‘Saga’ leaves you wanting more but you’ll have to wait

“Saga” recently released its newest collection, “Volume 9,” which covers issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic book by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

If you haven’t read it yet (and you’re over the age of 18) I highly recommend you check it out. There’s a reason “Saga” is hugely popular and critically acclaimed. Even though it’s been compared to such epics as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones,” Vaughan’s imaginative story, accomapanied by Staples’ amazing artwork, is really like nothing else. Well, it’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet – Alana and Marko are alien lovers from warring worlds. Their daughter, Hazel, is the comic’s narrator.

After the latest major bombshell cliffhanger, at the end of #54, Vaughan and Staples have announced they’re taking a yearlong hiatus. Staples has said she was experiencing feelings of burnout – understandable as she’s drawn and colored all 54 issues.

If you haven’t picked up “Saga” yet, this is a great time to catch up! It’s really weird and cool. You can read my previous review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2015/09/16/dont-miss-image-comics-saga-and-rat-queens/

While the comic is set in a fictional universe, the themes of parenting and family are, well, universal. Vaughan doesn’t shy away from topics like war, abortion, addiction, racism, homophobia, sex trafficking, etc., so these themes are underlying the larger story and ask the big questions.

How do you raise a child to be kind and strong in a world (or worlds) that can be so brutal? Can we teach our kids what they need to know while at the same time protecting them?

How can we be compassionate when we don’t know who to trust? How can we keep going when everything is spinning out of control?

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“Saga, Volume 9” was released Sept. 26 (Image Comics). Vol. 9 collects issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

“Saga” spans several years and has lots of crazy-looking alien characters – I guess that’s why it’s being compared to “Star Wars.” But don’t expect to see this story on the big screen anytime soon. Vaughan created this to be a comic only, not to be adapted into a movie or TV show. For starters, there’s a lot of sex and violence. (Like, a lot.) And if it was a movie, it would have to be animated, or use a heck of a lot of CGI.

Vaughan hasn’t completely ruled out an adaptation, but that’s not something he’s looking at right now. One thing that is being adapted to TV is Vaughan’s comic “Y: The Last Man,” which I loved. Let’s talk about that.

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‘Y: The Last Man’

Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man,” published by Vertigo Comics and illustrated by Pia Guerra, takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. A plague wipes out every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for a man named Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

Yorick’s mother, a congresswoman, commissions a special agent to protect her son. Along with a geneticist named Alison Mann, they work to find a way to save humankind from extinction. During their travels, the group is chased by several people who want Yorick for their own purposes.

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The comic series, which ran from 2002 to 2008, won three Eisner awards. Filming on the live-action TV series has begun and will star Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield, and Marin Ireland. Barry Keoghan will star as Yorick. The show will be on FX, but there is no premiere date yet.

Mark your calendars

In my excitement about the upcoming “Captain Marvel” film that I talked about in my last post, I forgot to tell you that it opens March 8, 2019, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. captain-marvel-brie-larson

“Wonder Woman 1984” comes out Nov. 1, 2019. And “Birds of Prey” is slated for a Feb. 7, 2020, release.

I also have more casting news for “Birds of Prey.” Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad,” and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Rosie Perez will portray Black Canary, Huntress, and The Question. Christina Hodson is the screenwriter, and Cathy Yan will direct.

In other Warner Bros. news, another of my favorite Vertigo comic books, “Fables,” is also being adapted to the big screen. Nikolaj Arcel is signed on to direct, Jeremy Slater is screenwriter. Fables Vol. 3-Storybook Love

“Fables” was created by Bill Willingham in 2002 and is about fairy tale characters who are exiled from their lands and now live in New York City. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the comic was in development to become an NBC TV series, but that was scrapped, and NBC later produced a show called “Grimm” instead. Then ABC was going to adapt “Fables” but later ended up making “Once Upon a Time.” Here’s hoping the third time’s a charm.

Credits: “Saga,” Image Comics; “Y: The Last Man” and “Fables,” Vertigo; “Captain Marvel,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Danai Gurira as Okoye in “Black Panther.”

