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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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Danai Gurira as Okoye in “Black Panther.”

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

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

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

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

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Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://nomansland.blog/

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

https://herowithinstore.com/blogs/news

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

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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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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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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.”

‘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. 

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)

Will Tatiana Maslany win Emmy for ‘Orphan Black’?

If you are a fan of “Orphan Black,” you may have thought, “Wow, that actress really deserves an Emmy.” 
Well, Tatiana Maslany has finally been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 
Maslany plays Sarah, a British punk rock mom who discovers she’s a clone – one of many, and she plays all of them. You know she’s doing an amazing job when you forget they are all the same person in real life. It’s an addictive series –  gritty and suspenseful, but with plenty of comic relief. I don’t want to give anything away, but I highly recommend putting it on your short list for what to binge watch next.
Another one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones, was nominated for 24 awards this year. Among the nominations are Outstanding Drama Series, a Best Supporting Actor nod for the incomparable Peter Dinklage, who won an Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister in 2011, and nods for Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, and Diana Rigg.
Game of Thrones has also been nominated for cinematography, production design, writing (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) and direction (David Nutter) awards.
The HBO series swept the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday. Will they sweep the Primetime Emmys? Tune in to the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on FOX, Sunday, Sept. 20, to find out.
 
New TV series
 
Here are a few of the new shows I will be checking out this fall. I use the term “new” loosely, as all of the following are adaptations of other TV shows and movies – but they are great stories, so let’s hope the TV shows will be too.
  
Monday, Sept. 21
“Minority Report” (FOX) is a sequel adaptation of the 1956 Philip K. Dick story and the 2002 film (Steven Spielberg). In the movie, Tom Cruise starred as the Chief of PreCrime, a police force that aimed to stop crimes before they were committed, through the use of “precogs,” mutant siblings who can see the future.  The TV series, set 11 years after the events in the movie, focuses on a precog named Dash, played by Stark Sands.  
 
Tuesday, Sept. 22

“Limitless” (CBS) is a sequel based on the 2011 film of the same name. The story revolves around a drug called NZT-48 which increases the user’s IQ and gives him a photographic memory. The main character in the series is Brian Finch, played by Jake McDorman. Bradley Cooper, who starred in the movie, will have a recurring role.  

Thursday, Sept. 24
“Heroes Reborn” (NBC), a 13-episode miniseries, is a continuation of the show “Heroes” (2006-2010). Some of the original actors will reprise their roles, including Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet, Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, Jimmy Jean-Louis as The Haitian, Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman, Noah Gray-Cabey as Micah Sanders, and Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh. 
 
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Saturday, Sept. 26
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (Disney XD) is an animated spinoff of the comic book and film of the same name. Stephen Wacker, Marvel’s vice president for current animation, has said the series would strive to replicate the film’s offbeat sense of humor, and would pick up where the movie left off.
(Photos: BBC America; Disney XD)