Chapter 23: How They Encountered The Flutterbudgets @ Bureau 42

The Airwaves Become Awfully Personal in Sci-Fi Short Midnight Television @ io9

Screenshot: YouTube

In a retro-futuristic, dystopian world that blends sophisticated AI with dial-up modems and VCRs, a lonely man despairs at having to meet his content-posting quota for the day. With nothing going on, he’s not inspired... and without enough “likes,” he’s not allowed to leave his house. Enter Midnight Television, offering hope... or is it just another algorithmic creation?

Sci-Fi Short Film “Midnight Television” | DUST

Written, directed, and edited by Gabe Michael, Midnight Television—which we discovered thanks to sci-fi YouTube channel Dust—“combines the nostalgia of 1980s, the days of emerging tech and internet of the 1990s, and the hollowing loneliness of the internet culture of today. Our hero, Asher, sits at the epicenter of all three batteling for future that was seemingly promised, but never came to be.”

To learn more about the film, which was originally planned as a feature, and how it was made (it’s short, but it still took two years to complete—thanks in no small part to covid), check out Michael’s supplemental YouTube video, which is titled “How to Make a NO BUDGET Award-Winning Sci-Fi Film.”


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Disney’s Splash Remake Is Still Happening, With a New Writer @ io9

Image: Buena Vista Distribution

It’s been awhile since there’s been an update on Disney’s planned Splash remake, and amid all the big studio news today, there’s been some traction on the sea front.

Led by Jillian Bell (Godmothered), the remake was first announced back in 2016 as a gender-swapped, modern reimagining of Ron Howard’s 1984 romantic comedy. In the original report, Bell was set to play an updated version of Tom Hanks’ character, while the mermaid originated by Daryl Hannah would be played by Channing Tatum. Today, Deadline reported that the latest draft of the project will be written by Sarah Rothschild, who recently scribed Sleepover for Netflix; Rothschild takes over from Marja-Lewis Ryan, who wrote an earlier draft of the script. Howard and his partner Brian Grazer are set to produce a project that no doubt has sentimental meaning for them: the original film’s success led to the creation of their company Imagine in 1985.

It’s important to note that while Bell’s name was mentioned in today’s update, Tatum’s was not. Truly, we should have had this movie yesterday—and though it’s unclear if Tatum is still attached, with Magic Mike ending soon, we’d have zero objection to him replacing his rip-away pants with a merman tail.


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Disney Sets Its Sights on Toy Story, Frozen, and Zootopia Sequels @ io9

Image: Disney

During the Walt Disney Company’s Q1 call today, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the return of some major players in the studio’s franchise department: future installments of Frozen, Zootopia, and Toy Story are on the way.

Deadline quoted Iger from the call: “Today I’m so pleased to announce that we have sequels in the works from our animation studios to some of our most popular franchises, Toy Story, Frozen and Zootopia,” he said. “We’ll have more to share about these productions soon, but this is a great example of how we’re leaning into our unrivaled brands and franchises.”

The news isn’t surprising considering that the announcement came after a downer portion of the call where the company shared it would be laying off 7,000 employees across all of its divisions. Placing sure bets on blockbuster stories makes sense as Toy Story, Zootopia, and Frozen are all huge fan favorites with big merchandise and theme park draws. Toy Story currently has its own land at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios as well as attractions at the Disneyland Resort. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Disneyland is working on its own Frozen-themed land, while Shanghai Disney will open a Zootopia-themed area later this year. There’s also those Blue Sky hopes from D23 Expo 2022 that these properties will come to the states, but we’ll likely get the movies first.

By the power of Queens Elsa and Anna, the synergy speaks for itself—though we’re a little bit bummed that Encanto was left out after having previously been revealed as one of the company’s newest franchises.


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Does the New DC Movie Universe Really Need to Be Connected? @ io9

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Since Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel debuted back in 2013, Warner Bros.’ vision for a DC version of Marvel’s densely inter-connected, massively profitable MCU has been… haphazard to say the least. But now James Gunn and Peter Safran have been hired to shepherd an entirely (well, mostly) new DC cinematic universe, and they promise they have a plan—a plan that will tell one interconnected story through multiple movies and TV series, set in vastly different times, and told over years. But… does this new DC Universe need such a plan?

For those fans who have been waiting for someone to be put in charge of live-action DC entertainment that has some kind of cohesive vision, I don’t want to knock Gunn’s plan, which currently involves a Superman movie, a Batman film starring Bruce Wayne’s biological son Damian as Robin, a Swamp Thing movie, a Green Lantern show, and more. Do I personally have any idea how the hell Gunn could have any kind of continuous narrative thread with a franchise that will chronologically begin with a history of Wonder Woman’s home island of Themiscyra, yet somehow get kicked off in the real world by a 1940s-set, Frankenstein-led cartoon called Creature Commandos? I absolutely do not. But just because I can’t fathom it doesn’t mean Gunn can’t.

Here’s what I will say, however: there has been one thing that has consistently worked for DC superhero movies over the past several decades, and one thing alone: not connecting them. DC’s stand-alone movies, or mini-franchises like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, have done much, much better than Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon’s attempt to redo the MCU with the Justice League. If you check out the lifetime domestic gross of DC’s top 10 movies, only one tried to combine superheroes to start building a universe: 2016’s Batman v Superman, and that was #7 on the list, making less than The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, the solo Aquaman and Wonder Woman movies, Joker, and most recently The Batman. Hell, the 1989 Batman movie made more than Justice League, and that’s without adjusting for inflation.

The problem with this proven track record of solo films is that it doesn’t invite/entice/require viewers to watch the next movie in the overarching narrative to keep following the story like Marvel Studios does. It means that even if Warner Bros. had gotten its act together and was able to release four DC movies a year, like Marvel has, audiences would be able to pick and choose which ones they wanted to see. Which, honestly, sounds wonderful to me. But of course, to WB executives, it’s a horrendous screech of money being left on the table.

Or so they believe, at least. What I suspect they haven’t reckoned with is the idea that mass audiences can only support one superhero cinematic universe at a time. Industry folk talk about superhero movie fatigue more and more, yet the MCU seems determined to push it to the absolute limit with its relentless barrage of releases. But the difference between the MCU and the DCU is that audiences are already hooked on the former. They’ve invested time and money into following the story that is the MCU for a decade and a half. While there are surely some people who want twice the amount of densely plotted superhero movies in their lives, there are surely many who don’t.

Which is to say, I think Warner Bros. might end up leaving more money on the table by not giving audiences an alternative to the MCU—a universe of superhero films that viewers can dip into and out of any point without fear of missing something. This likely means these DC movies won’t reach the box office heights of Marvel’s Avengers films, but again, neither did Batman v Superman or Justice League.

What’s weird is that it feels like Gunn’s initial line-up for his DCU practically begs to be stand-alone projects. How do you start an organic, connected DC cinematic universe where Batman has already moved on to his fourth Robin? Or effectively debut the Authority, a pastiche of the Justice League in general and Batman and Superman in specific, when the Justice League doesn’t exist yet? If these movies weren’t connected, this would all be fine. If these movies aren’t set in some kind of chronological order, that would free them up to be whatever Gunn et al. want them to be—except for whatever he’s thought up to bind them all together.

It’s not a problem with the projects themselves! I love Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin run, as well as All-Star Superman. I’m incredibly excited at the idea of getting to see both stories inspire Brave and the Bold and Superman: Legacy films. I liked The Authority back in the day, and a Game of Thrones-meets-Greek mythology Paradise Lost could be very cool. Honestly, the only DC project that leaves me completely cold is the Waller TV series; despite being played by the amazing Viola Davis, Amanda Waller hasn’t traditionally had enough depth of character in any incarnation to lead a solo series.

I’m not saying a Waller show can’t be done, or that it can’t be done well. The same is certainly true of figuring out a narrative that somehow fits in this widely eclectic, disparate group of films and movies. It’s just that certain DC movies have had success before, and it’s when Warner Bros. stopped trying to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What if it ends up they were accidentally onto something?


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Why Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Was Chosen as the First Film in Phase 5 of the MCU @ io9

It’s all about family in Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania.Image: Marvel Studios

Thanos may have been big, powerful, and evil, but imagine if there were billions of him. That’s just a taste of what makes Kang, played by Jonathan Majors, such a formidable villain for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First appearing in Loki as one version of himself, and soon to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as another, we know for a fact that it’s going to take some kind of major Avengers event to possibly defeat him. So what the heck is Ant-Man going to do?

That question is the heart of why Marvel Studios chose Ant-Man not just as the first of the Avengers to show down with Kang, but to kick off Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

“Phase four, as I said, was about introducing a lot of new characters and new heroes to the world,” Feige said this week at a press conference. “We want to go kick off Phase Five with a third film of characters that were already beloved, which [the Ant-Man] team certainly is, and utilize them. We’ve talked about family. That goes along with vulnerability and relatability. And who better to face off against one of, if not the biggest, villains the MCU has ever faced than this family who you might think could not handle it? And then we learn over the course of the movie that Janet has not only handled it, but has been dealing with it for decades.”

That last point hints at a bit of the bigger story of Quantumania, so to dive much deeper would require spoilers. But we will say you learn a lot of what happened to Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) while she was in the Quantum Realm for all that time. Some of which, probably, had to do with this other being down there. Then, once you add in her husband Hank (Michael Douglas), daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Hope’s boyfriend Scott (Paul Rudd), and his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), you begin to see how a family unit just might not be something Kang is used to.

“All of these characters and these amazing actors we thought would be a great audience surrogate to meet somebody as complex and scary and multiversal as Kang,” Feige said.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters February 17.


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Indie Games Get the Spotlight During Zine Month @ io9

Image: watt

It’s hard to describe the scope of the indie tabletop roleplaying scene during an average month, but it’s never more difficult than in February. For the past three years, February has been home to Zine Month—or ZiMo—during which indie TTRPGs attempt to crowdfund books and games.

ZiMo is a community-forward project that was created from Kickstarter’s 2019 Zine Quest initiative as a way of bringing back old school RPG zines, and has since expanded into an industry-wide movement across multiple crowdfunding sites. The sheer expanse of games being crowdfunded, promoted, and developed is overwhelming, but I’ll try to give y’all a place to start and what to look for. As a ZiMo alum, this movement has a special place in my heart, and I hope that everyone finds at least one game (or two, or three, or a dozen) they’re excited about.

Where do I look?

Image: Kickstarter

Discovery has always been a problem when it comes to almost any game that isn’t published by either Paizo or Wizards of the Coast. That being said, both Kickstarter and CrowdFunder are using their platforms specifically for Zine Month. Kickstarter is doing Zine Quest again (the initiative that started it all) and CrowdFundr is supporting Tabletop Nonstop, both focused on small RPG zines and games. There are some games crowdfunding on itch.io, which offers less customization and even less opportunities for discovery, but keeps everything in one place. Indiegogo is another option for crowdfunding, but there’s not a lot on there at the moment and the discovery options are extremely poor—and the sorting options are skewed towards popularity rather than any other metric.

Honestly, and it pains me to say this, a lot of folks are on Twitter promoting their work. It’s a great place to find and follow creators, not just during Zine Month, but throughout the year. Many designers and indie outfits use ZiMo as a barometer for their future slate of projects, not just the project that they are immediately funding. There’s a feeling of camaraderie online, and often one designer will hype up other projects, lending their support to multiple games either through promotion or acting as a “guest writer” for other games. You can also look on the Zine Month site for a self-submitted list of crowdfunding projects.

Taking a risk on a new game

Image: Leyline Press

One of the really great things about ZiMo is that so many games are being offered at low price points—PDFs can go for as little as $5. So even if you have a small budget you can still pick up a couple really great standalone games or modules, and support small, indie creators. There’s a lot of really great work being done with popular systems. Mothership, Primal, and Old School Roleplaying-based RPGs are all getting some incredible third party content.

So here’s the thing: there are hundreds of games crowdfunding this February. I can’t possibly list them all. I am, however, going to pull out a couple favorites in the following slides that I think you should check out. Hopefully you find one or a few that you might enjoy.

9 fantasy games currently crowdfunding

Image: watt
  • Cloud EmpressAn expansive Nausicaa-inspired fantasy setting for Mothership Sci-fi Horror RPG. Cloud Empress will be produced as two full-color, saddle-stitched zines, and five adventure pamphlets.
  • Tangled Blessings — A solo journaling or two-player RPG inspired by dark academia media, ghost stories, and graduate school.
  • Ends of the Earth — A system-agnostic hexcrawl through a weird fantasy setting where the more the characters learn about what’s going on, the weirder it gets.
  • Odyssey — Discover the truth behind the myth in this grim and deadly RPG; join Ulysses’ crew and face the dangers of the Mediterranean.
  • TLD RPG — A rules-light RPG inspired by games like Forgotten Lands and Mork Borg.
  • Path of the Immortal: A Guide to AscensionA system-agnostic pocketbook manual to becoming a god or falling into lichdom.
  • Lordsworn — A GM-less TTRPG for 1-4 players. Each player takes on the role of three Lordsworns, soldiers who swore themselves to a (now dead) God in an apocalyptical battle between the Gods.
  • Pixie Punks — Play as a rotten (unseelie) fey trying to stop the invasion of your homeland. This zine contains all the rules needed to create fey characters, and adventures in the world of Fairy.
  • The Priory of Red PeitorA Quick and Dirty solo RPG adventure delve for Marching Order.

7 science fiction games currently crowdfunding

Image: J Strautman
  • CONTACTA cosmic tabletop storytelling game where players communicate with aliens through song and tarot.
  • Echoes in my HullA solo journaling game about remembering the people we have lost.
  • Low-Res Futures — Millenarian cyber witchcraft augmented reality death games from 199X.
  • Project ECCO — A game of time travel and cosmic horror—a solo journaling game with a twist.
  • Grandmothership — A TTRPG for 2-4 players and 1 GM about space, horror, and senior ladies piecing together a mystery.
  • Earth to Jupiter — A solo epistolary roleplaying game. You write messages as Cassiopeia, holed up in “the University” during a planetary apocalypse.
  • Bio-Drones & Cryo-Clones — A facility-crawl module for Mothership RPG inspired by the body horror of Cronenburg’s The Fly and a twisted take on Metroidvania “save stations;” explore the revived ruins of the Mountain Forces R&D Facility.

5 horror games currently crowdfunding

Image: Goblin Archives
  • The Bloom — Something sinister is creeping beneath the town of Coldwater. Campers have gone missing, but the townsfolk won’t say a word and the authorities are less than helpful. Can your team of Investigators find out the truth and save the town before it’s too late?
  • Seven Murders til MidnightYou play the role of a detective. You might be a cop, a reporter, or just a concerned citizen. In any case, you find yourself on the trail of a serial killer.
  • Splat 4: Frights — A zine focused on how to safely and meaningfully play with horror in TTRPGs.
  • Traysikel - Ride or Die!A system-agnostic one shot, where a rebel cabbie must ferry a Babaylan fugitive across the jungle mountain on a tricycle taxi in a single evening.
  • Ruination PilgrimageA Panic Engine RPG of Medieval Horror with demons, pestilence, knights, priests, saints’ relics, angels, and Ruination or Redemption

10 ungovernable games currently crowdfunding

Image: Urania Games
  • Hit the Road, Jack — A solo/duet game of adrenaline rush and creeping terror. Of chasing and being chased, of being forced to face your sins or to leave them all behind. It is a game of cat and mouse between two characters that we call the Jacks.
  • HorsegirlA solo GM-less journaling game in which you will document your surgical and mental transformation into a horse by the love of your life.
  • Kill Kindness — A TTRPG about fighting an alt-right, Christofascist government in dystopian, post-apocalyptic Florida. A Zine Quest 5 project.
  • Bastardized Classics — Recreating classic OSR modules with a modern sensibility.
  • Real Housespouses of X — A Real Housewives-inspired Liminal Horror adventure module no one asked for.
  • Pesto’s Guide to Testing — A comprehensive guide to TTRPG testing aimed at new creators, but includes plenty of tips and resources for experienced designers as well.
  • My Mother’s Kitchen — A solo journaling game about traditions, change, and cooking. You play as the author of the original family cookbook, robbed of memory and trapped on Earth as the spirit of your cookbook.
  • Bullets & Bourbon A card-based tabletop RPG where the players take on the role of Cowpokes—outlaws, bounty killers, homesteaders, and other folks that have come out West in search of something - or the Dealer, who serves as a referee and storyteller.
  • Morpholomancy — A cooperative rules-lite micro-RPG for 3-6 players where players harness their creativity to fight through a series of randomly-generated obstacles on a quest to pass their final exam.
  • Strictly Between Us A live-action role-playing game for 4-20 players where players will explore the intricacies of a changing relationship through blues dancing.