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

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

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

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

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Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://nomansland.blog/

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

https://herowithinstore.com/blogs/news

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

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Amazon picks up critically acclaimed series ‘The Expanse’

We have nearly come to the end of Season Three of my new favorite series, “The Expanse.” I’m sure I’m not alone in saying every season has been more exciting than the last! The plot, which was a bit confusing in Season One, is really suspenseful and original, and the characters’ varied personalities and motivations add a dimension of realism that is often lacking in the genre.

I honestly am counting down the days to the next episode, and I’m bummed that there are only three episodes left in this season.

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Shohreh Aghdashloo as the indomitable Chrisjen Avasarala is just one of many reasons to tune in to “The Expanse.”

Unfortunately, perhaps because the show took a while to hit its stride, it lost viewers and Syfy canceled the series on May 11. After news of the cancellation, fans began a campaign to save the show. Because Amazon already owned streaming rights for the show, it seemed like a good fit. The campaign included a petition that collected 150,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe page which collected money for a Save the Expanse banner to be flown over Amazon headquarters.

Some famous fans chimed in too. Rumor has it that Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, even received an email from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, asking him to save “The Expanse.”

The cast was recently at a conference for private space entrepreneurs, National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference, doing a panel on the science of “The Expanse,” when they heard the good news.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday, Steven Strait (who plays Jim Holden) explained: “We were there, essentially, just talking about the technicalities of shooting a space show with realistic science, and it just so happened that Jeff Bezos was there. We had planned this trip months ago. It was a total coincidence.”

Before dinner, Bezos told the cast he was a fan of the books and the show, and that he was trying to work something out to pick up the show. He emailed Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, who had also been hearing great things about the show.

In an interview with Deadline, Salke said Bezos told her, “I’m at an event, a space seminar, I’m looking at the cast of ‘The Expanse’ here, I would like to get up there and order the show.” Once she gave Bezos the green light, he announced it on stage.

Strait said “he announced it right then and there on stage. Just completely took us by surprise. Just crazy excitement. It was a roar from the back of this room. We were just all so tremendously relieved that this insane campaign had worked.”

So are we. Here’s to Season Four!

If you’re not already a fan, you can catch up with “The Expanse” on Amazon (streaming), or on Netflix (DVD only).

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

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My honey and I dressed for the occasion. Arrrr!

While I was on vacation in South Lake Tahoe, I checked out the 25th annual Valhalla Renaissance Faire. I had never been to this particular Ren fair so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at all they had to offer. While not as big as the fair in Irwindale, it was still a good-sized festival, in a beautiful location, and there was plenty to do, see, and buy.

There are about 800 costumed actors who bring the fair to life, and more than 100 vendors sold period attire and accessories, jewelry, swords, daggers, wands, and of course, food and drinks. Fairgoers could get their hair braided, play games, try their hand at archery, and be entertained by music, dancing, storytelling, puppet shows, jugglers, and – my personal favorite – a falconry show.

I highly recommend this fair if you’re planning a trip to Tahoe next year. Go in costume, and bring the kids. The festival runs every year for two weekends in May and/or June. For more information, go to valhallafaire.com.

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Daring Daniel daringly juggles knives while balancing on a rolling board!

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A beautiful owl was just one of the birds featured at the Full Circle Falconry show at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe. 

Photos: “The Expanse,” Alcon Television Group; Valhalla Renaissance Faire photos by Earth to Shawna. img_20170119_202601

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Brush up on your Infinity Stone knowledge before ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Nine more days till “Infinity War”! I don’t normally count down the days to superhero flicks, but this one is special because it has everyone in it – the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but also Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and even Ant-Man and Spider-Man.

If you haven’t seen all the Marvel movies, or you just want to brush up on the history of the Infinity Stones before the new movie, I’ll give you a little background, and a few recommendations on what to watch/re-watch before you see the new film.

If you’ve seen “Guardians of the Galaxy,” you may remember Benicio del Toro’s character, Taneleer Tivan, aka the Collector, talking about the Infinity Stones. He said, “Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots. Infinity Stones.”

That explains everything we need to know about these gems. Just kidding; it explains nothing. Suffice it to say they’re powerful relics that superheroes and supervillains fight over like third-graders fighting over a Nintendo controller.

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The Collector, played by Benicio del Toro, “explains” the Infinity Stones. 

