Monday, 31 May 2021
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
Star Trek: Generations
Captain James T. Kirk attends the launch of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B. An emergency situation arises and Kirk, as usual, helps save the day, but he is apparently killed in the process. Seventy-eight years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise 1701-D is put in a desperate situation when a fanatical scientist starts destroying entire star systems. Picard is going to need some help...
With the conclusion of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1994, a TV series that dwarfed the popularity and reach of its predecessors, Paramount was keen to move the show and its popular cast onto the big screen as soon as possible. Overriding the concerns of the production team, the film was immediately put into rotation to start shooting as soon as filming was completed on the TV show and to be on cinema screens before the end of the same year. It was a tall order, leaving the cast and crew exhausted from working on the TV show for seven years and then straight into a full-length feature film.
Some of this can be seen on screen. Star Trek: Generations (the first film in the series to drop the roman numerals) is a solid but unexceptional film, something of a surprise given it features Captains Kirk and Picard joining forces to take down a mutual threat, a charismatic villain played by Malcolm McDowell. There's some entertaining comedy beats and some very good characterisation, particularly of Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) as he gets used to his "emotion chip". Most of the castmembers get at least a brief chance to shine and, in the scene where the Enterprise-D's saucer section crash-lands on a planetary surface, one of the franchise's most memorable action and effects set-pieces.
The film relies a little too heavily on the TV show for setup. Villains Lursa and B'Etor have very little motivation and if you hadn't seen them already in the TV show, you'd have no idea why them showing up is a big deal. Similarly, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) feels like a bit of a walking deus ex machina in the film and her character has no real arc. The story also feels a bit overworked and overcomplicated, with too many moving pieces and a TV-like approach of pressing on regardless of if the plot makes sense (Soren not being able to beam into the Nexus from a ship already feels a bit iffy, but the jump from that to blowing up entire stars to shift the Nexus's path feels extreme). The film's big ending being a fistfight between two middle-aged gentlemen and an older one on a big rock is also rather underwhelming. Destroying another Enterprise also feels a bit gratuitous, although it is at least done in an impressive manner.
Still, it's a long way from the worst entry in the Star Trek pantheon and it has fun moments. William Shatner takes a delight in hamming up every second he's on-screen, but for once this is more charming than annoying, due to his limited screen time (he has a brief appearance at the start of the film and then at the end, more of an extended camo than the promised film-length team-up). He and Stewart make for an entertaining team, even if the gulf in their respective acting abilities is more of a yawning chasm. Malcolm McDowell can do "charming but evil" in his sleep and the film packs a lot into its running time.
Star Trek: Generations (***½) isn't going to be winning any prizes for being a classic movie, but it is a solid and entertaining piece that does its job - passing the baton from one generation to another - efficiently.
Saturday, 29 May 2021
Games Workshop announces WARHAMMER streaming service, to be led by 11 new animated shows
Friday, 28 May 2021
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
Thursday, 27 May 2021
UNCHARTED 4 - and maybe the whole series - coming to PC
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Netflix announces additional castmembers for SANDMAN
- Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death
- Mason Alexander Park as Desire
- Donna Preston as Despair
- Razane Jammal as Lyta Hall
- Joely Richardson as Ethel Cripps
- Niamh Walsh as Young Ethel Cripps
- David Thewlis as John Dee
- Kyro Ra as Rose Walker
- Patton Oswalt as the voice of Matthew the Raven
- Stephen Fry as Gilbert
- Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine
- Sandra James Young as Unity Kincaid
Tuesday, 25 May 2021
HBO taps PERSON OF INTEREST writer for GAME OF THRONES spin-off TEN THOUSAND SHIPS
Wertzone Classics: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Monday, 24 May 2021
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Sunday, 23 May 2021
Wertzone Classics: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Saturday, 22 May 2021
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Friday, 21 May 2021
Henry Cavill in talks to star in HIGHLANDER reboot
Rebecca Ferguson cast in adaptation of Hugh Howey's WOOL at Apple TV
Rebecca Ferguson has been cast as a lead in the upcoming Apple+ TV adaptation of Hugh Howey's Silo series of post-apocalyptic novels.
