Disney Unleashes ALL The Star Wars!



At the big Disney Investor show today the company launched a massive wave of new Star Wars projects – cinema features and TV series for their Disney + service.

Due to its success on Disney + The Mandalorian will gain two spin-off shows: Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka, which will see Rosario Dawson reprise her Jedi character (first seen in animated form during The Clone Wars series), both set in the same timeline as the show that launched them. The Mandalorian will, naturally, receive a third season.

Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy also announced Andor, starring Diego Luna’s Rebel character Cassian Andor, in a spin-off from the film, Rogue One. You can now see the sizzle reel for this show, starring the character we know will ultimately meet his fate retrieving the plans for the Empire’s Death Star:



The Acolyte will be a mystery-thriller from Leslye Headland “that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era”; Lando, is a new event series in early development from Justin Simien, writer/creator of Dear White People (with no announcement yet whether this will star either Billy Dee Williams or Donald Glover, who have played the character in other live-action Star Wars films); Star Wars: Visions, will be an original series of short films from Japanese anime creators coming in 2021.

Droids will be an animated adventure featuring C3PO and R2D2. Kennedy said, “This epic journey will introduce is to new hero guided by our most iconic duo… on a secret mission known only to them. What could possibly go wrong?”

The Bad Batch is a new animated series from The Mandalorian’s co-creator, Dave Filoni, who says the show “follows in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch — a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army — each possess a singular exceptional skill which makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew. In the post-Clone War era, they will take on daring mercenary missions as they struggle to stay afloat and find new purpose.” No release date for this was given, but we do have a sizzle reel to share with you:



Finally, on the Disney + front, it was announced that Hayden Christensen will reprise his role from the Prequel Trilogy as Darth Vader, for the Obi-Wan Kenobi event series starring Ewan McGregor. The series will be set 10 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, as the Jedi is in hiding and Vader comes to terms with his greatest loss:



Back in the dark of the cinema, JoJo Rabbit and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, fresh off his stint helming multiple episodes of The Mandalorian, will helm his first Star Wars feature film. Waititi has completed his script and locations are being scouted. No further details were forthcoming, but this can’t be seen as anything except exciting.

Rian Johnson’s previously trumpeted new trilogy of Star Wars films failed to make an appearance in the new round of announcements, so it remains to be seen where those films stand beyond the recent news that their release had been bumped back to 2023, ’25 and ’27. Frankly, typing these far-off dates makes me examine my own mortality.

Finally, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, will helm a feature film of Rogue Squadron:



Even the most cynical among us will find this announcement video from Jenkins rather touching:



And that, folks, is all the brand Star Wars news. Basically, between everything here, plus the Marvel, Pixar and Disney announcements, the Mouse House will pretty much own our entertainment needs for at least the next decade or so. As to whether or not that’s a good thing, I’ll let you argue among yourselves.

But one thing is for sure, The Force will be with us for a long time to come…









Have You Heard The One About Thor: Ragnarok?

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Thor: Ragnarok has laughs. Plenty of them. Perhaps too many. Allow me to explain…

I’ll start by saying there is a huge amount to love about Marvel’s third solo outing for the God of Thunder. First of all it’s the most fully rounded vision of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby’s four-colour hero to date, Kirby’s cosmic visuals are like a roadmap for Thor: Ragnarok. It’s also yet another step forward for both the Thor solo franchise and indeed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in embracing its comic book roots.

There’s little desire to coddle non-comic book fans with grounded scenes set on Earth (and the whistle-stop moments we do get on our home planet actually push things into even geekier comic books realms, particularly in one cameo sequence, teased at the end of a previous movie). Within the first twenty minutes or so we’ve been taken to Hell (or the Norse equivalent), Asgard (including another couple of genuinely jaw-dropping cameos), Earth and then into the vast reaches of outer space. It’s all colourful, exciting and breathtaking, and the pace doesn’t really let up, cutting between Thor’s adventures in space and events back on Asgard.

We’re also given the best version of the onscreen Hulk yet, realised by Mark Ruffalo along with state of the art mo-cap, animation and fine attention to detail with character so he now has full Hulk-speak dialogue scenes (and jokes) with other characters. Special mention to Tessa Thompson too, for giving us a delightful, kick ass version of a much-loved Marvel character. I really hope we see more of her in future movies. Idris Alba is given a little more screen time as Heimdall but still feels wasted. Director Waititi features as another comic character, alien stone man Korg, engaging and pretty much played for laughs.

The film also mostly succeeds in breaking the curse of the underwhelming Marvel villains by giving us several of them, all in various hues and shades of villainy. Cate Blanchett is obviously having a bad guy ball as Hela, Queen of the Underworld, Karl Urban crops up to reaffirm his geek cred as Skurge, The Executioner, there’s the ever mercurial Loki brilliantly essayed by Tom Hiddleston, of course, plus we have Jeff Goldblum doing his best Jeff Goldblum thing as The Grandmaster. They’re all layered, interesting and fun.

