COMING TO UK BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM APRIL 18TH, 2016

LUKE SKYWALKER RETURNS TO THE GALAXY, FROM DECEMBER 15TH, 2017

Saturday, 23 July 2016

COMING SOON: 'RETURN OF THE JEDI - THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES' BOOK


Fans of TOPPS guru Gary Gerani and ABRAMS COMICARTS continuing celebration of the original and iconic STAR WARS Classic Trilogy TOPPS cards series will be pleased to hear that their lovely new mini-hardcover book on Return of the Jedi arrives next month (August 16th, 2016).

Here's the details:

Following the success of Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Topps released two brand-new sets of collectable trading cards in 1983 to coincide with Return of the Jedi, the final instalment of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy. Now, for the first time, all 220 cards and 55 stickers are reprinted in one deluxe volume. As with the previous books in the Topps series, this collection features the fronts and backs of each card, including character profiles and puzzles featuring all of your favorite scenes from Return of the Jedi. Also included are four bonus trading cards, rare promotional images, and an introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series.


Also available from Topps: Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two, and Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series.

Preview: Topps' Return of the Jedi Trading Cards from 1983! | StarWars.com

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three (Topps Star Wars): Amazon.co.uk: The Topps Company, Gary Gerani, Lucasfilm Ltd: 9781419720925: Books

Look for more coverage of the book on STAR WARS AFICIONADO soon...

Friday, 22 July 2016

ROGUE ONE: WELCOME TO JEDHA!


Within the spiritual cities of the dusty planet Jedha, its peoples and culture celebrating the Force and the once Jedi Knights (as well as being an intriguing lead-in to the opening events of THE FORCE AWAKENS), simmering tensions are building against the occupying Imperial legions. A scenario that Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor will surely exploit to the full, during the middle explosive storytelling of ROGUE ONE.

Rogue One Director Explains Why Spiritual New Planet Jedha Is So Important - MTV

Forty-eight minute official STARWARS.COM version of CELEBRATION panel (minus the big unintentional spoiler): Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Panel | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube

Other ROGUE ONE news:

Rogue One Opening Crawl Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube
Star Wars: Rogue One creatures Pao, Bistan introduced | EW.com
EW Reveals Bios Of 'Rogue One' Alien Characters | The Star Wars Underworld
New 'Rogue One' Character Revealed At #SDCC | The Star Wars Underworld
John Knoll Interview | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube

Thursday, 21 July 2016

CELEBRATION 2016: CARRIE FISHER CONFIRMED FOR 'EPISODE IX'


It's been a hectic week for SW fans coming down from their CELEBRATION fix, now catching up with all the things we missed via STARWARS.COM. Carrie Fisher's appearance on the STAR WARS SHOW LIVE Stage after her Sunday talk proved very interesting, the actress confirming near its end that she completed EPISODE VIII four days prior to the convention, and would soon be back as General Leia Organa for some part of the eventual EPISODE IX storytelling. Good news indeed, especially as we'd heard rumours that Carrie's role in VIII had been scaled back.

Carrie Fisher Interview | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube

Carrie Fisher: The Princess Diaries | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube

OUT THIS MONTH IN UK PAPERBACK: 'STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT: TWILIGHT COMPANY'


We're still five months away from experiencing the gritty, hip-deep-in-the-action characters and camera work of Gareth Edward's Rebel versus Empire battle for the Death Star plans that is ROGUE ONE. Until then, and to get you fully prepared for that incredible and brutal conflict ahead, why not try out the densely atmospheric war tale that is Alexander Freed's acclaimed STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT: TWILIGHT COMPANY, taking the world of populist and innovative video gaming and translating it to the kind of realism, of blood, sweat and consequences, and where people are transformed into heroes, that can only be found in novel form, out next week in UK paperback, courtesy of ARROW BOOKS. With such similar content and atmosphere, its no surprise to me that the author has been confidently commissioned by LUCAS BOOKS to handle the official novel adaptation of ROGUE ONE.

Excerpt: In Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company, Darth Vader Strikes - Exclusive Excerpt! | StarWars.com

Get it here: Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company: Amazon.co.uk: Alexander Freed: 9781784750046: Books

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'STAR TREK BEYOND'

The exciting universe of STAR TREK BEYOND arrives in cinemas from July 22nd, 2016. Images: PARAMOUNT.

