Check out Netflix’s ‘The Old Guard’ and ‘Warrior Nun’

(Contains spoilers.)

When I was in my teens and twenties I was somewhat obsessed with vampires. I loved “The Lost Boys” (which is getting a musical prequel – no I’m not kidding) and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Vampires fit into my goth aesthetic* but also the idea of immortality and what it would be like to never age or die is an intriguing concept all by itself.

It’s why I love Matt Haig’s novel “How to Stop Time” about a 400-year-old man who looks like he’s 40. It’s interesting to imagine what kind of perspective you would have if you were centuries old, but still living as a young(ish) person. And of course you would wonder, Why me?

In “The Old Guard,” Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron) faces similar questions. She and her fellow immortals are mercenaries, but in modern times, they have a harder time keeping a low profile. U.S. Marine Nile (KiKi Layne) is the “new guard” to Andy’s old.

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star in “The Old Guard,” which was adapted from a comic book by Greg Rucka, and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball,” “The Secret Life of Bees”).

Prince-Bythewood is the first black woman to make a comic book film, and she’s also working on adaptations of the Black Cat and Silver Sable comics. The film which would have combined the heroines’ stories in one movie called “Silver and Black” has been cancelled (boo!), but the characters are now reportedly getting separate series (yay!). Prince-Bythewood has said that the research and preparation she did for the now-cancelled film, which included getting advice from “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, helped her with “The Old Guard.”

In Charlize Theron news, her character Furiosa is reportedly being recast in the Mad Max prequel, a decision Theron said was “a little heartbreaking, for sure. I really love that character, and I’m so grateful that I had a small part in creating her.”

Fortunately, we will be seeing Theron again in an “Atomic Blonde” sequel (which will reportedly be a Netflix exclusive) and also (I hope) a sequel to “The Old Guard.”

‘Warrior Nun’

My latest late-night binge is Netflix’s “Warrior Nun.” If you were a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or even if you weren’t, you may enjoy this comic book adaptation about an order of nun soldiers who fight demons.

Alba Baptista (a Portuguese actress in her first English-speaking role) stars as a quadriplegic orphan who dies but is resurrected when an angel’s halo is placed in her back, giving her the ability to walk again – and also magical demon-hunting abilities.

I know it sounds bizarre and sort of silly – because it is, but it’s crazy and fun. Just go with it.

‘Monster Hunter’

I guess audiences can’t get enough witchers and slayers. Another supposed-to-be summer 2020 blockbuster has been postponed: “Monster Hunter,” a film adaptation of the video game, has been delayed till April 23, 2021. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil,” “Mortal Kombat”) and starring Milla Jovovich (who is married to Anderson), Tony Jaa, T.I., Ron Perlman, Meagan Good, and Diego Boneta, the movie follows a UN military team who end up in an alternate world where Hunters fight monsters. The soldiers and Hunters work together to keep the monsters from entering the portal to Earth.

In describing the monsters, Anderson said in an interview with Empire, “We’re building them in even more detail than the dinosaurs of Jurassic World. And they look even better. …” OK. But. Does your movie have Star-Lord? Didn’t think so.

Trailers

The trailer for “The One and Only Ivan” is here, and it looks like the plot may be a little different from the book, but I’m still looking forward to seeing it. It’s coming to Disney+ on Aug. 14.

HBO Max released a trailer for all their new stuff, including a cool-looking new Ridley Scott show called “Raised by Wolves.” (Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.)

There’s also a release date (Aug. 6) and a trailer for the new animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” Check it out below.

Photo credits: “The Old Guard” and “Warrior Nun,” Netflix; “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Middle,” Warner Bros.; “Jurassic World,” Universal Pictures.

* Me in the 1990s, wishing I was a vampire.

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Matrix, Marvel and more: Films & series on the way

First, let’s talk about Marvel. “Black Widow” will be the next film in the franchise to hit theaters. (When theaters will open is another matter.) Although it is the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it will serve as the first entry of Phase Four. The story of Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, also stars David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, and Rachel Weisz.

Natasha’s character was never my favorite and I think it’s because she never got a great storyline. At first I thought it was because she doesn’t have superpowers, but then neither does Iron Man – unless being a rich genius is a superpower.

I think she didn’t get a better story (or her own film – until now) because she’s a woman. Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Captain America all got their own movies in Phase One.

Now that “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” have proven that audiences want to see a female-led superhero flick, we are finally getting Black Widow’s origin story. Is it a day late and a dollar short?

Rumor has it that the MCU’s Phase Four is ushering in replacements for the heroes who didn’t survive “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” Could Flo Pugh be the new Black Widow? Suddenly I’m excited about this film. Go, Flo!

“Black Widow” was originally scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters in May, but has a new release date of Nov. 6.

The “Doctor Strange” sequel, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will have a different director this time around – Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead”).

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor will return as the titular doc and Mordo. The film is reportedly going to be darker than its predecessor – I hope not too much darker as I don’t especially want to see horror when I go to a Marvel movie. We’ll see what happens with that – in 2022.

Taika Waititi, who directed “Ragnarok,” will be back to direct the next Thor sequel, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which will star Natalie Portman. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will also return. This one is also scheduled for a 2022 release.

