Amazon picks up critically acclaimed series ‘The Expanse’

We have nearly come to the end of Season Three of my new favorite series, “The Expanse.” I’m sure I’m not alone in saying every season has been more exciting than the last! The plot, which was a bit confusing in Season One, is really suspenseful and original, and the characters’ varied personalities and motivations add a dimension of realism that is often lacking in the genre.

I honestly am counting down the days to the next episode, and I’m bummed that there are only three episodes left in this season.

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Shohreh Aghdashloo as the indomitable Chrisjen Avasarala is just one of many reasons to tune in to “The Expanse.”

Unfortunately, perhaps because the show took a while to hit its stride, it lost viewers and Syfy canceled the series on May 11. After news of the cancellation, fans began a campaign to save the show. Because Amazon already owned streaming rights for the show, it seemed like a good fit. The campaign included a petition that collected 150,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe page which collected money for a Save the Expanse banner to be flown over Amazon headquarters.

Some famous fans chimed in too. Rumor has it that Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, even received an email from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, asking him to save “The Expanse.”

The cast was recently at a conference for private space entrepreneurs, National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference, doing a panel on the science of “The Expanse,” when they heard the good news.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday, Steven Strait (who plays Jim Holden) explained: “We were there, essentially, just talking about the technicalities of shooting a space show with realistic science, and it just so happened that Jeff Bezos was there. We had planned this trip months ago. It was a total coincidence.”

Before dinner, Bezos told the cast he was a fan of the books and the show, and that he was trying to work something out to pick up the show. He emailed Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, who had also been hearing great things about the show.

In an interview with Deadline, Salke said Bezos told her, “I’m at an event, a space seminar, I’m looking at the cast of ‘The Expanse’ here, I would like to get up there and order the show.” Once she gave Bezos the green light, he announced it on stage.

Strait said “he announced it right then and there on stage. Just completely took us by surprise. Just crazy excitement. It was a roar from the back of this room. We were just all so tremendously relieved that this insane campaign had worked.”

So are we. Here’s to Season Four!

If you’re not already a fan, you can catch up with “The Expanse” on Amazon (streaming), or on Netflix (DVD only).

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

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My honey and I dressed for the occasion. Arrrr!

While I was on vacation in South Lake Tahoe, I checked out the 25th annual Valhalla Renaissance Faire. I had never been to this particular Ren fair so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at all they had to offer. While not as big as the fair in Irwindale, it was still a good-sized festival, in a beautiful location, and there was plenty to do, see, and buy.

There are about 800 costumed actors who bring the fair to life, and more than 100 vendors sold period attire and accessories, jewelry, swords, daggers, wands, and of course, food and drinks. Fairgoers could get their hair braided, play games, try their hand at archery, and be entertained by music, dancing, storytelling, puppet shows, jugglers, and – my personal favorite – a falconry show.

I highly recommend this fair if you’re planning a trip to Tahoe next year. Go in costume, and bring the kids. The festival runs every year for two weekends in May and/or June. For more information, go to valhallafaire.com.

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Daring Daniel daringly juggles knives while balancing on a rolling board!

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A beautiful owl was just one of the birds featured at the Full Circle Falconry show at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe. 

Photos: “The Expanse,” Alcon Television Group; Valhalla Renaissance Faire photos by Earth to Shawna. img_20170119_202601

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Thumbs up for ‘Deadpool 2,’ ‘Isle of Dogs,’ ‘Infinity War’

There have been so many good movies out lately, I can barely keep up. I saw the new Star Wars movie and “Deadpool 2” in the same weekend. (You can see my “Solo” review below this post.)

Superhero flicks are not usually my favorite genre, but lately I find myself more and more drawn to them, and I guess I’m not alone because they’re big hits at the box office too.

I think part of the reason, for me anyway, is that there are so many bad guys in real life, in the world, in the news. It’s very disheartening. Superhero movies offer a temporary escape – we can make believe that there are good people out there who have magical powers to kick the bad guys’ asses.

If these ass kickers can make me laugh, so much the better.

‘Deadpool 2’

If you liked the first Deadpool, you’ll like this one too. I loved it. I laughed, I cried. Mostly I laughed. If you haven’t seen the first one yet, check it out – as long as you’re OK with raunchy humor.