Frantic action and visual spectacle are the main watchwords for the latest adventure in the legendary STAR TREK series re-imagining created for modern generation IMAX lovers. J.J. Abrams confident mastering of the sci-fi material via his two previous adventures in 2009 and 2013 has now been transferred to a new custodian, the at-first controversial choice of FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise director Justin Lin. I'm happy to report that Lin's status as a die-hard fan of the series, since its syndicated success in the early seventies, is clear to see within the entire structure of STAR TREK BEYOND, as he and writer/fellow fan Simon Pegg concoct a film that, despite a thinness of plot, has lots to recommend, with the odd surprise here and there thrown in, that most fans will be genuinely pleased with, bolstered by some equally worthy special references and celebrations (in this landmark Fiftieth Anniversary year) to those early ground-breaking adventures first realised on TV by William Shatner, the late, great Leonard Nimoy, and their other esteemed supporting cast mates. There's even some clever referencing to the later series franchises that's equally satisfying, especially the under-rated STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE, and a notable tribute to Abrams so well received re-launch film.

A new world, a new peril, awaits Captain Kirk (Chris Pine).

The special friendship and rivalry between Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) continues.

The cast of the re-invigorated U.S.S. Enterprise are ultimately as hip and fun as ever, though STAR TREK BEYOND starts off on an interesting and slightly somber note: Chris Pine's James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Vulcan science officer Spock's maturing figures more melancholy as their ship and crew enter the third year of their incredible space exploration mission at the Final Frontier- for the most part totally on their own in its dark wilderness. That broodiness soon disappears into a massive adrenaline fight for survival when our beloved vessel is rapidly torn to shreds by an unknown swarm force whilst responding to a far-off distress call, for what becomes a superb and genuinely thrilling sequence, a crucial part of a movie with absolutely superb effects work at their biggest scale yet. As the splintered crew, now trapped ashore on a craggy and hostile world, are captured by the 'unique' alien warlord Krall (underused but played with charisma by Idris Elba), Gene Roddenberry's diverse heroes show their mettle through the story both separately, in duos, and together, whilst fighting back, aided by the mysterious and charming new alien heroine that is Jaylah (a standout Sofia Boutella). This time out, John Cho's Mister Sulu and the much-missed Anton Yelchin's Chekov thankfully get more to do than the previous INTO DARKNESS, but the lovely presence of Zoe Saldana's Lt. Uhura is wasted yet again.

Singular resistance fighter Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a plus for the movie.

Overall, and to its credit, STAR TREK BEYOND has the kind of series episode feel that viewers will remember and enjoy. Let your brain skip over the self-indulgent technobabble present, and the vital lack of a clearly defined morality message that was always such a key strength to the original version of STAR TREK, and just swim in the cinematic fireworks and surrounding enthusiasm so warmly present across two hours.

AFICIONADO RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

CLASSIC ART: THE McQUARRIE COVER LEGACY!



Darth Vader looms large and ominous above the main heroes of the classic STAR WARS novelisation cover from 1976- artist Ralph McQuarrie's personal and unique vision of this iconic character, seen here, as enduring as ever through all kinds of continuing medium linked to the franchise.

CELEBRATION 2016: RE-INTRODUCING 'HAN SOLO'!

Rising star for STAR WARS: Alden Ehrenreich. Image: STARWARS.COM

It was the worst kept secret in Hollywood for months, but London ultimately became the place where STAR WARS fans were finally give the official LUCASFILM confirmation that Alden Ehrenreich had beaten out thousands of hopefuls and been selected to play Han Solo in the so-far untitled action adventure with humour/origins story for Han Solo's early years, and the start of his unique friendship with Chewbacca, from the pen of Larry Kasdan and his son. As the pre-production phase begins, STAR WARS AFICIONADO sends out congratulations to Alden and the movie team and wishes them success with what's to come- all of them must surely feel a huge weight and responsibility to get this one dead right story-wise and tonally.

An early teaser shot on the Falcon set, presumably from the screen test. Image: Chris Miller/TWITTER.

