No, the Def Leppard song isn’t in the new movie, but the third and final installment of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy brings on the heartache in a big way. This one hurts.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away to tell you that Rocket’s origin story is intense – he’s a talking raccoon with cybernetic implants and a past he won’t talk about.
I’m sure some will say the depictions of Rocket’s early years are too disturbing, but the truth is that animal experimentation is real, so in the interest of awareness, I’m OK with it, even if it was difficult to watch. (Go to navs.org if you want to know more about ending animal testing.)
Of course, the film isn’t just about our favorite feisty hero; there’s a lot going on in this movie. It’s loud, it’s chaotic, and it’s the Guardians so it’s also fun and funny and heartwarming. It’s also dark and heavy. (Of the three Guardians movies, this one is the most disturbing and violent. Don’t bring young children.)
If you love these characters, prepare to feel all the feelings.
That was my spoiler-free review. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, come back and read the rest of this later.
While I did like this more than the latest Thor, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man sequels, I did not love it as much as I loved Guardians Vols. 1 and 2. For starters, it was too dark and creepy. If you’re going to put in animal torture, then maybe don’t also add a bunch of other awful stuff, like the genocide of an entire planet (Counter-Earth), or company headquarters (Orgocorp) built from biological material that looks like nasty human skin, or the horrific and disgusting face under the High Evolutionary’s mask, or … well, you get the idea.
It was arguably a little too violent for a PG-13 rating. I like bad guys getting what they deserve – and the Beastie Boys – as much as anyone, but there was an excessive amount of gun violence, even for a Marvel movie.
And the number of times a main character appeared to be beyond saving was way too high. I thought Rocket was a goner more than once, and I thought we were going to lose Drax. And Peter. At what point are you emotionally manipulating your audience more than you’re entertaining them? I had a feeling this would be a tearjerker, but I didn’t expect to be almost sobbing for half the movie.
I loved Cosmo (good dog!) and the way that the film continued to develop friendships (Mantis’ defense of Drax, Nebula caring for a heartbroken/intoxicated Peter, etc.). I also liked that they tied up a lot of storylines. Rocket got closure (and we find out why he likes to steal batteries), Drax got to be a dad again (and danced!), Peter went to see his grandfather on Earth, etc. Last but not least, the audience got to feel included in the end because we, like the Guardians, finally understood what Groot was saying. That was a nice bow that wrapped up the package.
Is it really 2023? Being a member of Generation X, I imagine 2023 as a destination in a time travel movie from the 1980s, not the actual present time. I guess I’m getting old.
There are a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and superhero movies scheduled to come out this year, which is exciting for all of us nerdy folks. Here are some on my watch list (in no particular order):
Tickets are already on sale for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” in theaters Feb. 17. The sequel will be the first film of Marvel’s Phase Five. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer will reprise their roles and Kathryn Newton will play Cassie Lang, Scott’s daughter. The trailer, set to a trippy version of Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road,” got me hyped up for this movie, so hopefully it won’t let me down like certain other Marvel sequels from 2022.
The “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” trailer also got me hyped up, with Spacehog’s ’90s hit “In the Meantime.” The Guardians soundtracks are usually full of 1970s tunes from Peter Quill’s Walkman, but now we are moving into a new era (remember when Kraglin gave Peter a Zune?). Although I’m sad that this will probably be the last Guardians film, it looks like it will be a good one. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Elizabeth Debicki, and Sylvester Stallone reprise their roles, Will Poulter has been added to the cast as Adam Warlock, and Chukwudi Iwuji is the High Evolutionary. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel reprise their roles as the voices of Rocket and Groot, and Maria Bakalova voices Cosmo the Spacedog. It’s scheduled to be released on May 5.
An adaptation of the Jaroslav Kalfar novel “Spaceman of Bohemia” is coming to Netflix in July. “Spaceman” is about a Czech astronaut (played by Adam Sandler) on a solo mission to explore a mysterious cloud of space dust. The film also stars Carey Mulligan, Paul Dano, Isabella Rossellini, and Kunal Nayyar.
