New films & series adapted from sci-fi & fantasy books

Fans of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel “Brave New World” will be happy to hear there’s a release date for the adaptation, a series which will air on NBC’s Peacock – on July 15, which is also the launch date of the new streaming service.

The series is set in a future society that is rigid and controlled. Bernard (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina (Jessica Brown Findlay) go to the Savage Lands where they become involved in a rebellion and meet John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich). Hannah John-Kamen and Demi Moore also star. David Wiener is the showrunner.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m very excited about the upcoming adaptation of one of my favorite books, the post-apocalyptic novel “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. The miniseries is coming to HBO Max, but the premiere date still has not been announced. Mackenzie Davis and Hamish Patel will star.

Another film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” is coming in 2021. This one changes the setting from ’80s England to ’60s Alabama, and is written by Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, and Kenya Barris. The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, and Jahzir Kadeem Bruno.

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is also working on an adaptation of “Pinocchio” for Netflix, which will also be released in 2021. The film, a musical, will feature stop-motion animation and the voices of Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and David Bradley.

Another miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Stand” is coming to CBS All Access. Filming was reportedly completed in March, but a release date has not yet been set. James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alexander Skarsgård will star.

The latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” will be directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”). The ensemble cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. The film is scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters Dec. 18.

“The Old Guard,” July 10
Charlize Theron stars in this superhero film, based on the comic book of the same name. KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star. “The Old Guard” will premiere on Netflix.

“Cursed,” July 17
The Netflix series is adapted from the illustrated fantasy novel of the same name, by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It is based on Arthurian legend, from the viewpoint of a young woman destined to become the Lady of the Lake.

“The One and Only Ivan,” Aug. 21
I love this book (by Katherine Applegate), about a gorilla who lives in a cage in a shopping mall. The film adaptation is a mix of live action and CGI and was originally going to be released in theaters, but will premiere on Disney+.

Bryan Cranston, Ramon Rodriguez, and Ariana Greenblatt star, and the voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Chaka Khan, Mike White, Brooklynn Prince, Ron Funches, and Phillipa Soo.

“The Boys,” Sept. 4
The subversive superhero series, based on the comic book, will return to Amazon Prime for Season 2.

All release dates subject to change.

Top photo: “Brave New World,” NBC Universal.

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Sci-fi and fantasy coming to TV, streaming services

Mike McMahan

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m looking forward to all the new Star Trek series coming up. The adult animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is expected to be released later this year. Creator Mike McMahan (“Ricky and Morty”) has said it will be set during the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” era, and will focus on the support crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos.

The voice cast includes Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis, Jack Ransom, Jerry O’Connell, Fred Tatasciore, and Gillian Vigman, and will air on CBS All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’

Sam Esmail

Exciting news for fellow “Battlestar Galactica” fans: The creator of “Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, is developing a series based on the sci-fi space drama. Esmail is reportedly a fan of Ron Moore’s version, which was a reboot of the ’70s series.

There is no date yet or casting news, but it will air on the NBC streaming service Peacock. Esmail said it will be a long-running series rather than a mini-series. Let’s hope it has a better ending than Moore’s “Galactica.” And a better ending than “Mr. Robot,” for that matter.

‘The Wheel of Time’

If you’re a fan of the Robert Jordan book series “The Wheel of Time,” you have probably already heard about the upcoming Amazon Prime adaptation which has been in the works for a while. Brandon Sanderson, who finished writing the book series after Jordan passed, and Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal will be consulting producers on the series. It is worth mentioning that McDougal isn’t “just” the widow of the author – she is an editor of many fantasy novels (including the WoT books written by Jordan).

Rafe Judkins (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) is the main showrunner and executive producer. Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) has been cast as Moiraine.

Moiraine is a member of the Aes Sedai, a group of women who use magic. After an attack on a village by the “Dark One,” Moiraine takes five young people from the village. She believes the evil entity is after one of them, because one of them might be “the Dragon” who is part of an ancient prophecy.

If you’re thinking “the prince that was promised” from Game of Thrones, there’s a reason for that: Every streaming service has been looking for the next big GoT-like hit, and this is supposed to be Amazon’s. (The books are more reminiscent of “Lord of the Rings” though.) Will it live up to the hype? Time will tell.

‘The Boys’

If you’re eagerly anticipating the return of Amazon’s series “The Boys,” you’ll want to tune in tomorrow for a reunion special, during which the Season Two premiere date will be announced. The reunion will be hosted by Patton Oswalt, who has a role in the new season.

