New films & series adapted from sci-fi & fantasy books

Fans of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel “Brave New World” will be happy to hear there’s a release date for the adaptation, a series which will air on NBC’s Peacock – on July 15, which is also the launch date of the new streaming service.

The series is set in a future society that is rigid and controlled. Bernard (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina (Jessica Brown Findlay) go to the Savage Lands where they become involved in a rebellion and meet John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich). Hannah John-Kamen and Demi Moore also star. David Wiener is the showrunner.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m very excited about the upcoming adaptation of one of my favorite books, the post-apocalyptic novel “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. The miniseries is coming to HBO Max, but the premiere date still has not been announced. Mackenzie Davis and Hamish Patel will star.

Another film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” is coming in 2021. This one changes the setting from ’80s England to ’60s Alabama, and is written by Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, and Kenya Barris. The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, and Jahzir Kadeem Bruno.

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is also working on an adaptation of “Pinocchio” for Netflix, which will also be released in 2021. The film, a musical, will feature stop-motion animation and the voices of Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and David Bradley.

Another miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Stand” is coming to CBS All Access. Filming was reportedly completed in March, but a release date has not yet been set. James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alexander Skarsgård will star.

The latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” will be directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”). The ensemble cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. The film is scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters Dec. 18.

“The Old Guard,” July 10
Charlize Theron stars in this superhero film, based on the comic book of the same name. KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star. “The Old Guard” will premiere on Netflix.

“Cursed,” July 17
The Netflix series is adapted from the illustrated fantasy novel of the same name, by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It is based on Arthurian legend, from the viewpoint of a young woman destined to become the Lady of the Lake.

“The One and Only Ivan,” Aug. 21
I love this book (by Katherine Applegate), about a gorilla who lives in a cage in a shopping mall. The film adaptation is a mix of live action and CGI and was originally going to be released in theaters, but will premiere on Disney+.

Bryan Cranston, Ramon Rodriguez, and Ariana Greenblatt star, and the voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Chaka Khan, Mike White, Brooklynn Prince, Ron Funches, and Phillipa Soo.

“The Boys,” Sept. 4
The subversive superhero series, based on the comic book, will return to Amazon Prime for Season 2.

All release dates subject to change.

Top photo: “Brave New World,” NBC Universal.

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‘Umbrella Academy,’ Trek, ‘Upload,’ and ‘Space Force’

I just finished re-watching Season 1 of the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy” and I’m happy to report there’s finally a release date for Season 2! The adopted sibling superheroes will be back July 31, for 10 episodes.

If you haven’t seen Season 1 yet, this is a great time to get caught up. It’s a great based-on-a-comic-book series. I won’t go on and on about that – if you want to read my review, go here: https://earthtoshawna.com/2019/03/05/watch-umbrella-academy-update-your-film-calendar/

There’s a funny scene in Season 1 of the characters dancing by themselves in their rooms, and the cast did a little quarantine-style re-enactment for the announcement of the Season 2 premiere.

‘Space Force’ and ‘Upload’

It was nice to get some fresh sci-fi comedy from Greg Daniels, creator of “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

“Upload,” on Amazon Prime, has an intriguing premise. The idea of uploading your consciousness into a virtual “afterlife” instead of taking your chances with whatever happens after you die, is original and interesting. My one gripe is that it leans more toward rom-com than sci-fi, but it’s still addictive enough that I binge watched it.

Nathan’s digital “heaven” has been paid for by his girlfriend, so things get a little weird when he falls for Nora, the tech in charge of his avatar. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Season 2.

On “Space Force” (Netflix), Steve Carell is perfect as the four-star general suddenly tasked with putting “boots on the moon.” I thought they would just put Carell’s “Office” personality in a different situation, but it’s not like that at all. Instead, Carell’s Gen. Naird is a curmudgeonly but good-hearted pilot, who may not know anything about technology, but is, in the end, the best man for the job, which is, unfortunately for everyone involved, to send a team of astronauts to the moon before they’re ready, in order to compete with China.

