‘I am woman, hear me roar!’ New tales of monstrous women to read and watch

original_400_600I was at the library for “Monstress” (more on that later) when I picked up Julia Armfield’s book, “Salt Slow,” on impulse. I had never heard of the author (it’s her first book), and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s a collection of feminist fairy tales and ghost stories!

Armfield’s characters are not what they seem; they subtly become sinister, evoking the spirits of old-fashioned monsters from Greek mythology, Grimm’s fairy tales, and classic horror movies, but with an original and modern twist.

A wolf dressed in a pinafore calls to mind an image of the Big Bad Wolf in Grandmother’s nightgown. A woman is visited by her undead lover. City dwellers become a population of insomniacs when they’re separated from their “Sleeps” – wraith-like creatures who take on lives of their own.

Because short stories aren’t usually my thing, they have to be special to be worth my time, and these qualify. One benefit of the medium is that you can enjoy the book in bite-sized pieces, saving the rest of the package for later, instead of finishing it all at once. I savored the stories of “Salt Slow,” and look forward to reading more of her work.

Monstress

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I’m late to this party, but that just means I don’t have to wait for the next installment of this awesome comic, set in a matriarchal world of sorceresses and magical creatures. The title character is Maika Halfwolf, a teenager who is bonded to/possessed by a powerful demon.

monstress-volume-4Maika embarks on a journey of discovery and revenge, and … well, I’m only on Vol. 2 but I like the story so far and will report back when I’m all caught up! I’m trying not to rush through the series.

Written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda, “Monstress” is published by Image Comics, which also publishes two of my other favorite comics, “Rat Queens” and “Saga.” 

Like “Saga,” “Monstress” deals with the big stuff: racism, war, etc. The comic has won several Eisner and Hugo awards, which is not surprising: It has a fresh, original (and grisly) story, and beautiful art.

Volume Four, which collects issues 19 through 24, was published in September.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

“Maleficent,” released in 2014, was a remake of “Sleeping Beauty,” told from the villain’s side of the sotry. It was clever and beautiful and I loved it. So I ignored the sequel’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’m glad I did.

The new movie is – like the first one – a visual masterpiece, which makes up for the fact that the story is not quite as good as the first.

Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning reprise their roles as Maleficent and Aurora. The sequel picks up a few years after the events of the first film.

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Maleficent is once again maligned/feared/hated, all the old rumors swirling, but this time in the neighboring kingdom of Ulstead, the home of Prince Phllip. Phillip’s mother, the queen, is played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Phillip has been recast but is about the same level of interesting as the prince from the original. The women are the MVPs here, but I do love Diaval, the loyal man/raven played by Sam Riley in both films. (Perhaps he is the ideal man – one who can be controlled with a snap of one’s fingers!)

There were mixed reviews even among my own party, so I guess this film isn’t for everyone. Maybe you have to be in the right mood, and I was in it. If you could use a dose of girl power, take your daughter, your niece, or your besties, and go see it.

Credits: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Maleficent,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Salt Slow,” Julia Armfield, Flatiron Books, October 2019; “Monstress,” Image Comics. 

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Anders’ novel optioned for series; plus news & reviews

In cool sci-fi news: I recently read that open-uri20190219-15-r061tbSony Pictures Television has optioned Charlie Jane Anders’ book, “The City in the Middle of the Night,” for series development, with Sharon Hall, who is also an executive producer on “The Expanse.”

I’m super excited about this because Charlie Jane Anders is awesome, and because I love “The Expanse,” so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the adaptation is as cool as the novel, which is set in the future, on the tidally locked planet of January. Because one side is always facing the sun (like our moon), one side of the planet is always dark and cold, and the other is always light and hot. The inhabitants (descendants of humans who fled Earth) live in the strip of dusk between the light and dark sides of the planet.

The main character, Sophie, lives in Xiosphant, an authoritarian city with mandated sleeping hours and curfews. When she gets in trouble with the law, she is thrown into the dark and cold night, and left for dead. But she survives, and is changed by her experience.  There is a lot of crazy stuff going on; I couldn’t put it down. If you like dystopian sci-fi, check it out.

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Charlie Jane Anders

I also read and loved Anders’ other works, her novel “All the Birds in the Sky,” and her short story collection “Six Months, Three Days, Five Others.” You can read my review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2018/12/21/short-and-sweet-anders-six-months-and-saunders-fox-8/

No word yet on when we will see the new series. In the meantime, Anders is working on the adaptation of one of my favorite comics, Brian K. Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man.”

The Vertigo comic centers on Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. A plague has wiped out every other male mammal, and as far as Yorick knows, he’s the last man on Earth. The series is expected to premiere on FX next year.

Carnival Row

Oh “Carnival Row,” I had such high hopes for you! The Amazon Prime series is about fairies and other mythological creatures forced to flee their homelands to (some version of) Victorian-era London.

I do love cutie pie Orlando Bloom but watching him in his role as a detective is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, and he doesn’t have much chemistry with his love interest, played by Cara Delevingne as adorable fairy Vignette. I’m not sure who was in charge of casting but I suspect the series would be more steamy if they’d found a couple with a little more heat between them. (Is it just me?)

Vignette and Philo phone in the fairy romance on “Carnival Row.”

Don’t get me wrong; I did enjoy the premise of the show (despite the fact that it seems to have stolen Saga’s horns and wings) and it held my interest enough that I wanted to keep watching. There is a lot of mystery, political intrigue and multiple subplots, some of which are really interesting and others which are sort of meh. The big finale was not super satisfying but it seems to have set up a potentially better storyline for Season 2, so I’m still in. 