Marvel seems to be dominating in theaters this year – or at least dominating my must-see list. Brie Larson and Iman Vellani will reprise their roles as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in “The Marvels,” on July 28. The cast also includes Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. I think it’s interesting that so many characters introduced in Disney+ series are going on to the big screen. For example, we’ll see Kang from the “Loki” series in the new Ant-Man film (or I guess the one from Loki was a Kang variant?) and Kamala and Monica (from “Ms. Marvel” and “WandaVision,” respectively) in this one. It’s a smart – and sneaky – move by Disney to get us all to subscribe, so that we will be caught up when we head to theaters.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is based on the Suzanne Collins novel and is a prequel to the other Hunger Games books and films. Tom Blyth portrays young Coriolanus Snow (the president played by Donald Sutherland in the other movies). The film also stars Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, and Viola Davis, and is scheduled to be released on Nov. 17.
Coming to theaters on June 2 is the computer-animated sequel “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” The theme of parallel universes seems to be a trend lately, and the Spider-Verse is another one doing the multiverse thing. Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld reprise their roles as Miles Morales/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman.
The next film on my list is from the people who brought you “A Quiet Place” (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods). At first glance, “65” looks kind of – how can I put this? – stupid. A sci-fi thriller with astronauts and dinosaurs? Hmm. But it has Adam Driver. That’s how they get you. “65” is in theaters March 17.
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is (obviously) based on the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Rege-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant. The effects and setting in the trailer are impressive, and it looks like it might be a really fun fantasy film. Or it could be a huge flop. Guess we’ll have to, um, roll the dice on this one. The film premieres at SXSW March 10 and will be in theaters March 31.
Films with release dates TBA
Another sci-fi film on the SXSW slate is “If You Were the Last,” starring Anthony Mackie, Natalie Morales, Zoe Chao, and Geoff Stults. It has been described as “When Harry Met Sally” in space. Make of that what you will.
The Zack Snyder movie “Rebel Moon” (Netflix) was inspired by Star Wars and Akira Kurosawa films. The ensemble cast includes Sofia Boutella, Charlie Hunnam, Ray Fisher, and Djimon Hounsou. Snyder has said he hopes the movie will become a “massive IP and a universe that can be built out.” Sounds very ambitious. I’m excited at the prospect of something original and new. It could be really cool. Or it could be really boring. Like “Dune.”
Sci-fi rom com/satire “The Pod Generation,” starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival today (Jan. 19). Directed by Sophie Barthes (“Cold Souls”), the film may not be released in mainstream theaters, as it’s an independent movie, and it might not be released this year at all, but I will keep you posted. It looks interesting.
There were supposed to be new Star Trek and Star Wars movies in theaters this year, in June and December, respectively, but it doesn’t look like either of those will be happening. Hopefully we will have more news on those soon.
After we finished “Paper Girls,” which we loved, my daughter and I were looking for something similar to watch together. Our contenders were “The Wilds” and “Runaways” (both of which we only watched one episode), and “Parallels” (Disney+) which we declared the winner of the three. We binge-watched all six episodes of Season 1. A French series dubbed in English, “Parallels” follows a group of teenage friends who are accidentally separated into parallel universes during testing of a nearby particle collider. (Rated TV-14.)
A new series on HBO, “The Last of Us” is based on a video game and stars Pedro Pascal as Joel, a survivor of a creepy zombie plague. I’ve only seen the first episode so far (it just came out on Sunday), but so far it’s really good. The epic first episode walks us through the events before the apocalyptic plague hits, Joel’s harrowing fight to get out of the infected city with his daughter and brother, and the dismal aftermath. (Rated TV-MA.)
Franchise series expected in 2023
Star Wars series coming to Disney+ this year: “Ahsoka,” “Skeleton Crew,” and the third season of “The Mandalorian.”
New seasons of the three (live-action) Star Trek series are also coming this year: the second season of “Strange New Worlds,” Season 5 of “Discovery,” and the third and final season of “Picard.”
Marvel series coming to Disney+ this year: “Secret Invasion,” “Ironheart,” “Echo,” “Agatha: Coven of Chaos,” and the second seasons of “Loki” and “What If …?”
Hey sci-fi people! I’m finishing up my end of the year roundup, right under the wire. I haven’t seen everything, obviously, and other than lack of time, the main reasons for that are: I don’t really love horror (in case you’re thinking, “What about ‘Nope’?”) and also, I don’t subscribe to every streaming service. It’s getting a little out of hand, all these increasingly expensive streaming services, am I right? But that’s a complaint for another post.