I was just as confused as anyone else during the first episode – are we supposed to take this seriously, or is it a satire? It turns out to be a weird mix of the two – but just go with it. It’s downright ridiculous at times, but it’s also witty, and surprisingly touching.

It’s Carell’s show, but the supporting cast is great too. I especially love John Malkovich as Naird’s science adviser, Dr. Mallory; pilot Angela Ali, played by Tawny Newsome; and Lisa Kudrow as Naird’s wife, Maggie.

(FYI: Neither of these series is appropriate for children.)

Trek news

At the end of “Star Trek: Discovery,” Capt. Pike, Spock, and Number One blast off in the Enterprise, setting the stage for a potential spin-off? It turns out yes.

CBS All Access (the streaming service which also carries “Discovery” and “Picard”) has officially ordered “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” it was recently announced. Anson Mount will reprise his role as Capt. Pike, and Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn will reprise their roles as Spock and Number One. The series will take place in the decade before Capt. Kirk takes over.

I’m looking forward to “Strange New Worlds,” as well as the next seasons of “Discovery” and “Picard.” And there is also talk of another spin-off – Michelle Yeoh may soon star in a series as her character from “Discovery,” Philippa Georgiou. Georgiou, at the end of the second season of “Discovery,” is an agent for a “black ops” organization called “Section 31.”

It will be great to have another female lead on a Trek series, and especially interesting considering the background and arc of this particular character. I also like that the creators are branching out from just doing captain-centered series, first with “Discovery,” and now with “Section 31.”

Yeoh, who has starred in such films as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” often does her own stunts. I love that she’s bringing her badassery to more sci-fi stuff, and I’m hoping she’ll have a bigger role in the next “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Other planned series set in the Star Trek universe include a Starfleet Academy-themed show for young adult viewers; “Lower Decks,” an animated comedy for adults; “Ceti Alpha V,” based on Khan Noonien Singh; and an animated series for kids.

Credits: “The Umbrella Academy” and “Space Force,” Netflix; “Star Trek: Discovery,” CBS Television Distribution; “Upload,” Prime Video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Star Trek: Picard’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sci-fi TV: Disney+ updates and ‘Travelers’ wrap-up

If you haven’t gotten around to subscribing to Disney+ yet, and watching the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” what are you waiting for? It’s so cool! Baby Yoda! I mean, um “The Child.” He (she??) is so cute!

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My other favorite character in this series is Cara Dune, a bad-ass mercenary played by Gina Carano. I love that they chose a former mixed martial artist for this part, instead of a skinny supermodel. Carano looks tough because she is tough. She’s also a great actress.

“The Mandalorian” will be back with Season 2 in October. It has also been reported that Disney+ is planning at least two more “Star Wars” spinoffs, with Ewan McGregor in an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor, in a “Rogue One” series. I’ll keep you posted when I have premiere dates on those shows.

PRI_80590434Coming to Disney+ this year is “WandaVision.” Remember Scarlet Witch from the “Avengers” movies? Her real name is Wanda Maximoff, and her boyfriend is that red guy – an android named Vision. He was created in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” after Tony and Bruce uploaded J.A.R.V.I.S. into a vibranium body powered by the Mind Stone.

You may remember that Vision died in “Avengers: Infinity War” – twice. So I guess they’ll have to power him back up again for this new series, which will premiere in December. It will be six episodes, to be released weekly. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will reprise their roles.

There are more “Avengers” spinoff series in the works as well: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will be on Disney+ in August, and there’s also a “Loki” series coming up. Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role (yay!) but we have to wait till 2021 (boo!). Also expected in 2021 are the Marvel series “What If…” and “Hawkeye.”

“Moon Knight,” “She-Hulk,” and “Ms. Marvel” are in development, but dates for those series have not yet been announced.

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‘Travelers’

I finally got around to finishing the series “Travelers,” the Canadian-American sci-fi series that began in 2016. I got sidetracked and didn’t finish seasons 2 and 3 until this month, and I binge-watched it; it’s a very addictive show, and I got caught up in all the time-traveling craziness. There’s so much going on that I could probably watch the entire series all over again and pick up puzzle pieces that I missed the first time around.