Introducing Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo at Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
Alden Ehrenreich welcomed to role of young Han Solo with Star Wars Celebration Europe appearance - YouTube
Han Solo Movie Directors Chris Miller & Phil Lord Interview - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube

At the Celebration 2016 event's Future Filmmaker's Panel.

Star Wars Celebration Future Filmmakers Panel Part 1 Highlights (Episode VII & Han Solo Movie) - YouTube
Star Wars Future Filmmakers Panel Part 2 Highlights - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
HAN SOLO MOVIE Panel Highlights - Star Wars Celebration - YouTube
The Han Solo Movie Script Is "By Far The Best Star Wars Script"

CELEBRATION 2016: 'STAR WARS REBELS' SEASON THREE DEBUTS


Elevating the term "The Art of War" to a whole new plain, the animated debut of the calculating alien Grand Admiral Thrawn into the animated universe of STAR WARS for REBELS Season Three, back on DISNEY XD later in the year, has been most welcome and appreciated by two generations, and beyond, of excited fans.

Just as exciting this year, look out for more links to ROGUE ONE, and the return of Darth Maul, Cham Syndulla, Mandalorians of all kinds and armour colour schemes, and comedy scoundrel Hondo, plus the debut of an Empire defecting Wedge Antilles, and former DOCTOR WHO Tom Baker as the Bendu alien, an important creature with unique ties to the Force.

Coming soon...

Star Wars Rebels Season Three Trailer (Official) - YouTube
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Panel | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube
Tiya Sircar Interview | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube
SWCE 2016: 11 Things We Learned from the Star Wars Rebels Season Three Panel | StarWars.com
Enter Thrawn: A Q&A with Timothy Zahn | StarWars.com
New Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Clip! - YouTube
New Darth Maul Clip - Star Wars Rebels Season 3 - YouTube
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Panel Clip Sabine In Action With New Look - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
Star Wars Celebration 2016: Maul Originally Was Going to Die in Rebels' Season 2 Finale - IGN
Doctor Who News: Tom Baker joins Star Wars Rebels

Monday, 18 July 2016

CELEBRATION 2016: AFICIONADO's HIGHLIGHTS

Sagas old and new at CELEBRATION 2016. Image: STARWARS.COM

So much to see and do, and yet there still wasn't enough time to experience it all. Regardless, STAR WARS AFICIONADO's Scott Weller crammed in an exceptionally busy schedule at STAR WARS CELEBRATION, up daily with the pre-dawn chorus wristband queuing, to look back at so many favourite moments from 15th- 17th July, 2016. The year that truly belonged to ROGUE ONE.

Unless otherwise credited, photos by Scott Weller


FRIDAY

1. Always enjoying the first sights of promotional material across the event from the outside Docklands Light Railway platforms onwards, to what all the halls would look like across the weekend. Its that all-important, first senses-awakening aspect to participating in a STAR WARS CELEBRATION event.

Closing Ceremony Reel | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube


Anakin and Ahsoka reunited for a never made THE CLONE WARS episode. Image: Dave Filoni.

2. Ashley Eckstein's joyous but emotional and tearful response to the planned but never-made-to- animated-reality adventures between the end of THE CLONE WARS and STAR WARS REBELS revealed in the Ahsoka's Untold Stories panel. And let's not forget the always amusing, hating direct questions from the all too sharp kids, Dave Filoni, who, along with Matthew Wood and John Knoll, is one of the few fan favourite people left within the public SW community arena with ties to the original and prequel universes, and the inheritance of George Lucas' franchise.

3. The incredible 3-D CGI panorama created by John Knoll of the original Death Star docking bay interior, using available reference material. I was blown away by how good it looked on the digital screen, during the ILM Presents: Star Wars Archeology panel. Special kudos to Doug Chiang for his enthusiastic look back to the Prequels and now to ROGUE ONE, with its own unique mix of old/new practical design alongside ground breaking new areas. Also good to see his confirmation that more practical model work was done for EPISODE I than most other SW movies.