Here are my awards for sci-fi and fantasy films of 2022:
Favorite Movie of the Year: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Was it perfect? No. Is it going to win Best Picture award at the Oscars? Probably not. But I loved it. It was beautifully done, and after the disappointments that were the Thor and Doc Strange sequels, “Wakanda” was just what I needed. It was exciting and unpredictable without being too silly (“Love and Thunder”) or too creepy (“Multiverse of Madness”). It was a great tribute to Chadwick Boseman and a great addition to the MCU, but also a good movie in general.
Wackiest movie: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is getting all kinds of nominations for the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards, which is cool, and I love Michelle Yeoh; she’s one of my favorite actresses. This absurdist movie about parallel universes was so frenetic and crazy I don’t think I will watch it again, but it was definitely something, even if it wasn’t my favorite.
Favorite dance scene: “After Yang.” There were a lot of good dance scenes in movies and TV this year. I loved the dance-off in “Umbrella Academy,” and Frenchie and Kimiko’s old-timey musical number in “The Boys.” Wednesday Addams’ self-choreographed goth dance on the Netflix series even went viral. But the one that gets my vote is the family dance competition in the opening credits of the Colin Farrell film “After Yang.” I like funny, what can I say? Unfortunately, there isn’t much humor in the rest of the film, about a family dealing with the loss of their humanoid robot companion. Quiet and melancholic, “After Yang” is the polar opposite of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in its pace.
Movie that Put Me in a Funk: “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” Speaking of melancholy, this movie about a djinn (Idris Elba) released from his bottle by a professor (Tilda Swinton) gave me the sads. It didn’t earn big box office bucks, which I suspect may have been due to poor marketing, but also the way the story is framed: The bulk of the film is taken up with the djinn telling the professor stories of how he ended up in the bottle. I love Swinton and Elba, and I wanted to love this, but the djinn’s stories aren’t all that interesting, and they take up the whole movie so there’s no depth to the relationship the djinn and Alithea have with each other. I want more from a movie that’s supposed to be about magic and storytelling. What can we learn from a being that has been alive for thousands of years? Humans are awful, and loneliness sucks? I already know that. When the credits rolled, I didn’t feel charmed. Just depressed.
Most impressive effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water.” I just talked about this film in my last post, so I won’t go into detail. I also recently found out it’s being boycotted, and perhaps justifiably so. A topic for a different post. I’ll just say the controversy doesn’t change the fact that the effects are indeed impressive and leave it at that.
Sci-fi and fantasy series
I watched more series than films this year, and there were a lot of good ones. There were also some that were OK but could have been better. Here we go:
Started Out Boring but Turned Out to be the Best New Series of the Year (aka “The Expanse” award) goes to “Andor,” on Disney+. I think a lot of Star Wars fans got burned out on the barren desert boringness of “The Book of Boba Fett” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Expecting us to get excited about a prequel of a prequel was a big ask. The first couple episodes had me feeling “whatever” about it, but by the end, I was blown away by this series. Diego Luna earned a nomination as the title character, and Andy Serkis was intense as Kino Loy, a floor manager in a prison complex. And I’m still thinking about that Stellan Skarsgård speech. Great writing, great acting. More Star Wars like this, please!
Season 2 Which was Even Better than Season 1: “Undone,” on Amazon Prime. I have sung the praises of this awesome show multiple times, so I won’t go on and on but if you haven’t watched it yet, this is your reminder. It has cool animation and time travel and Bob Odenkirk. Runner-up: “Russian Doll” on Netflix.
Series That Should Get a Season 2 but Was Cancelled: “Paper Girls.” The Amazon Prime series is an adaptation of a comic book by the author of my favorite comic, “Saga,” Brian K. Vaughan, who describes “Paper Girls” as a cross between “Stand by Me” and “Terminator.” Four paper delivery girls living in 1988 are swept up in a time travel conflict and transported to the year 2019. One of my favorite comedians, Ali Wong, plays one of the girls as an adult in 2019. I really liked this one; it’s too bad it didn’t get the marketing or renewal it deserved. (I assume it’s because all of Amazon’s marketing budget went to the next series on this list.) Maybe “Paper Girls” will get picked up by another streaming service. Fingers crossed.
Most Expensive Series that Should Have Been Better: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” on Amazon Prime. This wasn’t really bad, and in fact I will watch Season 2 since I did like the last couple episodes. But overall, it was a bit of a snooze fest, which it shouldn’t have been, considering it cost more than all the LOTR movies combined. The total reported price tag for Season 1 was $715 million. Yikes. Runner-up: HBO’s “House of the Dragon.”
