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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Mark your calendar: 10 new sci-fi films to see this year

I love the smell of fresh science fiction in the movie theater. It smells like popcorn and … stardust. As I’ve likely said elsewhere in this blog: It’s a great time to be a nerd.

There are a few exciting sci-fi films that have release dates yet to be announced, but are supposed to come out this year, including writer/director Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja.” Bong wrote and directed the dystopian (and disturbing) thriller “Snowpiercer.”

“Ex Machina” writer/director Alex Garland’s next film, “Annihilation,” is also expected to be released this year.

But most of the movies I want to see have dates, which are already in my datebook. Let’s go to the movies!

March 10 – “Kong: Skull Island”

It seems like everything is a sequel or a remake lately. Everything from “Beauty and the Beast” to “CHiPs” to “Jumanji” is coming to the big screen this year. Do we really need another King Kong movie? An argument could be made for this viewpoint, but I’m not going to be the one to make it. There’s a reason giant lizards and gorillas don’t ever go away.kong-skull-island-2017-brie-larson-tom-hiddleston1

This is the second film in Legendary’s Godzilla-Kong film series. The first was “Godzilla,” in 2014. “Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (which, let’s face it, is reason enough to see this), Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

March 24 – “Life”

I think it’s possible we are nearing the saturation point with all the astronaut movies lately, but … oh well. Bring on another! This one is called, simply, “Life.” (I think it could use a catchier name but no one asked me.) Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal star as crew members of the International Space Station who are about to discover evidence of life on Mars.

April 7 – “Colossal”anne-hathaway-colossal-550x600

Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a young woman who discovers she has a strange connection to a kaiju halfway across the world.

“Colossal” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes”).

It has been described as a kaiju disaster movie combined with an indie rom-com. It really doesn’t get any cooler than that, right? I’m thinking “date night.”

May 5 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-teaser-poster

I’m not super excited about all the superhero movies coming out this year. They’re all starting to run together at this point. (I did love “Deadpool” and “Dr. Strange” though.) I will go see “Wonder Woman” in the theater (because girl power!) but I’ll wait for “Thor,” “Logan,” “Spider-Man,” and “Justice League” to come out on DVD.

There is one comic book movie I am excited about: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” I loved the first one. It’s funny, and it has cool retro music and a talking raccoon. You really can’t go wrong with that formula. Or can you? Don’t disappoint me, sequel!

May 19 – “Alien: Covenant”

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but my husband loves the “Alien” films, so I’ve seen them all. While they’re not my favorite, I can appreciate H.R. Giger’s artistic vision, Ridley Scott’s filmmaking talent, and Sigourney Weaver’s bad-ass portrayal of Ellen Ripley.

“Covenant” is the sixth of the “Alien” movies, and the second of the prequels. Ridley Scott directs, and Michael Fassbender reprises his role as an android. While Ripley was absent from “Prometheus,” Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) took up her mantle as the resident bad ass. Rapace reportedly has only a small role in the new film. With the exception of Fassbender, most of the cast members are new to the franchise, including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride.

Interesting note: Neill Blomkamp (“District 9,” “Elysium”) was working on a sequel for this franchise as well, but it remains to be seen what will become of that project.

June 2 – “Wonder Woman”

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My sister and I loved watching “Wonder Woman” on TV back in the early ’80s. We made our own starred tiaras and bulletproof bracelets out of tinfoil, and took turns using the Lasso of Truth (one of our mom’s scarves). I’m sure we weren’t the only little girls who wanted to be Wonder Woman. So why has it taken soooo long to give her her own feature film? Well, that’s a loaded question, I guess, and a topic for another day.

Even though I grew up with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, she’s now played by Gal Gadot, and the new film is set in World War I. The trailer looks pretty cool. I can’t wait to see her kick some ass on the big screen. I’m going to see it with my sister.

