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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Destiny "Strike" Gameplay Trailer Released

Bungie steps ever further out of the shadow of the Halo franchise with another video preview of their hottest project yet.
Activision Games and Bungie have this week released a new seven-minute gameplay clip (below) of their upcoming online role-playing first-person-shooter video game Destiny. Titled "Strike", the video preview depicts a co-operative mission involving multiple players infiltrating the ominously-named Devil's Lair on an as-of-yet unnamed alien planet.

Much as Bungie have tried to deny Destiny's connections to their best-selling Halo saga, fans of the developers such as this writer struggled to believe that they could truly escape their roots, regardless of whether or not their next franchise was exclusive to Xbox consoles (which it's not, so PlayStation owners can breathe a hearty sigh of relief). Until now, that is. Although there are some inevitable comparisons to be drawn on an aesthetic basis between this product and the Master Chief's intergalactic escapades, the former of the two looks set moreso than any of its 2014 genre competitors to revolutionize the first-person-shooter once again (just as Bungie did with the latter back in 2001, in fact). Short of a colossal server failure at launch (thank goodness EA isn't on publishing duties, eh?), this refreshingly audacious FPS experience has every right to establish itself as a fierce Game of the Year contender (and indeed, it's already well on its way to doing so).

Destiny will retail for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC on September 9th.

Game of Thrones Season Four Episode 9 Title Announced

Castle Black was once an impenetrable fortress, but no more. Can it survive the oncoming siege?
HBO Studios have today announced the title of the penultimate episode of the fourth season of their critically lauded fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Based loosely on George R.R. Martin's novels A Storm of Swords Part 2: Blood and Gold and A Feast for Crows, the new series examines the aftermath of the devastating Red and Purple Weddings and the consequences that the pair of fateful ceremonies will have for the future of Westeros.

It should come as no great surprise to anyone who has analysed the structure of previous seasons of the show, or to anyone who has read Martin's printed texts either, that the ninth instalment of Season Four is titled "The Watchers on the Wall". As ever, we will stay clear of spoiler-heavy territory here, but suffice to say that over at Castle Black, the Night's Watch have evidently been preparing for a momentous battle against the seemingly omnipotent army of Wildlings who are moving closer to their base of operations with each passing day. Since previous Episode 9's have depicted the execution of Ned Stark, the Battle of Blackwater Bay and the infamous Red Wedding, our bet is that Blood and Gold's Battle of Castle Black will receive its on-screen début here too. Don't be fooled into thinking that this season's remaining surprises will be limited to "Watchers", though: quite to the contrary, we'd wager that you'll eventually concur with us when we assert that the real shocks were still to come in (the currently untitled) Episode 10!

Game of Thrones continues with "First of His Name" this Monday, May 5th on Sky Atlantic at 9pm.

New Doctor Who Season Eight Writers Announced

Wallander and Being Human scribes sign on to pen further time-travelling adventures for the 2000-year old Time Lord!
Doctor Who Magazine have today announced two further writers who have penned episodes for the eighth season of the BBC's science-fiction drama Doctor Who. Picking up directly after the events of the 2013 Christmas Special, "The Time of the Doctor", the latest run of intergalactic voyages and extraterrestrial confrontations stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and Samuel Anderson in a recurring capacity as Coal Hill School teacher Danny Pink.

With Steven Moffat (naturally), Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Phil Ford, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson all already confirmed to comprise a substantial proportion of this year's writing team, there are probably only one or two names left to reveal now that DWM's four-hundred-and-seventy-third issue has let the cat out of the bag regarding a further pair of scribes who've produced scripts for the Twelfth Doctor's freshman escapades. They are as follows: Peter Harness (who has contributed to BBC One dramas such as Wallander and Case Histories in recent years) and Jamie Mathieson (a regular author of Being Human scripts). We're huge fans of Being Human here at On-Screen, so to hear that Mathieson is taking control of the TARDIS for an episode is wonderful news in our minds, and although we've yet to come into contact with Harness' work, the notion of gaining more fresh blood on the show's writing team after the uncharacteristic over-familiarity of Season Seven is most certainly welcome...

Doctor Who returns with a new series of adventures on BBC One this Autumn.

Xbox 360 Games With Gold May Titles Announced

Join the Saints or follow An Elysian Tale for free in the coming weeks...
Microsoft have today announced the two video games which will be available for Xbox 360 owners to download as part of the Games With Gold rewards scheme next month. First announced at E3 2013, the program offers Xbox Live Gold subscribers two digital products of the publisher's choosing on a monthly basis free of charge, with recent highlights including Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution and Halo 3.

During the first half of May, the critically acclaimed XBLA action RPG Dust: An Elysian Tail will be available for Gold members to download on the Xbox Live Marketplace, whereas in the month's second half, THQ's open-world third-person-shooter Saint's Row: The Third will land its latest chance to woo fans of the Grand Theft Auto series over to its bombastic, surprisingly grounded gameplay whilst they wait out the next major GTA Online update. No news has been announced as of yet regarding the immediate future of Games With Gold or, indeed, whether we should expect to see the scheme transferred over to or replicated on Xbox One anytime soon, but we'll keep you posted as and when we hear more from Microsoft at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Dust: An Elysian Tail will be launched on Games With Gold via the Xbox Live Marketplace tomorrow, May 1st and Saint's Row: The Third will take its place on Friday May 16th.

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) Announced

Earth's Mightiest Heroes land in the world of Disney on current- and next-generation consoles later this year!
Disney Interactive Studios and Avalanche Studios have today announced the development of Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) for release later this year. The sequel to last August's Disney Infinity will basically do what it says on the tin, introducing classic Marvel superheroes such as the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man along with all of the super powers for which they've come to be known and loved ever since their comic-book inception.

Although Avalanche's decision to shift from the beloved realms of Disney (Infinity having placed its emphasis exclusively on brands owned exclusively by the House of Mouse such as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles) will no doubt startle fans of the series' first outing, they've nothing to worry about- note that the words 2.0 Edition are included in parentheses within the follow-up's title, presumably implying that further instalments in the second "phase" (as Marvel's Agents of SHIELD's Clark Gregg himself called it upon taking to the stage of Disney's live reveal event) of Infinity are on the way too. Indeed, while we're ecstatic to see how effectively the newly introduced open-world Manhattan functions as a hub for 20 of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes (this time, you'll get ahold of the Black Widow, Iron Man and Thor figures in the £60 Starter Pack for use in-game) in the Avengers Play Set, not to mention how diverse the customisation options are for those players who create their own superheroic apartments and landscapes in the Toy Box mode, the notion of having a Play Set which combines The Incredibles and The Avengers is far more tantalising still, so we'll hold our breath for more announcements along these lines as we move closer to release!

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) will retail for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, PC and iOS devices this Autumn.

More Mario Kart 8 Gameplay Details, Tracks Announced

Baby Rosalina and Pink Gold Peach join the roster of competitors in Nintendo's first major exclusive of 2014.
Nintendo have today announced several new details on their upcoming racing video game Mario Kart 8. Launching exclusively on the Nintendo WiiU, the eighth outing in the acclaimed first-party franchise will take advantage of both the WiiU GamePad controller and the current-generation home console's enhanced online multiplayer capabilities.