Fantasy films for younger viewers

“A Whisker Away,” on Netflix, is about a middle school girl who becomes a cat in order to be with her crush. She wears a literal mask when she is a cat, but when she’s human, she’s wearing a mask too – a fake smile to hide her pain.

If you like Miyazaki, or cats, you may enjoy watching this strange little movie with your tween or teen. We liked it, even as we found it slightly baffling. (I also find Miyazaki confusing, so maybe it’s just me.)

It is in Japanese with English subtitles.

The film adaptation of the children’s book series “Upside-Down Magic” is coming to Disney Channel on July 31. I enjoyed reading the books with my daughter when she was younger, so I think it’s cool they made a movie. The story follows a group of students whose magic has gone “wonky.” It has a good message about kids who don’t fit in, or feel different.

The movie stars Izabela Rose, Siena Agudong, Vicki Lewis, Kyle Hward, Elie Samouhi, Alison Fernandez, and Max Torina.

Photo credits: “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” CBS Television Distribution; “The Boys,” Amazon Studios; “A Whisker Away,” Netflix; “Upside-Down Magic,” Disney.

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‘Umbrella Academy,’ Trek, ‘Upload,’ and ‘Space Force’

I just finished re-watching Season 1 of the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy” and I’m happy to report there’s finally a release date for Season 2! The adopted sibling superheroes will be back July 31, for 10 episodes.

If you haven’t seen Season 1 yet, this is a great time to get caught up. It’s a great based-on-a-comic-book series. I won’t go on and on about that – if you want to read my review, go here: https://earthtoshawna.com/2019/03/05/watch-umbrella-academy-update-your-film-calendar/

There’s a funny scene in Season 1 of the characters dancing by themselves in their rooms, and the cast did a little quarantine-style re-enactment for the announcement of the Season 2 premiere.

‘Space Force’ and ‘Upload’

It was nice to get some fresh sci-fi comedy from Greg Daniels, creator of “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

“Upload,” on Amazon Prime, has an intriguing premise. The idea of uploading your consciousness into a virtual “afterlife” instead of taking your chances with whatever happens after you die, is original and interesting. My one gripe is that it leans more toward rom-com than sci-fi, but it’s still addictive enough that I binge watched it.

Nathan’s digital “heaven” has been paid for by his girlfriend, so things get a little weird when he falls for Nora, the tech in charge of his avatar. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Season 2.

On “Space Force” (Netflix), Steve Carell is perfect as the four-star general suddenly tasked with putting “boots on the moon.” I thought they would just put Carell’s “Office” personality in a different situation, but it’s not like that at all. Instead, Carell’s Gen. Naird is a curmudgeonly but good-hearted pilot, who may not know anything about technology, but is, in the end, the best man for the job, which is, unfortunately for everyone involved, to send a team of astronauts to the moon before they’re ready, in order to compete with China.

I was just as confused as anyone else during the first episode – are we supposed to take this seriously, or is it a satire? It turns out to be a weird mix of the two – but just go with it. It’s downright ridiculous at times, but it’s also witty, and surprisingly touching.

It’s Carell’s show, but the supporting cast is great too. I especially love John Malkovich as Naird’s science adviser, Dr. Mallory; pilot Angela Ali, played by Tawny Newsome; and Lisa Kudrow as Naird’s wife, Maggie.

(FYI: Neither of these series is appropriate for children.)

Trek news

At the end of “Star Trek: Discovery,” Capt. Pike, Spock, and Number One blast off in the Enterprise, setting the stage for a potential spin-off? It turns out yes.

CBS All Access (the streaming service which also carries “Discovery” and “Picard”) has officially ordered “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” it was recently announced. Anson Mount will reprise his role as Capt. Pike, and Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn will reprise their roles as Spock and Number One. The series will take place in the decade before Capt. Kirk takes over.

I’m looking forward to “Strange New Worlds,” as well as the next seasons of “Discovery” and “Picard.” And there is also talk of another spin-off – Michelle Yeoh may soon star in a series as her character from “Discovery,” Philippa Georgiou. Georgiou, at the end of the second season of “Discovery,” is an agent for a “black ops” organization called “Section 31.”

It will be great to have another female lead on a Trek series, and especially interesting considering the background and arc of this particular character. I also like that the creators are branching out from just doing captain-centered series, first with “Discovery,” and now with “Section 31.”

Yeoh, who has starred in such films as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” often does her own stunts. I love that she’s bringing her badassery to more sci-fi stuff, and I’m hoping she’ll have a bigger role in the next “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Other planned series set in the Star Trek universe include a Starfleet Academy-themed show for young adult viewers; “Lower Decks,” an animated comedy for adults; “Ceti Alpha V,” based on Khan Noonien Singh; and an animated series for kids.

