‘Thor,’ ‘The Boys,’ ‘Umbrella Academy,’ and ‘Trek: SNW’

I had really been looking forward to “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I had high expectations, as it has the same director (Taika Waititi) as “Thor: Ragnarok,” which is one of the most fun, and funny, films in the Marvel franchise. Unfortunately, this new one is not as good as “Ragnarok.”

It was cool to see Thor, Valkyrie, Jane, and Darcy (briefly) again, and my inner (Slash-obsessed) teen was really happy about all the Guns N’ Roses tunes. And there are some funny moments, and some “Yay!” moments, but if you’re taking little kids to see this, or you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie, you might be a little bit disappointed.

My main complaint about “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is that it is basically a horror movie. I thought the Thor sequel would be more light-hearted and fun, and it is, but it is also darker than I expected. One might think the fun parts balance that out, but instead it comes across, to me anyway, as sort of disjointed.

My more detailed criticisms (which follow the photo) are full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen “Thor: Love and Thunder” yet, maybe just skip down to my review of “The Boys.”

By the way, the Guardians of the Galaxy do appear in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but only in the beginning of the movie, so don’t get too excited.

OK if you’re still with me and haven’t seen “Thor: Love and Thunder” yet, you’ve been warned. Spoilers follow!

Christian Bale is creepy and depressing as Gorr the God Butcher, and I know he’s supposed to be creepy because he’s the bad guy, but his origin story is unsettling, and his abduction of the kids is pretty dark. Isn’t it sad enough that Jane Foster is dying of cancer? Now there are monsters stealing little kids from their beds?

Almost as much of a bummer as the horror elements are the tired jokes. (The first time Korg botches Jane’s name is funny. Come up with a different joke after that.) Remember in “Endgame” when the writers thought it was funny to make fun of the fact that Thor got fat – like 12 times? That’s how I feel about the love affair between Thor and Stormbreaker. It’s amusing at first, and I know Natalie Portman has a reputation for not having chemistry with any of her co-stars but this script doesn’t help matters by whipping up more tension between Thor and his ax than between its human characters.

I was excited about Jane becoming Mighty Thor, and I stupidly thought they were going to be bringing her back for more than just this one movie. Mjolnir gives her powers but doesn’t cure her cancer? No; in fact, it actually hastens her decline. (Apparently, this is partially taken from the comics, the explanation being that the transformation purges her body of toxins, including the chemo.)

I love that we get this whole back story of Thor and Jane’s relationship, and that she turns into a superhero, and that she and Thor get back together, but then … it’s over. Then to add insult to injury we discover the love and thunder of the title refers not to Thor and Jane, but to Thor and the villain’s bratty orphan daughter! I guess it is supposed to be adorable, but it feels rushed and unearned. I guess I’m just bitter because I wanted Jane to have the happy ending with Thor.

Give Tessa Thompson more screen time!

I wanted a win for at least one of the bad-ass women in this film. Valkyrie is sidelined about halfway through the movie! I’m over this trend of women getting fridged and/or killed off. Is Jane’s role in this simply to sacrifice herself and to teach Thor how to open his heart to love? We already had Black Widow sacrifice herself in “Endgame.” And in “Multiverse,” Wanda was killed off (and was also a victim of character assassination). That’s just off the top of my head – and only in the last three years of Marvel movies.

Maybe I’m being unfair. I know it sounds like I hate this movie, but I don’t. I’ll watch it again and I’ll probably like it more the next time, and I’ll say I was too harsh in my review. Maybe.

‘The Boys’

I loved Frenchie and Kimiko this season. They are so pure and sweet with each other, and I really want them to live. Previously, my fave character on “The Boys” was Billy Butcher. (Don’t judge!) I even found Frenchie slightly annoying before, but now I’m 100% team Frenchie/Kimiko.

Unfortunately, the comments I keep seeing online about this show look like “Who cares about these two? Let’s get back to the supes.” Um? You don’t want to see Frenchie and Kimiko snuggling, but you’re OK with supes shrinking themselves to fit into someone’s uh … nether regions? You don’t want to see Frenchie and Kimiko singing and dancing, but you’re OK with yet another exploding head? What about the Deep doing stuff with an octopus? More than once?! Also, I don’t understand anyone who is turned on by Soldier Boy or Little Nina. And “Herogasm” made me nauseated. It’s possible (I mean likely) that this show isn’t for me. But. Homelander needs to die and I’m not going to stop watching until he does.

‘Umbrella Academy’

Speaking of singing and dancing, how much did you love the dance battle at the beginning of this season’s “Umbrella Academy”? As in “The Boys,” it was all in the imagination of one character, but it was still awesome.