You'll find all of the details in the publisher's latest Nintendo Direct video conference (which was released this morning and focused exclusively on Mario Kart 8) below. To make life a little easier for you, though, dear reader, we've rounded up the essential information that you'll want to hear on the impending sequel with the following list:

  • NEW POWER-UPS- Joining the standard power-ups which were available in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 (the red shell, the Mega Mushroom, the notorious winged blue shell and the like) are the Crazy Eight (a power-up which surrounds the player with eight different power-ups to use at whatever time they so desire) and the Super Horn (which sends out a shockwave that will render even the deadliest attacks obsolete, even from Blue Shells!).
  • NEW COMPETITORS- The keen readers among you will already have worked this out from the article's tagline: a toddler version of Super Mario Galaxy's Rosalina (Baby Rosalina) and a female version of Metal Mario (better known to the world at large as Pink Gold Peach) will be attempting to gain their places on the podium in one month's time. They've come at the right time, too, as the new Mario Kart TV online feature will allow players to record footage of their best races and upload those videos to a global database with ease for the entire gaming community to see...
  • NEW PROMOTIONS- Nintendo are evidently striving to provide incentives aplenty with their upcoming video game products, kicking off their latest WiiU promotional campaign by offering up a free WiiU title with every purchase of Mario Kart 8. All owners of the much-anticipated sequel will have to do in order to claim the game of their choosing is sign up to ClubNintendo.com and register their product using its individual key. Once these two criteria have been fulfilled, they'll be able to select one title from the following (rather impressive, it must be said) list: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD; New Super Mario Bros U; Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate; Game & Wario; Pikmin 3; The Wonderful 101; Sonic Lost World; Nintendo Land; Wii Party U and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. A great deal, no?
  • NEW TRACKS- As if this plentiful series of announcements wasn't enough to entice Nintendoites everywhere, CVG.com went on to reveal the full track-list for Mario Kart 8 in the aftermath of the Direct conference. It reads as follows: Mario Kart Stadium; Water Park; Sweet Sweet Canyon; Thwomp Ruins; Mario Circuit; Toad Harbor; Twisted Mansion; Shy Guy Falls; Starshine Airport; Dolphin Shoals; Electrodrome; Mount Wario; Cloudtop Cruise; Bone Dry Dunes; Bowser's Castle; Rainbow Road; Moo Moo Meadows; Mario Circuit (II); Cheep Cheep Beach; Toad's Turnpike; Dry Dry Desert; Donut Plains 3; Royal Raceway; DK Jungle; Wario Stadium; Sherbet Land; Music Park; Yoshi Valley; Tick-Tock Clock; Piranha Plant Slide; Grumble Volcano and Rainbow Road (II).
Mario Kart 8 careens exclusively onto Nintendo WiiU consoles this May 30th.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Nintendo E3 2014 Digital Event Announced

The WiiU and 3DS publisher sets the date of its E3 showing- expect Smash Bros and secrets galore.
Nintendo have today announced details on their contribution to this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo event. Set to take place in the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 10th to June 12th, the much-anticipated convention will feature live showcases from acclaimed video games publishers such as Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts.

In a move that's sure to confound industry analysts, though, the company behind the Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchises are turning down the opportunity to present a live showcase at E3 for the second year running. In a similar vein to the 2013 convention, Nintendo will instead host a 'Digital Event' to be broadcast exclusively online, where they will reveal further details on Super Smash Bros for 3DS, Super Smash Bros for WiiU, Bayonetta 2 and other Wii and 3DS-exclusive titles coming to our consoles later this year. Over in the States, Smash Bros fanatics will also be able to get their hands on the aforementioned upcoming fourth instalment in the franchise at Best Buy stories as part of an Invitational event, plus we should expect to learn more regarding Nintendo's latest products via their Nintendo Treehouse developer videos closer to the time of the convention's commencement.

Nintendo's E3 2014 'Digital Event' will air online this June 10th at 5pm (UK time).

BBC One Announce New 20th Century Literary Adaptations

Classic literary works from the likes of D.H. Lawrence and J.B. Priestly will be brought to life on the small screen next year!
The BBC have announced the production of a series of new televised literary adaptations for broadcast in the not too distant future. Based loosely on printed texts which were published during the 20th Century, the standalone dramas will no doubt integrate many of the finest British and international thespians whose numbers the studio have in their phone-book at present.

Let's not dawdle, then- here's a round-up of what we know so far about each of the four recently-announced adaptations...
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover- Jed Mercurio (the head writer of BBC One's hit police series Line of Duty) will pen the script of this adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's 1928 romantic drama.
  • An Inspector Calls- More than any of the other fine literary works included on this list, we'd imagine that J.B. Priestley (boy, did 20th Century writers love to use their initials!)'s beloved post-war family theatrical drama will lend itself most easily to a TV adaptation, particularly as director Aisling Walsh (Wallander) will have numerous stage productions to call upon whilst crafting her rendition.
  • The Go-Between- Moving forward to the Fifties, we reach L.P. Hartley's 1953 love tale The Go-Between, a gripping yarn which has already inspired a number of film, TV and radio adaptations (the most recent example of the latter being BBC Radio 3's 2013 production), and which in its latest form will be penned by The Musketeers scribe Adrian Hodges.
  • Cider with Rosie- Last but not least is a deeply moving First World War novel penned at the close of the Fifties (1959, to be precise) by Laurie Lee. Cider with Rosie will be helmed by Ben Vanstone, and given that the original novel was but the first instalment in a trilogy, don't be too surprised to hear of a TV sequel or two if the initial broadcast goes down a storm!
Lady Chatterley's Lover, An Inspector Calls, The Go-Between and Cider with Rosie will air on BBC One in 2015.

To Kill A Mockingbird eBook Edition Announced

"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
HarperCollins Publishers LLC have this week announced the development of an electronic version of the hit 1960 racial drama novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Written by American author Harper Lee, the text focuses on the days leading to the trial of Tom Robinson, an African-American man who finds himself wrongly accused of a heinous crime, only to soon realize that he may be found guilty regardless of the strength of his legal defence case.

Believe it or not, the eBook edition of Lee's beloved 20th Century retrospective on racial corruption in the United States and its pervading influence throughout her society has been a long time coming. Whereas countless classic texts from the 1900s and the centuries preceding it (such as the works of Fitzgerald, Dickens and Chaucer, to name but a select few!) are already available either for under £1 or free of charge, the now 88-year old author of Mockingbird had been resistant to the notion of her work being digitalized until recently. "I'm still old-fashioned," she remarked in HarperCollins' announcement press release, "I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation." We couldn't be more pleasantly surprised by the news, not least since (in our humble view, for what it's worth) this is an essential read for any literary enthusiast attempting to gain a deeper insight into those works which helped to re-define this oft-overlooked entertainment medium in the aftermath of two devastating World Wars.

To Kill A Mockingbird will retail on the Kindle Marketplace and other eBook stores from July 8th.

Star Wars Episode VII Central Cast Members Announced

The cast of Episode VIIThe Force is strong with this star-studded ensemble!
Walt Disney Pictures and StarWars.com have today announced the central cast of the former studio's upcoming science-fiction film Star Wars Episode VII (the traditional sub-title of which is still to be confirmed). Set thirty years after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi, the seventh big-screen instalment in the critically acclaimed franchise will feature a trio of new Jedi heroes accompanied by a host of familiar faces from the series' past.

