boba Fett and is expected to return later this year as the titular character in the third season of the award-winning live-action Star Wars spin-off series on Disney+.

Lucasfilm has announced a Star Wars Celebration panel entitled Mando+: A Conversation with Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni. The executive producers will be joined by special guests for a look back and a look ahead at what’s to come for the popular series. The latest season finished filming last month.

Mando+ suggests the panel may include The Book of Boba Fett and Star Wars: Ahsoka.

In related news. There will be panels for Star Wars: The Bad Batch and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. The highly-anticipated six-part special event series premieres on Disney+ during the 4-day event.

The official Lucasfilm fan event, which originally began in 1999 to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, returns to Anaheim in May.

Going to Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022 and would like to cover the event for this site? Please contact me.

Which panels are you most looking forward to at Star Wars Celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 11 April 2022

James Bond on Amazon Prime

What Easter bank holiday weekend would be complete without James Bond? A point proven when my tweet was read out live on air on Scala Radio last Easter. This tradition began on ITV when I was knee-high to a grasshopper playing with Action Man toys.

Following Amazon's $8.45 billion buyout of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Amazon Prime subscribers (myself included) can watch the beloved British spy franchise for a limited time from Good Friday.

“MGM has a nearly century-long legacy of producing exceptional entertainment, and we share their commitment to delivering a broad slate of original films and television shows to a global audience,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

“We welcome MGM employees, creators, and talent to Prime Video and Amazon Studios, and we look forward to working together to create even more opportunities to deliver quality storytelling to our customers.”

Prime Video will host all 25 James Bond movies:

Dr. No
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View To A Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence To Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace
No Time To Die

This coincides with 60 years of Bond on the big screen culminating in James Bond Day on 5th October.

I'll finally see No Time To Die (affiliate link) this Good Friday.

Will you be watching James Bond this Easter on Amazon Prime? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Chaos and confusion in Moon Knight

Marvel Studios' Moon Knight is the House of M's answer to DC's Batman and an unknown quantity to this true believer.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe and comic book doyen, embarks on a mystery tour in the pale moonlight.

Guest post by Nick Smith

When I think of Moon Knight, I think of a dark avenger lurking in the shadows of New York’s rooftop water towers, occasionally switching identities to no-nonsense merc Marc Spector. I don’t think of goofy comedy and double-decker London buses.

But that’s what we get with Marvel Studios' new series and, thanks mainly to Oscar Isaac’s (Star Wars, Ex Machina) charisma, the results are intriguing and enjoyable to watch.

Originated by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, the character of Moon Knight’s been kicking nocturnal butt for decades. Show creator Jeremy Slater faced a challenge – how to make him stand out in a crowd of DC and Marvel superhero shows? So although the amount of humour is surprising, it’s understandable. It also makes the darker elements of the show – tireless jackals, a life-draining bad guy – more palatable to a family audience.

By daring to focus on powers instead of glowers and comedy over brutality, Moon Knight stands a better chance of sticking in the consciousness of viewers unfamiliar with his comics.

The first two episodes are packed with information. We meet Steven Grant, a sleepwalking shop assistant in a museum. We’re left to wonder whether the voice he hears is a sign of mental illness, or if he’s a ‘sleeper identity’ for Spector the mercenary. We also meet Arthur Harrow, a mysterious cult leader played with long-haired earnest by Ethan Hawke. Then there’s the skull-beaked god Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham. Khonshu offers Steven venomous advice to fend off any threats.

The show focuses on these three characters, although May Calamawy pops up as Marc’s abandoned wife Layla El-Faouly. For most of the time, Isaac plays Steven as scared, confused and beaten down. This turns the key to unlock Moon Knight’s potential. We get a glimpse of what it’s like to have a mental disorder.

Those without such a challenge don’t have the education or experience to empathise fully. And why would they want to think like a lunatic? It’s much safer and more entertaining to watch one go through the unpredictable motions on TV.

Steven Grant questions his sanity, struggling to survive in an unsettling and sometimes frightening environment. He is belittled and fired by his boss, patronized by colleagues, given a pamphlet and sent on his way.