Image: STARWARS.COM

5. Ben Mendelsohn truly returning to his inner fandom roots by dressing as Director Krennic and parading onto the Celebration Stage for the ROGUE ONE panel. An outstanding moment. I also enjoyed his later flirty banter with the always vivacious Gwendoline Christie, who made a fine CELEBRATION host. Also, a mention to genre favourite Alan Tudyk on stage, whose droll humour proved popular-clearly a perfect choice to play what will be very imperfect new former Imperial droid aiding our heroes. Kathleen Kennedy was clearly watching what the actors were saying about the film, but looked more relaxed as the presentation went on, whilst the "Sizzle Reel" for the film got several playings.

6. An hilarious three-way lightsaber duel, with bad accompanying singing of "Duel of the Fates", taking place in the car park between three clearly drunk British "Jedi" outside, below my hotel room window, at 12.30am, when I really needed sleep!


SATURDAY

1. A better than I expected panel linked to The Creatures, Droids and Aliens of TFA. It was lovely to see the dedication and responsibility to the saga held by Neal Scanlan and his clearly enthused team of practical engineers, and the items brought to show the audience. Great to find out more about the return of Chewbacca (played by three actors overall, with each having two suits created for them). And then there was another fantastic look at the alien seen briefly in the ROGUE ONE showreel: the team named "Space Monkey"- truly impressive up close and certainly giving stage compere Warwick Davis and his nearby Ewok memorabilia a hard time.

UPDATED: "Space Monkey"s name and species revealed:Star Wars: Rogue One creatures Pao, Bistan introduced | EW.com

2. Didn't see the panel except on outside screen, but Anthony Daniels red arm improvisation to his infamous golden coat was a fun touch, and tribute, to his appearance in TFA. I gather Daniels took control of, a.k.a. sabotaged, Warwick's control of the panel for a while.

3. Seeing Classic Trilogy producer Gary Kurtz at the event, there for a look around and to say "hi" to Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Also about that day, TFA production designer Rick Carter.

5. Getting a better look at all the brilliant Cosplay work. Friday was Leia's day, Saturday was a tie between Leia and Rey (there in every age group conceivable, from infant to mature), whilst Sunday was clearly "Rey Day"! Special shout outs to the ROGUE ONE fan costumers, especially the little boy dressed up as Krennic, in a brilliant costume, and even parading about in the same manner, plus a singular Jyn Erso lookalike.



6. The ROGUE ONE costumes area- nicely done and likely better presented than THE FORCE AWAKENS presentation had been at the Anaheim CELEBRATION of a year ago. The new Stormtroopers (Death Troopers and Shoretroopers) looked incredible, as did the new Imperial shuttle.

Image: DISNEY XD/LUCASFILM.

7. STAR WARS REBELS day at CELEBRATION. The audience going absolutely insane with the reveal of the beloved book baddy Thrawn to the series, and the chants of happiness to Dave Filoni for his, and the Lucasfilm team's, creative decision and tribute to the work of Timothy Zahn and the now defunct, original version of the Expanded Universe. It was also great hearing Filoni talking about the always charismatic former DOCTOR WHO Tom Baker, voicing the mysterious new alien Bendu creature with charm and authority, and how besotted Filoni's wife was when they came to England and met up with him!

Didn't like the distracting security team on the aisles, let loose in looking out for the spoiler brigade during the episode screening, though, but it had to be done. The two Season Three launching episodes had some great new visual looks for Ezra and Sabine, but weren't in the same league story-wise as the striking and brutal opening Vader episodes of Season Two, with Thrawn's series arrival a little too subtle for my tastes. The Y-wing rescue plot line of the second half was enjoyable: the building links to ROGUE ONE starting here!

Image: via Doug Chiang FACEBOOK page.

8. The surprise appearance of Gareth Edwards, dressed as a Stormtrooper at The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel, asking a humorous question to a Brit teammate, watched by a thrilled audience.

Lucas visits Gareth Edwards and the ROGUE ONE filming. Image: LUCASFILM.

9. At the end of that panel, I asked the final audience question to the conceptual art team: whether any concept work had been done for the unused George Lucas story treatment for EPISODE VII. The controversial looks on David Collins and the panellists faces was interesting and they clearly didn't want to answer this one. It was left to LUCASFILM Story Group's very serious Rayne Roberts to firmly say that nothing was done. Sorry, but I don't believe that one, at all!

Art: Tsuneo Sanda.