As of today, we've come one gigantic step closer to learning what kind of cinematic experience we can expect from Episode VII next December, and my oh my, are the first signs promising here (indeed, we can't wait to see Oscar Isaac and Andy Serkis put their spin on the Star Wars universe). Without further ado, here's the newly announced line-up of actors and actresses who will be leading the charge into a new era of starbound adventures (and their roles where applicable):
  • JOHN BOYEGA (Attack the Block)- TBC (PROTAGONIST)
  • DAISY RIDLEY (Casualty; Mr Selfridge)- TBC (PROTAGONIST)
  • ADAM DRIVER (Girls; Inside Llewyn Davis; Law & Order)- TBC (ANTAGONIST)
  • OSCAR ISAAC (Inside Llewyn Davis)- TBC
  • ANDY SERKIS (The Lord of the Rings; King Kong; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)- TBC
  • DOMHNALL GLEESON (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2; About Time)- TBC
  • MAX VON SYDOW (Ghostbusters II; Shutter Island; Robin Hood; The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; The Simpsons)- TBC
  • MARK HAMILL (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope; Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; Batman: Arkham City)- LUKE SKYWALKER
  • HARRISON FORD (Star Wars Episodes IV-VI; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues)- HAN SOLO
  • CARRIE FISHER (Star Wars Episodes IV-VI)- LEIA SOLO
  • ANTHONY DANIELS (Star Wars Episodes I-VI; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; The LEGO Movie)- C-3PO
  • KENNY BAKER (Star Wars Episodes I-VI)- R2-D2
Add to that a series of new promotional images for Disney XD's impending animated TV series Star Wars: Rebels (below) and the announcement that the first full trailer for Rebels will début (coincidentally) this Sunday, May 4th, and it's safe to say that the last twenty four hours or so have been a rather grand period for fans of a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars Episode VII commences its trench run in cinemas worldwide on December 15th, 2015.
Kanan, Zeb and Sabine in Star Wars Rebels.
Sabine Rebels still

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Carmine Project: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Source: Facebook
Find out my verdict on one of this year's hottest superhero films!
As any seasoned follower of On-Screen will know, this writer doesn't limit himself to the entertainment blog you're currently reading by any means. Indeed, we've relayed posts penned by yours truly from a variety of different sources over the years including Non Specific Action, Doctor Who News Page, Time Out London and more, and that trend certainly won't be coming to an end in 2014.

As proof of that claim, attached to this post is a URL which will take you over to my review of this month's most ambitious motion picture outing by far, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I've awarded it a 4* score over at The Carmine Project, which (in case you hadn't already heard) is a great online cultural magazine that covers a diverse range of topics such as literature, film, video gaming and many, many more. As ever, please have a look at the review if you get chance, and don't hesitate to let me know your thoughts on either the verdict itself (again, any seasoned reader here will know that this reviewer loves to hear his readership's opinions on his points regardless of whether they're commendatory or critical) or The Carmine Project, the latter of which I'll gladly forward on to the rest of the site's team in due course.

Let it never be said, however, that here at On-Screen we refuse to offer bonus exclusive content for those readers who take the time to follow this blog moreso than many other entertainment sources. From this point onwards, we'll endeavour to provide additional content exclusive to this site whenever we flag up a link to any of my non-OS related work. Read on below, then, to discover our never-before-seen rankings chart for the Spider-Man franchise's big-screen output so far:

5. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012, 2/5)- No matter how much it attempted to disguise the truth, the reality of The Amazing Spider-Man was that it turned out to be nothing more than an uninspired retread of the original 2001 film's origins tale, adding very little in the way of a new perspective on those events which we had previously witnessed and only throwing in a poorly-rendered, comically-portrayed Lizard (Rhys Ifans) as a weak form of compensation.
4. SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007, 4/5)- Go back and try Spider-Man 3 again, and this reviewer is willing to bet that you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the number of commendable strengths the threequel exhibits in spite of its overcrowded narrative. Yes, this overly audacious final instalment in the original trilogy could have benefited from ridding itself of Sandman in the editing suite, yet its depiction of Peter Parker's corruption at the hands of an alien symbiote is for the most part satisfying, as is its resolution of several plot arcs which had spanned the entirety of the original trio of movies.
3. SPIDER-MAN (2001, 4/5)- It's all too easy to belittle the scale of Sam Raimi's success in following up Bryan Singer's exemplary 1999 genre-kickstarter X-Men with such an accomplished introduction to the world of Peter Parker and his web-swinging alter-ego. Regardless of your thoughts on the somewhat Power Rangers-esque design of William Defoe's Green Goblin costume, to deny that Spider-Man is an absolutely stellar superhero movie is to deny that one gains enjoyment out of fine cinema in general!
2. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014, 4/5)- As you'll see in my review on The Carmine Project, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not without its shortcomings, but it's as strong an improvement on the tepid 2012 franchise reboot as we could ever have hoped for, and that it manages to eclipse the first and third instalments of Raimi's trilogy is testament to Marc Webb's brilliant overhaul of the series' status quo. If this is intended as a clear statement of the series' future trajectory, then The Amazing Spider-Man 3 can't come soon enough...
1. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004, 5/5)- Of all of the franchise's entries so far, Spider-Man 2 marks the production which comes closest to matching the quality of The Dark Knight (the superhero film which, for me at least, re-defined the genre upon its release in 2008). Alfred Molina's performance as Doctor Octopus steals the show here, proving (if nothing else) that it was possible for talented successors such as Tom Hiddleston and Sebastian Stan to craft satisfying, multi-faceted antagonists rather than descending into the generically traditional pantomime-esque portrayal exhibited by the stars behind the villains in films such as Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes DLC Missions Announced

Solid Snake's not-so-extensive prologue receives a couple of much-needed bonus levels.
Konami have this week announced the release of two downloadable extra missions for their third-person-shooter stealth video game Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Despite it merely being intended as a prologue to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain by its developers, the title met with a mixed reception upon its release last month, not least due to the combination of its downright insulting two-hour running time and its £20 pricetag here in the UK.

Perhaps these add-ons will work to Ground Zeroes' favour, though, even if they do render previous console exclusivity deals rather pointless. First up is a side mission which goes by the name "Jamais Vu", tasking players with taking control of Raiden (last seen in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) as he fights ferocious body snatching-foes in the same base which Snake infiltrates in the game's main campaign. After that, seasoned fans of the franchise will have the chance to witness a blast from the past as Snake and his enemies appear to revert to their 1990s guises in a cunning visual shift back to the graphics of the beloved original Metal Gear Solid trilogy. The former of the pair was exclusive to Xbox owners until now, whereas the latter was exclusive to those who had a PS3 and PS4 in their possession, but from this week onwards, it won't matter in the slightest which version of Ground Zeroes (if any, though the decent sales figures clearly show that a substantial number of players fell into the trap of buying it) you own.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' two new DLC missions will be available to purchase on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One's Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3's PSN this May 1st.

New Pan Guest Star Announced

Hugh Jackman is joined by a fellow Les Miserables co-star on his buccaneering adventure!
Warner Brothers Pictures have announced the latest actress set to join the cast of their upcoming fantasy movie Pan. The ambitious prequel to J.M. Barrie's classic novel Peter Pan will star Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily and up-and-coming teen actor Levi Miller as the titular air-bound protagonist.

Next up on the list of esteemed stars attached to the project is none other than Amanda Seyfried, an accomplished American actress whose versatility seemingly knows no bounds. Between Jennifer's Body, Mamma Mia, A Million Ways to Die in the West and Les Miserables, Seyfried has earned herself countless plaudits for her contributions to a wide variety of different productions, and she'll no doubt enter the role of Mary (the young teenager who Peter whisks away to Neverland in the original text) with the same degree of confidence and admirable passion. Expect to hear more on Pan's narrative and its cast very soon, as production commences today over in the United States!

Pan takes flight at a cinema near you in July 2015.

Justice League of America & New Superman Vs. Batman Guest Star Announced

Zack Snyder signs onto the project that everyone knew was coming!
Warner Brothers Pictures have today announced the production of a film adaptation of the DC comic-strip Justice League of America for release in the not too distant future. The news comes direct from The Wall Street Journal, where the studio's president Greg Silverman reveals in a new interview that Man of Steel director Zack Snyder will helm both 2016's Superman Vs. Batman (as he refers to the upcoming crossover blockbuster) and a motion picture based on the team who are basically the DC Comics equivalent to the Avengers.

