The second season of Doom Patrol wound up being an abridged version of what the show's writers originally planned, because the pandemic left them without the chance to shoot the intended season finale. So, after a cliffhanger at the end of Season 2, the action picks right back up at the start of Season 3, and a lot happens in very short order, including a major death, an important victory, and the arrival of a new major player.
According to executive producer Jeremy Carver, the way the production worked out meant fans got "a little bit of everything."
"In some ways, it’s an extremely satisfying opener because it answers a lot of questions and gives certain storylines a proper ending, whereas a normal opener would have been a little more maddening and would have left more unanswered questions," Carver told TVLine in an interview breaking down the premiere. "The fans get to have their cake and eat it, too. We get a little bit of everything with this one because of circumstance."
**Spoilers for Doom Patrol's Season 3 premiere ahead!**
Right out of the gate, it seems the showdown with the Candlemaker is finally starting to swing the team's way, as the waxy prisons they were left in start to melt away and Dorothy makes progress on defeating her imaginary friend, mostly by convincing him that they can be friends and don't have to fight. Sadly, as the wax begins to clear, the team realizes that their leader, Niles "Chief Caulder," has passed away during the struggle, leaving the Doom Patrol without its founder and Dorothy without a father.
"It’s certainly a springboard at the beginning of the season," Carver said of Niles' death. "People working through their reactions to his death, that process begins to manifest other paths of discovery for them. His death takes a little bit of a backseat but it is ever present in the way that the death of any sort of father figure — or meaningful figure in your life, good or bad — never quite fades away."
It's particularly important to remember right now that Niles' death is something that will lead to other "paths of discovery" going forward, because at some points in the premiere it almost seemed like there was barely any time for the team to reflect on it. Even Niles himself didn't really let it stop him, returning in spirit form long enough to at least try to help Cliff patch things up with his own daughter, and because this is Doom Patrol we're talking about, it's always possible Niles will find more ways to influence events from beyond the grave. If we've learned one thing about this show, it's that stranger things can and do happen.
All this, of course, eventually leads to the arrival of Madame Rogue (Michelle Gomez), a new player on the Doom Patrol scene who shows up in a time machine in an effort to warn the team about a major threat that's on the way. The moment of her arrival, which coincides with the death of actress Isabel, tells us a lot about who she is...or at least, who she might be. Here's how Carver explains where the new character's head is at as the season moves forward.
"[Her nonchalant reaction to Isabel's death] tells us a lot about Madame Rouge that even she doesn’t quite realize about herself yet," Carver said. "It kicks off this process of discovery for her, which is sort of a study in contradictions — she can’t quite figure out if she's good or if she’s bad. We drop little hints both ways, and I think that’s what makes the struggle even more confounding for her."
Madame Rogue: Friend or foe? We'll find out as new episodes of Doom Patrol drop every Thursday for the next few weeks on HBO Max.
Well, this is quite the surprise. The BBC just posted an announcement on the Doctor Who website. “Russell T Davies will make an explosive return to screens to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who in 2023, and series beyond,” the post reads. “Responsible for Doctor Who’s revival in 2005, he is credited with propelling the show into a global phenomenon and making it one of TV’s biggest hits. His tenure on the show oversaw a surge in popularity enjoying huge acclaim and success. The Doctor won the nation’s hearts through his masterful relaunch, which led him to create two spin off series, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures during that time.”
Honestly, as someone who enjoyed a lot of Davies’ tenure, this has left me quite speechless. For a show as progressive as the long-running sci-fi series—and coming off series featuring Jodie Whittaker and Jo Martin as the Doctor—going back in time to a previous showrunner seems like a huge misstep. Whether you liked his work or not, I think most Whovians would agree this was an opportunity to breathe new life into the series, especially on its 60th anniversary.
Speaking for himself, Davies said: “I’m beyond excited to be back on my favourite show. But we’re time-travelling too fast, there’s a whole series of Jodie Whittaker’s brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm – I’m still a viewer for now.” Exiting showrunner Chibnall adds: “It’s monumentally exciting and fitting that Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary will see one of Britain’s screenwriting diamonds return home. Russell built the baton that is about to be handed back to him - Doctor Who, the BBC, the screen industry in Wales, and let’s be honest everyone in the whole world, have so many reasons to be Very Excited Indeed about what lies ahead.” Piers Wenger, BBC Director of Drama also said: “As the 13th Doctor prepares to embark on new and extraordinary adventures, the winds of change are blowing… bringing with them news to delight Doctor Who fans across the globe. We are thrilled that Russell is returning to Doctor Who to build on the huge achievements of Chris and Jodie. Thank you to the two of them and the team in Cardiff for all they continue to do for the show and hello Russell, it’s wonderful to have you back.”
“Winds of change.” Hysterical. It can be said that Davies never really left Who behind, he even just had a new “old” story announced to be adapted into a Big Finish audio drama. But time will tell what he’ll make of the next installment of Doctor Who, and who he’ll bring along to work with him. We’ll bring you more as we know it.
This is the way! The VFX team at Industrial Light & Magic has pulled back the curtain on The Mandalorian in a behind-the-scenes reel dedicated to the endless wonders of Season 2. In particular, the 4-minute video reveals how creator Jon Favreau and his incredibly talented production team worked hard to capture the magic of the original Star Wars films.
ILM was perfectly-suited to the task since George Lucas specifically founded the company to handle all of the innovations required to bring A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi to life back in the day.
To channel the spirit of Episodes IV - VI, the Mandalorian crew utilized a number of old school visual tricks, including stop-motion animation (for the junkyard where Mayfeld works in "Chapter 15: The Believer") and practical miniature models (for Moff Gideon's Imperial light cruiser in "Chapter 16: The Rescue").
Check it out below:
The reel also explains how the second season was affected — at least partly — by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, the plan was to send a team out to Hawaii to film jungle exteriors for the train robbery-inspired sequence in "Chapter 15" where Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Mayfeld (Bill Burr) infiltrate an Imperial refinery. Those natural landscapes would then be inserted into the blue screen that were used as the backdrop for the main shoot with the actors on a backlot in Los Angeles.
However, this became impossible once the world shut down in March 2020, forcing ILM to pivot and "develop a fully computer-generated jungle environment for an eight-mile stretch of road," states the video's narrator. "Everything seen in the background of the chase was completely digital and the result of thousands of 3D assets composed to create a natural-looking environment that matched the location [ILM] originally intended to photography."
The first two seasons of The Mandalorian are now available to stream on Disney+. A third season has already been green-lit by Lucasfilm, but won't premiere until after The Book of Boba Fettspinoff (apparently slated to debut this December).
Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson and Christoper Lloyd are going to reunite on the small screen for some time travel fun. Someone please just let Vincent D’Onofrio play Kingpin again. Plus a new look at Dune, the Venom sequel, The Walking Dead, and more. Spoilers are shouting “TGIF!”
The Little Mermaid
Appearing as a guest on Disney’s “For Scores” podcast (via Variety), Alan Menken revealed Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid features four brand-new songs written by himself and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Book of Boba Fett
Speaking of music, Film Music Reporter confirms The Mandalorian’s Ludwig Göransson will return to score The Book of Boba Fett at Disney+.
The MCU/Spider-Man: No Way Home
In conversation with Screen Rant, Vincent D’Onofrio frankly stated how much he “so badly” wants to play the Kingpin again in the MCU.
I so badly want to play that character again. I love that character. I just have to wait for Marvel to ask me. I think it’s very clear that I would, and the fans know that I would jump at the chance to play again. I just need to be asked.
Rob Zombie shared several new photos detailing the construction of 1313 Mockingbird Lane on his Instagram.
The Chinese trailer for Dune includes a ton of new dialogue and footage.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
The latest Let There Be Carnage TV spot is scored to a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
According to new a rumor (via That Hashtag Show), a new Supergirl series starring Sasha Calle—whose incarnation of the character will debut in the upcoming Flash movie—is now in development at HBO Max.
Next Stop, Christmas
Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson and Christoper Lloyd will reunite for Next Stop, Christmas — a Hallmark movie airing in November in which a woman (Thompson) “imagines what her life would be like if she had married a former boyfriend who became a famous sportscaster. She takes the train home to spend Christmas with her family and inexplicably finds herself 10 years in the past. With the advice of the train’s enigmatic conductor, Angie has the chance to revisit that Christmas and learn what — and who — is truly important to her.”
In conversation with THR, James Gunn once again stated he felt Peacemaker was the best choice for a Suicide Squad spinoff as the character still “has a lot to learn.”
At the end of The Suicide Squad, [Idris Elba’s] Bloodsport learns a lot. He’s a better person than he was at the beginning. A lot of the characters are much better than they were at the beginning, and Peacemaker has a lot to learn. It’s that ability to learn that for me makes him a little bit more likable. His blind spots in some places are pretty terrible, and in some places are him being ignorant. I think that’s an important distinction to make as well. He is open at the same time, sometimes.
The Walking Dead
Connie finds herself trapped in a “haunted” house in a clip from this week’s episode of The Walking Dead.
Finally, the Doom Patrol is zombified by supernatural forces in the trailer for next week’s episode—“Undead Patrol.”
A galaxy billion of light years from Earth is pouring out vast amounts of infrared light, the tell-tale signature of furious star birth.
That’s already pretty cool, but it gets better: As the light from this galaxy traverses the Universe it passes by a massive galaxy cluster that distorts it, amplifying its brightness, cloning it repeatedly, and twisting it into what looks like a river of molten gold.
These galaxies were most common when the Universe was roughly 2–4 billion years old. The Universe is now 13.8 billion years old, so it took the light from these galaxies around 10–12 billion years to get here. In other words, we see them nearly clear across the observable Universe.
The image is not natural color; what’s displayed as blue uses a green filter, green is a combination of green and red, and what you see as red is from an infrared filter. The combination produces that lovely golden hue.
So that’s the color. What about that shape?
Coincidentally, there’s a massive cluster of galaxies called GAL-CLUS-022058 about 4 billion light years fro us, and it’s situated almost exactly in between us and J0220. The cluster is immense, with hundreds of galaxies totaling a mass 100 trillion times the Sun’s. That’s a lot of gravity, which distorts spacetime pretty severely around the cluster. The more distant galaxy’s light passed through that warp, getting twisted into arc, multiplied into four separate images, and brightened on average by a factor of 18. This effect is called gravitational lensing, and you can read all about how it works in a previous article.
That’s actually helpful! Because it’s brightened by the lensing it’s easier to study the galaxy despite the distortion. Even with it you can see that it’s a spiral galaxy, and has blue arms indicating active star formation (massive stars are bluer and luminous, so these short-lived stars dominate the visible-light colors when a galaxy makes lots of stars).
Combining all the observations, the astronomers find that J0220 is blasting out infrared light from all the warm dust in it to the tune of a trillion times the energy of the Sun. The galaxy itself probably only has half the number of stars in it our Milky Way galaxy does, but has so much dust converting that light into infrared that it glows fiercely at those wavelengths.
Using that number to calculate the star formation rate indicates that J0220 is birthing stars at about 70–170 times the mass of the Sun per year. That’s a lot; the Milky Way produces only about 2 — yes, two — times the Sun’s mass worth of stars per year. I’ll note that rate is an average. It’s not like 70–170 new stars pop out of J0220 every year! First, stars take a long time to form, so there’s no one moment when a is born. Also, the rate is given in terms of mass, but most stars have less mass than the Sun (red dwarfs, the most common stars, have 0.1 to 0.5 times the Sun’s mass, more or less). The math gets a bit complicated, but in reality one solar mass means maybe 10 stars are actually formed. So 70–170 solar masses per year translates into, say, 700–1,700 million stars per million years.
However you look at it, it’s a lot of stars! 50 or more times the rate at which they’re born in our own galaxy. J0220 is getting busy.
Star formation in the Universe isn’t a constant. It took a few billion years for galaxies to get their acts together and really start cranking them out; the period from roughly 2–4 billion years after the Big Bang is called “Cosmic Noon” because that’s when star formation peaked. In general cosmically it’s been declining ever since.
Stars born at that time are like Baby Boomers now; getting older but still dominating things, so they’re a key demographic in stellar population and we need to understand them to understand how galaxies behave. And that means observing galaxies three-quarters of the way across the observable Universe to see what was going on as these stars were being born. J0220 appears to be one of the brighter of its class, made even brighter to us by a quirk of physics and a happenstance of position.
Sometimes luck plays a role in science, and in this case also produces surpassing beauty, a piece of natural art with the colors of a Klimt and the shape of a Dali. Together, the science and art make a portrait of the young cosmos.
It seems that every time organics are detected on another planet, the internet explodes, but organic molecules found in planet-forming discs could be the prelude to life.
Whether Earth is the only planet in the entire universe that ever spawned life remains a mystery. Led by astrophysicist John Ilee of the University of Leeds, a team of researchers has looked deep into several protoplanetary discs where planets are born, and recently published a study in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. They found molecules that are the precursors to the larger molecules that directly make up substances such as sugars, amino acids, and RNA. Could these end up as the protoplasm of alien creatures?
The five protoplanetary discs that were observed are between 300 and 500 light-years from Earth, so if we are seeing them as they were hundreds of years ago, it is unlikely that life has materialized yet. Whether these molecules will end up creating the amino acid and RNA molecules that are necessary for life-forms also depends on the conditions over there.
“The molecules we have observed therefore represent the most complex (yet) detected in protoplanetary discs with this bond, and demonstrate that these stages of molecular complexity can be built up in the vicinity of forming planets,” Ilee tells SYFY WIRE. “The carbon-nitrogen bond is a key component of these molecules."
It is that bond which has been proven to be vital to the molecules that make up amino acids. Ilee and his team observed the molecules with the 66 antennas of the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), which has an amazing spatial resolution, meaning the precision of things it can see in relation to space. Larger telescopes and arrays have a larger spatial resolution and are able to see more detail as well as smaller and more distant objects. With this equipment, emissions from microscopic molecules became visible.
Because the emissions were so weak, they needed something as powerful as ALMA to seek them out. What was observed by the researchers as part of the Molecules with ALMA at Planet-forming Scales (or MAPS) program were intermediate molecules that are more complex than simple organics, such as carbon monoxide or methane, but not yet complex enough to be the largest molecules that something like RNA can break down into. The problem is that molecules like carbon monoxide give off much stronger emissions. That didn’t stop Ilee from searching.
He obviously found an overflow of molecules, but why so many? It could be that they were hiding in grains of dust that made their way from the outside to the inside of the disc, but there are still questions.
“Increased abundances of these molecules mean we could be missing something in our understanding of how chemistry operates in these environments,” he says. “We could also be missing an important physical process that would increase the abundance of these molecules in the discs.”
The molecules the team set out to find were cyanoacetylene (HC3N), acetonitrile (CH3CN), and cyclopropenylidene (c-C3H2). Cyanoacetylene was previously found in the tail of comet Hale-Bopp. Most comets come from the outer reaches of the universe, where more interstellar material is thought to be floating around than anything else, so that may hint at the origins of what gave Earth life. HC3N is also thought to be one of the things that can possibly form purines, which form bases for DNA and RNA — adenine and guanine are examples.
Each of the molecules observed in the protoplanetary discs has a function in DNA synthesis. CH3CN is necessary for the synthesis of oligonucleotides, which are short DNA or RNA molecules, from simpler molecules known as monomers. Oligonucleotides help control gene expression. c-C3H2 is one of the organics that exists on Titan, though anything hypothetical that lives on there would have to be life as we don’t know it because Saturn’s largest moon is toxic. Because of its cyclical structure, it has the potential to form DNA and RNA bases.
Whether more complex molecules are somewhere in a protoplanetary disc is something else the team wants to investigate. The upcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and Very Large Array (ngVLA) are next-gen technology that could find out even more about the organic molecules in protopletary discs and what goes into forming planets like Earth.
“We want to investigate whether even *more* complex molecules are present in these discs, and hope to use ALMA to do this in the near future,” Ilee says. “[It is] also going to be invaluable for searching for complex molecules in many different astrophysical environments.”
So aliens aren’t about to break the internet yet, but we might have gotten that much closer to what may someday become an environment teeming with them.
The fall has barely begun, but that didn't stop Nintendo from streaming a Nintendo Direct to chart a course for what's to come in the remainder of the year and into 2022.
Though the stream was short on news about first party games in the coming future, there were certainly some hotly awaited reveals as well as some surprise announcements... other than the fact that Chris Pratt will voice Mario in Illumination's Super Mario Bros. animated movie, obviously.
Kirby goes post apocalyptic
Revealed ahead of schedule earlier in the day, Nintendo's sentient pink ball is headlining another game in Kirby & the Forgotten Land. In this case, the titular land looks kind of familiar -- it's post apocalyptic and looks very similar to our world, just with a stylized Nintendo bent to fit its goofy lead. Though Kirby's had a handful of games on the Switch in the system's short lifespan, this new game marks the first major entry since 2018's Star Allies.
It also looks pretty different from those earlier games; instead of a side scroller or platformer like so many Nintendo franchises, Forgotten Land seems to have caught the open world bug that hit Super Mario Odyssey in 2017 and charmed the hearts of millions. Will Land do for Kirby what that game did for Mario? Answers will have to wait until Kirby & the Forgotten Land hits the Switch in Spring 2022.
Monster Hunter Rise breaks the sun
WhenMonster Hunter World released in 2018, it saw massive critical and commercial success for Capcom's cult classic franchise. Bringing it to Switch with Monster Hunter Rise felt like a no-brainer, and that game has seen similar acclaim since it released earlier this year. The only logical thing to do now is to just give Rise players something new to fight, and that's where Sunbreak comes in.
Billed as a "major" expansion, Hunters will explore new worlds and experience new stories; fans can easily liken it to the Iceborne expansion for World. While light on providing info such as where you're going or what new monsters you'll be hunting, just seeing that massive dragon show up to casually eat a considerably smaller dragon and roar in triumph is enough to get the adrenaline pumping. Look for Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak when it arrives as paid DLC next summer.
Love Mario Kart? Do that with Chocobos
Chocobos are a constant among the many games in the Final Fantasy franchise, and now those cute yellow birds are getting a chance to show everyone what they're made of with Chocobo GP. The racing game more or less looks like Mario Kart, but Final Fantasy-themed in its characters and tracks. Sometimes that's all you need.
This is actually the second time the Chocobos are in a racing game; the first being a 1999 racing game on the original PlayStation. A sequel was announced for the Nintendo 3DS in 2010 but later canceled. Chocobo GP is another chance to make this potential racing series hit big, and it just might thanks to one important game changer: the Chocobos can wear rocket skates and do tricks while airborne. Expect it to race onto the Switch in 2022.
At long last, Bayonetta makes her grand return
Bayonetta 3was announced all the way back in late 2017, and for fans, that wait has been torture. With each previous Direct where Platinum Games' spectacular heroine didn't show, hope began to dwindle. So of course, Nintendo goes ahead and finally reveals the thing just as folks seemed to have resigned themselves to another Direct without a trailer.
"It seems I'm unfashionably late," croons Bayonetta. "But I'm ready to give you everything you want." With a new look, she springs into action with a gameplay montage that shows how she hasn't lost her edge since the last game back in 2014. With a spring in her step, she's more than happy to slay some demons and create monsters out of her hair to have a big kaiju fight. Fortunately, there won't be too much of a wait between now and Bayonetta 3's actual release, as it's coming to the Switch in 2022.
Splatoon 3 gets a little hairy
Nintendo's paint-happy shooter series has always been kind of weird, how could it not be when it lets you alternate between being a kid or a squid? But Splatoon 3's second trailer takes a swerve from the goofy paint-throwing fun to focus on the larger world of the franchise. And that includes mammals?
The first two games in the series have been strictly about the Inklings, but the story mode is dubbed "Return of the Mammalians," and the furry critters are peppered throughout the trailer in a way that feels very ominous. Amidst all the footage of Inklings hanging out or exploring the Splatlands, there's an undertone that something sinister is afoot, and the return of the Mammalians may end up being a danger for the Inklings. We'll find out for certain when the game arrives on the Switch in 2022.
You can play more classic games on your Switch
Nintendo Switch Online is making its library a little bigger by bringing in N64 and Genesis games. As part of a new tier to the subscription service, you'll be able to play classics likes like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Phantasy Star IV when it launches later this year. Future additions include Majora's Mask, Banjo-Kazooie, and Mario Golf. If that weren't enticing enough, Switch versions of the N64 and Genesis controllers are being released for $50 in the near future.
Back in 2014, Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven, was a literary sensation. The National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist centered on an acute swine flu outbreak that kills most of the global population, and then examines how the survivors use the arts, particularly a traveling symphony, to reconnect humanity once more.
Ironically, HBO Max went into production on their limited series adaptation of the book in January 2020, only to be shut down by the real COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in early 2021, and the series will now premiere this fall.
At this week’s HBO Max Television Critics Association virtual press tour for Station Eleven, executive producer/showrunner Patrick Somerville along with fellow executive producers Jessica Rhoades and Jeremy Podeswa and some of their cast talked about adapting the now very-on-the-nose story for our current times.
To set context for tone, actress Mackenzie Davis, who plays the adult aged Kirsten, said of the series, “It’s not The Road and it’s not a fairy tale, but it is like the two put together where there’s danger in the woods, but there’s also beauty and rebirth in the woods. I'm glad that it’s neither a cautionary tale nor idealizing trauma and mass loss.”
Asked how close to the novel the series will stay with its narrative choices, Somerville said it is a very “aggressive adaptation” of the book, which he personally loved. He said he told Mandel that in order to tell the story in a visual medium, there would be changes and he said that she gave her blessing.
Teasing some specific changes, Somerville said the characters of Kirsten and Jeevan (Himesh Patel) end up meeting in a different way during the initial outbreak than they do in the novel. “They spend 80 days together in [an apartment] before Jeevan and Kirsten walk out together and there’s a whole big story to tell inside of there,” Somerville teased. “That means for Kirsten’s arc, that when we know her in year 20, Jeevan’s not around and we don’t know why. But there’s a slow, unfurling of a season-long mystery that has to do with how they lost each other and what happens.”
Somerville adds that he always felt the novel could have used more of Jeevan, the character in the book who was an entertainment journalist and becomes an EMT post apocalypse. “It always felt like in the novel there was room for more Jeevan and to lean more into why it was special between those two people on the day the world ended.”
The series also handles the cult led by Tyler (Daniel Zovatto) differently. "Tyler seemed to me to be an opportunity for a complicated, real story of another person who’s been making it through the pandemic, who is not a monster, but complicated," Somerville said. "A challenge in the writers’ room when we started was trying to make up a cult that we would join. What could he be saying that isn’t, 'I’m going to abduct young children and repopulate the Earth with violence and power'? We tilted more toward Pied Piper-based science and rationalist-based cult leader who was just saying true things that everybody didn’t want to hear anymore because the survivors had been through quite a lot. So our cult is quite different, and the way it all comes together is quite different, but the spirit of that book, to me, was always about what’s gentle and human inside of us before and after, and how do we get back to the people that we love?”