The thing that’s refreshing and unique about Deadpool is that he’s not a typical comic book hero – no, I’m not referring to his double entendres, but to his self-awareness; he knows all the tropes and clichés and he “breaks the fourth wall” – that invisible wall that separates the characters from the audience. He looks at the camera and says things like:

Ryan Reynolds is great as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, the wisecracking mutant superhero, and I love the new characters in the sequel too. I think my favorites are Zazie Beetz as Domino, because she was funny and badass, and Cable, because I love Josh Brolin.

Morena Baccarin reprises her role as Wade’s adorable, hooker-with-a-heart-of gold fiancée Vanessa. There are some surprisingly touching moments in the film, considering the slapstick tone of the movie. (I wasn’t joking when I said I cried). That’s not to say that Deadpool is deep and meaningful, but if you want to be entertained and amused for two hours, go see it. Just remember it’s rated R, so don’t bring the kids.

‘Isle of Dogs’

If you’re familiar with writer and director Wes Anderson, you know he’s known for his quirkiness. I was especially drawn to this film because of the endearing characters – dogs. But don’t be fooled – even though these are cute and cuddly stop-motion canines, this isn’t a kid movie. The dogs (voiced by Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, and Ed Norton, among others) are quarantined on a trash island in a dystopian Japan.

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I liked it, but it was darker and more disturbing than Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

‘Avengers: Infinity War’

This is my favorite Avengers film so far. The addition of other Marvel characters was what made the movie. I love the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and the characters from “Black Panther.” It was fun, and funny, to see some of them meeting each other for the first time.

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It’s not all fun and games though – the reason they are all meeting each other is because they are joining forces to fight a big, bad villain named Thanos. The problem of Thanos (which began in other Marvel films) comes to a head in “Infinity War.”

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. This particular story is based on “The Infinity Gauntlet” and “Infinity” comic books from 1991 and 2013, respectively. (If you want to know more about the Infinity Gauntlet, scroll down a few posts.)

I am not going to post any spoilers. All I’m going to say is that the next Avengers movie can’t come soon enough.

Here are some other films I’m looking forward to:

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ fn-ant-man-and-the-wasp-film04

I was a little bit bummed that Ant-Man didn’t make an appearance in “Infinity War,” since I love Paul Rudd, but I’m looking forward to seeing him in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which also stars Evangeline Lilly.

The sequel to 2015’s “Ant-Man” is set after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” and will be in theaters July 6.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard star in this sequel to the 2015 movie, and Jeff Goldblum returns as Dr. Ian Malcolm (although his part is rumored to be more of a cameo appearance).

The sequel is said to be darker and scarier than the first “Jurassic World” movie, and the trailer does have more of a horror feel to it. Director J.A. Bayona said it’s influenced by Alfred Hitchcock movies and 1979’s “Dracula.” It sounds like a departure from the other Jurassic films. We’ll see if it’s a change for the better or worse, on June 22.

‘Mary Poppins Returns’

I feel the same way about Emily Blunt playing the magical nanny as I do about Alden Ahrenreich as Han Solo. Han will always be Harrison Ford to me, and Mary Poppins is Julie Andrews. Can anyone else really be practically perfect in every way? 

That being said, I’m willing to give it a chance. After all, “Solo” exceeded my expectations. To make the medicine go down, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, and Lin Manuel Miranda also star, and Dick Van Dyke will have a cameo. It comes out on Christmas Day, so it should be a jolly holiday with Mary.

‘Aquaman’

Also expected to come out in December is “Aquaman.” The sixth film in the DC Extended Universe follows the events in last year’s “Justice League.” The heir to the underwater city of Atlantis, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, who is half human and half Atlantean, is caught in a battle between his two worlds.