Rounding out Phase 4 are “The Eternals,” set for Feb. 12, 2021, a Spider-Man sequel (Nov. 5, 2021), and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” (May 7, 2021) – which will be the first Marvel film with an Asian lead. Shang-Chi will be played by Simu Liu.

“The Eternals” will also mark some firsts – Makkari will be the first deaf superhero in the MCU, and Phastos will be the first gay superhero in the MCU.

“Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” sequels are also in the works and expected to be released in 2022.

Oh did you think that was it? Fasten your seat belts, sci-fi fans – Marvel is just getting started. There’s also a “Blade” reboot with Mahershala Ali (!), a “Fantastic Four” movie, a “Loki” series, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “WandaVision” (which will tie into the Doctor Strange sequel), “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight,” “She-Hulk,” an animated series called “What If … ?”, a “Hawkeye” series, a third Ant-Man film, and a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. Did I forget anything? Probably.

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’

The fourth movie in the franchise is set 30 years after the second film. A family moves to a small town where they discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters, some of whom will make appearances. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts will reprise their roles. (Harold Ramis passed in 2014.)

The film will be directed by Jason Reitman, and also stars Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Paul Rudd. Originally scheduled to be released this month, the film now has a release date of March 5, 2021.

‘Tenet’

Christopher Nolan wrote and directed two of my favorite movies, “Interstellar” and “Inception.” His new mind-bender, “Tenet,” is scheduled to be released Aug. 12. The cast includes John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.

They filmed in Denmark, Estonia, India, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Filming was done before pandemic-related shutdowns.) It’s Nolan’s most expensive original project yet, with a production budget of roughly $200 million. The film’s release date has been postponed twice, and each pandemic-related postponement cost Warner Bros. between $200,000 and $400,000 in marketing fees.

It’s pretty certain this one won’t go straight to streaming. As one of the few filmmakers who still shoots with film stock rather than digital photography – and this one is also shot in IMAX – Nolan is adamant that it appears on the big screen.

So what’s the movie about? The plot has been somewhat shrouded in mystery. It’s a spy movie, and it looks like a time travel movie, but it’s apparently … not? It looks trippy, and it has the distinction of being the only film mentioned in this post (and the previous one) that isn’t a sequel or an adaptation. Three cheers for originality!

‘The Matrix 4’

This isn’t the Keanu Reeves sequel we wanted (what happened to Bill and Ted?) but I guess it’s the one we’re getting. Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are back in the fourth Matrix movie. Jada Pinkett Smith and Lambert Wilson will also return. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Toby Onwumere, Erendira Ibarra, Priyanka Chopra, and Andrew Caldwell will also star. The release date is April 1, 2022.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

The fourth film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzále, Jessica Henwick, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir. Adam Wingard directs, and the release date has been moved to May 21, 2021.

‘Jurassic World: Dominion’

The sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise and the final film in the Jurassic World trilogy will be directed by Colin Trevorrow and stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, BD Wong, Mamoudou Athie, DeWanda Wise, Dichen Lachman, Scott Haze, and Campbell Scott.

The film has reportedly resumed filming following COVID-19 delays. The studio has spent approximately $5 million on safety protocols including on-site doctors and nurses, 150 hand sanitizer stations, 1,800 signs, and thousands of tests for cast and crew. If all goes as planned, it will be released June 11, 2021.

Of course, Universal isn’t the only studio taking such precautions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would begin reopening to film and television production on June 12, and Los Angeles County health protocols must be agreed to as a condition of film permit release. Filming in other locations are following similar protocols.

More trailers!

“The Umbrella Academy” Season 2 trailer dropped – I’m really looking forward to this one!

The increased Season 2 budget for “The Boys” means “bigger, better, and bloodier.” I’m on board for bigger and better. Bloodier, not so much. Replace bloodier with more Billy Butcher and I’m in.

And one more – an astronaut series called “Away,” starring Hilary Swank, is coming to Netflix.

What film or series are you most excited about? Tell me in the comments or on my Facebook page!

All release dates are subject to change.

Photo credits: “Black Widow,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Black Panther,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, “Jurassic World,” Universal Pictures.

2020-04-22 00.25.02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All release dates subject to change.

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

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Sci-fi and fantasy coming to TV, streaming services

Mike McMahan

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

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

‘Battlestar Galactica’

Sam Esmail

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

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

‘The Wheel of Time’

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

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

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

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

‘The Boys’

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

Fantasy films for younger viewers

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

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

It is in Japanese with English subtitles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spider-Man-Into-the-Spider-Verse-2018-movie-poster8. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) won several awards, and in my opinion, it’s the best Spider-Man film yet. It’s not about Peter Parker this time, but Miles Morales, a teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and discovers there can be more than one Spider-Man. It aims to look like it’s been torn from the pages of a comic book, and it does. The computer animation is awesome, and the script is fresh and funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monstress

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

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

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

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

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

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Avengers assemble in “Avengers: Endgame.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jaime and Brienne lived to fight another day.

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

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

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

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The Red Woman does not need your forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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Watch ‘Umbrella Academy’ – & update your film calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rami Malek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars at Disneyland

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

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

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

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

Luke Perry LukePerry

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

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

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

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

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

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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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