 The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The 1982 film charmed and terrified me when it came out in theaters. (I was 7.) The Netflix prequel series is also charming – and very dark. I guess Netflix is banking on nostalgia. The comical yet smarmy pleading of the chamberlain is here, as is the adorable dog-like creature (known as Fizzgig in the original). I like the Gelfling and Podling puppets. The new series is appealing for those of us who miss Jim Henson’s lovable Muppets.

It’s as true to the original as any  ’80s kid could want, but there’s a lot of emphasis on the “dark” in Dark Crystal. I’m sure this would be hard to avoid in any prequel series, though, as we know from the film that Jen and Kira were the last of their kind – and we know why.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a little disheartened by the creepiness and oppressive nature of the series. But I am trying to hang in there; I’m only a few episodes in, and I’m reserving final judgment until I’ve seen all 10. Stay tuned.

“Do you think I look Skeksi?”

The Boys

I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by this Amazon Prime series, based on a comic book. For starters, the story – superheroes as villains – has been done before, in “Watchmen.” But “The Boys” is different enough that it still seems original, and I loved it. It’s (very) grisly, but it’s a binge-worthy thrill ride.

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Jack Quaid and Karl Urban are Hughie Campbell and Billy Butcher, two of the titular “boys,” enemies of the superheroes who turn out to not be so super.

mark-your-calendar-clipart-48 “Ad Astra” opens this weekend. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who searches for his father in the outer edges of the solar system.

The TV series “Mr. Robot” will return for its fourth and final season on Oct. 6 (USA Network).

“Gemini Man” comes out Oct. 11. Will Smith plays an assassin who is forced to fight a younger clone of himself.

Two sequels will be released Oct. 18: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” and “Zombieland: Double Tap.”

The new season of the sci-fi series “The Expanse” will air on Amazon Prime on Dec. 13.

And last but not least: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be in theaters on Dec. 20.

Credits: “The City in the Middle of the Night,” by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books; “Carnival Row,” Amazon Prime, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” Netflix; “The Boys,” Amazon Prime.

 

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Fighting the forces of evil: ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’

What a weekend! We finally got to see what happened after the “snapture” of “Avengers: Infinity War,” with the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” and we are now in the final stretch of “Game of Thrones.”

If you haven’t seen “Endgame” yet, or the newest “Game of Thrones,” come back later. There are spoilers all over this post. 

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The Avengers assemble in “Avengers: Endgame.”

OK let’s talk about this  movie. I was very excited to see how the writers dealt with the aftermath of Thanos’ gauntlet snap which destroyed half of all life in the universe in “Infinity War.”

Overall, I enjoyed “Endgame.” I love the big ensemble cast of these last two films because my favorite characters are in here: the Guardians, Dr. Strange, and now Ant-Man and Captain Marvel.

I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t even mind that it was three hours long. However. I do have some issues with the movie, and I’m not just talking about all the time-travel stuff. (More on that in a minute.)

The first beef I have involves Captain Marvel. We just had the very awesome “Captain Marvel” movie come out last month. That film really got me fired up to see her kick some butt in “Endgame.” How cool was it when she showed up to save Tony in outer space at the beginning of the movie? So awesome! And then she has only a small part in the film. She is probably the most powerful superhero in the entire franchise and she barely has any lines. They explain it away by saying she has other planets to save – we aren’t the only ones who need help. OK, that makes sense. But … I wanted more Captain Marvel!

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What happened to Goose, the flerken from “Captain Marvel”? I want answers!

Samuel L. Jackson who had such a big, great part in “Captain Marvel,” had zero lines in “Endgame.” Also, where is Goose, the cat, er, flerken, from “Captain Marvel”? Fail.

I know Iron Man and “the Cap” have been in this franchise for a long time, so I get that it was sort of their movie. But I would have loved the butt-kicking superhero girls (blink and you’ll miss it) moment more had there actually been more girl power in the film. Instead, that scene sort of felt like, “We’ll put this here to make the women happy.”

Another scene that felt forced was the support group in which someone discusses the state of the gay dating scene on post-apocalyptic earth. I’m all for representation but this seemed like they put it in as an afterthought. It was a throwaway, especially in a three-hour movie in which some of our favorite characters didn’t even get lines!

I also thought the jokes were a bit much, by which I mean they didn’t just tell the joke – they told the joke three times. Like the “Captain America’s ass” thing that went on forever, and the joke that Thor is fat and constantly drunk. We get it. He’s fat. And drunk.

The time travel thing. I knew time travel would have to be involved in this movie, because our heroes weren’t going to just accept that half the population is gone. And how else could they have fixed that without going back in time? I was actually excited to see how they were going to handle this, but ironically that ended up being one of the more annoying things in the film.

After making so many comments about “time travel doesn’t work like it does in the movies, this isn’t Back to the Future,” etc., it turns out that the writers don’t really know how time travel works either. If they did, wouldn’t they realize that if they kill the past Thanos who time travels to the future, that means the snap never would have happened? They say it doesn’t alter the timeline, but … doesn’t that alter the timeline? Am I just supposed to take their word for it, even if it doesn’t make sense?

The problem of Thanos himself is just the beginning. But I’m not going to address every time travel issue. To be fair, I loved that they revisited the other movies – it was fun. So I tried not to let logic or science get in the way of my enjoyment. This is a movie with talking trees and raccoons, set in a universe where the laws of gravity don’t apply, so I’m not going to get too hung up on the implausibility of their time-travel explanation.

