‘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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‘The Boys’ Season 3 is gross, but engrossing

I know everyone’s talking about “Stranger Things” but I haven’t yet gotten around to watching Season Four. Actually, it’s less that I’m too busy and more that I’m procrastinating because I heard it is the scariest season so far. Yikes.

Anyway, I’m already covered in the gore department, now that Season 3 of “The Boys” (Amazon Prime) has started. Is it not enough that there are multiple heads exploding during each episode? Now we have to see “previously on ‘The Boys'” head explosions too?

Aside from that ugliness, I’m enjoying this season so far. I missed Billy Butcher, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for Frenchie, Kimiko, and MM. Oh yeah, and Hughie. The supes make me somewhat sick to my stomach but I guess that’s the point.

“The Boys” is satire above all else, and I want to escape the real world, not be reminded of it. And this series is a constant reminder of corrupt American politicians and corporations, mindless celebrity worship, violence, racism, sexism, and the list goes on. So why do I keep watching it? I guess I’m waiting for Homelander to get his comeuppance. (Will he? Ever?) I’m rooting for the boys fighting the bad guys, and I know Billy Butcher is not really a good guy, but who doesn’t love an antihero who gets shit done?

‘Ms. Marvel’

It is hard to believe that Disney+ is already on its seventh Marvel Cinematic Universe series. The new series features a teen superhero named Kamala Khan.

As anyone who has read the book before the movie can attest, it can be annoying to discover the changes that were made in the transition. And even though I suspected it would happen with “Ms. Marvel” too, I was still slightly annoyed that the series strayed from the comic. The biggest change to the plot is the origin of her powers. But whatever.

It’s no “Loki,” but it’s a fun show so far (only one episode has been released as of this writing), I like the visual style, and the new character is also in next year’s “The Marvels” so it will be interesting to see where it goes.

‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’

(Spoilers for the first four episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” follow the photo.)

Disney Platform Distribution

I wasn’t super excited for “Obi-Wan,” mostly because I’m getting bored of Tatooine. In fact, I live in a desert, so I see enough of that landscape already. Luckily, the new series has our titular hero traveling to other planets, and it had an intriguing start (except for that opening scene which I’ll get to in a minute) but it quickly became apparent that the writers stole a page (or a whole book) from “The Mandalorian.” Swap out the adorable alien child for the adorable human child, and a Jedi for a bounty hunter and you more or less have the same show.

The very first scene of this series is a sort of flashback to Order 66 and involves a school shooting, only three days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Was it too late to remove that scene? It was unnecessary, and even if it wasn’t so soon after the Texas shooting, it is still a questionable choice, especially as it’s on Disney+.

Anyway. I’m not sure we needed an “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series, which is fine – it’s not as if Boba Fett’s adventures were integral to the larger Star Wars story either. If it’s original and/or entertaining, I’m going to watch it. I mean, it is Star Wars. It isn’t terribly original so far but is entertaining. There are some annoying plot inconsistencies, but again, it is Star Wars. You have to just kind of go with it.

I think all the plot inconsistencies in this franchise are of the “too many cooks spoil the soup” variety. (I suspect the missing ingredient here may be Jon Favreau.)

Petersen Automotive Museum

If you’re a car enthusiast and you are going to be in Los Angeles, check out the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard. We took my dad-in-law and mom-in-law there a couple weeks ago, and I will be honest, I really don’t care about cars, but it was more interesting than I thought it would be, mostly because I didn’t know they had all these cool movie cars.

They had the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” the Batmobile from “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” the ECTO-1 from “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the Transporter from “Ready Player One,” the Lexus from “Black Panther,” the Boris bike from “Men in Black 3,” and more.

If you’re into James Bond, you’re in for a treat, because they have lots of cars from the Bond films too. There’s also a fun gift shop. The museum is near the La Brea tar pits, LACMA, and the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which I talked about in a recent post.