For now, that's pretty much all we've heard from official sources on the (reportedly) back-to-back production, but rumours of the just-announced second follow-up to Man of Steel have been circulating ever since Snyder first announced that the Dark Knight himself would cross paths (and fists, probably) with Superman in the pair's latest big-screen excursion. With Superman Vs. Batman currently set to release in the Summer of 2016, a 2017 or 2018 launch for the JLA adaptation is pretty much guaranteed, although Wall Street and The Hollywood Reporter have crossed a few wires this morning by revealing contradictory claims regarding just when we'll see it hit cinemas.

In other news, in case you missed it last week, we're also excited to confirm (thanks to Variety) that Ray Fisher is now attached to the Man of Steel sequel as a minor guest star. Fisher (who recently starred in the 2008 comedy film The Good, The Bad and the Confused) will take on the role of Victor "Vic" Stone, aka the metallic superhero Cyborg, in the franchise's second instalment, joining Henry Cavill (Superman), Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) in the process. With at least four members of the original comic-book JLA ensemble present and accounted for, it's a wonder that Snyder hasn't renamed it Justice League of America: Prologue yet, but after Peter Jackson proved that subtlety has all but vanished from the realm of film titles with his rebranding of the third Hobbit flick as The Battle of the Five Armies, we daren't speak too soon in this case either...

Superman Vs. Batman collides with cinemas worldwide on May 6th, 2016.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Marvel & DC TV Reviews Round-Up

Catch up with our definitive verdicts on all of the latest episodes of Arrow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
It has been a fair while now since we last laid down the law and slapped a rating on an episode of either Arrow or Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. To kill two birds with one arrow, then, so to speak, today we'll be rounding up our miniature-but-informative verdicts on the pair of superhero shows' recently televised instalments.

In the case of Arrow, you'll find below our reviews of Episodes 15-20 (The Promise; Suicide Squad; Birds of Prey; Deathstroke; The Man Under The Hood and Seeing Red) and in the case of Agents, prepare to learn our verdicts on Episodes 15-17 (Yes Men; End of the Beginning and Turn, Turn, Turn)...

  • THE PROMISE (4/5)- Shortly before its broadcast, producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim called The Promise the biggest episode of Arrow yet and, from an aesthetic perspective at least, it's not hard to see why. Like Season One's The Odyssey before it, at least three-quarters of Episode 15's action is set on the mysterious island where Oliver was shipwrecked for half a decade, yet despite the sheer ambition present in director Glen Winter's composition of several of the action setpieces that take place on a seabound freighter, the vast majority of those visceral confrontations tend to pale in comparison to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, particularly given that Marvel Studios' immensely satisfying political thriller launched in the UK in such close proximity to this instalment's première. Had events developed to such a rapid extent in The Promise's present-day sequences as they did in the flashbacks, we might have remembered its narrative as being more than the sum of its parts, but the end result is something more akin to Avatar, wherein the (here ultimately underwhelming) special effects take precedence to the staggered core storyline's detriment.
  • SUICIDE SQUAD (4/5)- Even if this marvellous romp of an episode had consisted solely of Tara Strong's hilarious and totally unexpected cameo as a deranged female prisoner (read: Harley Quinn!), we would have been more than happy to slap a solid 3* score on it there and then. Thankfully, Suicide Squad managed to offer plenty more than that inspired DC allusion over the course of its running time even in spite of its relatively inconsequential (at least in terms of the central Season Two plot arc) standalone narrative. Michael Rowe in particular shines once again (more than ever before, in fact) as the ever-charming Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, whose allegiances and sense of duty were tested by his new-found recruitment into the ranks of Amanda Waller's aptly-named Suicide Squad. If it's a vastly different take on the team of anti-heroes to Smallville which The CW are going for here, then they're most certainly heading in the correct direction, and even if Deathstroke's cameo at the climax of the episode couldn't have felt less natural if the writing team had tried, there was so much to love here that it's almost churlish to complain about such minor niggles.
  • BIRDS OF PREY (3/5)- Introducing Jessica De Gouw's vengeful Huntress back into the fold was always going to be a risky move for the Arrow production team, not least since her portrayal of the once-beloved DC character was one of the more criticised elements of the show's formative initial run. Nevertheless, despite the fact that De Gouw struggles to shine to any greater extent in Birds of Prey, the return of her incarnation of the Huntress does at least set a few narrative threads in motion which could well pay dividends for the series either in this season or the next. Most significant of all was scribe A.C. Bradley's contemplation of the implications that the Black Canary's time spent with the League of Assassins whilst separated from Oliver would have upon her present-day actions, and indeed, come Seeing Red it's impossible to miss the knock-on effect those events have had on the character and her day-to-day alter-ego. Sara Lance's moral compass has evidently been changed forever with "the Devil", as she later brands Ra's in Episode 20, and not necessarily for the better in terms of helping Starling City get back up onto its feet post-Undertaking. If only the casting managers could have selected a superior candidate to take on the role of the Huntress, perhaps Birds of Prey would have turned out to be another winner for the show, but even so, the groundwork which is laid here for future instalments almost justifies the severe drop in quality to near-mediocrity.
  • DEATHSTROKE (5/5)- After a fortnight's worth of what essentially amounted to filler content, our patience was repaid in full by this utterly stunning mid-season finale. Deathstroke kicks itself into high gear from the outset as Slade moves to kidnap Thea and in doing so gradually commence his campaign of tearing Oliver's world apart piece by piece, and though you might wonder how it's possible with five episodes still to go before the season wraps up, the entire episode refuses to let up until the credits roll. From Thea's discovery of her true parentage to Roy's departure from Starling to Isabelle's emergence as an ally of Slade to Laurel's inevitable yet cunningly timed realization (with a little help from Deathstroke) of Oliver's superhero alter-ego, we lost count of the number of pivotal sequences here which will without a doubt shape the course of the remainder of this season and beyond. Throw in more than a few sublime high-octane setpieces involving the Arrow and the Black Canary's first heated confrontations with Slade since his return from the dead, and you've got yourself quite possibly the best episode of Arrow since the show's inception. In other words? More, please!
  • THE MAN UNDER THE HOOD (4/5)- Few contemporary dramas could follow up on such an incredible singular instalment with another gem that comes close to matching its predecessor, but if it hadn't already become obvious by now, Arrow isn't like most other dramas out there today. Starting up with yet another remarkably explosive setpiece (which even throws in a neat callback to Time of Death in due course), The Man Under The Hood may not throw quite as many game-changing revelations into the mix as Deathstoke, but it sure does do its best to hold the fort from a revelatory and emotional perspective throughout. The sense that Episode 19's central purpose is to stall for time and gradually further specific strands of this year's multi-tiered story arc is fairly pervasive, naturally, yet that it does so in such a manner that watching it feels like nothing short of a pleasure is telling of Arrow's enduring power to sustain its viewership's interest regardless of the structure of its seasons.
  • SEEING RED (5/5)- If the titles of this week's chapter and next week's City of Blood are anything to go by, Berlanti and co are utilizing this fortnight to deal with some of the lingering elements of Season Two which either need to contribute to its finale in a meaningful way or be swept under its rug so as not to detract attention from Unthinkable's (probably) show-altering narrative in three weeks' time. First up on the roster is Roy, a character who has necessarily played second fiddle in the second half of Season Two as Olly has dedicated the vast majority of his time to discovering Slade's plans and finding a way to stop his most powerful foe yet. Thankfully, the uncharacteristically mute Colton Haynes receives fine justice in Seeing Red, which is saying something, as the episode has more than its fair share of emotional baggage and revelations to tackle (each of which are executed perfectly on-screen, we might add) even without the resurgence of a now-unwavering Roy on the streets of Starling City. Given that the episode has yet to air on Sky1, we shan't spoil precisely what transpires here, but suffice to say that Oliver Queen's life will never quite be the same again (for several reasons, in fact) once the credits have rolled this time around, and though such phrases are often tossed about with regards to US TV dramas and their shock moments, you're in for a Red Wedding-level surprise in Episode 20...
  • YES MEN (4/5)- More than any of its predecessors, it seems fair to assert of Yes Men that it represents the calm before Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s oncoming storm. We sincerely hope that any future US dramas take heed of how the show handles this quiet period, however, since against all of the odds, Episode 15 still turned out to be one of the show's best outings so far. Unlike The Well, which did such a lousy job at reacting to Thor: The Dark World that it was barely worthy of a puny god, let alone the Nine Realms and their Asgardian protectors, this instalment integrates Sif (one of Thor's Warriors Three accomplices) seamlessly into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., with Jaime Alexander's returning superheroine striking a fine dynamic with Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson amidst the frantic events of the mission-of-the-week. What really separates this one from the rest of Season One's pre-Captain America: The Winter Soldier output, however, is the inclusion of Elena Satine's Lorelei, a truly cold-hearted and manipulative antagonist whose inert charm is something which has been severely lacking in the case of the show's previous villains. If Agents is to survive for a second season (and the odds are looking increasingly in its favour on that front), then it sorely needs to bring Satine back into the fold and create a few more memorable characters along those lines to do so.
  • END OF THE BEGINNING (4/5)- Deathlok! The Clairvoyant! May's loyalties revealed! S.H.I.E.L.D. conspiracies! End of the Beginning does not hold back in the slightest when it comes to fulfilling many of the promises made by Agents' execs in the early stages of Season One, and although it's clearly the first entry in a two-part tale which threatens (thank goodness) to shake up the show's format entirely, the instantaneous knowledge of this set-up doesn't do anything to detract from its overall impact upon the viewer. Quite to the contrary, End's events will no doubt leave any seasoned fan of the Avengers franchise on the edge of their seats, desperate to know more on what's to come once the credits have rolled, an attribute which we wholeheartedly wish we could have seen in the crucial initial episodes of the run, especially since it seems as if plenty of long-term Marvel fans have jumped ship to Arrow and other dramas at this stage. By the very nature of its purpose within the context of the wider season structure, the only department in which Episode 16 comes up lacking is that of closure and the sense of a (here absent) satisfying standalone narrative, yet as you'll see from our next review, these shortcomings were tossed out of the Helicarrier one week later!
  • TURN, TURN, TURN (5/5)- What a difference one film can make- any doubts that The Winter Soldier's franchise-shifting conclusion would have a dramatic effect on Agents' status quo were virtually dispelled from the get-go in Turn, Turn, Turn, an episode which was nothing short of game-changing (in every sense of the word) and which marked a monumental peak for Season One overall. The phrase "Hail Hydra" is perhaps the best means by which we can begin to summarize the colossal impact that this week's storyline will inevitably have upon the remainder of the season's instalments, not least since several regular cast members and recurring guest stars were revealed to have been working for the antagonistic organization all along. Quite what ramifications these revelations will have for the remaining Agents of the now-defunct S.H.I.E.L.D. remains to be seen (we know these things, of course, but once again, we'll keep them under wraps so as to allow the events to come to be a gratifying surprise), yet if nothing else, knowing that those ramifications will continue to shift and alter the once-stale trajectory of the programme is more than enough to keep us ecstatic to see what's next. Prior to Episodes 16 and 17, the possibility of Agents gaining a second season re-commission seemed fairly faint, but after the masterful pair of episodes which have premièred in the UK over the last fortnight, we'll eat our Stan Lee-signed hats if the show isn't still on air come this Autumn...
For all the latest news, previews and reviews of upcoming instalments of both Arrow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., keep it On-Screen in the weeks ahead!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