The blue Space Stone was used by the Red Skull in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and it’s used to generate wormholes in “The Avengers.” It is housed in the Tesseract. The yellow Mind Stone is in Loki’s scepter in “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The red Reality Stone was formed into a weapon called the Aether, and was entrusted to the Collector at the end of “Thor: The Dark World.” The purple Power Stone is contained inside an orb which is central to the plot of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The green Time Stone was encased in the Eye of Agamotto. A master of the mystic arts can use it to manipulate time. It appears in “Doctor Strange.” Not much is known about the orange Soul Stone; maybe we’ll learn more about it in the new movie.

No one has time to watch all 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the new movie comes out (or maybe you do – I don’t know your life). But I have narrowed it down to the basics. These are my personal recommendations, which I’ve chosen because they mention Infinity Stones, but also because they’re really fun movies. In order of release, they are “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

I also recommend “Black Panther,” because T’Challa/Black Panther, as well as several other characters from that movie, will appear in “Infinity War,” and their country, Wakanda, plays a big role in the new film too. Plus it’s just a really awesome movie. Unfortunately, the “Black Panther” DVD won’t be released until May 15, but you may be able to catch a Marvel marathon near you. (Check your local theater listings.)

“Avengers: Infinity War” will be released April 27.

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire

If you didn’t get tickets to this year’s Ren Faire, it’s not too late. The faire, in Irwindale, runs every weekend through May 20. This weekend (April 21 and 22) is RennCon™ weekend! The faire offers different themed weekends; RennConn™ is a celebration of “cosplay in all its forms.”

Time traveler weekend (including a steampunk costume contest) is May 5 and 6, and Heroes & Villains is May 12 and 13. For more information, go to http://renfair.com/socal/special-events/

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The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, in Irwindale. 

Photos: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Renaissance Faire photo by Earth to Shawna. 

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Virtual reality movie ‘Ready Player One’ is a fun ride

READY. PLAYER. ONE.

I’ve been excited about this ever since I heard they were making it into a movie (it was a novel first – by Ernest Cline).

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When I heard it was going to be directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, my first thought was Wow, Spielberg! That’s perfect! And then my next thought was that I’m not a huge Spielberg fan. So I had my misgivings. Were they going to mess this up?

The main character is an orphaned teenager named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who is competing in a 1980s-themed  VR contest – in the year 2044. The winner will inherit the fortune of the contest’s deceased creator, James Halliday, a Willy Wonka-esque character who created the virtual reality world OASIS.

OASIS is where much of the story takes place, which I imagined could translate to the big screen in a really awesome way – or it could look totally lame.

Luckily, the special effects were great. My other concern was that there are usually two issues with reading the book first. One: I already know what’s going to happen. And two: “That’s not how it was in the book!” Well there’s really no worries about that here. It was still exciting, even though I already knew the plot, and at this point, I understand that they need to change it up from novel to screenplay. As long as it works, I’m happy. And aside from a few minor gripes, it does work.

It’s clever, it’s funny, and it’s a little trip down memory lane for anyone who grew up in the 1980s, because ’80s movie and video game references abound. “Back to the Future,” “Iron Giant,” “Gremlins,” “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” – you will catch snippets of these and many more throughout, but it’s subtle enough as to not be too distracting.

You don’t need to be an ’80s kid to enjoy this movie. The rumor about this being a pop-culture overdose was premature. The ’80s stuff is just background/setting and not the story. (I don’t understand people bitching about this before the movie was even released?)

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Art3mis and Parzival in “Ready Player One.”

For a movie that celebrates ’80s nostalgia, the soundtrack should have been better. There are a couple gems (including New Order’s “Blue Monday”), but the track list is phoned in and too short, especially for such a long movie.

It clocks in at 140 minutes, but it’s so fast-paced you probably won’t notice (unless you have to pee). The pacing is actually perfect, and it’s enough time for our heroes to get to know each other in between all the racing around.

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Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe

Their friendship is central to the story, and Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and Lena Waithe were well cast and seem to click. The villains were a little clichéd; Wade’s nemesis, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), is like a high school principal in a John Hughes film but maybe that’s fitting.

“Ready Player One” isn’t deep or profound, but it’s fun, especially if you don’t mind a sprinkle of Spielbergian cheese on the second half of your movie.