I’ve heard this is going to be an origin story, and I’m a sucker for a good origin story. Time will tell if the story is good. Honestly, I’m going to go see it no matter what because Jason Momoa:

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Photos: “Deadpool 2,” 20th Century Fox; “Isle of Dogs,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Aquaman,” Warner Bros. Pictures. 
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Forget that Ehrenreich isn’t Ford – go see ‘Solo’ anyway

I didn’t have high hopes for “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” For starters I wasn’t a huge fan of the other stand-alone, “Rogue One.” More importantly, I was skeptical of anyone trying to fill Harrison Ford’s boots. When I saw the trailer, I was thinking “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. …”

Alden Ehrenreich is not the Han we grew up with, but if you can forget about that for a couple hours, it’s a fun and entertaining movie.

I feel we have to give him credit for being ballsy enough to think he could pull it off, especially considering that he came about as close as anyone could.

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Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, and Alden Ehrenreich star in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Lawrence Kasdan (who also co-wrote “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” and “The Force Awakens”) and his son Jon Kasdan wrote the screenplay, and Ron Howard did a great job as director (after taking over from Christopher Miller and Phil Lord).

It’s not an epic, earth-shattering film. And it was a little cheesy in parts. But the awesome visuals, talented cast and fun little touches of nostalgia more than made up for it, in the opinion of this Star Wars fan.

I especially loved Donald Glover as slick gambler Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy). I think it’s fair to say Glover stole the show, owning that Lando swagger and style.

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Donald Glover steals the show as Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Woody Harrelson (Beckett) is always fun to watch. Thandie Newton as Val and Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra were also great. And who doesn’t love the friendship and communication between Han and Chewie (now played by Joonas Suotamo)?

We know Han was a smuggler before he joined the Rebels in the original trilogy, so the fact that “Solo” is a heist movie comes as no surprise. But there was still enough unpredictability to make for an exciting story.

What to read next

Another story that I’m hoping will eventually make its way to the big screen is a book I recently read called “All the Birds in the Sky,” by Charlie Jane Anders. Print

The award-winning novel begins with a young girl named Patricia who, while playing in the forest, discovers she can understand what 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.

If you liked “Ready Player One,” put this one on your to-read list.

Photos: “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 

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Brush up on your Infinity Stone knowledge before ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Nine more days till “Infinity War”! I don’t normally count down the days to superhero flicks, but this one is special because it has everyone in it – the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but also Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and even Ant-Man and Spider-Man.

If you haven’t seen all the Marvel movies, or you just want to brush up on the history of the Infinity Stones before the new movie, I’ll give you a little background, and a few recommendations on what to watch/re-watch before you see the new film.

If you’ve seen “Guardians of the Galaxy,” you may remember Benicio del Toro’s character, Taneleer Tivan, aka the Collector, talking about the Infinity Stones. He said, “Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots. Infinity Stones.”

That explains everything we need to know about these gems. Just kidding; it explains nothing. Suffice it to say they’re powerful relics that superheroes and supervillains fight over like third-graders fighting over a Nintendo controller.

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The Collector, played by Benicio del Toro, “explains” the Infinity Stones. 

The blue Space Stone was used by the Red Skull in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and it’s used to generate wormholes in “The Avengers.” It is housed in the Tesseract. The yellow Mind Stone is in Loki’s scepter in “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The red Reality Stone was formed into a weapon called the Aether, and was entrusted to the Collector at the end of “Thor: The Dark World.” The purple Power Stone is contained inside an orb which is central to the plot of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The green Time Stone was encased in the Eye of Agamotto. A master of the mystic arts can use it to manipulate time. It appears in “Doctor Strange.” Not much is known about the orange Soul Stone; maybe we’ll learn more about it in the new movie.

No one has time to watch all 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the new movie comes out (or maybe you do – I don’t know your life). But I have narrowed it down to the basics. These are my personal recommendations, which I’ve chosen because they mention Infinity Stones, but also because they’re really fun movies. In order of release, they are “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

I also recommend “Black Panther,” because T’Challa/Black Panther, as well as several other characters from that movie, will appear in “Infinity War,” and their country, Wakanda, plays a big role in the new film too. Plus it’s just a really awesome movie. Unfortunately, the “Black Panther” DVD won’t be released until May 15, but you may be able to catch a Marvel marathon near you. (Check your local theater listings.)

“Avengers: Infinity War” will be released April 27.