Credits: “The Umbrella Academy” and “Space Force,” Netflix; “Star Trek: Discovery,” CBS Television Distribution; “Upload,” Prime Video.

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Sci-fi to watch, read, and love

897264_2448775After getting CBS All Access so I could watch “Star Trek:  Picard,” I finally got around to watching “Star Trek: Discovery.” It exceeded my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations were somewhat low, due to the online hate for the series, which is part of the reason I took so long to watch. The other reason: I didn’t want to subscribe to yet another streaming service. My opinion is it’s totally worth it. You get “Picard” and “Discovery,” and the other Trek series are available as well.

I love that “Discovery” changed up the typical Trek structure. Normally, the captain is the main character, but that is not the case here. Also, this is the first Trek series in which a black woman is the main character; Sonequa Martin-Green is awesome as science specialist Michael Burnham.

Burnham is a human but she was raised by a Vulcan – Sarek. Yep, Spock’s father. She and Spock are step-siblings. (The show begins about 10 years before the events of the original series.)

I’m confused by the criticism surrounding “Discovery.” From what I’ve seen so far (I’m in the middle of Season 2), the series is true to the values of Star Trek, but is even more intense and suspenseful. It’s full of surprises and twists. Do I love every single episode? No. But there have been hits and misses in every Trek series.

If you want a nice diversion from current events, which will keep you on the edge of your seat, check it out. (Production on Season 3 is delayed and is expected to continue later this year.)

‘Limetown’

e85087c0-df45-11e9-8978-8fc02aeeebe7_800_420This Facebook Watch series is a remake of a podcast. It stars Jessica Biel as a journalist whose uncle (Stanley Tucci) mysteriously disappeared, along with 300 others, from an experimental town. I enjoyed Facebook’s offerings “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Sacred Lies,” so I decided to try this one, which was a little creepier than I would have liked, but it was addictive and made me want to keep watching to see what new secret would be revealed in the next episode. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after the first season, so the 10th episode is a cliffhanger and we never get to see how the story ends.

‘The Book of Koli’

the-book-of-koli-careyYou may remember a 2014 novel called “The Girl With All the Gifts,” by M. R. Carey. If you’re into zombie apocalypse stories, you’ll love it. It has since been made into a movie, which I haven’t seen. I can only tell you the book was crazy.

Carey’s new novel, “The Book of Koli” is a post-apocalyptic story too, and it’s just as engrossing as “The Girl,” but I enjoyed “Koli” even more.

The new book is about a teenage boy who lives in a village walled off from the murderous vegetation and cannibals which threaten their lives. When Koli starts questioning the power dynamic of the ruling family, everything changes.

From the first page, I was immersed in this dystopian world, and I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait to read the second book, “The Trials of Koli,” which comes out in September.

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Many, many films and TV/streaming series have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Wonder Woman sequel will not be released in June as planned; it has been pushed to Aug. 14. The Marvel film “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, has been changed to Nov. 6.

umbrella-academy-season-2.-poster-1jpgNetflix suspended filming on all productions including Season 2 of “The Witcher.” The fourth season of “Stranger Things” has been postponed. Filming wrapped on Season 2 of “The Umbrella Academy” in November, but post-production was affected by the shutdown. Release dates are still in limbo.

While we don’t yet have a release date for Season 2 of Amazon’s “The Boys,” it is reportedly still on track. I’m looking forward to binge watching it this summer. Another Amazon Prime series, “The Expanse,” has also wrapped filming, but no word yet on whether the pandemic will postpone the release of Season 5.

Disney shut down production of its Marvel series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision.” New release dates have not yet been announced.

Of course, with sci-fi, post-production is going to take longer on these special effects-heavy films and series, than on productions that don’t use a lot of effects. And even the films  which are ready for release will be delayed due to theater closures.

“The Mandalorian,” Season 2, is still expected to be released on Disney+ in October. In fact, it was recently announced that they’re already working on Season 3. Disney+ will also be releasing a documentary about the making of Season 1, which is planned for May 4, aka Star Wars Day.

space-force-steve-carell-lisa-kudrow-netflix“Space Force,” which is being described as “The Office” in space, will premiere on Netflix on May 29. It stars Steve Carell, and is created by Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”).

Daniels has been busy; he also has another show coming out soon, an Amazon Prime series called “Upload,” about a “digital afterlife.” “Upload” will premiere on May 1.

What other sci-fi and fantasy films or series are you looking forward  to seeing? Have you discovered or rewatched an old favorite? Tell me in the comments or on my facebook page!