New Watch Dogs Multiplayer Gameplay Trailer Released

You just can't keep a good dog down- the six month delay doesn't seem to have done Ubisoft any harm!
Ubisoft Montreal have this week released a new trailer for their upcoming open-world third-person-shooter video game Watch Dogs. Utilizing PC footage no doubt, the latest video preview focuses on the game's innovative online multiplayer component.

Like the vast majority of high-calibre titles on the market right now, Ubisoft's latest franchise-starter ditches the concept of offline, on-couch multiplayer modes in favour of gameplay styles which are better suited to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. In this case, however, we can't really say that we blame them, since the brilliantly unique concept of our campaigns being 'hacked' by other players at a random time works all the better if we can't see those intruders' faces, feeding into the pervading sense that the open-world Chicago is controlled primarily by the digital devices which the protagonist Aiden Pearce and his foes wield over the course of the action-driven storyline. Although it's tough to accurately tell from the new footage whether the aforementioned online sequences will be as seamless as the developers suggest, it's reassuring that Ubisoft at least aren't holding back in terms of demonstrating as much of their product's potential as possible in the run-up to release.

Watch Dogs hacks onto PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC this May 27th.

Death of Wolverine Comic-Book Arc Announced

An iconic, once-eternal Marvel superhero meets his end this Autumn!
Marvel Comics have today announced the publication of a new series of comic-books based on the most iconic member of their long-running X-Men series' ensemble of gifted 'youngsters'. Titled Death of Wolverine, the four-part arc will chronicle the downfall of James Howlett, better known to the world (and the Marvel Universe) at large as Wolverine.

As you'd expect from an announcement of this ilk, specifically one which lands months and months ahead of the series in question's publication, details on the arc itself, its structure (well, bar the supposedly inevitable climax, of course) and its ramifications for other characters in the Marvel Universe are non-existent at this point in time. We do already know that a storyline called 3 Months To Live will launch this Summer ahead of Death's première later in the year, presumably centring on the as-of-yet unrevealed event which causes Logan to lose his long-term mutant power of immortality. Since countless arcs featuring the character have focused on the aformentioned ability being both a blessing and a curse to its possessor, that scribe Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven have elected to craft a narrative which finally depicts Wolverine's demise makes complete sense, but just how much sustained longevity this event will have, especially given that dozens upon dozens of Marvel superheroes have defied death in days gone by.

The first issue of Death of Wolverine will be published in US comic-book retailers this September.

Star Wars Expanded Universe Reboot Announced

These are not the continuity strands you're looking for...or are they?
Walt Disney Pictures announced yesterday that the official continuity of their Star Wars science-fiction film franchise will receive a firm overhaul ahead of the release of Episode VII next year. Rather than including fan-favourite characters such as Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Starkiller who derive exclusively from licensed novels, video games, comic strips and the like in future big-screen instalments of the iconic saga, for the most part director J.J. Abrams, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and the extensive production team intend to carve their own path from a narrative perspective, even if it means outright overruling many of those story arcs which were previously established in the "Expanded Universe" in the process.

We're going to deal with the specific implications of this rather revolutionary decision in a few stages over the course of this article, but first, let's 'hear' the words straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Here's what Kennedy (one of the foremost members of the franchise's similarly-overhauled production team) had to say on the matter: "We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon. We're set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before." The news post on the official Star Wars confirms in addition that those novels which dealt with the aftermath of Return of the Jedi will essentially be rendered void by Episode[s] VII-IX, a revelation that's sure to rile more than a few old-school fans of George Lucas' dense universe of scum and villainy (and trust us, you'll find plenty of controversy regarding this subject matter on the web's various Wars-themed forums).

