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 and fantasy coming to TV, streaming services

Mike McMahan

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m looking forward to all the new Star Trek series coming up. The adult animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is expected to be released later this year. Creator Mike McMahan (“Ricky and Morty”) has said it will be set during the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” era, and will focus on the support crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos.

The voice cast includes Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis, Jack Ransom, Jerry O’Connell, Fred Tatasciore, and Gillian Vigman, and will air on CBS All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’

Sam Esmail

Exciting news for fellow “Battlestar Galactica” fans: The creator of “Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, is developing a series based on the sci-fi space drama. Esmail is reportedly a fan of Ron Moore’s version, which was a reboot of the ’70s series.

There is no date yet or casting news, but it will air on the NBC streaming service Peacock. Esmail said it will be a long-running series rather than a mini-series. Let’s hope it has a better ending than Moore’s “Galactica.” And a better ending than “Mr. Robot,” for that matter.

‘The Wheel of Time’

If you’re a fan of the Robert Jordan book series “The Wheel of Time,” you have probably already heard about the upcoming Amazon Prime adaptation which has been in the works for a while. Brandon Sanderson, who finished writing the book series after Jordan passed, and Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal will be consulting producers on the series. It is worth mentioning that McDougal isn’t “just” the widow of the author – she is an editor of many fantasy novels (including the WoT books written by Jordan).

Rafe Judkins (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) is the main showrunner and executive producer. Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) has been cast as Moiraine.

Moiraine is a member of the Aes Sedai, a group of women who use magic. After an attack on a village by the “Dark One,” Moiraine takes five young people from the village. She believes the evil entity is after one of them, because one of them might be “the Dragon” who is part of an ancient prophecy.

If you’re thinking “the prince that was promised” from Game of Thrones, there’s a reason for that: Every streaming service has been looking for the next big GoT-like hit, and this is supposed to be Amazon’s. (The books are more reminiscent of “Lord of the Rings” though.) Will it live up to the hype? Time will tell.

‘The Boys’

If you’re eagerly anticipating the return of Amazon’s series “The Boys,” you’ll want to tune in tomorrow for a reunion special, during which the Season Two premiere date will be announced. The reunion will be hosted by Patton Oswalt, who has a role in the new season.

Fantasy films for younger viewers

“A Whisker Away,” on Netflix, is about a middle school girl who becomes a cat in order to be with her crush. She wears a literal mask when she is a cat, but when she’s human, she’s wearing a mask too – a fake smile to hide her pain.

If you like Miyazaki, or cats, you may enjoy watching this strange little movie with your tween or teen. We liked it, even as we found it slightly baffling. (I also find Miyazaki confusing, so maybe it’s just me.)

It is in Japanese with English subtitles.

The film adaptation of the children’s book series “Upside-Down Magic” is coming to Disney Channel on July 31. I enjoyed reading the books with my daughter when she was younger, so I think it’s cool they made a movie. The story follows a group of students whose magic has gone “wonky.” It has a good message about kids who don’t fit in, or feel different.

The movie stars Izabela Rose, Siena Agudong, Vicki Lewis, Kyle Hward, Elie Samouhi, Alison Fernandez, and Max Torina.

Photo credits: “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” CBS Television Distribution; “The Boys,” Amazon Studios; “A Whisker Away,” Netflix; “Upside-Down Magic,” Disney.

2020-04-22 00.25.02

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