Rogue One - The Ultimate Visual Guide

Back in 1999, my grandmother gave me the Visual Dictionary and Incredible Cross-Sections books for the recently-released Phantom Menace. She didn't realise it at the time, but she started a long-term obsession with those Star Wars reference books, and I've picked up every subsequent edition since then. For Rogue One, publisher Dorling Kindersley did things a little differently - combining the usually separate Visual Dictionary and Cross-Sections volumes into a single tome entitled Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide. I recently picked up my own copy from Barnes and Noble for $24.00US ($33.38NZ), and have already spent a good few hours poring over the contents.

Written by Lucasfilm Story Group member (and walking, talking Star Wars encyclopedia) Pablo Hidalgo and featuring wonderful double-page cross-sections by Kemp Remillard, this volume contains insights into every facet of the film. From the names of each of Jyn's childhood toys, to the histories of every background Jedha alien, the Ultimate Guide has it all. Gloriously detailed photographs of every weapon, gadget, and costume also makes it an invaluable reference guide for prop-builders and cosplayers alike. Unlike previous Visual Dictionary volumes, this edition also features a new behind-the-scenes section providing insights into how the film was actually made. If there's something you want to know about Rogue One, then chances are you'll find it in this book!

Star Wars Episode VIII Title Confirmed - "The Last Jedi"

After months of fan speculation, today announced that the official title for Star Wars: Episode VIII is "The Last Jedi".

This title doesn't grab me in quite the same way as The Force Awakens did, but it's still leaps and bounds ahead of some of the more unfortunate titles in the saga ("Attack of the Clones", anyone?)

What are your thoughts on Episode VIII's title? Be sure to let us know via Facebook or Twitter, or by sending an email to!

Rogue One Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Rogue One is the first theatrical Star Wars film to feature a score by a composer other than John Williams. Music has always been fundamental to the saga, so this departure filled many fans (myself included) with a certain amount of trepidation. It also set an incredibly high bar for Rogue One composer Michael Giacchino to meet. Fortunately, we needn't have worried - and after seeing Rogue One and being blown away by the film's score, I immediately went out to pick up a copy of the soundtrack on CD.

Giacchino makes full use of his formidable scoring experience (his resume includes work on Lost, Fringe, Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Jurassic World, and a number of Disney Pixar movies including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up) and produces a soundtrack that is both distinctly Star Wars, and refreshingly original. Of particular note is the unique new opening theme found at the end of "A Long Ride Ahead". The real centrepiece, however, is the equal parts tragic and inspiring "Jyn Erso & Hope Suite" that is reprised throughout the score, and beautifully dovetails into Williams' original Force Theme in "Trust Goes Both Ways".

If you're a fan of the music of Star Wars, then you'll certainly want to add this soundtrack to your collection. Giacchino has done phenomenal work, and his score for Rogue One has earned a well-deserved place alongside Williams' scores.

Rogue One - A Star Wars Story (December 2016)

December 16th saw the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - the second Disney Star Wars film and the eighth theatrical film in the saga. My girlfriend and I were apart at the time, so we made a pact to hold off seeing the film until we were reunited after Christmas. On December 29th - and after managing to stay almost entirely spoiler-free - we went along to a matinee screening at our local theatre.

Long story short, we had an absolute blast. If The Force Awakens was a familiar story in an unfamiliar setting, then Rogue One is the exact opposite. The costumes, characters, and vehicles are all incredibly familiar, but this is a story unlike any we've seen in the saga before. This isn't a tale told from the lofty perspective of the Jedi. Instead, it's interstellar conflict as seen by the everyday denizens of that galaxy far, far away - and it couldn't be more enthralling. For a movie that centres around a very large ensemble cast, it does an impeccable job of giving an engaging and rewarding character arc to every last one of them. These are individuals that we're not only invested in, but whom we come to care about deeply.