If I missed your favorite...

Image: Ruination Pilgrimage | Art by Adam B. Forman

Don’t worry too much; I’m planning three more of these roundups. Your favorite has time to make the list. Additionally, you can peruse the ZiMo website here to get a firehose’s worth of new games! There’s so many incredible games and wonderful designers promoting their work this month, that I can’t possibly list them all. That said, I hope that everyone finds at least a few games they’re willing to try out in February.

If you think that your favorite ZiMo game (or your own!) deserves to be on this list in the future, send me an email. I’m excited to hear from you.


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Everything Introduced Into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase 4 @ io9

Some of the projects in Phase Four of the MCU.Image: Marvel Studios

With Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now over, you might be wondering exactly what it accomplished. From January 2021 to November 2022, Marvel Studios released 18 projects, an output almost equal to the entire 11-year MCU before it. But, without an Avengers film to wrap everything up in the end, it’s hard to say or quantify what happened. We’re here to lay it all out on the table—and, spoiler alert, it’s probably way more than you remember.

Over the course of seven movies, nine shows, and two specials, Phase Four of the MCU was a lot, to put it mildly. Phase Five begins with the release of next week’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Before that though, we thought it might be interesting to go project by project and break down what’s left on the table: all of the dangling storylines, broad concepts, and new characters who’ve been added to the already robust 21-film story. All of this comes before even more new characters like Fantastic Four and Deadpool join the mix in the coming years.

Join us now on a trip back over the wild, massive stretch forever known as Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

WandaVision

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: January 15, 2021

What it’s about: After losing Vision to Thanos, a grieving Wanda creates an alternate reality where she and Vision live together, only for it to slowly come apart.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Agatha Harkness, older Monica Rambeau, Quicksilver/Ralph, Billy and Tommy, White Vision.

Major new concepts introduced: The Scarlet Witch. The idea that Wanda is able to create and control so much. Her ability to... sort of create life? Also, the idea of actual magic in the MCU and the first tease of the eventual X-Men in Quicksilver.

Analysis: Being as it was the first story told in Phase Four, many of WandaVisions’ stories and characters have already continued—most notably in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness—while others, such as Monica, Agatha, and the alternate Vision, have projects of their own on the way. Basically, more than anything else on this list, WandaVision is the show that has seen the most continuation and payoff in its story.

Running Total: In this slot, we’re going to keep a running total of new, major characters now on the table for the future MCU. We disqualify anyone who dies in the story, and if they’re been previously revealed. So, going by the list above, six.

Watch WandaVision here.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: March 19, 2021

What it’s about: After the “death” of Steve Rogers as Captain America, the Falcon and Winter Soldier team up to stop a group of people who think life was better during the Blip. By the end, Sam Wilson takes over the mantle of Captain America.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): New Captain America, U.S. Agent, Lt. Torres, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Isaiah Bradley, Power Broker.

Major new concepts introduced: Jeez, where to begin? Well, the new Captain America, of course; the idea of the Cap super-serum being used in soldiers decades before; Valentina’s nefarious overarching plans; Sharon Carter as some kind of supervillain.

Analysis: Much like WandaVision before it, some of the fallout from this show has already taken its place on the calendar. The fourth Captain America movie, as well as Thunderbolts, will see many of these characters—if not all of these characters—return in some form.

Running Total: We’re not gonna count old characters becoming new personas (like Sam and Sharon), so, conservatively, let’s go with four, bringing the total to 10.

Watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier here.

Loki

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: June 9, 2021

What it’s about: An alternate version of Loki who stole the Tesseract in 2012 ends up on an adventure through the multiverse governed by a group called the Time Variance Authority. Alternate Loki meets and befriends multiple versions of himself, including a woman he falls in love with, and ends up unlocking the multiverse in a showdown with Kang.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Many Lokis, including the main one and Sylvie. Also Mobius, Renslayer, B-15, Miss Minutes, and Kang.

Major new concepts introduced: That the MCU is a Multiverse. That every character has infinite versions of themselves. That one agency is responsible for controlling all of it. That Loki, despite being killed in the main universe, could come back.

Analysis: Season one of Loki ended with the tease that a second season would be coming, so some of the show’s many dangling threads will be continued soon. Plus, Kang is coming back in Phase Five. So, again, we’re seeing the fruits of this story play out for the most part, at least in the show. As for the larger MCU, time will tell.

Running Total: A hero Loki was already around, and I’m only going to count one other Loki (Sylvie), so we’ll say another six, bringing the total to 16.

Watch Loki here.

Black Widow

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: July 9, 2021

What it’s about: Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, but before the Avengers movie where Black Widow dies, it follows Widow and her family on a mission to get to the bottom of a plot where other assassins like her are being mind controlled.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Yelena, Red Guardian, Taskmaster.

Major new concepts introduced: Because this story is sandwiched between other MCU movies, some of its larger concepts—like an army of Black Widows being mind-controlled—have been taken care of by the end. But, they happened.

Analysis: Yelena returned almost instantly in Hawkeye and several of the other characters, like Red Guardian and Taskmaster, will come back in Thunderbolts. So we’re seeing these seeds bearing fruit as well, especially in how some of the choices here reshaped Widow’s role and mindset in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.

Running Total: Three new characters here makes 19 total.

Watch Black Widow here.

What If...?

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: August 11, 2021

What it’s about: An animated series telling alternate versions of stories we’ve seen in the MCU with mostly pre-established characters.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Literally too many to count, but mainly, the Watcher.

Major new concepts introduced: Jumping off from the ideas in Loki, this multiverse set show confirms that seemingly every character has multiple versions of themselves—and, all across the multiverse, major battles are happening at all times.

Analysis: If taken on a story-by-story basis, there are truly too many consequences to the events of What If on the MCU to count. Infinite even. But a second season is on the way so we’ll see if it continues to add upon previous stories, or only tell new stories.

Running Total: Again, there are infinite new characters, but since there is one big, overarching character in every episode, we’re going to just count him, bringing the total to 20.

Watch What If here.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: September 3, 2021

What it’s about: A young man whose family has controlled powerful, mystical rings for centuries takes control of them to stop an alternate dimension of evil from coming into our world.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Basically everyone because this is a full new hero introduction, but mainly Shang-Chi, Katy, Xialing, and Ying Nan.

Major new concepts introduced: The concept and legend of the Ten Rings themselves as well as the crime organization, the land, and people of Ta Lo.

Analysis: End credits scenes here establish a new leader of the Ten Rings and ask some interesting questions about the origin of the Rings themselves, none of which has been followed up on to date, nor is there any logical place to do so. Yet. Simu Liu, who plays Shang-Chi, has suggested he’ll be back for the 5th Avengers but that’s some time away.

Running Total: Four big ones (who survive) bringing the total to 24.

Watch Shang-Chi here.

Eternals

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: November 5, 2021

What it’s about: Immortal beings are sent to Earth to protect it from a group of monsters called the Deviants, but all is not as it seems and the heroes must decide whether (or not) to save (or destroy) Earth itself.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Again, basically all of them. Sersi, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, Thena, Arishem, Dane Whitman, Eros, Pip the Troll.

Major new concepts introduced: Where to start? That Eternals exist at all, not just on Earth, but everywhere. That there are greater beings called Celestials with some level of control over existence. There are events called Emergences that destroy planets. Oh, and that one of the Celestials is now permanently an island somewhere in the ocean. I’m sure we’re missing some beyond that.

Analysis: Eternals has, by far, the biggest overarching implications not just on the MCU on Earth, but the greater galaxy around it. We’re talking immortal superhuman beings all over the galaxy. And yet, despite a few small references in other shows, there is no clue where, or if, these stories or characters will return.

Running Total: We’re going to add 11 survivors upping the total to 35.

Watch Eternals here.

Hawkeye

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: November 24, 2021

What it’s about: Hoping to enjoy a nice holiday with his family, Clint Barton is forced to deal with his actions during the Blip when his old Ronin costume reemerges. Along the way, he teams up with Kate Bishop who becomes the new Hawkeye

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Kate Bishop, Jack Duquesne, Maya Lopez/Echo, Kingpin.

Major new concepts introduced: That there’s a new hero taking over the mantle of Hawkeye, and the introduction (slash reintroduction if you want to count Netflix) of Kingpin and his criminal organization into the MCU.

Analysis: We know that both Echo and Kingpin’s stories will continue on upcoming Disney+ shows, but how and when we’ll see either Clint Barton or Kate Bishop is still a mystery.

Running Total: Four, bringing it to 39 major characters introduced into the MCU.

Watch Hawkeye here.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Image: Sony Pictures

Release date: December 17, 2021

What it’s about: Hoping to change the fact that everyone knows his secret identity, Peter Parker asks Doctor Strange to cast a special spell, but the spell backfires and opens up portals across the multiverse, bringing in Spider-Men and villains from the previously established canons.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Peter 2 and Peter 3, Matt Murdock, Eddie Brock/Venom, Doc Ock, Lizard, Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman.

Major new concepts introduced: That the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man films, and everything/one in them, are now part of the MCU. That no one knows who Peter Parker is in this universe. That while Eddie Brock may have gone back to his universe, part of the Venom symbiote is now in the MCU.

Analysis: No Way Home once again blew the doors of the MCU wide open, making something like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse very logically part of the canon, if it so chooses. But how the existence of multiple Spider-Men, or the future of the universe’s main Spider-Man, will unfold has yet to be officially determined, along with everything else. The one thing that has carried over is Matt Murdock, who appeared in She-Hulk and has his own show coming.

Running Total: Just counting main characters, we’ll go with nine, upping the total to 48.

Moon Knight

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: March 30, 2022

What it’s about: A man with dissociated identity disorder has three distinct personalities named Marc, Steven, and Jake, and becomes the avatar for the Egyptian moon god Khonshu which gives the man superhuman powers. Marc/Steven must then team up to stop another god from reemerging.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Moon Knight (I’m counting all personalities as one), Scarlet Scarab.

Major new concepts introduced: Of course, the Moon Knight character in general, which then opens up the idea that Egyptian Gods are out and about in the world. That there’s an afterlife. And, at one point, isn’t time itself rewound so everyone can see?

Analysis: Though there are no set plans to bring Moon Knight back just yet, that his story was made so purposefully separate from the rest of the MCU makes it hard to see where he could fit back in. Beyond a second season, of course.

Running Total: Just gonna count the two biggies which make for an even 50.

Watch Moon Knight here.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: May 6, 2022

What it’s about: After being introduced to a young woman who can traverse the multiverse, Dr. Strange must protect her from an evil that wants to steal her power. That evil just so happens to be Wanda, aka the Scarlet Witch, who is hoping to spend time with her semi-real children and will destroy the multiverse for it.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): America Chavez, Clea.

Major new concepts introduced: Wanda as the villainous Scarlet Witch, multiversal incursions, Dr. Strange with a third eye, America Chavez learning mystical arts, THE FREAKING ILLUMINATI!!!

Analysis: Though the film uses (mostly) established characters, the way it uses the multiverse feels like a blueprint for what may be to come. Even the Illuminati scene is really just riffing off WandaVision (with Patrick Stewart’s X-Men cameo), No Way Home (with Anson Mount’s alternate Marvel cameo), and What If (with Captain Carter and Captain Marvel). Plus, the end-credit introduction of Clea needing help with incursions is a huge topic that is likely to come into play. There’s nothing definitive yet but we feel like this film may be the lynchpin that connects Phase Four with the future.

Running Total: Two, bringing it to 52.

Watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness here.

Ms. Marvel

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: June 8, 2022

What it’s about: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani girl from New Jersey, gets an ancient bangle from her family and becomes a superhero who must fight to make sure an alternate dimension doesn’t crash into ours.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Kamala, Bruno, Nakia, Kamran.

Major new concepts introduced: Ms. Marvel in general, Djinns, the Noor dimension, the first official mutant!

Analysis: Thanks to the end credits scene, we know that Ms. Marvel is going to play a role in The Marvels (as will her family)—making her the obvious, most direct character to have an impact moving ahead from all the streaming shows combined.

Running Total: Just counting the friends here so four, making it 56.

Watch Ms. Marvel here.

Note: Upon publication, we forgot that Kamala was the first official “mutant” in the MCU. A huge deal. It’s since been added and thanks to the commenters for pointing it out.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: July 8, 2022

What it’s about: Thor teams up with Valkyrie, Gorr, and the Mighty Thor (aka Jane Foster) to take down the God Killer, Gorr.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Zeus, Hercules, Love.

Major new concepts introduced: Thor now has an adopted daughter, Zeus and Hercules want revenge on Thor, a whole new group of Asgardian kids may have powers, Valhalla exists, and there’s a place called Eternity that can grant any wish.

Analysis: More so than most Phase Four movies, Love and Thunder clearly sets up a sequel, with Thor and his adopted daughter, Love, teaming up and the gods now after him. But, as the film is still relatively new, there’s no word on when any of that will come back.

Running Total: Only going to count the three here because a few others die, so that brings it to 59.

Watch Thor: Love and Thunder here.

I Am Groot

Image: Marvel Studios

Release Date: August 10, 2022

Full disclosure here: I haven’t seen I Am Groot so I’m not sure how or if it impacts the MCU. From what I can tell though, it’s mostly fun stories involving Groot from various times in his post-Guardians 1 life, so there probably aren’t major implications. But, it was a Marvel Studios project which makes it canon so we figured we’d mention it.

Watch I Am Groot here. (And maybe I’ll take my own advice.)

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

Image: Marvel Studios

Start date: August 18, 2022

What it’s about: Bruce Banner’s cousin Jen becomes a Hulk and must balance her new powers with her day job as a lawyer.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): She-Hulk, Nikki, Pug, Mallory Book, Skaar.

Major new concepts introduced: The existence of a second Hulk, the original Hulk going into space and coming back with a son (?!?), that the MCU is just a construct and Disney+ and Kevin Feige himself exists in the MCU, Matt Murdock becomes Daredevil.

Analysis: The whole “family of Hulk” thing seems like the biggest possible takeaway here in terms of large-scale MCU stuff, but She-Hulk also firmly establishes that in addition to the Avengers there are lots and lots of lesser heroes walking around the MCU, all of whom are ripe for storytelling. And that fourth-wall stuff, while fun, will probably just stick to specific characters like She-Hulk and Deadpool. Or, at least we think. It’s still way too early to see where She-Hulk and her friends will pop up next.

Running Total: Five big ones so now we’re up to 64.

Watch She-Hulk: Attorney at Law here.

Werewolf by Night

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: October 7, 2022

What it’s about: At an undisclosed time and place, a werewolf and several other monster hunters compete for a special amulet.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Jack Russell, Elsa Bloodstone, Man-Thing.

Major new concepts introduced: There is a whole subculture of monsters and monster hunters in the MCU.

Analysis: Or at least, there was or will be. It’s unclear when or where this is all happening. That also makes it the easiest new story on this entire list to push off to the side and ignore. Plus, the black-and-white aesthetic does make it seem a little weird to cross over with some of the other MCU heroes.

Running Total: Three brings the total to 67.

Watch Werewolf by Night here.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: November 11, 2022

What it’s about: After the death of T’Challa, the country of Wakanda is in mourning as a new group of people, the Talokan, rise up and challenge them over access and the use of Vibranium. Shuri becomes the new Black Panther.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Riri Williams, Namor.

Major new concepts introduced: The big one is the Talokan who are as powerful, if not more so, than the Wakandans. But there’s also a new Black Panther in Shuri, T’Challa’s young son, the continuing plans of Valentina, and the continuing adventures of Riri Williams.

Analysis: Riri Williams is returning in her own show, Ironheart, and there’s no way Marvel lets the Wakandans or Talokan go away, especially with a brand new Black Panther in Shuri. But it’s way too early to know how, or when, Namor or anyone else from this film will return.

Running Total: Two for a total of 69. Nice.

Watch Black Panther: Wakanda Forever here.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Image: Marvel Studios

Release date: November 25, 2022

What it’s about: Bummed to be missing Christmas, Drax and Mantis travel to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon as a present for Star-Lord.

Major new characters introduced (but not killed): Kevin Bacon.

Major new concepts introduced: The Guardians now own Knowhere, the dog Cosmo is now sort of part of the team, the team has a new ship called the Bowie, Mantis and Star-Lord are siblings.

Analysis: After Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the next film in Phase Five—so, oddly, the final piece of Phase Four will be the one to continue soonest, as everything here (minus Kevin Bacon) is likely to return.

Running Total: Just one which means...

Watch the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special here.