“Umbrella Academy,” Season 3, Netflix, June 22

“Thor: Love and Thunder,” in theaters July 8

“House of the Dragon” (“Game of Thrones” prequel series), HBO, Aug. 21

“I Am Groot” animated shorts, Disney+, Aug. 10

“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Disney+, Aug. 17

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” (adaptation of A. S. Byatt story, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton), in theaters Aug. 31

“Andor” (“Rogue One” spin-off series), Disney+, Aug. 31

“Don’t Worry Darling” (Stepford Wives-ish thriller starring Florence Pugh), in theaters Sept. 23

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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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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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Beauty picks for sci-fi lovers

If you have been here before, you know I usually review books and movies and TV series but today I’m bringing my love of beauty products to the blog. Maybe you are looking for a birthday present for a loved one, or even a holiday gift (it’s never too early for Christmas shopping!), or buy yourself a present – you deserve it!

My usual purchases from Ulta and Sephora are things like anti-aging serums or deep conditioning hair masks, but today I am reviewing fun, sci-fi themed nail polish, perfume, and a bath bomb – a little “self-care” break from the chaos of current events.

My favorite eyeshadow palette is BH Cosmetics’ Supernova. It has pigmented shades with names like Nebula, Neutron, and Phoenix. I wanted to include it here but I don’t think it is still available. Boo. But it inspired me to seek out other sci-fi-ish beauty products, so here we go:

First up is Pacifica’s Cosmosis Natural Perfume. As an animal lover, I am a huge fan of this brand; their products are vegan and cruelty-free. (The aforementioned BH Cosmetics is vegan and cruelty-free as well.) I like most of the Pacifica products that I’ve tried, and their products are more affordable than some other brands. Their Indian Coconut Nectar and Island Vanilla roller ball perfumes smell yummy and are only $12. They also sell skin care and hair products, makeup, etc.

OK, so Cosmosis. This perfume is described as “deep, resinous, creamy vanilla blended with ash and cold sparkling ozonic top notes.” I don’t know if I’m smelling any ash or ozone, but I’m definitely getting the vanilla. I don’t really like floral scents so this was perfect for me. It reminded me of whippped cream, but it’s not overly sweet. Still, if you’re not into gourmand scents, you may want to skip this one. I liked it and wish the scent would last a little longer, but for $22 (Ulta.com), I would purchase this again.

Next is Mugler’s Alien Eau de Parfum, which I got as a sample from Sephora.com. This one has been out for a while, and I’m finally getting around to trying it. I like Mugler’s Angel scent so this one had me intrigued.

Mugler’s website describes Alien as “a radiant scent that inspires a spiritual journey to unveil our hidden beauty. The glow of Jasmine Sambac infuses a warmth that is intensified by the enchantment of Cashmeran Wood and sensuality of White Amber. A divine elixir that unleashes our inner strength and unites in harmony with the universe.”

I love the bottle and the promotional photos. So awesome! But the scent is … not my favorite. It’s not bad – but I’m getting mostly the jasmine in this and like I said before, I am not a fan of florals. The dry down was better – a powdery amber scent that was not as strong as the jasminey top note.

If you are someone who likes florals (and amber), you will probably love it. More recent offerings from Mugler include Alien Goddess (bergamot, jasmine, and bourbon vanilla), and Alien Fusion (ginger, cinnamon, tuberose, orange blossom, vanilla, and amber).

Alien is $85 for one ounce. (Now you know why I only tried the sample.)

Another sample I just tried is Sci Fi Eau de Parfum by Ellis Brooklyn. I bought this sample as part of a set called Chronicle Fragrance Discovery, and it also includes Myth, Rose, Fable, Fawn, Raven, and Rives. The whole set of samples was $22 from Ulta.com.

The perfumes are cruelty-free and vegan. Cool. Ellis Brooklyn’s website describes Sci Fi thusly: “This sexy yet intelligent scent blends vanilla beans with citrus, florals and the unexpected jolt of green tea in an addictive combination that will have you smelling your wrist all day. By taking the known but combining in an innovative way, SCI FI is like stellar science fiction: familiar yet attractively futuristic.”

The top notes here are bergamot and bitter orange and I like oranges even less than I like florals, so it wasn’t love at first spritz. But the scent quickly transformed to green tea, which was interesting.

I know perfumes smell a little different on everyone but this one, on me anyway, smells just like it says it does. The subtle scent of vanilla beans comes through in the base note. If not for that initial orange, I would like this a lot more.