Moving on …

‘The Expanse’

I did not read this book series, which is set in a future where humans have colonized the solar system. I was kind of confused/bored at first, but I stuck with it and my patience paid off. This is one of the most interesting, suspenseful series I’ve seen in a long time.

In case you haven’t heard me sing this show’s praises already: It has all the ingredients you want in a sci-fi show – great writing and effects, complex characters, a diverse and talented cast, moral dilemmas, plot twists, drama, suspense, humor. But what I like best about “The Expanse” is that it’s not like anything else – a refreshing change of pace in this era of remakes and sequels.

Season 3 of “The Expanse” premieres April 11 on Syfy.

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Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait star in “The Expanse.”

A match made in the Star Trek Universe

Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Adam Nimoy (Leonard Nimoy’s son) tied the knot on Monday, which would have been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday. They went public with their relationship at the Star Trek convention in Vegas last year. Live long and prosper, newlyweds!

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Photos: Ready Player One, Warner Bros. Pictures; The Expanse, Syfy; Terry Farrell/Adam Nimoy photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

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What to watch/read: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘How To Stop Time’

I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. But I’m still here! And I’ve been watching a lot of sci-fi stuff that I can’t wait to share with you, so let’s get started:

First, we need to talk about “Black Panther.” If you’re wondering if this movie is worthy of the hype, the answer is yes. Yes it is.

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Girl power! Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in “Black Panther.”

I love origin stories, and this one was no exception. It’s beautiful, for starters. The Kingdom of Wakanda blew me away, and the costumes are breathtaking. I went into this movie not knowing much about the comic so it was fun and surprising and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. I’ll give you a little bit of backstory:

Black Panther, aka King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the leader of Wakanda, an African nation which is every bit as fascinating as the superhero himself. Hundreds of years ago, Wakanda was hit by a meteorite containing vibranium, a metal which, unknown to the rest of the world, has given the Wakandan people the ability to create advanced technology, and which also affects an indigenous “heart-shaped herb,” which is ingested by the king and gives him the superhuman abilities that make him a total bad-ass.

Of course, the tech doesn’t hurt either. His little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the Tony Stark-like genius behind T’Challa’s suits/gadgets. And as awesome as Black Panther is, it’s really the women I admired most in this film. I really want to tell you about them but I don’t want to give away anymore. Suffice it to say there are some interesting twists and turns, some laughs and a lot of heart. (And lots of girl power!) Just take my advice and go see it.

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Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”

The next thing I want to talk to you about is “Mute” (Netflix).  I was so excited about this, because it’s directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son!), who also directed one of my favorite movies, “Moon.”

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Paul Rudd in “Mute.”

“Mute,” on the other hand, is one of those movies where you’re like WTF is happening right now and where is this even going?

Alexander Skarsgard stars as a mute bartender searching for his missing girlfriend, but Paul Rudd steals the show as an unhinged surgeon named Cactus Bill, who makes you laugh but in an awkward, uncomfortable way that makes you wonder if you should really be laughing. Rudd is good though, and you’ll probably completely forget the plot while you’re watching him.

I will confess the main reason I wanted to see this movie is because I was promised more Sam Rockwell and I would like to say I was not disappointed but I was totally disappointed; Rockwell appears in “Mute” for about three seconds.

I liked the ending of “Mute,” if that counts for anything. (Does it?)

Next up, let’s talk about “Electric Dreams.” I was even more excited about this series than I was about “Mute.” Unfortunately, I was equally disappointed.

I had high hopes because each episode is (loosely) based on a different story by Philip K. Dick, whose stories have been previously adapted to the films “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” etc. He’s been called “the father of modern science fiction,” to give you an idea of his influence.

The first “Electric Dreams” episode, “Real Life,” was just OK. It’s been done before and it’s been done better (in the aforementioned “Total Recall”). I kept thinking, I really hope the second episode is better.

It was. “Autofac” is set in a post-apocalyptic world (and you know I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic worlds), where a group of survivors are trying to figure out how to shut off a factory that keeps sending them stuff they don’t need. (It’s hard to believe this was based on a story written in 1955. Did Dick predict Amazon Prime?)

That’s all I’ve seen so far – the first two episodes. I’ll update if/when I see more.

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Juno Temple and Janelle Monae in “Electric Dreams.”

Moving on.