For all the criticism that the move will attract from seasoned veterans of all things far, far away, though, we here at On-Screen will gladly admit that the big news was met with sighs of great relief here. Fans who have even a basic knowledge of the EU and its ramifications for the original six films will attest to the fact that several of the classic comic-books and novels based in the Star Wars universe directly contradicted what came later in the three prequel instalments (for better or for worse), and if Disney are aiming for a cohesive ongoing narrative along the lines of their Avengers franchise/the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this case (indeed, much of the terminology featured in this press release regarding "interconnected storytelling" and "the canon" echoes Marvel Studios' own approach to their multi-million dollar superhero saga), then there's few better ways they could ensure it comes to pass than this. Video game developers such as DICE, EA, Visceral and BioWare all announced that they're working on licensed Star Wars titles for release in 2015 and beyond at E3 last year, so expect their much-anticipated projects to represent some of the first non-screen iterations of the reworked canon in the not too distant future.

Better yet, it transpires that we won't even need to wait for many more parsecs until we get our first proper look at how Star Wars will operate from this point onwards. Starting from this September, a series of new novels based in the re-established canon timeline will be released in UK and US book retailers, including A New Dawn (set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and intended to act as a prologue to the impending interconnected TV show Star Wars: Rebels), Lords of the Sith (set between Episodes III and IV once again), Tarkin (a mock-biography of Imperial commander Grand Moff Tarkin from life to death) Heir to the Jedi (a bridge between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back which plays out from the first-person perspective of Luke Skywalker himself). You can expect to hear plenty more details on Episode VII and its major players in the next week or so, and as ever, the best source for quality coverage of all of the latest news is On-Screen.

Star Wars Episode VII ignites its lightsaber in cinemas worldwide on December 18th, 2015. Meanwhile, Star Wars: A New Dawn launches in book retailers this September 2nd, Star Wars: Tarkin on November 4th, Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi in January 2015 and Star Wars: Lords of the Sith in March 2015. And lest we forget, Star Wars: Rebels premières on Disney XD this Autumn.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mario Kart 8 UK Release Date Announced

Lo and behold, a fully-fledged successor to Mario Kart Wii is finally about to arrive...
Nintendo have today announced the UK release date for their impending kart racing video game Mario Kart 8. Set to launch exclusively for the Nintendo WiiU home console, the sequel to both 2009's Mario Kart Wii and 2011's Mario Kart 7 will feature classic competitors such as Mario (just in case you hadn't already guessed that one) and Peach as well as newcomers such as the Koopa gang and Metal Mario.

Unless you've been living under a Mega Mushroom-shaped rock for the past decade or so, we're fairly sure that you'll know the drill in Mario Kart by this stage: you race your rivals, picking up a few power-ups along the way and (ideally) crossing the finish line first (we always have trouble with that last part, for some unknown reason!). Perhaps we're missing something here, but judging by screenshots and details regarding the eighth instalment's format, Nintendo's mantra for their latest sequel is something along the lines of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and while they aren't wrong, we can't imagine they'll be scooping in too many plaudits next month if Mario's first kart-based WiiU outing is essentially just Mario Kart Wii(U)...

Mario Kart 8 retails exclusively for Nintendo WiiU this May 30th.

First Jurassic World Promotional Images Released

No dinos yet, folks, but plenty of homages to the original cult smash-hit.Universal Pictures have today released the first promotional images (via Entertainment Weekly) for their 2015 fantasy blockbuster Jurassic World. Part-continuation, part-reboot, the fourth instalment in the beloved Jurassic Park film franchise stars Guardians of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt, As You Like It's Bryce Dallas Howard and Life of Pi's Irfan Khan.

Of course, the real stars of the show will naturally be those creatures who warrant the use of the word 'Jurassic' once again in the film's title. Sadly, though, the still-animatronic dinosaurs who lie in wait on the now re-commercialized Isla Nublar will have to wait until another day, since the aforementioned pics we've gotten ahold of today seem to be intended primarily as homages to some of the series' classic elements such as Nublar's stunning rural vistas and the near-iconic jeeps patrolling the prehistoric theme park. Though precise details on World's narrative are nowhere to be found just yet, expect to hear plenty more on the project and its production developments in the weeks ahead!

Jurassic World storms into cinemas worldwide on June 12th, 2015.

(Source: Total Film)

More Avengers: Age of Ultron Plot & Production Details Announced

The head honchos of next year's biggest sequel discuss what we can expect from it...
Executive producers Joss Whedon (the writer and director of Avengers Assemble) and Kevin Feige (president of Marvel Studios) have today revealed the first details on the narrative and ongoing production of Marvel Studios' upcoming superhero ensemble blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron. Set to launch in cinemas next Spring, the much-anticipated movie will mark the eleventh instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, bringing together each of the Avengers for a momentous battle with the seemingly invincible robot Ultron.

More than ever before (at least in the history of Age of Ultron's gradual marketing scheme), there's a lot to get through with regards to the pair of Marvel execs' comments (relayed by Empire Magazine) on the hype-laden follow-up, so without further ado, let's get down to business:

  • JOSS WHEDON ON AGE OF ULTRON'S ANTAGONIST- "I fiercely dislike the idea of just throwing in more people for the sake of doing that, but last time I had all of Earth's Mightiest Heroes versus one British character actor, and I needed more conflict. I'm having a blast with Ultron. He's not a creature of logic- he's a robot who's genuinely disturbed. We're finding out what makes him menacing and at the same time endearing and funny and strange and unexpected, and everything a robot never is."
  • WHEDON ON AGE OF ULTRON'S TONE- "The number of different looks and textures and moods we're getting from the British locations is stupid awesome, because this, palette-wise, is very different. I'm trying to make a different film. Because why would you make one movie twice? That seems weird."
  • KEVIN FEIGE ON THE DOCTOR STRANGE MOVIE- "There's a whole other side to the Marvel universe, which is the supernatural side. [...] I love that stuff. We haven't done anything that mind-trippy yet and for me, Doctor Strange is our doorway into that."
  • FEIGE ON WHETHER ANT-MAN'S SCRIPT INFLUENCED/WAS INFLUENCED BY EARLIER MCU MOVIES- "Not much. There's been a little bit of connective tissue that wouldn't have been there in [Edgar Wright]'s draft ten years ago. We changed, frankly some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back [to before Iron Man's release in 2008], helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time."
  • FEIGE ON HANK PYM [ULTRON'S CREATOR]'S ABSENCE IN AGE OF ULTRON- "It was two things- a story Edgar wanted to tell that we'll see with Michael Douglas [who'll play Pym] and Paul Rudd [Scott Lang], and now we're 11 films in, it's looking at the characters we've already introduced who already have the technology and the brains to do...certain things!"
  • FEIGE ON REALIZING THANOS IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY- "There is an actor. I'm not sure we want to announce it yet."
  • FEIGE ON QUICKSILVER & SCARLET WITCH'S PAST- "The key to their origin is in that tag ["The Age of Miracles", a phrase which Baron Von Strucker used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier's post-credits tag could be important here, but we'd be well advised not to forget that Loki's magical staff appeared in the scene as well!]. They're not very happy with the Avengers. Their powers are not insignificant and they're quite different from what the Avengers have faced before."
  • FEIGE ON PAUL BETTANY'S ROLE AS THE VISION- "Paul Bettany as The Vision? You're confusing me with your mind games. [...] If one were to confirm anything about Paul Bettany and look at the arc and the line of what Paul has done for us, that's pretty unique and cool and exciting and spins right out of stories we've told in the past."
  • FEIGE ON THE HULKBUSTER TEASER IMAGE- "[...] The specifics around [the image] we don't have to do for a while. It's a piece of armour we've wanted to see on-screen for a long time, let's put it that way. What is the Hulkbuster suit built for?..."
Phew! Did you manage to keep up with the onslaught of information? If not, and/or you have any further queries regarding Age of Ultron or the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then feel free to get in touch with us here at On-Screen via the usual social networking domains to find out more on those matters!