Executive producer Jessica Rhoades added that the series does realize the graphic novel elements from the book and the traveling symphony, which are reader-favorite elements.
Station Eleven -- also starring David Wilmot, Nabhaan Rizwan, Philippine Velge, Daniel Zovatto, and Lori Petty -- debuts on HBO Max this fall.
In 1966, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy was voted the best science fiction series of all time at the Hugo Awards. Other series have certainly surpassed it since then, although it’s still considered the work that codified the genre. Despite its fame, because the series is an epic on a galactic level told over the course of 500 years or so, with dozens of characters, conflicts, and stories, no one’s figured out how to bring Foundation into live-action. Apple TV+’s new Foundation series hasn’t figured it out either.
Foundation the TV series is not Foundation the book series. There are a few bones of the original story in there, sure, including the premise. Mathematician/psychologist Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) creates the field of psychohistory, in which the future can be pathetically predicted—not for individuals, but humanity in general—and has discovered the horrifying truth that the 12,000-year-old Galactic Empire is going to fall, beginning a new dark age that will last 30,000 years. It can’t be stopped, but it can be reduced to a mere millennium by creating a repository of human knowledge to become the foundation of a new civilization. It’s an astoundingly great premise that could never be served in a movie, and a TV adaptation was never going to be easy. The first Foundation book alone is made up of five separate novellas that have no characters in common, and take place over 150 years. Very, very few of those characters are developed because we spend so little time with them. They’re not the story—the Foundation is, and how it develops over time.
TV audiences would, understandably, have a hard time getting invested in a show where the entire cast and conflict changes every episode. Showrunner David S. Goyer—writer of about a billion DC superhero movies—limits Foundation’s first season to the first two-fifths of the original novel and ties them together in a somewhat forced way. Goyer’s idea to have Lee Pace play an eternally cloned Emperor Cleon is a clever way to give the series a (basically) consistent antagonist. Changing characters’ genders and ethnicities is a must for modern times—there were virtually no female characters in Asimov’s early books—and, of course, it doesn’t affect the story in the slightest. And he begins the show with a bit of sci-fi spectacle that will absolutely hook audiences into rooting for Hari’s grand plan to succeed.
Here’s the catch: Making a 10-episode season out of about 100 pages of text is an act of lunacy on par with turning The Hobbit into three movies. So much needs to be added to fill out these episodes, which feel so much longer than the hour they generally run. Some of these additions are incredibly welcome. Hari’s protégé Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin (in two terrific performances from Lou Llobell and Leah Harvey, respectively) get extensive and badly needed backstories to expand their characters. Emperor Cleon, who barely figures in the first book, not only has his own major storyline but is technically three people: Brother Day (Pace), the younger Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton), and the senior Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann).
Most of these additions are invented out of whole cloth, having nothing to do with the story of the Foundation. Honestly, after most of the second episode, the show and the books are pretty much unrecognizable. Even if you’re coming in without having read a page of Asimov, you’ll still notice the drawn-out plots that go nowhere, the padding, and the weird choices the show has the characters make to keep the plot from moving forward. Cheap, nonsensical melodrama fills the series (somehow, Seldin’s plan stops suddenly working because two people get in a relationship, so he has to break them up). Then there’s the show’s terror that people might not make certain connections, so it shows something, has the character comment on it to themself, and then maybe throws in a flashback to someone saying something relevant even if it was said three minutes prior. The show also wants to have pew-pew laser battles and ship fights and spacewalk mishaps and junk, none of which offer anything you haven’t seen before, and are usually used to just run out the clock anyway.
I can’t complain about how it feels like—despite the fact that psychohistory shouldn’t also be able to predict individual actions—Hari’s plan relies exclusively on individual people, because that’s a problem with the Foundation books, too. But it’s compounded in the show because Hari needs to have somehow predicted a survivor of a gunfight and their ability to stop a bomb from going off at the last second. It’s hard to care about a plan when nothing ever appears to be going according to it. The second and bigger problem is all the generic sci-fi action is directly counter to what made the Foundation series so beloved—a celebration of knowledge, history, science, and human connection, and the hope of a new galactic civilization rising from it all.
Foundation doesn’t want to be Foundation. It wants to be the heady, thoughtful, revelatory first season of Westworld, so it pontificates about politics and religion and souls, but it doesn’t have the depth to say anything important. The TV series also wants to be Game of Thrones with its political maneuvering (most of which is invented wholesale for the show), but once Hari Seldon’s spaceship takes off, those imperial politics have virtually nothing to do with the Foundation. It also wants to be a sci-fi action show. It’s so busy trying to be all of these things that it doesn’t have the time to be Foundation. For people who don’t know or care about the source material, the result is extremely pretty but not particularly compelling sci-fi. For people who know or are fans of Isaac Asimov and his work, I feel compelled to warn you that if you watch the show you will see a scene so enraging that you will tear your TV in two with your bare hands; then you’ll realize how utterly unnecessary the scene was, and tear it into four.
Goyer’s Foundation isn’t Asimov’s Foundation. It’s not an adaptation, and it’s so different that calling it “inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov” still feels like a stretch. Maybe it truly is impossible to bring this seminal work of science fiction into another medium, but other shows could still do a hell of a lot better job than this.
The first two episodes of Foundation just began streaming on Apple TV+. Single episodes will drop weekly thereafter.
Midnight Mass, the latest horror series from The Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor’s Mike Flanagan, arrives September 24 on Netflix. Since that is tomorrow, technically that means if you stay up until (ahem) midnight PT, you can start watching it tonight. And if there’s any scenario in which staying up all night on a school night to binge all seven episodes of a new Netflix series feels acceptable—Midnight Mass just might be it.
But even if you’re not going for the first-night binge, we’re setting up the spoiler zone so that fans can come back to this post to talk about the mysteries, the shocks, the twists, and whatever else Flanagan, the guy who gave us the Bent-Neck Lady (we’re still not quite over that reveal), pulls out of his pocket. The marketing for Midnight Mass has been deliberately vague so honestly we’re not sure what to expect.
The official synopsis gives us this much, at least: “From The Haunting of Hill House creator Mike Flanagan, Midnight Mass tells the tale of a small, isolated island community whose existing divisions are amplified by the return of a disgraced young man (Zach Gilford) and the arrival of a charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). When Father Paul’s appearance on Crockett Island coincides with unexplained and seemingly miraculous events, a renewed religious fervor takes hold of the community—but do these miracles come at a price?”
The series’ ensemble cast also includes Kate Siegel, Rahul Abburi, Crystal Balint, Matt Biedel, Alex Essoe, Annarah Cymone, Annabeth Gish, Rahul Kohli, Kristin Lehman, Robert Longstreet, Igby Rigney, Samantha Sloyan, Henry Thomas, and Michael Trucco—which means a lot of Haunting faces are going to be part of this non-Haunting (but probably haunting, adjective-ly speaking) series. Who will they play? Will they be characters we love or characters we loathe? Will Rahul Kohli’s character make any food-related puns in this one? Head to the comments after you’ve watched to share your questions, quotes, thoughts, and more.
Just assume there’ll be Midnight Mass spoilers galore in comments below, so scroll with caution!
In Season 3 of Doom Patrol, which premiered today on HBO Max, the gang meets a whole slew of new characters while trying to cope with grief and loss. In addition to introducing a time traveler named Madame Rouge (Michelle Gomez), the third season also promises to feature another gang of baddies, the Sisterhood of Dada, a green-skinned alien named Garguax (Stephen Murphy), and Brotherhood of Evil villains that include a scheming brain in a jar simply known as the Brain, and a talking gorilla named Monsieur Mallah.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, series showrunner Jeremy Carver, offered a few hints at the show’s new direction this season. For one thing, the new faces signal that Season 3 is taking inspiration from a wider pool of Doom Patrol comics than just those written by Grant Morrison in the 1980s.
"We have taken these really sort of beloved characters from the comics, such as the Sisterhood of Dada and the Brotherhood of Evil ... and we put a little bit of our own spin on them as we've done with other characters in the past," said Carver.
Another big theme that the new season is exploring is having the characters cope with grief and tragedy, and finding ways to pull themselves out of despair.
"We're seeing a group of individuals, each in their own way, trying to climb out of the despair they've been in for many decades," Carver said. "Some find more success than others, some need to go even more rock-bottom before they can surface. But all of them will, by the end of the season, be at least pointed in a new direction."
In fact, Carver noted that the gang meets Garguax "when they're dealing with a massive grief."
"He used to be the leader of an alien world and was quite a fearful presence back in the '50s, when he was an ally of the Brotherhood of Evil,” he said. “Since then he has been living a very different existence and has been on one very particular mission, which has basically tested his faith in what he believes to be true. Will he continue to be loyal to an evil leader, or will he be loyal to himself? It's not unlike the Doom Patrol questioning where they stand in the aftermath of their own tragedy and loss.”
Based on characters created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and Bruno Premiani, Doom Patrol is executive produced by Jeremy Carver, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Chris Dingess, and Tamara Becher-Wilkinson.
The first three episodes of Doom Patrol Season 3 are currently available to stream on HBO Max, with subsequent episodes dropping on a weekly basis every Thursday.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie voice cast is as follows:
Chris Pratt as Mario
Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach
Charlie Day as Luigi
Jack Black as Bowser
Keegan-Michael Key as Toad
Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong
Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong
Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek
Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike
And then “surprise cameos” from Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario from the video games.
And no, this is not a joke. It’s real.
Now, if this was any other movie, that voice cast would be hugely exciting. But the Super Mario Bros. games and characters have been a massive part of popular culture for around 40 years. Granted, the characters generally don’t talk a lot but when they do they don’t sound like Star-Lord or Kung Fu Panda. They also don’t sound like Bob Hoskins or John Leguizamo and we know how that turned out. At least these characters, we assume, will look more like the characters from the games than that infamous 1993 live-action film.
Word of the Illumination Super Mario Bros. film hit back in 2017 and development/production has been moving ahead ever since. Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, which is known for the Despicable Me and Minions movies, is producing along with the Nintendo’s legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario. And while we don’t know much more than that, the voice cast does hint a bit at what we might expect from the movie. All of the characters you know and love, a little history thrown in there with Donkey Kong, a lot of things happening with Bowser and his minions, basically everything you’d want from a Mario movie. That is, if you can get over the cast.
So again, Super Mario Bros.—directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, and written by Matthew Fogel—hits theaters next Christmas and here’s the teaser poster. Tell us your thoughts below.
During today's Nintendo Direct livestream, game director and Mario Bros. designer Shigeru Miyamoto revealed the voice cast for the upcoming CG animated Super Mario movie. The movie was announced in 2020 as part of a partnership with Universal and Illumination, the studio best known for the Despicable Me and Sing films.
Headlining the core cast will be Guardians of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt as the adventurous plumber Mario, while Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Pacific Rim madman Charlie Day will voice his older brother, Luigi.Anya Taylor-Joy, recent Emmy nominee for The Queen's Gambit, will provide the voice for Princess Peach. And Bowser? Jack Black, naturally. All four have recent experience with voice acting; Pratt and Day did voice work for the two primary LEGO films, and Taylor-Joy did voice work in Netflix's short lived Dark Crystal series. Black, outside of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, showed up in Double Fine's Psychonauts 2 this past August.
In addition to the main cast, Miyamoto provided headshots for the film's supporting cast (as seen about 30 minutes into the stream below). Seth Rogen will fill in for Donkey Kong, while Keegan-Michael Key will voice Peach's faithful servant, Toad. Fred Armisen, esteemed voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson (you've definitely heard him before), and Sebastian Maniscalo are also on hand to respectively voice Kamek, Cranky Kong, and Spike.
As a final note, Miyamoto confirmed that Charles Martinet, the voice actor for Mario across all the games, will show up as a cameo and in other undisclosed roles throughout the film. No footage or looks at the characters were shown during the Direct.
Though Mario and his entourage have always been popular, their path to the movies has been somewhat rocky. Following the release of the live action 1993 film and its tepid reception, Nintendo adaptations for the big screen have been rare -- at least until 2019's Detective Pikachu.
“Mario and Luigi are two of the most beloved heroes in all of popular culture, and we are honored to have the unique opportunity to work so closely with Shigeru Miyamoto and the widely imaginative team at Nintendo to bring these characters to life in an animated movie, unlike any film Illumination has made to date,” Illumination's CEO Chris Meledandri said in a statement (via Variety).
The upcoming animated Super Mario Bros. movie will release in theaters on Dec. 21, 2022.
What’s life like when you’re young, flawlessly attractive, and have more money than you know what to do with? In America, you become a social mediainfluencer and maybe get a reality show. In the world of sleek new horror thriller Dead & Beautiful, your quest to feel alive might just be the thing that transforms you into a blood-sucking monster that will never die.
At least, that’s the impression given by the film’s new trailer, which introduces us to a group of friends who spend their days and nights slinking around in fancy clothes, driving shiny cars, and just generally trying to be as risqué and shocking as possible in order to feel any emotion whatsoever. It’s not entirely clear how it happens, but one day, suddenly...they’re all seemingly vampires?
This doesn’t come up in the trailer, but you have to wonder: how do you admire your perfect outfit and hairstyle if you can’t even see your reflection? Here’s the official summary for Dead & Beautiful: “In Dead & Beautiful, five rich, spoiled Asian twenty-somethings (Gijs Blom, Aviis Zhong, Yen Tsao, Philip Juan, Anechka Marchenko) are suffering from upper class ennui, unsure how to spend their days when so little is expected from them. In search of excitement, the five friends form the ‘Circle,’ a group where they take turns designing a unique, extravagant experience for the others. But things go wrong when the privileged urbanites awaken after a night out, to find they have developed vampire fangs and an unquenchable thirst for flesh, blood, and adventure at any price.”
The characters might be fairly unlikeable (“upper class ennui,” poor you!) but that feels deliberate in this context, which looks to be leaning into the stylish glamour factor rather than a storyline with deep substance. But when a film looks this full of eye candy (and potentially...knowingly campy?), it’s hard not to be intrigued. Written and directed by David Verbeek, Dead & Beautiful will play Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX on September 25 before arriving November 4 on Shudder in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
While the nerds were told they couldn’t sit at the cool kids’ table at this past weekend’s Emmy Awards, they had a grand old time at the Creative Emmy Awards the week prior. There, The Mandalorian’s second season received, understandably, the Emmy for “Outstanding Special Effects in a Series or a Movie.” Now, in celebration, we’ve gotten another peek behind the CG... and in front of it, and off to the side, too, I guess.
What does it take to make a season of The Mandalorian? Oh, hunks of practical sets, bunches of bluescreens, some robotics, some puppets, that insane LED rig called the Volume that allows actors to be on virtual sets themselves while they film, and, oh yeah, an old-school spaceship model, just like the Star Wars crew did for A New Hope 44 years ago:
That’s the show’s Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Bluff giving the tour. While VFX reels like this can be hit or miss, The Mandalorian’s videos never disappoint. There’s always something that surprises me, whether things I assumed were CG turned out to be real, or things that looked real were CG, or things that were physically made and then scanned into CG anyway. But I mostly love that the Trash-ATs are stop-motion puppets for what seems to be no discernable reason. The show’s ability to work with all these processes and VFX, rather than just designing everything on a computer as the prequel movies did, is a huge part of the reason why The Mandalorian looks so good and feels so authentically Star Wars.
The Mandalorian also won 2021 Emmys for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup, Outstanding Musical Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama (One-Hour), Outstanding Stunt Coordination, Outstanding Stunt Performance, and Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), for a total of seven.
From the start of FX's What We Do in the Shadows series, Laura Montgomery has been part of the costume department creating the finery that helps define the brood of Staten Island vampires. She was promoted to the role of costume designer for Season 3, where she's helped zhuzh up all of their looks and created all of the other costuming needs for werewolves, New Jersey casino buddies, and even small claims court hijinks in the latest episode, "The Chamber of Judgment."
SYFY WIRE got on the line with Montgomery, who is now working on Season 4, which is shooting Toronto, and asked her to walk us through some of the costuming highlights so far.
Guillermo's Glam Up
"With Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), we knew he was going to be taking on more responsibilities as the bodyguard. And he was really discovering his Van Helsing roots. We were able to use his Van Helsing trench from Season 2 and really build on that. We introduced his waistcoat this season to be a bit tougher. One is done in the leather, and it's got this removable harness at the back that has his stakes in it."
Nandor: International Man of Mystery
"With Nandor (Kayvan Novak) in particular, I wanted to bring a little bit more of a cultural influence to his character and really research the silhouette and the different textiles of 1400s Persia, Iran area where his fictional country, Al Quolanudar, is. I tried to switch up some of his silhouettes while keeping him true to character, just move him a little bit more into the Persian realm."
Colin Robinson's World of Neutrals
"It's so funny because Mark (Proksch) is a very good-looking man. The beige, it's not a great color on him, but it works to the character. This season, I really tried to refine the tailoring. It was helpful to know his age because the conceit is that the vampires all get stuck in the era in which they were human. With Colin, you never really knew, but knowing that he was turning 100 [meant] I could really hone in on the '40s and early '50s as his good era. When he's a young man, that's when he would have been paying attention to fashion and clothing. I went to a specialty tailor in the city and made him some beautiful suits and sport coats with some really beautiful tailoring. It had a little bit of a period feel even though it looks contemporary when you mix it in with contemporary pieces. That was a way to bring a little bit more refinement.
Nadja and Lazlo: A Fashion Power Couple
"[Their synergy] was a Jemaine (Clement) thing from early on that he always wanted them to be matching. We've been able to get a little bit looser with that. We would bend over backward to do it, and then sometimes people wouldn't even notice. It's always a challenge because usually I'll find an amazing Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) fabric, and then it will be a struggle, like with Nadja's peacock outfit for Episode 3. How do we make peacock masculine for Laszlo (Matt Berry)? We use the same wool that we used for her coat, but we dyed the color a little bit deeper. And then this season, it's the same thing, especially with the talking heads. I'll always try to make them look matching as much as I can because I want to honor Jemaine's initial request and vision. But you know, I have to say it is fun when they have scenes when they're not together and we can go a bit crazier on each of them."
"The Cloak of Duplication"
"[For the Cloak], I think we used no fewer than six, maybe seven layers of fabric. We wanted the lace overlay to make it look very old but it's supposed to be magical so I wanted it to have a feeling that it was like glowing from within without actually being lit inside. It was just finding the right combination of like iridescent organza and chiffon and things that would make it feel light. But there's a layer of super shiny silk underneath and then we would layer something else over top that didn't kill the shine. And then our jeweler, who makes a lot of beautiful custom jewelry for the show and has since the first season, made the brooch. The director Yana (Gorskaya) was workshopping this idea of 'how do we help the audience know when it's not Nandor?' I don't know how noticeable it was when you watch it but there's a clasp at the neck of the cloak, so when he has the cloak on and he is someone else, the cloak disappears but the brooch stays. It's that heart-shaped thing on his cravat. When he's himself, you don't see it. But when he's Laszlo as Nandor, or basically when he's wearing the cloak, the brooch is there."
"We built the red velvet coat that Nandor wears in Episode 3. We found a beautiful velvet. And then I researched embroidery motif and we got the art department to help us create a repeatable pattern that we could embroider on the jacket. And for the rest of the episode, knowing that they were going to be playing kickball outside, there were a lot of practical considerations. We didn't know it was going to be snowing so heavily, but I knew it would be cold. That was another part of the reason why I wanted to put Nandor in a jacket instead of a cape. Capes are great, but it's hard to keep someone warm in a cape that's totally open at the front. We knew it was going to be an all night shoot, so there's a lot of extra layers underneath and we built a lot of warm layers in the coats. Even Lazlo's coat, I was just building in extra layers and extra linings.
And then for Nadia, we care about everything, but so much of TV is from the waist up. If there's any detail that we put into the bottom of a garment, it just gets lost. But for the kickball, it was scripted that Nadia was gonna be lifting up her skirt and hoofing the ball. So I thought it was a great opportunity to really go crazy with her skirt. She's got a skirt with pleating and she has a big bustle on the back. We did a petticoat that we dyed to match so that when she lifted her skirt, you would just see layers of this peacock confection. There was a line that actually got cut, but I thought it was so funny that was a callback from when the werewolves appeared in the first season, where one of the werewolves insults them by saying like, "It's these Pride and Prejudice motherf*****s," so we wanted to really make them look over the top to contrast with the modern werewolves and because they get made fun of for their clothes."
We were able to shoot in the [closed Niagra Falls] casinos. For the cast, I had a lot of fun using gold on Matt and Natasha. We found that jacket that's like a jean jacket style but is covered in rhinestones. It weighed about five or 10 pounds. It's so heavy. It's so blingy and so much fun. It's great to be able to flex a completely different muscle with the contemporary friends we've seen. We've seen them before, in casual clothes at Sean's house. We know that Charmaine always wears leopard. But then it was really fun to think of what would her renewing her vows dress be like? Well, obviously it's leopard, but it's white zebra actually and sequined. And then to get an idea of the friends, what they look like when they're all dolled up in their Atlantic City finest, I did a lot of consignment shopping for that. I found some really good consignment for one of the friends who is squeezed into a white Cavalli dress, but it's a Cavalli dress from 15 years ago so it's dated. We did a lot of high-end consignment like that because the look of this show walks the fine line of tacky. All of the humans and the vampires are tacky, but they're not cheap. And there is a fine line."
"The Chamber of Judgement"
"The small claims court was as dull as we could make it. And then for the Council chambers, the really fun build for that was it's the first time that we see their version of the white council robe. I didn't want to reuse the ones that we had seen before. And because they're getting them custom-tailored by our wraiths now in the script, what would Nadja's dream version of a council robe be? What would Nandor's be? That was really fun to pull references for that. For Nadja's, we used a beautiful beaded lace and tassels. I was looking at printed images of Chinese cloud collars to try to make it very opulent and beautiful. My textile artist, Madeline Bryan, makes hand embroidered reticules, so she's very skilled at embroidery and beading. We hand embroidered all of the crystals and the pearls on Nandor's shoulder piece. There was a lot of work put into that."
New episodes of What We Do in the Shadows airs on Thursdays nights on FX and are available the Next Day on FX on Hulu.
Daniel Craig's duty to protect Queen and Country is no longer just confined to big screen fiction. Ahead of his final outing as MI6 super-spy James Bond in No Time to Die, the actor was awarded the honorary rank of Commander in the British Royal Navy. In case you didn't know, that's the same exact rank held by 007 across the entire franchise.
The news was confirmed by the official James Bond page on Facebook, as well as in a press release from the Royal Navy, which apparently worked closely with MGM and Eon on the 25th Bond film. "I am truly privileged and honoured to be appointed the rank of Honorary Commander in the senior service," Craig said in a short statement.
