What to watch: ‘Eternals,’ ‘Expanse,’ ‘Witcher’ & more

I’ll start with “Eternals.” I saw this movie in the theater, and it was pretty cool, but it was sort of weird in that it didn’t have the same feel as others in the Marvel franchise. Not only are the characters new (to the MCU anyway), but the movie was very sober. Maybe this is just the new direction that Marvel is headed, with the seriousness of the snap and the finales of the “WandaVision” and “Loki” series. Even “What If … ?” was pretty dark, and what we need right now is laughter and light! Come on, Marvel. What are you doing to us? If we want depressing, all we have to do is turn on the news!

If you haven’t seen “Eternals,” you may be wondering what it’s all about. Well, the Eternals are a team of superheroes who are not from Earth. (I don’t think that’s giving away too much.) They all have different powers, and are played by Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, and Don Lee. Kit Harington – as a human – also stars, bringing Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow and Robb Stark (Madden) together again!

I really liked the cast and the story was interesting, even if the plot was slightly confusing. Suffice it to say the Eternals are so named because they live for a long time. It’s sort of like “The Old Guard” in that way. (And if you haven’t seen “The Old Guard” yet, check it out. It’s on Netflix.) I really like stories about immortal-type people, whether it’s vampires or Wonder Woman or whatever. There’s something about non-humans that show us, ironically, what it means to be human. It’s also cool to see the characters adapt to different historical time periods.

If I say too much, I’ll give the movie away. It’s not my favorite Marvel film but I liked it and I want to watch it again. I will probably do that Jan. 12, when it will be available for streaming on Disney+.

Our next Marvel film will be “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is out today (in the United States). It was released in Los Angeles on Dec. 13 and by some miracle I have managed to avoid reading any spoilers.

In the meantime I’ve been watching “A Very Hawkeye Christmas,” I mean, um, “Hawkeye,” the Marvel series on Disney+. It was a bit too cheesy for my liking for the first few episodes – as if Hallmark got a hold of it – but it’s growing on me. Clint was never my favorite Avenger (is he anyone’s?) but it’s an interesting enough series, and Hailee Steinfeld is adorable and perfect as Kate Bishop.

Speaking of Steinfeld, she also voices one of the characters in the next series I want to tell you about: Netflix’s “Arcane,” an animated show based on the video game “League of Legends.” I’m not very familiar with the game on which the series is based so I can only comment on the series itself and don’t know how well it represents the game.

Steinfeld voices one of the main characters, Vi. The story centers on Vi and her sister Jinx, who grew up on the mean streets of the undercity, and two “topside” scientists of Piltover, who attempt to use arcane magic in technology. Probably one of the best aspects of “Arcane” is the animation, which is so impressive and realistic, you almost forget you’re watching a “cartoon.”

The story was entertaining but it was also dark and intense, so if you’re looking for something optimistic or uplifting, this is not for you. Also, as is often the case with video game adaptations, the characters aren’t super relatable. Most of us aren’t brilliant scientists and politicians, or acrobatic thieves. Still, I’ll probably watch Season 2. The first season (nine episodes) is on Netflix and the second season is in production.

The voice actors were well cast. In addition to Steinfeld, there’s also Ella Purnell voicing Jinx, Kevin Alejandro as Jayce, Harry Lloyd (from “Game of Thrones”), Katie Leung as Caitlin, and perhaps the most recognizable voice is Shohreh Aghdashloo, who is Avasarala on “The Expanse,” which I’m going to talk about next:

The sixth and final season of “The Expanse” began Dec. 10 on Amazon Prime. They aren’t letting us binge watch this one; I’ve only seen the first episode of this season so far. If you are not watching this series, I highly recommend it. I think it’s the best sci-fi series on right now. The series is set in the future where humans have colonized the solar system. It’s based on the novels by James S.A. Corey, which I have not read and you might in the beginning think you need to, since it’s a little confusing at first, but don’t worry, you’ll catch on and it won’t be an issue. I have written a lot about previous seasons of this show so I won’t go on and on about it.

Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” is out now. We’re not allowed to binge this one either but maybe that’s for the better as I nearly can’t take how much of a pushover our beloved Burnham is becoming. Fight back, woman!

I miss Michelle Yeoh’s character, Philippa Georgiou, who apparently is getting her own spinoff series. She was the bad cop to Michael’s good, and now the show seems to be taking a little more Pollyanna-ish turn. Maybe it’s just me. I still do like the show though, even if, so far, this season isn’t the best. We are only five episodes in – here’s hoping the rest of the season has a bit more bite.

At long last, the “Wheel of Time” novels have been adapted into a series on Amazon Prime. My hubby, who loved the books, is very excited. I did not have high hopes, as he also likes “Dune.” (Sorry, honey.) However, I’m enjoying this series. Like “The Expanse,” it took a few episodes to suck me in, and, like “Arcane,” it’s dark and intense. (Seems to be a trend.)

If you like “Lord of the Rings,” you are the target audience for “Wheel of Time.” The first episode is pretty similar to LotR: Gandalf leaves the Shire with four Hobbits who are then pursued by Orcs and Wraiths. In WoT, Moiraine leaves Two Rivers with four young people who are then pursued by Trollocs and a Fade. But the plot diverges from there.