July 14 – “War for the Planet of the Apes”mv5bmjazmti3nti5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm2nje4mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006321000_al_

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the other apes are at war with the humans in this third installment of the reboot series. If you haven’t seen the first two films, I recommend you check them out. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” are very well done. The visual effects are amazing and the stories are worthy of them, which is, as you know, not always the case with these summer blockbusters.

Matt Reeves directs, and the film is written by Reeves and Mark Bomback. Judy Greer returns as Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, and Steve Zahn will play a new ape. Woody Harrelson and Gabriel Chavarria have human roles.

July 21 – “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is based on the French comic book series Valérian and Laureline, by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières. The film was produced, written, and directed by Luc Besson, who also did “The Fifth Element,” which I love. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks very similar in style to “The Fifth Element” as well. (It also sort of reminds me of “Jupiter Ascending,” but let’s hope it doesn’t veer in that direction.)

Oct. 6 – “Blade Runner 2049”

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A sequel to the original “Blade Runner” (from 1982), this one is set 30 years after the events in the original, which was based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard. In the original, Deckard was a blade runner – a cop tasked with hunting down androids called replicants. The lead role, however, belongs to Ryan Gosling, and the director is Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) rather than Ridley Scott, who directed the original.

They’ve been talking about doing a sequel since 1999, but the project kept getting scrapped due to issues concerning rights to the novel and funding problems. Here’s hoping it’s worth the wait.

Dec. 15 – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

The official name of “Star Wars: Episode VIII” was revealed on Monday. “The Last Jedi” is expected to pick up right where Episode VII left off, after Rey finds Luke. (Does this count as a spoiler? I imagine if you haven’t seen “The Force Awakens,” you’re probably not reading my blog.) “Rogue One” didn’t do much for me; this is the one I’m waiting for.

Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis return, and we will get to see Carrie Fisher on screen, in her last Star Wars film.

New cast members include Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran.

NEWS AND NOTESgeorge-lucas-museum

In other Star Wars news, it was recently announced that the George Lucas museum, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, will be built in Los Angeles, in Exposition Park (which is also home to the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles).

The $1 billion museum will house George Lucas’ personal art collection, which includes memorabilia from the “Star Wars” films as well as works from artists such as Norman Rockwell and R. Crumb. The museum is expected to be completed in 2021.

“Star Wars Celebration” will be in Orlando this year, from April 13 to 16, at the Orange County Convention Center. Tickets will go on sale May 25. The convention will celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Carrie Fisher’s death. She inspired so many of us, not just as the tough-as-nails Princess Leia, but with her honesty and wit. (Her books are funny as hell.) She was one of a kind.

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Carrie Fisher

Photos: “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (top photo),  STX Entertainment; “Kong: Skull Island,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Colossal,” NEON; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “War for the Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox; “Blade Runner 2049,” Warner Bros. Pictures; artist rendering, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, design by Ma Yansong, MAD Architects. 

Film release dates are subject to change.

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What to watch on TV: New and returning sci fi in 2017

I’ve more or less given up on George R.R. Martin’s “Winds of Winter” (the next book in the series on which “Game of Thrones” is based) but at least we can depend on HBO to satisfy our need for dragons and dire wolves. I’m really excited for Season 7, which is expected to come later than usual this year (in the summer rather than the spring). We’re also going to have to savor it not only because this will be the penultimate season but because the last two seasons will have fewer than the usual 10 episodes.

We will have to say farewell to our favorite clones this year, with the fifth and final season of “Orphan Black” (BBC America). The last few seasons premiered in April, so we can probably expect the show to return in April.

If you like quirky comedy, I recommend “People of Earth” (on TBS), about a support group for people who have been abducted by aliens. I wasn’t sure at first what to make of this weird show, but it’s grown on me, and I will be watching for the second season. It will likely be back in the fall.

“The Expanse” (Syfy) will return on Feb. 1 – finally! I’ve almost forgotten what happened last season, since it has been nearly a year since the Season 1 finale. It took a while for the plot to gain momentum in the first season, so here’s hoping the second season hits the ground running.