“I am delighted to welcome honorary Commander Daniel Craig to the Royal Navy," added First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. “Our honorary officers act as ambassadors and advocates for the Service, sharing their time and expertise to spread the message about what our global, modern, and ready Royal Navy is doing around the world. Daniel Craig is well known for being Commander Bond for the last fifteen years — a Naval officer who keeps Britain safe through missions across the globe. That’s what the real Royal Navy does every day, using technology and skill the same way as Bond himself. I look forward to him getting to see more of our sailors and marines over the coming months and years.”
Believe it ot not, the United Kingdom's navy actually does contain a few real-world Commander Bonds within its numbers like Lieutenant Commander Frances Bond (based out of Portsmouth), who got to meet with Craig.
“I’ve had my fair share of light-hearted banter from colleagues over being a real-life Bond, but I never imagined I would actually one day get to meet the actor who played him," Bond said. “I really enjoyed speaking to Daniel Craig and the rest of the cast. It was fascinating to hear their perspectives on working with the armed forces and learning a bit about the world of Hollywood. There are some strange similarities between what we do. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world during my service with the Royal Navy, like the cast have too with their filming locations."
While James has never done much sailing throughout the series — unless you count boarding a villain's yacht — his naval service has factored into some of the past films. In 1967's You Only Live Twice, for instance, Bond (played by Sean Connery at the time) faked his own death and was given a burial at sea.
No Time to Die arrives in North American theaters Friday, Oct. 8.
Astonishing Times is the story of Noah—an intrepid reporter stumbling his way into a superhero-involved adventure—and will certainly ring familiar with fans of the cape genre. But what feels most “real” about the series is how civilians seem unable to get particularly excited about the wild things happening around them every day. The cape movies, books, and shows of Astonishing Times’ world are anything but fiction, which is perhaps why most people, aside from Noah, are a bit more than burned out when it comes to consuming content about them.
When io9 recently spoke with co-writers Frank J. Barbiere and Arris Quinones, along with artist Ruairi Coleman over email, the trio opened up about their desire for Astonishing Times to be a celebration of larger-than-life heroes, but one explicitly acknowledging how and why those heroes can stop being literally marvelous. Like the story’s central character, all of the comic’s creators hold superheroes near and dear to their hearts, which is exactly why they didn’t want to pull any punches as their story reckons with some difficult realities about obsessive hero worship.
Charles Pulliam-Moore, io9: These first two issues really emphasize how Astonishing Times’ heroes still represent hope to Noah, but also how the bulk of society’s become almost apathetic to them. Talk to me about where that apathy stems from, and how it affects the book’s heroes themselves.
Ruairi Coleman: It’s one of our greatest strengths, as people, that we’re extremely adaptable. Take, for instance, the pandemic and how we had to adjust to massive shutdowns, working from home, and other restrictions; it was a shocking, life-altering change to how we’d existed up until then but—on the whole—we did it… to the point that a lot of people and businesses are now changing how they operate to accommodate working from home as a norm, post-pandemic.
However, a weakness of our adaptability is how quickly the extraordinary becomes mundane. Given enough time, we all become apathetic toward things that blew our minds just a short while before. Like, if you think about the leaps and bounds technology took over the latter half of the 20th century it’d blow your mind, but we now carry supercomputers around in our pockets and how often do we reflect on how improbable that was even 20 years ago? The world of Astonishing Times was designed to feel real, genuine, and lived in. The city might look extraordinary but it’s inhabited—for the vast majority—by regular people like you and I; and, chances are, if superheroes did exist in the real world, we’d get over them too eventually. It’s just human nature.
Frank J. Barbiere: When we were conceiving Astonishing Times, one of the points I was passionate about was the book being a celebration of superheroes, as I think in the real world we are experiencing a bit of superhero burnout. We’re looking at the 10-year anniversary of the MCU, and just a deluge of superhero stuff, so we figured now was the perfect time to embody that feeling of apathy and burnout into our story. Much like in the real world, people got over the initial shock of the superheroes and the excitement around them—now they’re just another part of the skyline. One thing we hint at later is that this apathy stems from so many of the world’s problems that are unable to be solved by people in costumes punching things—something both Noah and our superhero cast themselves have to reckon with.
Coleman:For the legacy heroes, it’s allowed them some anonymity again, which is great for someone like Kokin who likes to operate under the radar. This guy has comic books made about him but he’s kicking around downtown dressed like a bum and solving crimes. That’s pretty cool, until you look at the flip-side: an unidentified supervillain is picking off the world’s greatest heroes and nobody is batting an eye. It’s like the Joker says in The Dark Knight: it’s all part of the program for these regular civilians getting on with their lives—heroes die sometimes. Except what they don’t know is, this latest plot could have real, earth-shattering implications, and they’re all oblivious to it.
io9: It’s pretty clear that Noah believes that heroes can inspire hope, but I’m curious to hear more about what he believes actual journalism can do. So much of his characterization so far has been about his being a fan, but what kind of reporter is he?
Arris Quinones: Noah is someone that believes positivity and hope is contagious, and he thinks that if he can just get good information out about the heroes he loves so much, it’s bound to resonate with people. We kind of wanted to give him that personality where when you see someone excited about something that even if you don’t necessarily like that thing they’re excited and passionate about, you’re interested because of how passionate they are about it. He’s just a real earnest character and our whole goal was to make him the heart of the book.
Barbiere:At the beginning of our story, Noah isn’t really able to separate the deep love and connection (and rabid fandom) he feels versus actually telling important stories about the superheroes. He’s been coasting along trying to get people excited, but the main arc of Astonishing Times has him coming to terms with the real function of what he should be doing. To say any more might spoil the ending, haha, but while we didn’t want to paint Noah as overly naive, he will certainly gain a new insight into the stories he reports and what his function as a journalist actually serves. I’m very passionate about genre stories and their ability to actually have morals vs. just being fluff, and it’s something we really wanted to infuse into Noah’s arc.
io9: There’s a way that Noah’s reverence for heroes like Kokin blinds him to the sort of obvious danger that’s lurking around him. How is hero-worship going to factor into the story as Astonishing Times continues?
Barbiere: That’s the thing—Noah is letting his love and reverence for these characters blind him to some of the real, systemic issues of the world and function of superheroes. While we aren’t trying to deconstruct the genre with our book, we are looking to hopefully have our readers think a little more deeply about what value this genre has (which is a lot!) and look beyond the surface of superheroes just being cool people who punch things.
Coleman: Noah hero-worships his late father even more than the capes in Astonishing Times. I feel like he has been so focused on carrying on his father’s legacy that he’s never really taken a step back and assessed what journalism means to him, how he fits into this role, or if it’s even a career he would have chosen for himself if not for his father. In fact, meeting Kokin and being drawn into this murder mystery might even be Noah’s first true foray into investigative journalism and—as we saw in issue two—he might actually have a knack for it! So, really, through this initial arc of Astonishing Times, we’re on a journey of discovery with Noah as he uncovers more of this mystery with the murdered heroes and finds out for himself—possibly for the first time—what kind of reporter he is.
io9: The exchange between Noah and his editor in the second issue definitely reads like a reflection on the state of the actual genre entertainment reporting industry. As comics creators, what aspects of this space do you think are in need of deeper coverage from the press, and what shape might that coverage take?
Quinones: I personally would love to see more coverage on what went into making the comics—letting the creators tell their story of why they’re making the book they’re making. Essentially, how Hollywood movies do behind the scenes for the movies where they interviewed the actors, directors, and production crew telling you what happened along the way. I love that kind of stuff and would love to see more of it in the comic space.
Don’t get me wrong we do see that from time to time, but one of the main goals for us with Astonishing Times was to use Variant, the YouTube channel I host and co-created as a platform to show our audience everything that went into creating the book and take them along with us. Almost a step-by-step making the audience a part of our journey as well. And make no mistake the Variant Nation has been a huge part of Astonishing Times’ success. We have the best audience in the world. So I think the future of comic press could very well be using the digital space to show people more in-depth behind the scenes, whether that be through documentary-style videos like we’re doing or something else.
Barbiere: I have nothing but respect and admiration for comics press, as part of my success as a creator has been the promotion and time spent on my books from the press, as well as comics retailers. With print press obviously winding down in a lot of places, I think online outlets are doing a great job picking up the pace and finding new and exciting ways to engage with content. I think a lot of sites are digging deeper into human interest stories, issues creators deal with, and being bold with their content. Working with Arris and Variant has been an exciting new twist to the formula, as Variant is an amazing online platform with a fantastic audience. Working directly with him and Variant has been a huge boon and I think is a whole new way of showing some insight into how our book is made [and] why we think it’s important.
io9: Astonishing Times is releasing at a time when people are increasingly looking at platforms like Comixology and Substack as a means of getting their independent work out. What do you think is going to be really important for other creators to understand about working on these platforms, especially people looking to create entirely new worlds filled with traditional capes?
Barbiere: I’ve always been hesitant to create original superhero IP as I think so much of the audience traditionally has followed Marvel/DC. One of my favorite books of all time is Powers by [Brian Michael] Bendis and [Michael Avon] Oeming, and I swore to myself I wouldn’t want to put out a superhero book until I had an original take that I felt could service what I wanted to say.
That being said, I think the audience of comics is extremely savvy and largely has chosen to follow creators vs. characters—which is GREAT. Our current generation has a lot of talented creators, and with a more savvy audience who truly want to engage with them, no matter the platform, I think we are at an exciting precipice where creators have more options to tell stories and don’t need to be restrained by the traditional models of publishing.
Quinones: I think the best thing about working with a platform like Comixology from a creators’ perspective, and one of the reasons we are super excited to put our book out with them, is the fact pretty much anyone in the world can read your book this way as long as they have access to internet. It just allows the creators’ stories and books to be a lot more visible and obtainable by a wider audience of people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a comic shop. Don’t get me wrong; I love brick-and-mortar comic shops. They have a special place in my heart, and I think they’re a necessary element of the comic space as a whole. But one of the things I’ve learned from people over the years doing Variant is that a good chunk of comic fans unfortunately don’t have access to a local comic book shop. But again, with Comixology, all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer and an Internet connection and you could read our story.
Coleman: I’m completely unfamiliar with Substack; I keep meaning to look into it but I immediately get distracted because the name sounds like a chain of sandwich shops… then, before I know it, I find myself thinking about sandwiches and I start to feel hungry and wander off to the fridge and—wait, what were we talking about?
Astonishing Times hits Comixology on September 28, 2021.
A lot of Star Trek: Lower Decks has been about taking classic setups and premises from series past and reframing them or poking holes with loving fun. So it’s rare to see the series riff on not one, but two fun stalwarts of the past and not really play them for laughs—even if it still uses them to strengthen the bonds between its characters.
“Where Pleasant Fountains Lie” once again splits its storytelling into its familiar format of putting Rutherford and Tendi, and then Boimler and Mariner, through two different homages to classic Trek episode archetypes (interesting for an episode about comfort zones, but we’ll get to that later). The first, for Tendi and Rutherford—the latter in particular—is a riff on a much more hyperspecific Trek gag: the idea of a highly advanced race whose technology and civilization just so happen to look like those ren fair costumes already in the studio’s costume departments that you could borrow for a couple of weeks. In this case, it comes with an interesting twist on a little-explored character, Paul Scheer’s Chief Engineer Billups, who, it turns out, left a life of royalty—and royal bloodline continuation, more specifically—on his homeworld to join Starfleet. As his mother, Queen Billups (herself a riff on Troi’s extravagant mother Lwaxana, albeit with less of Majel Barrett’s camp charm), and her royal flagship come knocking on the USS Cerritos’ door for repair and refit requests, the chief drags Rutherford into the strangely sex-obsessed life of his former society.
It’s a bizarre mishmash of all those classic “period” civilizations that Trek has been fascinated by, whether it’s wild gods like Trelane or the Q, who just happened to look like cosplayers as a way to explain themselves to “lesser” races, Holodeck programs like Voyager’s Fair Haven, or actually technologically regressed societies like TNG’s, uh... not exactly great colonists of Bringloid V. But it also plays into another long-running facet of Trek a little more subtle than most Lower Decks jokes: the series’ fascination with the interplay of sex, sexuality, and in many ways, heteronormativity in a supposedly utopian future.
It turns out Billups’ mother has spent her life since her son left for Federation service desperately trying to get him laid—and not because Billups himself has a problem doing the deed. In fact, he’s willingly celibate. The backward rules of his people include the next in line losing their virginity in order to ascend to the throne. Should Billups ever fornicate, that means he’s announced his intent to sire an heir and become king. Like other episodes this season, this all comes down to trust between the people closest to you. Rutherford is dragged into the awkward song and dance of Billups’ testy relationship with his mother, as the latter keeps trying to trick him into sex so he can take her place, while the former is increasingly frustrated that his family and even his people have essentially ignored the pride he takes in his duty and life’s work as a Starfleet engineer because it’s not what is expected of him.
It’s the same for Rutherford and Tendi too after she pushes him to go on the assignment with Billups in the first place—attempting to help her friend overcome his lingering confidence issues and break out of his comfort zone. But the move backfires when Rutherford and Billups’ mother are seemingly killed in an accidental systems overload, only for it to be revealed that it’s just the latest in the Queen’s line of (horrifyingly drastic) attempts to get her son a one-way wormhole to the Bone Zone. It’s all about trust in the people around you, something Billups and the Queen just don’t have—but Tendi and Rutherford do, and are able to expose the plot in time to keep the chief where his heart wants to be: by a warp core, rather than in a threesome.
Trust is the matter of the day in Boimler and Mariner’s arc, as well. Tasked with escorting Yet Another Star Trek Evil Computer to the Daystrom Institute for containment—Agimus, a delightful turn from Trek legend and man of a million faces Jeffrey Combs—Boimler finds himself reassigned from a more high-profile away mission to help Mariner with the busywork. It’s something that puts a bit of a dent into the relationship they’ve reforged over the course of this season. Things get worse when, as with all good shuttlecraft-based away missions, there’s an emergency crash landing, and suddenly the duo find themselves on a planet with little in the way of sustenance. There’s no life beyond a few roaming wild animals and little chance for getting a distress signal out, plus that evil computer that just really wants to be plugged into any socket it can get its cables on. Dehydrated, exhausted, scared, and seemingly only able to replicate black licorice for food, Boimler and Mariner’s relationship is really put to the test, and nearly torn apart when Agimus manages to reveal that Mariner is who got Boimler reassigned, believing he wasn’t ready for such a dangerous mission in spite of his repeated talk of his time aboard the Titan.
It’s a great conflict and goes to show that the work these two have made so far in closing up the rift between them is ongoing work, and not solved even when they make great strides toward being close once more. But it’s made even better when, having seemingly decided to cast his lot in with Agimus and use the evil computer’s power to hijack a still-functioning wrecked ship to get off-world, it’s revealed that Boimler manufactured at least some of his animus with Mariner to convince the rogue AI he was on his side. He only ends up letting the computer power a distress beacon, rather than the ship itself, but more importantly, Boimler goes a long way in showing how much trust has been restored between himself and Mariner—what she did to him wasn’t cool, but he understands her intentions were well-placed. That, and he’s come a long way himself to be able to convincingly appear to Agimus like he’d turned on her in the first place, so the trust isn’t just a matter of him placing it back in her, but trust in himself to get the job done, like any good Starfleet officer.
It’s that element that makes “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie” more than the sum of its pointed franchise referencing parts. By building in these moments of trust between our heroes, bringing together a season that has become much more character-focused and introspective than it seemingly might have first let on, Lower Decks is finding a heart for itself that’s larger than just its love for the idea of what Star Trek is, and how silly and fun that idea can be in the first place. And as the series goes on to bigger things, that’s an important step on a road we can’t wait to see the series travel further on.
When astronauts land on the Moon again, there won’t be much time to seek out frozen water. They will have to know exactly where it is.
Our radiation-stricken, inhospitable Moon is pockmarked with craters whose shadows have remained dark enough for water ice to remain for millions and even billions of years. That water is going to be invaluable for Artemis astronauts. Not only will they be able to use that ice for drinkable water, but also breathable air and even (especially when the Moon becomes a way station to Mars) rocket fuel. The thing is, you have to find that water first.
Enter NASA’s VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Explorations Rover). VIPER lead project scientist Anthony Colaprete, of NASA Ames research center, and his research team have finally decided where they are going to land VIPER to maximize results. It will touch down on the edge of the Moon’s permanently shadowed Nobile crater and then crawl to at least six other sites.
“One of the most important questions VIPER will address is the origin of lunar water,” he told SYFY WIRE. “What are the various sources? How is it retained and lost? We believe that temperature is a critical factor in retaining water on the Moon and the VIPER mission area provides a range of temperature environments for us to explore."
VIPER will scour the lunar surface and subsurface for water and other resources the space agency won’t have to worry about the astronomical costs of adding to a manned mission’s payload—never mind the weight. Lighter payloads are always safer payloads. Some of the craters Viper will be investigating are thought to be over 3.5 billion years old. The samples it will extract from these craters could possibly tell us how water ended up on the Moon back in the depths of time, which can also help us understand how it came to to the inner solar system.
It is possible that, as some scientists have theorized about Earth, water was brought to the Moon by comets and icy asteroids from the solar system’s edge. These space rocks and chunks of ice smashed into the Moon and left some of themselves behind on impact. It could explain why there is probably an abundance of water ice in many lunar craters today, the shadowed areas of which have remained frozen because they never see the harsh light of the Sun. VIPER is also going to search for other resources that can be useful far away from the home planet.
“Other potential resources include carbon dioxide ice and ammonia — both contain potentially useful elements (carbon and nitrogen) as well as oxygen and hydrogen,” said Colaprete. “VIPER also will characterize the regolith, including its geotechnical properties. These observations will help inform us how to work with the regolith as a building material.”
Regolith alone can’t build a lunar (or Martian) habitat. Recent experimenting with regolith simulants and other ingredients found that human blood and urea, the acid from sweat, tears or urine, make amazingly strong binders. Astronauts also keep producing them. This cement would be able to block out intense surface radiation and withstand a shower of micrometeorites. VIPER will use all four of its instruments to search for and analyze water and other volatiles, or substances that vaporize easily, in both solid and gaseous form.
The instruments VIPER is equipped with are a mass spectrometer, near-infrared spectrometer, neutron spectrometer and a drill. It is the mass spectrometer and near-infrared spectrometer which will beam back anything they find on ice and other volatiles. The neutron spectrometer will work with them simultaneously, looking for hydrogen buried up to three feet deep. These three hypersensitive instruments detect volatiles and hydrogen as the rover keeps creeping through craters and drilling wherever it finds something that needs to be sampled.
When VIPER does find something, it will drill a small segment that will then be examined by its mass spectrometer and near-infrared spectrometer. Colaprete wants a more accurate idea of water content and distribution on the Moon.
“Knowing the distribution of water and other resources is fundamental to understanding the potential sources and sinks of lunar water,” he said. “These observations will tell us how water is distributed with depth,” he said. “The drill itself will also provide data on the presence of water by measuring the strength of the material we are drilling into, which is a function of water content.”
There are questions about lunar water that the Moon hasn’t yet answered. How even is the distribution of all this ice? It could be random, with ice found wherever impact craters formed, or it could be more even for whatever reason, which would be a plus for astronauts. Next to volatiles and hydrogen, VIPER will also be seeking out isotopes that might match those on ancient comets or asteroids. Deuterium is one isotope the team will have an eye out for. The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen is seen as evidence for asteroids flying water over to Earth.
Another thing VIPER will have on its radar are molecules left over from volcanic activity. Lava tubes are another potential lunar habitat, and those tubes were formed when the Moon was still spewing magma in its raging youth. Whatever the VIPER team can find out about the Moon’s origins and evolution could possibly support or dismantle theories about how water landed there and how the bodies in the solar system, including Earth, came into being.
“VIPER is so much more than just a resource mapping mission,” Colaprete said. “It will provide fundamental data on the current state and history of water on the Moon and hence the history of water in the inner solar system.”
Notable: Hulu is billing this as The Orville: New Horizons, and it will be a weekly release rather than a binge drop; the first episode of season three will premiere Thursday, March 10, 2022. Despite that name alteration, it doesn’t sound like the show will be undergoing any drastic changes; Hulu’s description sounds like it will keep on keeping on at its new home: “Seth MacFarlane’s epic space adventure series The Orville returns exclusively as a Hulu original series. Set 400 years in the future, The Orville: New Horizons finds the crew of the U.S.S. Orville continuing their mission of exploration, as they navigate both the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of their own interpersonal relationships.”
The cast looks to be the same, too, with MacFarlane (Captain Ed Mercer), Adrianne Palicki (Commander Kelly Grayson), Penny Johnson Jerald (Dr. Claire Finn), Scott Grimes (Lt. Gordon Molloy), Peter Macon (Lt. Commander Bortus), J. Lee (Lt. Commander John LaMarr), Mark Jackson (Isaac the robot), Chad L. Coleman (Klyden), Jessica Szohr (Lt. Talla Keyali). Hulu listed one new name: Anne Winters, who’ll play a new series regular named Charly Burke. Orville fans will also recall the show features a character voiced by Norm Macdonald, a gelatinous alien named Lieutenant Yaphit; so far there’s no word on how the show might pay tribute to the late actor.
MacFarlane himself shared the teaser on Twitter but without much more to go on; presumably, we’ll be getting an actual trailer and more details as the release date approaches. We’ll let you know more as we know it.
It's been nearly six years sinceStar Wars: The Force Awakens arrived, and if there's one thing we can confidently say about that film and its legacy, it's that we won't be done arguing about the Star Wars sequel trilogy any time soon. To underscore that, one of the original trilogy's most important contributors has recently weighed in — revealing she's not a fan of what's gone down in the most recent era of the franchise.
The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars feature film released after creator George Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, to the Walt Disney Company, and therefore the first film in the franchise made without any involvement from him. Writer/director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (the legend behind The Empire Strikes Back) aimed to revitalize the franchise with an approach that paid homage to the first Star Wars film, and while their efforts worked, they also ignited fierce debate among fans. The Force Awakens was followed by the even more divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, and Abrams' own return to the franchise, the trilogy-capping Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which depending on who you ask either redeemed the entire trilogy or muddled it the most.
If you ask Marcia Lucas, George Lucas' ex-wife who's famously credited with saving the original Star Wars through her work as the film's editor, she's definitely in that latter category, not just with The Rise of Skywalker but with the entire sequel trilogy. In an interview for the new book Howard Kazanjian: A Producer's Life -- about the former Lucasfilm executive and producer on the original Star Wars sequels -- Lucas didn't mince words when sharing her feelings about where the franchise has gone since her ex-husband left it behind. Here's what she had to say, via Variety:
“I like [Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy]. I always liked her. She was full of beans. She was really smart and really bright. Really wonderful woman. And I liked her husband, [producer Frank Marshall]. I liked them a lot. Now that she’s running Lucasfilm and making movies, it seems to me that Kathy Kennedy and J.J. Abrams don’t have a clue about Star Wars," Lucas said. "They don’t get it. And J.J. Abrams is writing these stories — when I saw that movie where they kill Han Solo, I was furious. I was furious when they killed Han Solo. Absolutely, positively there was no rhyme or reason to it. I thought, 'You don’t get the Jedi story. You don’t get the magic of Star Wars. You’re getting rid of Han Solo?'”