I’ve talked to other people who attempted to convince me it actually did make sense but I still don’t think it does. Maybe there is some alternate version of me in a different timeline that understands it.

I’m going to discuss the newest episode of “Game of Thrones” so if you are not caught up and you don’t want me to spoil it for you, go away and come back later. 

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Jon Snow’s direwolf Ghost and Daenerys’ Dothraki army prepare to battle against the Army of the Dead, in “The Long Night,” the newest episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Did anyone else hold their breath for the entire 82-minute episode? It was maybe the most tense episode of the series. It became clear early on that they were sticking with the poor strategy they outlined in the previous episode – using Bran as bait for the Night King, with Theon to protect him, and using the crypt as shelter for those not fighting. A crypt. No one really thought that one through.

The living fought the dead in pitch black. CNN’s AJ Willingham said half the scenes looked like “a bunch of rats fighting in a shoebox,” and I can’t think of a better description. The night was indeed dark and full of terrors – zombies to be exact. Lots of zombies. More zombies than I, personally, feel comfortable with, but I’m not a huge fan of horror so even though I was surprised that after eight years of worrying about the Army of the Dead, they didn’t even get past Winterfell, I was also relieved that the battle ended when it did, even if the army falling with the Night King wrapped up the conflict with too tidy a bow. The Long Night was really just one long night after all, and lasted only one episode (and is also the title of this episode).

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Jaime and Brienne lived to fight another day.

Theon held his ground longer than I thought he would, before predictably biting the dust. We also lost Edd, Beric, Jorah, and brave Lyanna Mormont. Melisandre returned just long enough for a mini pep rally and to light some literal fires, and a metaphorical fire under Arya, before removing her patented, age-defying, gemstone choker (I need one of those – do they sell them in the HBO shop?) and dying of very old age.

We love to hate Melisandre, and for good reason – one of her worst deeds was killing a little girl (Shireen), but Theon killed two kids, and Jaime pushed one out a window. More time, though, was given to those characters’ backgrounds and story arcs. Melisandre’s reappearance didn’t serve much purpose beyond tying up a loose end (she said she’d be back so here she is).

There were several characters – and relationships – that were redeemed in this episode, but the Hound’s scenes with Arya, and Tyrion’s scenes with Sansa, for example, felt meaningful and earned, where Melisandre’s death was anticlimactic.

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The Red Woman does not need your forgiveness.

“The Long Night” was exciting (and terrifying), but I was expecting a bigger twist – for Arya to wear someone else’s face, for Bran to warg into a human like he did with Hodor, or for some sort of prophecy-fulfilling, aha moment. Is Arya the prince(ss) who was promised? She did bring an end to the Long Night, but what about the other elements of the prophecy, such as the sword Lightbringer? There was a lot of wasted dialogue about the Lord of Light and the old and new gods, etc., if it doesn’t come up again.

There are three more episodes. I am full of anticipation and dread as I know that “all men must die,” and that, as Ramsay Bolton told us, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

But we can still dream, as Varys does, of “peace and prosperity, a land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless.” We’ll see.

Credits: “Avengers: Endgame,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Game of Thrones,” HBO. 

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Watch ‘Umbrella Academy’ – & update your film calendar

I know I’m late in reviewing the Netflix sci-fi series “The Umbrella Academy,” but if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re wondering if you should, the answer is yes.

I did not read the comic from which it was adapted (written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and illustrated by Gabriel Bá), so I can’t compare the two versions, but I enjoyed the show.f5_162293_0_TheUmbrellaAcademy1AApocalypse

It starts like this: Forty-three babies were born on Oct. 1, 1989 – to women who weren’t expecting babies. No one knows how this happened, but a mysterious billionaire named Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of them and, because the children have special abilities, assembles them into a superhero team.

Fast forward to the present and Hargreeves has just passed away, bringing the kids, now adults, together at their childhood home.

I think the series’ developers, Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater, did a great job with this. The cast is wonderful. Ellen Page (“Juno,” “X-Men”) is violinist Vanya, Tom Hopper (“Black Sails”) plays the big guy, Luther, and Broadway actress Emmy Raver-Lampman portrays Allison, who has the superpower of just saying “I heard a rumor …” and then whatever she says comes true.

David Castañeda plays Diego, who can throw a weapon that will hit any target, Robert Sheehan is Klaus (my favorite sibling), who can see dead people, and Justin H. Min is Ben, who is deceased but still appears to Klaus. Five has the power to travel through space and time. He is played by Aidan Gallagher, who is really amazing and convincing as an old man in a kid’s body.

John Magaro (“Not Fade Away,” “Orange is the New Black”) plays Vanya’s love interest, Leonard, Colm Feore is Sir Reginald Hargreeves, and Adam Godley voices Pogo, the chimpanzee butler. Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige(!) are Hazel and Cha-Cha, two assassins from the future.

There’s a bunch of stuff I’m leaving out, because I don’t want to give anything away. But if you’re interested in a sort of darker version of the X-Men, you may want to start watching it when you have time to binge watch one episode after another.

This is rated TV-14, by the way, if you’re wondering if you should watch with your kids. It’s dark like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (which is PG), but some of the themes in “Umbrella” are more grown-up.

Rami Malek

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Carly Chaikin and Rami Malek star in “Mr. Robot.”

Yay for Rami Malek for winning best actor at the Academy Awards! He was awesome in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Not sci-fi of course, but so good. Watch him in the fourth and final season of “Mr. Robot” later this year.

