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Review: Catalyst (audiobook)

We’re less than a month out from Rogue One and discovering just what a non-Saga, “anthology” Star Wars film looks like. Lucasfilm seems to be dipping its toe in the non-Saga pool gently, giving us a story — the theft of the plans to the first Death Star — separate from but still intrinsically linked to the original Star Wars film. In the meantime, to whet our appetites and give us some backstory for the characters we’ll meet in the film, Legends and Tarkin alum James Luceno has brought us Catalyst, the story of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic (Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn in the film, respectively) and how their unlikely friendship led to the development of the galaxy’s most powerful weapon.

Random House has consistently released audiobook versions of the novels in the new canon, and Catalyst is no exception. Catalyst is performed by Jonathan Davis — not the lead singer of Korn, but the veteran of more than four hundred(!) audiobook recordings, over of thirty of which were under the Star Wars banner.

So, how does Catalyst work — as a stand-alone novel, as a film prelude, and as an audiobook production? Read on to find out! Continue reading

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Rebels Review: 3.06 – “Imperial Supercommandos”

Fenn Rau returns, we learn a little more about what’s happened on Mandalore since the Empire took over, and Sabine finally gets a jetpack. “Imperial Supercommandos” serves not only as a sequel to season 2’s “The Protector of Concord Dawn,” but doles out a little more insight into Sabine’s backstory.

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Review: The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (audiobook)

John Scalzi is a busy guy. In between writing novels, winning Hugo awards for said novels, and extolling the virtues of churros on Twitter, he’s managed to write a short story called “The Dispatcher,” which, as read by Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, was released earlier this month as an  Audible exclusive, for free. The audio story will remain free until November 2, so we thought we’d give it a listen and let you know if it’s worth your time.

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Review: Ahsoka (audiobook)

Ever since Ahsoka Tano walked into the sunset in the season five finale of The Clone Wars, I’ve hoped for a novel or a comic series detailing her post-Jedi existence. The release of Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir and Dark Disciple, a comic and a book, respectively, based on storied intended to be The Clone Wars story arcs, heightened my anticipation. Fortunately, right on the heels of the Rebels season two finale — which showed Ahsoka once again striding away from the camera into an uncertain future — we got the announcement that everyone’s favorite Togruta Padawan would indeed be getting her own novel. Heightening the excitement was the later announcement that the voice of Ahsoka herself, Ashley Eckstein, would be performing the audiobook.

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To the jump!

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REVIEW: Star Wars Rebels: complete season two Blu-ray set

It’s safe to say season one of Rebels was a success, though it was criticized by many as being too small scale and low stakes. Season one certainly had a limited scope — by design, and, in my opinion, smartly so — though the three-part season finale, which reintroduced Grand Moff Tarkin, included a spectacular battle in orbit of Mustafar, and teased us with the arrival of both Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano, hinted at a somewhat wider scope and scale for season two. Did season two build on what season one laid down in a logical and satisfying way? Was the show able to continue to develop its characters while achieving a larger scale? And is the recently released Blu-ray set of season two worth picking up, even if you’ve already seen all the episodes? That, my friends, is what I’m here to tell you.

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The second season set of Star Wars: Rebels looks and feels a great deal like the season one set. As before, the video is 1080p, presented in the show’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. English, French, and German audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1, while Spanish-speaking fans will have to be satisfied with a 2.0 mix. The season’s 22 episodes are spread out across 3 discs, along with each episode’s corresponding installment of Rebels Recon, the YouTube after-show hosted by Andi Gutierrez, StarWars.com’s social media correspondent. Disc three also includes two short featurettes, “Connecting the Galaxy,” and “From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka,” both of which I’ll discuss below. Continue reading

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Review: Stranger Things, season one

The following review endeavors to be as spoiler-free as possible. Obviously, however, there is some discussion of plot and character elements. If you’ve already decided to watch the show and want to go in as fresh as possible, maybe save this review until after the fact.

Netflix, by this point, has well-established itself in the original programming department. From flagship programs like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, to more esoteric shows like Sense8 or Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s shows run the gamut in both genre and quality. Its latest effort, Stranger Things, which premiered Friday, July 15th, was announced out of the blue a month ago, promising a nostalgia-driven science-fiction/horror drama set in the eighties. The trailer evoked the adventure and innocence of ‘80s adventure films like E.T. or The Goonies, as well as the harder edge of classic horror fare like The Thing or The Evil Dead. The show stars Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine — stars emblematic of the eighties — alongside an ensemble of relative unknowns, in a story of a small town besieged by mysterious disappearances, bizarre occurrences, and shady government operatives. It is created, produced, and many of its episodes written and directed by Matt & Ross Duffer, The Duffer Brothers. Two more relative unknowns, the brothers are probably best known for working on the Fox series Wayward Pines.

The trailer generated a lot of excitement, not only due to the fact that Netflix had stealthily made this show without hardly anyone hearing about it, but for the promise of its intoxicating blend of sci-fi, horror, and ‘80s paranoia. Does the eight-episode series live up to that promise, or is it just another empty vessel for self-indulgent nostalgia?

 

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Review: Aftermath: Life Debt (audiobook)

By now a great many of you have likely already purchased and read Life Debt, the second novel in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. Some of you may be waiting, however — for payday, for a free moment … or for someone to help you decide between the print version and the audio version. Likewise, there may be some of you who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to (or prefer not to) read the print version, and may be waiting to hear if the audiobook is an acceptable presentation of Wendig’s prose. Hopefully this review will help those folks, as well as anyone else who might be considering the audio version, decide if it’s for them.

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray

Finally, after an interminable wait of three and a half months (anyone remember when films took a year or longer to come to video? No? Just me?), we have the home video release, on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD, of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Is it the home video release we’ve all been hoping for, or a bare-bones offering designed to tide us over until a sequel trilogy boxed set is released with the real goods? A little from column A, a little from column B, it turns out. Read on to see what I mean.

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Lego Winter 2016 sets coming to U.S. in March

Gird your wallets, fellow U.S.-based Lego fans! The Winter 2016 wave of Star Wars sets — already available in other parts of the world, grumble grumble — are finally coming to our beleaguered shores in March, according to reports from The Brick Fan and AZ Central. This wave features the sets we previously reported were coming, including an updated ETA Interceptor for Obi-Wan, a Bespin carbon-freezing chamber, and an updated version of the droids’ escape pod from the original Star Wars film. Have a look at the box art below, and let us know in the comments which sets you’re planning on picking up.

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