Ferguson has starred in The White Queen, The Greatest Showman, Doctor Sleep and The Snowman. She also plays the role of Lady Jessica Atreides in Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Dune, due to hit cinemas (and maybe home streaming) in October.
Ferguson will play the role of Juliette, an engineer struggling to keep a giant silo operating. The silo is a refuge from the world outside, which has become uninhabitable.
The Silo series consists of Wool (2011-12), Shift (2012-13) and Dust (2013). The first two books were self-published as instalments via Amazon, and later assembled into cohesive novels. There are also accompanying short stories and a graphic novel adaptation. The series has been an international success, with Howey cited as an early success in the Amazon self-publishing programme.
Graham Yost, who has written for Band of Brothers, The Pacific and Sneaky Pete as well as creating Justified, will write and showrun the new series, which is expected to start filming later this year for a 2022 bow on Apple.
Wizards of the Coast tease a new TV series about Drizzt Do'Urden from the creator of JOHN WICK
After yesterday's confusion about the setting of the Dungeons & Dragons movie, which they've now confirmed is indeed the Forgotten Realms world, Wizards of the Coast have teased that another TV show they are developing may be about their signature character of Drizzt Do'Urden.
News broke in January that Hasbro's internal production company, eOne, are developing a Dungeons & Dragons project for television. This would be released alongside the new film and would start building a D&D TV and film "multiverse," similar to the Marvel and Star Wars universes. D&D, to be fair, is well-suited to such an approach, with the game featuring over a dozen worlds and many more other planes and dimensions in which stories, series and films can be told. The Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance medieval fantasy worlds are the best-known, but others include those of Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Mystara, Greyhawk, Birthright and Eberron, with the Spelljammer setting (featuring space travel) and Planescape line (featuring interdimensional travel) linking them together.
Derek Kolstadt, who wrote or co-wrote the first three John Wick movies and also worked on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, has been tapped to write and potentially showrun the new series.
Today, Polygon learned direct from Wizards of the Coast that this series may revolve around the Forgotten Realms - and arguably D&D itself - signature character of Drizzt Do'Urden. Drizzt is a dark elf (or drow) ranger from the Underdark who fights evil as one of the "Companions of the Hall," alongside halfling thief Regis, human archer Cattie-brie, barbarian warrior Wulfgar and dwarven leader King Bruenor of Mithral Hall. Drizzt fled his evil, corrupt home city of Menzoberranzan as a youngster and is regarded as a traitor by his people, leading to conflict with the dwarven city of Mithral Hall and the human city of Silverymoon.
Drizzt first appeared in the 1988 novel The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore and has since appeared in more than thirty additional novels, charting his adventures across a time period of almost two hundred years (due to drow lifespans reaching or exceeding eight centuries, Drizzt is still considered a youngster). The Legend of Drizzt over-arcing series is the most popular line of Dungeons & Dragons novels ever published, selling more than 30 million copies (marginally more than Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance series) over more than thirty years, making Salvatore one of the biggest-selling living fantasy authors in the field of epic fantasy. The popularity of Drizzt is such that even when Wizards of the Coast decided to reduce the number of D&D novels being published in 2016, Drizzt books have remained in production; the only three D&D-branded novels published since 2017 feature Drizzt as the protagonist, and a new Drizzt-centric trilogy, The Way of the Drow, begins publication this year.
Although Drizzt is immensely popular - more novels featuring the character have been sold than actual D&D rulebooks - he is also regarded with disdain by some fans, some feeling the character has been over-exposed and is no longer as interesting as in his early books, and others resenting the number of "copycat" characters created by players over the years. Others also feel the Drizzt's popularity has overwhelmed that of the rest of the Forgotten Realms setting, with arguably more interesting characters sidelined or under-utilised to keep the focus on Drizzt.
Previous film and television adaptations of Drizzt have also foundered on the character's ethnicity. Dark elves are dark-skinned in a manner that does not really exist in the real world, but some have drawn as analogous to actual human ethnic groups. Salvatore's depiction of the drow as being universally evil aside from Drizzt, his father Zaknafein and the morally-dubious assassin Jarlaxle, has also been criticised, especially as other Forgotten Realms books and products have increasingly focused on the noble drow goddess Eilistraee and her followers, who seek to redeem the race and end the curse that prevents them from walking in sunlight. These issues, extending to how you depict and cast the dark elves, were regarded as problematic enough to make the idea of depicting them on screen a headache.