“Travelers” requires you to suspend your belief in logic, otherwise you will get a headache trying to make sense of it, but that’s more or less true of every time-travel story. The gist is this: Hundreds of years in the future, humans develop advanced technology and are able to send people’s consciousnesses back to the 21st century – into the bodies of people who are about to die. These “travelers” are given missions that will prevent catastrophic events that make the world worse for its future inhabitants.

Photo: Jeff WeddellI love that there’s a suspenseful, unpredictable story here, but also some really compelling characters. Eric McCormack (from “Will & Grace) is great as the team’s leader, and there is some great acting across the board, with an ensemble cast that includes Jared Abrahamson as an elderly engineer in the body of a high school kid; Reilly Dolman as the team’s historian, whose 21st century body is addicted to heroin; Nesta Cooper, the team’s tactician, who assumes the life of a young mom; and MacKenzie Porter, the team’s medic.

Travelers must continue to live their hosts’ lives whenever they are not on a mission, and it’s just as interesting to see them navigate life in the 21st century as it is to to see them saving the world. I’m bummed that we only got three seasons of this show (and it would have made my best-of-the-decade list if I’d finished it before now), but at least we got an epic and (mostly) satisfying finale. You can watch all three seasons on Netflix.  I’m excited to see what the series’ creator, Brad Wright (who also did the “Stargate” series), does next.

Credits: “The Mandalorian,” Disney Media Distribution; “Avengers: Endgame,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Travelers,” Netflix.

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Top 10 TV and streaming series of the last 10 years

In the last couple weeks, I’ve reviewed my favorite sci-fi and fantasy books and movies. Today’s list concludes my best-of-the-decade series. Here are my top 10 favorite TV series that were available on TV and streaming from 2010 to 2019:

1. “The Expanse” (Amazon Prime) is my current favorite TV show, despite its somewhat slow first season. If you stick with it, you will be rewarded. There’s all sorts of stuff going on here: drama, mystery, political intrigue, and outer space adventure. Every season is better than the last. It started out on Syfy, but you can now find it at its new home on Amazon.

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Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) knights Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) on “Game of Thrones” (HBO).

2. “Game of Thrones.” During its eight-year run, HBO’s epic adaptation of the George R.R. Martin series was not only the best fantasy series on television, but the most compelling thing to watch, period – until the writers ruined it with the last few episodes. Let’s just pretend it ended with its last good episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

3. “Orphan Black.” Like “Game of Thrones,” the last season of “Orphan Black” was not great. But I really enjoyed this series for most of its five-season run. Tatiana Maslany played several identical clones who are nothing alike, and she’s such a great actress I kept forgetting that she is just one person. My favorite “sestra” was Helena, and I dressed as her for Halloween a few years ago.

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Elisabeth Shue and Antony Starr in “The Boys” (Amazon Prime).

4. “The Boys” (Amazon Prime). I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did, mostly because its premise – superheroes who act like villains – sounded like a rip-off of “Watchmen.” (And like “Watchmen,” it’s adapted from a comic book series.) It turns out the titular charcters aren’t the  flashy superheroes, but the vigilantes who are trying to take them down. My only beef is that it’s occasionally a little too graphic for my taste, but that seems to be de rigueur for R-rated and MA-rated series lately.

5. “Mr. Robot.” The USA Network’s hacker thriller starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater also at first glance seemed like a rip-off; it had a lot of similarities to “Fight Club.” But it was suspenseful and unpredictable, and Rami Malek is such an amazing actor that you can’t help but want to keep watching and see what happens next.

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Winona Ryder plays Joyce Byers on “Stranger Things” (Netflix).

6. “Stranger Things” (Netflix). I am not typically a fan of horror, so the fact that this made my list is a testament to how cool it is. It’s set in the ’80s, and is an homage to so many films from that decade. The show also has some actors who were popular in the ’80s: Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, Matthew Modine, Cary Elwes, and Paul Reiser have been in at least one season of “Stranger Things.”