So what does outer space smell like? Not oranges. According to this (2009) article from The Guardian, astronomers who investigated a giant dust cloud in the middle of the Milky Way discovered ethyl formate, which gives raspberries their flavor, and smells like rum. Perfume chemists, take note.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/apr/21/space-raspberries-amino-acids-astrobiology

This Galaxy bath bomb from da Bomb looks really cool when you order it online. But when I got it in the mail (Ulta, $7.50) it looked … not as cool, and also the packaging was a little bent up. If I was planning to give it as a gift, I would have been annoyed, but I bought it for myself so whatever.

The description on this bath bomb says “Fizz yourself right out of the stratosphere with this delightfully cosmic creation. Watch carefully as this black amber fizzer dissolves, because there’s a fun surprise inside. Perfect for adults and kids alike. (Everyone loves surprises).”

I’m not really a bath bomb aficionado but I was lured by the novelty of this one, and I will admit it was pretty cool. It smelled perfumey as it dissolved into the water and there was a cute astronaut charm inside. The water turned a purpley black and it was like being submerged in a galaxy of stars. Or maybe more like being submerged in grape Kool-Aid. It sort of looks like it might leave your tub the color of grape Kool-Aid, but it doesn’t. (The photo at the top of this post is my actual bathwater with the Galaxy bomb in it. Cool, right?)

If you haven’t relaxed since 2019, this bath bomb isn’t going to change that. Maybe if it was paired with … raspberry rum?

Moving on.

I reviewed one nail polish: Pacifica’s Bio Glitter Translucent Topper. It comes in five shades and I chose Alien (Ulta, $10). I love it – it’s very pretty and shimmery. You can’t really tell from the photo but there’s a lavender shade which shows through the green-blue color. It reminds me of mermaids. (Yes that is why I used our fish tank as the backdrop for my picture.)

It is described as an “innovative gel-formula designed to add an iridescent, glittery finish to nails.” I tried it over another color (gray here) and by itself – two coats is enough for an opaque look and gives you twice the sparkle.

There are a lot of glittery pieces in this. I have used similar top coats from other brands that leave you with inconsistent sparklage, but that’s not a problem with this one.

I think I’ll try their Plant Magic Polish next; there are some cool-looking colors: Tourmaline Stone, Mermaid Tail, Bronzite …

Next time, I will be back to my usual reviews of sci-fi movies and TV shows. I have a lot to say about the new Marvel series “What If …?”

Do you have a favorite sci-fi themed beauty find? Leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page!

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Books, TV, movies for sci-fi fans

It’s been a few months since my last post. I’ve been busy reading, and playing “Words with Friends.” Getting frustrated with “Words with Friends,” mostly. I have never heard the words QIS, JUA, or ZA (and I majored in English). Also, why is SARK (an island in the English Channel) a valid word, but MAUI is not? Regardless of these (and other) mysteries, I am hooked on this game, and yes I know I’m 12 years late. Anyway. Let’s get to the sci-fi:

Marvel

I enjoyed “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” I was never a huge fan of Bucky Barnes (or Falcon, for that matter), but the series changed that – the writers took these two side characters and gave them an interesting story, and an even more interesting friendship. There’s a lot of action here, but I found the characters’ evolution more intriguing than the plot with the Flag Smashers. Bucky trying to come to terms with his past, and Sam figuring out who he wants to be, give the series more depth.

I especially liked the story with the older super soldier, Isaiah Bradley. I would have liked it if they had delved into that a little more (sort of like how “Watchmen” went back in the past to show the story of Will Reeves, aka Hooded Justice). Maybe they did that in the comic. I don’t know; I haven’t read it.

Anyway, the show was great (and less confusing than “WandaVision”). Check it out if you have’t already. The “Loki” series comes to Disney+ in June, and the “Black Widow” movie is now scheduled for a July release.

‘The Midnight Sky’

I highly recommend the Netflix film “The Midnight Sky,” directed by, and starring, George Clooney. Based on a novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton, the movie centers on a scientist living at an Arctic base after a global disaster forces the evacuation of the other inhabitants. It’s a subtle movie, but beautifully done. I have a thing for Arctic survival movies, post-apocalyptic movies, and astronaut movies, and this is all three in one! I think I’ll watch it again now that it’s getting hot out.