70 Total New Characters... at Least

Image: Marvel Studios

Yup. Though we’re sure we’ve missed one or two and maybe unfairly counted or discounted others, we can say fairly definitely that the MCU has introduced at least 70 new, main characters in the past two years.

And that’s on top of all the different dimensions, gods, immortals, alternate realities, Spider-Men, daughters, sons, werewolves, and everything in between. Very little of which has any clear path to continuing. We hate to say it because we love the MCU but... maybe there’s a little too much Marvel? What do you think?

How The Purge Series Holds a Mirror Up to America @ io9

The First Purge (2018)Image: Universal Pictures

From two of the film experts behind the excellent Shudder documentary Horror Noire—Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, who wrote the book the doc is based on: Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present; and entertainment journalist Mark H. Harris—comes The Black Guy Dies First, a look at Black roles in horror cinema from 1968 to now. io9 is thrilled to share an excerpt today from the book, which was just released February 7.

The excerpt takes a close look at The Purge franchise, which offers an intriguing context for the authors to explore the book’s timely themes.

Image: Gallery / Saga Press

An American Tradition: The Purge Franchise

The 2010s were the Social Justice Decade, the most prominent era of sustained, widespread public protest since the 1960s. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Me Too, plus ongoing pushes for gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, environmentalism, and more brought prickly social issues into the spotlight, making watercooler conversations at work disproportionately awkward.

Until the middle of the decade, though, mainstream horror was relatively silent on such matters. Apart from an occasional feature like George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005), which revolved around the economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots—with racial implications inherent in Black zombie Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) leading a revolt against the elite survivors—twenty-first-century horror was content with trending from remakes and torture porn in the first decade to haunted house movies in the second.

The passing of the horror box office crown from the Saw franchise to the Paranormal Activity series and other similarly themed ghostly and demonic tales—Insidious (2010), Sinister (2012), The Woman in Black (2012), The Conjuring (2013), Mama (2013), Ouija (2014), Lights Out (2016), It (2017)—took scares out of the real world and ferried them into the supernatural. Perhaps this shift was a result of the American public’s need for escapist relief from increasingly volatile racial, political, class, and gender tensions. The end result was very suburban, and thus, by Hollywood logic, almost exclusively White. But one franchise bucked the trend: The Purge. Not only did these movies remain firmly planted in the earthly realm, but they chose to burrow deep into the seamy underbelly of America’s schisms for their inspiration, generating horror from true-life nightmares.

With The Strangers (2008) and You’re Next (2011) still fresh on our minds, The Purge (2013) seemed on the surface like just another home-invasion flick with masked intruders menacing a suburban family, but it added a couple of plot elements that made it atypical for this type of film. First, the reason for the invasion isn’t homicidal lunacy or familial squabbles; the intruders are hunting a person inside the house that the family is harboring, making it more of a siege tale like Attack on Precinct 13 (1976). Second, it’s set in a dystopian, yet still recognizable near-future in which one night a year is dedicated to “purging” one’s aggressive emotions without fear of punishment, because all crime (murder being especially preferred) is legal for a twelve-hour period.

This concept didn’t necessarily have to be a form of social critique; it could’ve been merely a way to ratchet up the fear and sense of desperation, since we know that the cops aren’t coming to save the day. But as you watched, you got the sense of an underlying social consciousness woven throughout writer- director James DeMonaco’s script. The man of the house, James (Ethan Hawke), recognizes the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots and how the Purge exacerbates the disparity, telling his kids, “We can afford protection, so we’ll be fine.” Meanwhile, on TV, we hear a criminologist discussing whether the Purge is about releasing aggression or about removing the poorer, “non-contributing members of society,” thus unburdening the economy. Quite simply, the Purge is A Modest Proposal for the steroid era.

While race is never mentioned in the first movie, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the stranger (Edwin Hodge) the family is harboring is Black, while the family and all the lynch mob attackers are White. At the time, the non-explicit mentioning of race in the film mirrored the generally nonracial message of the Occupy movement’s protest against economic disparity, despite the glaring racial wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in America. You could interpret The Purge’s casting of a Black man as the lone “have-not” as a nod to this inequality, although the franchise would become much more pointed in its racial commentary as the series went on—and as racial schisms overtook class schisms at the forefront of the national news.

We also could see the film accurately foreshadow the rise of Trump’s America and the way in which extreme, reactive nationalism could lead the country into seemingly outrageous acts in the name of blind allegiance. In the world of The Purge, we see those of Trump’s ilk (elitists, money-grubbers, hyper-conservatives, Hitlers) establishing patriotism as religion in the prayer-like recitation “Blessed be the New Founding Fathers for letting us Purge and cleanse our souls. Blessed be America, a nation reborn.” The sense of a national rebirth and a return to past glory is certainly not far off base from Trump’s future campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

While The Purge is set entirely in an upscale gated community, the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), moves into the city, necessitating a shift in focus from the mostly White haves to the mostly non-White have-nots, who lack suburban fortresses for protection. While the first film’s primary Black character was an unnamed “stranger” who remained an undeveloped prop to further the plot, in Anarchy, an Afro-Latinx family, the Sanchezes, is established as central to the story, signaling a more overt racial connotation.

That awareness is reinforced by the appearance of Black Panther–like militant Carmelo Johns (Michael K. Williams), whose video broadcasts reassert the implications offered up in the first movie that the Purge is meant to be class genocide. The story goes all-in on the sort of power-hungry, prejudicial classists that would come to define Trump’s regime. Grotesque upper-crust caricatures clad in tweed jackets, polo boots, khakis, and inbreeding, these wannabe big-game hunters don’t venture into the dangerous fray of the city; they pay Black urban youth to round up victims so they can hunt them in the safety of a ware- house setting with an array of weaponry on hand and an audience to cheer them on. It’s an embodiment of not only U.S. gun fetishism, but also the dehumanization of the poor by the rich and the government policies that enable them. Is it any wonder why the tagline is “An American Tradition”?

By the time The Purge: Election Year was released in 2016, Donald Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and movie posters boldly and directly played up the parallels between his rhetoric and that of the franchise’s villainous political party, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), by using the tagline “Keep America Great.” (Trump would later adopt this as his re-election slogan, Trumpily oblivious to its previous use here.) No doubt reflecting the racist rhetoric surrounding Trump’s campaign (and his tweets, and his family dinners, and his bedtime prayers), Election Year made more evident what was hinted at previously, showing the NFFA employing outright white nationalists to do their bidding—in this instance, attempting to assassinate a liberal presidential candidate, Senator Charlene “Charlie” Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who vows to outlaw the Purge.

When the assassination attempt leaves Senator Roan and her bodyguard Leo (Frank Grillo) to fend for themselves on the streets of Washington, D.C., several Black citizens—played by Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel, and Edwin Hodge (returning from the first film), the latter of whom leads an underground Purge resistance group—help them survive the night. Black characters are thus thrust into actively heroic positions this time around—granted, that involves not one, but TWO Sacrificial Negroes, one of whom literally jumps in front of Roan to take a bullet. In another moment of life imitating art, the movie ends with a news report announcing that Roan has defeated the NFFA candidate but that hard-line NFFA supporters refuse to accept the election results and react violently, “burning cars, breaking windows, looting, attacking police officers . . .”

Wokeness, it seems, is subjective depending on the audience, and the reaction to the Purge films has underscored perhaps the most prevalent White privilege: obliviousness. While Black and Brown audiences have picked up on the intended social, political, and racial messages, White viewers conveniently have glossed over them. Per DeMonaco, “The people who respond most to the Purge films are the African American audience and the Latino audience. They were the people who saw the films for what I’d always meant them to be . . . which is this statement about the government’s treatment of the poor, about gun laws in America. There are other audiences that don’t see it.” It should be no surprise, then, that for the next movie, he’d go full-on dashiki and afro: “For the fourth film, it seemed natural to go to the audience that was understanding of the film the most.”

The First Purge (2018), a prequel, seemed dead set on avoiding any misinterpretation of the franchise’s meaning, taking the series to its most radical heights, like an explosion of the collective id of America’s racial minorities, a grassroots fever dream of the pent-up emotions of the underserved and over-policed. It’s an unabashed statement against systemic racism that shows what the previous films implied: whether American issues are masked as class, political, or economic, at the core, they’re intrinsically tied to race.


Excerpt from The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema From Fodder to Oscar by Robin R. Means Coleman, PhD and Mark H. Harris reprinted by permission of Gallery / Saga Press.

The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema From Fodder to Oscar is now available; you can order a copy here.


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Becoming Besties with Rachel and Sarah | YOLO: Silver Destiny @ io9

Japan's Spirited Away Stage Play Is Coming to America, Basically @ io9

Image: Studio Ghibli/Toho/Gkids

If you heard the news that Japan would be getting a live, theatrical stage play version of Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed, Academy Award-winning film Spirited Away and burned with a longing to see it... well, I have mostly good news. The stageplay is finally coming to America, it just won’t be quite as live as if you had seen it in Japan.

Gkids will theatrically release not just one but two distinct performances of the Spirited Away stage show, featuring the play’s two different casts headed by Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi. They each play Chihiro, the young girl who must save her parents when they get transformed into pigs after wandering into a fantasy realm of witches, spirits, and bathhouses.

Saying that doesn’t describe the magic or the beauty of Spirited Away, but by all accounts, the stage play does, thanks to excellent performances, puppets, and special effects, as well as having been adapted and directed by Tony Award-winner John Caird.

Both productions of Spirited Away: Live on Stage are due to arrive in U.S. movie theaters this spring.


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Who’s the Next Killer in the Disney Public Domain Murderverse? @ io9

Image: Jagged Edge Productions

The global release of Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey is happening in a week, and ahead of the premiere, writer/director Rhys Frake-Waterfield told The Hollywood Reporter that “he’s planning to create an entire universe filled with bloodied X-rated adaptations of beloved childhood stories.”

This is, quite possibly, one of the most inane statements I’ve ever heard a professional filmmaker say. I expect this kind of edgy pablum from high schoolers who think that hotboxing their mom’s Kia Sorento makes them cool, not from men who have literally made a living producing low-budget horror films. It’s absolutely the kind of masturbatory nostalgia that makes we want to gatekeep moviemaking a little. Just a little. Just enough to stop this absolute foolishness.

Frake-Waterfield runs Jagged Edge Productions alongside Scott Jeffry, and the studio specializes in low-budget creature features. They have already started work on “X-rated” adaptations of Bambi and Peter Pan, to the surprise of utterly nobody, and inciting excitement in maybe three people who are fans of admittedly bad films. Frake-Waterfield has additionally said that he wants all of these twisted childhood stories to exist in the same universe. “People have been messaging saying they really want to see Bambi versus Pooh.”

This is the kind of bullshit that Funny or Die would reject at the pitch meeting. The sort of weird animatic that talented TikTokers would draw on a slow weekend in response to an offhand comment. Bambi trotting through Hundred Acre Wood with the eviscerated corpse of Piglet hanging from his antlers is the subject of a teenager’s doodles in the margins of their calculus homework. Truly, the only reason that anyone cares about this mashup is because Frake-Waterfield has realized that if he can use familiar Disney names and characters which are currently in Public Domain to bust up some childhood memories he’ll bring in the big bucks (get it... bucks?), regardless of whether or not he puts any original thought into his work.

The idea that a serial killer in a bear costume and a murderous deer would clash in a disgustingly gross gorefest isn’t necessarily a bad one—less has been made into decent, if not great B-movie horror. Honestly, doing one twisted childhood character film like this for the cult horror status isn’t that offensive, but Frake-Waterfield has this horribly grandiose vision that lacks self-awareness while indulging in the worst impulses of childish narrative rebellion. Frake-Waterfield imagines he’s edgy for creating a “fat Tinkerbell on drugs” as if shitty stereotypes and half-baked nostalgic “twists” are enough to convince his audience he has imagination when most of them aren’t laughing at the joke, but at the idea itself.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey premieres on February 15.

Correction: 2/6/2023 12.00 PM. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Winnie the Pooh was in creative commons. It is in the public domain. This has been edited.


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Ghostface Plays a Deadly Game of Chutes & Ladders in New Scream VI Teaser @ io9

Screenshot: Paramount

There’s only a little more than a month before the sixth installment of the Scream franchise stalks its way into New York City and theaters, but no movie with a generously-sized budget would miss the chance to promote itself during what sponsors have to generically call “the big game.” But rather than discuss the mystery of the new Ghostface(s?), this new teaser focuses on a single scene—and a single ladder.

Alternatively, this could be a rather overzealous advertisement about the importance of fire escapes:

Scream VI | Big Game Spot (2023 Movie)

In Scream VI, the four remaining survivors—played by Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, and Jenna Ortega—of the recent reboot, Scream V, head to NYC where they run into OG franchise survivors played by Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox. Based on this and previous trailers, it doesn’t seem like it works out well for anyone.

Scream VI hits theaters on March 10.


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Keanu Reeves' Constantine 2 Still in the Works Despite DC Shakeup @ io9

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Will I ever truly understand why I love Constantine (2005) so much? No. But this was a weird time for a lot of comic films, nestled in between awkward, over-CGI’d family films like Hulk and rated-R weirdness like Blade and Blade 2. Something about Constantine, which merged a hardboiled detective story and an eternal war between heaven and hell lodged itself into my gray matter and never let go. Anyway, we’re still getting that sequel, thank goodness. Spoilers, it’s time to go to hell.


Constantine 2

Contrary to recent rumors, Entertainment Weekly confirms Keanu Reeves’ Constantine sequel is still happening at Warner Bros. despite not being part of James Gunn’s currently outlined plan for the DCU.


Locked

Anthony Hopkins and Glenn Powell are attached to star in Locked, an English-language remake of the Argentinian thriller 4X4 (trailer here) from director David Yarovesky and writer Michael Arlen Ross and producer Sam Raimi. Like the original, the story focuses on “a thief who breaks into a luxury SUV, only to realize that he’s stumbled into a complex and deadly trap set by a mysterious figure.”

[Deadline]


The Red Triangle

Deadline reports Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged) is attached to direct The Red Triangle, a brand-new killer shark movie in which “a massive, floating, fully stocked cruise ship resort with thousands of passengers begins to sink” in titular Red Triangle, “the site of almost half of all recorded great white shark attacks in the United States.”


Azrael

Deadline also has our first look at Samara Weaving in Azrael, the upcoming action-horror film from director Evan Katz (The Haunting of Bly Manor) and writer Simon Barrett (The Guest, You’re Next) set “in a world in which no one speaks.” In the film, “a devout female-led community hunts down a young woman who has escaped imprisonment. Recaptured by its ruthless leaders, Azrael (Samara Weaving) is due to be sacrificed to pacify an ancient evil deep within the surrounding wilderness – but she has other ideas.”


Madame Web

During a recent appearance on the Shut Up Evan podcast (via ComicBook) Emma Roberts revealed her mysterious Madame Web character is “not a superhero.”

What I can tell you is I’m not a superhero. Some people may think she’s a superhero but not... like I don’t have supernatural powers. So I can tell you that.


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Scott’s anxious about the influence Hank and Janet have had on his daughter Cassie in two new clips from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Movie Clip - I’ve Never Had a Normal Life (2023)
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Movie Clip - Satellite (2023)

Don’t Suck

A vampire tries his hand at stand-up comedy in the trailer for Don’t Suck, starring Jamie Kennedy, Matt Rife, Russell Peters, and Ellen Hollman.

Don’t Suck (2023) - Official Trailer | VMI Worldwide

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special

Deadline reports Abbott Elementary stars Tyler James Williams and Quinta Brunson will lend their voices to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in this Thursday’s Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day special.


La Brea

Spoiler TV has synopses for “The Wedding” and “The Swarm,” the 11th and 12th episodes of La Brea’s second season.

The Wedding

02/21/2023 (09:00PM - 10:00PM) (Tuesday)

When the Clearing and Fort unite to celebrate the union of Ty and Paara, the invitation of a controversial guest threatens to upend the festivities. Lucas offers Veronica an unexpected strategy to unravel her captor’s odd connection to 10,000 BC.

The Swarm

02/21/2023 (10:00PM - 11:00PM) (Tuesday) : Eve and Gavin ally with James to infiltrate the Lazarus Building in hopes of saving Ty and stopping Kiera from destroying their only way home. When a deadly horde awakens beneath the Clearing, Veronica must save Ella before a lethal sting kills her.


The Ark

Finally, the surviving crewmembers debate the pros and cons of composting human remains in a clip from tonight’s episode of The Ark.

SNEAK PEEK: The Crew Votes on Composting Human Remains | The Ark (S1 E2) | SYFY

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Kansas Trivia | Dorky Geeky Nerdy #211 @ Bureau 42

Our penultimate state!