Best Musical Scene: Everyone’s favorite dungeon master Eddie Munson on “Stranger Things” playing “Master of Puppets” to lure the demon bats away from his friends – the ultimate guitar hero! The actor who plays Munson, Joseph Quinn, is really playing the guitar in that scene; he practiced the Metallica song for months.
The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s epic 2009 sci-fi/fantasy film “Avatar” is finally in theaters. We saw it last night, and we loved it! But not everyone had positive things to say about it. I’ve seen some less than favorable reviews, with critics complaining about the film not being original or deep enough, which I guess is a fair point? The plot is a recycled version of the plot from the first movie, and the characters are clichéd (rebellious teenagers, snarling Marine colonel, etc.).
If you’ve seen the first movie – one of the critics in question admitted she hadn’t – then you know the point is not the story. You aren’t going to see this CGI movie in IMAX 3D expecting to be blown away by the plot. You’re in it because it looks cool. It transports you for three hours to another planet. It’s not “Citizen Kane.”
I know everyone says “Avatar” is a glorified version of “FernGully” or “Pocahontas” but how glorious it is! It’s no wonder the villainous Earth people want to move to Pandora. Who wouldn’t? The water is clean and phosphorescent; the forest is lush and magical.
In this sequel, we are introduced to the reef people, a separate clan from the one in the first film, which introduced the forest people of Pandora. And I know I mentioned in my last post that I have an issue with mer-people but 1) these people don’t have underwater homes so it doesn’t count, and 2) Cameron has said that one of the reasons this was so long coming was because he wanted to get the underwater effects just right, and it looked amazing! It may not be award-winning writing, but visually, it’s just about perfect.
Having said that, I didn’t hate the plot. It’s not subtle in its messages about environmentalism and colonialism, but so what. They’re good messages and bear repeating.
It’s possible this sequel struck a chord because, like me, Jake and Neytiri are now parents of teenagers, so I related to their worries. I was invested; the stakes are high and the action sequences are intense. It was breathtaking but it also had humor, and heart. It’s not going to change your life, but it has everything you want in a sci-fi/fantasy/action movie. If you liked the first one, you won’t be disappointed.
“Avatar 3” is scheduled to be released in December 2024.
Under the Gunn
I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, “WTF, James Gunn?” First we find out that he’s not going to direct any more “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, and now he’s taking over at DC, and the first order of business is apparently to ax the best things DC had going for it: Henry Cavill playing Superman and Patty Jenkins directing the Wonder Woman movies.
Jenkins has reportedly left the third Wonder Woman film over “creative differences.” This came as a shock as the first one was, in this fan’s opinion, DC’s best offering thus far. I can only hope Gal Gadot follows Jenkins to something bigger and better.
Cavill fans were already upset by the announcement in October that he will no longer be playing Geralt of Rivia after Season 3 of “The Witcher,” expected in mid-2023. (Season 4 will feature Liam Hemsworth in the role.) There have been many rumors, but an official explanation has not been given. It was suspected that his return to his Superman role could be the reason. But now we know this isn’t happening either, as Gunn is taking Superman in a different (younger) direction. Cavill announced last week he is working on a “Warhammer” franchise which will be on Amazon. Mystery (sort of) solved.
I don’t know much about “Warhammer” but as long as I get to see Henry in something, I’m happy.
More stuff …
In other Witcher news, a four-episode prequel miniseries, “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” starring Michelle Yeoh, will be released on Netflix on Dec. 25. I love Yeoh, so I will be watching this one. I was happy to see that she and her wacky sci-fi flick “Everything Everywhere All at Once” have been nominated for Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Movie awards. Yeoh is also in the aforementioned third installment of “Avatar,” coming in 2024.
If you are looking for something to binge watch, check out the first season of the fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” before the second season comes out March 16. This one is also on Netflix.
One last thing I want to mention is the new trailer for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” Check it out.
Somehow it is already December, and I know you all have holiday stuff to do. I know you don’t want to waste your time trying to find something to watch when you finally get some time to wind down. I’m here for you.
First up is the Disney+ series “Willow.” If you’re from Gen X, like me, you will remember the fantasy film “Willow,” starring Val Kilmer as Willow. Just kidding! Kilmer played Madmartigan who thus far does not appear in this series.