Books

Most of the books I’ve read lately are memoirs, or non-sci-fi fiction, but I’ve also read some sci-fi novels in the past couple months. Here are some of the best ones:

“The Fall of Koli” is the final book in M.R. Carey’s Rampart Trilogy. This was the best one of the three, in my opinion, because he ties up all the threads that were started in the first two books. I loved this dystopian series, more than his zombie book “The Girl with All the Gifts.” It would be cool to see this trilogy turned into a series! (Orbit, 2021)

“The Midnight Library,” by Matt Haig, is another good sci-fi novel that I’ve read since I last posted. Haig also wrote another book I’ve mentioned here, “How to Stop Time.” In that one, the main character ages so slowly, he is almost immortal, living for hundreds of years. In this book, the main character finds herself in a library where each book is a different life that she could have lived if she had made different choices. I liked the message of the book and what it says about regrets. (Viking, 2020)

“Klara and the Sun” is by Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote one of my favorite books, “Never Let Me Go.” It is similar in tone to that book. Klara is a solar-powered android who is purchased to be a companion for a young girl. Because the narrator is Klara herself, the story takes us into the strange thoughts of this “Artificial Friend.” (Knopf, 2021)

‘Star Trek: Discovery’

I’ve just started watching Season 3 of “Star Trek: Discovery.” So far I’ve only watched the first episode of Season 3, but it’s sooo good so far! I know I’ve sung her praises before, but Sonequa Martin-Green is perfect in her role as science officer Michael Burnham. There is a lot going on in this episode and watching Burnham navigate it was a bit emotional. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and Season 4 is scheduled to be released later this year as well. (This series is on Paramount+, which was previously called CBS All Access.)

Also in the works is a spin-off series called “Strange New Worlds.” Filming for “Strange New Worlds” reportedly began in February. Production is also underway for the second and third seasons of “Star Trek: Picard.”

Paramount+ is also producing a Trek series that will appeal to younger audiences: “Star Trek: Prodigy” is an animated series that will air on Paramount+ and will then air on Nickelodeon before the second season airs on Paramount+. The series involves a group of teen aliens who find an abandoned starship. Kate Mulgrew reprises her role as Capt. Janeway, who appears as the ship’s Emergency Training Hologram.

Photos: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Disney; “Star Trek: Discovery,” Paramount+.

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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.

2020-04-22 00.25.02

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Season 2 of Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ is gruesome but good

I was excited about the second season of “The Boys,” and in some ways it was satisfying and in others, not so much. I may be in the minority here when I say I don’t love the gruesome scenes like heads exploding and Homelander doing weird creepy stuff. I saw a comment on social media that complained that the one-episode-per-week format was “offensive,” which I thought was kind of funny because that’s not what I found offensive about the series.

I realize this is a TV-MA show, and I could turn it off if I don’t want to watch gratuitous violence. I have a love-hate thing with shows like this that are well written but which I also find creepy or gross. I had similar issues with “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things.” Why don’t I just not watch? Because I like other things about the show. I like “The Boys” despite the shock value, not because of it. (And yes I know the comic is supposedly even more graphic than the series, but I have not read it.)

So what did I like I about Season 2? First and foremost, I love Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, even though his cockney accent is laughably (purposely?) bad. He is the antihero who stops just short of being the villain.

I loved all the Billy Joel references, and I found the Deep and A-Train stories funny; the “Church of the Collective” was an obvious mockery of Scientology and I’m here for it. Mother’s Milk not wanting anyone to know he’s watching “Outlander” is the kind of thing that I love about this show; the boys are all so tough, steeped in this culture of toxic masculinity, but then they watch “Outlander” or talk about The Golden Girls. Frenchie especially is one my favorites. I love his sensitivity, and seeing his friendship with Kimiko progressing.

Girls get it done?

I like the satire and humor of the show but although I found the Stormfront story – and its commentary on our current political climate – to be anything but subtle, some fans were apparently rooting for her and Homelander, which I find confusing and disturbing. I was happy that they wrapped up Stormfront’s story, and I hope we have seen the last of her. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in Season 3. I hope they will tone down the yuck.