Lucas won an Academy Award for her work on 1977's Star Wars, went on to do uncredited work on The Empire Strikes Back, and returned as one of the credited editors on Return of the Jedi. She is still widely credited as one of the most important creative voices to work on the original trilogy, having taken her then-husband's footage for key action sequences in the original film and spun it into suspenseful, dramatic gold. Now, she's clearly unhappy with the direction of the sequel trilogy, not just in terms of the death of Han Solo (which, it's worth noting, Harrison Ford famously campaigned for all the way back in the original trilogy era), but...well, just about everything else.
“They have Luke disintegrate. They killed Han Solo. They killed Luke Skywalker. And they don’t have Princess Leia anymore. And they’re spitting out movies every year. And they think it’s important to appeal to a woman’s audience, so now their main character is this female, who’s supposed to have Jedi powers, but we don’t know how she got Jedi powers, or who she is. It sucks. The storylines are terrible. Just terrible. Awful. You can quote me — ‘J.J. Abrams, Kathy Kennedy — talk to me.'”
Bearing in mind that there's never been universal agreement over what makes a "good" Star Wars movie, even from the filmmakers themselves — especially with the franchise expanding with spinoff tales like Rogue One and The Mandalorian — it would be genuinely interesting to see what might happen today with Marcia Lucas consulting on future films set in a galaxy far, far away. Whether she was actually serious about the offer is, of course, another matter.
Midnight Mass, the latest limited horror series coming to Netflix from The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor’s Mike Flanagan, arrives tomorrow. It’s truly perfect timing for a pre-Halloween binge. But once you’ve devoured Midnight Mass—starring Hamish Linklater, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, and more—where else can you turn to get an extra Flanagan fix? io9 has some ideas.
If you don’t want to invest the time rewatching Hill House and Bly Manor (or his Stephen King series, Gerald’s Game), the filmmaker’s feature-film list is also, unsurprisingly, heavy on horror storytelling that shares some familiar traits with his Netflix hits. Here are our four favorites.
Where can you watch Absentia (2010)?
I first saw Flanagan’s feature debut—which he wrote, edited, and directed—in 2011 when it was making the horror film festival rounds, and it stuck with me. When he started making much bigger films, I remembered his name and had an “Ah yes, that’s the guy who made that skin-crawling Absentia movie that gave me nightmares” epiphany. The perfect combo of mundane setting (a suburban neighborhood with an access tunnel at the end of the block) and uncanny situation (that tunnel is not what it seems), Absentia also makes great use of characters who feel like real people: a weary woman (Courtney Bell) who’s finally ready to move on from her long-missing husband, both legally and emotionally, and her equally weary sister (Katie Parker), whose attempts at staying sober are challenged when the supernatural makes an unexpected appearance. Absentia is streaming on Shudder.
Where can you watch Oculus (2013)?
Movies about haunted mirrors aren’t all that uncommon—Snow White got there first, but you could make a mini-festival with 1969's Fear No Evil, 1974's From Beyond the Grave, 1980's The Boogeyman, and 1993's Amityville: A New Generation, and this film, based on a short Flanagan made in 2005. The implied “reflecting the evil within myself” message these tales lend themselves to can sometimes feel heavy-handed, and while Oculus isn’t quite on the level of Flanagan’s greatest works, it still crafts a deeply disturbing story exploring themes that clearly fascinate the filmmaker, since he’s returned to them multiple times. These include fraught sibling relationships, the overwhelming temptation to return to a location where a Very Bad Thing has happened (even though you know you shouldn’t), and the idea that a terrible family trauma can reverberate for years in alarming ways—especially when that trauma involves something malevolently supernatural. The cast includes a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy, post-Doctor Who Karen Gillen and Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff, as well as Annalise Basso (who’s also in Ouija: Origin of Evil) and Kate Siegel (who’s been in almost everything that Flanagan, her spouse since 2016, has done since). Oculus is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Where can you watch Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)?
Clue will likely always reign supreme as the greatest movie based on a board game, but Ouija: Origin of Evil is so entertaining it more than justifies its existence. No small thing considering it’s the prequel to2014's Ouija, a movie that made us long for the 1980s excess of Witchboard and absolutely did not need any sort of follow-up. However, we’re glad it got one, because the end result brought Flanagan (who directed, edited, and co-wrote with Jeff Howard) together with future Hill House stars Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, and Henry Thomas in a 1960s-set tale of a widow with two daughters, one Ouija board, and a family home with a hell of a dark secret buried in the basement. Ouija: Origin of Evil is streaming on HBO Max.
Where can you watch Doctor Sleep (2019)?
Much like Ouija—but for entirely different reasons—nobody was really crying out for a sequel to The Shining. But Stephen King wrote one, and fortunately the inevitable sequel found its way into Flanagan’s filmography, bringing us a film that pays homage to both King’s original and sequel novels and Stanley Kubrick’s much-loved (by everyone except King, seemingly) 1980 film. Doctor Sleep might not be as scary as The Shining, but it’s a visually dazzling showcase for Flanagan, who somehow makes dread, despair, decay, and a plot that involves a lot of people going into their own heads feel dynamic and exciting, not to mention lush and gorgeous. He’s obviously found a very fruitful niche in the realm of Netflix horror series (after Midnight Mass, he’s got another series, The Midnight Club) but eventually—hopefully—he’ll return to the big screen one of these days. Doctor Sleep is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Midnight Mass begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, September 24.
Away we go! Seth MacFarlane's Captain Ed Mercer and the rest of his intrepid starship crew are headed for "New Horizons" in Season 3 of The Orville. The hit comedy series — which boasts a fresh subtitle in the first teaser trailer for the first new batch of episodes in more than two years — will officially makes its return in March 2022 as a Hulu exclusive (after airing its first two seasons on Fox).
Set 400 years in the future, the show (a Star Trek-inspired comedy molded in the vein of cultural touchstones like Galaxy Quest) follows the the U.S.S. Orville crew as they explore strange new worlds, plumb the mysteries of the universe, and navigate their own interpersonal relationships. MacFarlane, who also created the project, leads a core cast comprised of Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Chad L. Coleman, Jessica Szohr, and Anne Winters. Season 3 is also set to feature one of Norm Macdonald's final performances.
Watch the teaser below:
Season 3 has been in the works since 2019 when MacFarlane, appearing at New York Comic Con, announced the show's migration to Hulu. Production was ultimately delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and didn't kick off until early 2021. Jordan Helman, Hulu's head of scripted originals, provided an update last month, assuring fans that a new season was still on the way and going so far as to voice his optimism that the streaming service is interested in a fourth installment.
“I believe the fans of the show that are coming to us from Fox will be deeply excited and satiated," Helman said. "I also think for new fans that maybe didn’t experience it, it will feel new to them.”
In addition to serving as creator and writer, MacFarlane is also an executive producer along with Brannon Braga, David A. Goodman, Jon Cassar, Jason Clark, and Howard Griffith.
The Orville boldly returns for its third season on Hulu March 10, 2022.
Earlier this year, EPIX launched the eerie period series Chapelwaite, an unexpected but atmospheric Stephen King adaptation that follows a widower haunted by both grief and madness as he returns to his family's ancestral home. Now, a few episodes into the series, the mysteries surrounding the title manor are deepening and darkening — and we have an exclusive clip of what's coming, featuring an iconic King locale.
Chapelwaite follows Charles Boone (Adrien Brody), a sea captain who returns to land after the death of his wife with the hope of raising their children in a more stable home environment. To do this, he takes advantage of his inheritance and moves his family into Chapelwaite, the Boone family estate in Maine, hoping the lumber holdings that come with it will sustain them. Even as Charles tries to stabilize his children's lives with the help of a local governess and writer (Emily Hampshire), though, an old family madness begins plaguing him. What begins as sounds of apparent rats in the house's walls begins to morph into something much stranger, sending Charles on a journey into the heart of his family's past, and potential future, tragedies.
In this week's episode, "The Prophet," Charles' journey and the apparent madness growing out of it will lead him to Jerusalem's Lot, a former family company town (and, we know, past version of 'Salem's Lot) that apparently holds dark secrets connected to past members of the Boone clan. In the exclusive clip below, you'll see Charles' very first encounter with what's left of the town, and it's not pretty.
Adapted from the short story "Jerusalem's Lot," a Lovecraftian tale which appeared in King's 1978 collection Night Shift, Chapelwaite expands upon the original story not just by upping the length, but raising the stakes. In the original tale, Charles Boone arrives at Chapelwaite with a manservant, and only recounts his adventures and ordeals through letters addressed to a man called "Bones." The story is very effective as an homage to Lovecraft's tales of epistolary horror, in which a learned man seems to slowly go mad through his own writings, but the series takes things in a different direction.
Developed for television by Jason and Peter Filardi, the series takes a more ensemble-based approach to the horrors, and adds the element of writer Rebecca Morgan (Hampshire) to the mix. As she begins to care for Boone's children, she also attempts to use the family's troubles in her own writing, creating tension that may yet pay off in the show in unexpected ways. Add in the obvious family dynamics, as Charles tries to protect his children from his family's own generations-long curse, and the show becomes an immersive horror saga that expands well beyond the bounds of the original narrative.
The next episode of Chapelwaite airs Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern on EPIX. Previous episodes are available to stream on-demand and via the EPIX app.
Last week, the first teaser trailer for Amazon Prime’s I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series—based on the 1972 book and 1997 movie of the same name—came out and we were underwhelmed, especially given that the show is being produced by horror maestro James Wan. The teaser seemed to be comprised of hedonistic centennials grinding on each other. Happily, a new, full trailer for the upcoming series is here to remind you they’re all going to die brutally.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, the movie, or failed to watch the trailer above for some reason, here’s the official synopsis:
“One year after the fatal car accident that haunted their graduation night, a group of teenagers find themselves bound together by a dark secret and stalked by a brutal killer. As they try to piece together who’s after them, they reveal the dark side of their seemingly perfect town—and themselves. Everyone is hiding something, and uncovering the wrong secret could be deadly.”
While the movie portrayed the accidental killers as real people who made a bad choice on the spur of the moment, this trailer for the I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series seemingly paints its cast solely as self-entitled teens, which if true will make it very tough to care about these characters’ lives. It’s often satisfying to watch a slasher murder a bad person, but that’s not particularly scary—and it will be even less scary if extended to an entire TV series.
But this is merely a trailer, and there’s no reason to believe that somehow Wan, creator of The Conjuring universe and producer of Saw and Insidious franchises, has suddenly lost his touch. We’ll see when this show, which is clearly set during two summers in Hawaii, premieres October 15 on Amazon Prime.
I Saw What You Did Last Summer stars Madison Iseman, Bill Heck, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman, Ashley Moore, Sebastian Amoruso, Fiona Rene, Cassie Beck, and Brooke Bloom.
It's time to start the music, it's time to dim the lights. This October, the Muppets are back with a new Halloween special, all centered on one of the scariest places on Earth. As revealed in a teaser released earlier this year, Muppets Haunted Mansion is coming to Disney+ just in time for all your spooky streaming needs. Now, the full trailer has arrived to show you exactly what your favorite Muppets look like when they're in full Halloween mode.
The setup for Muppets Haunted Mansion is quite simple: The Great Gonzo and his pal Pepe the King Prawn must take on the greatest challenge of their lives, which is saying something considering Gonzo's reputation as a daredevil. The challenge? Spend one night in a legendary haunted mansion, and try to make it out alive. Check out what happens when Gonzo and Pepe accept the challenge in the trailer below.
But as the first look reveals, this isn't just any Haunted Mansion. It's the Disney Haunted Mansion, complete with stretching ceilings, a haunted banquet room, a madam in a crystal ball (played by none other than Miss Piggy), and all the other trappings that make the legendary attraction so spooky. Plus, because these are the Muppets we're talking about, we also get things like Haunted Stand-Up Comedy from Fozzie Bear himself.
And of course, what Muppets special would be complete without a haunted host of ghoulish guest stars? Muppets Haunted Mansion will feature all your favorite Muppets, of course, but you'll also see the likes of Danny Trejo, Will Arnett, Darren Criss, Sasheer Zamata, Taraji P. Henson, Chriss Metz, Alfonso Ribiero, Yvette Nicole Brown, the late, legendary Ed Asner, and more.
Plus, it's just nice to see the Muppets back in full-on festive special mode, particularly since fans have been able to binge The Muppet Show on Disney+ for the last few months. For a while it seemed we were getting a brand-new, full-on Muppets streaming series from the platform, executive produced by none other than Disney star Josh Gad, but the company axed that plan (for a show ironically titled Muppets Live Another Day) back in 2019. Since then, it's been a little hard to pin down exactly when the beloved Jim Henson creations would be able to make another major project.
Now we know, and it's great to see them all costumed up and ready to bring some joy to the Halloween season. With any luck, more specials and even series will follow.
Muppets Haunted Mansion arrives October 8 on Disney+, so the only question now is how many times you'll manage to watch it before Halloween.
In the spring of 2020, writer/director Mike Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy assembled the ensemble cast for Midnight Mass, a Flanagan dream project that's been years in the making. The cast was set, a table read was meant to be the precursor to shooting, and it seemed the project was finally happening.
Then, as we all know now, the COVID-19 pandemic happened, shutting down film and television production for months. That summer, Midnight Mass became one of the first major productions to resume work in North America. By that point, it wasn't just about making a good new horror miniseries. It was, for the cast and crew, something more personal.
"I think we all felt like that's where it became personal for us," Midnight Mass star Rahul Kohli told SYFY WIRE. "Now it is our passion. We love this man [Flanagan] to death. We will go to hell and back for him. We're going to do everything we can to make sure that we get the seven episodes in the can for this guy. We love the project, we love the script, and what that meant was none of us backed out. No one backed out."
Even without the new rigors of pandemic protocols applied to production, Midnight Mass was always destined to be a massive undertaking. Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Flanagan veterans like Kohli, Kate Siegel, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, and Robert Longstreet, as well as newcomers to the "Flanagan Family" of actors like Zach Gilford and Hamish Linklater, Midnight Mass sets out to deeply immerse the viewer in the lives of the few dozen residents of Crockett Island, a small community that seems to be constantly receding.
The fortunes of the community, known affectionately as "The Crock Pot" seem to shift suddenly and perhaps miraculously with the arrival of two figures, one new and one familiar. The familiar one is Riley Flynn (Gilford), a recovering alcoholic fresh out of prison for an accident that cost a young woman her life. Riley's story is immediate evidence of the emotionally challenging tale in store for Midnight Mass viewers, but for Gilford, coming aboard a Flanagan production for the first time was an exercise in simply engaging with a very fulfilling script.
"I feel like Mike puts such good things on the page that it was easy to just be this person in this situation, because what they were saying felt authentic," Gilford said. "You memorize your lines, and then you can just be there and listen to Hamish or whoever, or be in the montage scene, and it kind of just happens. You just be this person. You’re like, 'OK, this guy had a drunk driving accident. He killed someone. He carries all this guilt. He hasn’t forgiven himself, but he has this issue with religion that he has come to through his experience…' It’s so complex, but it’s all right there. If you just say the words, it’s kind of hard to act bad, I think."
Opposite Gilford's Riley and his "issue with religion" is Father Paul (Linklater), the newly installed parish priest in Crockett, brought onboard to replace a departed monsignor. Father Paul brings with him an immediate sense of renewal on the island, not just in terms of his natural preaching charisma, but in terms of the miracles his arrival seems to bring. Though what's really going on isn't something we'd dare spoil here, Linklater made sure to emphasize that, whatever's happening behind the priest's collar, Father Paul is sincere in his convictions.
"It’s sort of like the scripture, I think, has opened up for him, given the experience that he has," Liklater said. "It’s sort of a new slantways reading of the book, where a lot of things make more sense than they probably ever did his other times ‘round reading the book."
As Father Paul's presence influences the dynamics of the Crock Pot more and more, citizens naturally begin taking sides. Leading the charge of the faithful is Bev Keane (Sloyan), a deeply devoted servant of the local parish who finds the apparent new age of miracles both captivating and vindicating after years of being essentially labeled the town busybody.
"I think for her it’s the conviction that’s driving her. But unfortunately, I think also underneath, I think you see some in [later episodes], is she’s so determined and convicted because she’s terrified," Sloyan said. "She’s terrified of being wrong. She’s terrified that these things that she’s put her belief and her life in, she needs them to be true. She needs them to work out. In that need is the fear. So, both are there all the time. So, nothing is getting in her way, because I feel she feels that her life depends on it."
On the other side, very much outside of the realm of the church and its happenings, is Sheriff Hassan (Kohli), a devout Muslim who struggles with the judgement he feels from various Crockett residents. For Kohli, playing a character so separate from his co-stars meant that he often took on a very literal sense of isolation, something that was easier to do physically because of COVID, but no less emotionally challenging.
"There was a good chunk of weeks going by where they all worked together on these [church scenes]. By the time I came back in and I was brought into the fold, they had card games, private jokes, you know, they knew each other all very intimately, almost like, you know, like a congregation," Kohli said. "And then it was me sitting in a chair…[I] put headphones on and sat there like a sore thumb. So that was my experience of Midnight Mass. "Don't know if it was worth it. Still learning my trade, still figuring out how I want to work and how far I want to take things, and my level of commitment. I very much made it up to everyone, though, once we wrapped."
Though many other members of the cast did get to spend more time in production together, the COVID protocols involved in making Midnight Mass still presented various other challenges, some of which they were able to use to their advantage. As Erin Greene, another recently returned Crockett resident who rekindles an old connection with Riley, Siegel found herself spending day after day surrounded by masked faces, with the only exception being her co-star.
"The adjustment period towards 'you can’t actually talk to anybody, and our director is behind his KN95 and his goggles and his face shield, and when he starts speaking, all of it fogs up, so on some level you’re being directed by Bane,' it was really hard at the beginning," Siegel recalled. "And then after the adjustment period, which lasted about a week or two...eventually, as we all did in the pandemic, we got used to it. We got used to this new normal. Then I started to see how it could be useful in the performance aspect of being isolated and how Zach’s face was the only face I saw for weeks. I would go home and go to bed, and I would wake up and go to work separate from Mike [Siegel and Flanagan are married as well as frequent collaborators]. We would all be in our full PPE, and the only person I could see was Zach. I think that level of intimacy is on the screen."
For Linklater, a first-timer who praised the Mike Flanagan/Trevor Macy experience in a roundtable with the press, the added layer of isolation only enhanced the sense of camaraderie, as the show developed an extra intensity that translated to vitality.
"I felt like it was such a full experience," he said. "It’s sort of shocking that it turned into a piece of product that’s going to be binge-able, because we really were living in the experience of making this show because of the pandemic, because of the pressure cooker or pressure release of getting to go to work after being locked in our homes for so long. And then getting to do a show where there was so much which is such an exhale of a lot of held breath, you know? That’s how it felt. So, for me, I feel like it’s sort of some of the most richly-lived few months of my life, because it was really a lived-in experience more than just making a show, because of the pandemic of it all and because of the material and the people."
Now, Midnight Mass is ready for the world, after years of development from Flanagan and Macy, months of pandemic delays, and a production full of masks and frequent COVID testing. In summing up his experience on the series, even with the isolation and the protocols and the other struggles, Kohli said he wouldn't change a thing, and he suspected his castmates felt the same way.
"I think it became personal because it was a fight. It was a battle," Kohli said. "It was work. It was tough. I was having the biggest career anxiety I've ever had, completely alone, nowhere to go. Even the gym got called into question at one point when the cases started to go up in Canada. But we sure were going to do it, and we did it, and we did it safe, and now the world's getting to see it and we're starting to see the buzz and we're like, 'There you go.' And it was worth all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it."
Apple TV+’s Foundation — the epic, centuries-spanning sci-fi series — is set to premiere on Sept. 24, bringing the sci-fi epic to television. A story that big will need an intro to match, right?
While we count down the few remaining days until then, SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first listen to the show’s main title soundtrack. The score, created by Emmy and BAFTA award-winning composer Bear McCreary, is as expansive as the show based on Isaac Asimov’s timeless trilogy.
This piece will not only play at the beginning of each episode, getting us in a proper Foundation mood — it will also be in the series’ soundtrack released by Lakeshore Records.
Check it out below:
"When showrunner David S. Goyer invited me to join him on his adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s seminal science fiction novel Foundation for Apple TV+, my imagination immediately went into overdrive,” McCreary says. “Inspired by the ‘psychohistory’ of the source material, I wanted to incorporate mathematics into the score. Using custom computer software, I crafted an ‘orchestra’ of sampled instruments playing dazzling patterns of algorithmically generated musical notes that would be virtually impossible for human beings to play.”
Here’s the complete tracklist for the series’ soundtrack:
"Foundation Main Title"
"The Only Story"
"Gaal Leaves Synnax"
"Journey to Trantor"
"The Imperial Library"
"Visions and Arrest"
"The Trial of Hari Seldon"
"Over the Horizon"
"The Promise of the Imperium"
"The Dream of Cleon the First (feat. Raya Yarbrough)"
"The Chant of the Luminous"
"Foundation End Credits"
The first two episodes of Foundation premiere on Apple TV+ on Sept. 24. The remaining seven episodes will drop one per week on the following Fridays. Foundation — Apple TV+ Original Series Soundtrack will be available digitally on Sept. 24 as well. You can pre-save it on Spotify here.
Because few things really scare Gonzo the Great (performed by Dave Goelz), it doesn’t take much convincing to get him to agree to spend a night with Pepe the King Prawn (Bill Barretta) in a decrepit house infested with ghosts on Halloween night. The new trailer brings Gonzo and Pepe to the titular mansion on a misty evening and shows you how the pair seemingly avoid every glaring red flag that they’d be better off looking for something else to do.
Neither the frog nor the shrimp makes a fuss about the odd vibes coming from the Ghost Host (Will Arnett) who greets them, or the way that the subjects of paintings on the walls appear to move on their own. Gonzo and Pepe are that dense, though, and once they come face to face with some of the mansion’s residents who are clearly reaching out from beyond the grave—Yvette Nicole Brown (as The Hearse Driver), Darren Criss (as The Caretaker), and Taraji P. Henson (as The Bride) to name a few who may or may not be living—it’s all they can do not to run screaming for their lives.