7. “The Witcher” (Netflix). Like the aforementioned series “The Boys,” this show has only been on for one season. But what I’ve seen so far, I like. This was a book series and a videogame first, but I’m not familiar with either, so the medieval fantasy world of Geralt of Rivia was all new to me. The series follows the life and times of a witcher (a monster hunter, played by Henry Cavill), a sorceress, and a princess, whose fates are intertwined.

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Robert Sheehan is Klaus Hargreeves in Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” Klaus can talk with the dead.

8. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix). Another comic book adaptation, this Netflix series hooked me from the first episode, in which 43 women spontaneously give birth, despite showing no signs of pregnancy. An eccentric billionaire finds and adopts seven of the babies, and raises them as a team of superheroes. But Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters it’s not. The children, now grown, have all sorts of dysfunction, stemming not only from their unique and varied powers, but their strange upbringing. I can’t wait to see what happens in Season 2.

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“The Child” is one of the (cutest) characters on “The Mandalorian,” on Disney+.

9. “The Mandalorian” (Disney+) is a welcome return to early-era Star Wars. It’s set a few years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” and follows the adventures of a Mandalorian bounty hunter. The series was created by Jon Favreau. Not only does it have an adorable “baby Yoda” but great guest stars like Amy Sedaris.

10. “Russian Doll” (Netflix). The always entertaining Natasha Lyonne is a wisecracking videogame developer caught in a time loop. As she re-lives the same day over and over in Groundhog Day-esque fashion, she discovers she’s not the only one stuck in the loop. It’s an entrancing and binge-inducing trip down a rabbit hole.

(Featured photo: “The Expanse,” Amazon Prime.) thumbnail_2019-09-16 20.23.12

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Toss a coin to ‘The Witcher’ – it’s a valley of plenty

Catchy tune aside, Netflix’s new series “The Witcher” is plenty. Plenty of what, you ask? Well, it’s fantasy and horror and comedy and romance and just really binge-worthy and fun.

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“The Witcher” reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s 2005 film “The Brothers Grimm,” starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon.

It’s one part “Game of Thrones,” one part “Brothers Grimm” (great film with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger), with just a slice of “Xena: The Warrior Princess”-flavored cheese. But calling it cheesy is selling it short, because it’s also funny, thrilling, and addictive.

A lot of people know the characters from the video game, but it was a book series first (a cult favorite in Poland), and despite the fact that I just said it reminds me of three other things, it still feels fresh and clever.

The series follows three stories; the main story of course is about Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher, played by the swoon-worthy Henry Cavill (Superman!) in a silver wig. The other two characters are a powerful mage named Yennefer, played by Anya Chalotra, and Princess Cirilla (Freya Allan).

The “Continent” where the series takes place is a mythical, medieval world similar to Westeros or Middle Earth. There are sorcerers and magic – and monsters. A witcher’s job is to kill monsters and Geralt is a total bad-ass when it comes to killing monsters. There are lots of cool fight scenes. And did I already mention Geralt is really hot?

(Warning: Spoilers below.)

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Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia, aka “The Witcher.”

There’s a lot to like about this character. The “white wolf,” as he is sometimes called, is a man of few words, but when he does speak, it’s in a sexy growl. And you’ve got to love a guy who defends the honor of dragons and persecuted women.

But there are lots of ladies on the Continent who aren’t damsels in distress, thank you very much. The bad-ass ladies of “The Witcher” make the series that much better.

Netflix just released an official timeline of the first season of “The Witcher.” Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t that spoil the fun of figuring it out on your own? Realizing that we were watching three different time periods was a good twist. I admit it was a little confusing, but wasn’t that sort of the point?

Maybe they assume that everyone who was going to watch it has already done so. If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend you check it out. Just don’t blame me if the bard’s song gets stuck in your head.

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Iron Man, um I mean Robert Downey Jr., will star as the doc who can talk to animals, in “Dolittle,” on Jan. 17.

I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and subscribe to yet another streaming service when “Star Trek: Picard” is released on Jan. 23.