A new Star Trek series is coming in May. “Star Trek: Discovery” will air on CBS All Access and Netflix. Taking on a beloved franchise like Star Trek is risky. Hopefully the show’s creators Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman are up to the task. Sonequa Martin-Green (“The Walking Dead”) will play the lead role; Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, and Anthony Rapp also star.

A new mini-series, “Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick,” is expected to come out sometimes this year. You may recognize the name Philip K. Dick – he wrote the stories behind so many science-fiction films: “Total Recall,” “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “The Adjustment Bureau,” and “Paycheck,” to name a few. The popular Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle” is also based on one of Dick’s novels.

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Philip K. Dick

“Electric Dreams” is produced by Ronald D. Moore (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Outlander”), Michael Dinner, and Bryan Cranston, who will also appear in one of the episodes, each of which is a stand-alone drama.

There is no air date as of yet, but it is slated to premiere on Channel 4 in the UK and distributed internationally by Sony Pictures Television.

I can barely keep up with all the new series out right now. Two that I have been wanting to watch but haven’t yet are “Travelers” (Netflix) and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” (BBC America).

The latter might sound familiar to you, as it is also a Douglas Adams novel, which has been adapted to TV before – in 2010 on BBC. (Adams also wrote the novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which was also adapted to a BBC TV series, as well as a movie, in 2005.)

Photo at top: Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait star in “The Expanse,” on Syfy. “Game of Thrones” photo, HBO. 

P.S. Check out this recap for Syfy’s “The Expanse.”

Four new sci-fi flicks – coming soon to a theater near you

Lots of promising science-fiction films are in the works right now – “Replicas”; “Annihilation”; “Blade Runner 2”; “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Pacific Rim” and “Planet of the Apes” sequels;  and film adaptations of “Ready Player One,” “Station Eleven,” “Descender,” and “Chrononauts” – but we’re going to have to wait a long time for most of those. For now, let’s look at some new films coming out in the next few months:

First up, we have “Arrival,” adapted from a short story by Ted Chiang. The story, about deciphering alien communication, is directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer and stars Amy Adams as a linguist hired to communicate with aliens, Jeremy Renner as a mathematician, and Forest Whitaker as a U.S. Army colonel. The film, which had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, has had mostly good reviews thus far.

Sasha James at The Mary Sue said the movie “proves to be much more than the standard first contact flick, and Villeneuve maintains his track record of turning all expectations of genre on their head.”

“Arrival” will be released Nov. 11.

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Above, Amy Adams stars in “Arrival.” Below, Asa Butterfield in “The Space Between Us.”

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“The Space Between Us” has an original, intriguing concept: Asa Butterfield plays a teenager born on Mars who goes to Earth for the first time, experiencing our planet with fresh eyes. (You may remember Butterfield from “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,” “Hugo,” or “Ender’s Game.”)

The movie also stars Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman, who plays a character inspired by Elon Musk.

It could be a hit, as long as it doesn’t veer too far into schmaltzy territory. Another potential problem is timing – right now it’s up against the new Stars Wars film which has the same Dec. 16 release date.

Don’t expect to see Luke Skywalker or R2 in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” These are (mostly) new people in a sort of side project to tide you over till the next chapter of the saga.

Set sometime between episodes III and IV, “Rogue One” stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker.

Jones plays Jyn Erso, a Rebel fighter who teams up with Cassian Andor (Luna) and some other Rebels to steal the Death Star plans.

There are a couple familiar faces: Genevieve O’Reilly will reprise her role as Mon Mothma, and Jimmy Smits is back as Bail Organa. There will also be a familiar voice – James Earl Jones as Darth Vader.

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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will be released Dec. 16.

“Passengers,” a sci-fi romance/thriller, stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as astronauts accidentally awakened from hibernation 90 years too early.

