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.

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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:

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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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More female-led films and TV series – a welcome trend

There are so many reasons I love sci-fi. One of the main reasons is that it’s an escape – from the senseless stuff going on in the world and in the news and, at times, in our own lives. It might just be a temporary escape, but I love that there are all these alternate, fictional universes out there, and I can check in and out of them anytime my brain needs a break from the real world.

And I know I’ve said it before, but I love superhero movies because there is always someone fighting for justice and giving us the happy endings we don’t often get in real life. OK, maybe not always (*cough, cough* “Infinity War”). But you catch my drift.

One of the things going on in science fiction right now makes me really happy: the trend of female characters getting their own movies. I am still giddy over the Wonder Woman movie that came out last year, and I’m also excited for the Wonder Woman sequel coming out next year.

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Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in “Wonder Woman 1984.”

The sequel will be set in 1984, which in itself is soooo rad. I really love Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior princess, I’m thrilled that Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright will also be reprising their roles, and I’m particularly intrigued about the news that Kristen Wiig will star as archaeologist Barbara Minerva, aka Cheetah, because even though I haven’t read much DC stuff, I did actually read some of the “Wonder Woman: DC Universe Rebirth” comics, and Cheetah is featured in those so I actually know who she is. And also Kristen Wiig is so cool.

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Marvel Comics’ Cheetah will appear in the new Wonder Woman movie, coming in 2019.

Why oh why must we wait so long till the movie comes out? I will have to just content myself with watching my Wonder Woman DVD for the 20th time. …

On the Marvel side, we were treated to some awesome girl power in “Black Panther.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia were the best characters in the film. I would love to see one or all of them heading their own movie in the future.

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Danai Gurira as Okoye in “Black Panther.”

We also finally got to see Evangeline Lilly turn into the Wasp in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” What a fun, and funny, movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. And don’t miss the ever-present Marvel post-credits scenes – there’s a tie-in to “Infinity War.”

Speaking of “Infinity War,” I’m really looking forward to seeing another character, who was alluded to at the end, in her own movie – Captain Marvel! I haven’t read any of the Captain Marvel comics – yet – but I love Brie Larson and the trailer looks super cool. The movie is set in the ’90s, in case you’re wondering why she crashes into a Blockbuster Video (or why Nick Fury still has two eyes).

I know that cool, ass-kicking women in sci fi are not necessarily new. One of my all-time favorite TV series, “Battlestar Galactica,” was a remake that made tough Viper pilot Starbuck a female character instead of a man (like in the 1970s series). Before that, we had Ripley in “Alien” and Sarah Connor in “Terminator.”

But more often than not, women are the girlfriend of the hero, or the token female on the boys team – and not always the most interesting of the bunch (sorry Black Widow). So it seems sort of groundbreaking to have Wonder Woman (finally!) and Captain Marvel movies.

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Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel.”

In fact, “Captain Marvel” will be the first female-led film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yep. The 20 MCU movies so far have all been about the dudes – Thor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Panther – or an ensemble cast – Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers. (I’m not counting “Elektra,” as it was distributed by 20th Century Fox and therefore not officially an MCU film.) I guess Disney needed Warner Bros. to show them women superheroes can bring in the big box office bucks.

In addition to the Wonder Woman sequel, Warner Bros. is also working on “Birds of Prey,” an ensemble film of DC Comics’ female heroes and villains. Margot Robbie will play Harley Quinn again, and is also signed on as co-producer. Just how closely the movie follows the comic, or the 2002 TV series, remains to be seen.

Buzz about the movie so far suggests the cast will be more diverse than previous iterations, which is good news (and perhaps an indication that Disney schooled Warner Bros. with the success of “Black Panther.”) Filming is expected to begin early next year.

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DC Comics’ “Birds of Prey” is being adapted into a film by Warner Bros.

It may seem like women as comic heroes is a new phenomenon, but it dates back a lot further. I recently watched an inspiring and informative documentary on Netflix called “She Makes Comics,” and I highly recommend it. She-Makes-Comics-2

Women in comics talk all about their roles in the comic industry – as writers, illustrators, editors, fans, and cosplayers. And comic historians talk about the first women in the industry – waaaaay back in the 1930s!

The word “documentary” might make you think “boring,” but trust me when I say this is an engrossing film, and it’s only 73 minutes long. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

On the TV front, we have some really great women characters right now. While not a “female-led” series, per se, there are some powerful women in major roles on “The Expanse,” including an engineer, a captain, a gunnery sergeant, and a United Nations secretary-general.

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Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dominique Tipper, and Frankie Adams as UN Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala, engineer Naomi Nagata, and Martian Marine Gunnery Sgt. Bobbie Draper, on “The Expanse.”

The 13th doctor on “Doctor Who” is a woman, which is a first, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the female-led series “Jessica Jones,” “Agent Carter,” and “Supergirl,” although I admit I haven’t seen them. They’re getting pretty good reviews; one of these days I will get around to watching!

Next year we will have to say goodbye to some of the most bad-ass women in the fantasy genre when “Game of Thrones” concludes. Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen were my favorite women on the HBO series.

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Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) will be missed, after HBO’s “Game of Thrones” airs its final season next year.

I’m really only scratching the surface here, talking about the faces that you see on the big and small screens. My friend and fellow blogger Lavender Vroman has her finger on the pulse of geek industry girl power. She blogs about and interviews women from across the spectrum of geekdom: fans, writers, illustrators, artists, fashion designers, models, cosplayers – the list goes on and on.

https://nomansland.blog/

You can also find Vroman’s work on the Hero Within blog:

https://herowithinstore.com/blogs/news

Credits: “Captain Marvel” photos and trailer, Star Wars gif, and “Black Panther” photo, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. “Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros. Pictures. “Wonder Woman” and “Birds of Prey” art, DC Comics. “The Expanse,” Alcon Entertainment Group. “Game of Thrones,” HBO. “She Makes Comics,” XLrator Media. 

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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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