Since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, something Star Wars related is always percolating. It seems set that the House of Mouse will give the world more Star Wars movies one year at a time, following the numbered sequel/side story alternating style. In that format, 2016 will see the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and 2017 the release of Episode VIII. The NEXT Star Wars movie on the horizon (scheduled for 2018) is the tentatively titled Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film, which promises to fill out the story of how a young Han Solo got himself to where we know him in Episode IV. One of the important characters to be (as of yet) announced is the gambler and con man Lando Calrissian. And, in the last week, Lucasfilm announced that Lando will be portrayed by actor Donald Glover.
This new film depicts Lando in his formative years as a scoundrel on the rise in the galaxy’s underworld — years before the events involving Han, Leia, and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and his rise to Rebel hero in Return of the Jedi.
Donald Glover has quite a sizable fan base, getting a significant amount of attention in Dan Harmon’s Community and more recently in an as-of-yet unrevealed role in the upcoming Spiderman: Homecoming. That’s not to mention the fan base acquired through his already prolific music career, mostly under the moniker of Childish Gambino.
The one thing that does seem to stand out from all of the recent coverage is that this announcement seems to have shifted the focus of the film. The press release explains how the movie will depict Lando in his formative years “before the events involving Han, Leia, and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back[.]” The IMDB listing already has Donald Glover listed above Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich. Given Donald Glover’s popularity, it almost seems like he’s stealing the show before the show has even been made.
At this point, the most important question is pretty clear: Will Donald Glover be able to wear a cape as well as Billy Dee Williams?
Today, the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA) made a big announcement: the formal Starcraft ProLeague would come to an end. Although there are a lot of different reasons that the Starcraft league was cancelled, the Chairman of KeSPA summed it up reasonably well:
[T]he drop in the number of ProLeague teams and players, difficulty securing league sponsors, and match fixing issues have made it challenging to maintain ProLeague.
This is not an isolated assessment. Professional eSports organization TeamLiquid also noted that five professional Starcraft II pro teams also disbanded. Although people on Twitter have already declared Starcraft dead in Korea or competitive StarcraftII dead altogether, Blizzard has yet to issue any response and the 2016 WCS (World Championship Series) Global Finals are still scheduled for early November.
Whether this is the end of the line or just a bump in the road, it’s hard not to look at this as a condemnation of eSports as nothing more than a fad, or at least something that will never have the social gravitas of “real” competitive sports. Nowadays, it’s probably easier to find a RuPaul’s Drag Racewatch partyin a bar than it would be an eSports event. Perhaps it just says something about the nature of watching events as a group.
DC Comics’ Wonder Woman recently made the news in a rather peculiar way. The United Nationsannounced that they have selected Wonder Woman to be the “United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.” As Wonder Woman approaches the 75th anniversary of her creation, she will be used by the United Nations to promote messages of and about the empowerment of women and gender-based violence.
It’s not every day that a fictional character gets named as an honorary Ambassador for the United Nations. The UN will be holding an official ceremony on October 21 to “bestow” the title upon Wonder Woman. By doing so, the UN hopes to promote its Sustainable Development Goal #5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The President of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, along with unnamed “special guests” will join the Secretary-General for this honor. It is not clear if Gal Gadot or Lynda Carter will be among the attendees.
On Friday, September 9, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) made a somewhat surprising announcement on their website. The licensing agreement that allowed for games like Blood Bowl: Team Manager, Talisman (4th Edition, Revised), and Chaos in the Old World would end: “Beginning February 28th, 2017, Fantasy Flight Games will no longer offer for sale any games in conjunction with Games Workshop[.]” There were not a lot of details provided, although it was clear that FFG would not be supporting or selling any of those games after the drop-dead date of February 28th.
License agreements ending is nothing new in any entertainment industry. Just like Marvel and Capcom ended their license relationship a few years ago, this kind of thing happens with some regularity. In tabletop gaming, Star Wars has had role-playing games developed by West End Games, Wizards of the Coast, and Fantasy Flight Games all because the license moved between different companies. Of course, every time the creative license switches over, people who like the now extinct product have to accept that they will not get any more of that version of the content. Just like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was the final Marvel vs. Capcom game, the Fantasy Flight Games/Games Workshop titles just met their future’s end.