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire

If you didn’t get tickets to this year’s Ren Faire, it’s not too late. The faire, in Irwindale, runs every weekend through May 20. This weekend (April 21 and 22) is RennCon™ weekend! The faire offers different themed weekends; RennConn™ is a celebration of “cosplay in all its forms.”

Time traveler weekend (including a steampunk costume contest) is May 5 and 6, and Heroes & Villains is May 12 and 13. For more information, go to http://renfair.com/socal/special-events/

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The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, in Irwindale. 

Photos: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Renaissance Faire photo by Earth to Shawna. 

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Virtual reality movie ‘Ready Player One’ is a fun ride

READY. PLAYER. ONE.

I’ve been excited about this ever since I heard they were making it into a movie (it was a novel first – by Ernest Cline).

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When I heard it was going to be directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, my first thought was Wow, Spielberg! That’s perfect! And then my next thought was that I’m not a huge Spielberg fan. So I had my misgivings. Were they going to mess this up?

The main character is an orphaned teenager named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who is competing in a 1980s-themed  VR contest – in the year 2044. The winner will inherit the fortune of the contest’s deceased creator, James Halliday, a Willy Wonka-esque character who created the virtual reality world OASIS.

OASIS is where much of the story takes place, which I imagined could translate to the big screen in a really awesome way – or it could look totally lame.

Luckily, the special effects were great. My other concern was that there are usually two issues with reading the book first. One: I already know what’s going to happen. And two: “That’s not how it was in the book!” Well there’s really no worries about that here. It was still exciting, even though I already knew the plot, and at this point, I understand that they need to change it up from novel to screenplay. As long as it works, I’m happy. And aside from a few minor gripes, it does work.

It’s clever, it’s funny, and it’s a little trip down memory lane for anyone who grew up in the 1980s, because ’80s movie and video game references abound. “Back to the Future,” “Iron Giant,” “Gremlins,” “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” – you will catch snippets of these and many more throughout, but it’s subtle enough as to not be too distracting.

You don’t need to be an ’80s kid to enjoy this movie. The rumor about this being a pop-culture overdose was premature. The ’80s stuff is just background/setting and not the story. (I don’t understand people bitching about this before the movie was even released?)

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Art3mis and Parzival in “Ready Player One.”

For a movie that celebrates ’80s nostalgia, the soundtrack should have been better. There are a couple gems (including New Order’s “Blue Monday”), but the track list is phoned in and too short, especially for such a long movie.

It clocks in at 140 minutes, but it’s so fast-paced you probably won’t notice (unless you have to pee). The pacing is actually perfect, and it’s enough time for our heroes to get to know each other in between all the racing around.

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Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe

Their friendship is central to the story, and Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and Lena Waithe were well cast and seem to click. The villains were a little clichéd; Wade’s nemesis, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), is like a high school principal in a John Hughes film but maybe that’s fitting.

“Ready Player One” isn’t deep or profound, but it’s fun, especially if you don’t mind a sprinkle of Spielbergian cheese on the second half of your movie.

Moving on …

‘The Expanse’

I did not read this book series, which is set in a future where humans have colonized the solar system. I was kind of confused/bored at first, but I stuck with it and my patience paid off. This is one of the most interesting, suspenseful series I’ve seen in a long time.

In case you haven’t heard me sing this show’s praises already: It has all the ingredients you want in a sci-fi show – great writing and effects, complex characters, a diverse and talented cast, moral dilemmas, plot twists, drama, suspense, humor. But what I like best about “The Expanse” is that it’s not like anything else – a refreshing change of pace in this era of remakes and sequels.

Season 3 of “The Expanse” premieres April 11 on Syfy.

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Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait star in “The Expanse.”

A match made in the Star Trek Universe

Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Adam Nimoy (Leonard Nimoy’s son) tied the knot on Monday, which would have been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday. They went public with their relationship at the Star Trek convention in Vegas last year. Live long and prosper, newlyweds!

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Photos: Ready Player One, Warner Bros. Pictures; The Expanse, Syfy; Terry Farrell/Adam Nimoy photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

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What to watch/read: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘How To Stop Time’

I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. But I’m still here! And I’ve been watching a lot of sci-fi stuff that I can’t wait to share with you, so let’s get started:

First, we need to talk about “Black Panther.” If you’re wondering if this movie is worthy of the hype, the answer is yes. Yes it is.