The original script (by Jon Spaihts) has been floating around for years and at one point had Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon set to star as the stranded pair.

The film is directed by Morten Tyldum, who also directed “The Imitation Game” and “Headhunters” (a cool film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones” – check it out if you haven’t seen it).

“Passengers” is slated for a Dec. 21 release.

Photos: “Passengers,” Columbia Pictures; “Arrival,” Paramount Pictures; “The Space Between Us,” STX Entertainment; “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Lucasfilm/Disney

 

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 finale not terribly shocking

If you haven’t seen the Season 6 finale of “Game of Thrones,” you may want to come back after you’ve seen it. This is your spoiler warning.

Let’s talk about Cersei’s industrial goth dress. I’m guessing someone in the costume department has seen the “Hellraiser” movies way too many times, because I feel like I’m watching Clive Barker’s “Game of Thrones.” Let’s not forget the Night King looking like Pinhead’s distant cousin:

Everything is happening, and it’s about time. We knew Cersei was planning something sinister, but who knew how big it would be? That wildfire explosion was crazy. One thing I didn’t see coming was the end of Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell. But I was happy to see those pesky Sparrows go down.

Walder Frey also had it coming to him, after the carnage of the Red Wedding. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Arya apparently believes it’s a dish best served with one’s sons baked inside. Gross.

The truth of Jon Snow’s parentage was figured out by readers of the books some time ago, so last night’s “shocker” wasn’t much of a revelation, but it was satisfying to see it finally play out on screen, even if we knew all along Jon wasn’t Ned’s bastard son. I think Ned would be proud of the man his nephew has become. “The King in the North!”

Daenerys’ scenes – some of my favorites in the first few seasons – have lately been a batch of fries sitting under a heat lamp while the other stories catch up, so it’s nice that she’s finally going somewhere. The part where she dumps her boyfriend was blah, but it’s so darn touching when she names Tyrion the Hand of the Queen, it almost makes up for it.

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It’s nice that we got to see a little bit of everyone, since it’s the last episode we will get until 2017. But come on, that was not enough of Sam and Gilly. (Cool library! And then we move on.)

I think the most unexpected and breathtaking moment of the finale was Tommen’s suicide. But the most heartbreaking was Davos confronting Melisandre about Shireen’s murder. “I loved that girl like she was my own,” he tells her. “She was good, she was kind, and you killed her!” (Stop making me cry, Onion Knight!)

I love GoT, and I’m going to miss it while it’s gone. Until next year.

In other news

I’m reading Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic “Wool” series (which is awesome – go read it right now if you haven’t), and hopefully I will have more news to report about this soon – “Guardians of the Galaxy” writer Nicole Perlman has reportedly been hired to re-write “Wool” for 20th Century Fox and producers Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.

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“Wool” began as a stand-alone novella, which Howey published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. Interesting note: Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” also was based on a self-published book. Self-publishing seems to be gaining more respect.

Maybe anyone can write a novel. Maybe even … robots? Yes, as Hugh Howey himself predicted, a novel has recently been written by artificial intelligence. The AI had some help from humans, so writers aren’t obsolete just yet. The novel, a team effort led by Hitoshi Matsubara, a professor at Future University Hakodate, was an attempt to win Japan’s Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award. The novel, “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel,” didn’t win, but it passed the first round of screening.

The idea of robots taking over the world is just science fiction, though. Right? Well, not if you believe in a theory known as “technological singularity.” Singularity theorists say that superintelligent machines will one day overtake humans. Of course, there have been multiple books, movies and TV shows about cyborgs, androids, robots, or machines overthrowing humans. Most of them seem too far-fetched to come true, but some of them (“Ex Machina” and “Her”) seem eerily possible.

Moving on to a more scientifically plausible prediction about non-human intelligence, a Cornell student recently estimated that Earth won’t contact alien life for another 1,500 years. This might sound like a wild guess, but it’s based on math: Evan Solomonides and professor Yervant Terzian presented a paper earlier this month, at the American Astronomical Society meeting, which explains that because we have only been sending signals to space for 80 years, we’ve reached less than one percent of the galaxy. We shouldn’t expect to make contact until we’ve reached at least half of the solar systems in the Milky Way.