Willow is played by Warwick Davis, and my favorite part was when he showed up. His return had the same energy as the original Star Wars characters showing up in “The Last Jedi,” and and in fact Davis has said he was inspired by Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker in that film.
I’m not sure how this is possible, but I did not realize Davis would be reprising his role from the 1988 film. I guess I haven’t been paying attention, and honestly, I don’t remember much from the original movie which I’ve mixed up with the 1985 fantasy film “Ladyhawke.”
As awesome as it was to see Davis back in the titular role, it doesn’t bode well that that scene was the best part of this show. Instead of reminding me of those earlier movies, this new series reminds me of nothing so much as Amazon’s adaptation of “Wheel of Time.” That’s not a bad thing, it’s just … a little confusing. It’s possible my middle-aged brain can only keep track of so many teenagers going on quests, but that’s probably a problem exclusive to myself (and maybe my fellow Gen X-ers).
So is “Willow” worth watching? I’ve only seen the first two episodes and I’d love to say it started out with a bang but so far it’s just meh. I will keep watching, in the hopes it will go from boring to amazing (which seems to be the trend – I’m looking at you, “Andor”) but if you have Disney+ and are into fantasy, or you’re just plain nostalgic, you’re probably already watching this one.
Netflix’s new series “Wednesday” is, of course, about Wednesday Addams from the 1960s TV show and the movie remakes from the ’90s. Actually, there are multiple iterations of this family’s story, but those are the only ones I’ve seen.
The earlier versions are dark comedies, but this one’s genre is a bit less clear. With Tim Burton producing (and directing the first few episodes), we know it will be dark, but is it a comedy? Is it horror? Or a murder mystery? I think it’s trying to be all of those, but not entirely succeeding.
Wikipedia calls it a “coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror television series.” I feel that’s at least one too many ingredients in the cauldron, but maybe I’m not the target audience. This Wednesday, now 16, is played by Jenna Ortega, who is perfect in this role. Christina Ricci (who also stars) is my generation’s Wednesday, and her deadpan Thanksgiving speech at Camp Chippewa is still one of my favorite movie scenes. The witch hunt story line in “Wednesday” seems to be a callback to that takedown of whitewashing American history in “Addams Family Values,” but it’s just one of many side plots in a somewhat tangled story.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did, and I’m not alone – “Wednesday” is so popular it even broke a record held by “Stranger Things” – the most hours viewed in a week for an English language series on Netflix. It is similar in some ways to “Stranger Things.” Both shows are creepier than I would like, but they also both have themes of friendship and perseverance against the odds. Both shows focus on teen outcasts, and they also both have some great musical scenes: Wednesday’s dance scene (accompanied by The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck”), is the one most talked about, but I prefer her cello cover of The Stones’ “Paint It Black” (although nothing can top Eddie Munson’s “Master of Puppets” moment).
Despite its flaws, “Wednesday” is suspenseful and addictive. If you like coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror, stock up on popcorn and binge watch this one.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’
If you are a Marvel fan, you know “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is absolutely worth going to see in the theater as you’ve likely already seen it and don’t need me to tell you how great it is. If you haven’t seen all the movies, you might be confused, as this is not just a sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther,” but also … lots of stuff has happened since that came out, in the films and TV series, but also in real life. Sadly, the actor who played King T’Challa/Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, passed away in 2020.
The film did a great job in handling the death of his character and was a beautiful tribute to Boseman. I tried to avoid reading any spoilers, so I did not know who would be chosen as T’Challa’s successor. In that way, the film was unpredictable, which I liked. There are also some new characters introduced, who will likely have bigger roles in future installations.
I was less thrilled about the conflict the Wakandans had with the sea people, who reminded me too much of the underwater people from “Aquaman,” I guess because people who live in the ocean seem silly to me. Marvel has aliens and wizards and talking raccoons, but I apparently draw the line at mer-people. I don’t know why. Marvel villains always seem to lean toward the cheesy side anyway, so maybe it’s just par for the course.
Overall it was an exciting and emotional movie, and just as good as the first “Black Panther.” Maybe it was even better, since we already know and love these characters. I don’t think I’m giving away anything when I say this one is a tearjerker. Bring tissues.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
Despite the fact that it looked a little low-budget, I enjoyed “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” It was silly and fun, and it was released the day after Thanksgiving, which I thought was a good choice. Mantis’ and Drax’s antics were funny and the ending was even sort of touching and sweet.