I think the writers did a good job of handling Elliot Page’s storyline. Vanya is now Viktor, and the other siblings are supportive, which is nice.

I am not loving the Sparrows, but I guess we’re not supposed to like them. I really loved Season 2 of this series, and so far, Season 3 isn’t quite as good, but I’m only halfway through, so maybe it will get better.

‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

When the first few episodes of SNW aired, I was kind of bored. “Discovery” was the new Trek, as far as I was concerned. SNW is just a spinoff! Right? Well. It reeled me in and now I’m all in with Space Daddy, er, PIKE, new Spock, Una, Chapel, La’an, New-Uhura (New-Hura?), Ortegas, M’Benga, and T’Pring.

There is much discussion in the fandom as to why this show works so well. Is it because it is episodic? Is it because it is so similar to the original series? Is it because it isn’t trying so hard to be, for lack of a better word, “woke”? Does it matter? It’s fun. Enough said.

Aside from the animated series (“Lower Decks” and “Prodigy”), which will be back this year, there are no release dates yet for any new or returning Trek series. “Discovery,” “Picard,” and “Strange New Worlds” are expected to return in 2023.

Coming up in August on Disney+ are the Marvel series “She-Hulk” (Aug. 17) and “I Am Groot” animated shorts (Aug. 10), as well as the Star Wars series “Andor” (Aug. 31). The “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” premieres Aug. 21, on HBO.

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What’s next in Marvel, Star Wars, and Trek universes

Now that the crazy whirlwind that is “Moon Knight” has concluded its first season, we can talk about it what it all means.

What does it mean? I still don’t know. But I love that Marvel’s Disney+ offerings are so different from each other. We have the amazing adventures of Bucky and Sam, Wanda and Vision play house, a very Hawkeye Christmas, the Asgardian god of mischief, and now Oscar Isaac channeling an Egyptian god. I don’t like them all equally, and that’s fine. There is something for everyone.

Oscar Isaac in “Moon Knight,” on Disney+

I personally prefer the lighter, funnier side of Marvel (“Ant-Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) rather than Marvel’s darker, creepier offerings (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”). “Moon Knight” leans more toward this dark side. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed “Moon Knight.” It is interesting and suspenseful. But the best thing it has going for it is Isaac’s performance. He really brings this immense talent to every role, and he is perfect in this.

It was recently brought to my attention that a lot of Marvel heroes have been at war with some version of themselves lately. We see this in “Moon Knight,” “Loki,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” etc. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, or if it’s a commentary on how our greatest obstacle is often ourselves. Something to think about.

Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel

Next up, Marvel series-wise, is “Ms. Marvel,” which will premiere on Disney+ on June 8. I’ve been reading the comic books, and they are pretty good. This new character will be the first Muslim superhero in the MCU, which is cool.

We are seeing more diversity lately in Marvel movies and series; there are more female, Black, Latino, Indian, LGBT+, and deaf superheroes, and it’s about time! White dudes dominated the screen for the first 17 MCU films, and they were great and all, but it’s so refreshing – and important! – to see not just characters but main characters who represent people of different ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and abilities.

The new series “She-Hulk” is coming out on Aug. 17, and stars Tatiana Maslany who was amazing in “Orphan Black.” Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth, who are also wonderful, will appear in the series (as the Hulk and the Abomination). The trailer just dropped on Tuesday, and it looks, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Entertaining. See for yourself:

There are a lot of new Marvel series coming in the next couple years, including “Secret Invasion,” “Ironheart,” “Armor Wars,” and a series set in Wakanda. A Halloween special and a Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas special are also still scheduled to be released this year as well.

There are also two spinoff series in the works: one starring Kathryn Hahn as her character from “WandaVision,” called “Agatha: House of Harkness,” and “Echo,” starring Alaqua Cox who played Maya Lopez in “Hawkeye.”

In Marvel movie news, there are still six more Phase Four films coming out in the next couple years. The next one is “Thor: Love and Thunder,” out July 8. Then we have “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” on Nov. 11; “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “The Marvels,” scheduled to be released next year; and “Fantastic Four.”

In Star Wars news, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series will premiere May 27, on Disney+, and will star Ewan McGregor, who also serves as executive producer for the show, set 10 years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Hayden Christensen will also reprise his role, as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. There are six episodes.

Other Star Wars series coming to Disney+ are “Andor,” “Ahsoka,” “The Acolyte,” and Season Three of “The Mandalorian.” There is also talk of a “Lando” series, but there isn’t much information yet on this series.

If you are caught up on “Star Trek: Picard,” you know things have taken a turn for the batsh*t crazy. Q shows up in Season 2, and of course chaos ensues, as it does whenever Q shows up. And the Borg Queen shows up, and chaos ensues, as it does whenever she shows up.