Avengers: Age of Ultron assembles in UK cinemas nationwide on April 24th, 2015.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies & Desolation Extended Edition Details Announced

Bilbo Baggins' next big-screen outing changes its name!
Warner Brothers Pictures have today announced a revised title for the upcoming third instalment in Peter Jackson's trilogy of film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel The Hobbit. Taking place sixty years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, the prequel movies star Sherlock's Martin Freeman, Robin Hood's Richard Armitage, X-Men: Days of Future Past's Ian McKellen and Star Trek Into Darkness' Benedict Cumberbatch amongst dozens of other esteemed British and American thespians.

Before today, this year's franchise finale went by the name of The Hobbit: There & Back Again, but we now know that it'll be called The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when it lands in cinemas later this year. Subtlety has never been the order of the day for the trilogy's various sub-titles, but it seems fair to say that this one pretty much takes the biscuit in terms of setting the stage for Jackson's piece to do precisely what it says on the tin. Those of us who've read The Hobbit in its entirety will recall that the Battle of the Five Armies is glossed over in the original text, not least because Bilbo ends up being knocked out in the opening moments of the confrontation, so unless Jackson and co are planning to throw a real curveball into the mix in eight months' time, expect them to have tweaked Bilbo's role in the narrative somewhat so as to have him contribute to the titular conflict in a meaningful way.

Not content with ruffling a few fans' feathers, however, Jackson has gone a step further and confirmed an approximate running time for the Extended Edition cut of the second film in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. As was the case with An Unexpected Journey, the bumper-length version of last December's mediocre middle instalment will land around a month before Battle hits cinemas, packing a host of original and extended scenes in the process. Rather than simply extending the running time by a reasonable 5-10 minutes, though, the director has revealed that he expects the final cut to be around 25 minutes longer than the box office version, bringing the running time up to approximately 186 minutes. Trust us when we say that the additional ten minutes of footage added to Unexpected in 2013 didn't do it any favours (in fact, they resulted in us dropping its 5* score down to 4* in that particular guise), and as we awarded Desolation just 3* due to its already overly hefty running time, suffice to say that we've got serious concerns about having to endure twenty-five further minutes of the Company of Dwarves being chased around the corridors of Erebor by Smaug (no doubt we'll be able to empathise with his fury come the credits...).

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies wages war in cinemas worldwide this December 17th, while The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- Extended Edition lands on DVD and Blu-Ray this Winter.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

In The Flesh Season Two Première Date Announced

BBC Three's (possible) saviour returns to our screens next month!
The BBC have today announced the première date of the second season of their supernatural drama In The Flesh. Starring Dominic Mitchell, the show focuses on a village called Roarton which has become infested with not-so-mindless hordes of the undead. As clichéd a premise as this might sound, we'd advise that you try out the spectacular first season before passing judgement on the series, since you just might find Season Two to be one of the surprise hits of this year.

In case you're wondering, the news itself comes from BBC Three's Tumblr account, where the channel have slowly revealed the date in question through a series of fragmented images of an ancient grave, inscribed with the relevant details as its epitaph. May will be a pretty hectic period for the TV industry, with Game of Thrones continuing its domination of the airwaves over in the States (and here too, of course) and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and Arrow both heading towards their finales at the month's halfway point. In The Flesh is in luck, though, since bar Britain's Got Talent, UK TV schedules for the next month or so are relatively empty, offering BBC Three an unparalleled opportunity to make their mark on their domestic viewership and in doing so to establish themselves as a viable digital broadcaster ahead of their impending demise (of sorts).

In The Flesh returns for its high-octane second season on BBC Three this May 4th at 10pm (will it be called In The Force for one day only, we wonder? Apologies.).

RIP Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

Our brief tribute to an American legend whose extensive screen career spanned two centuries.
We are saddened to relay the news of the passing of Mickey Rooney, who died of natural causes in his sleep on Sunday April 6th at the age of 93. A thespian whose filmography stretched from 1938 to the present day, the beloved American actor's legacy within his industry will without a shadow of a doubt be eternal.

The saddening reality is that Mickey's work will probably have passed many of our readers by, not least since in recent times he has only been able to make minor cameos in acclaimed motion pictures such as 2011's The Muppets. Nevertheless, it's passings such as these which often remind us to reignite our efforts to research and engage with the original works which elevated the film industry to the level of esteem that it holds today, and Mickey's supremely accomplished performances in classic big-screen productions such as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and Live, Love and Learn (1937) will certainly be remembered as having a paramount effect in this regard.

Our thoughts go out to Mickey's family and friends in this time of deep grief and endurance, and as a final tribute to the star's memory, we've included the musical number "Mahna Mahna" from the 2011 Muppets movie, which featured a cameo from him, below:

Derek Post-Season Two Future Teased

Could the Channel 4 comedy-drama mark Ricky Gervais' first three-season project?
Executive producer, writer and lead star Ricky Gervais has today discussed the future of his hit Channel 4 comedy-drama programme Derek. Set to return later today for its second season, the series depicts the antics of Derek Noakes (Gervais), an autistic care worker whose charm and unyielding faith in people begins to infect the other staff and residents at the Broad Hill nursing home.

To date, Gervais' shows such as The Office, Extras and Life's Too Short have only run for one or two seasons (at least in the case of their UK incarnations) and a Christmas/Easter Special due to the comic and actor usually wanting to move on to new material rather than continuously cashing in on repetitive catchphrases and gimmicks (indeed, Extras placed its focus on a fictitious TV writer who faced much the same dilemma). The situation may not be as simple as that for Derek, however, since Gervais has hinted that he is considering the notion of penning a full third season of six further episodes for Channel 4 in the not too distant future.

Nothing's certain as of yet, but here's what he had to say on the matter to Digital Spy: "It's the first time I've ever considered doing a third series of something. I think I certainly want to do the two series and a special for Derek and then see. I don't want to make TV for the sake of it. You have other ideas and also you don't want to outstay your welcome." If nothing else, it's reassuring to hear direct from the horse's mouth that we should still receive a seasonal Special of Derek after Season Two has aired (and let's be honest, Christmas 2014 seems like a pretty safe bet if so), yet this writer would be ecstatic to see a full third season put into production, and if that scenario does come to pass, then you'll be the first to know here at On-Screen.

Derek returns to Channel 4 for its emotional second season tonight (April 23rd) at 10pm.

Avengers: Age of Ultron UK Release Date Announced

Find out when the Avengers will assemble (again) in Britannia!
Marvel Studios have today announced the UK release date for their upcoming superhero ensemble blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron. The sequel to Avengers Assemble, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy will feature Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johannson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo at the head of an all-star cast.

As was the case with Batman Vs. Superman's UK release date announcement yesterday, it transpires that we here in Great Britain are going to have the chance to see this much-anticipated team-up film a week ahead of the United States. In the grand scheme of things, this scheduling revision isn't likely to have a particularly noticeable effect on the production's box office takings, but all the same, for those of us who call ourselves fans of Stan and his infinite range of comic-book characters, the news that we're getting a better deal than our Stateside cohorts in Age's case should undoubtedly be welcomed.

Avengers: Age of Ultron assembles in UK cinemas nationwide on April 24th, 2015 (and in the US, it'll open on May 1st, 2015).

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Game of Thrones Season Four Episodes 5-7 Plot Synopses Released

An Imp will face judgement, a Khaleesi will make plans and new alliances will be forged in the weeks ahead!
HBO Studios have today released plot synopses for three upcoming instalments in the fourth season of their hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Based loosely on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George R.R. Martin, the show has sparked controversy in abundance this week thanks to its inclusion of a not-so-ambiguous sequence involving non-consensual sexual intercourse between Jaime and Cersei Lannister.