The Guardians are my favorite MCU characters and the upcoming “The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is rumored to be the last film with these characters, which I hope is not true.
The new movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on May 5, the second Marvel film of the new year, after “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” coming Feb. 17. The trailers for both films have been released.
I know I complained in my last post about how much I don’t care about all these new shows, but some of them did get more interesting since then.
I will start with “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Amazon Prime). Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is a great character, and one that didn’t get a lot of screen time in the movies, so it was nice to see her story. I enjoyed some of the new characters also. I especially loved Nori and her bestie, Poppy. It struck me as touching and sort of rare to see their friendship in a show like this. Men dominate the books and films so it was refreshing to get some girl power this time around. (Fiona Apple’s beautiful voice singing “Where the Shadows Lie,” at the end of the season finale, was the icing on the cake.)
The series was beautiful and well-cast, but it took its sweet time to get interesting. It wasn’t until the last episode or two that it started to pick up the pace. That was my main beef with this series and in the slow category, it’s the worst offender on today’s list. There were some interesting twists and it would have been nice if they got there sooner. That being said, I will for sure be watching Season 2, which is already in production.
I was not thrilled about “House of the Dragon” before it premiered and I didn’t love the first couple episodes, but it grew on me. Because of its slow start (and because the last season of “Game of Thrones” was terrible and left a bad taste in my mouth), Season 1 of “House of the Dragon” doesn’t hold a candle to the first season of “Game of Thrones.” But I am definitely now hooked and want to see what happens next.
Like “Rings,” “House of the Dragon” is beautiful – the sets, the costumes, the special effects (dragons!), and the cast were all great. Paddy Considine and Matt Smith were wonderful of course, and I was happy to see Olivia Cooke as the adult Alicent, as I liked her in “Ready Player One” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”
I thought it was interesting that there was such a strong focus on motherhood and childbirth, although it was difficult to watch some of the scenes, as they were so heart wrenching. This series also had a female friendship, albeit one that has soured (to put it mildly).
The women characters got the short end of the stick (as usual), and even Alicent, who seemed to be holding all the cards, was not much more than a pawn. As Rhaenys pointed out to Alicent in the penultimate episode: “You toil still in service to men: your father, your husband, your son.”
Alicent is even somewhat sexually beholden to her spy (the creepy Larys) who has a fetish for the queen regent’s feet. I would like to say that was the most disturbing scene thus far in “House of the Dragon,” but there were, unfortunately, scenes that were worse. That’s my biggest complaint about “House of the Dragon.” In this it is similar to its predecessor; I watched “Game of Thrones” despite its “yuck” factor, not because of it. I would also prefer they tone down the violence a little, but I know that’s not going to happen.
The Star Wars series “Andor,” on Disney+, is not yet done airing its first season, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
Sometimes I find it slow and boring and feel too scattered to keep up with the allegorical and political nuances of the series. Other times I am invested, sitting at the edge of my seat and biting my nails.
Diego Luna is an amazing actor, reprising his role as Cassian Andor, and I also love his adoptive mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw), and Rebel leader Vel (Faye Marsay, who portrayed the waif from “Game of Thrones”). It’s also cool to see Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) again.
It is well done, and well-cast, but it is depressing, with all the oppressive Imperial forces, but I guess that should be expected from a franchise with the word Wars in the title.
If you haven’t already watched the Marvel special “Werewolf by Night,” check it out. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Laura Donnelly, it’s an homage to old-timey horror, and perfect for Halloween. It was released Oct. 7, on Disney+.
Wrapping up Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” in theaters Nov. 11, and “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” Nov. 25, on Disney+.
The new year will bring Phase Five, beginning with the movie “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” in February. The first TV series of Phase Five will be the second season of “What If … ?” The first new TV series of Phase Five will be “Secret Invasion.”
Credits: Top photo, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” Amazon Studios; “House of the Dragon,” HBO; “Andor,” Disney Platform Distribution; “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Well, I think it’s finally happening to me: Franchise burnout. I am really not that impressed with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon,” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” isn’t blowing me away either. And I’m not eagerly anticipating the new Star Wars series “Andor” (Disney+). I feel like I should want to watch all the new offerings from these popular sci-fi and fantasy franchises but honestly, I kind of just don’t care.