There’s some time travel, some unresolved childhood trauma, and an alternate universe plot – all manner of completely bonkers stuff happens is what I’m saying, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about it because what is happening on this show?! That’s all I’m going to say about that.

“Star Trek: Discovery” got a bit crazy as well, in its fourth season. (When the universe as you know it might be ending and your rogue boyfriend is partially responsible, but you want to give him another chance!) But one of the cool things that “Discovery” has going for it is that every season goes in a completely new direction, and even though there were some WTF moments, I still am looking forward to seeing what direction it heads in Season Five.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” premiered on May 5, and it’s OK but it isn’t really blowing me away. To be fair, I’ve only seen the first two episodes so far, and there are some new, interesting characters, so I’ll keep watching and maybe it will get better with time.

Michelle Yeoh in “Star Trek: Discovery”

Another spin-off of “Discovery,” called “Section 31,” is still reportedly in the works and will star Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role as Philippa Georgiou. There has also been talk of a limited series based on Khan Noonien Singh, and another set at Starfleet Academy, but it has been announced that no new Trek series will be released before at least one of the current series concludes its run.

There are now 12 Star Trek series (including the animated ones) and they are all available on Paramount+. You can also watch all 13 of the Trek films on Paramount+. And … a new, J. J. Abrams-produced Trek movie is in the works and is expected to be released next year.

In “Grishaverse” news, Season 2 of the Netflix series “Shadow and Bone” (based on the YA fantasy novels by Leigh Bardugo) is reportedly in production. If you haven’t seen the first season yet, now’s a good time to catch up before the Season 2 release, expected sometime this year.

Daisy Head as Genya, and Jessie Mei Li as Alina, in Netflix’s “Shadow and Bone”

The series follows a cartographer named Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) who discovers she is a Grisha, gifted with magical powers.

I had never heard of the books or the series before I saw the first episode, but I found this fantasy world, with its interesting characters and beautiful costumes, very intriguing, because let’s face it: It’s nice to go somewhere new, rather than visit the same boring destination over and over. Like, say, Tatooine.

“Stranger Things” will be back May 27. There are actually two release dates; Netflix will release the second half of Season 4 on July 1. There are nine episodes, and at over an hour each, they are longer than those of previous seasons. In a recent interview, the Duffer Brothers (the series’ creators) said the season finale will be over two hours long. Stock up on popcorn!

Season Three of the Netflix series “Umbrella Academy” will be released June 22. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons of this show, based on the comics by Gerard Way, I highly recommend it.

Photo at top: “Ms. Marvel,” Disney Platform Distribution.

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Multiverse mania, Southern California day trips, and more

Stories about parallel universes and multiverses can be problematic. The concept of the butterfly effect posits that something as seemingly insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings can put huge changes into motion. If this is true then if all of us are even a little different in a potential other universe, how could we even exist in another reality? If the other “you” is different, then wouldn’t your parents’ alternates also be different, and if so wouldn’t they not have even had you in the first place? Or if they did, would they have the same you? Even siblings with the same two parents have different gene combinations. It doesn’t make sense. These stories defy logic and physics and are plagued by minor inconsistencies at best, and gaping plot holes at worst.

Science fiction asks us to set those pesky issues aside and instead delve into the philosophical questions alternate realities present. Or at least just enjoy the ride. Of course, it’s easier to do that when the story is good.

I have been looking forward to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” because Doctor Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters, and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” because I love Michelle Yeoh. (Yeoh is no stranger to parallel universes; she plays two different versions of Philippa Georgiou in “Star Trek: Discovery.”)

A24

Another thing these films have in common other than multiple universes is that they are not for kids. The Doctor Strange sequel is dark and creepy. It may have the same rating (PG-13) as “Ant-Man” but it is darker and creepier than “Ant-Man.” (Did I mention it is dark? And creepy?)

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is rated R, and for good reason. There are things in this movie I wish I could un-see. Enough said.

Does EEAAO live up to the hype? Well if you like quirky, raunchy movies that make you say “What the f–k did I just watch?” then you will love it. I made my sister go see it with me and she said it was like “an exhausting acid trip,” which is as fitting a description as any for this frenetic, absurdist film, but we also found it laugh-out-loud funny, and even touching. I don’t want to give any spoilers, in case you are still interested after everything I just said. Yeoh was awesome as always, as was the rest of the cast, including Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I had heard the Doctor Strange sequel was more horror-themed this time, and I suspected I would not like this about it, and I was right. If the horror aspects of the film were the only things I didn’t like, I could maybe forgive it, but I didn’t like the plot either. I am not going to give spoilers. If you like Sam Raimi’s other stuff (“The Evil Dead,” “Drag Me to Hell”), you will probably like this and if you don’t, well. We can’t win ’em all, I guess. (It’s entirely possible I am just bitter because in our universe, Stephen Strange isn’t a sorcerer, or even a surgeon. He’s an actor, and there are no superheroes. Boo.)