Hey gang, I’m your host, Brian Rollins, and this is episode 211 of the Dorky Geeky Nerdy Trivia Podcast. We’re getting ready to wrap things up with Kansas Trivia. Next week, we’ve got one more state and then it’s off to the season finale.

If you’re new, welcome to the show. Every week, I give you a brand new episode with thirty trivia questions on a given topic. This season it’s been all 50 states.

If you need a transcript of the show or want to find out more, visit DorkyGeekyNerdy.com for all that.

Sound good? OK, then let’s get this show on the road.

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/support

Chapter 22: How the Wizard Found Dorothy @ Bureau 42

Jonathan Majors Breaks Down the Essence of Kang in the Marvel Cinematic Universe @ io9

Image: Marvel Studios

With the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, audiences are about to really get a glimpse of the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His name is Kang and he’s played by Jonathan Majors. Majors made his Marvel debut last year in Loki as He Who Remains, a version of a supervillain who is going to have such an impact on the MCU moving forward, his name is in the title of the next Avengers movie: The Kang Dynasty.

But who is Kang? What role does he play in the MCU? You can go to the comics to find out—or ask the actor behind the character. Majors gave a very interesting and tease-filled answer when speaking at this week’s press conference for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

“Who is Kang? I think that is a question that we will all be answering for a very long time,” Majors said. “I think the quick answer to that is Kang is a time-traveling supervillain who is also a Nexus being, which leads to this idea of variants. There are multiple versions of Kang. ‘Versions’ being ‘variants.’ They occupy different universes, multiverses, they have different intentions. They are all different beings. And yet something that we’re still—and I’m still—working on, and continue to refine and refine and refine, is something that’s a through line between them. And that, to me, is the Kang gene in a nutshell.”

Majors talked about prepping to play this “time-traveling supervillain” by studying something you may not expect: the people he’s terrorizing.

Image: Marvel Studios

“The prep really comes down to who my director is and who my hero is,” Majors said. “Because as an antagonist, we’re following our heroes... I look at them and I figure out, okay. You can’t antagonize somebody if you don’t know who they are. If you don’t know the opposite of them. If you don’t know what their hopes and dreams are. My objective is to do that. Antagonize in order to get what I need to fulfill my life, my dream.”

“And so in Loki, I’m dealing with Tom [Hiddleston],” Majors continued. “It was great. He Who Remains and Tom. I got to watch him the whole time. You know, this opportunity came to me in lockdown. And so I studied Tom Hiddleston for hours a day. And then when that was done, I went, ‘Okay, Paul Rudd, you’re up!’ And I studied him. I studied all his hero colleagues and compatriots. And then you speak to your director and even your producer because there’s a culture to it. You lean into the culture.”

Majors likened that Marvel culture to what he believes it must have been like for a troupe of actors to work with Shakespeare centuries ago.

“This really feels like joining the Shakespearean troupes back in the day,” he said. “When you have Shakespeare in a room... and Shakespeare has a very clear idea of what it is they want to do. You have your lead actor and they kind of set the tempo and the tone, and you get in and you get busy, you know? And the culture of the play and the story is all there, but it’s really changing. For that, you really have to be very clear about what it is you’re doing, who your character is, the spine of the character, [and] what he’s about—which is about what they’re going after. So you build that, and the rest of it, you just play hard, At least that was my take, you know? Until something changes, play hard.”

And Kang, for sure, plays hard. See what we mean in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which hits theaters on February 17. 


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The Legends of Tomorrow Will Return One Last Time Thanks to The Flash @ io9

Image: Colin Bentley/The CW

Praise Beebo, my friends. While a lot of familiar faces are returning for The Flash’s ninth season, it won’t just be the friends and family members of the Iris West clan. Showrunner Eric Wallace has revealed that the fan-favorite Legends of Tomorrow cast will make an appearance, almost certainly for the final time.

While this is wonderful news, it is somewhat bittersweet. Wallace said that he had hoped to spend two episodes of The Flash wrapping up Legends’ storyline—if you’ll recall, the show ended with everyone stuck in 1916 and arrested by the time police—but since Flash’s ninth season was limited to 13 episodes, his original plan was scuttled. As he told the Nerds of Color podcast:

“[M]y original concept was to have at least one—if not a two-parter—that wrapped up Legends of Tomorrow. And you know, there will be a little crossover we get them back, we get them out of time jail, all these good things, Booster Gold, etc, etc. When we found out we only have 13 episodes, that was no longer possible. We barely have enough time to wrap up things with Barry and Iris’ upcoming family...”

So we have no idea how the Legends will make their appearance, or why, or what state they’ll be in (I’m assuming Barry won’t be wasting time rescuing them from time jail, however). But no matter what, it’ll be great to see them again one last time. When The Flash ends later this year, so will the Arrowverse. I’m sure we’ll be getting something approaching a proper send-off for these knuckleknobs, no matter how abbreviated it may be.

[Via Collider]


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The Last of Us Continues to Rise in the Ratings @ io9

Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

HBO’s The Last of Us might be stepping aside for the Superbowl (catch the next episode this Friday, rather than the usual Sunday), but it’s still becoming a force of nature as far as ratings are concerned on its own. After the massive buzz around episode three, episode four boasted the highest numbers to date.

According to an HBO press release, episode four, “Please Hold to My Hand,” “delivered another series high Sunday night, with 7.5 million viewers across HBO Max and linear telecasts. Viewership was up 17% from Episode 3 last Sunday and 60% above the series debut night in January ... the series has grown its audience each Sunday night with the release of new episodes.” What the press release doesn’t mention, but Variety’s post on the news does, is that the Grammys—which had its best showing in three years with 12.4 million viewers—aired opposite the most recent episode of The Last of Us. Even with the music awards in the picture, the Pedro Pascal-Bella Ramsey apocalyptic horror series based on the PlayStation game managed to build on its viewership.

You gotta think the power of Linda Ronstadt had something to do with it—or at least all the powerful emotions stirred up by “Long, Long Time,” the much-discussed third episode of the series. You have to imagine curious viewers heard about the episode, caught up on the series, and then watched episode four as soon as it streamed. As mentioned, this week’s a bit of an odd one for The Last of Us—episode five will debut early on HBO Max and HBO On Demand starting Friday at 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT to get ahead of the Superbowl, though it will also be dropping on HBO proper at its usual Sunday at 9:00 pm time. Then, for episode six, it’ll be back to Sunday nights until the finale on March 12.


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Disney Artist Ashley Taylor on Her Fairytale Inspirations @ io9

Photo: Ashley Taylor

Every year at Epcot kicks off with the International Festival of the Arts, a haven for Disney art collectors that showcases an extensive line-up of work from an array of unique perspectives. The Walt Disney World-exclusive Artful Epcot fest has steadily become one of the best reasons to visit Disney Parks during the non-peak season, with fantastic weather perfect for taking an art walk around the world. It’s only too bad doesn’t run as long as the park’s other festivals.

Among the artists for 2023 is Ashley Taylor, who chatted with io9 about returning to the festival, growing up on Disney, and her evolution as a creative with the company. Her work has been seen on theme park fashion merch and even on a new parade float featured on the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Sabina Graves, io9: Was Disney one of your first fandoms? If so, which movie or movies really inspired you growing up, and how did that inform your path as an artist?

Ashley Taylor: Disney was absolutely my first fandom! I was mesmerized by Sleeping Beauty when I was a kid. I think Sleeping Beauty is the most beautiful and artistically distinct Disney animated film ever created! Eyvind Earle’s color schemes, compositions, and details made every frame a masterpiece. You can pause that movie at any moment and marvel at how strikingly beautiful it is. Eyvind Earle created a world for all of us to escape to. Sleeping Beauty will always have my heart and it will always inspire my use of color theory to create emotion in my work. I also loved films like Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland! The use of color and design is so timeless and beautiful. Mary Blair really captured the heart of each story with her concept art, which is something I always try to do with my settings and characters. I want to find the heartbeat of these stories and bring them to life.

io9: At what point during your career journey did your art help you find your current calling? It’s so beloved in the Disney community and it’s been a joy to see it, both online and in person at the Park galleries, on merch, and at the Main Street Electrical Parade. Can you talk about your steps toward those milestones and biggest takeaways?

Taylor: I think my art career and the support of the Disney community go hand and hand. I would not be where I am today without their support. I still get emotional thinking about my first signing event with the company. So many people took time out of their day to spend time with me. Over the years, people continue to support my work and come out to signing events—and it fills my heart with so much joy to chat with everyone. This level of support has led to opportunities showcasing at Epcot International Festival of the Arts, D23, creating artwork for the Disney Wish, and working on the design for the Main Street Electrical Parade’s 50th Anniversary Finale Unit—with the incomparable Scott Schaffer and Jordan Peterson! All of the support from the Disney community has led me to these opportunities. And every time I create a new product or experience, it’s my way of giving back the love I’ve received over the years!

io9: In your Instagram posts, you’re open about how being a creative can be filled with tons of ups and downs, and how you cope through your art process often with the help of some of our favorite heroines. What were the challenges you’re most proud of overcoming? And what advice do you have for up and coming artists?

Taylor:I think it’s so important to share the highs and the lows of being a creative. When you only see the highlights—the dream feels unattainable. When in actuality, your dreams are so much closer than you think! I always want my art to serve as proof that your dreams can come true, too. I’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles in my career. There was a time when a valued opinion told me I had zero talent. And those words resonated in my mind for a long time. I didn’t create for years. And spent so much time not living my best life because someone told me I couldn’t. And then I saw the movie Tangled—and it changed my whole perspective! I found myself resonating with Rapunzel so much. She had a dream she couldn’t chase. She spent her days surrounded by tower walls. In that moment, I realized I too had my own walls preventing me from going after my dreams—and it was time to take those walls down. So I worked hard, I developed my style, and I pursued my dream of creating artwork for Disney!

Photo: Ashley Taylor

I think I love creating pieces that center around the Disney princesses and heroines so much because I love showcasing the qualities that make them strong and inspiring. We all resonate with their stories in so many ways. The best advice I can give up and coming artists is to follow your heart, pursue your passions, chase your dreams, surround yourself with people who want the best for you, and to keep moving forward! Don’t be fazed by setbacks and failures. Artists fail all the time. We go through countless revisions before we land on the final artwork. If you keep learning and growing from every setback, you’ll be unstoppable. And most importantly, find the joy in creating! When you draw what you’re passionate about, people will respond to it. Pay attention to where your mind goes when it wanders and start from there!


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Tyler Posey on Returning to Teen Wolf @ io9

Even at His Best, Rick and Morty's Justin Roiland Apparently Wasn't Much Fun to Work With @ io9

Screenshot: Adult Swim

After allegations of abuse were revealed earlier this year, Adult Swim and Hulu parted ways with Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites, Koala Man). Now, a new investigation by the Hollywood Reporter says that Roiland’s offbeat work ethic and flaky attention span made him a lot less important to his projects than the public might have assumed.

One of the stories that THR exposed was Roiland’s inability to show up for important meetings, something that was apparently waved away by his bosses: “The behavior came to be expected, and though it was infuriating to collaborators, they say it was often excused by executives, chalked up to what one describes as ‘an eccentricity of a genius weirdo’.” The trade also found that Roiland established a pattern of separating himself from actual work, stating that some colleagues hadn’t actually seen him in years. “Multiple sources say that Roiland, other than voice work, has not had any meaningful creative presence on any of the series that bear his name”—which might be a surprise considering the widely held perception that he was the driving force behind them, particularly Rick and Morty.

Sources additionally stated that “Roiland had revealed early on that he believed securing key voice roles would safeguard him from being fired one day.” His most recent voice gig on Koala Man went so poorly that his character was killed off. Turns out nothing is going to safeguard a man like Roiland; not talent, not fame, and certainly not voice acting.

Read the entire piece—which also gets into Roiland’s relationship with Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon, which has apparently been frosty for years, despite the show’s continuing success—over at the Hollywood Reporter.


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The Mandalorian Is Moving to Regular TV... for One Night Only @ io9

The Mandalorian will soon make his TV debut.Image: Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian, the show that helped launch an entire streaming service, is coming off that streaming service for one night only. With the third season of the hit Star Wars show quickly approaching, the very first episode will make its broadcast debut, airing on ABC, Freeform, and FX on February 24.

So, if you’re a person who reads a site like ours and doesn’t subscribe to Disney+, or who hasn’t gone to a friend’s house who has Disney+, and has no idea who “Baby Yoda” is... well, in a few short weeks, you can find out. Spoiler alert: the character debuts at the end of the episode that’s airing: “Chapter 1: The Mandalorian.”

This broadcast debut is happening to ramp up some easy promotion for The Mandalorian season three, which debuts on Disney+ the following week, March 1. The 41-minute episode will air from 8-9 p.m. so expect some commercials, one of which you have to imagine will be for season three. Is it too much to ask for some new footage?

Either way, it might be fun to go back and revisit the first episode of the show now, just to think about the many, many ways it has impacted not just Star Wars, but pop culture in general. For Star Wars, the show fulfilled a years-long ambition by creator George Lucas to bring his franchise to live-action television, and it gave fans a new place to discover the stories they know and love. In fact, right now, Star Wars is almost certainly a brand more tied to streaming than it is to theatrical movies. Since the last movie, 2019's The Rise of Skywalker, Disney+ has debuted four live-action shows and multiple animated series. By the time there’s another movie (which is maybe 2025 but it’s not clear?), there are likely to be at least two to three more. We’re talking hours and hours of storytelling.

Culturally, from the moment he popped up on screen, the character referred to as “Baby Yoda,” real name Grogu, instantly became an icon. He was a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, for crying out loud. There are few characters in pop culture as a whole, let alone just Star Wars, as recognizable or popular.

And all of it began on November 12, 2019 with the launch of Disney+ and the series’ first episode—which, in a few weeks’ time, will make its debut on broadcast TV. “Chapter 1: The Mandalorian” will debut at 8 p.m. February 24 on ABC, Freeform, and FX.


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Horror Author Stephen Graham Jones on His Latest Chiller, Don't Fear the Reaper @ io9

Image: Gallery / Saga Press

In 2021, author Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians) released My Heart Is a Chainsaw, giving horror fans a memorable heroine in high school misfit Jade Daniels. Don’t Fear the Reaper, its sequel and the second entry in Jones’ Indian Lake Trilogy, is out today—and i09 got a chance to talk to him about it.

In the Bram Stoker Award-winning Chainsaw, Jade’s obsession with slasher movies begins to bleed into real life when she becomes convinced a maniac is stalking her small Idaho town, a place with a rich and troubled history where she’s one of few Indigenous residents remaining. In Reaper, we find Jade returning home a few years after the events of Chainsaw, right when a dangerous new threat appears in the form of an escaped serial killer. Both books are infused with Jones’ own love of (and deep knowledge of) horror films, as well as themes that reflect his Native American background. What follows is a slightly edited and condensed version of our interview with Jones.


Cheryl Eddy, io9: Jade has been through a lot since the end of My Heart Is a Chainsaw. What do you think was the most important lesson she took away from the events of that book? And how has it shaped her going into Don’t Fear the Reaper?

Stephen Graham Jones: At the end of Chainsaw, and this may be a spoiler for people who haven’t read it, she does kind of save the day—but she doesn’t get credit for it. From that, she might have learned that it’s not about whether the world acknowledges you, it’s about whether you do what you think is right. Jade pretends to be all anti-society and metal and everything against the world, but I think secretly she wants to make it a better place. She wants to help people and just make things better. I think she might be slowly realizing that you don’t do it for the credit. You do it for the good it does.

io9: Why do you think she has such a hard time seeing herself as a Final Girl?

Jones: I think because over the decades—and she talks about this a little bit—the Final Girl has become this warrior princess angel up on a pedestal that people in the audience are supposed to identify with. But this Final Girl is so shining and perfect and amazing that we think we can’t match up, that we can never be like her. We can never be as tough as Ripley [in Alien] or as pure as Nancy [in A Nightmare on Elm Street]. The Final Girl within the slasher is supposed to empower us and teach us to push back against bullies. But when the Final Girl becomes so perfect that we can’t inhabit that space, then we have no position from which to push back against bullies, if that makes sense. And so Jade—still, even though I think she knows better, she’s been conditioned to subscribe to this notion of the warrior princess, perfect angel of a Final Girl. And she knows that not only is she not that, but pretty much nobody is—except, to her, [fellow My Heart Is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper character] Letha.

io9: My Heart Is a Chainsaw is told almost entirely from Jade’s point of view, but Don’t Fear the Reaper really expands the perspective and gives us other characters’ point of view. Why did you decide to widen the scope for the sequel?