The astronomers address what’s known as the Fermi Paradox, which asks: “There must be other planets like Earth, so why have we not heard from them yet?” Solomonides’ answer is a good one, but I will offer up another possibility: Maybe the aliens are just waiting to see if this Trump thing blows over before they decide if we are worth talking to.

“Game of Thrones photos,” HBO. 

 

 

Game of Thrones – the good, the sad, and the frustrating

It’s a great time to be a nerd. There are so many cool sci-fi and fantasy films and TV shows going right now. Maybe it’s because reality is so disturbing lately that more and more people are seeking out alternative realities. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that stories like George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” are getting the big-budget treatment they deserve.

(Warning: This post contains Game of Thrones SPOILERS.)

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I’m really enjoying GoT right now. I love Sam and Gilly’s scenes, and I’m intrigued by Bran’s story too. Now that the HBO series has caught up to the books, every episode is a surprise.

Possibly the most anxiously awaited story line was the question of “Is Jon Snow really dead?” Readers have been wondering what will become of Snow since “A Dance With Dragons” (the fifth book in the ASOIAF series), and we finally got our answer this season.

I’ve also been wondering what will become of Arya and Daenerys since I finished the books. I admit I found the end of the Faceless Men plot less satisfying than I had hoped, and Daenerys’ speeches are starting to get a little stale.

Some of the most frustrating scenes are those that depart from the direction Martin was heading. When Jamie spouts his “the things we do for love” shtick, Edmure doesn’t want to hear it – and neither do we. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was thinking “Oh shut it, Jamie.” (I also yelled at my TV screen when Jaqen said, “Finally a girl has become no one.”)

Even though the series has now gone further than the books, it’s relatively easy to figure out which story ideas are Martin’s. The heartbreaking revelation in”Hold the Door” was very clever – and clearly a twist of which only Martin could have conceived.

I’m so excited for next week’s “The Battle of the Bastards.” It’s hard to believe there are only two episodes left in this season. It’s going by much too quickly.

WonderCon

I attended WonderCon in March and was very excited about the Image Comics panel, since I am a fan of “Saga” and “Rat Queens.” Queens writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Tess Fowler discussed the creative process behind the comic.

The “Orphan Black” panel was fun too. Tatiana Maslany (who plays the female clones) was absent, but the show’s creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett participated, as did Kevin Hanchard (Art Bell), Kristian Bruun (Donnie Hendrix), and Jordan Gavaris (Felix Dawkins).

“Orphan Black” is one of my favorite shows. I am disappointed to learn that the show’s fifth season will be its last. I’ll miss the sestras.

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“Game of Thrones” photos, HBO; WonderCon photos EarthToShawna. 

News & musings: ‘Expanse,’ ‘Oddfits,’ ‘Ready Player One’

I have been wanting to write about the new Syfy series “The Expanse,” but it took me a while to process my thoughts and feelings about it. I was wary at first, as the show was being compared to my all-time favorite TV series, “Battlestar Galactica.” How can anything live up to that hype? And I found the name distracting because the entire third season of “Star Trek: Enterprise” is set in the Delphic Expanse, which was usually referred to as “the Expanse.”

But I gave it a try. I needed a good show to tide me over while “Game of Thrones,” “Orphan Black,” “Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” are on hiatus.

I found the first couple episodes of “The Expanse” confusing, and I wondered if the books (which I haven’t read) were just not translating well to the screen – something seemed to be missing. Or at least, I felt I was missing something. I’m hearing impaired and use closed-captioning, and sometimes get lost when the action and/or dialogue are fast-paced, so that might have had something to do with it.

But I was intrigued enough to stick with it, and I reminded myself new series sometimes take a few episodes to hit their stride.

