Friday, 11 November 2022

Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, has died



Kevin Conroy, synonymous with being the voice of the dark detective since fan-favourite Batman: The Animated Series began in 1992, has passed away aged 66.

Growing up, I watched reruns of Adam West's Batman television series and saw Michael Keaton's Batman at the cinema with college friends. However, it's Conroy's distinctive voice I can hear inside my head as I type these words.

In the wake of director Tim Burton's blockbusters Batman and Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series was born. This is considered by many fans (myself included) as the definitive dark night, with Conroy's performance regarded as one of the very best, and spawned a thrilling theatrical tie-in: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I took my Kenner action figure collection with me to university.

Mark Hamill on the passing of Conroy: "Kevin was perfection," recalled Hamill, who redefined the Joker playing opposite Conroy's Batman. "He was one of my favourite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him - his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated."

"Kevin was a brilliant actor," Hamill said. "For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery - that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner - it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn't have done it without him. He will always be my Batman."

Thank you for voicing the dark detective in the definitive Batman series and beyond for over 30 years.

My deepest condolences to his husband and his whole family and everyone else who loved him. RIP Kevin Conroy!

What are your memories of Conroy's Batman? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Indiana Jones series on Disney+



With a Willow spin-off sequel series premiering this Thanksgiving, Variety exclusively reports an Indiana Jones series is in development for Disney+.

This isn't the first time the fan-favourite Lucasfilm franchise, created by George Lucas (Star Wars), has been on television.

Back in the early nineties, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles aired on ABC with Harrison Ford making a cameo as the titular adventurer. I vividly remember watching the pioneering award-winning series on Sky One in the UK and listening to the Varèse Sarabande soundtracks as I toiled away on undergraduate scripts with Nick Smith, wrote essays and read the latest issue of The Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine (rebranded as Star Wars Insider).

Whilst fans (myself included) wait for Indiana Jones 5, a video game for Xbox Series S|X and a new spin-off series, how about releasing The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on Disney+? I've requested the series via the app.

Would you like to see an Indiana Jones spin-off series on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Deadpool director in talks for Star Wars



Deadline exclusively reports Stranger Things director Shawn Levy is in talks with Lucasfilm to direct a Star Wars movie after Deadpool 3 hits theatres in 2024 with Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman reprising the fan-favourite roles of Deadpool and Wolverine respectively.

Levy is no stranger to a galaxy far, far away... Netflix's Stranger Things is filled with Star Wars easter eggs and Ryan Reynolds wielded a lightsaber in Free Guy.

Monday, 7 November 2022

LEGO Build To Give featuring Katy Perry



LEGO Build To Give is back for holiday 2022. This is its sixth consecutive year.

"For many families, the Holidays are a time of celebration, where they can be together and enjoy playing. But, for some, it can be a tough time,” said Diana Ringe Krogh, Vice President of Social Responsibility at the LEGO Group. “That’s why #BuildToGive is so important. Over the past five years, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the initiative and want to say thank you to the families around the world who have taken part each year. Thanks to their help, we’ve been able to donate millions of LEGO sets to children across the globe, bringing them the joy and benefits of play.”

Pop superstar Katy Perry is supporting the #BuildToGive initiative.

“I love that the LEGO Group is helping turn family play into a moment of giving for families all around the world. I loved making my firework shaped gift and I can't wait to see the different designs that other families share!” said Katy Perry.



For the holiday season, all you have to do is build a gift or present out of LEGO and share it on social media using the hashtag #BuildToGive!

As a lifelong LEGO fan, I've donated sets to charity and continue to do so during a cost of living crisis. If you'd like to learn more about Build To Give, please visit LEGO.COM.

Friday, 4 November 2022

The Rings of Power



The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (affiliate link) has concluded on Amazon Prime. Is Tolkien's rich tapestry used to great effect or to boost sales in Alexa's walled garden on Black Friday?

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, travels back to Middle-earth to witness the forging of the rings of power in the shadow of Mordor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There was a time long ago when orcs were in. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy ruled movie theatres and everyone followed the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his furry-toed friends.