I recently read a novel called “How To Stop Time,” by Matt Haig. The main character, Tom Hazard, has a condition that causes his body to age much slower than the rest of us. He’s actually over 400 years old, even though he looks like he’s in his 40s.

It’s tempting to make comparisons to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but Tom is not a vampire. He’s very human, and that is sort of the theme. What makes us human? What makes life worth living? It’s deep, but it’s also accessible and fun.

A film adaptation is in the works, with Benedict Cumberbatch starring as Tom. I loved Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange,” and I am looking forward to seeing this story on the big screen.

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The 90th Academy Awards

As I mentioned earlier, I love Sam Rockwell, so I was very happy last night when he won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”! Also I love that Frances McDormand won – she’s amazing. It’s not sci-fi so I haven’t discussed “Three Billboards” on my blog, but I highly recommend it. It’s very powerful and moving.

Guillermo del Toro won best director and his film “The Shape of Water” won best picture! Congratulations, Guillermo! If you missed my review of his art exhibit at the LACMA, check it out here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2016/08/15/new-lacma-exhibit-a-must-for-guillermo-del-toro-fans/

I loved his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, which he ended by saying, “I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of a parable, of using genre and fantasy to tell the stories about the things that are real in the world today, you can do it. This is a door. Kick it open and come in.”

“Black Panther” photos, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Moon,” Sony Pictures Classics; “Mute,” Netflix; “Electric Dreams,” Sony Pictures Television; “How to Stop Time,” Viking. 

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Mark your calendar for new and returning sci-fi TV series

OK, I need to move on and accept that we won’t get any new “Game of Thrones” for a long time.  To console myself, well, there are so many sci-fi shows on TV and streaming right now, I can’t keep up with everything I want to see.

Let’s start with the ones I already know are good:

“Travelers” will have its Season 2 premiere on Showcase in Canada on Oct. 16, followed by a Netflix release. If you haven’t seen this trippy time-travel series, starring Eric McCormack, I recommend you start from the beginning. You can watch Season 1 on Netflix.  

“People of Earth” is wrapping up Season 2 (the finale will air Sept. 25), but if you’re new to this quirky comedy, you can go back and start at the beginning. I myself missed the beginning, so I need to go back and catch up on the episodes I missed. The series is about a support group called “StarCrossed,” for people who have been abducted by aliens. It’s on TBS.

“Stranger Things” will return to Netflix on Oct. 27. The first season of this retro ’80s sci-fi/horror series was really cool and intense, but it scared the hell out of me. Season 2 is supposed to be “darker” than Season 1. I’m not sure how much darker this show can get. We’ll see if I’m brave enough to find out.

“Mr. Robot” will be back Oct. 11.  I’m not usually into psychological thrillers, but this one has this crazy “V for Vendetta” vibe, and it also has Christian Slater. So check it out! You can find the trailer for Season 3 on USA Network’s website:

http://www.usanetwork.com/mrrobot/videos/mr-robot-season-3-trailer

Here are the series I haven’t seen yet, but that are on my to-watch list:

“Star Trek: Discovery” will be set a decade prior to the original “Star Trek” series and will star Sonequa Martin-Green (“The Walking Dead”). I’m glad they’re going with a female lead. (I loved Capt. Janeway.) I was excited about this series – until I found out if I want to watch it, I’ll have to subscribe to CBS All Access. The premiere episode will be on TV at least: at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24 on CBS.

“The Orville” is a sci-fi comedy-drama created by, and starring, Seth MacFarlane. With an ensemble cast (including Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Victor Garber, and Chad Coleman) and big-name guest stars (Charlize Theron, Simon Pegg) slated to appear, not to mention several Star Trek vets (Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, James L. Conway, and Robert Duncan McNeill) directing, this one seems like a guaranteed hit. We’ll see. It premieres Sept. 10 on Fox.

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“The Orville” premieres Sept. 10 on Fox.

“Future Man” looks promising. The synopsis on the Hulu site says, “A janitor by day/world-ranked gamer by night is tasked with preventing the extinction of humanity after mysterious visitors from the future proclaim him the key to defeating the imminent super-race invasion.” Sounds intense, but Seth Rogen produces/directs, so you know it’s probably going to be funny and/or raunchy. Josh Hutcherson (“Hunger Games”) stars. Look for it Nov. 14.