“The New Mutants,” based on the Marvel Comics team, will be out April 3.

The Avengers’ “Black Widow,” Scarlett Johansson, gets her own film on May 1.

The movie I’m most excited for in 2020 is “Wonder Woman 1984.” It will be out June 5.

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Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman 1984.”

The Marvel film “The Eternals,” starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan, and Kit Harington, will be released Nov. 6.

Sequels to “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool” are in the works, and lots of new shows are coming to TV and streaming services this year as well – too many to name but including “Devs,” “Y: The Last Man,” “Space Force,” “Snowpiercer,” and “WandaVision.” Returning series include “The Boys,” “Stranger Things,” “The Orville,” “Westworld,” and “The Mandalorian.”

Release dates subject to change. 

Credits: “The Witcher,”Netflix;”The Brothers Grimm,” Dimension Films; “Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “The Boys,” Amazon Prime.

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Binge-watch: 4th seasons of ‘Mr. Robot’ & ‘The Expanse’

“The Expanse” is finally back. Season Four was worth the wait. The suspenseful sci-fi series started out on the Syfy channel, and now it lives on Amazon Prime, where the fourth season was just released Dec. 12.

The first three seasons take place across our own now-colonized solar system: Earth, Luna (our moon), and Mars; and on various spaceraft and asteroids (asteroid belt natives are referred to as Belters).

Season Four takes us to a new planet – called Ilus by the Belters, and New Terra by Earthers. There are four main storylines going on, and they’re all equally fraught with tension:  On Earth, Avasarala is campaigning to keep her seat as UN Secretary General; the Belters are dealing with a pirate who stole a UNN colony ship; on Mars, Bobbie Draper reluctantly becomes involved in some shady gangster dealings; and the crew of the Rocinante is sent to the new planet to see if there’s any alien Protomolecule there, or any other potential dangers.

Of course, these storylines all eventually tie together, and in unexpected ways. There are also some new characters who add a new dynamic to the series. Every season of “The Expanse” is better than the last, and if this trend continues, Season 5 should be even better. Can’t wait!

Mr. Robot

This last season of the mind-bending hacker drama “Mr. Robot” was also its fourth, but unlike “The Expanse,” this was the series’ last. I have mixed feelings about the last season. Some of the episodes were every bit as brilliant as those in previous seasons, but some were uncomfortable to watch, and some were confusing.

One of the best episodes of the season had Elliot and Darlene infiltrating a company that keeps the servers for the bank they’re trying to hack. The episode contains almost no dialogue, and I was biting my nails the whole time.

Honestly, this whole season had me on the edge of my seat, even when I was squirming or scratching my head. My main complaint is that it makes me nervous when someone is trapped or held against their will, but that’s my personal issue. I guess it’s a testament to the realism of the show that some of the episodes gave me anxiety. It is a thriller after all.

The finale had an unexpected twist, but I didn’t love it. It felt somewhat anticlimactic to me. I wanted more from the Whiterose story after it had been built up for so long.

Overall, though, it was as binge-able as “The Expanse.” The plot was unpredictable and exciting, the diversity of the cast was refreshing, and I love the characters. I hope to see these actors in more projects soon.  I also am interested in seeing what Sam Esmail, the show’s creator, does next.

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Credits: “Mr. Robot,” NBC Universal Television Distribution; “The Expanse,” Legendary Television Distribution.thumbnail_2019-09-16 20.23.12

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Anders’ novel optioned for series; plus news & reviews

In cool sci-fi news: I recently read that open-uri20190219-15-r061tbSony Pictures Television has optioned Charlie Jane Anders’ book, “The City in the Middle of the Night,” for series development, with Sharon Hall, who is also an executive producer on “The Expanse.”

I’m super excited about this because Charlie Jane Anders is awesome, and because I love “The Expanse,” so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the adaptation is as cool as the novel, which is set in the future, on the tidally locked planet of January. Because one side is always facing the sun (like our moon), one side of the planet is always dark and cold, and the other is always light and hot. The inhabitants (descendants of humans who fled Earth) live in the strip of dusk between the light and dark sides of the planet.