Rosamund Pike plays Moiraine, a member of the powerful and magical Aes Sedai. The other actors are mostly unrecognizable (to me anyway) with the exception of Egwene, played by Madeleine Madden, who I recognized from “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.”

This show is dark and depressing too. If you really can’t get enough dark, depressing fantasy and sci-fi, you’ll love it! You’ll also be delighted to know ANOTHER dark, depressing series is back, as of today: Season 2 of “The Witcher” is now streaming on Netflix. Eight brand new epsisodes for your binge-watching pleasure.

Until next time, sci-fi fans – Merry Christmas and happy holidays and don’t forget to toss a coin to your witcher!

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Sci-fi to watch, read, and love

897264_2448775After getting CBS All Access so I could watch “Star Trek:  Picard,” I finally got around to watching “Star Trek: Discovery.” It exceeded my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations were somewhat low, due to the online hate for the series, which is part of the reason I took so long to watch. The other reason: I didn’t want to subscribe to yet another streaming service. My opinion is it’s totally worth it. You get “Picard” and “Discovery,” and the other Trek series are available as well.

I love that “Discovery” changed up the typical Trek structure. Normally, the captain is the main character, but that is not the case here. Also, this is the first Trek series in which a black woman is the main character; Sonequa Martin-Green is awesome as science specialist Michael Burnham.

Burnham is a human but she was raised by a Vulcan – Sarek. Yep, Spock’s father. She and Spock are step-siblings. (The show begins about 10 years before the events of the original series.)

I’m confused by the criticism surrounding “Discovery.” From what I’ve seen so far (I’m in the middle of Season 2), the series is true to the values of Star Trek, but is even more intense and suspenseful. It’s full of surprises and twists. Do I love every single episode? No. But there have been hits and misses in every Trek series.

If you want a nice diversion from current events, which will keep you on the edge of your seat, check it out. (Production on Season 3 is delayed and is expected to continue later this year.)

‘Limetown’

e85087c0-df45-11e9-8978-8fc02aeeebe7_800_420This Facebook Watch series is a remake of a podcast. It stars Jessica Biel as a journalist whose uncle (Stanley Tucci) mysteriously disappeared, along with 300 others, from an experimental town. I enjoyed Facebook’s offerings “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Sacred Lies,” so I decided to try this one, which was a little creepier than I would have liked, but it was addictive and made me want to keep watching to see what new secret would be revealed in the next episode. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after the first season, so the 10th episode is a cliffhanger and we never get to see how the story ends.

‘The Book of Koli’

the-book-of-koli-careyYou may remember a 2014 novel called “The Girl With All the Gifts,” by M. R. Carey. If you’re into zombie apocalypse stories, you’ll love it. It has since been made into a movie, which I haven’t seen. I can only tell you the book was crazy.

Carey’s new novel, “The Book of Koli” is a post-apocalyptic story too, and it’s just as engrossing as “The Girl,” but I enjoyed “Koli” even more.

The new book is about a teenage boy who lives in a village walled off from the murderous vegetation and cannibals which threaten their lives. When Koli starts questioning the power dynamic of the ruling family, everything changes.

From the first page, I was immersed in this dystopian world, and I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait to read the second book, “The Trials of Koli,” which comes out in September.

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Many, many films and TV/streaming series have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Wonder Woman sequel will not be released in June as planned; it has been pushed to Aug. 14. The Marvel film “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, has been changed to Nov. 6.

umbrella-academy-season-2.-poster-1jpgNetflix suspended filming on all productions including Season 2 of “The Witcher.” The fourth season of “Stranger Things” has been postponed. Filming wrapped on Season 2 of “The Umbrella Academy” in November, but post-production was affected by the shutdown. Release dates are still in limbo.

While we don’t yet have a release date for Season 2 of Amazon’s “The Boys,” it is reportedly still on track. I’m looking forward to binge watching it this summer. Another Amazon Prime series, “The Expanse,” has also wrapped filming, but no word yet on whether the pandemic will postpone the release of Season 5.

Disney shut down production of its Marvel series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision.” New release dates have not yet been announced.

Of course, with sci-fi, post-production is going to take longer on these special effects-heavy films and series, than on productions that don’t use a lot of effects. And even the films  which are ready for release will be delayed due to theater closures.

“The Mandalorian,” Season 2, is still expected to be released on Disney+ in October. In fact, it was recently announced that they’re already working on Season 3. Disney+ will also be releasing a documentary about the making of Season 1, which is planned for May 4, aka Star Wars Day.

space-force-steve-carell-lisa-kudrow-netflix“Space Force,” which is being described as “The Office” in space, will premiere on Netflix on May 29. It stars Steve Carell, and is created by Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”).

Daniels has been busy; he also has another show coming out soon, an Amazon Prime series called “Upload,” about a “digital afterlife.” “Upload” will premiere on May 1.

What other sci-fi and fantasy films or series are you looking forward  to seeing? Have you discovered or rewatched an old favorite? Tell me in the comments or on my facebook page!

Credits: “Star Trek: Discovery,” CBS Television Distribution; “Limetown,” Facebook Watch; “The Book of Koli,” by M. R. Carey, Orbit, April 2020; “The Umbrella Academy” and “Space Force,” Netflix. 

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