That being said, K-2SO absolutely steals the show. He is for me - and, I assume, many fans - one of the best parts of this film. Alan Tudyk gives a superb performance, and contributes a character that's bound to become just as iconic as R2 or BB-8. Best of all, he's flawlessly incorporated into every scene, ensuring you never once find yourself jarred by a sudden realisation that you're looking at a computer-generated character. In fact, insofar as visual effects go, ILM look to have done their best work yet. Rogue One impeccably recreates the visual effects style of its chronological successor A New Hope, and the surprise inclusion of certain elements from the original '77 film (the explicit mention of which would be a little too spoilerific) was enough to leave me completely dumbstruck. It's a long time since I've seen a film and been left utterly perplexed as to how a particular effect was pulled off.

My girlfriend and I went along for another viewing a couple of weeks later and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. It's clear that for many, Rogue One will be exactly what they were hoping The Force Awakens would be: a brave new exploration of completely uncharted waters. With this film, Disney have genuinely shown just what they're capable of doing with the Star Wars franchise - and it fills this particular fan with an enormous amount of hope indeed.

The Hunt Is On - Rogue One Micro Machines Found

It's no secret that my favourite part of collecting in recent times has been the triumphant return of Micro Machines. Given this, it's been particularly frustrating having to deal with the poor distribution of the line. It was a good two months after Force Friday before I saw any of the Force Awakens Micro Machines in my local stores - and as at the time of writing, the new Rogue One sets are still entirely absent in New Zealand. Things haven't been much better here in the US. The 3-packs are still nowhere to be seen, and the deluxe packs only just started trickling into stores this week. Before they turned up in brick-and-mortar stores, however, I managed to snag the three deluxe packs on my huntlist from Force Friday last year from for $9.99US ($13.95NZ) each, and the single 3-pack from for $9.93US ($14.27). 

The first deluxe pack - "Assault on Scariff" - contains an Imperial AT-ACT Cargo Walker, the Imperial Cargo Shuttle SW-0608, a Partisan X-Wing Fighter, Rebel Y-Wing Fighter, and a TIE Striker, as well as Moroff and Scarif Stormtrooper Captain micro figures. The second - "Fight the Imperial Might" - contains an Imperial Assault Hovertank, an Imperial AT-ACT Cargo Walker, an Imperial AT-ST Walker, a Rebel U-Wing Fighter, and a Partisan X-Wing Fighter, as well as Baze Malbus and Director Krennic micro figures. The third - "Mandalorian Melee" - instead features vehicles and characters from Star Wars Rebels, and includes the Ghost, Hera Syndulla’s A-Wing, the Interdictor, a Mandalorian Fighter, and a TIE Bomber, as well as Hera Syndulla and Fenn Rau micro figures. The 3-pack - "High Speed Rebel Raid" - contains a Rebel U-Wing Fighter, TIE Striker (Battle Damage), and Krennic’s Imperial Shuttle

Insofar as the quality of these sets goes, my sentiment towards Micro Machines remains the same as always: these are phenomenally well sculpted and painted miniatures for an excellent price. There's also the occasional bonus feature that you're not expecting, like a pivoting head on the AT-ST. Insofar as selection goes, the two Rogue One packs provide us with a fantastic assortment of vehicles from the film. It's also nice that instead of giving us the same AT-ACT twice over, they opted for both cargo-laden and non-laden versions. The same goes for the Partisan X-Wings (one coming with its wings open, and the other with its wings closed) and the TIE Strikers (one with wings in the 'down' position, and the other with battle damage and wings in the 'up' position). There is one straight duplicate, however - the Rebel U-Wing. Though given the fact that multiple of these ships appear in the film, it's a double-up that can be made use of.

The Y-wing and AT-ST will be fairly uninteresting additions for long-time Micro Machines collectors (though the aforementioned articulation in the AT-ST may see it usurping the classic sculpt). The same can be said of the TIE-bomber and Ghost in the Rebels pack, but the real attraction in that set is the three other completely new vehicles. Most exciting is the Interdictor - a fan-favourite ship from the now non-canon 'Legends' expanded universe. Like many collectors, I'd spent years wanting a version of that ship at this scale, so it's great to finally have our wishes granted!