‘The Trials of Koli’

Back in April, I reviewed M. R. Carey’s “The Book of Koli,” the first novel in the post-apocalyptic Rampart Trilogy. Five months later, Carey released the second book, “The Trials of Koli,” which at 496 pages, still felt too short, as I am now eagerly awaiting the third book, which comes out in March. I’m not sure why the books are being released in such quick succession – and in paperback! But I’m not complaining.

The books are about this guy named Koli who lives in this little village, many years after a huge war wipes out most of the world’s inhabitants, and also the trees in the forest eat people now, so it’s a dangerous time.

In the first book, a bunch of crazy stuff happens in his village which leads to him leaving all he’s ever known and venturing out into said murderous forest.

I hope the third book wraps up the story satisfyingly, and that it will be made into a movie, as was the case with Carey’s book “The Girl With All the Gifts.” (I actually prefer the Koli stories more than the zombie book.)

Other stuff

A sequel to the 1988 film “Willow” is in the works. The Disney+ series will be produced by Lucasfilm, and Ron Howard is an executive producer. Warwick Davis will reprise his role as Willow Ufgood.

I am excited about the new season of “The Mandalorian” which is on track for an Oct. 30 release, which I talked about last time, and the new season of “Star Trek: Discovery” started last week. I haven’t started watching it yet but I will review it when I get a chance. It’s a great show and I’m looking forward to watching Season 3.

Photos: “The Boys,” Amazon Prime; “The Trials of Koli,” Orbit.

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Sci-fi to watch, read, and love

897264_2448775After getting CBS All Access so I could watch “Star Trek:  Picard,” I finally got around to watching “Star Trek: Discovery.” It exceeded my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations were somewhat low, due to the online hate for the series, which is part of the reason I took so long to watch. The other reason: I didn’t want to subscribe to yet another streaming service. My opinion is it’s totally worth it. You get “Picard” and “Discovery,” and the other Trek series are available as well.

I love that “Discovery” changed up the typical Trek structure. Normally, the captain is the main character, but that is not the case here. Also, this is the first Trek series in which a black woman is the main character; Sonequa Martin-Green is awesome as science specialist Michael Burnham.

Burnham is a human but she was raised by a Vulcan – Sarek. Yep, Spock’s father. She and Spock are step-siblings. (The show begins about 10 years before the events of the original series.)

I’m confused by the criticism surrounding “Discovery.” From what I’ve seen so far (I’m in the middle of Season 2), the series is true to the values of Star Trek, but is even more intense and suspenseful. It’s full of surprises and twists. Do I love every single episode? No. But there have been hits and misses in every Trek series.

If you want a nice diversion from current events, which will keep you on the edge of your seat, check it out. (Production on Season 3 is delayed and is expected to continue later this year.)

‘Limetown’

e85087c0-df45-11e9-8978-8fc02aeeebe7_800_420This Facebook Watch series is a remake of a podcast. It stars Jessica Biel as a journalist whose uncle (Stanley Tucci) mysteriously disappeared, along with 300 others, from an experimental town. I enjoyed Facebook’s offerings “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Sacred Lies,” so I decided to try this one, which was a little creepier than I would have liked, but it was addictive and made me want to keep watching to see what new secret would be revealed in the next episode. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after the first season, so the 10th episode is a cliffhanger and we never get to see how the story ends.

‘The Book of Koli’

the-book-of-koli-careyYou may remember a 2014 novel called “The Girl With All the Gifts,” by M. R. Carey. If you’re into zombie apocalypse stories, you’ll love it. It has since been made into a movie, which I haven’t seen. I can only tell you the book was crazy.

Carey’s new novel, “The Book of Koli” is a post-apocalyptic story too, and it’s just as engrossing as “The Girl,” but I enjoyed “Koli” even more.

The new book is about a teenage boy who lives in a village walled off from the murderous vegetation and cannibals which threaten their lives. When Koli starts questioning the power dynamic of the ruling family, everything changes.

From the first page, I was immersed in this dystopian world, and I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait to read the second book, “The Trials of Koli,” which comes out in September.

mark-your-calendar-clipart-48

Many, many films and TV/streaming series have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Wonder Woman sequel will not be released in June as planned; it has been pushed to Aug. 14. The Marvel film “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, has been changed to Nov. 6.

umbrella-academy-season-2.-poster-1jpgNetflix suspended filming on all productions including Season 2 of “The Witcher.” The fourth season of “Stranger Things” has been postponed. Filming wrapped on Season 2 of “The Umbrella Academy” in November, but post-production was affected by the shutdown. Release dates are still in limbo.