“Doctor Who” is one I haven’t watched in a while, but they got my attention when they announced they cast a woman, Jodie Whittaker, to play the 13th doctor. Whittaker will take over the role from Peter Capaldi in the Christmas special episode “Twice Upon a Time” (BBC America).

I don’t have a release date yet, but “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” is supposed to be coming soon to Amazon Prime (or Channel 4 if you’re in the UK, and Stan if you’re in Australia). The first season will have 10 standalone episodes, each one inspired by one of Dick’s stories. Bryan Cranston produces and stars in the series, which also features Anna Paquin, Steve Buscemi, Juno Temple, Greg Kinnear, and Janelle Monáe.

Photos: “Stranger Things,” Netflix; “The Orville,” Fox.

 

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GoT Season 7 satisfying but short; farewell Orphan Black

The seventh season of Game of Thrones is already over, and there is only one more season left.

If you are not caught up on Game of Thrones, do not read anything after the photo below. You’ve been warned!

I’m also going to complain talk about the series finale of “Orphan Black,” so if you want to read that, scroll down to the photo of the sisters.

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Bromance was brewing between Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) on “Game of Thrones” (HBO).

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re all caught up on “Game of Thrones.” Consider this your last spoiler warning!

The season started out with a bang, with Arya getting revenge on the Freys. That and her execution of Littlefinger bookended the season nicely. There is something so satisfying about watching Arya serve up justice to her enemies. It’s no wonder she’s a fan favorite.

Even though Season 7 was too short, with only seven episodes, there were so many scenes we’ve been waiting to see for a long time: Daenerys arriving in Westeros, and meeting Jon, at long last; Bran, Sansa, and Arya reuniting at Winterfell; and the return of Gendry. We also got to see a huge reunion of almost every major character at King’s Landing, and Theon finally grew some guts.

Everything moved along super fast, but there were so many great moments: Sam healing Jorah’s greyscale; Arya sparring with Brienne; that crazy dragon attack on the Lannisters’ loot train; the expedition team’s trip beyond the wall to capture a wight, and Daenerys coming to their rescue. It was so exciting that I (mostly) didn’t care how unbelievable it was that the raven reached Dragonstone that fast. And that wasn’t the first time this season that someone in Westeros reached their destination in an implausible amount of time.

Director Alan Taylor explained recently that they “fudged the timeline,” but that he isn’t worried about the fans noticing, because the show is so successful. Hmmm. There were so many contrivances peppered throughout this season. I hope this isn’t a sign that they’re going to be phoning it in for Season Eight.

There were a lot of sad moments this season too: In becoming the three-eyed raven, Bran seems to have lost his humanity. We also lost the brilliant Lady Olenna and one of Daenerys’ “children,” Viserion, who brought down the Wall with his fiery blue breath in the final geektastic scene.

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“Let’s pretend we don’t trust each other for three episodes, since there’s nothing else for us to do up here while everyone is gone.” Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams play Sansa and Arya Stark. 

Let’s talk about Jon Snow’s smolder in the sixth episode, when he’s lying in bed talking to his aunt. And the way she checked out his abs – I mean scars. I’m not alone when I say I was torn between wanting them to kiss and thinking, “Eww, no, Jon! Stop looking at her like that!”

That scene seemed like a sort of turning point, at which their hookup seemed inevitable. I mean, yes, we all sort of knew their relationship was headed in this direction, even before they met, despite the fact that we’ve known for a while that Jon is actually Rhaegar’s son. Targaryens have a tradition of marrying their own family members, to keep the bloodline pure. (And Jamie and Cersei paved the way for incest on this show.)

The book series is called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Daenerys is the fire and Jon is the ice, and together they’re pretty hot. Or at least they were, until they started getting busy while Bran explained to Sam how Dany and Jon are related. I mean, yes we already knew, but did Bran have to ruin it by talking about it at that exact moment? And Tyrion lurking outside their door made it that much creepier.

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Who’s your daddy? Er, I mean, your nephew. Oh, this is awkward. …

Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow this season was knowing we were getting closer to the end. There’s only one season left, and we have to wait a year (or longer) for it. Oh the humanity!