For alternate realities on a smaller scale, and on a smaller screen, check out “Undone” on Amazon Prime, and “Russian Doll,” on Netflix, both of which recently released a second season. I loved the first and second seasons of both shows, which feature women struggling to control their time-traveling abilities.

In the first season of “Russian Doll,” Natasha Lyonne’s character, Nadia, gets stuck in a sort of “Groundhog Day” time loop, and in Season Two, she discovers a portal to the past. Alma, in “Undone,” also finds herself traveling back to the past.

In both series, the protagonists are seen as mentally unstable (but are they?) and both attempt to change the fate of family members, often at their own peril. I could talk about what that says about how society views women, and the sacrifices women make for their families but I’m not really sure that’s where they were even going. Make of it what you will.

I have already reviewed and sung the praises of the first seasons of “Undone” and “Russian Doll,” so I won’t go on and on. I actually found the second season of both series even more compelling than the first. Like most alternate reality stories, they were occasionally confusing and sometimes asked more questions than they answered, but they got so much right that it was easy to overlook the complications.

Southern California day trips

Peasant dress + elf ears = my Ren Faire costume

There are two weekends left this year of The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale. My hubby and daughter and I went a couple weeks ago for the first time in several years. The traffic getting into the park was a pain; I missed the bird show they used to have, with hawks and vultures, etc. (we want birdies!); and there were not as many bands this time around. But most of the same vendors and attractions were there, and we still had fun.

The Wisconsin and New York faires are still to come this year. Go to http://renfair.com for more information.

We also recently went to see the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. You can’t take photos inside the exhibit itself, but we got a few in the hallway, and photography is allowed in the other galleries at the museum.

This place just opened last year (next to LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Boulevard, if you want to make a whole day of it). It was our first time there and we loved it. There were tons of movie props and costumes, a terrace from which you can see the famous Hollywood sign, and a cute gift shop. The Miyazaki exhibit runs through June 5. For more information, visit academymuseum.org.

Ren Faire and Academy Museum photos by Earth to Shawna

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Skip ‘Matrix’ sequel – watch ‘Witcher’ and Spidey instead

When I read that people are divided over “The Matrix Resurrections,” that fans either love it or hate it, I knew I would be in the second group. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to like this movie. But unfortunately, my prediction was correct.

It started out fun and funny, and I hate the word “meta,” but it was that too. But the writers apparently didn’t know where to go from there. It was almost as bad as the new “Bill & Ted” movie, and every bit as pointless. I love Keanu, but how did no one who read the script think to say, “Can’t we do better than this?” The plot was so dull and boring, I nearly fell asleep before it was over.

The fact that they kept showing clips from the first film should have been a clue that they were relying too heavily on nostalgia. They even named the deja vu cat from the first film Deja Vu, in case we didn’t feel saturated in deja vu already.

That cat was the best thing in the whole movie, which is all you really need to know.

‘The Witcher’

I finished watching Season 2 of “The Witcher” and it was over much too quickly. I’m a tiny bit obsessed with this Netflix series. I’m not going to pretend that it’s as good as say, “Game of Thrones” (and when I say GoT is good, I assume you know that I mean except for Season 8), but it is probably just as fun to watch. I love this show, and without ruining the whole plot for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I will explain why.

Exhibit A: Henry Cavill. Actually, do you really need another reason? He’s dreamy. Enough said.

OK, OK. That’s not all. There’s also some great girl power: Princess Cirilla is learning how to be a warrior, and there’s also a sorceress named Yennefer. The stories are great, the costumes and scenery transport you to another time and place, and there’s just the right mix of action, suspense, romance, and scary shit to please any sci-fi/fantasy fan.

It’s also funny. Yes, it is intentionally funny and it (mostly) succeeds at that. One of my favorite scenes has Jaskier the bard defending one of his songs when someone criticizes it by saying it’s too complicated – he didn’t realize there were different timelines until the fourth verse, etc. Obviously referring to criticism directed at Season 1 of “The Witcher,” Jaskier continues the fourth-wall break by insulting him right back, basically telling him that he can’t do any better so he should shut up.

I also love the anachronistic speech. Geralt saying stuff like “Where the fuck are my swords?” is probably not supposed to be funny, but gets me every time. Same with every character who can say “fire fucker” with a straight face.

