Watch ‘Umbrella Academy’ – & update your film calendar

I know I’m late in reviewing the Netflix sci-fi series “The Umbrella Academy,” but if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re wondering if you should, the answer is yes.

I did not read the comic from which it was adapted (written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and illustrated by Gabriel Bá), so I can’t compare the two versions, but I enjoyed the show.f5_162293_0_TheUmbrellaAcademy1AApocalypse

It starts like this: Forty-three babies were born on Oct. 1, 1989 – to women who weren’t expecting babies. No one knows how this happened, but a mysterious billionaire named Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of them and, because the children have special abilities, assembles them into a superhero team.

Fast forward to the present and Hargreeves has just passed away, bringing the kids, now adults, together at their childhood home.

I think the series’ developers, Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater, did a great job with this. The cast is wonderful. Ellen Page (“Juno,” “X-Men”) is violinist Vanya, Tom Hopper (“Black Sails”) plays the big guy, Luther, and Broadway actress Emmy Raver-Lampman portrays Allison, who has the superpower of just saying “I heard a rumor …” and then whatever she says comes true.

David Castañeda plays Diego, who can throw a weapon that will hit any target, Robert Sheehan is Klaus (my favorite sibling), who can see dead people, and Justin H. Min is Ben, who is deceased but still appears to Klaus. Five has the power to travel through space and time. He is played by Aidan Gallagher, who is really amazing and convincing as an old man in a kid’s body.

John Magaro (“Not Fade Away,” “Orange is the New Black”) plays Vanya’s love interest, Leonard, Colm Feore is Sir Reginald Hargreeves, and Adam Godley voices Pogo, the chimpanzee butler. Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige(!) are Hazel and Cha-Cha, two assassins from the future.

There’s a bunch of stuff I’m leaving out, because I don’t want to give anything away. But if you’re interested in a sort of darker version of the X-Men, you may want to start watching it when you have time to binge watch one episode after another.

This is rated TV-14, by the way, if you’re wondering if you should watch with your kids. It’s dark like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (which is PG), but some of the themes in “Umbrella” are more grown-up.

Rami Malek

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Carly Chaikin and Rami Malek star in “Mr. Robot.”

Yay for Rami Malek for winning best actor at the Academy Awards! He was awesome in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Not sci-fi of course, but so good. Watch him in the fourth and final season of “Mr. Robot” later this year.

I heard he is being sought to play a villain in a Bond movie, which is cool I guess? I feel like he’s proven he’s leading man material at this point though, so … wait for a better offer, Rami! (Not a Bond fan – sorry.)

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“Captain Marvel” opens this Friday! Did you buy your tickets yet? You won’t be able to see this on DVD if you want to see it before “Avengers: Endgame” comes out April 26.

In between the two Marvel films, check out the new “Hellboy” movie, opening April 12.

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“Game of Thrones” will return for its eighth season on April 14 on HBO. I’m so excited to see how it all ends, but also sad because this season will be the last.

Entertainment Weekly has a new feature story on the upcoming season. Head on over there if you want clues to what’s in store for our favorite characters. But be careful; you know what they say: The night is dark and full of spoilers.

https://ew.com/tv/2019/03/04/game-of-thrones-season-8-battle/

And if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the new Season 8 trailer:

If you’re a “Dune” fan, you’ll be in for a Thanksgiving treat. Not this year though; a remake is scheduled to be in theaters Nov. 20, 2020. Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) will direct and lots of big names are rumored to be in talks (or are already attached) to star in the film, including Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, and Charlotte Rampling. Dune, for those who don’t know, began as a 1965 sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert, and the first adaptation, directed by David Lynch, was released in 1984.

Star Wars at Disneyland

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a 14-acre, Star Wars-themed attraction being built at Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, will open this year. The one in California is scheduled to open May 31, and the Florida attraction will open Aug. 29 (though one of the rides is expected to open later in the year).

The new attraction will be designed as a “remote frontier outpost” on the planet Batuu, a newly designed world. Themed rides including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be featured, as well as Oga’s Cantina, the first  location in Disneyland Park to sell alcoholic drinks.

If you’re not already broke from buying tickets to the park, you can also build your own droid or lightsaber. The cost will be around $160 for a lightsaber. (I haven’t seen any info on build a droid pricing.)