What is interesting about this is how Games Workshop has been pushing the licensing business quite heavily in the past year. They were recently spotted at 2016’s Licensing Expo in Las Vegas trying to push all of their brands into video games, entertainment, and more. (And, yes. Licensing Expo is a real thing, apparently.) Earlier this year, they announced that they had made more income than expected from licensing agreements. If anything, it would seem that the FFG/GW license relationship had been good for everybody.
Of course, that assumes that the end of the relationship is on the part of Games Workshop. Since the original license agreement was created, the industry has changed. Back in August 2011, Fantasy Flight Games announced that it had acquired the license to the Star Wars universe from LucasFilm Ltd. That license was renewed in 2015 and expanded to include new content. In November 2014, Fantasy Flight Games merged with the Asmodee Group, creating one of the largest tabletop gaming companies in the United States (excepting Hasbro and its subsidiaries, of course). It may very well be that Fantasy Flight Games no longer sought to pay the licensing fees Games Workshop expected. When you consider that this is the company that has licenses to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, the Games Workshop line of games seems relatively unimpressive in comparison.
Whatever the reason for the separation, one thing is certain: fans of the Fantasy Flight line of Games Workshop licensed games have until February 2017 to get ahold of them before they will start to become difficult to find.
At this week’s Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, Konami unveiled the trailer for a new Metal Gear game, titled Metal Gear Survive. While a new Metal Gear game was not a surprise, perhaps receiving a trailer so soon after Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (released in September 2015) and the subsequent public relations disaster that was Hideo Kojima’s (creator of Metal Gear) exit from the company made it so. This is made more puzzling considering the very public withdrawal from AAA games that Konami made following the release of MGSV:TPP in favor of more profitable and cheap-to-make pachinko/mobile fare.
The new Metal Gear game trailer has caused fervent discussion for a few reasons.
First, for a game series so thoroughly attached to its creator, Hideo Kojima is not involved with the game in any capacity, which, again, is not surprising considering his focus on a fledgling company and new IP as well as his fairly acrimonious relationship with his former employer of three decades. Second, its apparent focus on multiplayer action arguably stands in contradiction to what Metal Gear is about: stealth and tactics. Third, the dimension-hopping, zombie-filled world seems more like an amalgam of horror Resident Evil and Silent Hill games rather than a heightened reality, Tom Clancyesque, military Metal Gear game.
Lastly, it’s surprising that Konami is interested in creating a mainstream console-based video game at all, especially one in a series with a strong reputation in the industry and among players. Since 2015, Konami has only released licensed soccer video games––Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 and 2017––to the major markets (Playstation 4, XBox One, and PC) aside from releasing MGSV:TPP across all platforms in 2015. This was taken as a signal that Konami does not prioritize the console and home computing market. So, the sudden push of a new Metal Gear game does seem a bit strange. When you consider that alongside the rather non-Metal Gear theme, it draws even more questions as to whether this is actually a Metal Gear game that fits into the canonical story or simply a new IP tagged with a grandfather franchise in a lazy effort to guarantee sales (re: Metroid Prime: Federation Force).
Many sources have erroneously reported that this is the first Metal Gear game developed without Kojima’s involvement. While there have been plenty of Metal Gear games produced and developed by Kojima in varying degrees (Metal Gear AC!D, Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance), early in the series’ life, a few Metal Gear games completely skipped the creator’s grace due to different console ports and local demands. Most notoriously, Snake’s Revenge was a side-scrolling sequel to the original Metal Gear developed solely for the North American NES market and none of the original Metal Gear team was involved in any way.
Furthermore, the original Metal Gear was released for Microsoft’s MSX2 platform in Japan. The success of the game, as well as the parallel success of the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System, prompted Konami to produce a port for Nintendo without Kojima’s involvement at all. The Famicom/NES version is infamous for being a Metal Gear game without a Metal Gear in it (unlike the original MSX version) due to technological constraints,and is a version that Kojima has wholly disowned.
All together, the entire project is punctuated by a question mark at the moment. It is likely a lot of discussion will be had about the game up to and through its release, but seeing how the most ardent Metal Gear fans prioritize story, characters, and stealth gameplay over any multiplayer offering the series has brought to this point, combined with the history of Konami acting directly in contradiction to the series’ creator’s vision for the series, the largest question being asked right now is how well does Konami know its own flagship franchise?