I heard he is being sought to play a villain in a Bond movie, which is cool I guess? I feel like he’s proven he’s leading man material at this point though, so … wait for a better offer, Rami! (Not a Bond fan – sorry.)

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“Captain Marvel” opens this Friday! Did you buy your tickets yet? You won’t be able to see this on DVD if you want to see it before “Avengers: Endgame” comes out April 26.

In between the two Marvel films, check out the new “Hellboy” movie, opening April 12.

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“Game of Thrones” will return for its eighth season on April 14 on HBO. I’m so excited to see how it all ends, but also sad because this season will be the last.

Entertainment Weekly has a new feature story on the upcoming season. Head on over there if you want clues to what’s in store for our favorite characters. But be careful; you know what they say: The night is dark and full of spoilers.

https://ew.com/tv/2019/03/04/game-of-thrones-season-8-battle/

And if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the new Season 8 trailer:

If you’re a “Dune” fan, you’ll be in for a Thanksgiving treat. Not this year though; a remake is scheduled to be in theaters Nov. 20, 2020. Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) will direct and lots of big names are rumored to be in talks (or are already attached) to star in the film, including Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, and Charlotte Rampling. Dune, for those who don’t know, began as a 1965 sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert, and the first adaptation, directed by David Lynch, was released in 1984.

Star Wars at Disneyland

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a 14-acre, Star Wars-themed attraction being built at Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, will open this year. The one in California is scheduled to open May 31, and the Florida attraction will open Aug. 29 (though one of the rides is expected to open later in the year).

The new attraction will be designed as a “remote frontier outpost” on the planet Batuu, a newly designed world. Themed rides including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be featured, as well as Oga’s Cantina, the first  location in Disneyland Park to sell alcoholic drinks.

If you’re not already broke from buying tickets to the park, you can also build your own droid or lightsaber. The cost will be around $160 for a lightsaber. (I haven’t seen any info on build a droid pricing.)

For more information, check out the Disney website: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/star-wars-galaxys-edge/

Luke Perry LukePerry

I’m so sad to hear about Luke Perry, who has passed away at the age of 52. I had the fortune of working as an extra on “Beverly Hills, 90210” several times, years ago, and Perry always seemed like a nice, down to earth guy.

Perry had a small role in one of my favorite movies, “The Fifth Element,” and also starred in the original (and in my opinion, superior) version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and also “Riverdale.”

Rest in peace, Luke. We won’t forget you.

Credits: “The Umbrella Academy” photo and gif, Netflix; “The Umbrella Academy” comic book, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, Dark Horse Comics; “Mr. Robot,” NBC Universal Television; “Game of Thrones,” HBO. 

Post updated to include opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

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Lyonne does the time loop in her new series ‘Russian Doll’

What could be worse than dying on your birthday? How about dying on your birthday over and over and over and over? That’s the premise of the Netflix original series “Russian Doll.” The first season of the dark comedy, created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, was released Feb. 1.

Lyonne also stars in the series, as Nadia Vulvokov, a witty but troubled New Yorker who keeps dying and re-living her 36th birthday over and over. I’ve been a Lyonne fan ever since “Slums of Beverly Hills” in 1998 and I also love her in “Orange is the New Black,” so seeing her star in this crazy show is a special treat.

It’s great timing – Groundhog Day was Feb. 2, and it does sort of borrow the reset button from the Bill Murray film, but if we’re talking time loops, it’s really more “Edge of Tomorrow,” as Tom Cruise’s character’s day starts over when he dies, rather than the 6 a.m. automatic restart in “Groundhog Day.”

The difference here is an attempt to explain (with science!) why this is happening to her. Maybe it’s not so much a plot gimmick but an exploration of a scientific theory. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The series’ similarities to other movies don’t matter anyway; all you need to know is that it’s an entrancing and binge-worthy trip down a rabbit hole.

Besides the awesome Lyonne, the show also stars Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Elizabeth Ashley, Rebecca Henderson, and Charlie Barnett. Chloe Sevigny and Dascha Polanco also make guest appearances.

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Rebecca Henderson, Greta Lee, and Charlie Barnett in the trippy time loop series “Russian Doll.”

The Expanse

Amazon Prime will soon be streaming the first three seasons of the epic sci-fi series “The Expanse,” so get over there and catch up before the fourth season comes out later this year. The first season is a little confusing at first but don’t give up! It gets better, a lot better.

The third season will be available to stream on Feb. 8. Seasons 1 and 2 (already available in the U.S.) will become available internationally on Feb. 8 as well.

The series, about a future in which humans have colonized the solar system, is based on the books by James S.A. Corey (the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also serve as writers and producers on the show).

There’s an amazing ensemble cast, great special effects, political intrigue, plot twists, love, war, laughter, tears. … You get the idea. Just go watch it.

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Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, and Steven Strait in “The Expanse.”

Chaos Walking

I previously reported that “Chaos Walking” would be out soon, but the film’s studio confirmed recently that the movie will not make its March release date. Bummer! But this gives you time to catch up on your reading – the movie is based on the books by Patrick Ness.

So far I’ve read the first two books in the trilogy, “The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “The Ask and the Answer.” If you’re a fan of “The Hunger Games,” you’ll probably like these too.

The film will star Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Mads Mikkelsen.

Circe large

Speaking of books, I highly recommend “Circe,” by Madeline Miller. An epic story based on characters from Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Greek mythology, the tale is told from the viewpoint of the sorceress herself.