Jones: You’re right—in the first one, the periscope camera eye was over Jade. If it wasn’t over Jade’s shoulder, then we were reading Jade’s papers. It was Jade wall to wall. And I love Jade, and I think she’s amazing, but I know that she can be a little domineering, too; she can force her slasher reviews and her slasher lectures on people.

So the first reason I wanted to jump heads, go from person to person, in Don’t Fear the Reaper was I was afraid that too much Jade might not be a good thing. Also, I didn’t want to hurt her because I think if you shine that hot spotlight on somebody for two books in a row, unrelentingly, that’s going to burn that character a little bit. So I wanted to give Jade some off-page time too. But also, when you’re doing something that’s either narrated by someone or that’s only focused on them, as My Heart Is a Chainsaw was, then you have to stage things such that the character either always has an angle on them, or is at the center of all the key events in the book—which can get kind of contrived, and it’s really hard to make it work. It’s worthwhile, but it’s difficult.

And I’m not saying it’s necessarily easier to do it jumping heads [between] third-person [points of view], but jumping heads third-person lets the story be happening all at once, all around Indian Lake, and I can jump here and there. Also, what I found most productive was I could have two characters having almost contradictory views on the same things. I think that makes that thing more real, actually, instead of chipping away at it.

Image: Gallery / Saga Press

io9: When you were writing My Heart Is a Chainsaw, did you plan for it to be kicking off a trilogy?

Jones: No, it didn’t become a trilogy until the very, very final stages. What happened was [my editor] Joe Monti and I were working on it, on the notes, edits, all that. And towards the very end of it, he said, “You know, this thing you’re doing at the end, where every single person is dead in the water, that’s going to be kind of a bummer for readers.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s a horror novel. It’s not supposed to be happy.” And he said, “But they’re going to want some payback on their investment of time and emotion. Why don’t you let just a few characters live?” And of course, being a stubborn writer, I thought, “Well, no way is that right.” But at the same time, I really respect him as an editor, as a thinker, as someone who knows stories. So I thought I owed it to him to give it a try. I opened a side document and I ran through it in a way in which a few people lived at the end of My Heart Is a Chainsaw, and it worked so much better than the way I had it done. And once I realized that there were people stumbling out of this massacre into the future, that future could look like a book two and a book three. So I told Joe and my agent, BJ Robbins, “It’s a trilogy.” And I pretended like I had it planned all along, but I hadn’t had it planned all along.

io9: Don’t Fear the Reaper introduces an outside antagonist in serial killer Dark Mill South. He has certain folklore and mythical elements, but he’s very much a real person. Why did you want to include this sort of true crime element in the story?

Jones: Yeah, that true crime element. I wonder if that’s just part of the world now—during the pandemic, the last three years, true crime has just exploded in every facet of our media. I haven’t watched a lot of it, I think; I guess I read a few of the books. Nevertheless, I think it’s percolated up into me, and I think that this is probably that percolation expressing itself. But at the same time, I’ve read and watched so much serial killer stuff. The trick with serial killers is to get them on the page in a way that doesn’t celebrate the bad acts they’re doing. You still want to be thrilling and we want to—I don’t know if we ever want to completely understand the serial killer, because I don’t know if we really can. Those of us who aren’t serial killers, it’s hard to understand that need to do these ritual murders every six months and all that, to enact these power dramas. But I think the world is just fascinated with true crime. And within true crime, serial killers are 90% of that fascination. I wrote Don’t Fear the Reaper after two or three years of the pandemic, and so I think I was just unintentionally part of the world that was happening at the time, if that makes sense.

io9: We haven’t traditionally seen a lot of Indigenous representation in horror, aside from, like, “Indian burial grounds” in Poltergeist and stuff like that. Thankfully, that’s changing. But when you were growing up as a horror fan, what did you make of those themes and is that something that motivated you when you started telling your own stories?

Jones: You know, what it did was, you’d always have these people stumbling into the haunted Indian burial grounds and then dying one by one over the course of the story. I would always be celebrating, like, “Yeah, dudes, y’all shouldn’t go there. Y’all shouldn’t mess with our junk.” And I guess the way it influenced me was, in My Heart Is a Chainsaw and this whole trilogy, instead of doing an Indian burial ground, I’m doing a Christian burial ground. That’s the haunted place, because [local boogeymen] Ezekiel and his unholy choir are down at the bottom of Indian Lake in Drown Town. And that’s my corruption in this case.

io9: Don’t Fear the Reaper adds an extra layer of chaos to Indian Lake’s preexisting chaos by taking place during a full-on blizzard. Why did you decide to make the weather such a factor in this one?

Jones: In slashers, you generally need to isolate the crew so that people can get picked off one by one. To tell you the truth, all these storms or whatever it is that isolates these characters in slashers, it’s really the drawing room doors in a Agatha Christie novel getting closed, you know, for a closed-door mystery. In later times, we shape those doors differently; you get stuff like Glass Onion, which literally puts [the characters] on an island. It’s just all about isolation, and you got to rig up something that makes sense for the world. And for 8,000 feet up the mountain, Idaho, a snowstorm seems to be the most isolating thing that would happen naturally anyway. And also, whereas My Heart Is a Chainsaw was set over summer in the heat, I wanted Don’t Fear the Reaper to be a completely different experience. Winter felt like the first step of making it a different experience, making it kind of new again.

Image: Gallery / Saga Press

io9: As both My Heart Is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper tell us, along with movies like Scream and Carol Clover’s influential film-studies book Men, Women, and Chainsaws, the slasher genre has a very defined set of rules. Jade (and Letha in Reaper) cling to that as a response to the chaos in their own lives—at least, that’s how I interpreted it.

Jones: I think they are invested enough in the slasher that they think these rules can provide order to their world, and they see their world as a slasher world. But I don’t really think that the world is beholden to comply to the rules of any genre. I think it gives them comfort and allows them to walk through the world if they believe that they know the conventions well enough, like Randy in Scream, that they can anticipate or that they can guard against. But like Jade finds out in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, just because you know the rules doesn’t mean the rules care about that. You know, they can change and do what they want.

io9: It seems like both books tell you the rules, but then subvert them.

Jones: Sure. Yeah.

io9: In the acknowledgements for My Heart Is a Chainsaw, you thanked a video store clerk who helped guide you into becoming a horror fan at a young age. Is there a first slasher film that really got you hooked?

Jones: The first sort of slasher film I ever saw was on HBO, and I think I was 10 years old. This would have been 1982. And it was the 1978, John Carpenter-written The Eyes of Laura Mars. That just terrified me silly. I watched again it like two months ago and it still kind of it gets to me—it made me realize that in one of my novels, Demon Theory, I kind of used some elements of The Eyes of Laura Mars, just because it’s part of my horror DNA now. That and Watcher in the Woods, I saw that when I was young young. I think more than any other horror thing, Watcher in the Woods totally controls what I do on the page. It’s legit scary. It’s wonderful, if you can find the, I think it’s the Blu-ray, it has the deleted scenes on it, the original ending, and that stuff gets wild and very non-Disney.

io9: Speaking of horror movies, nowadays we have what’s called elevated horror, like the works of Jordan Peele and Ari Aster. What does that term mean to you, and how do you view the state of horror films and TV as we’re heading into 2023?

Jones: I think right now, horror films and television are getting more respect than they have gotten in the past. The world at large used to consider horror fans and creators to be this weird, little nightmare carnival on the horizon that they didn’t pay attention to, because they were just doing blood gags to entertain each other. But I do think Get Out, and also Victor LaValle’s [2016 novel] The Ballad of Black Tom, both of those cued the world in that horror is actually engaging issues of the day. We’re part of the world. We’re not out here by ourselves. We’re processing things through, just like art always does. And therefore I think horror is getting a lot more respect these days, which is good and bad. I think horror has always kind of prided itself on being an outsider, you know? So if and when we become an insider, I wonder how that might change things? And I’m not sure.

But as for the term elevated horror, I mean, I resist it. It always feels to me like an insult to the rest of horror. I really think people say elevated horror as a code for “I like this, but I kind of dismiss the rest of horror.” It’s a way for them to say “This is worthy of my engagement because it’s elevated.” It’s like what we called in the ‘70s “prestige horror”—like The Omen and those types of movies. I mean, prestige horror and elevated horror are just how society likes [to call] something that they feel like they should feel guilty for liking. I try not to use the term elevated horror if I can help it. I like elevator horror. Elevator horror can be really good. It’s a serious closed-door story, you know? [Laughs]

io9: Chainsaw was out in 2021, Reaper is out in 2023. Where are you on part three and can you tease any small thing about it?

Jones: It’s written already. I finished it on August, August 15, I think I turned it in, and I’m currently in notes in it. I gave Saga a list of possible titles, from which they made an argument for one, which I think is a great argument. So we settled on a title about two weeks ago, which I’m not released to say yet. But the fun thing with a trilogy is the main character is more or less a series character; they get to arc across three installments instead of just one installment. They have little arcs within one big arc. And what I love about the third book—which is weird to say about your own stuff, maybe I should say it in a different way—I like to see Jade process through. I like where she gets to, I guess.


Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones is out today, February 7; you can order a copy here—and if you haven’t yet read the first book in the Indian Lake Trilogy, My Heart Is a Chainsaw, you can pick it up here.


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Funko Releases Disney100 Pop Movie Posters of Cinderella and Dumbo @ io9

Image: Funko

To celebrate the Disney100 Funko Pop! has been adding to its parade of animation collectibles for the studio’s centennial. In this exclusive with io9, we’re unveiling two new artistic Disney movie poster releases. Take a look at the just-released Cinderella and Dumbo posters with pop figures of their stars and rodent sidekicks in this gallery.

Funko Pop Movie Poster: Disney’s Cinderella

Image: Funko

It’s a dress twirl moment in action as if Cinderella’s fairy godmother just transformed it. And look at little Jaq! So tiny and adorable though we think it could have used a Gus Gus. The dimensions of the case are approximately 11 inches wide by 17 inches tall by 5.5 inches deep.

Cinderella

Image: Funko

How exactly is Jaq positioned off the ground? Well for the poster series, the Funko Pops are adhered to the backdrops to make the display more dynamic. Otherwise, you might miss him if he wasn’t jumping for joy!

Funko Box Reverse

Image: Funko

And on the back you get a full image of the classic poster for the film.

Funko Pop! Movie Poster: Disney’s Dumbo

Image: Funko

For Dumbo, they’ve recreated a design that has Timothy the mouse presenting the flying elephant with the big ears. The case has the same dimensions as the Cinderella poster.

Dumbo

Image: Funko

Whether you keep the box in its box or pull the display case out, both Dumbo and Timothy stand out in their poses.

An Elephant’s Backside

Image: Funko

On the back you can compare how the figures match up to the poster. If you want to order these Funko Pops online, be sure to check out the links to the Cinderella figure here and the Dumbo figure here.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

Rahul Kohli On Warhammer Show @ io9

Jonathan Majors' Kang Conquers in the Newest Ant-Man: Quantumania Teaser @ io9

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

It’s Jonathan Majors’ (quantum) realm. and we’re all just living in it. The amount of hype that the trailers are giving Kang the Conqueror is truly out of this world and honestly; he deserves it. We’ve got some early social reactions coming out, and people are very interested in seeing Kang show up again and again throughout the MCU. You’re out of time, spoilers.


Rachel

According to Deadline, Hannah John-Kamen and Theo Rossi are attached to star in Rachel, a new sci-fi thriller from The Ranger director Jenn Wexler. The story follows “new mother Rachel (John-Kamen) who seemingly has the perfect life, except she doesn’t recall the recent birth of her baby boy or even being pregnant. Her cookie-cutter husband Stephen (Rossi) deflects her probing questions as strange neighbors begin stalking her. Flooded with memories of an 11-year-old girl who seemed to be her daughter, the film will chart how Rachel’s perfectly constructed world begins to tear apart.”


The Adults

Deadline reports Evan Rachel Wood, Josh Gad and Anthony Carrigan are attached to star in The Adults, a new film from Alex Winter (Freaked) following “siblings Megan (Wood) and Nathan (Gad), who are barely hanging on in present-day America, like all of us. Their lives are completely upended when they discover a dead body, long buried in their parent’s basement, sending them down a rabbit hole of crime and murder.”


The Exorcist

Deadline also reports child actor Olivia Marcum has joined the cast of David Gordon Green’s The Exorcist in an undisclosed role.


The Monster Tale

Deadline additionally reports Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s Imaginarium Productions will team with South Korea’s Climax Studio for The Monster Tale, a new film from Jason Kim in which “a warring group of three infamous East Asian monsters must unite to defeat a menacing invasion by a [fourth] monster from across the seas of Europe.”


The Backrooms

Bloody-Disgusting reports 17-year-old Kane Parsons has been hired to direct a feature-length adaptation of his popular, Creepypasta-inspired Y0utube series, The Backrooms, for A24, Atomic Monster, Chernin Entertainment, and 21 Laps Entertainment. Roberto Patino (DMZ) is attached to write the screenplay about an endless labyrinth of empty office buildings inhabited by shadowy ghouls.


Imaginary

Meanwhile, Blumhouse and Lionsgate have joined forces for Imaginary, a new horror film from director Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf) in which “a young woman returns to her childhood home only to discover that the imaginary friend she left behind is very real and very unhappy she left.”

[Bloody-Disgusting]


The Black Demon

Bloody-Disgusting additionally reports The Black Demon—the upcoming Megalodon movie from the director of Rambo: Last Blood—is now scheduled for an April 28, 2023 release date.


Paddington 3

However, Ben Whishaw told Collider updates on a third Paddington movie have “gone silent” in recent months.

I haven’t read this script and I don’t even know when we’re due to shoot it. I don’t know. I thought it would be happening by now, but I don’t know. It’s gone silent in the way that sometimes these things do. Maybe that just means they’re still working on it, or maybe it means it’s not happening, or you just don’t know.


The Dresden Sun

Deadline has our first look at Christina Ricci in The Dresden Sun, an upcoming sci-fi/heist movie about “a brilliant, principled mercenary (Steven Ogg) with a traumatic history” who “works with an insider to steal a prized commodity called ‘the sphere’ from Dr. Dresden (Ricci).” Mena Suvari, Linus Roache, and Samantha Win co-star.

Photo: VMI International

A Quiet Place: Day One

Filming has officially begun on A Quiet Place: Day One, according to John Krasinski on Twitter.


Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania

Kane really wants to escape the Quantum Realm in a new TV spot for Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania.

Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania | Emerald City

Elsewhere, Jonathan Majors says much the same thing in a new featurette, which also includes a new shot of MODOK.

Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania | Kang The Conqueror

ReBroken

Vinyl records allow a man to commune with his deceased daughter in the trailer for ReBroken, starring Tobin Bell and Alison Haislip.

Trailer : ReBroken (2023) #tobinbell

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

According to ComicBook, actress Jennifer Shirley (Batwoman, Superman & Lois) has been cast as the Oracle for one episode of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.


Doctor Who

In the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine (via ComicBook), executive producer Joel Collins revealed the new TARDIS interior set is “logic-defying” and took an engineer several “months” in order to “solve the riddle” of how to make it possible to build.

We talked through various concepts with Russel [T. Davies, showrunner], and there was one rough idea that was just too ambitious, and too impossible – but which everybody loved. Once I’d put it in front of Russell, he’s just too visually bright to unsee it. I’d go, ‘Yes, yes, but it’s completely mad, it’s never going to happen.’ Then we started to say, ‘OK, how do we make this impossible space possible?’ Phil [Sims, production designer] brought in a brilliant engineer, who spent months trying to solve the engineering riddle of this impossible, logic-defying set, which no one in their right mind should ever have even drawn in the first place. But that kind of sums up the show...


Yellowjackets

Production on the second season of Yellowjackets has wrapped for its “‘90s” cast of flashback actors.

Last day on set of season 2! Extremely grateful to the incredible crew of @yellowjackets 🖤 so much hard work went into this season and I can’t wait for you all to see it! Buzz buzz buzz baby


The Winchesters

Carlos, Mary, and Latika “creep out to investigate a figure but can’t quite make it out until it turns” in the synopsis for “You’ve Got a Friend,” the February 21 episode of The Winchesters.

TAKE A BREATH - In the aftermath of the fight with Golem, Carlos (Jojo Fleites), Mary (Meg Donnelly) and Latika (Nida Khurshid) are cleaning the clubhouse when they hear a noise from outside. They creep out to investigate and spot a figure but can’t quite make it out until it turns, and they are shocked to see John (Drake Rodger) standing before them, covered in blood. Meanwhile, Carlos and Latika set out in search of something important. Lisa Soper directed the episode written by Nicol Desperito (#111). Original Airdate 2/21/2022.