All of the games in the Sid Meier’s Civilization series feature a standard array of popular civilizations to play and the nation’s corresponding leader. Civilizations like the Aztecs, Japanese, Americans, and French have always been present, led by Montezuma, Tokugawa (or Nobunaga), George Washington (or Abraham Lincoln or FDR), and Napoleon Bonaparte (or Louis XIV or Joan d’Arc). With this new game, it appears that the designers at Firaxis Games are trying to shake up the conventional array of civilizations and leaders by adding a few new faces to the game.
As each new leader has been announced, some have commented that a lot of them are quite different than what people expected. Classic, iconic leaders like Washington or Bonaparte have been replaced by Teddy Roosevelt and Catherine de Medici. In some cases, even I had to go google specific leaders (like Japan’s Hojo Tokimune) or even entire civilizations (like the Scythians, led by Queen Tomyris). In a preview video, the design team made it clear that there goal was to go for leaders with the “biggest personalities,” which (if nothing else) explains where we got Teddy Roosevelt.
The Firaxis team has also made it clear that every leader will have a distinct personal agenda or style of play to set them apart. Roosevelt will endeavor to build a large military and prevent people from waging war on his home continent. Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China will have an obsessive desire to build wonders of the world. We can only assume that India’s Gandhi will once again have a passionate urge to carpet the planet in the warming glow of nuclear weapons.
As the October release date approaches, more and more of the new details will be released. Already, they’ve made it clear that this game will change the way cities are built and how diplomacy is handled. Will it survive the test of time? We won’t know until the game comes out (and probably one to two expansions).
Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, and although lots of news filtered out of the event, super heroes were an important element of that story. Marvel and DC both showed up ready to spill with trailers, news, and all sorts of superheroic nonsense up in the air for fans to ingest.
DC Comics has a lot of ground to makeup for, with 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leaving a lot of eager fans less than thrilled. Probably one of the biggest things they had to present was the trailer for next year’s big superhero movie, Wonder Woman:
There’s been a lot scuttlebutt around the DC Cinematic Universe in the last six months, but the one thing that seems to still be on track is the stand-alone Wonder Woman. Set in the era of World War I, it looks like this movie brings a lot of what you’d expect from Wonder Woman: some weird quasi-Greek stuff, some lasso action, and punching. And kicking in wedges, let’s be honest. Swords and shields, and the rest.
Of course, not one to disappoint, DC and WB also provided a look at the other big movie coming out next year: Justice League. This is less a trailer and more a bunch of “footage,” but it does provide a little look at what’s going on. We get to see Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman talk about stuff. Bruce Wayne tries to recruit Aquaman and Flash, with varying levels of success. If anything, it provides a look at the different relationships the characters will have with each other in the movie.
Apparently, there’s still some confusion as to whether or not this is going to be one part of two, or a stand-alone movie. I suspect a lot of the future of the DC Cinematic Universe rests on the shoulders of Wonder Woman and this first Justice League offering.
On the other side of the aisle, Marvel had its fair share of dazzling videos to put forth. With respect to movies, Marvel put out a new trailer for the upcoming Doctor Strange film. In an effort to prove that this movie has no respect for conventional notions of reality and geometry, it features some of the most bizarre cityscapes in recent cinematic history:
It was also announced that actor Brie Larson will be taking on the role of Major Carol Danvers, the superhero (eventually) known as Captain Marvel. Although not scheduled for release until 2019, Captain Marvel is currently the first Marvel movie headlined by a female character.
On the television side, Marvel surprised a lot of people (or, at least me) when they announced the arrival of Ghost Rider in Agents of SHIELD, Season 4. Probably bigger news, though, is the newly released trailer for Luke Cage, the third show produced from the Marvel-Netflix alliance and part of their Defenders storyline.
Although fans of the Netflix-Marvel collaboration have already seen Luke Cage appear in Jessica Jones, this series has already established a very different tone than its predecessors. A teaser trailer for the NEXT series, Iron Fist, was also released, reminding people that there will be an ongoing onslaught of Marvel characters pouring through your television screens. Of course, in an effort to flood the bitstreams with even more Marvel excitement, they also released a teaser trailer for the upcoming Defenders mini-series, featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist together.
Of course, there’s even more news out there for super hero movie and television fans. This is just the tip of the iceberg. From all of the television and film being produced, it looks like the age of the superhero has at least a few more years of kick left in it.
News Blast: Lovecraft-Based TV Show In Development
A sneaky bit of news hit the internet recently when word got out that Legendary Entertainment was developing an anthology television show based on the works of cosmic horror writer, H. P. Lovecraft.