Although those moments are lost to all but memory and overpriced DVD box sets, there’s enough love for them and their Hobbit prequels to justify Amazon’s $1 billion series, The Rings of Power.

A reported sum of over $200 million secured the rights to the franchise, the rest goes towards the production of this (hopefully) five-year series.

It's good. It’s epic. The acting is excellent and the heroes are likeable – Robert Aramayo makes a perfect pointy-eared elf ambassador; Ismael Cruz Cordova is a superb, stoic warrior. Archetypes and cultures from the books are present, never looking down its nose at dwarves, depicting the orcs as ornery and formidable.

There was a time, 10,000 songs ago, when all that discerning Tolkien fans dreamed of was a conclusion to Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of the saga. The pioneering, delightfully demented filmmaker used actors as templates for his cartoon characters, giving them hyper-real movement. This was an expensive, arduous process and Bakshi fell out with producer Saul Zaentz.

Bakshi was only able to film part of the saga and fans never thought they’d see The Return of the King at the movies, let alone a lavish prequel like The Rings of Power. Now we are spoiled with stories so long that the tellers can take their sweet time to introduce and develop characters and situations, unveil mysteries and foreshadow the events of the books.

There‘s a reason why television shows were 45 minutes in length for decades. Rings strives to hold our attention for over an hour with segments that eke out the narrative. Impatient people beware. The first episode, for example, opens with several minutes of exposition before we get to the central narrative.

Through it all, we’re led by Galadriel (performed with boldness and grace by Morfydd Clark). The focus on female characters never seems forced and the sense of scale and travel, abetted by maps, is adequately grand.

There was a time, long ago, when the gentle folk of the smokin’ 60s read Tolkien’s books and found that the theme of nature versus destructive progress resonated with them and made their beards bristle. Fortunately, that same theme – developed to great effect in the movies, as the orcs destroyed the landscape – is revisited here.

There was a time, far away in years, when a linguist and educator wrote fantasy novels.

The theme of war’s futility clicked with the veterans who read them. The battle scenes glimpsed in The Rings of Power are lavish and exciting with high stakes for the heroes – one lost skirmish and they could lose their lands, their family or friends.

Magic is used sparingly and shown to be so powerful that the characters can barely control it, let alone understand it.

With The Rings of Power, Jeff Bezos wants a piece of HBO’s action. Both Rings and House of the Dragon are prequels to high-profile fantasy sagas. We know what’s going to happen thanks to references in the original texts.

However, compared to the saucy Dragon, Rings is chaste and far more family-friendly. It’s none the worse for that. Dragon has a seam of betrayal and tragedy that has yet to be mined in Rings, although this is partly redressed with a glimpse of the dreaded Mordor. There’s enough difference between the two shows to make them both worth watching.

There were other times, other themes to explore, and other battles to be fought. But they would have to wait for future years and destined streams ahead.

Have you watched The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water on GMA



On Wednesday, Disney dropped an official trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water on Good Morning America (GMA).

Director James Cameron (Aliens) has been working on the Avatar sequel for years. During this time, Disney bought Twentieth Century Fox's film and television assets. Cameron was given more time and money for his film franchise.



Read the official synopsis:

"Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure."

The sequel stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi and Kate Winslet.

In the 13 years since the original Avatar was released, the 3D format has become a niche in the home market and television manufacturers have all but abandoned it in favour of 4K UHD.

The House of Mouse has bet big on Cameron's sequel for the holiday season and it's difficult to imagine how Avatar: The Way of Water will fail at the box office. Especially with the allure of immersive 3D. The true test will be the release of future sequels. At least there's always Disney+.

The original Avatar was pulled from Disney+ when the remastered movie returned to cinemas last September. Hopefully, the 4K UHD version will be on Disney+ during the holiday season.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas on 16th December.

What did you think of the Avatar: The Way of Water official trailer? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Special look at Willow



Lucasfilm has released a special look at Willow.