10. Enjoying the CELEBRATION Art Show area, and always wishing I could be as good as these fabulous guys and gals. Love the work of Sanda, and it was Also great to separately catch up with Matt Busch and talk about his Holiday Special piece from Anaheim's CELEBRATION.

Art: Matt Busch.
Image: DISNEY EXPERIENCE.

11. Mark Hamill's impromptu, surprise solo talk near the end of the day to a mass of spellbound fans on the impressive Falcon interior Star Wars Show stage. We were all forced out for closing when we could have heard him for much longer.

Mark Hamill Randomly Takes Over And Tells Stories!! Very Funny! - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube

12. Watching the late evening Celebration Stage screening of THE FORCE AWAKENS with a die-hard audience, full of clapping, cheering, and waving coloured lightsabers. There was a small technical hitch with the opening crawl but that didn't dampen the viewing fun. The previous night's A NEW HOPE (2011 Blu-ray version) screening was also good, though its clear that the re-mastered background use of the amazing John Williams music is still too low in the mix in comparison to the original release sound design.


SUNDAY

1. A very worthy presentation looking at unused/restored music cues for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, hosted and worked on by David Collins. Its just a shame that so much noise and music from the outside merchandising stopped the more subtle restored cues from reaching the audiences ears.

Image: LUCASFILM.

2. The very interesting reveal of the new interactive Darth Vader Virtual Reality experience from the ILMxLab panel (written by BATMAN BEGINS' David Goyer, no less!), at the Lucasfilm: The Art of Storytelling Panel, featuring core talents from the various LUCASFILM departments, and how they've become more cohesive and bolder in ambition and storytelling for STAR WARS, and beyond.

SWCE 2016: David Goyer Working on ILMxLAB VR Project and Trials on Tatooine Comes Home | StarWars.com

Image: STARWARS.COM

3. Firmly sat on comfy seating for the final "event" of CELEBRATION: Future Filmmakers Discussion, and being impressed with Rian Johnson's subtle but intelligent approach to crafting EPISODE VIII, and the promise of some great camera work from him, as revealed by Kathleen Kennedy.

Image: STARWARS.COM

4. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill's oldster "bickering" on the Future Filmmakers panel, with John Boyega adding additional fun to this large assemblage of on stage talent, especially giving advice to the new Han Solo in Alden Ehrenreich, and its directors.

The Princess Leia medal ceremony dress from EPISODE IV, on display at the PROP STORE booth.

5. Taking a last half-hour look around the always busy two venue sections and photographing anything I missed!

Plenty of stands to visit before the final closing call!

Finally, a special "Hello!" to all the various stalls/publicity people, younger enthused event stewards, and fans from across the country, and the world, who were so friendly to meet and talk to across the three days. May the Force be with them all!

CELEBRATION 2016: 'EPISODE VIII' LATEST

Rian Johnson, Kiri Hart, Kathleen Kennedy and Pablo Hidalgo at the Future Filmmakers panel. Image: STARWARS.COM.

ROGUE ONE deservedly had the limelight at CELEBRATION 2016, but the upcoming, equally anticipated EPISODE VIII had some solid representation, too, primarily from director Rian Johnson, at first nervous to go on stage but soon coming out of his shell in showing his humour and affection for STAR WARS, whilst the hoped for, all-too-brief surprise appearance of John Boyega was a treat: fun, enthused and clearly loving it all!

One of Johnson's BTS images shown at the panel, of TIE fighter pilot filming.

SWCE 2016: Future Filmmaker Discussion Liveblog | StarWars.com
STAR WARS EPISODE 8 Panel Highlights - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
John Boyega attends Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
Star Wars Celebration Future Filmmakers Panel Part 1 Highlights (Episode VII & Han Solo Movie) - YouTube
Star Wars Future Filmmakers Panel Part 2 Highlights - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
Star Wars: Episode VIII Director Rian Johnson Interview - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube
Carrie Fisher Accidentally Revealed a Depressing Star Wars: Episode VIII Spoiler
STAR WARS EPISODE 8 Panel Highlights - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube

END OF FILMING UPDATE: Star Wars: Episode 8: Rian Johnson announces end of filming | EW.com

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