[Spoiler TV]


Ghosts

Tara Reid guest-stars as herself in the trailer for this week’s episode of Ghosts.

Ghosts 2x14 Promo “Trevor’s Body” (HD) Rose McIver comedy series

The Last of Us

Finally, Joel takes on Kathleen in the trailer for “Endure and Survive,” available to stream this Friday on HBO Max at 9:00 p.m. so as not to compete with Super Bowl LVII.

The Last of Us 1x05 Promo “Endure and Survive” (HD) HBO series

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

Hasbro's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Figures Come in All Shapes and Sizes @ io9

Image: Hasbro

A new Marvel movie is just weeks away, and that means it’s time for Marvel movie merch. As always, Hasbro is leading the charge with a new Marvel Legends wave dedicated to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and io9 has the first look at the toys from the movie.

The Quantumania wave, due out this summer, will feature seven figures—four from the new movie, three from the comics. From Quantumania, the line will feature new versions of Scott Lang’s Ant-Man, Hope Van Dyne’s Wasp, and Jonathan Major’s big bad, Kang the Conqueror, while the comics lineup will include Future Ant-Man (created for a miniseries celebrating the character’s 60th anniversary last year), Egghead, Crossfire, and a classic Ultron.

Six of those figures will come with the parts to build the fourth Quantumania addition to the wave in the form of a surprising choice: Kathryn Newton’s Cassie Lang, geared up in one of the Pym family’s size-changing suits. Why Cassie for the “deluxe” build-a-figure? Because that’s the thing about size-changing superheroes, they can be real small... or real big.

Image: Hasbro

The Cassie figure, which will have multiple hand options as well as alternate helmeted and helmetless heads, towers over the rest of the 6-inch-scale figures in the wave when completed, almost twice the height of her father. No doubt we might get a normal-sized version of her down the line, but for now, you can’t deny that she’s not deluxe!

Each figure in the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania wave will cost $24.99; they’re set to release this summer, in the wake of the movie’s debut on February 17. Click through to see plenty of pictures of every figure in the wave, including more of the completed Build-a-Figure Cassie, ahead of pre-orders opening tomorrow, February 8, at 1:00 pm ET at Hasbro Pulse and other major retailers.

Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

Image: Hasbro

Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Marvel’s Wasp

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Kang the Conqueror

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

Image: Hasbro

Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

Image: Hasbro

Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Cassie Lang Build-a-Figure

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Future Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Future Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Future Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Future Ant-Man

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Crossfire

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Crossfire

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Crossfire

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Egghead

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Egghead

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Marvel’s Egghead

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ultron

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ultron

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Hasbro Marvel Legends Ultron

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The 6,167-Piece Rivendell Is the One Lego Lord of the Rings Set to Rule Them All @ io9

Image: Lego

Take a really close look at the reflection in the gold ring that Lego teased on Twitter yesterday and you’ll see that the company actually shared an early sneak peek at today’s big reveal: an absolutely stunning 6,167-piece recreation of Rivendell reflecting the elaborate locale we’ve seen on screen.

This isn’t Lego’s first Lord of the Rings set. Back when Peter Jackson’s movies were in theaters, Lego did release a collection of LOTR sets and minifigures, but the largest one was a 1,300+-piece recreation of the Battle of Helm’s Deep that, by today’s Lego standards, was relatively small. The collection also included a tiny 243-piece recreation of the the Council of Elrond, which, understandably, left LOTR fans disappointed. But it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed in this latest release, at least until they see its price tag.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the set’s details.

The Largest LOTR Lego Set Ever Released

Image: Lego

Remember how our collective jaws hit the floor when Lego first revealed its 7,541-piece Ultimate Collector Series Star Wars Millennium Falcon? The Lego LOTR Rivendell is only about 1,300 pieces smaller than that, and only about 600 pieces smaller than the 6,785-piece UCS Star Wars AT-AT. It measures in at 29.5 inches long when fully assembled, 15 inches tall to the top of the tower adorned with statues of famous elven warriors, and 19.5 inches deep. It also splits apart into three smaller sections for alternate arrangements and easier transport.

An Elaborate Cast of Minifigures

Image: Lego

As is often the case, many of Lego’s larger playsets are worth getting for the minifigures alone. Is anyone really buying The Office for a bunch of tiny brick-built photocopiers and potted plants? No! They’re after the claw-handed versions of Pam and Jim. Lego’s LOTR Rivendell also includes 15 minifigures, but we’ll take Gandalf the Grey, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Aragorn, Elrond, Arwen, and more, over Dwight any day.

Elrond’s Council Ring

Image: Lego

The spot where the Fellowship of the Ring was formed and plans for the quest to Mount Doom were finalized gets a lavish treatment here with a semicircular ring of chairs surrounding a plinth where the One Ring was first revealed. We’re adding bonus points for the sausages used as chair arms. Those elves sure know how to live to its fullest.

A Hobbit Reunion

Image: Lego

Not only can you recreate the reunion between Bilbo and Frodo Baggins after the hobbit’s rescue from the Ringwraiths by Arwen, but the Bilbo minifigure even includes a reversible head featuring his terrifyingly tortured face after being reunited with the One Ring once again.

A Masterclass in Unorthodox Piece Usage

Image: Lego

What sets a great Lego builder apart from a good Lego builder is their ability to look at pieces and see more than their originally intended uses. Rivendell is a masterclass in this, taught by Lego Design Master Mike Psaiki, who’s repurposed everything from plants, to sausages, to even transparent windows to recreate waterfalls and impressive architectural accents.

Be Careful, That’s Still Sharp

Image: Lego

Although Lego’s Rivendell even includes the place where Aragon and Boromir first meet next to the shrine featuring the shards of Narsil, it appears as if the minifigure version of Boromir has yet to cut his finger on the still-sharp sword. But that’s nothing a red Sharpie can’t fix.

A One-Stop Shop for All Your Weapon Needs

Image: Lego

As peaceful as Rivendell appears, the elves are still well regarded for their weapons, and not only does this set come with a well-stocked armory, but also a glowing forge for creating Lhangs and other stabby tools for making short work of orcs and goblins.

A Tiled Roof Worth the Tedium

Image: Lego

There’s nothing worse than working your way through a textbook-sized Lego instruction manual only to come across a step that has to be repeated countless times that dramatically slows down your build progress. That is undoubtedly the case with the tiled roof atop Rivendell—each 1x1 Lego tile will have to be attached and aligned individually—but the results look like they’re definitely worth the effort.

Take a Spin Around Rivendell

Gif: Lego

Although Lego did release a mountain (of doom) of images of its new LOTR Rivendell set, there still appear to be lots of details not highlighted yet. So if you’re still on the fence over whether you want to make room to add this sizeable set to your collection, you can take a quick tour of its entire layout using this 360-degree animation.

Pricing and Availability

Image: Lego

If you’ve been hoarding your own precious gold rings, it might be time to drop by the pawn shop and cash out. The Lego The Lord of the Rings: Rivendell set will be exclusively available for Lego VIP members first from March 5 to March 7; they will also receive the Frodo and Golum Lego Brickheadz set as a gift with purchase. For everyone else, the 6,167-piece will be officially available to all online, and at Lego’s brick-and-mortar stores, starting on March 8, for $500.

Chapter 21: How the King Changed His Mind @ Bureau 42

Millennium: Dead Letters (1×03) @ Bureau 42

Frank travels to Portland, Oregon to track a serial killer, and works with an officer being considered for employment by the Millennium group.

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/x-files-retrospective/message

Go to Source
Author: Blaine Dowler

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania's First Reactions Are Here @ io9

Ant-Man battling in Quantumania. Image: Marvel Studios

The Multiverse Saga is about to kick into high gear. Next week, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in theaters, officially ushering in the beginning of Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It sees our heroes, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) head to the quantum realm—where they’ll encounter Kang (Jonathan Majors), who may just be this Phase’s Thanos, considering his name is in the title of one of the eventual Avengers movies.

Which means: it all starts here. But, is it any good? The film premiered Monday night, and critics and fans who saw it were allowed to weigh in. Here are a few.

Reading these, both good, bad, and in-between, it’s important to remember that post-premiere tweets are generally instant, visceral reactions, sometimes tailored just to get interaction. So trust them, but also be wary. More considered, nuanced thoughts will come with the Quantumania reviews, which will be out next week.

Still, these early reactions do make it seem like director Peyton Reed and writer Jeff Loveness found a way to take that humor and heart we love from the first two Ant-Man movies and fit it into a multiverse jumping sci-fi adventure, which fans have come to love thanks to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Loki, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is off to a strong start. Next up, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in May.

Co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Katy O’Brian, and William Jackson Harper—plus Bill Murray as Lord Krylar—Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania opens in theaters February 17.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

Out of This World Dining at Walt Disney World's Space 220 @ io9

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

Get ready for lift off in this look inside Space 220 in Walt Disney World. io9 was invited by Disney Parks to try out lunch at Epcot’s immersive dining experience, which simulates a trip to a space station where you can have lunch, dinner, or drinks with a view of Earth and the stars.

Here’s a galactic gallery glimpse at the cosmic delights you can expect during your mission.

How hard is it to book?

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

Very. The space books out at least three months in advance of trips. So if you plan on going for Valentine’s Day or spring break, I hope you already have a reservation. If not, there’s always the chance to walk over at the right moment and see if there’s any last minute cancellations for a table, or you can try your luck with stand-by for the bar—with a limited food menu.

Chart a Space Cuisine Course

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

This isn’t Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge; the menu here takes a more accessible and global approach to its offerings, rather than presenting food that’s cosplaying as alien grub.

Lift-Off!

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The simulator experience begins with an elevator that gently takes you up to the station. Don’t worry, there are no thrill ride g’s that will make your tummy turn.

Goodbye, Earth

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

You see the state of Florida get smaller as you get closer to your table.

Space Garden

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

When you walk out of the elevator, you go through a hallway that conceptualizes what a fine dining space station could be like and how they’d grow produce for the meals.

The View

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

When you enter, the highest level of immersion is the massive viewport to Earth; depending on the time of day you visit, it reflects day or night. It’s really the centerpiece of the experience, but if you’re looking for a full-on ARG this is not the place.

Earth Horizon

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

It’s definitely reminiscent of those retro-futuristic rotating restaurant concepts, like the one at LAX.

Floating in space

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

Among the views are various space ships and people doing space walks, which aren’t a feature you can participate in.

Rare Sights, Rare Appetizers

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The selection of appetizers includes standards with a cosmic twist. Here’s the Neptuna Nicoise—we love a pun name.

Atmospheric Spirits

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The drinks also have some subtle yet effective theming, like the blue drink, the Planetary Punch—which did indeed pack a punch, and had some great dry ice smoke effects. The gold drink was magical in a different way.

Stargarita Surprise

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

It changed colors!

Roasted Beet Salad

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The goat cheese was brûlée’d! Something to note: if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, Disney Parks dining locations are incredibly accommodating. A dedicated chef will come out to inquire about your needs in order to make sure you eat safely. Everything comes marked with paddles to differentiate from the regular food. It’s how food everywhere should be.

Video Preview of Space 220

Look at the experience above, which if you’re an immersive ARG enthusiast you’ll find more on the subtle side in interactivity, but the setting is still breathtaking. It’s like ARG lo-fi in space, with dining and not over the top theming. It’s honestly like taking a breather from how busy the parks are “down” on Earth.

The Presentation

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The salmon is delivered in a smoky dome.

This salmon plays it safe

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

The smoke show of the miso glazed salmon is less galactic than I hoped, but if you want a well cooked meal that’s not too adventurous this hit that spot. You’re paying for something you’d actually eat in a more elevated form.

Cosmic Chocolate Cheesecake

Photo: Sabina Graves/Gizmodo

I claim this chocolate cheesecake by the stake of my fellow allergy citizens. Again, mine’s slightly adjusted, but it’s just so nice to be included. It was almost too pretty to eat.

Overall, with the accommodations, drink options, and break from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, this cozy slice of gateway immersive dining offers a sweet escape for a date or parents needing a kid break while at the parks.

Book a table at Space 220 here.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

Here's What the New Planet of the Apes Movie Is About @ io9

Concept art from the new Planet of the Apes movie, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.Image: Disney

Wes Ball’s new Planet of the Apes movie, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, has been filming and adding cast members for a few months—and now, we might finally know what all those people will be doing.

The Hollywood Reporter just announced that Dichen Lachman, who plays a key character in Apple TV+’s Severance and was a villain in Jurassic World Dominion, has been cast in the film. Which is certainly very cool news. But in the article, there’s also a rundown of the plot, which we don’t think has been widely reported before.

Previously, all that was officially announced was that the film “[picked] up many years after the conclusion of 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes.” But now, the trade adds the following:

Many apes societies have grown from when the Moses-like Caesar brought his people to an oasis, while humans have been reduced to a feral-like existence. Some groups have never heard of Caesar, while others have contorted his teaching to build burgeoning empires. In this setting, one ape leader begins to enslave other groups to find human technology, while another ape, who watched his clan be taken, embarks on a journey to find freedom. A young human woman becomes key to latter’s quest, although she has plans of her own.

There you have it. Sounds like the legacy of Caesar looms large but that the apes, now the highest functioning species on Earth, are experiencing in-fighting. (io9 reached out to Disney to confirm the accuracy of this and will update the story if or when we hear.)

In the film, Lachman joins previously announced actors Peter Macon, Freya Allan, and Owen Teague, as well as William H. Macy and Kevin Durand. It was written by Josh Friedman, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver (who all collaborated on the new Avatar films) as well as Patrick Aison (Prey), and is currently scheduled for release May 24, 2024.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

30 Games Built to Run Heists, Burglaries, and Bank Jobs @ io9

Image: Monte Cook Games

While you see a lot of games out there that can be used to run heists (Bully Pulpit GamesFiasco comes immediately to mind), this selection is specifically built around heists. Not games that can be used for heists or games that can be twisted to run heists, but games that have their mechanics built to pull off one last job.

I’ve included quite a few Big Heist games here, but also a lot of smaller, indie games. Additionally, a lot of heist-y games are built out of a few core systems, most notably perhaps Blades in the Dark by John Harper. I’ve included the base game and a few other games that have been Forged in the Dark using the default use license for BitD. They’re all good games.

Royal Blood

Image: Grant Howitt

ROYAL BLOOD is a rules-light heist roleplaying game for three or more players and a gamesmaster. To play, you’ll need a deck of tarot cards and a handful of coins.”

Capybara Capers

Image: momatoes

“A super elite team of capybaras has been assembled to steal the mythical Awesome Lemon once and for all. But each of you have your own motives... and there may very well be a traitor in your midst. Can you afford to trust one another?”

Blades in the Dark

Image: John Harper

Blades in the Dark is a tabletop role-playing game about a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had—if you’re bold enough to seize them.”

Sherwood

Image: Richard Ruane, R. Rook Studio

Sherwood is a game of outlaws and arcana, inspired by modern Robin Hood fantasies stories, the Robin of Sherwood television series, and the medieval outlaw ballads and romances, Sherwood is set in a fantastical version of 13th century England. Physical copies are available at Spear Witch.”

Stealing Stories for the Devil

Image: Monte Cook Games

“Save existence as we know it by bending reality to carry out the perfect heist with the unique zero-prep tabletop role playing game. When you play Stealing Stories, you pull off the perfect heist. A collaborative scenario-building process means zero GM prep as the group formulates its elaborate plan while creating the adventure scenario at the same time. Unique mechanical elements such as Mission Cards hand the initiative to the players, turning crisis into opportunity just when it looks like there’s no hope of success.

And, as reality-shaping liars, PCs can reshape their situation in literally any way they can conceive of. And lies always succeed. (While success is not the question, the price may be steep.) Throughout gameplay, unprecedented player agency ensures the PCs create and pull off amazing feats, completing their heists against incredible odds and looking great while they do it.”

Apocalypse Keys

Image: Evil Hat | Rae Nedjadi

“The Doomsday Clock is ticking down and emotions run high as you and your team of DIVISION agents struggle to find the Keys before the villainous Harbingers unlock the Doors of Power and bring about the apocalypse.”

One Last Job

Image: Matthew John

One Last Job is a game based on the Lasers & Feelings system by John Harper. It takes inspiration from films such as Ocean’s Eleven, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Rock, Baby Driver, and National Treasure. Create characters who excel at Capers or Cons, and specialize in roles such as the driver, the bruiser, or the grifter.

When things go wrong (and they will), call for those all important scenes where it’s revealed to be All Part Of The Plan. The more you rely on this technique however, the more pressure your character begins to feel in the form of Pressure Dice; they can glide along on the adrenaline of it all for a while, but sooner or later they will mess up.”

