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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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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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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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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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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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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Sci-fi summer movie catch-up: What to see, what to skip

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been watching movies. If you haven’t, and want to know which ones to watch and which ones to skip, you’re in the right place. Here’s your spoiler-free guide. (Movies rated on a five-star system.)

Colossal
Rated R; available on DVD
“Colossal” is a quirky movie about a young woman (Anne Hathaway) who discovers she has a strange connection to a kaiju in South Korea. If that doesn’t sound intriguing to you, then you probably won’t like it as much as I did. Four stars.

Wonder Woman
PG-13; playing in select theaters; DVD release date Sept. 19
Amazon warrior Princess Diana of Themyscira finally gets her own movie! This was the best film of the year so far, in my opinion. Gal Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman, and Chris Pine is the perfect Steve Trevor. It’s breathtaking and powerful, and it has humor and heart. I honestly can’t think of one thing I didn’t like about this film. It exceeded my expectations. Five stars.

Alien: Covenant
Rated R; available on DVD
The sixth film in the franchise follows our new crew to an earth-like planet and the usual “Oh shit!” insanity ensues. I love Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the cast was great too, but horror isn’t really my bag. If you’re an Alien fan, you’ve probably already seen this one. And if you’re not a fan, you’re not missing much. Two stars.

Okja
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This movie with a message, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is about a “super pig” bred by a corporation headed by Tilda Swinton’s character. I was a little concerned that I would be scarred for life, after seeing Bong’s 2014 film “Snowpiercer,” and I will admit “Okja” was pretty intense too. But I loved it. Four stars.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
PG-13; in theaters
Tom Holland plays Peter Parker in the newest installation of this comic book superhero flick. There’s nothing groundbreaking going on here; it’s everything you expect from Spider-Man. It was fun, but it didn’t blow me away. It’s a popcorn movie. Three stars.

Kong: Skull Island
PG-13; available on DVD
I had high hopes for this one, in no small part because I like Tom Hiddleston. I will admit it was suspenseful and entertaining and the special effects were awesome, but I would have liked it a lot more if the plot or characters had a little more depth. Three stars.

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
PG-13; available on DVD
I didn’t think this would be as good as the first one because origin stories are always the best, but I loved this sequel. Just like the first one, there was plenty of wacky outer-space adventure, lots of laughs, groovy ’70s tunes, and some touching moments about what it means to be a family. I could watch this a dozen times, and I probably will. Five stars.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
PG-13; in theaters
I really, really wanted to like this. Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” is one of my all-time favorite movies, and “Valerian” does succeed in creating a visually impressive universe, but it lacks the heart of its predecessor. The characters were flat and uninteresting, for the most part, and the plot could have been better. Two stars.

Photos: Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Pictures; Okja, Netflix; Guardians of the Galaxy, STX Entertainment. 

 

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Mark your calendar: 10 new sci-fi films to see this year

I love the smell of fresh science fiction in the movie theater. It smells like popcorn and … stardust. As I’ve likely said elsewhere in this blog: It’s a great time to be a nerd.

There are a few exciting sci-fi films that have release dates yet to be announced, but are supposed to come out this year, including writer/director Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja.” Bong wrote and directed the dystopian (and disturbing) thriller “Snowpiercer.”

“Ex Machina” writer/director Alex Garland’s next film, “Annihilation,” is also expected to be released this year.

But most of the movies I want to see have dates, which are already in my datebook. Let’s go to the movies!

March 10 – “Kong: Skull Island”

It seems like everything is a sequel or a remake lately. Everything from “Beauty and the Beast” to “CHiPs” to “Jumanji” is coming to the big screen this year. Do we really need another King Kong movie? An argument could be made for this viewpoint, but I’m not going to be the one to make it. There’s a reason giant lizards and gorillas don’t ever go away.kong-skull-island-2017-brie-larson-tom-hiddleston1

This is the second film in Legendary’s Godzilla-Kong film series. The first was “Godzilla,” in 2014. “Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (which, let’s face it, is reason enough to see this), Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

March 24 – “Life”

I think it’s possible we are nearing the saturation point with all the astronaut movies lately, but … oh well. Bring on another! This one is called, simply, “Life.” (I think it could use a catchier name but no one asked me.) Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal star as crew members of the International Space Station who are about to discover evidence of life on Mars.