I have a few minor gripes about this show, one of which is I am sort of over the tired trope of “the one.” The one that was foretold of in the prophecies, the prince who was promised, the dragon reborn, blah blah blah – every show/book/movie has a different name for this special chosen one. Thankfully, this series doesn’t beat you over the head with it; there’s plenty of other stuff going on. But destiny does figure into the plot, which is a little annoying. (Maybe it’s just me?)

My recommendation to anyone who watched Season 1 when it was released but hasn’t yet seen Season 2: Watch Season 1 again before watching Season 2. I had forgotten some of the characters and plot points since it has been so long between seasons. (Season 1 came out in December 2019.)

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’

(SPOILERS FOLLOW!)

Spidey is not my favorite: I am not a big fan of Tobey Maguire; I sat through nearly every previous Spider-Man movie somewhat grudgingly; and I normally find Tom Holland’s Peter Parker too earnest. I prefer Tony Stark’s sarcasm. But it took multiple viewings of the Captain America movies before I came to appreciate (and love) Steve Rogers’ wholesomeness, and Peter Parker is finally growing on me too.

I loved that Doctor Strange is in this movie, but I didn’t love that Peter thought it was perfectly acceptable to ask him to interfere with the space-time continuum simply because his buddies didn’t get into their college of choice. It was even more annoying that the doc agreed to help him. And then Peter didn’t go along with Strange’s solution of sending the supervillains back to their own universes – um, what?!

But then Ned used the sling ring to find the other Peter Parkers and things got kinda cool. When Andrew Garfield showed up and then Maguire, it reminded me of what I loved about “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which until now was the best Spidey film, and darn it if I didn’t get a little teary-eyed by the end of the movie.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will be released on May 6.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” will be in theaters July 8.

“Wakanda Forever” has a Nov. 11 release date.

(All release dates are subject to change.)

Also expected in 2022 are the Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight,” “She-Hulk,” and “The “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.”

“Star Trek: Picard” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” are also planned for the new year.

Note that the mid-season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” is Dec. 30; Season 4 returns Feb. 10.

Have a safe and happy new year!

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Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’ a hybrid of action and fantasy

Let’s get straight down to business: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” It was great – I loved it. It was almost (I said almost!) as good as “Black Panther.” Even though they are very different, it’s hard not to compare the two – they both are origin stories that star minority leads: “Black Panther” was the first MCU film with a Black lead, and “Shang-Chi” is the first Asian superhero. Both films also feature never-before-seen magical places. (I won’t get into that because I’m trying to make this review relatively spoiler-free.)

Simu Liu is great as the title character Shang-Chi, the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung) who is the wielder of the 10 rings, ancient relics which give power to those who possess them. Shang’s BFF Katy, played by the always-funny Awkwafina, provides moral support and comic relief, and Meng’er Zhang is great as Shang’s sister, Xialing.

Michelle Yeoh, as Shang and Xialings’s aunt, is fantastic as usual. I loved her in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” and oh yes, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”! You know you’re good when you land not one, but two roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Besides being visually stunning, there is never a dull moment in this movie. It sucks you in from the start, and takes you on a crazy ride. It’s sort of a hybrid between an action flick and a fantasy. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s not terribly deep but the cast, the story, the costumes, and the CGI are all amazing and come together to make this a worthy addition to the MCU, especially when you factor in the cameos from other Marvel characters. (And if you’ve seen the Marvel One-Shots short film “All Hail the King,” you will not be surprised to see Ben Kingsley, reprising his role as Trevor Slattery, who first appeared in “Iron Man 3.”)

Free Guy

I know “Free Guy” looks like a silly movie – a combination between “Wreck-It Ralph” and “The Lego Movie,” and well, it is. But it’s funny and it has heart and it was better than I thought it was going to be. I probably would not have gone to see this in the theater except for the fact that it was our anniversary and there was not much else to do. But we were pleasantly surprised.

I’ve loved Ryan Reynolds since I saw him in “Deadpool,” so already the movie had that going for it. It reminded me of the Amazon series “Upload,” except instead of a virtual afterlife, “Free Guy” takes place in a video game. Reynolds is Guy, an NPC (non-playable character). Guy’s run-in with a player named Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”) sort of “awakens” him and he begins to stray from his program. Craziness ensues.

You don’t really need to be a gamer to enjoy the movie (but it will help you recognize certain YouTubers who make cameos). The movie also stars Taika Waititi as a narcissistic game developer, and “Stranger Things” fans will be happy to see Joe Keery as his employee.

It’s not going to blow your mind, but if you’re on the fence about this one, just go see it. It’s fun.

What If … ?