I doubt I would have even bothered with the Targaryens or the saga of Tolkien’s elves if it had not been for my husband convincing me to watch with him. Is it just me? Maybe I’m just tired in general. It’s a balmy 110 degrees where I live and it’s draining my will to do much of anything lately, much less care about Westeros or Middle-earth.
I’m happy to see there’s more diversity than I expected from these two series but both shows are still leaning white and blond, especially (most of) the lead characters. I guess they get points for including actors of different ethnicities, even if they are mostly peripheral characters? (I have read that some people are having a problem with any people of color in these shows, which I find confusing and sad.)
Another issue I have with these series is that the events took place years before the original series. We already know how “Game of Thrones” ended – who cares what happened 200 years before that? (And let’s face it – the end of “Game of Thrones” sucked, which doesn’t help.)
We also already know what happened in “Lord of the Rings.” Do we really need to know what happened thousands of years before Frodo and Sam went to Mordor?
It seems a bit crazy to me that Amazon paid $250 million(!) for the rights to these stories, and they’re based mostly on appendices!
I realize they are banking on the name to draw viewers, but I would have been more interested in seeing something new. I think the post-apocalyptic Koli trilogy by M. R. Carey would be a fantastic miniseries, if they had the right writers and actors attached.
I would also love to see Charlie Jane Anders’ novel “All the Birds in the Sky” adapted to a movie or series. Her YA novel “Victories Greater Than Death” was picked up by Amazon Prime last year and is being developed by Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. Hopefully they’ll do a good job with that so we’ll see more of her stories on the big and small screen.
Don’t get me wrong – “Dragon” and “Rings” aren’t really bad, just sort of boring. I guess it isn’t fair to judge them already since they’ve only released a couple episodes; maybe they are just getting warmed up. After all, “The Expanse” was confusing and boring at first, but it turned out to be awesome. So we’ll see.
“Andor” isn’t out yet. It was supposed to premiere on Aug. 31 but I assume its new release date, Sept. 21, is due to Disney+ not wanting it to compete against “Dragon” and “Rings.”
I hate to say this as a Star Wars fan, but why should we care about a prequel to “Rogue One,” which itself was a (boring) prequel? Having said that, I will probably still watch it. It’s Star Wars! (See, that’s how they get you.) Speaking of Disney, there’s another new Marvel series that just started: “She-Hulk,” which looked incredibly ridiculous in the trailer and actually is sort of ridiculous but is also kind of funny, and not as awful as I expected.
I like that it breaks the “fourth wall” and is sort of tongue-in-cheek, and of course Tatiana Maslany is super talented and adorable, which almost makes up for the silliness and the bad CGI.
That’s all for now. Tune in next time when I hopefully will have changed all my opinions on the aforementioned series because they dramatically improved halfway through!
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.”
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.
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.
Iloved 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.
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.
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?
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.
(Spoilers for the first four episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” follow the photo.)
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
Now that the crazy whirlwind that is “Moon Knight” has concluded its first season, we can talk about it what it all means.
What does it mean? I still don’t know. But I love that Marvel’s Disney+ offerings are so different from each other. We have the amazing adventures of Bucky and Sam, Wanda and Vision play house, a very Hawkeye Christmas, the Asgardian god of mischief, and now Oscar Isaac channeling an Egyptian god. I don’t like them all equally, and that’s fine. There is something for everyone.
I personally prefer the lighter, funnier side of Marvel (“Ant-Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) rather than Marvel’s darker, creepier offerings (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”). “Moon Knight” leans more toward this dark side. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed “Moon Knight.” It is interesting and suspenseful. But the best thing it has going for it is Isaac’s performance. He really brings this immense talent to every role, and he is perfect in this.
It was recently brought to my attention that a lot of Marvel heroes have been at war with some version of themselves lately. We see this in “Moon Knight,” “Loki,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” etc. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, or if it’s a commentary on how our greatest obstacle is often ourselves. Something to think about.
Next up, Marvel series-wise, is “Ms. Marvel,” which will premiere on Disney+ on June 8. I’ve been reading the comic books, and they are pretty good. This new character will be the first Muslim superhero in the MCU, which is cool.