Credits: “Star Trek: Discovery,” CBS Television Distribution; “Limetown,” Facebook Watch; “The Book of Koli,” by M. R. Carey, Orbit, April 2020; “The Umbrella Academy” and “Space Force,” Netflix. 

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Need a new show to watch? Try ‘Undone’ and ‘Picard’

I was bored and searching for something to watch, when I found this Amazon Prime series called “Undone.” The most surprising thing about it is that I had never heard of it before, because it’s really good and it needs more publicity! So here we go.

The premise of the show is intriguing enough all by itself: After a car crash, a 28-year-old woman suddenly starts seeing her dead father and experiencing strange shifts in time. The creators use a trippy filming technique called rotoscoping: The filmed footage is traced over, so it’s animated, but it has a more realistic look than traditional animation.

The best part of the show is the cast of characters. They’re flawed, but also likable and interesting, especially the protagonist, Alma (Rosa Salazar). She’s real and relatable. She’s also irreverent and funny as hell. A daycare worker from a Latino family living in San Antonio, she is very close with her mom and sister, and she lives with her boyfriend Sam, who is from India.

I loved the characters’ interactions, and the diversity. As a hearing-impaired person, I also applaud the series’ representation of disability. (Alma has a cochlear implant.)

I never felt like the diversity was “forced” as it is in some series. Instead it was integral to the story. One of my favorite scenes is when Alma is talking to a Mesoamerican dancer who tells her, “Even though you don’t know the dance, you know the dance.” And the way their conversation, about the power of dance, influences the plot is really beautiful.

I haven’t even told you about the main story, the mystery Alma has to solve, but I don’t want to give it away. Watch it and tell me what you think!

‘Star Trek: Picard’

how-to-stream-star-trek-picard-promo

I was a little late to this party, because I was reluctant to pay for CBS All Access just to watch this one show. But now that I’m watching it, I think it’s worth it.

There is a lot going on here, so I’ll just give you a little background: We find out in the first episode that Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) persuaded the Federation, 14 years ago, to help save millions of Romulans endangered by the Romulan star’s supernova. “Rogue” androids attacked Mars, disrupting the evacuation, so Starfleet called it off, abandoning the Romulan refugees – and banned synthetic life forms.

Picard resigned and is now living a peaceful life at his French vineyard. Of course this peace doesn’t last. Things get shaken up in short order.

It takes a couple episodes to hit its stride, but once it takes off, you’ll be ready to binge watch the whole series. Too bad – they only dole out an episode per week. I’m eight episodes in and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the new crew.

Guest stars include Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan, who reprise their roles as Data, Riker, Troi, and Seven of Nine.

Credits: “Undone,” Amazon Prime Video; “Star Trek: Picard,” CBS Television Distribution.

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Sci-fi TV: Disney+ updates and ‘Travelers’ wrap-up

If you haven’t gotten around to subscribing to Disney+ yet, and watching the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” what are you waiting for? It’s so cool! Baby Yoda! I mean, um “The Child.” He (she??) is so cute!

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My other favorite character in this series is Cara Dune, a bad-ass mercenary played by Gina Carano. I love that they chose a former mixed martial artist for this part, instead of a skinny supermodel. Carano looks tough because she is tough. She’s also a great actress.

“The Mandalorian” will be back with Season 2 in October. It has also been reported that Disney+ is planning at least two more “Star Wars” spinoffs, with Ewan McGregor in an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor, in a “Rogue One” series. I’ll keep you posted when I have premiere dates on those shows.

PRI_80590434Coming to Disney+ this year is “WandaVision.” Remember Scarlet Witch from the “Avengers” movies? Her real name is Wanda Maximoff, and her boyfriend is that red guy – an android named Vision. He was created in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” after Tony and Bruce uploaded J.A.R.V.I.S. into a vibranium body powered by the Mind Stone.

You may remember that Vision died in “Avengers: Infinity War” – twice. So I guess they’ll have to power him back up again for this new series, which will premiere in December. It will be six episodes, to be released weekly. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will reprise their roles.

There are more “Avengers” spinoff series in the works as well: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will be on Disney+ in August, and there’s also a “Loki” series coming up. Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role (yay!) but we have to wait till 2021 (boo!). Also expected in 2021 are the Marvel series “What If…” and “Hawkeye.”

“Moon Knight,” “She-Hulk,” and “Ms. Marvel” are in development, but dates for those series have not yet been announced.