The Great Soul Train Robbery

Image: Cloven Pine Games (art by Emily Cheeseman)

The Great Soul Train Robbery is a tabletop roleplaying game for 2-6 players and 1 gamemaster about Desperados robbing the train to Hell. Spin an allegorical Weird Western yarn as your sharpshooters, fiddlers, homesteader widows, and other Desperados attempt a Hellish train heist. Will you claim your prize from the train, or be overcome, damned, or broken by the heist?”

A note that I wrote a table for this game! I do not see any proceeds of its sale.

Stealing the Throne

Image: Nick Bate

Stealing the Throne is a storytelling game of giant mecha heists. Zero-prep and GM-less, it’s specifically designed for exciting one-shot play. Build a Throne, invent its fiendish defences, and then take them apart one-by-one with your crack team of thieves.”

A Family of Blades

Image: AC Luke

A Family of Blades is a tabletop roleplaying game about a team of criminals who became a family, broke up, and have now been thrust back together for one last job. Powered by the Forged in the Dark engine, A Family of Blades has been written with an emphasis on fast-paced one-shots and episodic gameplay. Inside you’ll find all the rules you need to play games inspired by the likes of Leverage, Burn Notice, Ocean’s Eleven, and the Fast & Furious movies.”

Dream World Mercenaries

Image: Haiduc Studio

“In Dream World Mercenaries, the players are aiming to implant or obtain information that will help them complete a heist without excess use of force. This is accomplished by entering the subject’s dreams and manipulating their subconscious. You may choose your role in the team, plot, gather information and then dive into the aquarium of the mind. But be warned, it’s possible to be trapped in your own mind as a result. Balance the risk with the promise of reward and consult your team.”

Time to Drop

Image: Marn S.

Time To Drop is a GM-less tabletop game where you and your friends take on the roles of a heist crew trapped in a time loop, trying to get their final job right and ride off into the sunset with the goods. You’ll use dice and a tarot/oracle deck to determine and overcome Complications such as your Mark, and the Guard of the goods you’re after, ally with NPCs, and spend downtime phases working through your feelings about the crew splitting up.”

Score

Image: Gila RPGs

Score is an ENNIE-nominated rules-lite tabletop RPG designed for fast paced and high energy crime. This 36-page PDF contains the rules for play, character sheets, and tons of resources to generate a wide variety of heists. All you need are a pile of six sided dice, some character sheets, and a desire to steal some cold, hard cash.”

Scene Theives

Image: Possible Worlds Games

Scene Thieves is a theatrical roleplaying game where players collaboratively ‘write’ a play while simultaneously choreographing an elaborate heist in the background. During the game’s pre-show, players create a band of thieves who use theatrical performances as cover for their crimes. Players also establish broad strokes for the game’s show before writing down a variety of props on notecards. Then, it’s showtime. In Act I, everyone draws prop cards from a pot and incorporates them into the progression of both the play and the heist. At Intermission, players take note of whether the evening is trending towards comedy or tragedy. In Act II, they have a final chance to reverse their fates before the end of the game.”

Coming in Hot

Image: Imaginary Empire

Coming in Hot is a game of audacious robberies and daring heists. Will you get away with the perfect crime, or have to put the pedal to the metal in a high-speed pursuit? Will you go all-in for the team, or plan a brutal betrayal to claim a greater share of the prize for yourself?”

Crustacean Bus Station

Image: Kumada

“You are a crab. You live in a tidepool community with other crabs. However, your crab factory job is at the other end of the beach. To get there, you must traverse dangerous terrain, evade seagulls and seals and morays, and wear yourself out scrambling over barnacle-covered rocks. This commute would be so much easier if you had a bus.

“Unfortunately, crab bus stops are banned by seal civic ordinances. Crabs are rejected from the prestigious Seagull School Of Engineering. And Moray Refreshments, your factory job, is very strict about attendance. Miss even a few minutes of your shift and you risk having your pay docked—which will put you behind on your rent and give Octopus Realty all the incentive it needs to start processing evictions.

You’re between a rock and a hard place, but fortunately that’s where a crab thrives. Tonight, you’re going to build your own bus with nothing but pincers and theft.

Eat Trash. Be Free.

Image: Monday Cox

“Think of Eat Trash. Be Free. as a setting or expansion to Blades in the Dark. The activities your players will be getting up to are pretty similar to BitD. Your players will be running a Faction, going on scores, competing with rival gangs, and doing all the skullduggery you do in BitD. In addition to thematic and setting changes, there are a few different rules from BitD and those will be explained on the next page and in the Critter Handout. Overall you will still be playing BitD but in a different setting and with different motivations.”

A note that I wrote a table for this game! I do not see any proceeds of its sale.

The Roleplayer’s Guide to Heists

Image: Far Horizons Co-Op

The Roleplayer’s Guide To Heists is a system agnostic collection of 35 heists ranging from your standard bank jobs, to space based sci-fi capers, to fantasy smash-jobs into a wizard’s mind-realm. If you like stealing stuff (in games) and getting away with it, this book has everything you could want!

Each heist comes complete with a detailed map of the joint for you to properly case; oodles of scene hooks, enemies and traps; ideas for the getaway; and of course the loot itself. With essays on the finer points of how to run heists in your campaign and tables full of security systems, adversaries and loot ideas, this book is ideal for any gaming table.”

Squeakeasy

Image: Caro Asercion

“It’s the roaring twenties, and times are tough here in New York City. This town is no place for you, they say: it’s teeming with dogs, cats, all sorts who would see you dead where you stand—if they could catch you.

“You and your crew, you know it’s hard out there. So you do what little you can to make life a bit easier for the average rat off the street looking to escape their sorrows for a night. And you do it in the only way you know how: By running an EXTREMELY ILLEGAL UNDERGROUND BAR FOR RODENTS.”

It Was Never Yours

Image: Basheer Ghouse

“In the dark future of 202X, England has finally been forced to go through with Brexit. The resulting economic crash has devastated Britain, resulted in the breakup of the United Kingdom, and caused a minor, worldwide, financial crisis.

“Now England is alone, loathed, and weak. Vulnerable, in a way it has not been since William the Norman stormed its shores. What is terror for the British crown is opportunity for you, for the British have been pirates and plunderers for hundreds of years. They still have artifacts stolen from across the world, things they never truly owned, and it is now time for them to be returned to their rightful owners. As the English have decided not to do so willingly, you have been tasked with facilitating the matter.”

1400 Sneak

Image: Unknown Dungeon

1400 Sneak is lo-fi heist-fantasy. A secret and sinister world hides in the darkness, a world of subterfuge, larceny, and murder-for-hire. Loyalty belongs to the highest bidder, and everyone has a price, or a price on their head.”

Taels of the Heisty Vixens

Image: WH Arthur

In Taels of the Heisty Vixens, you play as vixens with supernatural powers, going on heists in a city occupied by colonizers. For 3-5 players plus a master of ceremonies (MC).”

Spree

Image: Gila RPGs

Spree is a rules-lite TTRPG about putting together a crew and pulling off big heists.”

Court of Blades

Image: A Couple of Drakes

Court of Blades takes place in the vibrant, fantasy renaissance city-state of Ilrien, in a world populated by scheming nobles, court magicians, and dashing duelists. As a noble retainer, you will engage in the polite civil warfare of the great families. You will host lavish balls, and manipulate the courts, uncover the plots of your rivals, protect the city from arcane dangers, manage your own intrigues and personal scandals, leverage your reputations, connections, and so much more.”

Dusk City Outlaws

Image: Scratchpad Publishing

Dusk City Outlaws is a tabletop roleplaying game for 3-6 players, set in the sprawling city of New Dunhaven. In this game, the players take on the roles of criminals on the wrong side of the law, collectively known as the Right Kind of People to those who run in outlaw circles. These criminals come together to form a crew, and take on a Job, a criminal enterprise brokered to them by a third party.”

Leverage: The Roleplaying Game

Image: Margaret Weis Production

“GET READY TO GET EVEN! The rich and powerful, they take what they want. You steal it back from them. You were bad guys, but there are worse people out there. The weak and the helpless need you. You provide... leverage. Leverage is one of the hottest hours on television, a fast-paced drama series about a crew of grifters, con artists, and thieves who use their skills to avenge the innocent.

“Using the critically-acclaimed Cortex System as its foundation, the LEVERAGE Roleplaying Game includes all the rules you need to create your own team of rogues, plan a job, and get it done... even if it means going to Plan B.”

Scum and Villainy

Image: Evil Hat

Scum and Villainy is a Forged in the Dark game about a spaceship crew trying to make ends meet under the iron-fisted rule of the Galactic Hegemony.

Work with the members of your crew to thrive despite powerful criminal syndicates, warring noble families, dangerous aliens, and strange mystics. Explore the ruins of lost civilizations for fun and profit. Can your motley crew hold it together long enough to strike it big and insure your fame across the sector?”

Honey Heist

Image: Grant Howitt

Honey Heist is a surprisingly successful one-page RPG. Here is the plot:

1) You have a complex plan that requires precise timing.

2) You are a GODDAMN BEAR.”

Picaresque Roman: A Requiem for Rogues

Image: SGR

Picaresque Roman: A Requiem for Rogues is played with 4-5 people, as well as a gamemaster. Each person makes their own player character (PC) with a quick, streamlined system, then competes with each other in addition to the GM to earn the highest amount of ‘influence’ each game. Over the course of a session, players can earn secret info that gives them a leg up on the other PCs, as well as make deals with or even steal from them. Regardless of whether or not you decide to help or hinder your fellow rogue, all that matters at the end of the day is who’s got the most influence of the group, which means stealing from the sought-after ‘VIP’ character who’s under the GM’s control each game and is often the focal point of the scenario or story.”

Boy Problems

Image: Colin Cummings

“It is many years into the future. A wealthy and powerful person (or persons) has claimed a rare and much sought-after prize: the ‘vault’ of 200 unreleased (this is real!) songs from renowned Canadian pop artist, Carly Rae Jepsen.

“Hired by an anonymous sponsor, your team of highly trained individuals will raid a well-defended location to retrieve said item. From planning to set-up to execution, you will see this heist through to its completion, whether that be a success or failure. There will many twists and turns along the way, and don’t always trust the specialists by your side.”


There they are! 30 whole games just for heists. If I missed your favorite, drop a line.


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I Know What You Did Last Summer Gets New Sequel With Original Cast @ io9

Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt will return for a sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.Image: Sony

In 1997 slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character famously screamed, “What are you waiting for, huh?” Well, if she was talking to Hollywood, they were waiting for precedent. And now, now that they have it, the character and franchise are ready for a big-screen comeback.

Deadline reports that, after the successful reinvention of Scream, Sony is in the process of making a new sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer. The film will mirror Scream (and Star Wars and Ghostbusters and on and on) by bringing back characters from the original film and passing the torch to new ones. In this case, the characters are the ones played by Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr., who survived the original two films. (It was followed by a third film and an Amazon streaming show.)

The new film will be directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson who co-wrote Thor: Love and Thunder with Taika Waititi—but, more importantly, wrote and directed Netflix’s 2022 film Do Revenge, which paid homage to teen films of the 1990s. Robinson pitched the new idea for this franchise but will leave the script duties to Leah McKendrick. Prinze and Love Hewitt agreed to come back after hearing the pitch.

I Know What You Did Last Summer followed a group of teens (also including Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe) who accidentally kill a man (or think they kill a man) in a car accident. They cover it up, but the man returns hoping for revenge, with a big, bloody hook. It’s unclear at the moment specifically how this sequel will incorporate the events of the original and its sequel (or if the direct-to-DVD third film will count), but Robinson has certainly proven herself a fan of the time period and genre these films exist in. So we’d imagine this is all figured out and could be as slick and smart as either the new Scream, or the awesome Do Revenge.


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The Michael J. Fox Documentary, Still, Is Lovely and Inspiring @ io9

Michael J. Fox in the documentary Still.Image: Apple

Even if you aren’t a big movie fan, odds are you know a bit about Michael J. Fox. Fox was one of the biggest stars on the planet in the 1980s; with a hit TV show and the main role in a mega-franchise, the world was his oyster. But a few years later, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and his life completely changed. He kept acting for a while, but eventually his illness made that less practical and he turned to activism, where his work has generated billions in research.

All of that, most of us know. So, with the new documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has to cover everything we know in a way that keeps things fresh, while also teaching and showing us more about this hugely famous, fascinating person. On both aims, Guggenheim succeeds.

Still, which recently world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be available on Apple TV+ later this year, is a unique and lovely piece of filmmaking. For starters, the filmmakers had the full support and cooperation of Fox and his family. So throughout the film, we not only see personal, intimate moments in his life—getting out of bed in the morning, breakfast with the family—but revealing and honest interviews and plenty of footage most people have never seen.

Beyond that, there are also full-on recreations throughout, especially in those really big Hollywood moments where, in reality, cameras weren’t allowed. For example, Guggenheim shows that famous few months in Fox’s life when he was shooting Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future at night with an energetic, exciting behind-the-scenes dramatization that approximates what that must’ve been like. It’s in moments like this that Still beautifully uses nostalgia to its advantage, giving the slick sequences an added dose of emotion. Personally, I watched this segment, set to Alan Silvestri’s score to Back to the Future, through tears, because it was that well done.

And yet, while the sections of the film where Fox was living the high life are great, Still really shines when we see Fox now—when he tells the audience how he feels about his life changing due to Parkinson’s, and the incredibly heroic moments as he goes through all manner of physical therapy that help him be as inspiring and important a person now as he ever was.

On io9, we usually cover science fiction, and Still is not that. It’s real. It’s true. It just so happens to prominently feature one of the best sci-fi films of all time. But, if you’re a Back to the Future fan like we are, we felt it was worth opening your eyes to a heartwarming film that’ll give you an even greater level of respect and adoration for a man who has meant so much to so many.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie will be on Apple TV+ later this year.


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Matthew McConaughey Brings His Drawl to Netflix's Agent Elvis Animated Series @ io9

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

Austin Butler and his carefully cultivated Elvis accent may still be angling for Oscar gold, but Netflix’s secret-agent spin on the King has just nabbed Matthew McConaughey as its hip-swiveling, high-kicking lead. The first teaser for Agent Elvis is here, and, well... is McConaughey just kind of doing his own voice here?

AGENT ELVIS | Official Teaser | Netflix

Whatever the case, Agent Elvis—co-created by John Eddie (also co-showrunner and writer) and Priscilla Presley (you know who she is)—with Mike Arnold as showrunner and head writer, looks decently amusing. McConaughey, along with that trio and others, is one of the show’s executive producers; as is inescapably obvious, he’ll voice the main character, per a Netflix press release: “Global superstar by day, ass-kicking vigilante by night who eventually joins the secret agency ‘TCB’ as Agent Elvis.” No word on who’ll voice Nixon or that monkey sidekick... or if McConaughey will be doing any singing as part of his role.

Fans know, of course, what TCB stands for (taking care of business, baby!). Here’s the official description of the series: “Elvis Presley trades in his jumpsuit for a jet pack when he is covertly inducted into a secret government spy program to battle the dark forces that threaten the country he loves—all while holding down his day job as the King of Rock And Roll.” The show is the first adult animated release from Sony Pictures Animation (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and is produced alongside Authentic Brands Group and the prolific Titmouse, whose recent works include Prime Video’s The Legend of Vox Machina and Paramount+’s Star Trek: Lower Decks, though Agent Elvis looks to bear more than a passing resemblance to Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros., another of the studio’s projects.

Agent Elvis arrives in March on Netflix.


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Guilt, Fear, and Violence | The Last of Us Review @ io9

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur's Cast and Crew on Bringing Marvel's New Hero to Animated Life @ io9

Image: Marvel Animation/Disney

Marvel has been dominating pop culture for 15 years, but it arguably wouldn’t be as strong a brand if it didn’t have its animation slate. Cartoons like X-Men and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have helped define Marvel in the eyes of viewers. But for the last several years, many Marvel cartoons have focused on established or then-upcoming MCU heavy hitters in an effort to remind young audiences of their favorite cinematic superheroes through shows like Marvel’s Spider-Man and What If...?.

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, which premieres February 10, breaks away from the trend of the more recent animated Marvel outings. It’s the first “original” Marvel cartoon in years, in the sense that it isn’t releasing ahead of any cinematic plans for the title characters (at least, that we currently know of) and is allowed to stand as its own thing. Not that it ultimately matters: on its own terms, the new Marvel cartoon is really good and a nice burst of fresh air for Marvel’s animation slate. With a striking art style and a delightfully fun energy, the show has the potential to hit it off with audiences and introduce them to a new hero that really thrives in the specific realm of animation.