According to Bleeding Cool and Dread Central, not much is known as only a pilot script exists, to be used to shop around to networks at the moment. The pilot is written by Matthew Francis Wilson––who, based on my research, may have previously gone by M. Francis Wilson, is a newcomer to television writing and it is unknown whether he pitched the show or was hired to write it.
Aside from the Lovecraft brand itself, the producers of the series bring the most clout to the project. Lorenzo Di Bonaventura––who was the tip of the spear when it came to developing the Michael Bay-helmed Transformers series––and Dan McDermott––a screenwriter and producer who seems to have worked on mostly short-lived but interesting television shows.
Legendary Entertainment has made quite a mark as being a rather prominent producer of successful, if not critically consistent, genre films. Big hits for the relatively new studio––established in 2000––300, The Hangover, Inception, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, Crimson Peak, WarCraft, Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, Jurassic World,Straight Outta Compton, and basically all Christopher Nolan movies since Batman Begins.
Their expansion into television is relatively new, but rather high profile with the Netflix exclusive, Love, having garnered a bit of attention on its initial release, as well as the SyFy adaptation of the beloved James S. A. Corey book series, The Expanse, which friends-of-the-show, Nerdhole, discussed in-depth recently, and Colony, created by LOST writer, Carlton Cuse, for USA Network. The latter two debuted this year and are renewed for second seasons.
So, while to some the credentials (or lack thereof) of those directly involved with this new series may seem troubling or make a fan circumspect, Legendary itself has a respectable track record on television even if they are rather new to the medium.
The show seems peculiar because, as sources described, it is unclear whether these will be adaptations of Lovecraft stories or new stories leaning on the Lovecraft stories. Bleeding Cool described the show as including “characters, locations and story-lines from sixteen of Lovecraft’s most popular tales” while Dread Central says the show will “feature characters, narratives, and locations from sixteen of the late American author’s titles.” Both sources cite that the show will specifically draw from “The Call of Cthulhu“, “The Dunwich Horror“, and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Since H. P. Lovecraft had published over fifty stories in his lifetime and collaborated on almost another fifty with friends and as a ghost writer, there is no shortage of material to draw from.
While this is the first time a show has been explicitly based on Lovecraft’s work, the father of cosmic horror is no stranger to television. His stories have been adapted to varying degrees of faithfulness on horror anthology shows, with Rod Serling’s Night Gallery being the most prominent adapter. In most cases, Lovecraft’s work served as direct or indirect inspiration for stories and series. From the 1991 HBO noir movie, Cast a Deadly Spell to an episode of The Real Ghostbusters titled, “The Collect Call of Cthulhu”, Lovecraft’s creatures and themes have often served as a great starting point for new stories rather than go through the difficulty of adapting his somewhat anachronistic and often problematic work directly. Lovecraft himself even appeared in the season six episode of Supernatural, “Let It Bleed.”Adapting Lovecraft’s work until now has been a particular tough nut to crack. Most famously, Guillermo Del Toro tried for years to get his version of “At the Mountains of Madness” off the ground, only to have funding pulled out from under him for creative and monetary differences. The closest and, perhaps, most successful adaptations come in the form of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s (HPLHS) cinematic adaptations and their full cast audio drama adaptations of his stories.
The main aspect of Lovecraft that seems to clear the hurdle from page to screen are his monsters, which arguably hopscotches what his stories are actually about. While his creatures indeed played an integral part to many of his stories, they were rarely about the monsters, but rather the existential dread they represented.
Which type of Lovecraftian adaptation we’ll see on screen––either monster stories, pessimistic existential epistolary narratives, or something in between––remains to be seen. Either way, there hasn’t really been a Lovecraftian tv show or movie that has really appeased the devoted fan base as well as broke through to mainstream appreciation. With luck, this new series, if picked up by a network, can bring what so many people love about his stories and mythology to a new, broader audience.
Folks that are not attuned to the media Force may have missed the fact that this last weekend was Star Wars Celebration, a giant Star Wars convention that happens every year. Well, technically, it was Star Wars Celebration Europe III, but that’s an unimportant detail.