It sounds like Wizards may have overcome this problem. Recent artistic depictions of Drizzt and other dark elves have given a purple hue to their skin unlike anything in the real world, perhaps a mild retcon to make them less like real human ethnic groups. There may also have been a decision to lean into the themes of racism and colonialism that run through Salvatore's books, which even in the 1980s were regarded as unusual and forward-looking (it not tremendously sophisticated), in a more modern context.
Whatever the case, it does sound like a live-action depiction of Dungeons & Dragon's most popular - and divisive - character is on the cards. More news as it develops.
Dave Filoni promoted at Lucasfilm, exciting STAR WARS fans
Lucasfilm writer/producer Dave Filoni's profile on the company website was updated this week, confirming him in the title of "Executive Creative Director." This spurred a lot of excitement as fans and even some of Filoni's collaborators rushed to congratulate him.
The move actually isn't new, having taken place in the summer of 2020. Disney had simply not gotten round to updating its profiles until this week.
Still, the promotion does reflect that Filoni is now seen internally and externally as one of the company's most important assets when it comes to the Star Wars universe. President Kathleen Kennedy was closely involved in the development of the sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker) and the first two spin-off movies (Rogue One and Solo) but has since taken a more oversight role as Lucasfilm's role has expanded to incorporate other properties; she is now also overseeing work on the Willow TV series and a fifth Indiana Jones movie as well as the battery of Star Wars projects currently being developed. The mixed reception to the Star Wars movies has been pinned on a lack of creative planning and oversight, with the different writers and directors (including those fired by the studio) allowed to pursue their own ideas rather than developing a cohesive through-line for all three films.
In contrast, Filoni (who was chosen and mentored by George Lucas to work on the franchise) is known for developing storylines and setting up plot points that might not come to fruition until years down the line. These skills made his two animated projects, The Clone Wars and Rebels, highly popular and acclaimed among fans whilst other Star Wars projects were attracting a more mixed reception. Filoni has since collaborated closely with Jon Favreau on a number of projects, including the live-action television series The Mandalorian (set to start shooting its third season shortly) and The Book of Boba Fett (in production now), as well as upcoming spin-off Ahsoka. Reportedly Filoni and Favreau have set up a big "event" story spanning all three shows which will culminate later on. This story will presumably revolve around perennially popular Star Wars villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, whose future return has been hinted in The Mandalorian.
Filoni's promotion, though it might not be quite as seismic as some have reported - he is not being put in sole charge of the Star Wars franchise and isn't quite "the Kevin Feige of Star Wars," at least not yet - will add confidence that Lucasfilm is righting the ship about the disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker by promoting people with a proven track record in knowing what they are doing.
The Book of Boba Fett is expected to air before the end of 2021, with Season 3 of The Mandalorian to follow in 2022. The next Star Wars theatrical release, Patty Jenkins' Rogue Squadron, is set for release on 22 December 2023.
Wizards of the Coast confirm FORGOTTEN REALMS setting for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS movie
Wizards of the Coast, the creators and publishers of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, have finally confirmed that the in-production D&D movie will take place in the Forgotten Realms world, ending years of speculation.
The city of Neverwinter on the Sword Coast North, a rumoured location for the film. Art: Jedd Chevrier
A much earlier, long-superseded draft of the script was set in the Realms, specifically in the city of Waterdeep and the dungeon of Undermountain beneath it, but since then the film has passed through multiple writers, rewrites and directors, leading to some confusion over the film's setting. Yesterday a film synopsis leaked placing the action in the Realms, in and around the city of Neverwinter, but according to Screenrant this is an old synopsis which is no longer completely accurate.
WotC have now confirmed that the setting is indeed the Realms, but nothing specific beyond this. This will mark the first appearance of the Forgotten Realms - history's most popular and successful epic fantasy shared world setting - in a live-action adaptation. More than 290 novels have been published in the Forgotten Realms setting, with cumulative sales approaching 100 million, well over 30 million alone sold by R.A. Salvatore in his popular Legend of Drizzt series. Authors such as Paul Kemp, Ed Greenwood, Troy Denning, Elaine Cunningham and Erin Evans have sold many millions more novels in the setting.