One series that is already over and done with is “Orphan Black.” If you’re not caught up on this show, come back later – spoilers ahead!

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Tatiana Maslany plays clone sisters Sarah (the badass), Cosima (the scientist), Alison (the PTA mom), and Helena (the adorably psychotic one), in the finale of “Orphan Black” (BBC America). Farewell, sestras! You had a good run, before you jumped the shark.

Oh, Orphan Black. Why did you get so god-awful? I did not enjoy the last season. You know it’s bad when your favorite scene is someone poking their eyeball out with a broken wineglass. It’s possible that’s because that’s what I felt like doing while watching this season.

I don’t know about you guys, but I thought the Island of Dr. Moreau stuff was ridiculous, and there were too many creeptacular scenes going on: masturbating nuns, Ferdinand stomping M.K. to death, Helena stabbing a doctor in the face with a needle, Helena trying to kill herself, Helena giving birth on a dirty floor, the list goes on and on. Westmoreland was just plain annoying, and Virginia Coady was vile.

But let’s face it, there is plenty of similarly nonsensical and disgusting stuff going on in most of the previous seasons too, so maybe the blame doesn’t fall solely on the high gross-out factor of Season 5. Especially considering the worst moment of all was Sarah allowing Kira to go with Rachel. Why would she trust Rachel with her child after everything Rachel has done to her? Why would she just hand over daughter now, when everything she’s done till now has been to protect her daughter? It makes no sense.

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Oh, you want to let your evil aunt Rachel experiment on you? Why didn’t you say so? Have fun!

I think the writers themselves didn’t know how the show was going to end, which is sad because it had such a promising start, and Tatiana Maslany’s ability to credibly portray so many different roles was nothing short of amazing.

I was happy all the loose ends (sort of) got tied up and the sestras got their happily ever afters, but in my opinion, they/she deserved better. Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t feeling it.

So. What will we watch now? Stay tuned for my handy-dandy guide on what to watch this fall.12036672_1476049552698609_1237753520040211488_n

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

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

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

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

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

Okja
TV-MA (Mature Audiences); Netflix170627_MOV_Okja-pig.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2
This movie with a message, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is about a “super pig” bred by a corporation headed by Tilda Swinton’s character. I was a little concerned that I would be scarred for life, after seeing Bong’s 2014 film “Snowpiercer,” and I will admit “Okja” was pretty intense too. But I loved it. Four stars.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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News and notes on ‘Expanse,’ ‘Guardians,’ and summer sci-fi

The second season of my new favorite TV series,”The Expanse,” is already over! I can’t believe I have to wait another year to see what will happen next! I’m glad I stuck with this show during its confusing beginning.

The second season of the series, which has been nominated for Saturn and Hugo awards, has been awesome. The characters’ storylines have come together, and the newer characters are great additions and fit right in.  Sometimes when you have a big cast like this, it’s annoying when a new character is introduced. But I love Prax (played by Terry Chen, above), and bad-ass Bobbie Draper.

My favorite scene of this season made me tear up. “The Expanse” is no “This Is Us,” so I was caught off guard during Naomi’s emotional scene on Ganymede in the penultimate episode. I know I’m being vague; I don’t want to give anything away. If you’re not watching “The Expanse,” you can catch up on syfy.com or Hulu.

From Toby to Taserface  

Speaking of the aforementioned tearjerker “This Is Us,” Chris Sullivan (who plays Toby), is in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”! Sullivan plays a character called Taserface and is unrecognizable under all that makeup.

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Chris Sullivan is Taserface in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Also joining the cast for the sequel are Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Debicki (who is in “The Night Manager,” with Tom Hiddleston) and Pom Klementieff.

Reprising their roles as the Guardians are Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Dave Bautista.

If you have read my blog before, you know how much I loved the first “Guardians.” Superhero movies are not my favorite sci-fi genre, but that’s because most superhero movies are not as cool, fun, and funny as “Guardians.” I can’t wait until May 5!

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“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I’m also excited about the other big sci-fi film coming out this year – Star Wars Episode VIII will be in theaters Dec. 15. It will be bittersweet, as it will be our last goodbye to Leia. Carrie Fisher will not appear in Episode IX, despite rumors that she would be edited into the film.

I know, December is still a long way off, but after “The Last Jedi,” we will only have to wait until summer – “Star Wars: Episode IX,” set for 2019, will be released in May.