I know I talked about how much I loved “Loki,” and also “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” I even liked “WandaVision” (but not as much as the other two). Now we have “What If …?”, an animated Marvel series which explores alternate outcomes. What if Agent Carter had taken the super serum instead of Steve Rogers? That’s the question posed in the first episode, and although it was a little campy, I actually liked that episode. Unfortuantely, it went downhill from there, and so far, this is my least favorite Marvel series on Disney+.

(Warning: Spoilers follow!)

What if … your favorite Marvel characters were cursed with bad writing?

In the episodes that followed the Captain Carter episode (at least the ones that I’ve seen so far), the superhoeroes we’ve come to know and love act completely against character. In episode 2, the series explores what would have happened if T’Challa had become Star-Lord, and we see Nebula, who is normally a total bad-ass, reduced to a blonde bombshell who calls T’Challa Cha-Cha.

I also found certain plot points to be somewhat nonsensical: T’Challa forgives Yondu for lying to him about his real father for no reason. In “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Quill forgives Yondu for lying to him about his real father but there’s a very good reason (his father was a bad guy). I get that T’Challa is a good person and that it’s this goodness that made his Star-Lord a savior, rather than the screw-up that Peter Quill is, but come on.

Also acting against character is Hank Pym who (in the third episode) becomes a murderous villain after his daughter Hope is killed. And Doctor Strange, in episode 4, loses his love, Dr. Christine Palmer, and becomes obsessed with bringing her back. Our favorite sorcerer’s willingness to absorb creepy entities is out of character but even worse is the assertion that Dr. Palmer’s death is an “absolute point” in the timeline – an unchangeable event that leads to Strange’s defeat of Dormammu. There is no timeline in which she doesn’t die. Um? Except for the one (in the film) in which Christine is alive and well, right?

Episode 5 gives us … zombies. If it isn’t disturbing enough to see our Avengers devolve into brain-eating monsters, the insult added to injury is Vision sacrificing humans to feed his zombie love Wanda. This seems completely out of character, but by this point I guess it was par for the course. (I admit I’m not a fan of gore; horror fans probably loved it.)

Another thing I did not like was the fridging of two women – in two consecutive episodes. In case you haven’t heard me gripe about this before, fridging is a plot device in which a character, often the hero’s love interest, is killed off or incapacitated for the purpose of motivating the hero. The most obvious example of this is in the Doctor Strange epsiode (Christine’s death is the motivating factor for his trip to Kamar-Taj). But I would argue that Hope’s death also qualifies, since it’s the catalyst for Pym’s unexpected villainy.

Actually, Doctor Strange sort of becomes a villain as well – because of his unwillingness to accept that he can’t change the past (in which she dies) – but only after her death leads to him saving the world first. So I’m not really sure if the writers are making a commentary on fridging leading to villainy or if this is just textbook fridging. Considering these are the same writers who turned Nebula into a femme fatale, my guess is the latter.

I get that the whole point is to switch up the stories but I expected the alternative timelines to at least make sense. The Captain Carter one did; it was plausible that Peggy would take the serum instead of Steve, and the ensuing events made sense. The following four episodes didn’t seem to follow logic.

There are four more episodes left in the series, and I haven’t given up. The possibilities in a multiverse are endless; there is potential for some great stories. Maybe “What If …?” will yet fulfill it.

Photos: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Free Guy,” 20th Century Studios; “What If …?”, Disney+.

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Marvel’s long-awaited ‘Black Widow’ is intense, entertaining

At last, “Black Widow,” the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has come to theaters and streaming. People either love it or hate it, based on reviews and social media comments I’ve seen so far.

With Black Widow, we seem to have reached a weird place in the franchise: There seems to be a higher expectation for this movie than for previous Marvel films. I want to say it’s because its release was delayed so long, or because of the events of “Endgame,” because we are expecting a changing of the guard. Unfortunately, I suspect most of the criticism lies with the gender of its superhero. Some people are trashing on it – perhaps without even realizing it – simply because the main character is a woman.

Granted, it has some silly and unrealistic moments, but what Marvel film doesn’t? Even “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which is perfect in almost every way!) has a few ridiculous, over-the-top characters (hello Ronan the Accuser) that are too cartoony even for a comic book movie.

Even though “Captain Marvel” (and “Wonder Woman”) have proven that female superhero movies can be successful, there still seems to be a higher bar. Maybe because I am a woman, I loved “Black Widow” and didn’t expect the plot to surpass that of other Marvel entries in order for it to be deemed acceptable. Was it perfect? No. But it was entertaining, intense, unpredictable, funny, and moving.

(The remainder of this post contains SPOILERS! Continue reading at your own risk!)