Moon Knight isn’t the first hero to have his mental faculties questioned.

Much has been made of Bruce Wayne dressing up as a bat and coping with childhood trauma. Bruce Banner has serious anger management issues. However, Isaac gives Grant such vulnerability that the audience is left desperate for the hero within him to take over.

It’s a great way to depict the internal struggle for control that real sufferers of dissociative identity disorder go through.

Underlying this crisis of personality, there are references to Egyptian mythology that highlight obscure gods and give Moon Knight’s story an epic scope. Cue oodles of CGI, from pyramids to Khonshu’s skeletal form to the Knight himself, depicted in an almost-seamless blend of digital and live-action filmmaking as he tumbles over distinctly British roofs.

London itself is given an old-world charm, especially when we encounter a gaggle of Harrow’s cult members. A parade of chirping chimney sweeps would not seem out of place. But there are enough contemporary touches, like a human statue and a bus ride, to anchor us in reality.

All these elements lead to convoluted results. Luckily this is Isaac’s show so we’re in good hands, whatever accent he’s using. He is an exceptional actor leading us through a meticulously paced adventure that keeps us wondering what will happen next.

Even in a landscape with a multitude of comic book-inspired viewing options, a carefully crafted show like this only comes along once in a blue moon.

New episodes of Marvel Studios' Moon Knight premiere every Wednesday exclusively on Disney+.

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

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Tomb Raider 4 using Unreal Engine 5

Crystal Dynamics used Tuesday's The State of Unreal Event 2022 to announce Tomb Raider 4 is in development using Epic Games' next-generation game engine.

Game director Will Kerslake explained that the new game will 'unify' classic and reboot timelines:

"[Crystal Dynamics'] origin trilogy back in 2013 told the story of Lara's early days [...] while the classic games featured a seasoned and confident adventurer, travelling the world, unlocking its secrets, often standing alone against cataclysmic forces. We envision the future of Tomb Raider unfolding after these established adventures, telling stories that build upon the breadth of both Core Design and Crystal Dynamics' games, working to unify these timelines."

Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) provided the voice and motion capture reference for Lara Croft in the rebooted trilogy. Hopefully, she's reprising the role for the upcoming fourth instalment.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was published by Microsoft as a timed exclusive for Xbox when the Redmond-based company bankrolled the first sequel. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s another tie-in as Epic Games emphasised Unreal Engine 5 development on Xbox. However, it’s worth noting Sony, the owner of PlayStation, has a minority stake in Epic Games and Unreal Engine 5 was publicly demoed in 2020 on PlayStation 5 (PS5).

Microsoft has been buying AAA publishers to bolster Xbox Game Pass. Crystal Dynamics could be a good fit for Xbox Game Studios.

Tomb Raider 4 is one of several popular media franchises using Unreal Engine 5. The dominance of one game engine could be anti-competitive. However, the Unreal Engine has proven its scalability, powering franchises from BioShock to Mass Effect and Epic Games' very own Fortnite.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Return to Monkey Island

Lucasfilm Games has so much nostalgia for generations of video gamers (myself included).

Rescue on Fractalus!, Ballblazer, Koronis Rift and The Eidolon are amongst my all-time favourite video games from the 8-bit era on Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. And I vividly remember playing Labyrinth: The Computer Game whilst listening to David Bowie and Trevor Jones' soundtrack on cassette (remember those?).

When Lucasfilm Games was rebranded as LucasArts in 1990, it cemented its reputation for point-and-click adventure games and arguably created one of its finest ever examples in the wake of the success of Maniac Mansion in 1987.

The Secret of Monkey Island is one of gaming’s greatest franchises and greatest games full stop. You play as Guybrush Threepwood (an homage to Star Wars' C-3PO), who’s on the quest to become a mighty pirate. Funny, atmospheric and heavily based on Disney’s own Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Now, Return to Monkey Island has been announced for release in 2022. The long-awaited sequel is by Ron Gilbert's Terrible Toybox in collaboration with Devolver Digital and Lucasfilm Games.

I first discovered the point-and-click genre playing LucasArts' Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on a friend's Amiga A500 in the early nineties - Indy remains lost in a frozen tundra. Years later, I belatedly played Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle and The Dig on an iMac G4.