It’s not yet clear if the Muppets will make a nod to Disney’s previous narrative feature adaptation of the Haunted Mansion ride (or the upcoming one), but what’s certain is that the new story will be packed with a number of celebrity cameos (some of whom are definitely going to sing) including Alfonso Ribeiro, the late Ed Asner, Danny Trejo, Sasheer Zamata, Skai Jackson, Craig Robinson, John Stamos, Chrissy Metz, Geoff Keighley, Jeannie Mai, and Kim Irvine.
Muppets Haunted Mansion hits Disney+ on October 8.
Peacock is about to get real spooky. When October rolls around, the streaming service will be offering up an exhaustive collection of shows and films to keep you scared out of your wits until the 31st when costumed children come knocking at your door, asking for free candy.
From huge new horror flicks, slasher classics that have scared us for decades, and a whole lot more — there'll be plenty hitting Peacock to ring in All Hallow's Eve.
That said, the second annual "Peacocktober" lineup actually kicks off today with the debut of The Toolbox Killer, a two-hour documentary about the 1979 murder spree committed by Lawrence Bittaker and his partner, Roy Norris. September will close out with the premiere of Unidentified with Demi Lovato(Sep. 30), a docu-series in which the Grammy-winning artist explores the possibility of life beyond this planet alongside their sister and friend.
The festivities are set to pick up even more scary steam on Thursday, Oct. 7 with the release of two new series: One of Us is Lying and Create the Escape. One week later on Oct. 14, a hair-raising competition special rises from the local cemetery in Snoop and Martha's Very Tasty Halloween. Michael Myers returns home to Haddonfield the very next day (Oct. 15) in David Gordon Green's long-awaited Halloween Kills(hitting Peacock the same day it stabs its way into theaters). Slashers not your bag? Not a problem! That Friday also marks the return of all eight Harry Potter films to the platform.
And then you've got all the Halloween-themed episodes of beloved TV shows like Cheers, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, Parks and Recreation, Superstore, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order.
Here's what else you can expect from Peacocktober:
The Girl in the Woods
You Should Have Left
Friday the 13th (franchise)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (franchise)
Elvira's Movie Macabre library
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (the 2004 film adaptation)
Universal monster classics (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man)
The Purge (TV series)
Charmed (the original eight seasons)
Firestarter (the 2002 miniseries)
Cold Case Files
(Peacock & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)
While we’ll still be waiting a while for James Gunn to work new MCU magic with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the wacky-pack part of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is showing up much sooner in video game form. Debuting in the same year it was announced, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game arrives next month, and when its steps on stage, it’ll boast a licensed music soundtrack that trades Gunn’s MCU preference for 1970s tunes for the glamorous sheen of the 1980s.
We’ve already marveled (pun intended) over just how deep and wide publisher Square Enix’s impressive ‘80s music library is for Guardians, as well as how it’s cleverly incorporated into the game’s team spirit-boosting “Huddle” feature. But developer Eidos-Montréal must’ve caught the same music bug that bit Peter Quill as a child, because that’s only half the story behind a much larger awesome music mix.
Marvel’s Guardians has some fun with a bit of revisionist history for the backstory that explains how Quill settled on “Star-Lord” as his self-appointed superhero signature. It was the name of his favorite band as a kid, the new story goes — and the game’s creative team took that idea as inspiration to start writing some original tracks of their own. Eventually, it led to an entire alum’s worth of prog-metal music — or at least that’s our description for it, based on what you can hear for yourself around the 3:15 mark in the clip below:
Pretty metal, right? Writing an extra tune or two started out casually enough, Eidos senior audio director Steve Szczepkowski explains: “I wrote some lyrics; we tried writing the first song, which was ’Space Riders (With No Names),’” and things just took off from there.
Once the idea really got rolling, though, the team ended up recording a whole album of spaced-out tunes, all of which ended up featuring Szczepkowski — who at first thought he was just doing demo duty — on vocals. And where there’s a 1980s-inspired album, there’s gotta be a band behind it with a proper name. Naturally, the team settled on the only name that made sense as an originally-composed accompaniment to Peter Quill’s post-Earth adventures: The Star-Lord Band.
“We wanted to celebrate the Guardians, and the whole rock and roll dysfunctional family, and everything that’s around all that,” says Szczepkowski, who behind the mic sounds a little like vintage Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden’s 1980s glory days. “Being able to do an album to support this is a huge honor, and I hope people enjoy the album as much as we enjoyed making it.”
Featuring an endless ‘80s playlist that ropes in everything from Rick Astley to Culture Club to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to Mötley Crüe, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy takes flight on Oct. 26 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
What makes Star Wars: Visions work so well in the first place is its almost ceaseless yearning for flair and flash always comes with storytelling that’s driven by the fundamental themes which have defined Star Wars for generations. One of the most dazzling of the nine animated shorts in the series understands this keenly—with a reminder of one of the Skywalker Saga’s most important lessons.
“The Twins”—produced by Studio Trigger and directed by Kill la Kill and Promare’s Hiroyuki Imaishi—is certainly one of the shorts that pushes the boundaries of what Star Wars fans might consider “logical” about a franchise. A franchise, we might remind you, in which ancient wizards wave glowsticks at each other and a new planet-killer shows up every Tuesday. If the child of Darth Vader pulling themselves inside a ship from the vacuum of space was enough to spark hotly contested debate for months, were it not emphasized that Visions is only adjacent to Star Wars canonicity, the sibling showdown between Karre (Junya Enoki/Neil Patrick Harris) and Am (Ryoko Shiraishi/Alison Brie), might’ve made a few heads explode.
Star Destroyers are stuck to other Star Destroyers, the vacuum of space that made people furious about Leia Organa is treated here like it might as well not exist. Ships are smashed about only to be perfectly fine, suits of armor explode and grow arms in a way that would make even General Grievous blush. Speaking of The Last Jedi and fan controversy, its “Holdo Maneuver” is echoed here (one of many echoes), but this time instead of one woman against a fleet it’s a boy, saber held high as he stands atop an X-Wing going to lightspeed, to carve a slash through time, space, and even part of his sister. Suffice to say, it’s an absurdist, kinetic, and dazzling riff on Star Wars, visually speaking.
It’s completely gorgeous, a little bit silly, but self-aware enough to know all this in the first place, as all good Star Wars should, alongside those pointed echoes to its past. There’s always another Empire and Republic, there’s always another world-ender. There are always important siblings. Light and dark. And lightsabers, even if the lightsabers here turn into whips and extended about the place like Lumiya has very suddenly come back into fashion. But it’s the heightened surreality of visuals of the “The Twins” that serve to more starkly highlight the thematic undercurrent beneath those visuals: a lesson that Star Wars has turned to over and over, but one that sat at the heart of its sequel trilogy.
Early on in “The Twins,” we’re told that Karre and Am are twins of the Dark Side: whatever version of some kind of Evil Empire they’re on in its nebulous time frame, up against whatever Republic, they are the product of Dark Side cultists breeding a dyad of their own, warriors whose sole purpose is to rule the galaxy through fear and power as brother and sister. That is, until the eve of the testing of their planet-killer—this time, taking a page from The Rise of Skywalker’s visual textbook, by slapping a Death Star laser as the connective housing between two Star Destroyers—and Karre simply decides that he’s had enough of this endless cycle of power-chasing. Nabbing the giant kyber crystal powering the Gemini Star Destroyer’s superlaser, Karre makes for a hasty exit, but not before his sister, fully committed to her destiny as the Dark Side’s vessel, goes all-out to stop him.
Amid their hectic battle on top of the Star Destroyers themselves, it’s made more clear that one of the reasons Karre has turned his back on the Empire is a vision he had through the Force. While he lacks the raw power his sister has, and craves more of, his symbiotic relationship with her gave him a vision of his sibling’s doom that he couldn’t shake. Time and time again he asks of her, as things get increasingly more and more dangerous, to come with him—not necessarily to get away from the Empire because what it’s doing is bad, or even because of his vision of her death. Instead, it’s out of love. Karre wants Am to take the opportunity he has: to be free of the bloodline they were raised from, to take their futures into their own hands. There’s no need for control and order at their hands if they can be free—if the whole galaxy can be free—to decide who they are for themselves alone.
Star Wars and destiny go hand in hand, and always have; from Luke’s battle with his father, to the prophecy of the chosen one, all the way to the revelation of Rey’s own lineage in The Rise of Skywalker. Fates, by blood and name pulse throughout its very heart, for better or worse, placing the sweeping stakes of a galaxy far, far away into the hands of a chosen few. But as important as that idea is to Star Wars—and the reason “The Twins” itself is riffing on it in the first place—equally important is the refutation of that prescribed power. Countless Star Wars heroes become heroes out of nowhere, deemed nothing or unimportant in the grand scheme of bloodlines like the Skywalkers and Palpatines, only to help save the galaxy over and over. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren’s venomous revelation to Rey that she is meant to be “nothing” is what sets her free when he can’t be—already desperately lashing out at the restrictions of his own legacy as the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. When it’s revealed in The Rise of Skywalker to be a lie and that she is, in fact, a Palpatine, her greatest victory is in refuting what that destiny is supposed to mean for her. Instead, she creates her own, taking on the name of Skywalker—not because she is of its blood or because she is destined to, but because it is what she wants to do for herself.
Karre and Am’s story playing with that idea from the adjacent perspective of not two fated heroes, but fated villains, is a funny twist in and of itself. But that it does so to challenge the idea of destiny once more—to remind us that power comes not from armor, crystals, super lasers, or fate, but in taking hold of your own identity and self in a big, wide world—makes it arguably more true to Star Wars than its hyperactive, technicolor action would make it first seem.
To paraphrase Gary Cole's Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, If y'all could stop asking Chloe Bennet about Secret Invasion, that'd be great. In a multi-part Instagram story posted to her account Wednesday, the clearly flustered actress (known for playing Daisy Johnson on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) took the time to shoot down persistent rumors that she will appear in the upcoming MCU TV series on Disney+.
"I have avoided saying anything like this in general on social media or whatever because I thought it would maybe just blow over. But it has not,” Bennet said. “I am in no way attached or involved — even at all or a little bit — in the Secret Invasion Marvel [series]. I honestly don’t even know really what that is. I am only coming on here to say this because it’s gotten to the point where every day, I’m getting hundreds of messages about this ... I’m now getting approached in person."
Bennet went on to recount how one brazen individual approached her at Target earlier that day while she was in the middle of shopping for feminine products. "Uh...a little inappropriate," she added. "So, I figured I would just clear the air. I have no involvement in that and I’m sorry to break the news to you about that. But hopefully, this puts that to rest."
We're not sure who needs to hear this, but here's a little pro tip: never harass a person — Marvel actor or otherwise — while they're shopping for personal stuff. The actress also addressed a number of recent Instagram posts with Apple's alien emoji, stressing that they were not meant as a hint at Secret Invasion, whose storyline revolves around a conspiracy amongst the shape-shifting Skrulls to take over the planet.
“To be clear, I love the enthusiasm and I know all of your messages are out of such excitement and it’s from such a pure place," Bennet continued. "I appreciate everyone so much [but] I just feel really bad because I feel like [I’ve gotten your hopes up] with really weird alien social media posts and my maybe odd behavior. It may seem like I’m giving some weird subliminal messages, but it’s not. That’s 100 percent me pretty much losing my mind in the middle of a pandemic."
The fan-casting almost certainly stems from the fact that Quake played a role in the comic version of Secret Invasion, and at the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the horizon was wide open for Daisy to go off and have more Marvel-ous adventures off-screen in space. But, while S.H.I.E.L.D. often twisted and adapted to MCU movie twists, the films (and now Disney+ MCU shows) have never reciprocated that narrative love. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a lot of fun, but for now, it seems those adventures will remain in their own little corner and not tie into the grand plan.
So far, the only confirmed cast members for the show are MCU alumni Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and Ben Mendelsohn (Talos) who lead an ensemble of Marvel newcomers: Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Olivia Colman (The Crown), Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night in Miami), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore), and Killian Scott (The Commuter).
It's unclear when Secret Invasion will make its way to Disney+, but there has already been plenty of narrative set-up by way of the post-credits scenes featured in Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision. To be fair, though, the latter might have actually been laying the foundation for Nia DaCosta's Captain Marvel sequel: The Marvels (out Nov. 11, 2022).
Deadline reports Kevin Bacon has joined the cast of Blumhouse’s currently untitled horror film set at a conversion camp in an undisclosed role.
Deadline also reports Dario Argento is attached to produce She Will, a “psychological thriller” from director Charlotte Colbert starring Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell, and Rupert Everett. The story follows “aging actress Veronica, who after an operation, goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse, Desi. The two develop an unlikely bond as mysterious forces give Veronica the power to confront her past and enact revenge within her dreams.”
Death Note 2
In a recent interview with Screen Rant, producer Masi Oka confirmed a sequel to 2017's Death Note is still in development at Netflix.
All I can say is still in the works. Nothing has been decided either way. I can say that we are listening to the fans and hopefully the fans will be happy with the direction we’re going.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
A lovely dance takes place in the new IMAX poster.
There’s also a pair of new posters for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Superman punches holes through the Joker, Clayface, and Solomon Grundy in a new “red band” trailer for Injustice.
Let the Right One In
Showtime has officially ordered ten episodes of Let the Right One: The Series, starring Demián Bichir and Madison Taylor Baez. [TV Line]
In conversation with TV Line, Michelle Gomez revealed her Madame Rouge will not speak with a French accent.
I was interested as to why her name was Madame Rouge. I thought she was French, and I was gearing up for a French accent, but they ended up not needing it.
American Horror Story: Double Feature
“Death Valley” begins in the trailer for next week’s episode of American Horror Story.
Finally, Alice has a meltdown while Jughead pretends to be Tabitha’s boyfriend in the trailer for next week’s episode of Riverdale.
The story begins in 1181 CE. On August 6, Chinese and Japanese astronomers saw a "new" star in the sky, what they called a "Guest Star." It brightened over time before fading, getting about as bright as Saturn at its peak. In February 1182 it faded from view, having been visible to the unaided eye for six months.
This sounds very much like a supernova*, an exploding star. But when stars explode the expanding debris glows for millennia, yet no such supernova remnant has ever been seen for this 1181 Guest Star. One problem is that the astronomers of old didn't map the position of this new star terribly accurately relative to modern measurements, with different astronomers noting positions that were off by several degrees from one another. This area of the sky, in the constellation of Cassiopeia, is in the plane of the galaxy, so it's just littered with gas clouds, dust streamers, and stars, making an ID difficult.
Modern astronomers thought perhaps that an object called 3C 58 might fit the bill, since it looks like a supernova remnant and is close to that part of the sky. The problem is the age is likely several thousand years, so it's way too old.
A group of astronomers called the Deep Sky Hunters have been combing through survey catalogs of the sky looking for previously undetected objects. They've found literally hundreds of small, faint nebulae that had gone unnoticed. One of them, which they have dubbed Pa30, looks very much like it's the missing supernova remnant.
The nebula is about 7,500 light years away, a decent distance across the galaxy. The nebula is roughly 7 light years across and shows a shell-like structure, both of which are typical for a supernova. The gas is expanding at 1,100 kilometers per second, a bit slow for a typical supernova, but given that rate and the nebula's size, it would've started expanding about 990 years ago (± about 250 years), which makes it just the right age to be the remnant for Supernova 1181.
The nebula is weird, though. It shows no evidence of having any hydrogen or helium, but X-ray observations show it has lots of neon, magnesium, silicon, and sulfur. These are consistent with what's called a Type I supernova, where a white dwarf (the core of a star like the Sun after it dies) explodes after gaining enough mass to undergo catastrophic thermonuclear fusion. Basically, it's a huge nuclear bomb.
The star in the center, Parker's Star, is a weirdo too. It's what's called a Wolf Rayet star, one that shows no sign of hydrogen or helium, and is really hot. Like, ridiculously hot, 200,000° C (360,000° F; the Sun is about 5,500° C / 9,900° F). It also shows signs of blowing an incredibly fast wind of subatomic particles, and is glowing fiercely, 40,000 times brighter than the Sun!
Adding all this together, the astronomers think it's an unusual and rare type of supernova called a Type Iax. This is when two white dwarfs (one made of carbon and oxygen, and the other oxygen and neon) merge. The star explodes, blasting out gas and leaving behind a superhot compact object, likely a neutron star.
This kind of supernova is generally not as luminous as a usual Type Ia and fades more slowly. That fits with Supernova 1181, which didn't get very bright considering its distance (it would've easily outshone Venus if it were a standard Type Ia), and took many months to fade away.
So it all fits! I'm pretty well convinced they've found the remnant from Supernova 1181.
It's great to finally have an answer for this. Certainly the historical mystery being solved is very satisfying. But moreover, it's hard to know what kind of supernova went off without seeing its remnant. A massive star exploding at the end of its life has different signatures than one from a white dwarf blowing its lid, so finding the remnant in this case means knowing what happened. Even better, it's a rare kind, making it only the second known Type Iax in our galaxy (the other was only discovered a couple of years ago!).
It can be easy to disregard things seen by ancient people, relegating them to myth or ignorance. But in fact many cultures were quite good at recording what they saw, and in this case it's led to a very interesting mystery and a lovely scientific conclusion.
And, like most scientific discoveries, solving this case just opens another. There's a lot more to be learned from this object, so I'd bet more observations of it will come. We see these Iax explosions in other galaxies, so having one in or own back yard means what we have here is a wonderful chance to understand them much better.
And that's the best way to solve a mystery.
*Before the physics was understood, many such stars flaring into seeming existence were seen, and when one was seen it was called a stella nova, or "new star." Ironically, these came from white dwarfs, which are very old. In the 1900s, when it became clear some stars exploded entirely, they were called supernovae, but they aren't new either! In fact, they're when stars die. Astronomical terms are a pain in the neck.
The Araripe Basin in northeastern Brazil is well-known for its fossil stores, but in 2013 it was the scene of a crime ripped straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Barrels discovered during a police raid at the Santos Harbor concealed, among other things, six slabs of limestone containing the most complete specimen of Tupandactylus navigans — a species of pterosaur — ever discovered. A specimen of this caliber, of course, belongs in a museum and has since been turned over to the Laboratório de Paleontologia Sistemática of the Instituto de Geociências at Universidade de São Paulo for research. Findings were recently published in the journal Plos One.
“The Federal Police was already investigating the fossil traffic in Brazil at that time, and this operation was called 'Operação Munique' (Operation Munich). Most of the fossils are fishes, insects, occasionally plants and reptiles. Only two pterosaurs were recovered in this apprehension, and I've only managed to study the one we published in Plos One (the other is not as complete, but we plan on tackling it in the future),” Victor Beccari, lead author of the paper, tells SYFY WIRE.
Previously discovered specimens of this pterosaur consist of isolated skulls or partial skeletons, but this recent find is near-complete and well-articulated, offering scientists new insight into the animal’s anatomy and behavior. Once out of the barrels, the slabs were placed together like a tapestry and observed both visually and via X-ray CT scans, which revealed structures still covered by sediments.
“Now we have a clearer picture of the full skeleton of this animal, which was known before only by its head. Being able to look at the ecomorphology and start studying the biomechanics with the 3D data we've acquired is definitely my favorite part of this work,” Beccari says.
Hailing from the early Cretaceous period, Tupandactylus navigans belongs to a group of animals known as tapejaridae which span geographies all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and of course the Americas. The flighted reptiles were known for their large crests, the likes of which would make even your average cassowary (a living dinosaur if we’ve ever seen one) balk. The precise purpose of these crests is unknown, but may have been sexually dimorphous, playing a role in the mating process.
With regard to impressive crests, Tupa. navigans is no exception, bearing the largest dentary crest among tapejarine pterosaurs, accounting for roughly 40 percent of its overall height, the soft tissues of which are beautifully preserved in the Brazilian specimen. Most importantly, however, are the details uncovered from the rest of the skeleton.
Like modern birds, the bones of pterosaurs are hollow and fragile, which makes them less than ideal candidates for preservation. As such, complete specimens are notoriously rare, which makes this find especially exciting.
Among the results outlined by Beccari et al. is a new understanding of Tupandactylus navigans’ relationship with flight. We imagine pterosaurs as high-flying predators of the kind which might swoop down from the sky and attack a fleeing Jimmy Buffet, consuming him and his two frozen cocktails in a single gulp. In reality, Tupa. navigans might have spent most of its time foraging on the ground.
“Tupandactylus navigans had all the adaptations for a powered flight, such as large muscle anchorage areas in the first arm bone (the humerus) and the fusion of the first back (dorsal) vertebras into a structure we call notarium," Beccari says. "However, it has a disproportionately tall head crest that, with an elongated neck (which it had), would possibly hamper long distance flights. This animal was possibly using flight as an escape alternative for predators, or for short distances to look for food and mates.”
The body structures suggest that while flight was possible, it was energy-expensive and couldn’t be sustained over long periods. Additionally, comparison to related species and examination of jaw structures indicate a primary diet of hard vegetation.
Instead of the high-flying aggressive predator of Jurassic Park fame, Tupa. navigans was probably closer to a 3-foot-tall turkey with an eight-foot wingspan. While this incredible fossil specimen offered a lot of new data about the species, we might have learned even more.
“There's plenty we lose when a specimen is collected like this. Since we don't know the exact location, we cannot keep digging in the same place to look for other specimens that lived and died with Tupandactylus navigans," Beccari says. "We do know it comes from the Lower Cretaceous (around 115 million years ago) of the Crato Formation in the Chapada do Araripe, northeastern Brazil. But the exact location and layer are impossible to know. Therefore, even though we have lots of fossils from the same site, we cannot be 100% sure that all these organisms existed at the exact same time, as there can be even hundreds to thousands of years separating the layers there. That's one of the worst ways to collect fossils, without the presence of a professional paleontologist.”
The specimen is currently on display at the São Paulo's Geosciences Museum
“You can’t sit with us,” Regina George’s infamous quote from Mean Girls, evidently goes for planets, too, but this clique doesn't wear pink on Wednesdays.
Planets that want any chance of being habitable should be able to hold on to enough surface water so life (at least as we know it) can survive. Mars is thought to have once had rivers and lakes — rock samples recently picked up by Perseverance are showing evidence that Jezero Crater, where it is crawling around, was once a massive lake. The problem is that Mars couldn’t hang around the habitable planets because it was a loser... of water.
What morphed into a frozen reddish wasteland is now thought to have turned inhospitable because it was too small to keep liquid water and other volatiles on the surface. Planetary scientist Kun Wang of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored a study, recently published in PNAS, that seeks to prove this through potassium isotopes found in Martian meteorites.
“The isotopic compositions of potassium is an index of volatile depletion,” he tells SYFY WIRE. “We used a potassium isotope tracer to show that Mars started out drier than Earth (less volatile-rich). Because of this, Mars, even the wetter early Mars, had no equal chance like our Earth to enable life.”