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‘Travelers’

I finally got around to finishing the series “Travelers,” the Canadian-American sci-fi series that began in 2016. I got sidetracked and didn’t finish seasons 2 and 3 until this month, and I binge-watched it; it’s a very addictive show, and I got caught up in all the time-traveling craziness. There’s so much going on that I could probably watch the entire series all over again and pick up puzzle pieces that I missed the first time around.

“Travelers” requires you to suspend your belief in logic, otherwise you will get a headache trying to make sense of it, but that’s more or less true of every time-travel story. The gist is this: Hundreds of years in the future, humans develop advanced technology and are able to send people’s consciousnesses back to the 21st century – into the bodies of people who are about to die. These “travelers” are given missions that will prevent catastrophic events that make the world worse for its future inhabitants.

Photo: Jeff WeddellI love that there’s a suspenseful, unpredictable story here, but also some really compelling characters. Eric McCormack (from “Will & Grace) is great as the team’s leader, and there is some great acting across the board, with an ensemble cast that includes Jared Abrahamson as an elderly engineer in the body of a high school kid; Reilly Dolman as the team’s historian, whose 21st century body is addicted to heroin; Nesta Cooper, the team’s tactician, who assumes the life of a young mom; and MacKenzie Porter, the team’s medic.

Travelers must continue to live their hosts’ lives whenever they are not on a mission, and it’s just as interesting to see them navigate life in the 21st century as it is to to see them saving the world. I’m bummed that we only got three seasons of this show (and it would have made my best-of-the-decade list if I’d finished it before now), but at least we got an epic and (mostly) satisfying finale. You can watch all three seasons on Netflix.  I’m excited to see what the series’ creator, Brad Wright (who also did the “Stargate” series), does next.

Credits: “The Mandalorian,” Disney Media Distribution; “Avengers: Endgame,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Travelers,” Netflix.

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Top 10 TV and streaming series of the last 10 years

In the last couple weeks, I’ve reviewed my favorite sci-fi and fantasy books and movies. Today’s list concludes my best-of-the-decade series. Here are my top 10 favorite TV series that were available on TV and streaming from 2010 to 2019:

1. “The Expanse” (Amazon Prime) is my current favorite TV show, despite its somewhat slow first season. If you stick with it, you will be rewarded. There’s all sorts of stuff going on here: drama, mystery, political intrigue, and outer space adventure. Every season is better than the last. It started out on Syfy, but you can now find it at its new home on Amazon.

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Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) knights Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) on “Game of Thrones” (HBO).

2. “Game of Thrones.” During its eight-year run, HBO’s epic adaptation of the George R.R. Martin series was not only the best fantasy series on television, but the most compelling thing to watch, period – until the writers ruined it with the last few episodes. Let’s just pretend it ended with its last good episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

3. “Orphan Black.” Like “Game of Thrones,” the last season of “Orphan Black” was not great. But I really enjoyed this series for most of its five-season run. Tatiana Maslany played several identical clones who are nothing alike, and she’s such a great actress I kept forgetting that she is just one person. My favorite “sestra” was Helena, and I dressed as her for Halloween a few years ago.

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Elisabeth Shue and Antony Starr in “The Boys” (Amazon Prime).

4. “The Boys” (Amazon Prime). I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did, mostly because its premise – superheroes who act like villains – sounded like a rip-off of “Watchmen.” (And like “Watchmen,” it’s adapted from a comic book series.) It turns out the titular charcters aren’t the  flashy superheroes, but the vigilantes who are trying to take them down. My only beef is that it’s occasionally a little too graphic for my taste, but that seems to be de rigueur for R-rated and MA-rated series lately.

5. “Mr. Robot.” The USA Network’s hacker thriller starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater also at first glance seemed like a rip-off; it had a lot of similarities to “Fight Club.” But it was suspenseful and unpredictable, and Rami Malek is such an amazing actor that you can’t help but want to keep watching and see what happens next.

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Winona Ryder plays Joyce Byers on “Stranger Things” (Netflix).

6. “Stranger Things” (Netflix). I am not typically a fan of horror, so the fact that this made my list is a testament to how cool it is. It’s set in the ’80s, and is an homage to so many films from that decade. The show also has some actors who were popular in the ’80s: Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, Matthew Modine, Cary Elwes, and Paul Reiser have been in at least one season of “Stranger Things.”

7. “The Witcher” (Netflix). Like the aforementioned series “The Boys,” this show has only been on for one season. But what I’ve seen so far, I like. This was a book series and a videogame first, but I’m not familiar with either, so the medieval fantasy world of Geralt of Rivia was all new to me. The series follows the life and times of a witcher (a monster hunter, played by Henry Cavill), a sorceress, and a princess, whose fates are intertwined.