Are you excited about Return to Monkey Island? What are your favourite LucasArts games? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Strange New Worlds explores final frontier

Ahead of First Contact Day AKA Star Trek Day, Paramount+ has released a new trailer and TV Spots for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reunites Star Trek: Discovery season two fan-favourites, Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock. The trifecta will be joined aboard the USS Enterprise by new series regulars Babs Olusanmokun, Christina Chong, Celia Rose Gooding, Jess Bush and Melissa Navia.

As a lifelong fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, it's an exciting time in the geek galaxy.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on 5th May. There's no official announcement regarding the UK premiere, but it will be coming soon.

Are you looking forward to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Let me know in the comments below. Hit it.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Doctor Who's swashbuckling special

Doctor Who returns with some old enemies - not seen since Warriors of the Deep - in a swashbuckling special this Easter.

Ever since the Silurians returned to Doctor Who in 2010, fans (myself included) have hoped their marine cousins, the Sea Devils, would be back. Well, this Easter the underwater menace (see what I did there?) that threatened Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison during the classic era are returning in Legend of the Sea Devils.

Looks like they'll be bringing the Myrka with them.

Read the story synopsis:

"In a swashbuckling pirate adventure, the Doctor, Yaz and Dan come face to fin with one of the Doctor’s oldest adversaries in a coastal village in 19th century China. Madam Ching is on a mission to track down the lost treasure of the Flor de la Mar, a ship that may have been washed up in the waters around the area. The fearsome pirate queen unwittingly unleashes a terrifying, monstrous alien force beneath the sea – Sea Devils and their ghostly amphibious pirate ship. Will the Doctor, Yaz and Dan emerge from this adventure to save the planet? And did Yaz really have to dress Dan up as a pirate?"

Legend of the Sea Devils, the second of three specials in 2022 marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord, is on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America on 17th April. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's review soon.

Are you looking forward to Legend of the Sea Devils? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Paramount+

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was hastily released in 1979 in the wake of Star Wars.

Official poster magazine and action figures in hand, I saw the maiden Star Trek silver screen voyage, reuniting the original television series cast, with my dad and an uncle at the Odeon Colchester.

After a promising opening Klingon battle, brought vividly to life by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Hollywood composer Jerry Goldsmith (Alien), the movie soon became a star bore to a child moviegoer brought up on a diet of heroic space operas.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan followed in 1982 and is rightly regarded as one of the greatest sequels ever made.

Years later, I would rediscover Star Trek: The Motion Picture on VHS and develop a newfound appreciation for director Robert Wise's (West Side Story) ambitious mindbending adventure. In 2001, Wise oversaw a recut of the movie for release on DVD, which more closely matched his original vision. Now, to celebrate First Contact Day, a lavish 4K remaster will premiere on Paramount+.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on 5th April.

Are you a fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and do you think the movie deserved better upon original release? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 1 April 2022

LEGO Star Wars Diorama series

In time for Star Wars Day, LEGO has announced a new Star Wars Diorama series for adult collectors based on classic scenes from the original trilogy.

“For years we’ve been scratching our heads about how to capture the Death Star trash compactor, an extremely iconic scene, in LEGO bricks,” Michael Lee Stockwell, LEGO Star Wars design manager, tells “But what good is a trash compactor that doesn’t ‘compact’? We needed the function!”

The first wave of sets, comprising the LEGO Star Wars Death Star Trash Compactor, the LEGO Star Wars Death Star Trench Run Diorama, and the LEGO Star Wars Dagobah Jedi Training Diorama, would look great on any fan's bookshelf.

“The Diorama series is really something special, and something we are very excited about,” says Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, LEGO Star Wars design director. “The models are built on a frame. On the frame there is a small, printed plaque with a famous phrase from that particular movie scene. The frame is always the same depth — 20 LEGO modules, which is a perfect size, as it makes it fit on a regular bookshelf. So they’re perfect for display.”

The LEGO Star Wars Diorama series is available from LEGO AU, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding these LEGO Star Wars Diorama sets to your collection? Which sets would you like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.