Volatiles are substances that vaporize easily, like water. How volatile a substance is depends on how fast it can vaporize. Potassium is moderately volatile, but when exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere, it turns into potassium peroxide vapor. Wang and his team measured 20 Martian meteorites that fell to Earth, which ranged from millions to billions of years old, by using potassium isotope tracers that are actually the ratio of potassium-41 (K-41) over potassium-39 (K-39). The compositions of these isotopes indicate how fast volatiles escaped Mars.
The isotope K-39 is lighter than K-41. Meaning, K-39 moves faster, fast enough to beat Martian escape velocity, the lowest velocity possible to escape the gravity of a planet or other body. Being more massive, Earth has more gravity and a higher escape velocity than Mars. Higher ratios of K-39 to K-41 told the researchers that more K-39 was lost during the era a particular meteorite was from. Any planet with a high ratio is giving away that it lost high amounts of volatiles. So much for the theory that early Mars had more volatiles than young Earth.
“The correlation between isotope compositions of potassium and planet surface gravity (determined by mass) means the smaller the bodies, the more volatiles have been lost,” Wang says. “This has been always expected; we were just the first to show this relationship with real data.”
Past measurements used a potassium-to-thorium (K-Th) ratio to find out how volatilization levels, but there were things that method missed. It was superficial like Regina George. If used through a remote sensing method, such as a spectrometer, it would only measure the K-Th ratio on the surface of Mars, while the K-39 to K-41 ratio measures meteorites that came from deeper inside the planet. It was also shallow like Regina. Results would be inconclusive if other processes messed with it. The K-39 to K-41 ratio method is not screwed up so easily.
There is another thing Mars wasn’t able to hold on to. Because it has no inner dynamo and therefore no magnetic field, its atmosphere was mercilessly blasted by solar winds and other space radiation for billions of years. Nearly no atmosphere means no protection from killer radiation. While there is no doubt that was involved in the inevitable destruction of what was once a potentially habitable planet, including the disappearance of life-sustaining water and other volatiles, the research carried out by Wang’s team showed that it was not the only reason.
“Most likely, Mars lost its volatiles during its formation stage (possibly through Magma Ocean), which is very fast when compared to its entire life,” he says. “Nevertheless, Mars is also losing volatiles through atmosphere being stripped slowly and continuously — a secondary effect compared to the initial loss.”
So Mars can’t sit with the habitable planets, and it doesn't wear pink, but at least it’s red(dish). Close enough.
Los Angeles, California may be the center of the movie world, but until now it hasn’t had a true center for movies. Sure, you can see famous handprints at the TCL Chinese Theater, stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or take a celebrity home tour. Visiting movie studios like Warner Bros. or Universal can be fun too. But short of places like the now-defunct Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, there is no place for a movie buff to go and see a large number of priceless artifacts or the building blocks used to make their favorite films.
Hollywood needed its own museum—something authoritative and definitive, a place where history lives in the present, a place where, no matter what day, year, or decade it is, the past is waiting for you. After almost a decade of preparation, on September 30 the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. Adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as the famous La Brea Tar Pits, this beautiful new structure designed by architect Renzo Piano is a place where you can go and see an actual Rosebud sled from the set of Citizen Kane, the Dude’s robe from The Big Lebowski, Furiosa’s arm from Mad Max: Fury Road, and so many other cinematic marvels in between. It’s a fantasyland for film fans that’s bound to become a must-stop destination for movie buffs.
io9/Gizmodo was invited to attend a press preview of the event where museum board members like Oscar-winner Tom Hanks spoke about how the museum will “transport [fans] to amazing places” until the end of time. At first, that sounds hyperbolic, but when you actually begin to explore the four floors of the building, the magic quickly becomes a reality. The museum is a gorgeous, overwhelming experience, filled with so many unforgettable things, it would reportedly take you three and a half days to read and experience it all. The 300,000 square foot space is split into two sections. There’s the Saban Building (where most of the gallery exhibitions are) and the David Geffen Theater (an eye-catching, dome-shaped area that architect Piano kindly asked fans to not call “a Death Star”—he suggests maybe “zeppelin,” “space ship” or “soap bubble”). The 1,000 seat theater, connected via an above-ground tunnel, will show films year-round, many in tandem with exhibitions.
Walking into the impressive space, among the first things you notice are the names of all the areas. There’s the “Spielberg Family Gallery,” “Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby,” “Shirley Temple Education Studio,” and many others. The museum is, in some ways, a gift from Hollywood to fans who have watched its movies for so many years—made with many, many generous donations (see a list here) from all sorts of celebrities. And that theme is seen throughout the museum, like when you notice the ruby slippers on display from The Wizard of Oz were “purchased with partial funds from Steven Spielberg,” and “the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation” among others. Both Spike Lee and Pedro Almodovar contributed pieces to exhibits they curated about their own works and careers. Props and mementos throughout are also donated by private collectors, film studios, other popular directors, and so much more. You truly get the sense that the film community felt there was a dire need for a place like this and were more than happy to help make it a reality.
The focal point of the museum is its 30,000 square foot, three-floor exhibition called “Stories of Cinema.” This is the “core” exhibit of the museum and spans not just the entirety of film history, but the scope of filmmaking itself. Some sections feel a little disjointed, but overall are still stunning. On the second floor, you get the aforementioned Rosebud sled (loaned by Spielberg) which is right next to one of Bruce Lee’s costumes from Enter the Dragon. That’s next to a presentation about Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, which connects to a section that’s all about the Academy Awards themselves which includes actual Oscar statues from across the years (If you ever wanted to see the Oscars given to Shrek for Best Animated film or Best Visual Effects for Star Wars, now you can) and huge video walls that sequentially loop several important historical clips from ceremonies of the past.
From there you head into Spike Lee’s room, highlighted by a huge selection of posters and art which inspired his career. For example, not only does he have some screen-used costumes from Do the Right Thing, but a Jurassic Park poster signed to him by Spielberg, and a huge Michael Jordan poster also personalized. Lee’s room leads into a full room dedicated to The Wizard of Oz (including those ruby slippers) which then goes into a room about costumes and makeup, which is where you can see Russell Crowe’s outfit from Gladiator, Lupita Nyong’o’s costume from Us, and the May Queen dress from Midsommer, just to begin. All of which is amazing, and I’m barely scratching the surface in terms of specifics, but at times the flow from one room to another didn’t always have a strong cohesion.
Things are a little more focused on the third floor. The “Stories of Cinema” section has huge sections dedicated to all manner of animation, special effects, and creature design. For sci-fi fans, this section of the museum is probably the highlight as it’s where you can see original cells from Akira, head molds from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Danny DeVito’s Penguin nose from Batman Returns. There are also life-sized, mostly screen-used costumes and props from 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Dark Crystal, E.T., Star Wars, Alien, Edward Scissorhands, and many more. You can see a few in the photos above, and while some are understandably, almost delightfully, weathered with age, others are in such good condition, you’d swear they were made yesterday.
Traveling to the fourth floor you’ll find the museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition based on the films of Hayao Miyazaki, open through June 5, 2022. It’s actually the first museum retrospective on his work in North America, and if you’re a fan of movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, it’s worth the price of admission on its own. Multiple rooms are filled with storyboards, paintings, miniatures, animation cells, and posters of his works. There’s a magical tree to interact with and even a grassy hill you can physically lay down on and stare up at animated clouds, just like you were in one of the director’s films. I damn near came to tears looking at the stunningly beautiful work that helped bring all these animated classics to life. Photos were not allowed inside of this particular exhibit, but below are a few images made available to press.
All of that would, surely, be enough but there’s still more to explore at the Academy Museum. “The Path to Cinema” is a small gallery dedicated to pre-cinematic storytelling tools that lead to what movies are today. “Backdrop: An Invisible Art” is an ode to matte painting and features a two-story-tall image of Mount Rushmore that Alfred Hitchcock used in North by Northwest. Additionally, for a extra $15 on top of the tickets, you can sign up for “The Oscars Experience,” which is a short, fun, interactive moment where you hold an actual Oscar and pretend like you won it. In the end, you’re sent a little sharable video for social media. If you want a very funny video to share with friends, or to feel what it’s like to hold an Oscar, it’s worth doing. If you don’t use social media, it’s probably OK to skip.
When I walked out of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, I was dizzy. After two hours delving into its many corners, it was both not enough and almost too much. Seeing countless items that relate to so many things I love, all in one place, and presented with the care and respect that I and other film fans carry for them, just felt incredible. Do I have criticisms? Sure. The disjointed nature of some of the exhibit layouts can be little off-putting and confusing thematically. There’s a sense that while most eras of film are well represented, somehow it’s still missing huge chunks. Some films feel a little overrepresented and there’s a good chance a few of your favorites don’t make a dent at all. A handful of rooms are good for younger kids but, for the most part, the museum is aimed at an older, more seasoned film fan. Plus, perhaps most importantly, I wasn’t there with a big crowd, and that would certainly change the experience.
Either way, I cannot wait to go back and get a chance to explore more. Spending time inside film history was an incredible experience I definitely want more of. If you’re in Los Angeles, you cannot miss the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Once again, doors open on September 30—tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for seniors, $15 for students, and free for people age 17 and younger. They’re available, along with reservations, only on the museum’s website, which you can access here. For the time being, reservations are required but walk-ups should be available in the future.
Update 9/22/2021, 7:50 p.m. ET: We added the closing date of the Miyazaki exhibit and the info about walk-up tickets.
Happy hump day. Sometimes you just wanna get through the week by watching a Large Man prepare to beat up a whole room of Other Large Men... for the magic of cinema, of course.
The Large Man this time around is Dune’s Jason Momoa, who shared a new behind-the-scenes video today about his role as loyal soldier of House Atreides, Duncan Idaho, in the upcoming Denis Villeneuve movie. It’s short, but sweet, focusing less on Idaho’s character and more on how Momoa prepared for the character’s major fight sequences in the film—where Duncan single-handedly goes up against swaths of men, carving a path through their shields and armor with his twin daggers.
It’s all cool to see, both Momoa’s training and then the little snippets of filming the actual fights we get to see as well. But perhaps the cutest aside is that, just as Momoa prepares to go in for filming on one of his big fight scenes in the first movie—battling the forces of House Harkonnen hand to hand in a scene glimpsed throughout the trailers—Momoa casually dates the footage, by saying that he’d just watched the Game of Thrones series finale the night before. We’re not left to wonder what exactly the former Khal thought of the series’ end, but he does offer an inkling that he was perhaps not too pleased that Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen didn’t avoid Momoa’s own grim Thrones fate in the end—going into filming the battle with a simple “This one’s for you, Khaleesi!”
Ever the Khal, whether it’s on the dunes of Essos or Arrakis. You’ll be able to see Momoa in action and plenty more beyond that when Dune hits theaters and HBO Max next month, on October 22.
We now have an official name for the third Fantastic Beasts movie, which has been officially sub-titled The Secrets of Dumbledore. Theoretically, that could refer at least partially to the romance-tinged relationship that Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) shared with Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp in the role) when the two gifted wizards first met as young men in Godric's Hollow, following the death of Albus' mother, Kendra.
The boys had such a close connection, that they made a special blood pact not to attack each other in combat. This becomes an issue years later when Grindelwald starts fomenting a war against the Muggles across Europe. At the end of the last movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) agreed to help Professor Dumbledore find a way to nullify the pact. They obviously succeed, because the latter is famous in the Harry Potter books for — among other things — his legendary duel with Grindelwald in 1945 that gained him ownership of the Elder Wand.
But what other dangerous secrets is the most powerful and charismatic wizard hiding behind his crooked nose, twinkling blue eyes, and warm smile? If Dumbledore's treatment of Harry over the course of seven books taught us anything, it's that his penchant for keeping crucial information to himself can oftentimes lead to catastrophe.
In addition to revealing the title today, Warner Bros. also moved up the threequel's release date by three months to April 15, 2022. The third chapter was going to open in July 2022, but some studios — perhaps emboldened by Shang-Chi's historic box office returns over Labor Day — are now moving up theatrical release dates for projects previously pushed by the pandemic. For instance, Sony recently decided to move Venom: Let There Be Carnage up from Oct. 15. to Oct. 1.
David Yates (director of the last four Potter films) is back to direct the third film in the series, working off a script co-written by J.K. Rowling (the Potter author wrote the first two entries herself) and Steve Kloves (who penned almost all of the Potter adaptations for the big screen). Production on the threequel was supposed to begin in March 2020, but was delayed several months due to the pandemic. Filming finally kicked off in the U.K. in late September of 2020. As a result, the theatrical opening was postponed to 2022.
Katherine Waterston ("Tina Goldstein"), Alison Sudol ("Queenie Goldstein"), Dan Fogler ("Jacob Kowalski"), Ezra Miller ("Credence Barebone," who is apparently a long lost member of the Dumbledore family), and Claudia Kim ("Nagini") return to play their characters seen in the first two Fantastic installments. Jessica Williams is getting a much more expanded role in The Secrets of Dumbledore as Professor Eulalie Hicks of Ilvermorny, America's equivalent of Hogwarts.
"I can say I read the script and the character development is really lovely and it’s very similar to the feel of the first movie, which I think is great," Fogler exclusively told SYFY WIRE in the spring of 2020. "It’s leading toward this massive war with the backdrop of World War II, so you can just imagine epic battle scenes are coming."
Though a good cinematic thriller needs to scare you at least a few times, what often ends up separating the ones that really stick with you and those that fade away is how effective they are at creating a sustained atmosphere of good stress for you to live in as you watch their stories unfold. This strangely enjoyable stress can be hard to describe, and a bit tricky to seek out, but when you encounter it, it’s unmistakable.
Though this brand of good stress is unsettling to sit with, it works to intensify horror and thriller films’ ability to tap into your emotions. Whatever guards you try to put up against a movie’s attempts to frighten you with jump scares or gory close-ups, good stress subverts by turning everything about the narrative into its own kind of pervasive terror that lingers well after the end credits start rolling.
In small doses, good cinematic stress can be just the thing to snap you out of a funk—and remind you why it’s always worth seeking out features that wander off the beaten path of sights and sounds that are every bit as haunting as the performances being delivered. With fall officially upon us once again, it’s high time to break out the good stress movies to set the mood for whatever spooky nonsense October has in store. Here’s a solid list of features to dig into if and when the mood strikes.
Director Tarsem Singh’s The Cell luxuriated in the unnerving intersection between brilliance and absurdity with a twisted tale of a psychologist’s journey into the mind of a deranged killer. Psychologist Catherine Deane’s (Jennifer Lopez) expertise in the minds of children makes her an invaluable asset as she’s pulled into the police’s investigation of Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio), a serial killer who takes his victims’ lives by drowning them in glass boxes.
The harsh, coldness of The Cell’s “real” world contrasts with the suffocating heat and nightmarish darkness that defines the dream world within Stargher’s mind that Deane finds herself in as she searches for the location of the murderer’s latest soon-to-be victim. Each of costume designer Eiko Ishioka’s ensembles featured throughout the film creates a gravity well of focus that makes it hard to look away as The Cell alternates between visions of absolute beauty and the macabre.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
Long before the mystery at the center of Beyond the Black Rainbow is revealed, the film first invites you to suss out the meanings behind its utterly striking imagery, and its spare, dread-inducing score. The 2010 film from director Panos Cosmatos tells the story of Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers), a research lead at an organization that studies the metaphysical, who spends his days toiling at a facility where a young psychic named Elena (Eva Allan) is being held prisoner. No matter how hard Barry pushes Elena to open up to him, the girl’s resolute in her physical silence, and only communicates her one desire—to be reunited with her father—telepathically.
Beyond the Black Rainbow’s powerful use of color and disturbing imagery to set the sickly, twisted tone that shapes its story evokes Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Jonathan Glazer’s cinematic adaptation of Under the Skin from 2013. The film creates a sense of claustrophobia that heightens as Barry’s sinister fixation with Elena grows stronger, and by the final scene, Beyond the Black Rainbow will leave your skin crawling as if you, too, were fighting for your life to escape a madman’s prison.
Denis Villeneuve spins an intricate and enthralling web in Enemy, his 2013 psychological thriller about a seemingly ordinary college professor who one day discovers that he might be a twin, a clone, or the inexplicably perfect doppelganger for a struggling actor. After catching sight of an actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to him, Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) sets out to learn more about who the other man, Anthony Claire (also Gyllenhaal) is.
While neither Adam nor Anthony recall having any siblings or undergoing secret genetic experiments, they also can’t deny that they’re dead ringers for one another down to minute marks on their bodies that biologically identical twins do not tend to share. Knowing that there’s someone else out in the world whose lives they could easily slip into unnoticed opens both Adam and Anthony’s imagination to all of the possibilities their meeting presents, but both men’s minds begin to wander to dark places when they realize that they may have more in common than they think.
Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy turns Germany’s picturesque countryside into the stuff of waking night terrors with a morbidly stylish story about young brothers who suspect that their mother may have been replaced by a monster. After an unnamed woman (Susanne Wuest) returns home from surgery to her twin sons Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz), the boys can’t help but notice a marked change in her appearance and demeanor.
In addition to the thick bandages the boys’ mother has to wear all over her face as she recovers from her procedure, she also exhibits a new level of strictness with the children that’s far from how she interacted with them before she left. Though Goodnight Mommy initially lets you wonder whether the bumps in the night that keep the boys up might just be figments of their imagination, it isn’t long before the movie makes you begin to doubt the woman’s identity and her repeated insistence that she’s the same person the children have always known, and just dealing with the stressors of adulthood.
Mathieu Kassovitz’s Gothika is only a ghost story if you really want it to be, but it works perfectly well as a straight-on thriller about a psychiatrist who, after she’s accused of murder, finds herself committed at the same institution she once worked. Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) puts all the faith in the world into both science and her own medical expertise, but nothing about her apparent psychotic break makes much sense even though those closest to her almost immediately believe that she might actually be a killer.
As Miranda resigns herself to her new tortured existence in the psych ward, she learns first-hand what sort of inhumane abuse those under her care experienced at the hands of other employees of the facility. What truly disturbs Miranda as she searches for a way to clear her name, though, is the very real possibility that whatever force is guiding her to the truth about a string of murders might actually be reaching out to her from beyond the grave.
Blood Red Sky
Peter Thorwarth’s Blood Red Sky follows mother/son duo Nadja (Peri Baumeister) and Elias (Carl Anton Koch) as they set out on a journey from Germany to New York by plane. Because of Nadja’s special blood-related medical condition, she and Elias put considerable time and planning into their voyage, which they need to make without ever coming in contact with direct sunlight, and all seems to be going according to plan as the movie begins. But when the family’s flight is interrupted by a group of racist hijackers led by an American named Berg (Dominic Purcell), Nadja realizes that the only way to save her son and herself is to fight back and reveal the secret she has been working so hard to hide from not just her son, but the rest of the world.
Strictly speaking, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite only veers into the horror space toward its end, as the lives of multiple South Korean families intersect in an elegant mess of deception and aspirations of upward mobility. To explain how Parasite goes from being a high-strung drama about one family lying its way into the graces of another to being a psychological thriller with elements of horror would require giving away the twists and turns that begin to unfurl in its final act. But it’s specifically because of Parasite’s stunning ability to seamlessly vacillate between cinematic genres that the turn towards the almost supernatural makes sense in context—and lands like a very purposeful reminder that any story can scare you in the hands of the right creative team.
For generations of fans, the galaxy far, far away has always served as an endlessly infinite space for new sci-fi ideas. Few story universes have had the kind of tractor-beam pull on creativity that Star Wars has, after all — which makes this week’s Disney+ debut of Star Wars: Visions, a series that reimagines the familiar franchise along anime lines, such a buzz-worthy entry in Lucasfilm lore.
Visions hands the creative reins to a different anime studio for each of its nine new episodes, unfolding in an anthology format that gives each installment plenty of freedom to spread its X-wings without bumping up against the rest of the pack. As the series makes its debut today at Disney+, the reviews are beginning to stream in faster than a Rebel squadron. Does Lucasfilm’s anime experiment with one of the galaxy’s biggest names resonate with the critics?
Judging from what we’ve seen so far, yes indeed: Most reviewers don’t hesitate to proclaim that this is definitely the new animated series you’re looking for. The diversity, creativity, and unfettered single-episode anthology format all work together to serve up something special, say critics, with fresh Star Wars interpretations through the lens of Japanese anime studios helping longtime fans revisit things they thought they knew — only this time, in a whole new light.
Here’s a sampling of what reviewers are saying:
“[W]hat a delight it is that Disney+’s new animated anthology Star Wars: Visions embraces the limitless wonder of this galaxy, reaffirming it as one where anything can happen to anyone. The only real connective tissue between its episodes is a love of Star Wars that runs so deep it’s bound to make new fans of the young and uninitiated, and remind old fans why they fell so hard for this universe in the first place.” Angie Han — The Hollywood Reporter
“The galaxy far, far away has never looked more stunning in animation, and at its best Visions folds core Star Wars tenets into compelling stories with characters you instantly want to see more of. Here’s hoping this isn’t the only season we get.” Amon Warmann — Empire
“Watching Star Wars: Visions sparks a kind of endless wonder that hasn’t been present in the franchise for some time now. By tying itself to the Skywalker Saga or even exploring adjacent stories, the anime series allows its creators to craft some genuinely groundbreaking stories, many of which are deserving of their own extended universes.” Juan Barquin — AV Club
“The biggest takeaway from these nine short, self-contained stories, much like some of The Mandalorian’s most well-received episodes, is that Star Wars is at its best when it isn’t afraid to ditch its more rote qualities and find new ways of celebrating its strongest influences. Star Wars: Visions is something new that also feels as if Star Wars has been reunited with an older part of itself, finally." Kenneth Lowe — Paste
“[O]ne of, if not the best, titles — television, film, or otherwise — to come out of the sci-fi franchise’s era under Disney ownership. It’s a beautifully animated and smartly written homage to everything that fans love about Star Wars, as well as the rare kind of installment in a multi-billion dollar IP that doesn’t feel like it was created by committee or focus-tested until all the artistry has been stripped away. If you’re a Star Wars fan who has become apathetic toward lightsabers and the Force in recent years, Visions could remind you about what made you love the franchise in the first place." Tyler Hersko — IndieWire
Disney has made and announced dozens of projects since they acquired Lucasfilm, but it is Star Wars: Visions that feels like the most essential. This is a show that is in constant conversation with Star Wars as a whole, reimagining the franchise through seven unique visions that celebrate what makes it special while delivering some of the most exciting stories we've ever seen in the galaxy far, far away. This better become an annual tradition. Rafael Motamayor — Collider
Featuring anime production from some of Japan’s most well-regarded anime studios (including Twin Engine, Production IG, Science Saru and more), Star Wars: Visions premieres as one big binge, with all nine animated episodes streaming now on Disney+.