We are seeing more diversity lately in Marvel movies and series; there are more female, Black, Latino, Indian, LGBT+, and deaf superheroes, and it’s about time! White dudes dominated the screen for the first 17 MCU films, and they were great and all, but it’s so refreshing – and important! – to see not just characters but main characters who represent people of different ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and abilities.
The new series “She-Hulk” is coming out on Aug. 17, and stars Tatiana Maslany who was amazing in “Orphan Black.” Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth, who are also wonderful, will appear in the series (as the Hulk and the Abomination). The trailer just dropped on Tuesday, and it looks, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Entertaining. See for yourself:
There are a lot of new Marvel series coming in the next couple years, including “Secret Invasion,” “Ironheart,” “Armor Wars,” and a series set in Wakanda. A Halloween special and a Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas special are also still scheduled to be released this year as well.
There are also two spinoff series in the works: one starring Kathryn Hahn as her character from “WandaVision,” called “Agatha: House of Harkness,” and “Echo,” starring Alaqua Cox who played Maya Lopez in “Hawkeye.”
In Marvel movie news, there are still six more Phase Four films coming out in the next couple years. The next one is “Thor: Love and Thunder,” out July 8. Then we have “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” on Nov. 11; “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “The Marvels,” scheduled to be released next year; and “Fantastic Four.”
In Star Wars news, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series will premiere May 27, on Disney+, and will star Ewan McGregor, who also serves as executive producer for the show, set 10 years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Hayden Christensen will also reprise his role, as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. There are six episodes.
Other Star Wars series coming to Disney+ are “Andor,” “Ahsoka,” “The Acolyte,” and Season Three of “The Mandalorian.” There is also talk of a “Lando” series, but there isn’t much information yet on this series.
If you are caught up on “Star Trek: Picard,” you know things have taken a turn for the batsh*t crazy. Q shows up in Season 2, and of course chaos ensues, as it does whenever Q shows up. And the Borg Queen shows up, and chaos ensues, as it does whenever she shows up.
There’s some time travel, some unresolved childhood trauma, and an alternate universe plot – all manner of completely bonkers stuff happens is what I’m saying, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about it because what is happening on this show?! That’s all I’m going to say about that.
“Star Trek: Discovery” got a bit crazy as well, in its fourth season. (When the universe as you know it might be ending and your rogue boyfriend is partially responsible, but you want to give him another chance!) But one of the cool things that “Discovery” has going for it is that every season goes in a completely new direction, and even though there were some WTF moments, I still am looking forward to seeing what direction it heads in Season Five.
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” premiered on May 5, and it’s OK but it isn’t really blowing me away. To be fair, I’ve only seen the first two episodes so far, and there are some new, interesting characters, so I’ll keep watching and maybe it will get better with time.
Another spin-off of “Discovery,” called “Section 31,” is still reportedly in the works and will star Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role as Philippa Georgiou. There has also been talk of a limited series based on Khan Noonien Singh, and another set at Starfleet Academy, but it has been announced that no new Trek series will be released before at least one of the current series concludes its run.
There are now 12 Star Trek series (including the animated ones) and they are all available on Paramount+. You can also watch all 13 of the Trek films on Paramount+. And … a new, J. J. Abrams-produced Trek movie is in the works and is expected to be released next year.
In “Grishaverse” news, Season 2 of the Netflix series “Shadow and Bone” (based on the YA fantasy novels by Leigh Bardugo) is reportedly in production. If you haven’t seen the first season yet, now’s a good time to catch up before the Season 2 release, expected sometime this year.
The series follows a cartographer named Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) who discovers she is a Grisha, gifted with magical powers.
I had never heard of the books or the series before I saw the first episode, but I found this fantasy world, with its interesting characters and beautiful costumes, very intriguing, because let’s face it: It’s nice to go somewhere new, rather than visit the same boring destination over and over. Like, say, Tatooine.
“Stranger Things” will be back May 27. There are actually two release dates; Netflix will release the second half of Season 4 on July 1. There are nine episodes, and at over an hour each, they are longer than those of previous seasons. In a recent interview, the Duffer Brothers (the series’ creators) said the season finale will be over two hours long. Stock up on popcorn!
Season Three of the Netflix series “Umbrella Academy” will be released June 22. If you haven’t watched the first two seasons of this show, based on the comics by Gerard Way, I highly recommend it.
Photo at top: “Ms. Marvel,” Disney Platform Distribution.