Here’s what you need to know: In the future, mankind has colonized the solar system, and there are three groups at odds with each other – Earthers (from Earth, duh), Martians (people who have settled Mars – not little green men), and the oppressed, working class “Belters” – people born in the asteroid belt. It gets more complicated than that, but I don’t want to give it all away.

Once I figured out what was going on, I was hooked. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in this show – mystery, political drama, and outer space action/adventure. (I will also confess that I like some comic relief in my science fiction. They had me at “donkey balls.”)

I love the complex characters, there’s a talented cast, and the special effects are amazing. The two-hour finale was crazy, in a good way, and left me feeling sad that the season is already over.

If you haven’t been watching, I recommend you check out season one (you can watch on syfy.com or Hulu). If you have been watching, I would love to hear what you think! Comment here or on the Earth to Shawna facebook page:

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Books

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (see my last blog post, in which I reviewed Jessica Chiarella’s “And Again” and Kate Mulgrew’s memoir “Born with Teeth”).

I just started “The Oddfits,” by Tiffany Tsao. It’s about this misfit kid named Murgatroyd Floyd (how cool is that name?) and there’s this huge freezer called the Great Freezer, which contains 736  flavors of ice cream, including Sunset, Quiet, Darkness, Rainbow, and Stars (shown on the book cover above), which tastes like violets, chocolate, warm honeyed peaches, coconut milk, and the sensation that the universe is a very vast place. (If magic ice cream doesn’t make you want to read this book, nothing will.)

I’m picking up hints of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Doctor Who,” “Twilight Zone,” and also something new that I can’t quite identify … but so far, I find it very palatable.

What are your favorite new sci fi titles?

‘Ready Player One’

Speaking of books, I’m super excited about the new, Spielberg-directed film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One,” to be released in April 2018. (The film was previously slated for December 2017, but it was announced Tuesday that it has been pushed back – to avoid a box office clash with the next “Star Wars” movie.)

I loved the book, about a futuristic, ’80s-themed competition. The winner inherits the fortune of the contest’s creator, who has been dead for five years.

Olivia Cooke has been cast as Art3mis. (Cooke played Rachel in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – an excellent movie. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.) Ben Mendelsohn is reportedly in talks for the lead villain, and Nick Robinson is reportedly a favorite for the role of Parzival.

The film has launched a worldwide casting call for three of the main roles: Wade, Shoto, and Daito. The deadline is Feb. 16, so if you’re an aspiring actor who fits the part, you have five days to upload an audition:

http://www.readyplayeronemoviecasting.com

When the book was released, Cline announced that the book contained an Easter egg, a clue which formed the first part of a series of staged video game tests, similar to the plot of the novel. A DeLorean was awarded to the contest’s winner. I wouldn’t be surprised if another contest will be announced when the movie is released, so keep your eye out!

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Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) has been cast as the female lead in Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One.”

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New Star Trek series

It has been announced that the showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek series (which is not related to the 2016 film) will be Bryan Fuller, who wrote “Pushing Daisies, “Hannibal,” “Dead Like Me,” and “Wonderfalls.” He has also written for “Voyager” and “Deep Space Nine” so he’s no stranger to the Star Trek franchise.

In a 2013 Den of Geek interview, Fuller said he would love to see Angela Bassett as captain and Rosario Dawson as first officer. How cool would that be? Of course, that was three years ago, and the series has not yet been cast, so I’ll try not to get my hopes up.

The new show is set to premiere in January 2017 on CBS before moving to All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’ 

And last, but definitely not least, my fav show ever may be turning into a feature film! Let’s not get too excited – this might be a case of “all of this has happened before and will happen again.” (Yes, that’s a BSG quote.)

The newest news on the matter involves producer Michael DeLuca (“The Social Network”), Bluegrass Films (“Battleship”), and Universal Pictures. Nothing else has been announced thus far, but stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.