Death Star Planetarium

I usually try to keep things pretty positive on this blog. While I won't shy away from pointing out the flaws of a product, I mostly attempt to focus on the positives. Today's post is a little different, however - mostly because there's very little positive to say about this particular item. Long story short, my girlfriend and I recently came across one of Uncle Milton's Death Star Planetariums discounted down from it's usual RRP of $29.99US ($41.74NZ) to a ridiculously low $9.00US ($12.52NZ). We picked it up, thinking it'd make a neat conversation piece. We were very, very wrong.

The unit is essentially a model replica of the Death Star that sits atop a transparent plastic stand. The upper hemisphere of the battle station is then removed to expose the working parts of the planetarium, which consist of a battery-operated bulb and two layered domes. The first of these domes is transparent and inscribed with a map of the Star Wars galaxy. Ostensibly, when switched on, the light shines through this dome and projects the map onto the walls and ceiling. This is where things start to fall down, however. The map is fuzzy, distorted, and only really readable when projected onto a surface no more than a couple of feet away. It certainly isn't capable of sitting on a table and providing a legible viewing experience.

Things get even worse when the second dome is used. This dome sits atop the first, and is made from an opaque black plastic that is covered in tiny perforations. The purpose of this dome is to modify the display to instead provide a representation of Earth's night sky. This is far from what happens, however. In a stunningly bad piece of design, the openings on the dome are far too large. This leads to a diffusion of the light and a ceiling full of circular 'bubbles' (rather than star-like pin-pricks) of light. Whats more, there's no recognisable patterns among those bubbles - leading us to question if it really is intended to be any sort of representation of stars visible from earth, or merely a random scattering of openings across the dome's surface.

You might think that we simply picked up a faulty unit, but a quick perusal through the Amazon reviews for this product show that this is a widespread problem that's endemic to the design. The planetarium is a nice concept in the abstract, but one that could never be pulled off by the item that comes in the box. In fact, we've been left wondering if anyone at Uncle Milton even bothered to turn on this device before allowing it to hit shelves. Even the most cursory of testing really should have revealed that this product was in severe need of an overhaul before release.

There are several other gripes too. Firstly, the outer shell doesn't click into place, leaving the two dome covers merely sitting precariously atop the unit. Secondly, the light at the centre of the planetarium is simply a single exposed (and very aesthetically unpleasing) bulb. What's worse, the bulb isn't even an LED - the manufacturers instead opting for a limited-life filament bulb. They were good enough to include a spare replacement, but once these two have burnt out, the planetarium will be essentially useless.

But enough negativity. Thankfully, we only paid $9.00 for this item - so my attention now turns to what can actually be salvaged from an otherwise deeply unsatisfying purchase. Despite its failings as a planetarium, the unit is still a Death Star shaped light source - and there has to be some promise in that. With that in mind, I'm currently toying around with several ways of turning this into a lighting unit for use inside one of my display cabinets. I'll be sure to post details once I do, so stay tuned for updates!

The Black Series 3 3/4" Walmart Exclusive Admiral Ackbar, Ahsoka Tano, and Lando Calrissian

Now that I'm back in the US, I've been able to tap into Walmart's exclusive 3 3/4" Black Series line - the last bastion of super-articulated figures in this scale. While I'm strictly 5POA on new characters, the Black Series line continues to be a great way of getting hold of older figures that I missed the first time around. I recently picked up three of the latest releases - Admiral Ackbar, Ahsoka Tano, and Lando Calrissian - for $12.83US ($17.74NZ) a pop.

All three figures feature fifteen points of articulation, a fantastic paint application, an assortment of accessories, and - in the cases of Ahsoka and Lando - some soft goods detailing. In fact, it's pretty hard to fault any of these figures. My only criticism is that Lando appears to be a little bandy-legged; but this is something that I'm hoping a little hot/cold water treatment will be able to fix.