People may not realize that Star Wars is formally entrenched in the Disney production machine. Quite a lot of news leaked out of the convention concerning a variety of Star Wars properties. Of course, people that have followed us for a while know that my first loyalty in Star Wars fandom are the CGI animated television shows (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels). This weekend featured the release of the trailer for the upcoming Season Three of Rebels [Warning: Spoilers abound for people that missed the end of Season 2]:
The trailer seems to throw a lot out there. Probably the biggest revelation is the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn, first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s non-canonicalHeir to the Empire. Thrawn, the only non-human in the Empire to be promoted to Grand Admiral, has been a subject of fan question ever since the House of Mouse exploded the Expanded Universe. A fan favorite, he might represent the most competent Imperial Officer ever introduced in Star Wars (given the propensity for most of the other ones to die rather unfortunately). Other revelations include the return of Maul and some new revelations as to the nature of the Force.
Truth be told, I missed it, but Dan pointed out that the voice of the Bendu, the peculiar creature claiming to be the “middle ground” of the Force, is voiced by none other than Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. Although not the first Doctor to appear in a Star Wars series, as that honor would belong to David Tennant in his portrayal of the droid professor Huyang, it does say something about the reach of the animated Star Wars content. Between Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, the CGI animated series is becoming the place for notable actors to go (George Takei, Seth Green, Clancy Brown, Simon Pegg, Katee Sackhoff, Jon Favreau, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jim Cummings, and even Mark Hamill in a different role).
With a lot of serious story going on in Rebels, it’s easy to forget that 2016 will also bring something new to the Star Wars continuity: a live-action “side story” (or what Dan and I like to call a “Gaiden”) film in the form of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although a new trailer was featured at the event, it hasn’t been officially released as of this writing. However, a production trailer combined with the original was released:
I will admit that the closer it gets to release, the more excited I get about this new movie. A departure from the Skywalker-centric stories of Episodes I-VIII, this new “Star Wars Gaiden” looks to be expanding the Star Wars universe in new, cinematic directions. From what little has been released, it feels like this movie (and, potentially, the rest of these Gaiden stories) will create compelling characters and stories within the iconic Star Wars universe that are tangentially related to the Skywalker Magnum Opus we got with Episodes I-VI, which should be a nice change.
Additional information about the next Star Wars Gaiden, popularly referred to as “the Han Solo movie,” was also provided: Alden Ehrenreich has been confirmed as the man playing the galaxy’s favorite scoundrel (although I’ll admit to being more of a Lando man, myself). With filming beginning sometime in 2017, it will be interesting to see where the directors of The LEGO Movie will take the character of Han Solo and the Star Wars universe.
Overall, Star Wars Celebration dribbled just enough Star Wars fun to keep everybody excited for the Fall. If you’re interested in all of the details, I recommend checking out Gizmodo’s coverage spread of articles here.
Last Wednesday saw the release of the newest addition to the Pokémon family of games: Pokémon GO, developed by Niantic, Inc. (formerly, Niantic Labs). Niantic, Inc. was previously known for doing the popular mobile game Ingress. They partnered with Nintendo and The Pokemon Company to apply that GPS/map-based play to the popular Nintendo franchise. Although Dan and I will have more to say about this in this week’s podcast, it was worth taking a moment to address all of the news (both good and bad) that has been popping up over this new title.
Stories about Pokémon GO and the outcome of so many people playing have been circulating around various social media and news websites. In Wyoming, a nineteen year old woman found a dead body while pursuing an elusive pokémon. A police station in Australia has warned players against entering the station in order to collect pokéballs or to catch pokémon that spawn there. A police department in Missouri recently reported that a group of teens have been luring people to a pokéstop in order to commit robbery. But, with all that gloom and doom, there are some brighter notes. A large number of Pokémon GO players have been discovering that they are inadvertently exercising by playing the game.
As could be expected with something this popular, Pokémon GO has had a few awkward moments. Notorious Amazon Kindle “author” Chuck Tingle recently released Pokebutt Go: Pounded by ‘Em All, another title in his (her?) series of erotic (?) fiction. Several websites have been documenting peculiar places that have been designated Pokéstops, including a Los Angeles bathhouse, a Seattle bathhouse with a “mirrored gloryhole maze,” and other odd and inappropriate places. Most of the peculiarities in location data come from the fact that the Pokéstops appear to be primarily based on location data taken from Niantic’s previous title, Ingress; the “Portal” locations of Ingress were user/player submitted. This explains how so many child-inappropriate Pokéstops came to be in the first days of the game.
All in all, Pokémon GO has been making quite a lot of news since its release.