Around fifty video and mobile games in the setting have also been released, including the highly popular Baldur's Gate, Dark Alliance, Icewind Dale and Eye of the Beholder series. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, starring Drizzt Do'Urden and the Companions of the Hall, will be released next month, whilst the long, long-awaited Baldur's Gate III is aiming for release next year.
The Forgotten Realms world was created by Canadian author Ed Greenwood in 1968 as a setting for stories he was writing at school. He expanded the setting as a Dungeons & Dragons campaign world in 1976 and began writing D&D articles for Dragon Magazine in 1978, frequently mentioning characters and locations from his home setting. TSR, Inc., the publishers of D&D, bought the setting from Greenwood and brought it into print in 1987. It has never been out of print since, enjoying the distinction of being the only D&D campaign setting supported for every edition of the game and the setting most frequently used in D&D-branded adventures, novels and video games. With the release of D&D's 5th Edition in 2014, the world became the "default" setting for D&D, although recently Wizards (who bought TSR in 1997) have backed off a bit on that in favour of supporting gaming groups in creating their own worlds, or using other settings.
Alongside this news, Wizards of the Coast confirmed that 2020 was the most successful year in D&D's history with over 30% sales growth on the previous year. They confirmed plans in the coming months to bring back two "classic" and long-out-of-print campaign settings (one heavily rumoured to be Dragonlance, to accompany the release of the first new Dragonlance novels in over a decade by setting writers Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman), as well as releasing a Forgotten Realms card set for the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game.
The D&D movie is currently shooting in the Titanic Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and stars Chris Pine, Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith and Regé-Jean Page. The film is currently scheduled for release on 3 March, 2023.
Thursday, 20 May 2021
STARFIELD not likely to appear before 2022
After a number of recent reports that Bethesda Game Studios' latest huge RPG, Starfield, could be released this autumn, there has been pushback by a number of industry insiders. Jason Schreier of Forbes (and formerly Kotaku) has said that the game is being envisaged as a 2022 release as an Xbox exclusive. Tom Warren of the Verge concurred. Schreier did say that the game would be featured at the E3 gaming expo next month, as has been rumoured for a while.
If true, this would mark an interesting shift in Bethesda's release schedule. Bethesda formally announced a trailer and release date for Fallout 4 at E3 in June 2015 and the game was released in November that year. They formally announced a trailer and release date for Fallout 76 at E3 in June 2018 and the game was released in October of that year. Bethesda's had previously announced their games around a year before release, or even longer.
Another possibility is that Bethesda envisage a release date later than 2021 but before E3 2022, so will take advantage of E3 to announce the release date, even if it is closer to a year from release rather than a few months. They may also do this if the release date is soon after E3 2022, but too close for them to start the pre-release hype at that event (exactly why Bethesda seem intent on using E3 as an announcement platform when they have the Internet is another question).
Since Bethesda are now owned by Microsoft, it may also be the case that Microsoft want to do a grand reveal of a large slate of upcoming games up to a couple of years out, regardless of if this clashes with Bethesda's previous way of doing things.
A final point to consider is that Fallout 76 performed badly by Bethesda's normal standards, selling far fewer copies and reviewing very poorly compared to their prior games. With Starfield being a new IP, Bethesda and Microsoft might also want to start the pre-release hype for the game earlier than normal, to get the message out to more people that the game exists. However, they have to be careful about not over-hyping the game given the recent blowback received by Cyberpunk 2077 for doing the same thing.
In any case, it looks like a 2022 release for Starfield is most likely. This will disappoint those waiting for the game and also for The Elder Scrolls VI, which is unlikely to scale up to full-time production until Starfield is on shelves. That puts a potential Elder Scrolls VI release date well off to potentially 2026 or 2027, or later. And those hoping for a Fallout 5 had better really learn the art of patience, or hope that Microsoft will assign that project to a different team.
More information, hopefully, to come at E3 on 12-15 June.
Update: Schreier has confirmed that his information is that Starfield is now targeting a late 2022 release date.