April 7 – “Colossal”anne-hathaway-colossal-550x600

Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a young woman who discovers she has a strange connection to a kaiju halfway across the world.

“Colossal” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes”).

It has been described as a kaiju disaster movie combined with an indie rom-com. It really doesn’t get any cooler than that, right? I’m thinking “date night.”

May 5 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-teaser-poster

I’m not super excited about all the superhero movies coming out this year. They’re all starting to run together at this point. (I did love “Deadpool” and “Dr. Strange” though.) I will go see “Wonder Woman” in the theater (because girl power!) but I’ll wait for “Thor,” “Logan,” “Spider-Man,” and “Justice League” to come out on DVD.

There is one comic book movie I am excited about: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” I loved the first one. It’s funny, and it has cool retro music and a talking raccoon. You really can’t go wrong with that formula. Or can you? Don’t disappoint me, sequel!

May 19 – “Alien: Covenant”

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but my husband loves the “Alien” films, so I’ve seen them all. While they’re not my favorite, I can appreciate H.R. Giger’s artistic vision, Ridley Scott’s filmmaking talent, and Sigourney Weaver’s bad-ass portrayal of Ellen Ripley.

“Covenant” is the sixth of the “Alien” movies, and the second of the prequels. Ridley Scott directs, and Michael Fassbender reprises his role as an android. While Ripley was absent from “Prometheus,” Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) took up her mantle as the resident bad ass. Rapace reportedly has only a small role in the new film. With the exception of Fassbender, most of the cast members are new to the franchise, including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride.

Interesting note: Neill Blomkamp (“District 9,” “Elysium”) was working on a sequel for this franchise as well, but it remains to be seen what will become of that project.

June 2 – “Wonder Woman”

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My sister and I loved watching “Wonder Woman” on TV back in the early ’80s. We made our own starred tiaras and bulletproof bracelets out of tinfoil, and took turns using the Lasso of Truth (one of our mom’s scarves). I’m sure we weren’t the only little girls who wanted to be Wonder Woman. So why has it taken soooo long to give her her own feature film? Well, that’s a loaded question, I guess, and a topic for another day.

Even though I grew up with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, she’s now played by Gal Gadot, and the new film is set in World War I. The trailer looks pretty cool. I can’t wait to see her kick some ass on the big screen. I’m going to see it with my sister.

July 14 – “War for the Planet of the Apes”mv5bmjazmti3nti5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm2nje4mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006321000_al_

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the other apes are at war with the humans in this third installment of the reboot series. If you haven’t seen the first two films, I recommend you check them out. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” are very well done. The visual effects are amazing and the stories are worthy of them, which is, as you know, not always the case with these summer blockbusters.

Matt Reeves directs, and the film is written by Reeves and Mark Bomback. Judy Greer returns as Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, and Steve Zahn will play a new ape. Woody Harrelson and Gabriel Chavarria have human roles.

July 21 – “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is based on the French comic book series Valérian and Laureline, by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières. The film was produced, written, and directed by Luc Besson, who also did “The Fifth Element,” which I love. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks very similar in style to “The Fifth Element” as well. (It also sort of reminds me of “Jupiter Ascending,” but let’s hope it doesn’t veer in that direction.)

Oct. 6 – “Blade Runner 2049”

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A sequel to the original “Blade Runner” (from 1982), this one is set 30 years after the events in the original, which was based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard. In the original, Deckard was a blade runner – a cop tasked with hunting down androids called replicants. The lead role, however, belongs to Ryan Gosling, and the director is Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) rather than Ridley Scott, who directed the original.

They’ve been talking about doing a sequel since 1999, but the project kept getting scrapped due to issues concerning rights to the novel and funding problems. Here’s hoping it’s worth the wait.

Dec. 15 – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

The official name of “Star Wars: Episode VIII” was revealed on Monday. “The Last Jedi” is expected to pick up right where Episode VII left off, after Rey finds Luke. (Does this count as a spoiler? I imagine if you haven’t seen “The Force Awakens,” you’re probably not reading my blog.) “Rogue One” didn’t do much for me; this is the one I’m waiting for.

Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis return, and we will get to see Carrie Fisher on screen, in her last Star Wars film.

New cast members include Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran.

NEWS AND NOTESgeorge-lucas-museum

In other Star Wars news, it was recently announced that the George Lucas museum, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, will be built in Los Angeles, in Exposition Park (which is also home to the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles).

The $1 billion museum will house George Lucas’ personal art collection, which includes memorabilia from the “Star Wars” films as well as works from artists such as Norman Rockwell and R. Crumb. The museum is expected to be completed in 2021.

“Star Wars Celebration” will be in Orlando this year, from April 13 to 16, at the Orange County Convention Center. Tickets will go on sale May 25. The convention will celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Carrie Fisher’s death. She inspired so many of us, not just as the tough-as-nails Princess Leia, but with her honesty and wit. (Her books are funny as hell.) She was one of a kind.

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Carrie Fisher

Photos: “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (top photo),  STX Entertainment; “Kong: Skull Island,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Colossal,” NEON; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “War for the Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox; “Blade Runner 2049,” Warner Bros. Pictures; artist rendering, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, design by Ma Yansong, MAD Architects. 

Film release dates are subject to change.

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Four new sci-fi flicks – coming soon to a theater near you

Lots of promising science-fiction films are in the works right now – “Replicas”; “Annihilation”; “Blade Runner 2”; “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Pacific Rim” and “Planet of the Apes” sequels;  and film adaptations of “Ready Player One,” “Station Eleven,” “Descender,” and “Chrononauts” – but we’re going to have to wait a long time for most of those. For now, let’s look at some new films coming out in the next few months:

First up, we have “Arrival,” adapted from a short story by Ted Chiang. The story, about deciphering alien communication, is directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer and stars Amy Adams as a linguist hired to communicate with aliens, Jeremy Renner as a mathematician, and Forest Whitaker as a U.S. Army colonel. The film, which had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, has had mostly good reviews thus far.

Sasha James at The Mary Sue said the movie “proves to be much more than the standard first contact flick, and Villeneuve maintains his track record of turning all expectations of genre on their head.”

“Arrival” will be released Nov. 11.

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Above, Amy Adams stars in “Arrival.” Below, Asa Butterfield in “The Space Between Us.”

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“The Space Between Us” has an original, intriguing concept: Asa Butterfield plays a teenager born on Mars who goes to Earth for the first time, experiencing our planet with fresh eyes. (You may remember Butterfield from “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,” “Hugo,” or “Ender’s Game.”)

The movie also stars Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman, who plays a character inspired by Elon Musk.

It could be a hit, as long as it doesn’t veer too far into schmaltzy territory. Another potential problem is timing – right now it’s up against the new Stars Wars film which has the same Dec. 16 release date.

Don’t expect to see Luke Skywalker or R2 in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” These are (mostly) new people in a sort of side project to tide you over till the next chapter of the saga.

Set sometime between episodes III and IV, “Rogue One” stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker.

Jones plays Jyn Erso, a Rebel fighter who teams up with Cassian Andor (Luna) and some other Rebels to steal the Death Star plans.

There are a couple familiar faces: Genevieve O’Reilly will reprise her role as Mon Mothma, and Jimmy Smits is back as Bail Organa. There will also be a familiar voice – James Earl Jones as Darth Vader.

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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will be released Dec. 16.

“Passengers,” a sci-fi romance/thriller, stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as astronauts accidentally awakened from hibernation 90 years too early.

The original script (by Jon Spaihts) has been floating around for years and at one point had Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon set to star as the stranded pair.

The film is directed by Morten Tyldum, who also directed “The Imitation Game” and “Headhunters” (a cool film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones” – check it out if you haven’t seen it).

“Passengers” is slated for a Dec. 21 release.

Photos: “Passengers,” Columbia Pictures; “Arrival,” Paramount Pictures; “The Space Between Us,” STX Entertainment; “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Lucasfilm/Disney