It's particularly nice to see Ahsoka get a re-release in this line. It's the only realistic 3 3/4" sculpt we have of her, and she was incredibly hard to come by when she debuted under the Vintage Collection banner. She'll also look great alongside my realistic-sculpt Clone Wars Anakin!

Death Star Waffle Maker

My girlfriend and I have had our eyes on ThinkGeek's Death Star Waffle Maker for some time now, so it was an easy decision to pick one up when they were recently reduced down to $19.99US ($27.85NZ) each!

Put simply, we're both phenomenally happy with this purchase. We've made a decent number of waffles already, and everything is working exactly as it should. Sometimes these kinds of things can come off as a gimmick - never really properly doing what they claim to do in the description. That certainly isn't the case here though. The waffle maker leaves a crisp imprint of the Death Star, and the resulting waffle looks damn cool indeed. Some online reviews have been critical of the time taken to cook each waffle - but we've had no issues so far. So long you allow the unit to properly heat up (a green light switches on once this is complete) you'll be able to completely cook a single waffle in around five to six minutes.

This unit definitely comes with our seal of approval - so if you've been contemplating this as a purchase, then keep an eye out for ThinkGeek's next sale and be sure to pick one up!

Star Wars Blueprints T-Shirt

The final new addition to my Star Wars collection this Christmas was this very cool blueprints t-shirt that came courtesy of my girlfriend's parents.

The t-shirt feature schematics of a number of original trilogy vehicles, including the Millennium Falcon, an AT-AT, an X-wing fighter, and Darth Vader's TIE-advanced. It goes without saying that I'm going to be wearing the heck out of this one!

Star Wars Chocolate Egg and Surprise

Any regular visitor to this blog will know I'm a sucker for anything blind-bagged - and this Christmas, my girlfriend fueled that obsession with a couple of these fantastic Star Wars Chocolate Egg and Surprise boxes.

Much like a Kinder Surprise, each packet contains a small chocolate egg with a miniature toy in a capsule (though due to US law, the capsuled toy merely comes with the egg, and not inside it). There's six toys to collect in total - each one being the bust of an original trilogy hero or villain. I lucked out and managed to get two different (and particularly iconic) characters - R2-D2 and Darth Vader!

The Force Awakens Resistance Cushion

Continuing with the Force Awakens trend this Christmas, my parents also surprised me with this Resistance-themed Star Wars cushion.

Featuring the Force Awakens logo on one side, and various heroes of the Resistance on the opposite side, the cushion is trimmed in a light blue that means it'll fit perfectly with the Star Wars bedspread currently set up in my display room!

The Force Awakens First Order Mug

You can never have too many Star Wars-themed drinking receptacles, so this Force Awakens First Order mug that I received from my parents for Christmas will be useful for all kinds of delicious beverages!

Set in white, the mug features Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, stormtroopers, and TIE fighters, and is emblazoned with the emblem of the notorious First Order.

Hallmark Keepsake BB-8 and Imperial Stormtrooper Christmas Tree Ornaments

It wouldn't be Christmas without a little Star Wars on the tree, and this year my parents added two new characters to my growing collection of Hallmark Keepsake Star Wars ornaments - BB-8 and an Imperial Stormtrooper.

While BB-8 is a static model, the Imperial Stormtrooper comes with an electronic sound feature and is able to recite a (surprisingly large) variety of dialogue from A New Hope at the push of a button.

Both ornaments live up to the high standard of quality we've come to expect from the Keepsake line - featuring an exquisite amount of detail and impeccable paint applications. In fact, the non-festive nature of both means that they'll make for great display pieces even once the holiday season is over.

Park Avenue BB-8 Cookie Jar

One of my Christmas presents from my parents this year was this fantastic ceramic BB-8 cookie jar from Park Avenue.

If there's a Star Wars character who's perfectly shaped for this kind of thing, BB-8 is it. BB-8 comes stuffed with a pack of cookies, and will look great sitting next to the Stormtrooper cookie jar I received for my birthday in 2015!