The Willow spin-off series, a sequel to director Ron Howard's (Apollo 13) original 1988 movie written by George Lucas (Star Wars) and starring Warwick Davis (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) as the titular hero, will be a great addition this holiday season. The fantasy genre continues to thrive with House of the Dragon, Shadow and Bone, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, The Witcher and more on streaming services.

Disney+ released the following description of Willow:

“The story began when an aspiring sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, is whisked away on a journey to protect an infant empress Elora Danan and vanquish the evil Queen Bavmorda from their world of Andowyne. Now, the story continues with Davis reprising his titular role, as he leads an unlikely crew of heroes on a quest to protect Andowyne from an even larger foe than they had imagined possible.”

Willow streams exclusively on Disney+ on 30th November.

Are you looking forward to Willow on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 31 October 2022

Hellraiser



It’s Halloween when the spooky season reaches its zenith. Growing up in the eighties, it was synonymous with trick-or-treating, Ghostbusters, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, teenage parties and horror movie marathons.

Hulu follows the Predator franchise-reviving Prey with a straight-to-streaming Hellraiser reboot for the selfie generation.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based horror expert, unlocks the puzzle box to discover what grotesque treats Hulu’s Hellraiser has in store for Huluween.

Guest post by Nick Smith

At the depths of its leather-bound heart, Hellraiser is for the scare junkies, the goths, the Rihannas and rule-breakers, marginalised hedonists and monster kids. The series works best when kinkily wrapped with whips and chains, oozing with dirty deeds and viscous visions.

The original Hellraiser was far from perfect, with a few bizarre transatlantic accents and medium-budget monsters. But it was a gory gateway to the mind of fantasy author Clive Barker, whose twisted sensibilities were perfect for the thrill-seeking ‘80s.

For decades, New World Pictures, Lionsgate, Miramax Films and others have been puzzling over how to take a story of sadistic demon Cenobites and make it palatable for teen horror audiences.

Now Hulu (a streaming service majority-owned by Disney) is having a crack at the franchise, with the eleventh variation on Barker’s concept, a new Pinhead (Jamie Clayton) and a higher budget than recent entries (2018’s Judgment was made for a paltry $350,000).

Disregarding its bloody baggage, the 2022 Hellraiser is a solid film with excellent cinematography and exquisite special effects makeup. The acting is credible, with Odessa A’zion portraying hell-raising addict Riley and ER’s Goran Visnjic playing Voight, a wealthy man with a big old mansion who has experienced all the earthly pleasures he can find and still wants more.

Another central character in this film is the Hellraiser puzzle box itself, an ever-morphing prop that affects the lives of all the characters. Using that cheeky little box, co-writer/co-producer David S. Goyer (Dark City) and his team deliver a cross between a Ring/Death Note story (anyone stabbed by the puzzle box could be dragged away by the Cenobites) and a young-people-trapped-in-an-old-dark-house movie.

However, there’s more to the tale than tropes; the film explores addiction, responsibility, and the positive and negative aspects of suffering. While the protagonists are under-developed with a hair’s breadth of a backstory, they’re more than mere soul fodder for Pinhead, thanks to the acting and the second act has several tense and nightmarish moments.

Like Revelations and Judgment, this Hellraiser suffers from the lack of original Pinhead Doug Bradley, although I can’t fault the franchise for trying something new; Clayton deserves another outing. After all, poor Pinhead only gets the chance to torture one character in this instalment.

If Hulu was hoping for a renewed interest in Hellraiser as with the recent Halloween trilogy, or a must-watch, fan-approved movie like Prey, it will be disappointed. However, the film is a step in the right direction back to Barker’s original world.

Have you seen Hulu's Hellraiser? How does it compare with the original? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Robosen Optimus Prime on Hasbro Pulse UK



During the 1027 Hasbro Pulse Premium Event, the Pawtucket-based company announced the official UK availability of the most advanced Transformers toy in history for the holidays.

Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime is a limited edition app-enabled robot that would make my Tomy Omnibot blush with envy, which was first released in the US for $700 in 2021.



Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime is available for pre-order from Hasbro Pulse UK to coincide with MCM London Comic Con! £999GBP is too much during a cost of living crisis. However, a slightly more affordable Elite edition has been announced for the US, too.

"We are excited to bring this lighter, more compact Optimus Prime to fans of the franchise," Sean Tang, director of Robosen USA, said in a statement.

"The re-engineered scale offers a smooth, fast conversion, making the Elite Optimus Prime more agile and speedy," he continued, "which we're thrilled to once again bring to life for all our fans and customers, through our collaboration with Hasbro."

12-year-old me would be awestruck unboxing Robosen Flagship Optimus Prime on Christmas Day.

What do you think? Would you spend £999 on a robotic transforming Optimus Prime? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

The Power of the Doctor



The Power of the Doctor is the last of three Doctor Who specials marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord in 2022.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, boards the TARDIS for a final adventure with the Thirteenth Doctor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Sacha Dhawan is the Doctor! A least for a little while in the 90-minute BBC centenary special episode of Doctor Who. He shines brighter than a Castrovalvan dawn, giving the strongest performance in a story chock-full of characters.

Aside from Dhawan and departing Doctor Jodie Whittaker, don’t blink or you’ll miss Sophie Aldred (Ace), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), John Bishop (Dan), Jacob Anderson (Vinder) and several more that I can’t mention for fear of being hauled away by River Song. Because spoilers, sweetie!

Suffice it to say that the power of nostalgia is strong; writer/showrunner Chris Chibnall bets that it’s strong enough to glue an anniversary adventure together.

We are in the age of surprise guest appearances, thanks to the success of The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Picard. Visual pyrotechnics take precedence over the deep-dive character development so many British shows, including some of Chibnall’s, are known for.

Those shows have time to broaden their heroes and villains; Doctor Who does not, hurtling through time and space at breakneck speed and hoping something sticks in our rose-tinted brains.

It’s a testament to the companion actors’ abilities that it would have been better to have a story devoted to Tegan, Ace, Dan or Yaz alone. Dhawan’s scenes are also too few but as with the other actors, he achieves a lot with the little he has.

As the Master forces the Doctor to regenerate into him and cosplays as his nemesis, Dhawan has a ball with the situation in scenes that must be a dream come true to a Who-loving actor like him.

Sadly, the conclusion to this adventure seemed rushed and we don’t get to say goodbye to the Master, most of the companions or other, very special characters who turn up. Instead, we’re told that the friends have been ‘dropped off’ out of view.

A lot of lore has grown around Ace in particular and it’s good to see that this story doesn’t go out of its way to contradict the New Adventures and the Big Finish audio stories. We meet a mature Ace with experience that could have been gained in outer space or Perivale – it’s left up to us to decide.

Another potential pitfall was the close proximity of Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary in 2023.

With so much to celebrate, Chibnall could have chosen to avoid any references to the show’s past. That’s not his style. He finds ingenious ways to commemorate old favourites without grinding the adventure to a halt.

"I didn’t want to tread on anything that might be happening in future," Chibnall told The Mirror. "I didn’t tell anyone we were going to be doing it, I just put it in the script. It’s about as metaphysical as the show’s been."

Doctor Who can be abstract, concrete, comical, scary or even silly. Chibnall has tried all these approaches with overall successful results, and the potluck The Power of the Doctor is no exception. With something to please even the grouchiest of fans, the centenary special is appropriate to a world of memes, leaked tweet pix and binge-watches, all counting on nostalgia to stir the brew.

With iconic visual elements trumping substance, I predict that Chibnall’s era will be beloved by the kids watching it, who will grow into the next adult generation of fans.

Just as the Star Wars prequels have a following, so will the Thirteenth Doctor’s stories. Which begs the question, which Doctor Who character is the equivalent of Jar Jar Binks?

The series 13 specials are available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Power of the Doctor? Let me know in the comments below.