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Girl power! Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in “Black Panther.”

I love origin stories, and this one was no exception. It’s beautiful, for starters. The Kingdom of Wakanda blew me away, and the costumes are breathtaking. I went into this movie not knowing much about the comic so it was fun and surprising and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. I’ll give you a little bit of backstory:

Black Panther, aka King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the leader of Wakanda, an African nation which is every bit as fascinating as the superhero himself. Hundreds of years ago, Wakanda was hit by a meteorite containing vibranium, a metal which, unknown to the rest of the world, has given the Wakandan people the ability to create advanced technology, and which also affects an indigenous “heart-shaped herb,” which is ingested by the king and gives him the superhuman abilities that make him a total bad-ass.

Of course, the tech doesn’t hurt either. 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 really the women I admired most in this film. I really want to tell you about them but I don’t want to give away anymore. Suffice it to say there are some interesting twists and turns, some laughs and a lot of heart. (And lots of girl power!) Just take my advice and go see it.

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Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”

The next thing I want to talk to you about is “Mute” (Netflix).  I was so excited about this, because it’s directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son!), who also directed one of my favorite movies, “Moon.”

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Paul Rudd in “Mute.”

“Mute,” on the other hand, is one of those movies where you’re like WTF is happening right now and where is this even going?

Alexander Skarsgard stars as a mute bartender searching for his missing girlfriend, but Paul Rudd steals the show as an unhinged surgeon named Cactus Bill, who makes you laugh but in an awkward, uncomfortable way that makes you wonder if you should really be laughing. Rudd is good though, and you’ll probably completely forget the plot while you’re watching him.

I will confess the main reason I wanted to see this movie is because I was promised more Sam Rockwell and I would like to say I was not disappointed but I was totally disappointed; Rockwell appears in “Mute” for about three seconds.

I liked the ending of “Mute,” if that counts for anything. (Does it?)

Next up, let’s talk about “Electric Dreams.” I was even more excited about this series than I was about “Mute.” Unfortunately, I was equally disappointed.

I had high hopes because each episode is (loosely) based on a different story by Philip K. Dick, whose stories have been previously adapted to the films “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” etc. He’s been called “the father of modern science fiction,” to give you an idea of his influence.

The first “Electric Dreams” episode, “Real Life,” was just OK. It’s been done before and it’s been done better (in the aforementioned “Total Recall”). I kept thinking, I really hope the second episode is better.

It was. “Autofac” is set in a post-apocalyptic world (and you know I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic worlds), where a group of survivors are trying to figure out how to shut off a factory that keeps sending them stuff they don’t need. (It’s hard to believe this was based on a story written in 1955. Did Dick predict Amazon Prime?)

That’s all I’ve seen so far – the first two episodes. I’ll update if/when I see more.

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Juno Temple and Janelle Monae in “Electric Dreams.”

Moving on.

I recently read a novel called “How To Stop Time,” by Matt Haig. The main character, Tom Hazard, has a condition that causes his body to age much slower than the rest of us. He’s actually over 400 years old, even though he looks like he’s in his 40s.

It’s tempting to make comparisons to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but Tom is not a vampire. He’s very human, and that is sort of the theme. What makes us human? What makes life worth living? It’s deep, but it’s also accessible and fun.

A film adaptation is in the works, with Benedict Cumberbatch starring as Tom. I loved Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange,” and I am looking forward to seeing this story on the big screen.

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The 90th Academy Awards

As I mentioned earlier, I love Sam Rockwell, so I was very happy last night when he won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”! Also I love that Frances McDormand won – she’s amazing. It’s not sci-fi so I haven’t discussed “Three Billboards” on my blog, but I highly recommend it. It’s very powerful and moving.

Guillermo del Toro won best director and his film “The Shape of Water” won best picture! Congratulations, Guillermo! If you missed my review of his art exhibit at the LACMA, check it out here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2016/08/15/new-lacma-exhibit-a-must-for-guillermo-del-toro-fans/

I loved his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, which he ended by saying, “I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of a parable, of using genre and fantasy to tell the stories about the things that are real in the world today, you can do it. This is a door. Kick it open and come in.”