For more information, check out the Disney website: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/star-wars-galaxys-edge/

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I’m so sad to hear about Luke Perry, who has passed away at the age of 52. I had the fortune of working as an extra on “Beverly Hills, 90210” several times, years ago, and Perry always seemed like a nice, down to earth guy.

Perry had a small role in one of my favorite movies, “The Fifth Element,” and also starred in the original (and in my opinion, superior) version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and also “Riverdale.”

Rest in peace, Luke. We won’t forget you.

Credits: “The Umbrella Academy” photo and gif, Netflix; “The Umbrella Academy” comic book, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, Dark Horse Comics; “Mr. Robot,” NBC Universal Television; “Game of Thrones,” HBO. 

Post updated to include opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

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Lyonne does the time loop in her new series ‘Russian Doll’

What could be worse than dying on your birthday? How about dying on your birthday over and over and over and over? That’s the premise of the Netflix original series “Russian Doll.” The first season of the dark comedy, created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, was released Feb. 1.

Lyonne also stars in the series, as Nadia Vulvokov, a witty but troubled New Yorker who keeps dying and re-living her 36th birthday over and over. I’ve been a Lyonne fan ever since “Slums of Beverly Hills” in 1998 and I also love her in “Orange is the New Black,” so seeing her star in this crazy show is a special treat.

It’s great timing – Groundhog Day was Feb. 2, and it does sort of borrow the reset button from the Bill Murray film, but if we’re talking time loops, it’s really more “Edge of Tomorrow,” as Tom Cruise’s character’s day starts over when he dies, rather than the 6 a.m. automatic restart in “Groundhog Day.”

The difference here is an attempt to explain (with science!) why this is happening to her. Maybe it’s not so much a plot gimmick but an exploration of a scientific theory. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The series’ similarities to other movies don’t matter anyway; all you need to know is that it’s an entrancing and binge-worthy trip down a rabbit hole.

Besides the awesome Lyonne, the show also stars Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Elizabeth Ashley, Rebecca Henderson, and Charlie Barnett. Chloe Sevigny and Dascha Polanco also make guest appearances.

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Rebecca Henderson, Greta Lee, and Charlie Barnett in the trippy time loop series “Russian Doll.”

The Expanse

Amazon Prime will soon be streaming the first three seasons of the epic sci-fi series “The Expanse,” so get over there and catch up before the fourth season comes out later this year. The first season is a little confusing at first but don’t give up! It gets better, a lot better.

The third season will be available to stream on Feb. 8. Seasons 1 and 2 (already available in the U.S.) will become available internationally on Feb. 8 as well.

The series, about a future in which humans have colonized the solar system, is based on the books by James S.A. Corey (the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also serve as writers and producers on the show).

There’s an amazing ensemble cast, great special effects, political intrigue, plot twists, love, war, laughter, tears. … You get the idea. Just go watch it.

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Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, and Steven Strait in “The Expanse.”

Chaos Walking

I previously reported that “Chaos Walking” would be out soon, but the film’s studio confirmed recently that the movie will not make its March release date. Bummer! But this gives you time to catch up on your reading – the movie is based on the books by Patrick Ness.

So far I’ve read the first two books in the trilogy, “The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “The Ask and the Answer.” If you’re a fan of “The Hunger Games,” you’ll probably like these too.

The film will star Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Mads Mikkelsen.

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Speaking of books, I highly recommend “Circe,” by Madeline Miller. An epic story based on characters from Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Greek mythology, the tale is told from the viewpoint of the sorceress herself.

Miller’s beautiful writing takes you right into the story, and even at 400 pages, you won’t want to leave when it’s over.

The Titans and the gods and goddesses of Olympus, the demigods and the legends are written so eloquently but are also accessible at the same time. You may think it would be difficult to get into a book about a character whose father is Helios, aka the SUN, and whose aunt is Selene, the moon. But you find yourself thinking things like, “Wow, I never realized the sun is such a jerk. … 

It’s a timely novel, and one which I’d love to see adapted to the big (or small) screen. Fingers crossed.

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Circe was the subject of several paintings by John William Waterhouse. This one is “The Sorceress,” 1913.

Credits: “Russian Doll,” Netflix; “The Expanse,” Alcon Television Group; “Circe,” Little, Brown, and Company. 

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Sci-fi television news: Three endings & three beginnings

Watching Rami Malek win a Golden Globe for his role as Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was so cool, and now he’s been nominated for an Oscar as well. Many of us already knew how talented Malek is, because we’ve been watching him play the gifted and mentally disturbed hacker Elliot Alderson on “Mr. Robot.” (He has also won an Emmy for “Mr. Robot.”) The twisty, futuristic drama is about to come to an end. Season four will be its last.