The main character, Sophie, lives in Xiosphant, an authoritarian city with mandated sleeping hours and curfews. When she gets in trouble with the law, she is thrown into the dark and cold night, and left for dead. But she survives, and is changed by her experience.  There is a lot of crazy stuff going on; I couldn’t put it down. If you like dystopian sci-fi, check it out.

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Charlie Jane Anders

I also read and loved Anders’ other works, her novel “All the Birds in the Sky,” and her short story collection “Six Months, Three Days, Five Others.” You can read my review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2018/12/21/short-and-sweet-anders-six-months-and-saunders-fox-8/

No word yet on when we will see the new series. In the meantime, Anders is working on the adaptation of one of my favorite comics, Brian K. Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man.”

The Vertigo comic centers on Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. A plague has wiped out every other male mammal, and as far as Yorick knows, he’s the last man on Earth. The series is expected to premiere on FX next year.

Carnival Row

Oh “Carnival Row,” I had such high hopes for you! The Amazon Prime series is about fairies and other mythological creatures forced to flee their homelands to (some version of) Victorian-era London.

I do love cutie pie Orlando Bloom but watching him in his role as a detective is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, and he doesn’t have much chemistry with his love interest, played by Cara Delevingne as adorable fairy Vignette. I’m not sure who was in charge of casting but I suspect the series would be more steamy if they’d found a couple with a little more heat between them. (Is it just me?)

Vignette and Philo phone in the fairy romance on “Carnival Row.”

Don’t get me wrong; I did enjoy the premise of the show (despite the fact that it seems to have stolen Saga’s horns and wings) and it held my interest enough that I wanted to keep watching. There is a lot of mystery, political intrigue and multiple subplots, some of which are really interesting and others which are sort of meh. The big finale was not super satisfying but it seems to have set up a potentially better storyline for Season 2, so I’m still in. 

 The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The 1982 film charmed and terrified me when it came out in theaters. (I was 7.) The Netflix prequel series is also charming – and very dark. I guess Netflix is banking on nostalgia. The comical yet smarmy pleading of the chamberlain is here, as is the adorable dog-like creature (known as Fizzgig in the original). I like the Gelfling and Podling puppets. The new series is appealing for those of us who miss Jim Henson’s lovable Muppets.

It’s as true to the original as any  ’80s kid could want, but there’s a lot of emphasis on the “dark” in Dark Crystal. I’m sure this would be hard to avoid in any prequel series, though, as we know from the film that Jen and Kira were the last of their kind – and we know why.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a little disheartened by the creepiness and oppressive nature of the series. But I am trying to hang in there; I’m only a few episodes in, and I’m reserving final judgment until I’ve seen all 10. Stay tuned.

“Do you think I look Skeksi?”

The Boys

I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by this Amazon Prime series, based on a comic book. For starters, the story – superheroes as villains – has been done before, in “Watchmen.” But “The Boys” is different enough that it still seems original, and I loved it. It’s (very) grisly, but it’s a binge-worthy thrill ride.

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Jack Quaid and Karl Urban are Hughie Campbell and Billy Butcher, two of the titular “boys,” enemies of the superheroes who turn out to not be so super.

mark-your-calendar-clipart-48 “Ad Astra” opens this weekend. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who searches for his father in the outer edges of the solar system.

The TV series “Mr. Robot” will return for its fourth and final season on Oct. 6 (USA Network).

“Gemini Man” comes out Oct. 11. Will Smith plays an assassin who is forced to fight a younger clone of himself.

Two sequels will be released Oct. 18: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” and “Zombieland: Double Tap.”

The new season of the sci-fi series “The Expanse” will air on Amazon Prime on Dec. 13.

And last but not least: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be in theaters on Dec. 20.

Credits: “The City in the Middle of the Night,” by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books; “Carnival Row,” Amazon Prime, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” Netflix; “The Boys,” Amazon Prime.

 

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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/

Luke Perry LukePerry

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.

Circe large

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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