One social media comment I read said the movie sucked because of the “Scooby Doo” masks, a criticism which doesn’t really make sense to me, considering that the mask tech used in “Black Widow” was used in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and I don’t recall anyone throwing that baby out with the bathwater.

Anyway.

The film begins with a seemingly happy (and seemingly American) family: a mom and dad and their young daughters, one of which is the title character. We quickly find that all is not as it seems. The parents are Russian spies and the children aren’t theirs – they belong to the “Red Room,” Soviet villain Dreykov’s training ground for his “widows” – young girls who are brainwashed and trained to be assassins.

A nightmarish montage of images of traumatized little girls, interspersed with cartoons and news clippings, is accompanied by a slow cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We already know that Natasha has been sterilized, and we’ve seen flashbacks of her upbringing, so we can imagine what is happening to these children, which somehow makes it creepier than if they’d shown us.

The film then jumps around a bit from past to present – well, not present, but a time after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” and also takes us all over the world. It’s a bit jarring and difficult to keep up at first, but the story hits its stride after taking us on a chase that lasts only a little bit too long (but it’s a spy movie so I’ll allow it), and we get to see the connection between the two “sisters,” now grown and kicking butt.

One of the funniest scenes is when Yelena makes fun of Natasha’s poses – the sexy superhero landing and hair flip we’ve all seen many times. Florence Pugh is a talented actress, and is great in this role. The movie only gets better when Russian spy dad Alexei, aka Red Guardian, comes back into the picture. The casting for the role of Alexei is one of those choices that can make or break a character, and luckily for us, fan fave David Harbour from “Stranger Things” was perfect. And of course, award-winning actress Rachel Weisz is always wonderful.

Like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the witty dialogue and the theme of family are the film’s strong suits and are more meaningful than any stunts and special effects, and make up for the somewhat absurd plot: Good guys fight henchmen (or henchwomen) for a substance (or in the case of “Guardians,” an Infinity stone), in attempt to render madman villain powerless.

These movies are at their best when they are packing an emotional punch. Yelena telling her long-ago “family” how she feels about them was heart-wrenching, and I teared up when she and Alexei sang “American Pie,” a favorite song from her childhood (even if a bit heavy-handed in its symbolism).

One of the relationships in the film, between Natasha and her “fixer” Rick Mason, failed to launch. Mason’s portrayer, O-T Fagbenle, explained in an interview that there was originally a more intimate scene between them, in which, he says, “Scarlett and I lay down in bed together. We had quite an intimate conversation, but they cut it from the movie.”

He doesn’t say why it was cut, and it could be any number of reasons, but I think they were worried it would tarnish Natasha’s reputation. I can’t imagine they were trying to keep it kid-friendly, considering some of the other scenes. (It is rated PG-13.)

To be fair, the MCU isn’t exactly bursting with romance. There are very few kisses in the entire franchise. But almost every male character has had a girlfriend or wife. I know Natasha can’t have kids, but she could still have a man, if she wanted one, and if the writers would let her have one. Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, didn’t get a love interest either.

I think when the director is a woman, there’s an attempt to make the female superhero less of a sex symbol, less objectified, which is great; she’s a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man? Or was it more “we don’t want her in bed with a man because that makes her seem slutty”?

Wanda and Vision are allowed to kiss – they are MARRIED. Also he is a robot.

I guess it’s OK for a woman superhero to have a boyfriend if he’s not really a boy but actually a robot. (If your boyfriend is a Hulk, it’s probably not going to work out.)

It’s possible director Cate Shortland cut the scene simply because she didn’t want a love story competing with the main plot and I can respect that, even if (or especially if?) the main plot involves treating women like objects.

I’m not sure why I’m hung up on this cut scene. Maybe because it would have been nice for Natasha to have something of her own. As much as I love (and honestly, prefer) Flo and am excited to see her continue Black Widow’s legacy going forward, Natasha seems almost relegated to a supporting player in her own movie.

Although she was never my favorite Avenger (probably because she hasn’t gotten an interesting story until now), I still felt it wasn’t fair for her to be the one sacrificed in “Endgame” since the implication was that since Clint was married and had kids and she didn’t, his life was somehow more valuable than hers. I also feel it wasn’t fair that it took this long for her to get her own movie, when most of the other original Avengers have each had three. But it’s here now, so I won’t belabor that point.

The film fits nicely into the MCU, sandwiched between the wars, Civil and Infinity. Fans will enjoy finding the Easter eggs. One of the more meaningful ones is Yelena’s vest that she gives to Natasha. It is this vest we see her wearing in “Infinity War.” Marvel is really great with this sort of attention to continuity and detail; it shows they are always looking ahead, which bodes well for the future of the MCU. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Photos: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ kicks butt – but is not without flaws

At long last, “Wonder Woman 1984” hit theaters and streaming. I watched it on HBO Max and I loved it. Was this sequel as good as the original? It was not. But it still kicked butt. If you haven’t seen it yet, be warned there are major spoilers in this review!