The Shire isn’t the actual opening to Fellowship of the Ring, of course. Like all good things Lord of the Rings, it takes a bit to get there, regardless of the cut of the film you watch. First, we have to hear Galadriel tell the tale of the Rings of Power and their Dark Master, the final battle of the Last Alliance, and see Elrond implore Isildur to destroy a ring we know he’s already lost to. In the extended cut, there’s even a bit more as we see Isildur’s hubris paid in blood, and how the One Ring floated on from the heir to the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor and into the pocket of a certain Shirefolk. It’s only then—after all those sweeping views of magical rings, ancient evils, an epic battle between good and evil, high drama and higher tragedy—that Fellowship actually begins. With a map, one that pulls away from all this action and over to the tiny, pastoral lands of the Shire, and we’re pulled out even further beyond it, to the homely, messy comfort of Bag End.
It’s a stunning contrast, to be immediately wrenched from the brown-greys and molten tones of the fields before Mount Doom, and into the intimate lens of Bilbo’s home. That intimacy continues, even as we move from Bilbo being our focal attention to him being a narrator to our true introduction to the Shire and its people, the Hobbits. Gone are the flurries of arrows—bristling as they fly through ranks of Elves and Men—replaced with the fluttering of fields of grass and wheat in a gentle breeze. Gleaming armor replaced by overhauls, flannel, and flower-printed dresses, shields and helmets replaced by frills and bonnets. There are no orcs, only Hobbits, smoking, laughing, drinking, playing, working. A peaceful people and a celebration of the calm earned in the fury of the battle we were watching unfold just minutes beforehand. The most monstrous sight in all of the shire is no orc or Dark Lord, but perhaps a cow.
So many cows.
Accompanied by Howard Shore’s beloved, instantaneously ear-worming “Concerning Hobbits”—light and airy strings to contrast against the bombastic brass and choral chants of the Battle of the Last Alliance—it is a masterclass in scene-setting. Instantly, you are introduced into the world of the Shire and its denizens, and equally quickly told just how alien the world of conflict around them is. These aren’t warriors or great keepers of the peace, Bilbo tells us as he writes his own history into prose: they are simply livers of life, symbolic of a peace that has endured for generations at this point. The Shire becomes Fellowship, and the trilogy at large’s, happy place.
When Frodo and his friends find themselves wrested from the lives they knew by Gandalf and thrust into a battle against the most almighty of evils, whenever they come close to faltering in their quest to destroy the ring, it’s “Concerning Hobbits” that flutters back into Shore’s score. It’s there to remind us of these opening moments—the unlikely beginnings Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin all came from, reminding them (and us) what waits for them when their quest is done, spurring them on to the heroism they all accomplish. Introducing us to the Shire in this manner, an idyllic view into a life that could be—more homey, more loving, more warm than any of the sweeping and epic vistas to come along in the trilogy’s long road back to the Shire by the end of Return of the King—we are given an image to be reminded of throughout the saga’s highs and lows.
“For things are made to endure in the Shire,” Bilbo’s narration tells us, as strings swell, and Gandalf and Frodo continue their ride up through Hobbiton in the Wizard’s rickety cart, “passing from one generation to the next.” He may be talking about his and Frodo’s home in Bag End, but really, it’s about this romantic world our unlikely heroes are from, the peace that they fight for—and the beauty of the fact that Hobbits have been living that ideal for generations before them, and will do so for generations after.
It’s no secret that James Gunn is writing and directing a spin-off streaming TV series from The Suicide Squad for the Peacemaker character, played by John Cena, exclusively for HBOMax. But at today’s HBOMax virtual press panel for the Peacemaker series, Gunn finally spilled a few secrets about the fresh arc for the complicated hero and the ensemble surrounding him in the series, slated to premiere in January 2022.
At the top, Gunn admitted birthing a series was not part of his original plan when creating his version of The Suicide Squad. But DC’s Peter Safran and Walter Hamada asked him if he could make a TV show around any one of the characters from The Suicide Squad, which would it be? Turns out Peacemaker was his guy.
“I found something really interesting about Peacemaker because one, I loved working with Cena,” Gunn said. “And he’s a cool interesting character pertinent to today’s world in terms of his backwards way of looking at things.”
Carrying over the R-rated sensibility of The Suicide Squad into the TV series, Safran promised audiences that this would not be a watered-down version of the character, or his violent universe. “Working with James Gunn, it’s hard to find a line he won’t cross,” the producer laughed. “I know there is one but we didn’t find it shooting this.”
As to why Peacemaker grabbed Gunn’s imagination for more stories, the director/writer said it was the character’s remarkable amount of issues yet to be explored. “Peacemaker has a lot of issues, so I don’t sit down and think I have to make him likable. I want to make him fully-fledged. He has a lot to learn.”
Gunn added that by the end of The Suicide Squad, characters like Idris Elba’s Bloodsport had learned a lot and progressed. But Peacemaker has so much yet to learn. “He needs more than one season to learn that,” the director laughed. “But his ability to learn makes him more likable.”
The director admits that Peacemaker has a lot of racial and societal blind spots but that some of them stem from ignorance. “We get to see the journey with that,” Gunn said about the series. “Peacemaker is almost every guy I grew up with in Missouri. As terrible as he might be at times, he’s common. It’s fun to make a super hero/villain who has a lot of nuances.”
Touching on some of the other characters who will be dancing (literally) with Peacemaker, veteran actor Robert Patrick will play his father. “He’s not too happy with his son,” Patrick said of his character’s issues with his boy. “The early development of Peacemaker is a direct result of his relationship with his papa.” Patrick added that he was so grateful to learn Gunn wrote a role for him, he actually accepted before even reading the script.
Danielle Brooks will also co-star as the woefully underprepared, but enthusiastic colleague, Adebayo. Considering this genre and kind of role is new to Brook’s resume, she said she had a lot in common with character. “She was trying to figure it out, and that’s very much like me in trying to fake it until she makes it. I had never dealt with guns before. But there’s a thrill that comes with attempting to be a badass. She leans into it.”
There’s also Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, the far more seasoned lone wolf who will get sucked into Peacemaker’s orbit. The actress teased, “There’s a nuanced arc for this woman. She’s very closed off and the way I approach that is that it comes from a life of seeing a lot of death and killing a lot of people. So, what is it like to be that kind of a person and not falling apart? She sees close, personal relationships as dangerous. We’ll see Harcourt deal with that and maybe become more well-rounded? It’s fun to watch it play out.”
Asked if there would be more seasons of Peacemaker, or perhaps he might create a new series for other The Suicide Squad characters like Sebastian the rat, Gunn said with enthusiasm, “I would be very much up for doing a Sebastian animated series. But I have 87 seasons of Peacemaker planned,” he joked.
“Some guys have all the luck...These are not those guys.” Back in the days when Blockbuster Video was a thing, that’s the memorable tagline that used to beckon from the VHS cover of some eternally-un-rented, probably best-forgotten comedy flick. But it could just as easily describe Marvel’s brand-new video game version of the silliest superhero squad in the MCU.
In partnership with Square Enix and developer Eidos-Montréal (the same studio behind the two most recent — and acclaimed — Deus Ex games), Marvel is teasing next month’s console and PC release of its ambitiously reimagined Guardians of the Galaxy video game with more or less that exact same slapdash idea. When it comes to an assortment of morons this moronic, it fits, too: “You got this. Probably.”
It’s a tagline meant to capture the endearing lunacy of the MCU Guardians, while also bridging for movie fans the unknown distance between the familiar films and the upcoming game. It suggests that Star-Lord’s peacock-proud, pop-culture optimism (and the backhanded way it inspires his space team) may not have much in the way of a bigger focus — but who’s reaching for idealistic goals when all the universe really needs is love (and some sweet, sweet music vibes?)
Eidos-Montréal recently opened up a generous slice of Guardians gameplay for a hands-on media preview ahead of its Oct. 26 launch, dropping us somewhere deep into its chapter-based story (Chapter 5, to be precise). It served up a primo opportunity not only to see how the team tees off against a new batch of video game baddies, but also to gauge these new guys against the big-time backdrop of their MCU forebears — a Titan-sized task if ever there were one.
After spending close to three hours bonding (and occasionally, hilariously de-bonding) with Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Tree (did we say Tree? We meant Groot of course), what did we learn? Tons, it turns out…and most of the news is really, really good. Probably.
No, you won’t hear the dulcet vocal tones of Chris Pratt or Zoe Saldana as these new Guardians swing back and forth between cooperation and bickering. Likewise, the character designs are meant to be original takes inspired by both the comic book and big-screen Guardians, which means they each have a look and flavor all their own. But it took almost no time for us to forget about the MCU and get invested instead in this new-look squad — yes, the hilariously stupefying banter and completely in-character cross-talk, at least over the course of a few in-game hours, is really that good.
In our slice of time with the game, the big character standouts ended up being Rocket, Drax (at least when there was some inane observation to be made), and — thank goodness — the main man himself. That last point is an especially big one, since Quill is who you’ll be spending most of your time with in the Guardians’ ringleader role. Messing around aboard the Milano, we even triggered a surprisingly poignant and well-acted moment between Rocket and Quill, with Rocket reflecting somberly on the science-experiment horrors that made him the raccoon he is today.
Then, in true Guardians fashion, they brushed off all the serious talk and were right back at each other’s throats — just the way we like it.
Even with no Mantis on board for the video game, the core five Guardians squad up nicely when it comes to actual combat. Though it took us a while to catch on, Quill (the sole playable character) has a deep playbook of marching orders he can choose from to work the other Guardians’ superpowers into the fighting mix. It’s not just for show, either: the rotating barrage of enemy types makes things chaotically challenging, and tapping the right hero’s unique abilities at the right moment becomes a strategic, split-second choice that can make the difference between victory and starting over (which we admittedly did…a lot).
Star-Lord’s Quad blasters came ready to rock with an elemental ice ability, a handy thing to have when a giant enemy electro-shield needed freezing. But Quill can’t do this alone, and it’s up to you to figure out whether Drax’s up-close approach or, say, Rocket’s distant sniping is more apt as an ice-breaking followup move. Either way, your entire team is always at your command — and by some cosmic miracle, what they lack in get-along chemistry they more than make up for when it comes to slicing and dicing up bad guys, squad-style.
They love the ‘80s
We don’t know what Square Enix had to do to get so much killer original music into Marvel's Guardians, but the steady stream of authentic 1980's sounds — some of it far deeper than familiar one-hit wonder fare — doesn’t just make for a terrific backdrop for this game; it even makes us wonder where it’s been hiding out all this time in the MCU. James Gunn’s curated selection of 1970s Awesome Mix tracks have propelled Star-Lord through two movies (and one titanic dance-off), but seeing the Guardians get down with a raucous rinse of pop-punk-metal tracks from the Me Decade feels supremely apt for Quill’s show-off leadership style.
We don’t want to belabor this part too much, especially with the full game still a month away from ultimately proving us right or wrong. But the clever writing and solid voice acting, sewn together with the pop-culture bliss of a 1980s jukebox filled with everything from KISS to Patty Smyth to New Kids on the Block — it all hints at something we think Eidos-Montréal has instinctively grasped about what makes the Guardians resonate.
It’s one thing, after all, to understand the comics themselves and the MCU source inspiration for games like this. But it’s another to understand the real-world, pop-culture zeitgeist in which the movies and the comics have found such huge success. Marvel’s Guardians doesn’t seem to be trying to mimic the MCU’s cool factor; instead, it seems to be carving out a cool factor all its own. It’s refreshing, and it makes us want to spend more time grooving to the beat inside Eidos-Montréal’s unique world.
Star-Lord’s alternate history
Thanks to bits of biographical shading in both MCU Guardians movies, even non-comics fans have a decent grasp of Peter Quill’s Earth-based origins. But Marvel’s Guardians shakes things up with a fun lore tweak that fully commits to a different explanation for why “Star-Lord” ends up emblazoned on the back of his red jacket.
In the game’s backstory, Quill just so happened to cut his childhood music-appreciating teeth on a fictional Earth act (one no doubt of 1980s vintage) known (surprise!) as "Star-Lord." It was his favorite band growing up, the new story goes — so when it came time to decide on a self-appointed space-hero title as the frontman of his very own band of mercenaries, he let his lingering inner-kid do the choosing.
The first trailer for Netflix and Adam Randall’s vampire action movieNight Teeth might lean more into the, well, vampire action than it does any particularly toothsome jibe at the hell that is working for the likes of Uber or Lyft. But it does show that having to drive around demanding passengers is, on the whole, on par with what happens when those passengers reveal themselves to be blood-sucking creatures of the night.
Starring Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as put-upon driver Benny, Night Teeth follows the young man on a night he’ll never forget when two demanding passengers (Debby Ryan and Lucy Fry) leap into his car and promise a night of non-stop partying with a very demanding cut-off point. This thrilling adventure also stars Megan Fox, The Handmaid’s Tale’s Sydney Sweeney, Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen, Vikings’ Alexander Ludwig, and Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, and Raúl Castillo. Take a look.
As the night goes on and Benny’s observation of the two only finds weirder and weirder things to focus on, his evening slips from rideshare hell to unholy nightmare when he uncovers they’re both actually vampires, out for a night of blood-sucking, beatings, and... inter-vampire gang fighting that swaps out the guns for stake-firing crossbows? Hell yeah. Naturally, Benny doesn’t take too kindly to the situation he’s thrust into, even as he’s forced to continue driving the pair around, so it looks like Night Teeth will eventually become a bit more of a full-on vampire horror as he tries to escape their clutches (and find some pretty disconcerting banks of living humans being fed upon in the process). But judging by that hand wound he gets later on in the trailer, maybe Benny will have more than just a dead-end driver’s job and also passengers from a more literal definition of hell to worry about by the time his night’s over.
We’ll find out when Night Teeth hits Netflix on October 20.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of one of the biggest comics publishing initiatives in modern history: The New 52, better known as that time DC Comics rebooted its entire line of superhero characters in an effort to revitalize old readers and draw in new ones. How well that worked in the end is still a matter of debate among fans, but when it was launching in September of 2011 there was no debating that the New 52 was the biggest thing in comics at the time.
The New 52 has since, of course, faded into the rearview as DC Comics has moved on to other initiatives like DC Rebirth, and characters have reverted to various degrees of their pre-New 52 selves. Despite those reversions, though, for those who were reading those comics at the time, the New 52-era changes in DC continuity remain impactful and influential, particularly when you look at the various DC Comics-inspired films of the last decade, and how the launch impacted the look and feel of those characters.
To underscore the event's impact and its legacy, Polygon released an exhaustive oral history of the New 52 from inception to backlash this week. The whole thing is well worth reading, but some of the most fascinating elements of the story stem from various editorial disagreements and inconsistencies that made crafting the stories of the reboot rather difficult at times. Because they envisioned new versions of their iconic characters, DC wanted creators to tell new stories, but they also sometimes underscored that the new-ness of those stories could only go so far.
This conflict became apparent even on New 52 titles that rank among the most enduring, like the Batman run from writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Widely viewed as one of the high points of the launch, and the book that put Snyder into the stratosphere as a superhero comics architect, this version of Batman launched with the now-famous "Court of Owls" storyline which revealed a massive conspiracy within Gotham City, and a secret society that not even Batman knew about. With that came the reveal of a character named Lincoln March, a Court of Owls inductee who would go on to claim that he was actually Thomas Wayne's long-lost son, and therefore Bruce Wayne's long-lost brother.
According to Snyder, who participated in the oral history interviews, a key sticking point early in his time writing Batman was DC editorial's argument that Bruce should be able to clearly solve the mystery at the heart of the "Court of Owls" and "City of Owls" storylines, and therefore know for sure if Lincoln was telling the truth. Snyder was so adamantly opposed to the idea that he apparently considered quitting the project.
"We’d finished [the first Batman storyline] 'Court of Owls.' It was at the printer, and word came down from above that they weren’t sure that they wanted Batman not to be able to solve the mystery of the Owls; whether Lincoln March was his brother," Snyder recalled. "They wanted us to change it, to make it so that he’d definitively solved it. For me, that would have changed the entire story, because the point of the story was just the opposite. I remember standing in Target, pushing a cart of paper towels, screaming into the phone, 'You go down the hallway and you tear up my contract!'"
As Snyder alluded to in his comments, a key element of the "Court of Owls" story was the idea that there are some mysteries even Batman can't solve, and that for all his time spent fighting for Gotham's interests, the city still held secrets that he couldn't fully grasp. The writer eventually got his way, and Lincoln March's true identity remains a mystery even now in DC Comics continuity.
Snyder also went on to make an interesting key point about various narrative issues surrounding the New 52. The launch was plagued with reader confusion thanks to things like skewed timelines -- some books took place in the "present," while others pulled back to five years in the past, and so on -- and hints of an overarching narrative that never quite fully materialized. It was this later issue for Snyder -- who went on to write Justice League and other key DC events like Dark Nights: Metal -- that became one of the lauch's biggest setbacks.
"Honestly, if you want to know what I think the big problem with it was, from a structural standpoint, the biggest problem I had with it architecturally as an initiative was that it didn’t really have rules about the way continuity was going to work. Ultimately, we didn’t have an uber-story fully worked out. There were sort of hints of one with Pandora and Flashpoint, there were good ideas there, but there wasn’t a big narrative."
For more on the rise and fall of the New 52, including comments from former DC co-publisher Dan DiDio on the risks and rewards of the launch, check out Polygon's full oral history.
James Wan’sMalignant is the horror movie of the moment. It flips back and forth between being sort of campy and being innovative. Where it falls short seems mostly intentional, and it’s at least a departure of sorts from the kinds of things Wan is known for (The Conjuring, Insidious). It’s the reveal in the third act that makes the movie worth discussing, at least within the lines of this column.
**Warning: There are spoilers for Malignant below.**
We see the events of the film through the eyes (sometimes literally) of its protagonist, Madison. After what must be a contender for the worst day ever set to film — spousal abuse, a murder, a home invasion, and a miscarriage, Maddie finds herself mysteriously connected to a monster on a killing spree who may or may not be her childhood imaginary friend, Gabriel.
In the final act, it’s revealed that Gabriel is real, and is attached to the back of Maddie's head, the diminished remains of a teratoma which was mostly surgically removed when she was young. The two of them share a body, their minds connected, and sometimes Gabriel takes over. It’s good fodder for horror, but could it happen?
Teratomas, from the Greek word teratos, meaning monster, are a type of tumor that differ from more common tumors in one specific way: their ability to develop multiple and sometimes complex tissue types. In most instances, a tumor is made of a proliferation of one type of tissue. When dissected, we don’t find any complex structures, just cell division gone mad.
Teratomas, instead, can contain complex tissues including hair, teeth, muscle, and even brain tissue. In fact, about one in five ovarian tumors contain complex tissues. Teratomas are so common in ovaries because of one of the ways they can form. It’s believed they may result from pluripotent germ cells dividing and differentiating in a way that is contrary to their usual function. In short, eggs and sperm are meant to divide and differentiate, and sometimes they do that at the wrong time or in the wrong places.
As a result, they are most commonly found in ovaries and testicles, but can form elsewhere in the body where germ cells are present. The tailbone is another common locale, as well as the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.
In even rarer cases (roughly 1 in 500,000 people), fetus in fetu (fetus within a fetus) teratomas may arise as the result of an underdeveloped and partially absorbed twin. Approximately 90 percent of these teratomas lack brain structure but do have spinal columns and roughly 80 percent have at least partially developed limbs. Instead of the tumor developing inside the body, it develops on its own and is then incorporated during gestation.
Herein lies the setup for Malignant. Maddie is the primary of a set of twins, with a poorly developed teratoma set at the back of her head and upper back.
The existence of complex tissues, including a brain and spinal cord — specifically one directly tied to Maddie — lead to the idea of shared consciousness and body control. Having a second person, however underdeveloped, attached to your mind, infiltrating your thoughts, and taking control of your body is the stuff nightmares are made of. While the underlying premise of Malignant does take some cues from human biology — complex teratomas do exist and are sometimes located around the nervous system — the results diverge pretty far from reality.
OF TWO MINDS
In most cases, teratomas are ill-developed collections of tissues with limited organization. Sometimes, however, they develop structures that are strikingly similar to fully developed humans. In 2017, a teenager in Japan had an ovarian teratoma removed which contained a small brain structure inside a think skull. The structure resembled a cerebellum and brainstem. While brain tissue inside a teratoma isn’t all that unusual, organizing itself into recognizable structures is.
Another instance published in 2004 outlines an ovarian tumor containing a head, trunk, and limbs, as well as organs, bones, blood vessels, brain tissue, and an eye at the front of the head, among other tissues. Essentially, most of the structures we’d expect from the body were present.
In some cases, teratoma patients experience symptoms including confusion, memory loss, paranoia, and hallucinations, including auditory hallucinations. Combined with the presence of nervous system tissues, complex structures, and shared body space, one might be forgiven for leaping to a conclusion that the teratoma is a thinking entity, that the symptoms are an indication of some shared consciousness. This is not supported by the evidence.
Teratomas sometimes present alongside an immune response known as anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis, which can result in the psychiatric symptoms listed above. Treatment, including immunosuppressants and removal of the tumor, is often curative.
Importantly, not all patients presenting with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis have observable tumors, and it’s been hypothesized it may be caused by microscopic germ cell tumors. The size of these tumors would preclude any complex, organized structures, indicating the neurological symptoms are the result of the immune response and not the tumor itself.
Tumors, especially those baring teeth and eyes, are frightening enough without us imbuing them with malicious intent. Makes for a fun movie, though.
Shudder’s Creepshow series succeeds because it knows exactly what it needs to do: be entertaining but also a little bit scary (and awesomely gross), tell stories framed as comic book entries that blend horror nostalgia with a touch of social commentary and inevitably end with some sort of comeuppance—and do it all in 20-ish minutes, twice per episode. The creature feature anthology series returns tomorrow to kick off season three, and if the short review is “it’s more of the same,” well, there’s no way its many fans will mind.
And indeed, the two segments in the season premiere, “Mums” and “Queen Bee” don’t deviate from that formula, which is—again—not a complaint. “Mums” is based on a short story by Joe Hill (who has his own horror bona fides of course, but also happens to be the son of Stephen King—who scripted George A. Romero’s original Creepshow movie back in 1982) and written by series showrunner, executive producer, and Walking Dead alum Greg Nicotero. It’s directed by Tales From the Hood’s Rusty Cundieff, who also helmed last season’s “The Right Snuff/Sibling Rivalry.” And it has a classic Creepshow set-up, in that a lonely kid gets some supernatural help when one of his parents lets him down.
It also has a classic Creepshow setting: an isolated farm. Instead of a meteor crash-landing and bringing an alien plague, however, all the trouble in “Mums” is purely domestic. Young teen Jack (Brayden Benson) knows his parents are having problems—his mom (Erin Beute) is a bit of a flower child with a past history of addiction, while his dad (Ethan Embry) is an anti-government gun nut. Neither adult is perfect, but when tragedy strikes, there’s no question where Jack’s loyalties lie—and there’s also no question that something very curious is lurking in mom’s flower garden. Creepshow loves a good “nature takes revenge” plot, and let’s just say “Mums” follows very squarely in that tradition.