Miller’s beautiful writing takes you right into the story, and even at 400 pages, you won’t want to leave when it’s over.

The Titans and the gods and goddesses of Olympus, the demigods and the legends are written so eloquently but are also accessible at the same time. You may think it would be difficult to get into a book about a character whose father is Helios, aka the SUN, and whose aunt is Selene, the moon. But you find yourself thinking things like, “Wow, I never realized the sun is such a jerk. … 

It’s a timely novel, and one which I’d love to see adapted to the big (or small) screen. Fingers crossed.

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Circe was the subject of several paintings by John William Waterhouse. This one is “The Sorceress,” 1913.

Credits: “Russian Doll,” Netflix; “The Expanse,” Alcon Television Group; “Circe,” Little, Brown, and Company. 

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Sci-fi television news: Three endings & three beginnings

Watching Rami Malek win a Golden Globe for his role as Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was so cool, and now he’s been nominated for an Oscar as well. Many of us already knew how talented Malek is, because we’ve been watching him play the gifted and mentally disturbed hacker Elliot Alderson on “Mr. Robot.” (He has also won an Emmy for “Mr. Robot.”) The twisty, futuristic drama is about to come to an end. Season four will be its last.

The show’s creator, Sam Esmail, has said, “We ultimately have too much respect for Elliot’s journey to extend past its inevitable ending. Therefore, season four will serve as a the final chapter of the Mr. Robot story.”

I will miss this trippy series, but like he said, it’s better for a show to not go on too long. A mistake made by the next show on my list:

The Big Bang Theorybigbangtheory

We are now 12 seasons into this thing, and it jumped the shark, as they say, ages ago. I’ve loved and laughed with these characters for years, and it’s still amusing enough that I’ve stuck with it, but at this point, Sheldon’s rudeness grates, and Bernadette’s shrillness is less cute and more, well, shrill. It’s just not the same.

The show’s premise – four nerdy scientists and their struggles with women – has changed, as everyone has been paired up. Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard are all married men, and Raj is engaged. Even comic book store owner Stuart has a girlfriend. Without the original “how do we navigate the dating world” plot, the show is flailing aimlessly. There are some great episodes, but there are more misses than hits.

Jim Parsons (Sheldon) finally pulled the plug. “It feels like we’ve chewed all the meat off this bone,” he explained in a recent interview. I couldn’t agree more.

Game of Thrones

Another series whose time has come to an end is HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” This parting will be sadder, as it has been amazing in every way for its entire run. With the eighth and final season coming in April, fans will have to say goodbye to Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, and all the rest of our beloved GoT characters.

The Long Night

Fortunately a spin-off series is in the works, a prequel called “The Long Night,” set thousands of years before the events in “Game of Thrones.” Normally I groan at the word prequel, but it’s set during a period in which humans shared Westeros with giants and the Children of the Forest, and other  magical creatures, so it sounds like it will be really awesome.

Jean-Luc Picard returns

Patrick Stewart has announced that he will return to his role as Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series for CBS All-Access. The series will be one storyline, “a 10-hour movie,” Stewart said, rather than the episodic structure used on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The still-untitled series will take place after the destruction of the Romulan Empire.

Loki

Disney’s upcoming new streaming service will feature a series about that lovable trickster Loki, and more importantly, Tom Hiddleston will be reprising the role. That’s really all I know about the new show; I’ll post more when I find out more.

My 8 fave sci-fi films of 2018 and 9 I want to see in 2019

There were so many great films in theaters this year. Along with the hits were the misses – “Annihilation” made a lot of critics’ Top 10 lists but it veered too far into horror territory for my taste. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” like so many blockbuster movies, was cool-looking but there wasn’t enough going on in the plot department. Without further ado, here are the sci-fi films I enjoyed most in 2018:

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“Black Panther” was really cool and like nothing else I’ve seen before. There’s no doubt this movie broke new ground: It was the ninth highest-grossing film of all time, the highest-grossing film ever by a black director, and the highest-grossing film in the United States in 2018.

It is the first blockbuster box office hit with a black superhero, but the best characters in “Black Panther,” in my opinion, are the women. This isn’t the first time on this blog I’ve sung the praises of Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia. I can’t wait for a “Black Panther” sequel.

Avengers: Infinity War

The latest Avengers was also epic – a culmination of many Marvel movies, the heroes all fighting a common enemy, Thanos, who collected six Infinity Stones from across the universe, giving him the power to destroy half of all life in the universe. I took my Marvel-loving nephew and we were on the edge of our seats. It was awesome, even if we felt a little gypped by that cliffhanger finale.

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I fell in love with Wade Wilson in the first Deadpool, and the sequel is even better. Ryan Reynolds is the perfect tragic antihero, and I’m a sap for the love story between him and his girlfriend Vanessa despite the writers’ choice to put her in the “refrigerator.” (Fridging refers to an overused plot device wherein a character, often the hero’s love interest, is killed off or otherwise incapacitated for the purpose of motivating said hero.) I haven’t had a chance yet to see the new PG-13 version (“Once Upon a Deadpool”), but so far I’m on board with the addition of Fred Savage. “The Princess Bride” is a favorite in our household.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

By now you all know I’m a big fan of Paul Rudd. Evangeline Lilly is a wonderful Wasp, and Michael Pena and his long-winded stories were just as funny in this film as they were in the first Ant-Man. (And also, they mention Morrissey. What!)

Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Solo” arrived with slightly less fanfare than previous installments of the franchise, but I liked it. You can read my review again here: https://earthtoshawna.com/2018/05/26/forget-that-ehrenreich-isnt-ford-go-see-solo-anyway/

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verselarge_spiderverse-poser

This just won a much-deserved Golden Globe for best animated motion picture, and in my opinion, it’s the best Spider-Man movie yet.

It’s not about Peter Parker this time, but Miles Morales, a teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and discovers there can be more than one Spider-Man.

It aims to look like it’s been torn from the pages of a comic book, and it does. The computer animation is awesome, and the script is fresh and funny. With its PG rating, it’s clean enough that you can take the kids. For parents, it’s a win-win.

Ready Player One

I was really anticipating this one after I read the book, and it didn’t disappoint me. It’s not particularly deep or meaningful, but it’s a fun movie – especially for anyone who grew up in the ’80s.

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Where “Ready Player One” is fast-paced and in your face, “I Think We’re Alone Now” is a slow, steady burn. Would I have watched this if it didn’t have one of my favorite actors? Well, I have a thing for post-apocalyptic movies, so … yeah, probably. But I will be honest – I don’t think I would have liked it as much.

Dinklage is amazing as Del, a curmudgeonly librarian who seems to enjoy being the last man on Earth. Well, he thinks he’s the last person. Enter Grace (Elle Fanning), a Manic Pixie Dream Girl* who comes complete with fireworks to announce her arrival. A romantic comedy? No. It’s the end of the world and it’s dark and disturbing.

2019

There are lots of cool and crazy-looking movies coming out in 2019. We’re getting a new X-Men (“Dark Phoenix”), the final chapter in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” trilogy, a new Godzilla movie, another Spidey, and new reboots of Terminator and Joker. There’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Pikachu for all you gamers out there; and let’s not forget live-action versions of “Dumbo,” “Lion King,” and “Aladdin”; and “Toy Story 4” and “Frozen 2.”

Here are the sci-fi films I am most looking forward to in the new year. (Release dates are subject to change.)

Replicas, coming Jan. 11

I’m beginning to wonder if this Keanu Reeves movie is even real. It’s been postponed so many times I think they are just messing with us at this point. But if/when it arrives in theaters, I’ll be there.

Chaos Walking (March 1)

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Tom Holland (“Spider–Man: Homecoming”) and Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) star in “Chaos Walking,” based on a book by Patrick Ness. Principal production wrapped in 2017 and the film is scheduled for a March release.

Based on the first book of a young adult sci-fi trilogy by Patrick Ness (“A Monster Calls”), the adaptation stars Daisy Ridley, Tom Holland, and Mads Mikkelsen in a dystopian film directed by Doug Liman (“Edge of Tomorrow,” “The Bourne Identity”).

The habitants of this dystopian world are afflicted with “Noise” – they hear and see the thoughts of other people, and even animals. It will be interesting to see how this translates to film.  I’ve only read the first book in the series so far, but it’s intense and addictive.

Captain Marvel (March 8)

There are multiple comic book characters named Captain Marvel, in both the DC and Marvel universes. (One of them is also known as Shazam, who also has a movie coming out this year.)

In this movie, it’s the Marvel superhero named Carol Danvers who becomes Captain Marvel and is played by Brie Larson.

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Nick Fury’s beeper shows he contacted Captain Marvel in a post-credits scene from “Avengers: Infinity War.”

One of the post-credits scenes from “Avengers: Infinity War” shows Nick Fury attempting to contact – via some sort of beeper – Captain Marvel. The film is planned for a March 8 release, so we can get caught up on why Fury calls her, before we see the aftermath of Thanos’ snap, in “Endgame.”

Avengers: Endgame (April 26) 

One of the most anticipated films of 2019, “Endgame” is the sequel to “Infinity War.” We’ll finally find out what becomes of our favorite superheroes in the aftermath of Thanos’ destruction.

Hellboy (April 12)

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David Harbour will star in the “Hellboy” reboot. 

I had little desire to see a new Hellboy movie without Guillermo del Toro directing and Ron Perlman as Hellboy – until I heard David Harbour from “Stranger Things” would be playing the title role.

The film is a reboot rather than a sequel and also stars Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, and Daniel Dae Kim. Neil Marshall directs.

Men in Black: International (June 14)

It will be great to see Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson team up again, this time as secret agents. (They are Thor and Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok.”) Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson also star.

Gemini Man (Oct. 4)

Will Smith must have been too busy to reprise his role in MIB, as he is in three movies this year: “Aladdin,” “Spies in Disguise,” and “Gemini Man.” In “Gemini Man,” he plays an assassin threatened by a younger clone of himself, which was done already – in Rian Johnson’s 2012 film “Looper.” The draw here is that “Gemini Man” is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed “Life of Pi” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” so it makes my must-see list. The film also stars Benedict Wong (from “Doctor Strange”) and Clive Owen (“Children of Men”).

Zombieland 2 (Oct. 11)

I’m not a big fan of zombie flicks, but I make an exception for zom-coms starring Jesse Eisenberg, who I’ll watch in (almost) anything. Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray also return for this sequel to the 2009 film, and Dan Aykroyd will also appear.

Star Wars: Episode IX (Dec. 20)

The Skywalker Saga wraps up with this still-untitled episode. Yep, this is the last movie in the third Star Wars trilogy. There will be more Star Wars films, but the adventures of Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron will reportedly conclude here. Billy Dee Williams will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian, and previously recorded footage of Carrie Fisher will be used in the film. J.J. Abrams directs.