For starters, the film was a bit long at two and a half hours, and there are a few scenes that could have been cut shorter, in my opinion. I have watched the original film multiple times, and I’d probably be more willing to rewatch this one over and over if it wasn’t so long.

Secondly, the film is set in the ’80s! Where is all the cool ’80s music? Why have New Order’s “Blue Monday” in the trailer and then not have any cool ’80s songs in the film? Music in movies is a big deal to me; maybe not everyone cares about this. One more minor complaint: I was slightly disappointed with the CGI appearance of Kristen Wiig’s alter ego, Cheetah. She looks cooler in the DC Rebirth comics.

Having said all that, the good outweighed the bad. Wiig is a great actress and it was fun to watch her clumsy, kind Barbara Minerva transform into someone who is powerful and vengeful. Pedro Pascal is great as oil tycoon Maxwell Lord. The fashion and the story itself are very ’80s-ish, even if the music isn’t. Pascal’s money- and power-hungry character is in keeping with the materialism the decade is known for.

One complaint I’ve heard is that Diana (Gal Gadot) didn’t care what happened to the man whose body Steve (Chris Pine) is occupying, and it’s a legitimate complaint but this was (sort of) addressed in the film – my view is that the opening sequence is a set-up for this moral issue. Young Diana is willing to cheat to get something she really wants (winning the race) which I believe is meant to foreshadow her desire to hang onto Steve, regardless of the consequences.

In her defense, it wasn’t her idea to have Steve take over someone else’s life – she just wished to have him back. I guess it would have been less problematic if we’d somehow found out that guy was about to get hit by a bus the next day or something. Then it wouldn’t have mattered as much.

Gadot and Pine have great chemistry. The love story between Diana and Steve is one of my favorite aspects of both films, and I cried when she had to give him up. The fireworks scene was a nice moment between the two of them.

The photo of Diana and Etta was a nice touch. The eagle armor was awesome. I loved Lynda Carter’s cameo at the end of the film, and seeing the Amazons in Themyscira again. I can’t wait for more Wonder Woman movies!

Moving on. That Mando finale was pretty crazy! If you are not caught up on “The Mandalorian,” be warned this review contains spoilers!

How freaking cool was it to see Luke and R2-D2 save the day? Yes it was bittersweet – Mando had to say goodbye to little Grogu! Will they ever reunite? What’s going to happen between Mando and Bo-Katan now that we know that whoever wields the Darksaber can lay claim to the Mandalorian throne? And not only that, but he can’t just hand it to her – she needs to win it in battle. Awkward! So many questions and we have to wait till Season 3 comes out next Christmas.

Disney+ has also announced multiple Star Wars series and films, so many I can barely keep track. In fact there are no less than 10 new Star Wars series coming. There’s the Boba Fett spin-off, an Obi-Wan series, an Ahsoka series, “Rangers of the New Republic,” “The Acolyte,” “Visions,” “A Droid Story,” a Lando series, “The Bad Batch,” and “Andor.”

My daughter and I have been playing this guessing game: “I’m thinking of an MCU character. …” And then the other person asks yes or no questions about them until they figure it out. When you can guess in only a few questions a minor character who has only been in one or two films, you know you’ve seen these movies way too many times, and you’re ready for a new installment.

If not for this pandemic, we’d already have seen “Black Widow.” Many more planned Marvel films and series have also been delayed, but we will be getting a few new series on Disney+ in 2021: “WandaVision” will arrive Jan. 15, and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is set for March 19. They each are scheduled to have only six episodes, but the work put into them looks impressive, based on the trailers I’ve seen and the interviews I’ve read so far. “WandaVision” is an homage to classic TV sitcoms like Betwitched and The Brady Bunch. It’s not clear yet how Vision is alive – we did see him die at the end of Infinity War – twice.

Loki is apparently dead as well, but the new series based on Thor’s brother spins off from that moment in Endgame when Loki steals the Tesseract. In the new show he uses it to travel through time and alters history. Tom Hiddleston reprises the role.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is a bit more straightforward – it’s set after the events of Endgame. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as Sam and Bucky.

Are you ready? There’s also “Ms. Marvel,” “What If …?” “Moon Knight,” “Hawkeye,” She-Hulk,” “Ironheart,” “Armor Wars,” “Secret Invasion,” “Legends,” “I Am Groot,” and “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” And no I’m not making that up.

I wish you all better days in the new year.

Photo credits: “Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” Disney Platform Distribution.

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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.

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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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