“Black Panther” photos, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Moon,” Sony Pictures Classics; “Mute,” Netflix; “Electric Dreams,” Sony Pictures Television; “How to Stop Time,” Viking. 

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My 5 fave sci-fi films of 2017 – and 5 I want to see in 2018

I was so looking forward to so many sci-fi movies in 2017, and what a year it has been! Here are my favorite sci-fi films of the year:

Wonder Woman

I did not have great expectations for Wonder Woman. Even though I loved Lynda Carter’s version of the Amazon princess in the 1980s TV series, I am not a huge fan of DC comics. But I was blown away. Gal Gadot was nothing short of amazing. I laughed, I cried, I watched it a dozen times. It was the perfect movie to go with the feminist rallying cry of 2017. Girl power!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Well I just said I’m not a DC fan – I’m a Marvel girl. And my favorite Marvel superheroes right now are the Guardians of the Galaxy! They’re cool, they’re funny, and they’re cute. I love Star-Lord, Rocket, Baby Groot, and new character Mantis. Add tough chick Gamora and funny-as-hell Drax and you’ve got a winning team. Even my friends who don’t usually like sci-fi love the Guardians. So what are you waiting for?

Okja

This Bong Joon-ho film was on Netflix, not in theaters, but I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a vegetarian, but this movie, about a huge, genetically engineered “super pig,” was one of my favorites. It also helps that I adore Paul Dano, who plays a member of the Animal Liberation Front.

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A space horse, or “fathier,” from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’m seeing a lot of griping about the latest Star Wars episode, but I loved it – the simmering connection between Rey and Kylo, the return of Luke Skywalker, the bittersweet Carrie Fisher scenes, and all those adorable Star Wars critters! I can’t wait till it comes out on DVD so I can watch it 10 more times.

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Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones star in “The Shape of Water.”

The Shape of Water

You may remember I did a review last year of LACMA’s Guillermo del Toro exhibit – it was muy interesante. So when I heard there was a new del Toro film, I had to go see it. It didn’t disappoint. It’s sort of like a love story between a cleaning lady and the creature from the black lagoon. I know, it sounds crazy – and it is – but like most of del Toro’s films, it’s a work of art, and that in itself makes it worth watching.

The cast was superb. Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, and Richard Jenkins earned much-deserved Golden Globe nominations for their roles.

I’m also looking forward to more awesome movies in 2018. There are lots of new sci-fi movies coming – too many to list! Here are just a few that I don’t want to miss:

Annihilation, coming Feb. 23

Ever since “Ex Machina,” I’ve been looking forward to seeing whatever Alex Garland does next. Natalie Portman stars as a biologist trying to find out what happened to her husband, the sole survivor of a mysterious environmental disaster. The film is based on a book (by Jeff VanderMeer), which I have not read, so I really don’t know much about the film. Based on what I’ve seen in the trailer, it looks like it could be good. Or awful. Too soon to tell!

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Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” will be in theaters March 23.

Isle of Dogs, March 23

Is this really a sci-fi movie? It has talking dogs and it’s set in the future, so I say yes. I love Wes Anderson and I’m super excited about his new movie, a stop-motion animation film about a boy looking for his dog in a dystopian Japan.

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Tye Sheridan stars in the upcoming film “Ready Player One,” directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One, coming March 30

Now this one, I did read. Usually when I’ve already read the book, I get my hopes up and the movie can’t possibly live up to them, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. “Ready Player One” is about a teenager named Wade Watts who lives in a crummy future world, where most people escape their miserable lives by plugging into a virtual world, OASIS, where anything is possible. The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, has died, and whoever finds his Easter egg, in the OASIS, will inherit his fortune.  Steven Spielberg directs.

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No one can really fill Harrison Ford’s shoes – but Alden Ehrenreich is going to try!

Solo: A Star Wars Story, May 25

Can anyone really fill Harrison Ford’s shoes, when it comes to that lovable scoundrel Han Solo? Of course not. It’s a risky move, casting someone else in this role, but again, I’m keeping an open mind. Ron Howard directs, which is promising. This is a standalone film, like “Rogue One,” a film to tide us over till the main story wraps up.