The show’s creator, Sam Esmail, has said, “We ultimately have too much respect for Elliot’s journey to extend past its inevitable ending. Therefore, season four will serve as a the final chapter of the Mr. Robot story.”

I will miss this trippy series, but like he said, it’s better for a show to not go on too long. A mistake made by the next show on my list:

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We are now 12 seasons into this thing, and it jumped the shark, as they say, ages ago. I’ve loved and laughed with these characters for years, and it’s still amusing enough that I’ve stuck with it, but at this point, Sheldon’s rudeness grates, and Bernadette’s shrillness is less cute and more, well, shrill. It’s just not the same.

The show’s premise – four nerdy scientists and their struggles with women – has changed, as everyone has been paired up. Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard are all married men, and Raj is engaged. Even comic book store owner Stuart has a girlfriend. Without the original “how do we navigate the dating world” plot, the show is flailing aimlessly. There are some great episodes, but there are more misses than hits.

Jim Parsons (Sheldon) finally pulled the plug. “It feels like we’ve chewed all the meat off this bone,” he explained in a recent interview. I couldn’t agree more.

Game of Thrones

Another series whose time has come to an end is HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” This parting will be sadder, as it has been amazing in every way for its entire run. With the eighth and final season coming in April, fans will have to say goodbye to Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, and all the rest of our beloved GoT characters.

The Long Night

Fortunately a spin-off series is in the works, a prequel called “The Long Night,” set thousands of years before the events in “Game of Thrones.” Normally I groan at the word prequel, but it’s set during a period in which humans shared Westeros with giants and the Children of the Forest, and other  magical creatures, so it sounds like it will be really awesome.

Jean-Luc Picard returns

Patrick Stewart has announced that he will return to his role as Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series for CBS All-Access. The series will be one storyline, “a 10-hour movie,” Stewart said, rather than the episodic structure used on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The still-untitled series will take place after the destruction of the Romulan Empire.

Loki

Disney’s upcoming new streaming service will feature a series about that lovable trickster Loki, and more importantly, Tom Hiddleston will be reprising the role. That’s really all I know about the new show; I’ll post more when I find out more.

Naughty and nice movies – coming to a theater near you

Mary Poppins Returns

It’s a jolly holiday with Mary! “Mary Poppins Returns” is in theaters Dec. 19.

Lots of new movies are coming out in theaters in the next couple months, some of which I’ve previously mentioned on my blog: “Mary Poppins Returns” is coming Dec. 19, and “Aquaman” is out on Dec. 21.

Emily Blunt plays Mary this time around. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Emily Mortimer, and Angela Lansbury also star, and Dick Van Dyke makes a cameo. I’m not holding my breath that it will be as good as the original, but I have a hunch it will be better than the underwhelming plot of Disney’s last live-action fantasy, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”

A cool drink of water

I normally prefer Marvel over DC, but I love, love, love Wonder Woman, and now we have Jason Momoa playing Aquaman. There’s some plot about Aquaman being caught between two worlds because he’s half human and half Atlantean, or something? Anyway, did I mention Jason Momoa?

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Does this picture make you thirsty? Jason Momoa stars as “Aquaman,” coming Dec. 21.

 Twelve days of Deadpool

“Once Upon a Deadpool,” which is “Deadpool 2” re-edited, re-released, and re-gifted in a PG-13 package, comes to theaters Dec. 12. They removed the R-rated stuff and recycled the framing device from “Princess Bride” – Deadpool is reading the story to Fred Savage. See for yourself:

Some of the proceeds from the new film will go to a charity called F*ck Cancer (renamed Fudge Cancer for the 12-day run of the new film, in keeping with the PG-13 rating).

Spidey in spades

You may or may not want to bring your kid to the new version of “Deadpool 2,” but one that looks a bit more kid-friendly is “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” out Dec. 14. In the new animated movie, there are multiple Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) in different dimensions or parallel universes, or whatever you want to call them. I haven’t read the Spider-Verse comic – I just want to see the movie because the trailer looks pretty cool:

New Keanu 

I’ve been hearing about the movie “Replicas” for a couple years, and it’s apparently finally going to be out Jan. 11. I honestly don’t know that much about it, just that it’s about a scientist who wants to bring his family back after they die. Might be interesting. Might suck. Of course I will go see it simply because they put Keanu Reeves in it. (Damn you, producers of “Transformers”!)