We shouldn't need to remind you that there'll be light spoilers in each of the synopses, though nothing more or less so than any of the footage shown in previously-released or upcoming episode trailers. Here's our round-up of the plot précises for Episodes 5-7 of Season Four:

  • EPISODE 5: "FIRST OF HIS NAME"- "Cersei and Tywin plot the Crown's next move. Dany discusses future plans. Jon embarks on a new mission."
  • EPISODE 6: "THE LAWS OF GODS AND MEN"- "Stannis and Davos set sail with a new strategy. Dany meets with supplicants. Tyrion faces down his father in the throne room."
  • EPISODE 7: "MOCKINGBIRD"- "Tyrion enlists an unlikely ally. Daario entreats Dany to allow him to do what he does best. Jon's warnings about the Wall's vulnerability fall on deaf ears. Brienne follows a new lead on the road with Pod."
And that's your lot for now. Stay tuned to On-Screen over the next few days, as we'll be bringing you our definitive verdicts on Episodes 1-3, i.e. "Two Swords", "The Lion and the Rose" and "Breaker of Chains".

Game of Thrones continues next Monday, April 28th with "Oathkeeper" on Sky Atlantic at 9pm.

First Call of Duty 2014 Promotional Image Released

Source: IGN
Ghosts may have taken the franchise to new lows, but there's no stopping the COD train.
Sledgehammer Games have today released the first promotional image of this year's annual Call of Duty video game. Reportedly set to continue the narrative of the Modern Warfare series, the series' eleventh chapter will apparently retail on both next-generation and current-generation consoles in a similar vein to the FIFA franchise's continued multi-generational release strategy.

In terms of precisely what we're meant to glean from this initial screenshot other than that the soldiers we control and fight alongside in this year's COD will look that much better thanks to texture upgrades on One and PS4, we're stumped at this point in time. Nevertheless, if and when concrete new details emerge on Call of Duty 2014 (as we'll brand it until we hear otherwise, since the franchise is edging closer to FIFA territory thanks to its increasingly minimal yearly feature overhauls)'s narrative, its multiplayer modes and its release window (read: November), you'll be the first to know right here at On-Screen.

Call of Duty 2014 will blast onto PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC this Winter.

New X-Men: Days of Future Past TV Spot Released

May 22nd nears ever closer as we get yet another glimpse at Fox's time-travelling epic.
20th Century Fox have today released a second television trailer (below) for their upcoming superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past. Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, the eighth instalment in the hit franchise of blockbuster movies will see X-Men young and old unite in order to battle the near-unstoppable armada of Sentinel Mark X soldiers which threaten to destroy mutantkind.

In comparison to The Amazing Spider-Man 2's overstuffed marketing campaign, Days of Future Past's promotional tactics have been relatively lightweight until now. With Sony's only major superhero film of 2014 done and dusted, though, it looks as if Fox are seizing the opportunity to make their voices heard in the Summer of Film, revealing a host of new video clips from both Days and their impending fantasy movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. We'll have more on both of these increasingly promising projects in the weeks ahead, so keep it On-Screen for all of the latest developments...

X-Men: Days of Future Past materializes in UK cinemas nationwide this May 22nd.

First How To Train Your Dragon 2 Promotional Clip Released

It turns out that you needn't have rushed to ODEON to catch the first five minutes of the movie over the weekend.
DreamWorks Pictures have today released the first promotional clip for their impending animated film How To Train Your Dragon 2. The long-awaited follow-up to 2011's How To Train Your Dragon will depict Hiccup and Toothless' first encounters with a vast range of different dragon communities and a deadly new enemy who threatens to render their entire species extinct.

For any viewer who attended a screening of any of the films being shown at ODEON right now over the Easter weekend, this clip will seem mighty familiar, and that's because the cinema chain launched it alongside all of their screenings for four days only to help DreamWorks further promote the sequel here in the UK. As marketing stunts go, we'd wager that this is likely to go down as one of the more effective examples for the animated genre in 2014, especially since dozens upon dozens of kids were likely taken to see Rio 2 once they had overdosed on chocolate last Sunday. Here's hoping that the production team can trump the aforementioned Easter cash-in parrot film by miles when they launch what looks to be this year's hottest animated effort (barring The LEGO Movie, of course) in three months' time!

How To Train Your Dragon 2 unleashes its fire upon UK cinemas nationwide this July 4th.

New Sherlock Season Four Production Details Revealed

"Did you miss me?" may be a question that's on our minds for a good while yet!
Lead star Martin Freeman has this week revealed new details regarding filming schedules for the upcoming fourth season of the BBC's acclaimed detective drama Sherlock. A loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes series of novels, the show stars Benedict Cumberbatch in its titular role, Freeman as John Watson and Amanda Abbington as the latter's newfound spouse Mary Watson.

While in many ways it shouldn't come as a real shock to seasoned fans, the news that production on Season Four has once again been delayed still isn't something which will alleviate any concerns about the waiting time between seasons. Indeed, viewers were forced to wait nearly two years to discover the truth behind the resurrection of Holmes, and many would argue that the revelation itself hardly justified the elongated tension and speculation. Freeman recently informed The Guardian that "the [original] plan was to film [Season Four] in the Autumn but apparently that's fallen away." If execs Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss hope to garner a more positive critical reaction to their next run of murder mysteries and intellectually-stimulating cases, especially now that fans' patience is set to potentially be tested for another twenty-four months, then the pair will need to endeavour to bring their A-game with their latest trio of scripts.

Judging by all of the evidence, Sherlock will return for its action-packed fourth season in January 2016.

First Star Wars: Rebels Promotional Clip Released

Jedi warriors, astromech droids and Tie Fighters burst onto Disney XD later this year...
Walt Disney Pictures have this week released the first promotional clip for their upcoming science-fiction TV series Star Wars: Rebels. Set between the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), the show will chronicle the rise of the Rebel Alliance and the ongoing quest of the Galactic Empire to wipe out each and every remaining member of the Jedi Order.

Contrary to the expectations of many fans, however, this first video preview (taken from the Wondercon showfloor, no less) features a good deal of humour rather than over-emphasising the doom-and-gloom tone which could quite easily pervade a series set in such a foreboding period of the Star Wars timeline. Our first glimpse at Rebels does admittedly come from an unspecified episode, which could mean that things get a lot darker and mirror the tone of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as its first season progresses, but if that were the case, then we suspect that Disney and Lucasfilm would have premièred a clip which reflected such a tonal shift. Nevertheless, we wish the production team the very best of luck as they endeavour to commence the revival of the much-maligned modern incarnation of the franchise with a bang.

Star Wars: Rebels premières on Disney XD in both the US and the UK this Autumn.

New Doctor Who Comic-Book Companions Announced

Geronimo! Prepare for new escapades with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors this Summer.
IDW Comics and BBC Worldwide have today announced two new fictitious companions set to feature in future comic-strips based on the BBC's beloved science-fiction drama Doctor Who. The news follows the début of the Twelfth Doctor on our screens last Christmas, a new and daring incarnation of the Time Lord who will make his first appearance in IDW's ongoing range of Who graphic novels closer to the time of his first full season of televised adventures.

For now, then, we're staying focused on Doctors from days gone by, specifically the Tenth (played by David Tennant from 2006-2009) and Eleventh (played by Matt Smith from 2010-2013) versions of the eternal extraterrestrial. The former will be joined by Gabriella Gonzalez, a Latino laundress who collides with the Doctor in the midst of the Day of the Dead celebrations in a post-Season Four multi-part narrative, and the latter will come face to face with a recently-motherless young woman named Alice Obiefune shortly after the events of the 2010 season finale The Big Bang. Previous arcs in the US Doctor Who comic-book range have involved crossovers with other sci-fi franchises such as Star Trek and plenty of classic Doctors, so don't expect anything to be off limits when the series returns in graphic form...

IDW's Doctor Who comic-strips will continue with new issues in the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor ranges starting from July 23rd.