While we don’t yet have a release date for Season 2 of Amazon’s “The Boys,” it is reportedly still on track. I’m looking forward to binge watching it this summer. Another Amazon Prime series, “The Expanse,” has also wrapped filming, but no word yet on whether the pandemic will postpone the release of Season 5.

Disney shut down production of its Marvel series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision.” New release dates have not yet been announced.

Of course, with sci-fi, post-production is going to take longer on these special effects-heavy films and series, than on productions that don’t use a lot of effects. And even the films  which are ready for release will be delayed due to theater closures.

“The Mandalorian,” Season 2, is still expected to be released on Disney+ in October. In fact, it was recently announced that they’re already working on Season 3. Disney+ will also be releasing a documentary about the making of Season 1, which is planned for May 4, aka Star Wars Day.

space-force-steve-carell-lisa-kudrow-netflix“Space Force,” which is being described as “The Office” in space, will premiere on Netflix on May 29. It stars Steve Carell, and is created by Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”).

Daniels has been busy; he also has another show coming out soon, an Amazon Prime series called “Upload,” about a “digital afterlife.” “Upload” will premiere on May 1.

What other sci-fi and fantasy films or series are you looking forward  to seeing? Have you discovered or rewatched an old favorite? Tell me in the comments or on my facebook page!

Credits: “Star Trek: Discovery,” CBS Television Distribution; “Limetown,” Facebook Watch; “The Book of Koli,” by M. R. Carey, Orbit, April 2020; “The Umbrella Academy” and “Space Force,” Netflix. 

2020-04-22 00.25.02

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Need a new show to watch? Try ‘Undone’ and ‘Picard’

I was bored and searching for something to watch, when I found this Amazon Prime series called “Undone.” The most surprising thing about it is that I had never heard of it before, because it’s really good and it needs more publicity! So here we go.

The premise of the show is intriguing enough all by itself: After a car crash, a 28-year-old woman suddenly starts seeing her dead father and experiencing strange shifts in time. The creators use a trippy filming technique called rotoscoping: The filmed footage is traced over, so it’s animated, but it has a more realistic look than traditional animation.

The best part of the show is the cast of characters. They’re flawed, but also likable and interesting, especially the protagonist, Alma (Rosa Salazar). She’s real and relatable. She’s also irreverent and funny as hell. A daycare worker from a Latino family living in San Antonio, she is very close with her mom and sister, and she lives with her boyfriend Sam, who is from India.

I loved the characters’ interactions, and the diversity. As a hearing-impaired person, I also applaud the series’ representation of disability. (Alma has a cochlear implant.)

I never felt like the diversity was “forced” as it is in some series. Instead it was integral to the story. One of my favorite scenes is when Alma is talking to a Mesoamerican dancer who tells her, “Even though you don’t know the dance, you know the dance.” And the way their conversation, about the power of dance, influences the plot is really beautiful.

I haven’t even told you about the main story, the mystery Alma has to solve, but I don’t want to give it away. Watch it and tell me what you think!

‘Star Trek: Picard’

how-to-stream-star-trek-picard-promo

I was a little late to this party, because I was reluctant to pay for CBS All Access just to watch this one show. But now that I’m watching it, I think it’s worth it.

There is a lot going on here, so I’ll just give you a little background: We find out in the first episode that Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) persuaded the Federation, 14 years ago, to help save millions of Romulans endangered by the Romulan star’s supernova. “Rogue” androids attacked Mars, disrupting the evacuation, so Starfleet called it off, abandoning the Romulan refugees – and banned synthetic life forms.

Picard resigned and is now living a peaceful life at his French vineyard. Of course this peace doesn’t last. Things get shaken up in short order.

It takes a couple episodes to hit its stride, but once it takes off, you’ll be ready to binge watch the whole series. Too bad – they only dole out an episode per week. I’m eight episodes in and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the new crew.

Guest stars include Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan, who reprise their roles as Data, Riker, Troi, and Seven of Nine.

Credits: “Undone,” Amazon Prime Video; “Star Trek: Picard,” CBS Television Distribution.

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