Apocalyptic Christmas

If you’re not sure if you’re in the mood for a musical, a Christmas movie, or a zombie movie, check out “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a Scottish Christmas musical/horror flick based on the award-winning short “Zombie Musical” by the late Ryan McHenry. “Anna and the Apocalypse” is in select theaters.

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Ella Hunt stars in “Anna and the Apocalypse.”

Sci-fi on TV

I haven’t seen much new sci-fi on the small screen lately. I’m mostly re-watching “Game of Thrones” in anticipation of the eighth and final season coming in April.

I did see the miniseries “Maniac,” on Netflix, and I loved it. Set in the not-so-distant future, the story centers on a trippy drug trial, where Annie (Emma Stone) meets Owen (Jonah Hill). Gabriel Byrne, Justin Theroux, and Sally Field also star. If you’re into stuff that’s weird, quirky, funny, and charming, you should check it out.

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Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac.”

In other TV sci-fi news, an adaptation of Alan Moore’s awesome comic book “Watchmen” is coming to HBO. Unlike the 2009 film, which was (in my opinion) a faithful adaptation of the comic, showrunner Damon Lindelof has said the new series will be a new story set in the same world, but with different characters, set in the present day.

The new show will be coming out sometime in 2019. While you wait, I recommend reading the original comic book and/or watching the movie. It’s a great story. (Also it’s rated R; this one is not for the kids.)

Holiday shopping

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the geek in your life, check out the gift guide over at nomansland.blog. These are the droids, er, gifts you’re looking for …

Xmas 2018: Geeky Gifting Guide

Credits: “Once Upon a Deadpool,” 20th Century Fox; “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Aquaman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Sony Pictures; “Replicas,” Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures; “Anna and the Apocalypse,” Orion Pictures; “Maniac,” Netflix, “Watchmen,” DC Comics; “Watchmen” film, Warner Bros. Pictures. 

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Amazon picks up critically acclaimed series ‘The Expanse’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So are we. Here’s to Season Four!

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

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

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My honey and I dressed for the occasion. Arrrr!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Tune in to trippy TV series ‘Travelers’ and ‘Mr. Robot’

I’ve been telling everyone about the Netflix sci-fi series “Travelers,” starring Eric McCormack. This is a series I want to keep watching even though it’s late and I should go to bed. (Unfortunately, I am done watching all 12 episodes of Season 1, and there is no release date yet for Season 2.)

There are so many new series out right now and they’re really hit and miss. I picked this one sort of at random, but I will admit that the star of “Will & Grace” was also a draw. I also thought the premise sounded similar to that of “The 4400,” which I loved.

“Travelers” exceeded my expectations. It’s unpredictable and suspenseful, and even though it’s not totally original (shades of “12 Monkeys” and the aforementioned “4400”), I like that it’s not another ubiquitous remake/reboot/adaptation.

The show was created by Brad Wright, who did the “Stargate” series but “Travelers” is decidedly less nerdy. The promo pictures make it look like a police procedural drama, and I don’t know if they’re trying to make it a crossover hit or what, but don’t worry, this is not CSI: Time Travelers. There is more going on than meets the eye.

I’d like to keep this post spoiler-free, so I’ll just say that there is some cool time-traveling stuff going on and some interesting characters. This is one of those shows where the quality of the acting can make or break it, and this cast is doing a great job. I can’t wait to see what happens next. OK, enough of that. Just go watch it.

Let’s talk about “Mr. Robot.” This is also an original series – it was created by Sam Esmail. However, I have a hunch Esmail is a big fan of “Fight Club,” because there are some obvious similarities. (It is also reminiscent of “V for Vendetta.”)

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An argument could be made that this is not a sci-fi show per se (which is why I haven’t talked about it before now, this being a science-fiction blog), but I think it is safe to say that it veers in that direction. This show premiered in 2015, and the third season is probably coming sometime this summer, so you have time to catch up.

You may have heard of Rami Malek, who has won awards for his role as the main character, a hacker named Elliot. You might also recognize him from some of his other work, such as his role as King Ahkmenrah in the “Night at the Museum” films. (What!)

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If you’re already watching this show, you already know how twisty and turny and trippy it is. If you’re not watching, I won’t spoil it for you.