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Robert Sheehan is Klaus Hargreeves in Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” Klaus can talk with the dead.

8. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix). Another comic book adaptation, this Netflix series hooked me from the first episode, in which 43 women spontaneously give birth, despite showing no signs of pregnancy. An eccentric billionaire finds and adopts seven of the babies, and raises them as a team of superheroes. But Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters it’s not. The children, now grown, have all sorts of dysfunction, stemming not only from their unique and varied powers, but their strange upbringing. I can’t wait to see what happens in Season 2.

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“The Child” is one of the (cutest) characters on “The Mandalorian,” on Disney+.

9. “The Mandalorian” (Disney+) is a welcome return to early-era Star Wars. It’s set a few years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” and follows the adventures of a Mandalorian bounty hunter. The series was created by Jon Favreau. Not only does it have an adorable “baby Yoda” but great guest stars like Amy Sedaris.

10. “Russian Doll” (Netflix). The always entertaining Natasha Lyonne is a wisecracking videogame developer caught in a time loop. As she re-lives the same day over and over in Groundhog Day-esque fashion, she discovers she’s not the only one stuck in the loop. It’s an entrancing and binge-inducing trip down a rabbit hole.

(Featured photo: “The Expanse,” Amazon Prime.) thumbnail_2019-09-16 20.23.12

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Superhero movies ruled in the last decade; here are the best

As I mentioned last time, I separated my top 10 sci-fi and fantasy films of the decade from my fave superhero movies. Here are my picks:

1. “Wonder Woman,” 2017. This is my favorite film of the decade, period. I still haven’t gotten tired of watching it. I loved Wonder Woman when I was a kid, and Gal Gadot lives up to her character’s moniker. She really is a wonder, and I love just about everything about this movie: Diana growing up on Themyscira with the bad-ass Amazonian warriors, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, and the way the movie captured the rallying cry of feminist power. I love the song Sia did for this movie. I love the film’s heart and humor and all-around awesomeness. 

guardians_of_the_galaxy_vol_two_xlg2. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” 2017. This movie (along with the first one) is another one that I’ve watched multiple times. I fell in love with this zany intergalactic superhero team and I can’t get enough of them. I love the characters, the music, the humor, and all of their crazy outer space adventures. They’re my favorite superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

3. “Deadpool 2,” 2018. Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the wisecracking mutant. Deadpool isn’t a typical comic book hero; he knows he’s in a superhero movie. He knows all the tropes and clichés and he “breaks the fourth wall.” Both Deadpool movies manage to be raunchy and hilarious while also being touching and sweet.

4. “Doctor Strange,” 2016. I don’t know what I was expecting when I first saw this movie, but it wasn’t this. I didn’t expect to love every minute of this trippy origin story, with Benedict Cumberbatch as an arrogant surgeon turned sorcerer and Tilda Swinton as a bald and ancient mystic. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rachel McAdams also star.

captain_marvel_poster_16885. “Captain Marvel” (2019) is the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and the first female-led film in the MCU. Crazy, right? There were a lot of other things to love about this movie too: Brie Larson was great as the title character; we got to see a lot of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson); and it gets extra points for having a cat – I mean a flerken – in the cast. I also loved that it was set in the ’90s.

6. “Black Panther” (2018). The title character, aka King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), is the leader of Wakanda, an African nation which is every bit as fascinating as the superhero himself. His little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the Tony Stark-like genius behind T’Challa’s suits/gadgets. And as awesome as Black Panther is, it’s the women I admired most in this film. I hope to see Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia in future films.

7. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) is my favorite X-Men movie. Logan (Hugh Jackman) goes back to 1973 to – what else? Save the world. This could get old, but it doesn’t. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as young Professor X and Magneto are soooo great, and the cast also includes Jennifer Lawrence and Peter Dinklage. But arguably the best part of this movie is the prison break scene in which Quicksilver (Evan Peters) dashes around to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” moving bullets out of the way and giving cops wedgies.

Spider-Man-Into-the-Spider-Verse-2018-movie-poster8. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) won several awards, and in my opinion, it’s the best Spider-Man film 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.

9. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018). This is my fave Avengers film. It was great to see the Avengers and the characters from the other Marvel movies interacting with each other. The ensemble cast was the best part of this movie, but it was also more engaging than previous installments because it was a better story.

10. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). Chris Hemworth and Tom Hiddleston are back as Thor and Loki in this sequel, in which Thor must save Asgard from his evil sister Hela (Cate Blanchett). Directed by Taika Waititi, the film is as much a comedy as it is an action movie, which is exactly how I like my superhero movies. It’s a fun film.