Photo credits: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Sony Pictures Releasing; “Black Panther,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Deadpool 2,” 20th Century Fox; “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Disney; “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Momentum Pictures; “Chaos Walking,” Lionsgate; “Avengers: Infinity War,” Disney; “Men in Black: International,” Sony; “Zombieland,” Columbia Pictures.

* Want to know more about overused plot devices? https://tvtropes.org/

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Short & sweet: Anders’ ‘Six Months’ and Saunders’ ‘Fox 8’

Have you ever wondered if the human race was created by aliens? Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were the last person on Earth, or what you would wish for if you found a genie in a bottle? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through time or predict the future?

Well, Charlie Jane Anders has, and her short stories are imaginative and fun to read. Like her novel “All the Birds in the Sky” (which I reviewed a few months ago), this book of short stories, “Six Months, Three Days, Five Others,” is original, fresh, funny sci-fi.

The last story in the book, a side story to “All the Birds in the Sky,” is about a couple who are given a cat by a stranger who tells them it will give them nine years of good luck. (It took me a while to realize it had some of the same characters from Anders’ novel, but when I did, it was like getting bonus features at the end of a great movie.)

Because it’s so rare for me to find short stories I enjoy, and also rare to find original and accessible, readable sci-fi, I wanted to know more about this author. Anders’ bio is an entertaining read.

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Charlie Jane Anders

The pink-haired author’s Amazon profile says she’s the only person to be “a fictional character in a Star Trek novel and in one of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.”

She co-edited a book called “She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff,” she organizes Writers With Drinks, and she has put on wacky fund-raising events like a Ballerina Pie Fight. She has won a bunch of awards, including a Hugo for this story collection, and a Nebula for “All the Birds in the Sky.”

Fox 8

Another great book I read recently is George Saunders’ “Fox 8,” a short tale about a fox who learns how to speak the language of “Yumans” by listening at the window of a mother reading bedtime stories to her children.

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 One of Chelsea Cardinal’s sweet illustrations in “Fox 8.” 

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George Saunders

Now you may be wondering, why is this fairy tale-sounding book on a sci-fi blog? And I’ll tell you: Because talking animals aren’t real- they’re fantasy. And I like talking animals. Let’s not get bogged down by technicalities.

It’s a really beautiful book, which is maybe a strange thing to say about a fox who says things like, “Grate Leeder woslike: I have spoken. And something in me woslike: Grate Leeder, bla.”

It is a little bit sad and violent but also funny, and a little bit hopeful too. It’s the first thing I’ve read by the award-winning author (you may have heard of his bestselling novel “Lincoln in the Bardo”), but I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.

These little books would make great last-minute gifts for the (adult) book lover in your life. Merry Christmas!

 

“Six Months, Three Days, Five Others,” Charlie Jane Anders; Tor; October 2017

“Fox 8,” George Saunders; Random House; November 2018

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Naughty and nice movies – coming to a theater near you

Mary Poppins Returns

It’s a jolly holiday with Mary! “Mary Poppins Returns” is in theaters Dec. 19.

Lots of new movies are coming out in theaters in the next couple months, some of which I’ve previously mentioned on my blog: “Mary Poppins Returns” is coming Dec. 19, and “Aquaman” is out on Dec. 21.

Emily Blunt plays Mary this time around. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Emily Mortimer, and Angela Lansbury also star, and Dick Van Dyke makes a cameo. I’m not holding my breath that it will be as good as the original, but I have a hunch it will be better than the underwhelming plot of Disney’s last live-action fantasy, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”

A cool drink of water

I normally prefer Marvel over DC, but I love, love, love Wonder Woman, and now we have Jason Momoa playing Aquaman. There’s some plot about Aquaman being caught between two worlds because he’s half human and half Atlantean, or something? Anyway, did I mention Jason Momoa?

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Does this picture make you thirsty? Jason Momoa stars as “Aquaman,” coming Dec. 21.

 Twelve days of Deadpool

“Once Upon a Deadpool,” which is “Deadpool 2” re-edited, re-released, and re-gifted in a PG-13 package, comes to theaters Dec. 12. They removed the R-rated stuff and recycled the framing device from “Princess Bride” – Deadpool is reading the story to Fred Savage. See for yourself:

Some of the proceeds from the new film will go to a charity called F*ck Cancer (renamed Fudge Cancer for the 12-day run of the new film, in keeping with the PG-13 rating).

Spidey in spades

You may or may not want to bring your kid to the new version of “Deadpool 2,” but one that looks a bit more kid-friendly is “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” out Dec. 14. In the new animated movie, there are multiple Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) in different dimensions or parallel universes, or whatever you want to call them. I haven’t read the Spider-Verse comic – I just want to see the movie because the trailer looks pretty cool:

New Keanu 

I’ve been hearing about the movie “Replicas” for a couple years, and it’s apparently finally going to be out Jan. 11. I honestly don’t know that much about it, just that it’s about a scientist who wants to bring his family back after they die. Might be interesting. Might suck. Of course I will go see it simply because they put Keanu Reeves in it. (Damn you, producers of “Transformers”!)

Apocalyptic Christmas

If you’re not sure if you’re in the mood for a musical, a Christmas movie, or a zombie movie, check out “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a Scottish Christmas musical/horror flick based on the award-winning short “Zombie Musical” by the late Ryan McHenry. “Anna and the Apocalypse” is in select theaters.

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Ella Hunt stars in “Anna and the Apocalypse.”