While we have seen some of the themes elsewhere, the characters are unique, and the actors are killing it. Portia Doubleday, who plays Elliot’s friend Angela, and Carly Chaikin as fellow hacker Darlene, are amazing.

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Portia Doubleday and Carly Chaikin, in USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.”

Last but not least, Christian Slater is in it, and like a lot of women who grew up watching his movies in the ’80s, I love me some Christian Slater, who seems to have barely aged in the last 30 years. I suspect he’s drinking from the same fountain of youth frequented by Paul Rudd.

Anyway. “Mr. Robot.” Catch up.

Cloak and Dagger

Speaking of the ’80s, I used to read the Marvel comic “Cloak and Dagger,” back in the day. They’re making it into a TV show, and I have to admit, my initial reaction was “Won’t be watching that one!” Ever since “Daredevil” (the 2003 film), I’ve been a little wary of adaptations of comics that I’ve read. Maybe I’m just one of those nerds who says things like, “That’s not how it was in the comic book!” OK, I don’t always say that. I do think that “Watchmen” and the X-Men films were done well.729023

The new show is geared toward teens and young adults, so I’m not the target audience (also true of “Riverdale,” the series based on Archie comics, which I also read as a kid). But … it could be interesting.

“Cloak and Dagger” will air on Freeform, and has cast its lead actors. Aubrey Johnson will play the role of Tyrone, who can engulf people in darkness, and Olivia Holt will be Tandy. Tandy can shoot “daggers of living light” (this phrase was repeated ad nauseum in the comics). The teenagers are a vigilante crime-fighting duo, and they need each other to survive. No air date has been released.

Photos: “Travelers,” Netflix; “Mr. Robot,” USA Network.

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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.”

Check out these binge-worthy sci-fi, fantasy TV series

  1. “Battlestar Galactica.” There are four seasons, but you have to start with the miniseries. My favorite TV show of all time, it stars Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and so many other great actors. It is epic, dramatic, suspenseful, and just plain awesome. So say we all!
  2. “Star Trek.” Any and all. I came in at “Deep Space Nine,” so I’m more a fan of the later series. I sometimes think if I had watched Star Trek when I was younger, I would have set my sights on science, rather than journalism.
  3. “Game of Thrones” is the first science fiction-fantasy series ever to win an Emmy for best drama, so you know it’s something special. GoT has knights, dragons, wolves, witches, giants, and ice zombies, and the special effects are amazing. But the real magic is the plotting and political intrigue, and the stellar performances of the ensemble cast. My one complaint is that HBO goes too far sometimes, adding violent scenes that weren’t in the books.
  4. “Orphan Black.” If you haven’t seen this BBC show yet, you’re in for a treat. Tatiana Maslany stars as a young mother and con woman who has just discovered she’s a clone – one of many. And then the plot thickens. Stick with it; it keeps getting better.
  5. “Heroes.” With the “Heroes Reborn” premiere this week, what better time to re-watch the original series, about ordinary people discovering they have random superpowers? The series has a huge cast of great actors playing interesting characters, and Zachary Quinto (who plays Spock in the new Star Trek films) is amazing as psychotic supervillain Sylar.
  6. “The 4400.” This series drew a lot of comparisons to “Heroes” but actually came first. In the pilot episode, 4,400 people suddenly appear near Mount Rainier. All of them have disappeared at some point during the past 50 years, but no one knows where they have been all this time, or how they got back, and some of them have returned with special abilities.
  7. “Life on Mars.” Jason O’Mara plays a New York City cop who is hit by a car in 2008 and wakes up in 1973. I’m a sucker for a good time travel tale. It was canceled after one season, and some say it wasn’t good as the BBC version, but I ask of you, did the BBC version have Harvey Keitel?
  8. “Caprica.” I didn’t love this prequel series as much as the series from which it was spun, but it satisfied my craving for more “Battlestar Galactica.” Starring Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson, Alessandra Torresani and Polly Walker, “Caprica” tells the story of how the Cylons were created.
  9. “Defying Gravity.” Another good show that was canceled after one season, “Defying Gravity” starred Ron Livingston as one of eight astronauts on a mysterious six-year mission. This was pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in outer space,” which may have sold the series, but was maybe also its downfall.
  10. “Dr. Who.” I confess I have only seen one season of this goofy time-travel series, but I’m planning to go back and watch more. It’s on my list.

(Photo: “Battlestar Galactica,” Syfy)