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Deadpool 2, June 1

There are so many cool-looking Marvel flicks coming in 2018 – “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” and “Aquaman,” to name just a few (yes there are more). But I confess, the one I’m most looking forward to is “Deadpool 2.”  There’s a different director attached (David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde”) but I’m hoping it will be as funny as the first “Deadpool.”

Photos: “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “The Shape of Water,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Isle of Dogs,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros.

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Mark your calendar for new and returning sci-fi TV series

OK, I need to move on and accept that we won’t get any new “Game of Thrones” for a long time.  To console myself, well, there are so many sci-fi shows on TV and streaming right now, I can’t keep up with everything I want to see.

Let’s start with the ones I already know are good:

“Travelers” will have its Season 2 premiere on Showcase in Canada on Oct. 16, followed by a Netflix release. If you haven’t seen this trippy time-travel series, starring Eric McCormack, I recommend you start from the beginning. You can watch Season 1 on Netflix.  

“People of Earth” is wrapping up Season 2 (the finale will air Sept. 25), but if you’re new to this quirky comedy, you can go back and start at the beginning. I myself missed the beginning, so I need to go back and catch up on the episodes I missed. The series is about a support group called “StarCrossed,” for people who have been abducted by aliens. It’s on TBS.

“Stranger Things” will return to Netflix on Oct. 27. The first season of this retro ’80s sci-fi/horror series was really cool and intense, but it scared the hell out of me. Season 2 is supposed to be “darker” than Season 1. I’m not sure how much darker this show can get. We’ll see if I’m brave enough to find out.

“Mr. Robot” will be back Oct. 11.  I’m not usually into psychological thrillers, but this one has this crazy “V for Vendetta” vibe, and it also has Christian Slater. So check it out! You can find the trailer for Season 3 on USA Network’s website:

http://www.usanetwork.com/mrrobot/videos/mr-robot-season-3-trailer

Here are the series I haven’t seen yet, but that are on my to-watch list:

“Star Trek: Discovery” will be set a decade prior to the original “Star Trek” series and will star Sonequa Martin-Green (“The Walking Dead”). I’m glad they’re going with a female lead. (I loved Capt. Janeway.) I was excited about this series – until I found out if I want to watch it, I’ll have to subscribe to CBS All Access. The premiere episode will be on TV at least: at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24 on CBS.

“The Orville” is a sci-fi comedy-drama created by, and starring, Seth MacFarlane. With an ensemble cast (including Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Victor Garber, and Chad Coleman) and big-name guest stars (Charlize Theron, Simon Pegg) slated to appear, not to mention several Star Trek vets (Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, James L. Conway, and Robert Duncan McNeill) directing, this one seems like a guaranteed hit. We’ll see. It premieres Sept. 10 on Fox.

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“The Orville” premieres Sept. 10 on Fox.

“Future Man” looks promising. The synopsis on the Hulu site says, “A janitor by day/world-ranked gamer by night is tasked with preventing the extinction of humanity after mysterious visitors from the future proclaim him the key to defeating the imminent super-race invasion.” Sounds intense, but Seth Rogen produces/directs, so you know it’s probably going to be funny and/or raunchy. Josh Hutcherson (“Hunger Games”) stars. Look for it Nov. 14.

“Doctor Who” is one I haven’t watched in a while, but they got my attention when they announced they cast a woman, Jodie Whittaker, to play the 13th doctor. Whittaker will take over the role from Peter Capaldi in the Christmas special episode “Twice Upon a Time” (BBC America).

I don’t have a release date yet, but “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” is supposed to be coming soon to Amazon Prime (or Channel 4 if you’re in the UK, and Stan if you’re in Australia). The first season will have 10 standalone episodes, each one inspired by one of Dick’s stories. Bryan Cranston produces and stars in the series, which also features Anna Paquin, Steve Buscemi, Juno Temple, Greg Kinnear, and Janelle Monáe.

Photos: “Stranger Things,” Netflix; “The Orville,” Fox.

 

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