Ah yes, then we get to the laughs. Ragnarok might best be described as Marvel’s first comedy, so far do Waititi and his team push the humour of the film. I’m all about seeing Marvel broaden their canvas, playing with expectations and giving each film a fresh tone,  an approach that’s paid dividends with the likes of James Gunn and it mostly pays off here as this is most definitely a Taiki Waititi film. It’s an approach which should help the longevity of Marvel movies and keep audiences on their toes (and anyone who thinks of Marvel films as being cookie cutter affairs really needs to open their eyes to the palettes of movies as far apart as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and now Thor: Ragnarok).

So far, so Marvel dandy. However, we’re also here for the drama, and occasionally the jokes are laid on so relentlessly in Thor: Ragnarok that they frequently end up severely undercutting the drama.

A major event, foreshadowed all the way through, actually comes to pass near the end of the movie. It should be quite the dramatic moment, as it affects most of the characters and shakes up some of the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, a big deal. There’s a nice, humorous set up to the moment, then straight after it happens any drama arising from the scene is wiped out with a not particularly firing-on-all-cylinders quip. It’s unnecessary, and damaging to our empathy for the characters we’ve been following for six years since Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor movie. That’s quite an investment, and one that takes a hit for the sake of a throwaway gag.

I should reiterate, Waititi and Marvel have produced a top-notch film which will undoubtedly leave you with a smile on your face and the knowledge you’ve spent a good night out at the cinema. But finding that sweet spot between drama and humour takes a careful aim, and this time it feels like Thor’s hammer missed the target by a few inches.

New Thor: Ragnarok Trailer Rocks! Plus Marvel News…

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Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo outing for the Thunder God, looks like it will be taking its cue from James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films by letting director Taika Waititi up both the humour levels and the outer space weirdness. It will also feature Thor and the Hulk going medieval on each other, of course.

 

Meanwhile, some titbits were revealed concering other forthcoming Marvel movies:

From Ant-Man & The Wasp, the big new casting news is that Michelle Pfieffer will play the first iteration of the Wasp (and Michael Douglas’s wife), Janet Van Dyne.

Laurence Fishburne will play Dr. Bill Foster (aka Goliath)

In Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson), the villains will be infamous alien shapechangers, the Skrulls, and the film will be set in the 1990s!

Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, of course) will appear, and with both eyes!

Thor: Ragnarok goes into battle on October 25th, Ant-Man and the Wasp fly on July 6, 2018, and Captain Marvel saves the day on March 8, 2019.

UPDATE: Marvel have just released this madly beautiful poster for Thor: Ragnarok which looks like it ate ALL the e-numbers…

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Thor: Ragnarok Wins Battle of the Led Zeppelin Trailers!

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In the last week or so we’ve been treated to two trailers for forthcoming big, studio tentpole movies, both of which rely on the trusty wailing, axe slashery (as in guitars, though there are plenty of real axes in the trailers themselves) and drum pounding of the mighty Led Zeppelin!

First out of the gate came Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, accompanied by Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (from the Zepp’s 1969 debut album). It’s all very blokey and muddy and grey with a bunch of Ritchie’s usual tics (speed ramping, etc) and ultimately, for me at least, didn’t feel in any way unique (and it has some very big boots to fill against John Boorman’s mad and operatic, Excalibur). The Arthur story appears to have been given the Game of Thrones/Sherlock Holmes treatment and if you’re up for that, then I guess I know where you’ll be spending your movie cash this summer.

Next up comes Taika Waititi’s first crack at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, well, take a look for yourself:

The Thor films have frequently felt like the poor relations of the Marvel movies, neither quite reaching the targets they were aiming for (though I still find them both very enjoyable… Dark World in particular only really misses its mark due to the now frequent Marvel trope of the underdeveloped villain, with poor Christopher Eccleston doing his best under heavy make up).

A trailer is no proof of the finished product, of course, but judging from what we see here Marvel have let the Flight of the Conchords/What We Do In The Shadows director have his head of steam.

Already we see something lighter, brighter and far more cosmically ‘out there’ than the previous entries in this franchise, and certainly allowing Chris Hemsworth’s comedy chops to shine is a stroke of genius. Plus of course, there’s *that* guest appearance… it’s no trade secret that Thor: Ragnarok borrows from a certain set of well- loved stories from the comic books and the sight of those two characters (I’ll avoid spoilers here in case you’re the only person on the planet unaware of this) facing off against each other is just too delicious. Additionally, everyone knows Jeff Golblum automatically improves any movie he’s in.

Finally, we have the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III. Now you might want to subtract a point or two after the song’s spellbinding use in the trailer for David Fincher’s slightly less spellbinding The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but really that would feel somewhat churlish in light of its perfect use here.

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

If this official synopsis above for Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t get you vibed (along with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2), well, there’s always King Arthur for you to look forward to. I’ll be gleefully diving into Waititi’s gloriously colourful immigrant song…