Sci-fi on TV

I haven’t seen much new sci-fi on the small screen lately. I’m mostly re-watching “Game of Thrones” in anticipation of the eighth and final season coming in April.

I did see the miniseries “Maniac,” on Netflix, and I loved it. Set in the not-so-distant future, the story centers on a trippy drug trial, where Annie (Emma Stone) meets Owen (Jonah Hill). Gabriel Byrne, Justin Theroux, and Sally Field also star. If you’re into stuff that’s weird, quirky, funny, and charming, you should check it out.

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Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac.”

In other TV sci-fi news, an adaptation of Alan Moore’s awesome comic book “Watchmen” is coming to HBO. Unlike the 2009 film, which was (in my opinion) a faithful adaptation of the comic, showrunner Damon Lindelof has said the new series will be a new story set in the same world, but with different characters, set in the present day.

The new show will be coming out sometime in 2019. While you wait, I recommend reading the original comic book and/or watching the movie. It’s a great story. (Also it’s rated R; this one is not for the kids.)

Holiday shopping

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the geek in your life, check out the gift guide over at nomansland.blog. These are the droids, er, gifts you’re looking for …

Xmas 2018: Geeky Gifting Guide

Credits: “Once Upon a Deadpool,” 20th Century Fox; “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Aquaman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Sony Pictures; “Replicas,” Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures; “Anna and the Apocalypse,” Orion Pictures; “Maniac,” Netflix, “Watchmen,” DC Comics; “Watchmen” film, Warner Bros. Pictures. 

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‘Saga’ leaves you wanting more but you’ll have to wait

“Saga” recently released its newest collection, “Volume 9,” which covers issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic book by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

If you haven’t read it yet (and you’re over the age of 18) I highly recommend you check it out. There’s a reason “Saga” is hugely popular and critically acclaimed. Even though it’s been compared to such epics as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones,” Vaughan’s imaginative story, accomapanied by Staples’ amazing artwork, is really like nothing else. Well, it’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet – Alana and Marko are alien lovers from warring worlds. Their daughter, Hazel, is the comic’s narrator.

After the latest major bombshell cliffhanger, at the end of #54, Vaughan and Staples have announced they’re taking a yearlong hiatus. Staples has said she was experiencing feelings of burnout – understandable as she’s drawn and colored all 54 issues.

If you haven’t picked up “Saga” yet, this is a great time to catch up! It’s really weird and cool. You can read my previous review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2015/09/16/dont-miss-image-comics-saga-and-rat-queens/

While the comic is set in a fictional universe, the themes of parenting and family are, well, universal. Vaughan doesn’t shy away from topics like war, abortion, addiction, racism, homophobia, sex trafficking, etc., so these themes are underlying the larger story and ask the big questions.

How do you raise a child to be kind and strong in a world (or worlds) that can be so brutal? Can we teach our kids what they need to know while at the same time protecting them?

How can we be compassionate when we don’t know who to trust? How can we keep going when everything is spinning out of control?

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“Saga, Volume 9” was released Sept. 26 (Image Comics). Vol. 9 collects issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

“Saga” spans several years and has lots of crazy-looking alien characters – I guess that’s why it’s being compared to “Star Wars.” But don’t expect to see this story on the big screen anytime soon. Vaughan created this to be a comic only, not to be adapted into a movie or TV show. For starters, there’s a lot of sex and violence. (Like, a lot.) And if it was a movie, it would have to be animated, or use a heck of a lot of CGI.

Vaughan hasn’t completely ruled out an adaptation, but that’s not something he’s looking at right now. One thing that is being adapted to TV is Vaughan’s comic “Y: The Last Man,” which I loved. Let’s talk about that.

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‘Y: The Last Man’

Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man,” published by Vertigo Comics and illustrated by Pia Guerra, takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. A plague wipes out every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for a man named Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

Yorick’s mother, a congresswoman, commissions a special agent to protect her son. Along with a geneticist named Alison Mann, they work to find a way to save humankind from extinction. During their travels, the group is chased by several people who want Yorick for their own purposes.

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The comic series, which ran from 2002 to 2008, won three Eisner awards. Filming on the live-action TV series has begun and will star Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield, and Marin Ireland. Barry Keoghan will star as Yorick. The show will be on FX, but there is no premiere date yet.

Mark your calendars

In my excitement about the upcoming “Captain Marvel” film that I talked about in my last post, I forgot to tell you that it opens March 8, 2019, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. captain-marvel-brie-larson

“Wonder Woman 1984” comes out Nov. 1, 2019. And “Birds of Prey” is slated for a Feb. 7, 2020, release.

I also have more casting news for “Birds of Prey.” Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad,” and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Rosie Perez will portray Black Canary, Huntress, and The Question. Christina Hodson is the screenwriter, and Cathy Yan will direct.

In other Warner Bros. news, another of my favorite Vertigo comic books, “Fables,” is also being adapted to the big screen. Nikolaj Arcel is signed on to direct, Jeremy Slater is screenwriter. Fables Vol. 3-Storybook Love

“Fables” was created by Bill Willingham in 2002 and is about fairy tale characters who are exiled from their lands and now live in New York City. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the comic was in development to become an NBC TV series, but that was scrapped, and NBC later produced a show called “Grimm” instead. Then ABC was going to adapt “Fables” but later ended up making “Once Upon a Time.” Here’s hoping the third time’s a charm.

Credits: “Saga,” Image Comics; “Y: The Last Man” and “Fables,” Vertigo; “Captain Marvel,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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