Nature also plays a big role in “Queen Bee,” directed by Nicotero and written by Erik Sandoval and Michael Rousselet, but so do some more contemporary concerns—like obsessive celebrity fandom and the uncontrollable urge to document everything in a social media frenzy. Teens Trenice (Olivia Hawthorne) and Debra (Hannah Kepple) have that kind of competitive friendship that almost nudges them into frenemy territory, with Carlos (Nico Gomez) acting as both buffer and instigator. So it’s not all that surprising when, after arguing over who’s the bigger fan of pop chanteuse Regina (Lovecraft Country’s Kaelyn Gobert-Harris), the girls and their tag-along pal decide to engage in some borderline-stalking when they learn their idol’s gone into labor at a hospital in their town.
When they arrive, their excitement is enough to blind them to the fact that Regina’s security measures are rather extreme—she’s a superstar, after all. But before long they realize that something is very, very, oh-my-god-no! wrong. The special effects in “Queen Bee” range from simple yet effective (the medical staff’s glowing green eyes, seen in the image at the top of this post, are eerie as hell and feel like an old-school sci-fi homage) to elaborate and very unsettling. Without spoiling anything, the title of the episode and the fact that Regina’s most recent hit is titled “Hungry For You” are both clues to the terrors that await anyone who dares to invade her privacy. Chomp!
Creepshow season three premieres tomorrow, September 23 on Shudder and continues weekly.
Before Thor: Ragnaroksinglehandedly turned Odin’s eldest son into one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s golden children, the Asgardian thunderer was still more of a supporting character within the franchise’s larger picture and felt like the odd alien out among his fellow Avengers. Though Thor’s gone on to become much more, Marvel’s What Ifremembers the days when he was still a fish out of water stumbling through Midgard in search of his purpose... and a drink or two.
The latest episode of the Disney+ animated multiverse series—“What If... Thor Were an Only Child?”—plays fast and loose with the details of the first Thor film (which What Iftouched upon in a different way earlier this season) as well as both The Dark World and Ragnarok as it tells a story about the kind of mischief the God gets up on his own. But even though Thor’s name is in the title, and multiple actors from his films reprise their roles, this episode—like so many before it—was really about everyone else around the hero dealing with the consequences of his actions.
Because What If presumes that you’ve probably seen at least one of Marvel’s Thor movies at this point, or at least know enough about the character’s origins to not need much of a refresher, “What If... Thor Were an Only Child?” opens on a scene of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) working together in a van near the outskirts of Las Vegas. When their rig begins to register signals pointing to Earth making imminent contact with aliens, they try to get in contact with someone at SHIELD who might want to prepare for what touches down. But because this universe’s Jane and Darcy were nobodies at that point, their warnings go unheeded, and no one’s ready when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and a squad of other Asgardians touch down by way of the Bifrost in search of... a rager?
The episode explains its premise with a brief recap of Odin’s war with the Ice Giants of Jotunheim, but in this telling, the All-Father chooses to return an infant Loki to his biological parents, seemingly bringing the conflict to an unexpected but welcomed end. Because this universe’s Odin and Frigga (Josette Eales) never adopt Loki, Thor grows up as an only child, and while a Hela variant may still be trapped somewhere, she doesn’t make an appearance here. While it would be a bit unfair to say that growing up as the royal family’s only child turns Thor into an “evil” person, his upbringing certainly makes him much more destructive than his Sacred Timeline counterpart. Before the episode really starts rolling, Frigga warns him to behave during the All-Father’s upcoming Odinsleep and her planned visit to see some friends. Everyone in Asgard knows that Thor’s a magnet for the chaos that he and his friends revel in, and the only thing keeping him in check is fear of his family, who still reign supreme over the kingdom. The moment Odin’s asleep and Frigga’s out of the palace, though, Thor wastes no time booking it to Midgard in search of merriment.
Unlike all of the other Earthlings in Vegas who kinda just roll with it when the Asgardians (and other aliens) start showing up and getting hammered, Jane understands what a pivotal moment in history it is. All she wants to do is make “first” contact and collect as much information about the alien gods as possible. When Jane and Thor first lock eyes, the chemistry between them immediately foreshadows that he’s not just going to be another data point to her, and the feeling’s mutual. Strong as the attraction between them is, it’s not enough to make Jane forget that her readings indicated the recent destruction of a nearby star—something she suspects Thor might have had something to do with.
Jane’s quite right, it turns out, and Thor enthusiastically tries to regale her with a story of how he and the other Asgardians partied so hard that they essentially blew up a celestial body. While Hemsworth’s voice is immediately identifiable as his own, and his performance certainly come across as quintessential “Marvel’s Thor,” what defines What If’s take on the character is the way it hews more toward the Disney Prince™ spectrum of things when it comes to its presentation. At multiple points throughout the episode when Thor turns on his charm to get what he wants, the reality of his princely upbringing is evident, but as his borish, obnoxious interiority begins to show itself it’s hard not to see elements of classic Disney dicks like Tarzan’s Clayton and Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston in him as well.
Though Jane makes clear that she sees this as quite messed up, all it takes is Thor accurately identifying Jane’s genius to convince her to join in with the first leg of the (foam) party where the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) is DJing. Initially, the Asgardians’ arrival on Earth leads to everyone loosening up a bit and letting their hair down. Characters like Nebula (Karen Gillen), Drax (Fred Tatasciore), and Korg pop up in a brief montage showcasing the carefree fun the Asgardians encourage everyone to lose themselves in, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves—particularly Darcy and Howard the Duck (Seth Green), who end up getting married.
When they’re around the Asgardians, it’s almost as if Earthlings can’t help themselves from acting on their hedonistic desires, and it’s hard for Jane to see what the problem with that is. At least until acting SHIELD director Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) shows up at the door and she starts coming to her senses. Someone at SHIELD did, in fact, receive Jane’s message, but when Hill brings Jane and Darcy in for questioning, neither of them can believe what’s happened. Wherever the Asgardians show up, a dangerous “party atmosphere” develops in their wake, and those caught in it—like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)—tend to get hurt. Because Jane doesn’t exactly want to believe that Thor could be a force of destruction, she’s hesitant to help Hill find him, and that hesitation is just the roadblock Hill needs to call in reinforcements with a special beeper.
Before the MCU’s intergalactic super soldier-turned-gig worker shows up on screen, “What If... Thor Were an Only Child?” shifts focus back to the Asgardian prince for a reunion between him and the adopted brother he never had. Of all the Loki variants that we’ve seen so far, What If’s Frost Giant Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the most physically impressive and temperamentally chill. Not having grown up together means they never developed a bitter sibling rivalry, so this Loki and Thor get along famously and openly embrace a shared, brotherly love. As fun as it may be to watch, as the first season has progressed, it’s felt as if each episode has become more comfortable trying to cram beats from even more films into their half-hour runtimes. While this has made for stories that, at first, appear to be somewhat more original, it’s also made What If’s episodes feel a bit overstuffed and rushed in certain areas as different characters step into the spotlight to deliver familiar lines that move the story along to varying degrees.
Thor and Loki’s catch-up is cut short by the abrupt arrival of Captain Marvel (Alexandra Daniels), who’s annoyed more than anything at being called to Earth to deal with a bunch of overpowered frat boys. When Thor refuses Carol’s polite request that he get the hell off her home planet, she responds with a punch that would likely kill anyone who wasn’t an alien pseudo-deity, and while it doesn’t hurt Thor, its force certainly takes him by surprise. Thor’s casual sexism and the way Carol nonchalantly brushes off a blast of lightning all comes across like a redux of Captain Marvel’s more hard-hitting moments, but here they’re condensed into a short action sequence that ultimately does more for the Kree soldier’s on-screen presence even though the episode isn’t really about her.
Even though Carol could take Thor in a fight if she really let loose and went full Binary, she informs SHIELD that unleashing that much power would also put the planet in danger. So she holds back, and Thor’s able to best her in battle by dropping Mjolnir on her chest. Both Carol and Maria are out of ideas when they regroup with Jane and Darcy to further discuss Earth’s Asgardian problem, and it’s not until Darcy offhandedly mentions calling Thor’s family that Jane comes up with a plan to save the day.
While Carol’s busy getting a few more licks in on Thor for being an intrusive dick, Jane and Darcy adapt their rig to broadcast a message out into the universe where they hope that Heimdall will hear them. Heimdall does hear them and transports Jane to Asgard just as Frigga’s settling into another glass of chardonnay. While the goddesses are all surprised to see a mortal in their midst, Frigga knows that Jane’s arrival has something to do with her son. Had Heimdall waited a few seconds longer, it’s likely that, back on Earth, SHIELD would have launched multiple nuclear warheads on Captain Marvel and Thor’s location. Because he didn’t, though, Frigga has enough time to show up via Bifrost-FaceTime and admonish her son for embarrassing her in front of the galaxy.
Even when he’s caught mid-invasion while sneaking out of the house, Thor tries to lie his way out of his mother’s wrath, but Frigga, who was not born yesterday, has neither the time nor the patience for her son’s foolishness. Thor’s legitimately panicked when he realizes that his mother plans to follow up on her call with an actual visit to Earth to see for herself if he’s actually studying the planet’s cultures as he insisted he was. Adding to his stress is the fact that no one’s interested in helping him clean up the significant mess they all made when it seemed like the fun would never end. So Thor has to threaten everyone with Mjolnir to make sure that they put things—like the Statue of Liberty Surtur broke—back the way they were.
Thanks to everyone’s combined efforts, Thor’s able to escape Frigga’s fury and win his way back into Jane’s heart by the episode’s last moments, which feel poised to end on a surprisingly positive note. However, in the episode’s very final moments, Thor’s dumbstruck as he witnesses a group of Ultron-like robots emerge from a portal before they’re joined by their leader: a Vision variant wearing Ultron-like armored encrusted with the Infinity Stones. Who and whatever these robots are, they’ve been featured rather prominently in a handful of What If’s ads, which may point to the series revisiting Age of Ultron itself.But given how there are only two episodes left this season, and it’s seemed as if What If plans to tie many of its disparate threads together, the question now is what shape those final two episodes are going to take.
The seventh episode of Marvel's animated What If...? anthology series hosted one heck of a party with a debaucherous spin on the handsome and charismatic God of Thunder. Set in a universe where Odin returned Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to his Frost Giant kinsman and raised Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as an only child, this week's tale of intrigue preaches an important lesson about responsibility and owning up to one's destructive actions.
It almost feels like a coming-of-age John Hughes movie from the 1980s (think Ferris Bueller's Day Off) tucked inside the colorful wrapper of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that light-hearted atmosphere disappears like droplets of water sprinkled onto the hot surface of a frying pan in the episode's final moments when Asgard's king-in-training finds himself confronted with a problem he can't solve by kickstarting an energy grid or removing icicle mustaches off the presidents carved into Mount Rushmore.
Let's talk about what that cliffhanger ending could mean, shall we?
WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for Episode 7 of What If...? (!!!)
Episode 7 lulls the viewer into a false sense of security with the promise of a happy ending. Having learned his lesson about partying on other planets, Thor successfully asks Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) out on a date. Flush with confidence and a blossoming romance akin to what fans have seen in the MCU regular continuity, Thor turns to leave. The only problem? His path is suddenly blocked by what looks like Ultron inside the vibranium Vision body, wielding all six Infinity Stones and leading a robot army. It's such a shocking sight, in fact, that even Uatu the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) reacts in surprise.
So, what does it mean? How did Ultron not only succeed in uploading himself into the Vision mold, but also secure six of the most powerful artifacts in the known universe (the influence of the TVA notwithstanding)? More importantly — is he voiced by James Spader or Paul Bettany?!
Well, let's look at why Tony Stark and Bruce Banner created the rogue A.I. in the first place. The former wanted to prevent another world-ending attack similar to the one he and the other Avengers faced in New York. What if (no pun intended) the Tony living in the Episode 7 dimension had the same line of thinking and built Ultron as a deterrent against Thor, whom he saw as a dangerous alien threat? However, the machine gained sentience — just like it does in Age of Ultron — and developed one hell of a Thanos-esque god complex as well as a profound desire to wipe humanity out of existence?
"Tony 100 percent would have been a part of the giant party, but we didn't see him because he was dealing with this, which also leads me to believe that since Ultron got this far, Tony died AGAIN just off screen during the episode," postulated one Twitter user by the name of @truce_top.
That's one way to look at things. Another theory is that this iteration of Ultron has something to do with Hank Pym, who gave life to the murderous machine in the original comics. In Rick Remender and Jerome Opena's Rage of Ultron storyline from 2015, Pym merged with his creation, leading to a being that referrted to itself as "Ultron Pym."
However, it was later revealed that Hank died during the process and Ultron was simply occupying his body. The idea of an evil and homicidal Dr. Pym is nothing new to the What If...? universe, as it already served as the big reveal for Episode 3.
Then there'sInfinity Countdown, a 2018 comic book arc (by Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato, and Aaron Kuder) in which Ultron actively tries to collect all six Infinity Stones before he's thwarted by Galactus, Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock.
What If...? could very well be drawing from that storyline for inspiration, Twitter user @captaincupkicks has a pretty neat prediction that ties into the recent mid-season trailer that showed Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) teaming up with the likes of Thor and Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell)
"When Ultron gains the infinity stones, he uses them to take over the multiverse. Strange Supreme figures this out and uses his high level magic to portal to another universe and assemble the Guardians of the Multiverse to stop him."
Is the series building up to an Endgame-style crossover event for the end of Season1? Head writer A.C. Bradley does hope to resolve some of these open-ended stingers, but can't promise that we'll get follow-ups to every single one of them.
“The ending twists that many of the episodes have, not all of them, came from a place of loving the Marvel tags — the Marvel credit scenes,” Bradley said last month. “So the idea was that we resolve the entire episode, like we resolve the T’Challa Wakanda Ravagers of it all. Then we give kind of what would be our mid-credit scene. So the hope is, if we do sequel episodes, if we do see the heroes later on, that we answer some of the questions raised in those twists. But they’re not meant to be ironclad promises of future episodes, it was just kind of ‘what would be a fun twist at the end of this?’ The What If...? comics were known for having very surprising endings. So we wanted to pay tribute to that.”
Episodes 1-7 of Marvel's What If...? are now available to stream on Disney+. Episode 8 premieres on the streaming platform next Wednesday, Sep. 29.
The official trailer for Invasion plays out like an out-of-this-world mashup of our favorite pop culture tropes of malevolent aliens coming into contact with unprepared humans. Debuting on Apple TV+ in late October, the character-driven TV series follows a number of intersecting narratives from around the globe that begin to unfold in the wake of puny Earthlings finding out they're not alone in the vast, unfeeling cosmos. Bummer.
Some folks want to fight off the extra-terrestrial visitors (à la War of the Worlds), while others yearn to make contact with them (à la Arrival) and solve the issue diplomatically.
Simon Kinberg (a producer and director of Fox's X-Men film franchise) and David Weil (the mind behind Amazon's Hunters) co-created and wrote the show, which features an ensemble cast of Shamier Anderson (Awake), Golshifteh Farahani (Extraction), Sam Neill (Jurassic World: Dominion), Firas Nassar (Fauda) and Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2).
Watch the trailer below:
Despite the seemingly familiar concepts on display in the footage above, Weil has described Invasion as a "reinvention" of the science fiction genre it's named after.
"It is quite epic — it's going to be a real global event series, and I'm incredibly excited for the world to see it, but I will say that creating it and writing some of the episodes was such a thrill and a joy," he explained to Esquire back in May. "Apple really pushed for us to dream big and wanted to create a reality about the piece, which is why we shot in Japan and in the States and in London and other places around the world. I think it will be a real spectacle and it turns the alien invasion genre on its head."
Kinberg and Weil serve as executive producers alongside Jakob Verbruggen, Audrey Chon (The Twilight Zone), Amy Kaufman (When They See Us), Andrew Baldwin (The Outsider), Elisa Ellis (American Rust), and Katie O’Connell Marsh (Hannibal). Baldwin also shares writing duties with the project's creators.
The first three episodes of Invasion land on Apple TV+ Friday, Oct. 22. New episodes (there are 10 in all) will premiere on a weekly basis after that.
From executive producer Simon Kinberg, best known for his work onDark Phoenix, Deadpool, The Martian, and Star Wars Rebels, Invasion stars Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earp), Golshifteh Farahani (Gen: Lock), and Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2) in a globe-trotting story of what happens to the world when, well, there’s an alien invasion. And while the trailer certainly looks like that aforementioned mashup for popular alien invasion movies of the past, one would assume Apple wouldn’t foot the bill for a show of this scale if it was cookie cutter like that. Check out the trailer and decide for yourself.
Kinberg is the big name producer but the show is also from David Weil (Hunters) with all 10 episodes directed by Jakob Verbruggen (The Alienist). It’s a stacked list of talent, to be sure, and the idea of a big-budget, well-paced series about an alien invasion is rather appetizing. The possibilities are endless, especially once you get into how and/or if the aliens and humans interact and where things might go from there. From this trailer, you can definitely see that these first 10 episodes will be about how the Earth changes, in all ways, with these new aliens.
As for the aliens themselves, they feel almost floral, do they not? Like something out of the third act of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad? Their ability to communicate—both with the characters and the audience—in a dramatic way could be a big part of if Invasion works or does not. It’s hard to tell if they’ll be memorable from this trailer.
But that’s kind of Apple TV+’s M.O. at this point. Most of its shows, even new Emmy winner Ted Lasso, don’t explode out of the gate. Shows like Central Park, Mythic Quest, and For All Mankind arrived with relatively no fanfare and have since built up big, passionate fanbases because they’re genuinely well-done. That’s gotta be the hope and expectation for Invasion as well.
Invasion’s first three episodes debut on Apple TV+ October 22, with the remaining episodes arriving each subsequent Friday. Are you gonna watch? Let us know below.
Earlier this year, Marvel Comics made headlines when they announced that one of their most important heroes, Dr. Stephen Strange, would meet his end in an event miniseries appropriately titled The Death of Doctor Strange. Written by Jed MacKay and drawn by Lee Garbett, the event begins this week and not just unpacks the events of Strange's demise, but his larger impact as part of the Marvel Universe, asking the question: When the Sorcerer Supreme goes down, how many things can go wrong?
It's a question we're going to find out the answer to in the coming months, as the event and its various spinoff issues unpack the fallout of Strange's death, the mystery surrounding his murder, and what happens when Marvel's other major players have to try to step up and fill the power void left by the Sorcerer Supreme. The first issue of the much-anticipated miniseries arrived today, and while it definitely brought the expected mysteries and action, it also brought some new twists that we didn't see coming to the saga.
Thankfully, MacKay himself is here to break it all down for us, and offer an exclusive peek at what's to come.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for The Death of Doctor Strange #1 ahead**
Throughout the first issue of The Death of Doctor Strange event, as Stephen Strange goes through his daily life in New York City — using his newly restored hands for surgery, walking his spectral dog, and dealing with problems on the Strange Academy campus — he meditates on a particular story that helped drive him to do what he does, the story of a man he excised a part of his soul and tucked it away so he could never die.
Over the course of the issue, Strange explains the story as one of his inspirations behind becoming a surgeon and working to cheat death itself, but then the story reveals that it's more than just a parable. It turns out that Stephen Strange has also found a way to preserve a piece of himself to be activated in the event of his death. The moment Doctor Strange dies, another Doctor Strange emerges, looking and sounding much more like Strange did in his comic book debut years ago under writer/artist Steve Ditko than he does now. It's a clever twist, one that's apparently been in the works for decades. In the gallery below, you can get an exclusive peek at what's to come for that incarnation of Strange in The Death of Doctor Strange #2.
And in the Q&A below, we dug into the twist, as MacKay talks about where The Death of Doctor Strange #1 ending came from, what it means, and what happens next.
Walk us through the decision to reveal Stephen Strange has severed a version of himself to be deployed in case of emergency. How did you arrive at that for the series?
That was actually something that was in place when I joined the project. Tom Brevoort had been batting around some ideas for The Death of Doctor Strange for 30 years, and one of them was this idea of a younger Strange appearing from a hidden door in the Sanctum, tucked away for just this sort of disaster. I thought it was a very elegant idea, and took it and ran with it!
How do you see this incarnation of Stephen? Is it Stephen's soul? A fragment of his soul? A projection of his past self?
That is something that we'll get into more fully next issue, but the clues are there- we're looking at Strange that is younger, more in line with his earlier appearances. In #1, Strange explains that this excerpt of Stephen that appears is the result of something that he did when he was much younger. For any more particulars than that, well, you'll have to tune in next month!
What can the group of characters surrounding Stephen expect out of this alternate version of him? Obviously there's a lot of Steve Ditko influence in the way he looks and speaks, so what does that mean for character dynamics in the modern Marvel Universe?
There's necessarily a bit of fudging with the timeline when you bring a character forward from that far back, but we're dealing with a Stephen Strange who hails from the mid-to-late 120s of Strange Tales. A Strange who, compared to the contemporary man who died (and who he will become), is colder, more used to working alone. Time has tempered Stephen Strange greatly, and the Doctor Strange who we follow over the course of this series lacks that.
Similarly, this is a world that this younger Strange doesn't recognize, filled with friends and enemies that he hasn't met yet. And, of course, this is a Doctor Strange who is still the Master of Black Magic, one who has yet to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
Even if a part of Stephen is still alive, there's obviously a lot of fallout to contend with from his apparent death. What can you tease about where issue #2 is headed?
As mentioned in The Death of Doctor Strange #1, the Barrier spell preventing mass invasions from hostile dimensions has fallen, and invasions from the Purple Dimension, Dark Dimension and Sixth Dimension are ongoing. As well, there are other global effects, shockwaves of the Sorcerer Supreme's death that will be explored in the one-shots that come along with the series. From looking at New York in The Death of Doctor Strange: Spider-Man, to England in The Death of Doctor Strange: X-Men/Black Knight, East Asia in The Death of Doctor Strange: White Fox, the vampire nation of Chernobyl in The Death of Doctor Strange: Blade and even other dimensions in The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers, all put together by some of the most exciting creators in the game (and me).
When the book was announced, a lot of people expected a predictable "This character's dead, but we know he'll be back one day" sort of ride, and you seem to be bucking that with the end of this issue. Was that a conscious break with past "Death of" superhero stories or just the natural progression of this narrative?
By the end of the book, there's Doctor Strange's corpse on the floor, and Doctor Strange standing over it. So we've gotten the whole "he's dead but he'll be back" thing out of the way early so we can get on with the story. Audiences have certain expectations at this point when it comes to superhero death stories, and that's completely understandable, it's just part of the way the medium works. But here's the thing: this book's not called The Life of Doctor Strange.
The Death of Doctor Strange #2 arrives October 20.
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