That concludes Part 2 of my favorite movies of the decade! Next up is my top 10 favorite TV series. Stay tuned!

(Photo at top: Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. Pictures.) thumbnail_2019-09-16 20.23.12

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My 10 favorite sci-fi and fantasy films, 2010-2019

I tried to mash all of my favorite sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies into one top 10 list, but alas, it didn’t work. There were just so many great films in the past 10 years, I had to make a separate list for my 10 favorite superhero movies. I’ll post that soon. For now, here are my favorite non-superhero movies of the decade. I’m not going by Rotten Tomatoes or Oscar noms or box office numbers; these are my personal favorites.

1. “The Shape of Water” (2017) is a movie about a cleaning lady who falls in love with the creature from the black lagoon, and it won an Oscar for best picture, which would sound unbelievable if you didn’t know who made it; Guillermo del Toro is known for making films that are works of art. Like all good sci-fi, it asks the big questions. How do we treat “the Other” in our society, whether the Other is a sea creature, a mute woman, a gay man? 

2. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015). The final trilogy in the Skywalker saga recently ended, but this is where it started. The highly anticipated “Force Awakens” introduced us to new characters and reacquainted us with old favorites. You can check out the review I did with my friend and fellow blogger Lavender (nomansland.blog) here: ‘The Force’ awakens two Star Wars fans’ inner Siskel & Ebert

Interstellar_023. “Interstellar” (2014) is an epic outer space drama directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Matt McConaughey leads a team of astronauts who travel through a wormhole to search for a new planet after Earth’s resources have been depleted. The movie is almost three hours long, but I was so absorbed in the movie, I didn’t notice.

4. “Inception” (2010) is one of those trippy, mind-bending movies like the one I was just talking about – “Interstellar.” This one was also written and directed by Christopher Nolan, so I guess that’s no coincidence. Instead of going into space, though, the characters in this film go into people’s minds. Leonardo DiCaprio is an “extractor,” a thief who steals info by infiltrating the subconscious. He is offered the chance to have his criminal record expunged if he can do the opposite: implant an idea into a person’s subconscious. What’s real? What’s not? It can get confusing if you’re not paying attention.

5. “Hunger Games,” 2012. A friend of mine convinced me to read the books not longpora6w964o9iq before the first movie was released. I really liked the books, so I had high hopes for the film, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I contracted “Hunger Games” fever and saw it in the theater twice. The first film was the best of the bunch. Jennifer Lawrence was a perfect Katniss Everdeen.

6. “Elysium,” 2013. Matt Damon stars in Neill Blomkamp’s futuristic morality play, in which Damon’s character attempts to reach a Med-Bay on the luxury space habitat Elysium after being poisoned by radiation on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Even if Blomkamp is a bit heavy-handed with his symbolism, I love his movies. I also love Matt Damon, so this one is a win-win.

7. “Never Let Me Go” (2010). Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley star in the heartbreaking film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s heartbreaking novel in which clones are raised to have their organs harvested. Pass the tissues please.

8. “Gravity” (2013). There has been some discussion about whether this is science fiction. Wikipedia calls it a “science fiction thriller,” so I’m including it. Watching Sandra Bullock and George Clooney float around in space may sound boring, but it’s actually a suspenseful, inspiring story, and I loved it. “Gravity” was written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also wrote another one of my favorite movies, the dystopian “Children of Men.” Cuarón is another filmmaker, like del Toro, who doesn’t just “make movies” – this film is a masterpiece.

9. “Okja” (2017). This Netflix film by Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) is one of those movies where you’re constantly thinking, “What the … ?” Bong sort of reminds me of Yorgos Lanthimos in this way. Is it weird that I still loved it? Maybe I’m biased because I’m a vegetarian; it’s about a giant, genetically engineered “super pig.” Tilda Swinton plays the eccentric CEO of a big corporation and Paul Dano plays a member of the Animal Liberation Front. Check it out, but don’t blame me if you never want to eat pork again.

Alicia-Vikander-Ex-Machina-FilmFad.com_-110. “Ex Machina” (2014). Alex Garland also did the movie “Annihilation,” but I prefer this more subtle, less creepy film. A programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to his CEO’s (Oscar Isaac) secluded home, and meets an intelligent humanoid robot (Alicia Vikander).  I’ve noticed a lot of futuristic films fall into one of two camps: One vision of the future is an AI takeover. The other suggests we are headed for the apocalypse. I’m fine with either – fictionally speaking – as long as it’s a good story. Like many robot flicks, “Ex Machina” asks the question: What makes us human?