“Star Trek: Discovery”

That other big sci-fi franchise, Star Trek, needs to learn a lesson from Star Wars about getting it done. The series “Star Trek: Discovery” has been delayed yet again. It was supposed to be coming in May, but Bryan Fuller has left his job as showrunner, and now there is no date for the premiere at all. Will we ever see this show?

On Netflix

The only discovery I’ve, um, discovered is “The Discovery.” The movie, directed by Charlie McDowell (who also did “The One I Love”), takes place after a scientist (Robert Redford) proves there is life after death. Unfortunately, this discovery causes a rash of suicides.

Telling you much more than this will be too spoiler-y. Let me just say if you are interested in weird movies à la “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or NDE and OBE (near death/out of body experience) type stuff, you will probably like this. I myself find it fascinating, and while the film was not without flaws, it stayed with me for a while – and it didn’t hurt that one of my favorite actors, Jason Segel, is in it. Rooney Mara also stars.

Also coming up on Netflix is Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja,” about a girl and her best friend, or should I say, beast friend? Okja is a “super pig” in danger from a multinational corporation. The film sounds every bit as strange as Bong’s 2014 film “Snowpiercer,” but will be, I hope, less disturbing.

“Okja” stars Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-hyun, Lily Collins, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano. It will be screened at Cannes in May and then released on Netflix on June 28.

Summer sci-fi

Now that Alien Day (April 26) has put us in the mood for scary monsters in outer space (right?), I’m ready for the new Alien movie. “Alien: Covenant” is in theaters May 19. The studio released a second prologue for the film:

A special bonus: If you go see “Alien: Covenant,” you will get to see a full trailer for “Blade Runner 2049.” Considering “Covenant” will be opening in the U.K. a week before it opens here in the U.S., the “Blade Runner” trailer might be online before May 19, but it will be cooler on the big screen anyway. (The connection here is “Covenant” director Ridley Scott, who also directed the original “Blade Runner” and produced the sequel.)

I’m really hoping they did Wonder Woman justice in the new film (out June 2), because they aren’t going to make more films about women unless we go see them, and we’re not going to go see them if they suck. Enough said.

“Orphan Black” will return for one more season, but later this year than normal. The show won’t be back until June 10, on BBC America. The show was not canceled; it was the creators’ decision to end it, and while I think it was the right decision, it will still be sad to see our favorite clones go. Here’s hoping the fifth and final season will be the best yet.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (coming to theaters July 14) looks to be everything a big summer blockbuster should be: action, thrills, and cool special effects, and while I don’t care for, say, alien robots that turn into monster trucks, I’m totally on board with talking chimpanzees. Andy Serkis brings his performance-capture magic back with his character Caesar, and Woody Harrelson is “The Colonel,” a soldier who wants to destroy the apes.

“Game of Thrones” will return for its seventh season on July 16 on HBO. Even without the final books in the series, we can tell this story is getting close to wrapping up. The dragons are grown, the zombies are closing in, and they’ve killed off most of the characters. That’s not to say I’ve grown bored of the show – far from it. I’m super excited to see what happens next.

The one thing I am not happy about is the fact that we’re only getting seven episodes this summer, and then we won’t get to see the final six episodes until next year. Bummer!

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” will be in theaters July 21, and I wish it would hurry up because I keep writing about how maybe it’s going to be cool and maybe it will suck on “Jupiter Ascending” level proportions, and I haven’t heard any buzz about it either way. It’s not the same director as “Jupiter” (the Wachowski sibs are responsible for that mess). “Valerian” is written and directed by Luc Besson, so I want to say it will be as awesome as “The Fifth Element,” which is a crazy movie that I love beyond reason and which I have wasted many hours of my life re-watching.

If you haven’t seen “The Fifth Element” yet (or even if you have), you can see it on the big screen (with 4K restoration) on May 14 or 17, in select theaters. The screenings are part of a 20th anniversary celebration of the film, and will include a new introduction by Besson and a sneak preview of “Valerian.”

The 20th anniversary edition will be released on DVD sometime this summer.

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Photos/media: “The Expanse,” Syfy; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Alien: Covenant,” 20th Century Fox; Game of Thrones, HBO. 

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