On that note, I leave you. But I’ll be back soon with my Top 10 superhero films of the decade.

Credits: “The Shape of Water,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Interstellar,” Paramount Pictures; “Hunger Games,” Lionsgate Films; “Ex Machina,” A24. 

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My top 10 favorite sci-fi & fantasy books of the decade

I’ve been so busy getting caught up on all my TV viewing (see my two previous blog posts) that I haven’t really had time to get started on my decade faves, but better late than never, I always say! Here are my top 10 favorite books of the decade. (I will post my favorite movie and TV series lists soon.)

51-qQ2TbIPL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_1. “Station Eleven,”  the award-winning, post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel, made me feel grateful for everything I have, in a “well-at-least-everyone-I-love-hasn’t-been-killed-by-a-superbug-and-everything-hasn’t-turned-to-complete-shit” sort of way. It’s reportedly being adapted for TV, as a 10-episode miniseries on HBO Max, and will star Mackenzie Davis and Hamish Patel. You can read my review of the novel here: Award winner ‘Station Eleven’ is a haunting, addictive novel

ready-player-one-book-cover2. Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One,” the novel on which the 2018 film is based, is about a teenage gamer named Wade who escapes from his crappy reality by pluggging into an online, virtual reality where anything is possible. He enters a 1980s themed contest, so as you can imagine, there are tons of fun ’80s pop culture references.

3. “All the Birds in the Sky,” by Charlie Jane Anders, is the Printstory of a girl named Patricia who discovers she can understand what the birds are saying. As someone who’s always wanted to talk to animals, the premise sucked me into this apocalyptic adventure that blends magic and technology when Patricia becomes friends with a computer genius kid named Lawrence. I also enjoyed Anders’ book of short stories, and her other novel, “The City in the Middle of the Night,” which has been optioned for series development by Sony Pictures Television.  

250px-Saga1coverByFionaStaples4. “Saga,” written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, is the best comic book series in the past 10 years, and I’m guessing it made lots of people’s best-of lists. Its central characters are Marko and Alana, lovers from warring planets, and their daughter, Hazel. The family is chased across the galaxy by an assassin whose sidekick is a giant, hairless, lie-detecting cat; a TV-faced robot prince; and Marko’s ex-girlfriend. See my review of the comic here: ‘Saga’ leaves you wanting more but you’ll have to wait

5. “Circe,” by Madeline Miller, was a treat for me because I largeenjoyed reading “The Odyssey” in college, so I was familiar with a lot of the characters already, but you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of Odysseus, or even Greek mythology, in order to enjoy the book. You might want to know that it reminds me of Maleficent in that it’s told from the villain’s side of the story. Circe is a sorceress who turns men into pigs in “The Odyssey,” but here, we find out why. I loved it and I’m hoping it will be adapted to the big screen.

image16. “Monstress,” a comic by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda,  was introduced to me recently by a family member so I’m not even caught up yet, but what I’ve read so far, I love. And it’s adorable; it’s about a teenage girl who is possessed by a demon. Oh wait, that’s not the part that’s cute – it also has a little girl and a talking cat.

7. “Rat Queens,” a comic by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by512+UBiq1HL Tess Fowler (see note below), is a medieval fantasy about four women mercenaries who go on always-exciting (and sometimes raunchy) adventures. By the way, all three of the comic books on this list are published by Image Comics (and also are not for kids).

8. “Salt Slow” is a collection of feminist fairy tales and ghost stories by Julia Armfield. The characters evoke the spirits of old-fashioned monsters from Greek mythology, Grimm’s fairy tales, and classic horror movies, but with an original and modern twist.

9781476733951_custom-77e5513ca3d99086fbaa65d783932017b7a41600-s6-c309. “Wool,” by Hugh Howey, is the first book of “Silo,” a post-apocalyptic series. It takes place in the Silo, a city that goes 144 stories under the surface of the Earth. The series is reportedly being adapted to telesvision, as is another of Howey’s series, “Beacon 23.”

10. “How to Stop Time,” by Matt Haig, is a sort of time-traveling tale, but our protagonist is not using a time machine – heimg_0276 (1) is 400 years old. His body ages more slowly than the rest of us so he only looks like he’s in his 40s. I know, you’re wondering if they are making this into a film and the answer is yes! It has been reported that Benedict Cumberbatch will play the main character.

Note: Ryan Ferrier took over “Rat Queens” in 2019, and Priscilla Petraites is now the artist. Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic, and Owen Gieni have also illustrated the series.

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