Based on the comics of the same name by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur focuses on New York teen Lunella Lafayette. Billed as the smartest person in the world, Lunella takes it upon herself to come up with a solution for a series of power blackouts affecting her neighborhood, and family in particular, and accidentally opens up a portal that brings a giant red T.Rex to the modern day. After bonding with the T.Rex, named Devil, Lunella opts to use the dino to become a superhero dynamic duo and fight crime.

Ahead of the show’s premiere, io9 talked with executive producer Steve Loter and supervising producer Rodney Clouden, along with cast members Diamond White (Lunella/Moon Girl), Fred Tatasciore (Devil Dinosaur), Gary Anthony Williams (Pops Lafayette), and Libe Barer (Casey).


Justin Carter, i09: Diamond, how did your assumptions about Lunella when you first got the role compare to actually voicing her throughout the first season?

Diamond White: At first, I thought that Lunella would be like a lot of superheroes, all-powerful and undefeatable. But after seeing that she was just a 13-year-old girl who’s insecure about things in life just like everyone else, I found her endearing. That’s ultimately what drew me to the character—even with her genius and Devil, she’s still relatable and real.

io9: Fred, you’ve played so many Marvel characters throughout the years, such as the Hulk and Beast. What was the process like for bringing Devil to life, since he doesn’t communicate like everyone else?

Tatasciore: It’s been a fun, artistic challenge, because it’s all about sounds and spirit. I have a sense of what the line is, we come in with the traditional dinosaur sounds, and try to soften him up without going too far. That way, he ends up having an emotional language with Lunella. It’s been fun to do “Lunella, I’m really worried about you!” to [dinosaur growls] and being able to bring some emotion to that tone. It’s been a really fun marriage for me, doing it this way.

io9: Diamond and Fred, what was it like forming the dynamic between the two, particularly since a lot of it is based on visuals or Lunella having to interpret Devil’s grunts or growls?

Tatasciore: The relationship between Lunella and Devil has been built on huge trust. He’s dedicated to her because he loved that she was able to interpret his grunts and growls so easily. That was love, and it’s why he’s so loyal to her as a family member. That, and hot dogs.

White: Definitely hot dogs. [laughs]

Image: Marvel Animation/Disney

io9: Gary, you’ve been around the voice acting block for years, but I think the characters you’re best known for have been pretty larger than life. Does Pops feel more grounded than those previous roles you’ve done?

Gary Anthony Williams: Pops definitely does, but what I love about him is the whole [Lafayette] family connection. Compared to some of the roles I’ve done, where it’s just some weirdo character, it’s been fun to embrace that whole family’s love and acceptance. He has his wild times, believe me, but when it comes to it, his core of loving and caring for his family is great.

io9: Casey is Lunella’s best friend and created specifically for the show. For their relationship, Libe, what did you two draw on to make their friendship feel authentic, or was it something that just clicked for you both right away?

Libe Barer: From the beginning, the creators wanted to make Casey and Lunella’s friendship feel as real and authentic as possible, so they had Diamond and I record together. They wanted us to play and riff off each other. And they also wanted it to feel messy, like a sort of “PEN15 for cartoons” relationship, which I very much had in middle school.

So when Diamond and I got in the booth together, it felt really special. Sometimes, we’d stumble over things, and those real awkward 13-year-old moments came out. And also, Diamond and I just get along, so it was fun! There’s a lot of friendship in love there for both us and Lunella and Casey.

io9: Lunella is a character who’s pretty young, which means she relies on her friends and family more than if she were an adult superhero. What has it been like for you both to play these two key members of her inner circle, and what was it about your characters that you were really able to work with?

Williams: For Pops, I got a lot out of the family connection. I come from a huge family; I have six sisters, two brothers, and cousins are family, to me. So the show really making this about family, which then becomes community? It’s what drew me to Pops, there’s true love in the Lafayette family.

Barer: It’s the same thing for me. I have a big Mexican and Jewish family, and that’s so important to both sides of my culture. And I also think that another important family is your chosen family. People talk about that being more of a thing as you get older, but I think that as kids, you make some of those key friend-family connections. I know it was like that for me growing up, where some of my real life best friends are still my some of my best friends from high school. They’re truly friend-family to me, and I loved getting to create that friend-family dynamic with Lunella and Casey.

Image: Marvel Animation/Disney

io9: For Rodney and Steve, the Marvel cartoons that came before Moon Girl were all pretty connected right from the start, but this show exists in its own world. There are Avengers, but it’s not clear who those Avengers even are. Was having that freedom something you envisioned from the start, and how did that affected the villains and characters you were allowed to use?

Rodney Clouden: We’re really getting the latitude to make these characters our own, in terms of bringing it to our style, and making them a little bit more funky. It makes it a lot more fun, and Marvel’s been a great partner in terms of letting us play around with their legacy.

Steve Loter: Marvel’s been an amazing collaborator on the series, and we’re all fans of the MCU. We consider Moon Girl to be “complementary” to that universe—you’ll see characters from the films appear. But you’ll also see a lot of deep cuts, characters from the comics who’ve never made it to film, TV, or any other medium before. It’s been great to be able to bring all these kinds of characters to life.

We start out in the first few episodes establishing Lunella Lafayette and her world, and making her the central part of it. But as the series goes on, we bring in more Marvel elements to enhance the story.

io9: Steve, you’ve been in the animation industry for years and worked on shows like American Dragon and Kim Possible. What did you bring over from your time on those shows over to Moon Girl?

Loter: I’ve worked on a lot of shows, but something that’s been consistent is my love of music. I’m a music collector and a music nerd in my free time. So to be able to do a show where the music’s so infused in the visuals, and the action, and the writing is just so special to me. I feel like animators are all music video directors at heart, so for me the music feels unique in this show compared to other things that I’ve done in the past.

io9: Lunella’s coming to the wider world as Marvel’s put a spotlight on Black characters, particularly those in the STEM field like Shuri and Riri Williams.  How do you think Lunella adds to that larger legacy?

Clouden: With this show, Lunella’s appearance creates more visibility and inclusivity in terms of seeing Black girls in the science field and STEM. You don’t always get to see that, so providing a character like her who can inspire young Black children is important to see.

Loter: Lunella Lafayette is the first African American teen superhero in the Marvel universe who’s been in animated form like this. It’s a really important moment, and we’re just hoping that the audience loves her as much as we do.


Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur premieres February 10 on Disney Channel, followed by its arrival on Disney+ beginning February 15.


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A Meet-Cute Turns Malevolent in the Bittersweet Horror Romance Attachment @ io9

Image: Shudder

Fans of horror inspired by Jewish folklore are having a boom time between last month’s The Offering and now Attachment—the latter arriving on Shudder just in time for Valentine’s Day. From Denmark-based filmmaker Gabriel Bier Gislason, it’s the tale of two women who fall quickly in love but soon encounter some supernatural stumbling blocks.

Though it builds dread admirably, with subtle shifts in tone and a fondness for dropping in little things that seem at first like nothing—but soon add up to a whole lot of sinister something—Attachment is really about its characters. The couple at its core—Maja (Josephine Park) and Leah (Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick)—don’t feel like people we typically meet in horror movies, and they go a long way toward elevating the film above its more familiar elements.

In fact, for its first several scenes, you might even forget Attachment is a horror movie. After a meet-cute in which the women collide in a Copenhagen library—Maja is a former children’s TV star rushing to host a story session; Leah is a grad student visiting from London—it’s clear there are sparks between them. Tea turns into wine turns into two bottles of wine, and their first date evolves into something deeper when Leah impulsively decides to extend her trip. So far, so adorable, but there are hints that something dark is lurking beneath the romance. Maja, who’s been adrift since the death of her mother, has a sense of melancholy draped around her; in Leah, she sees a potential new purpose in life. Leah, meanwhile, is a sleepwalker who sometimes spaces out even while she’s awake, to the point that she suddenly has a violent seizure that results in a serious leg injury. When Maja announces she’ll accompany Leah when she returns to London, Leah barely hesitates in accepting, even though we know by now her living situation: just one floor away from her very anxious and over-protective mother.

Leah’s religion is hinted at in the opening scenes—she turns down a bacon breakfast—but we don’t get immersed in it until the couple arrives in the Hasidic neighborhood in London where she’s lived her whole life. Her mother, Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), is delighted to see her daughter but less thrilled with Maja, and that’s not a homophobic reaction. Instead, it’s a phobia of an entirely different nature, as Maja begins to learn once she sees all the talismans, candles, piles of salt, protection charms, and other superstitious ephemera scattered throughout Leah’s apartment, which Chana frequently enters without knocking until she’s reminded not to.

Image: Shudder

Before long, Leah’s odd spells begin to get worse. Maja begins to worry that her brand-new love may be in serious peril, a suspicion inflamed when she meets Leah’s Uncle Lev (David Dencik), the brother of Leah’s long-absent father, who knows an awful lot about Jewish mysticism and also seems to know an awful lot about Leah and Chana that he’s not comfortable sharing.

Still, Maia’s status as a community outsider hardly comes into play considering all of Attachment is so insular; the drama is very intimate and focused on this small family unit. But Attachment does have a clever way of tying its characters together through language. Though their relationship is frosty, Maja and Chana—who also happens to be Danish—can converse using words Leah can’t understand. Meanwhile, Lev and Chana can share secrets in Yiddish. The communication barriers echo the way Maja is blocked from knowing what’s really going on with Leah; she basically starts playing occult detective, trying to decide if there’s really danger afoot or if she’s just being clingy and paranoid. It’s difficult to know who she can trust, and Attachment does a good job of keeping the audience in the dark, too.

While we root for Maja and Leah—and even, eventually, feel sympathy for the prickly Chana—Attachment unfortunately doesn’t succeed with its story as well as it does with its characters. The movie builds to a big ritual scene that’s heavily foreshadowed and feels predictable once it finally arrives; even more unfortunately, Attachment is never very scary. Instead of frights, it emphasizes the complicated bonds between its characters. That’s admirable, but you can’t help but wish the movie had used all that emotional groundwork to springboard some well-earned freak-out moments too.

Attachment arrives on Shudder on February 9.


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The Last of Us Will Release Episode 5 Early to Avoid the Super Bowl @ io9

Image: Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

HBO really cares about the numbers for The Last of Us, apparently. In light of a certain football game that will likely dominate airwaves and streaming time on Sunday—during the same slot of time when The Last of Us usually gets released—the series’ fifth episode will instead premiere on streaming services on Friday, February 10, at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. It will also still run on the HBO channel on Sunday during its regular timeslot, but fans won’t be asked to choose between the apocalyptic horror drama and the buff men running around with a ball.

This is a one-time thing. According to the press release, “new episodes of the series will continue to air Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max, leading up to the season finale on March 12.”

Honestly, it’s kind of nice that HBO is willing to adjust its schedule to accommodate multi-fandom viewers. Going toe-to-toe with another show might be par for the course, but trying to go point for point (or viewer for viewer) against America’s biggest sporting event probably isn’t the best matchup. (Did I include enough sports metaphors in that sentence? Something something, dark horse, match point, spike it, penalty, you get it.)

The Last of Us stars Pedro Pascal as Joel, a man hired to escort a young girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the country. A love wolf and cub story in the mutant-fungi zombie wasteland, the show has been getting heaps of critical acclaim and looks to be adapting the source material—a PlayStation video game by Naughty Dog—with admirable veracity and considerate adjustments.

Guilt, Fear, and Violence | The Last of Us Review

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Keanu Reeves Confirms John Wick 4 Is More John Wick Than Ever @ io9

Image: Lionsgate

A new Stephen King story makes its way to the big screen. Star Colin Farell knows how many episodes he’ll be wearing gobs of prosthetics for the Penguin TV series. Plus, meet the crew of the USS Titan-A, coming soon to Star Trek: Picard season three. Spoilers will be docking... now.


Nobody Nothing Nowhere

Deadline reports Octavia Spencer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Lucy Liu are attached to star in Nobody Nothing Nowhere, a “high-concept” sci-fi comedy from directors Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer. The story is said to follow “Ruth, one of the Non-People— human-looking beings designed and trained for the sole purpose of filling in a realistic world for a bland guy named Dave, the only person that actually exists on Earth. Tired of serving as an extra in someone else’s life, Ruth is ready to demand a life of her own.”


Virtue

THR also has word Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Romola Garai are attached to star in Virtue, a film about a “14th-century knight who vows to rescue a woman from a haunted forest” directed by Joanna Coates. “Set in England in 1350,” Coster-Waldau will play Sir Peter, “a heroic knight, who after years abroad returns from war accompanied by his teenage son and companions at arms. They find a plague-ravaged homeland ruled by social unrest, superstition, and fear. After controversially preventing a witch from burning, Sir Peter vows to rescue Fraya (Garai), the latest villager to vanish into a haunted forest that the locals are terrified by, eager to re-establish his name and authority in the eyes of his people.”


Billy Summers

THR additionally reports J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot has teamed with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way for a film adaptation of Billy Summers, Stephen King’s recent novel about a hitman posing as a novelist. Adapted for the screen by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the story follows the titular hitman, who is “looking to retire and takes one last highly lucrative job to feather his nest. The job requires him to embed himself in a quiet town, where he pretends to be an aspiring writer (he actually pours himself into the prose). He sets up in an office with a direct view of where hitman Joel Allen will be delivered to face trial for shooting two men during a poker game. Allen also has committed enough murders for some high-level mobsters to be scared the gunman will incriminate his former employers to lessen his sentence. Summers, a meticulous craftsman, becomes more and more cynical about the mobsters who’ve hired him, and his skepticism is well warranted as things go awry following the job’s completion.”


Scream VI

Scream VI reportedly runs 123 minutes long (with a 133-minute “3D Fan Event” version at Regal Cinemas), making it the longest film in the franchise to date.


John Wick: Chapter 4

In a new interview with Total Film (via Games Radar), Keanu Reeves stated John Wick: Chapter 4 “has the most action” of any film in the series, with a heavy emphasis on car chase sequences.

John Wick: Chapter 4 has the most action of any of the [John Wick] films, which is saying a lot. And it’s more by a good margin. It’s a big show.

John Wick: Chapter 4 was the hardest physical role I’ve ever had in my career so far. They really trained me up to be able to have what we call the toolbox. We took the car-driving to the next level, which I really enjoy. There’s 180s, forward-into-reverse 180s, reverse into-forward 270s, drifting… So it was really fun to get a chance to learn those skills, and to play.

Meanwhile, Bloody-Disgusting has new photos of Rina Sawayama, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgård, and Shamier Anderson as they appear in the film. Head over there for more.

Photo: Lionsgate
Photo: Lionsgate
Photo: Lionsgate
Photo: Lionsgate

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Coming Soon also has a new poster for The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Photo: Universal

The Outwaters

Cinedigm has released four spooky new character promos for the found footage horror movie, The Outwaters, coming to select theaters this Thursday.

The Outwaters | Exclusive Character Clip (Ange) - In Theaters Beginning Feb 9
The Outwaters | Exclusive Character Clip (Robbie) - In Theaters Beginning Feb 9
The Outwaters | Exclusive Character Clip (Scott) - In Theaters Beginning Feb 9
The Outwaters | Exclusive Character Clip (Michelle) - In Theaters Beginning Feb 9

Superman & Lois/Gotham Knights

James Gunn recently promised to Variety that Superman & Lois will continue for “one to two more seasons” at the CW since “everybody likes it.”

It’s a show everybody likes, so it’s going to keep going for a little bit.

However, neither Gunn nor co-studio head Peter Safran offered a comment regarding the future of Gotham Knights.


The Penguin

Colin Farrell also confirmed to Variety that The Penguin will be an eight-episode miniseries that could potentially lead to a “second Penguin feature” if “the audience goes for it.”

It’s going to be an eight-part thing. Around Oz’s rise to power, filling that power vacuum created when Falcone was killed. Matt’s idea was to have the Penguin show begin about a week after the end of the Batman film. And if it works, if the trajectory is interesting, and the audience goes for it, and we do our jobs right, the second Penguin feature will pick up where the HBO show will end.


Kung Fu

It’s election night in the synopsis for “The Scepter,” the February 22 episode of Kung Fu.

ELECTION NIGHT — With time running out, Nicky (Olivia Liang) is forced to confront Bo (guest star Ben Levin) to get information on Xiao’s whereabouts before it’s too late. Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) clashes with Carrie (guest star Kim Rhodes) at Harmony Dumplings, and Jin (Tzi Ma) makes a surprising decision that could affect the outcome of the election. Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Gavin Stenhouse, Yvonne Chapman, Vanessa Kai, Tony Chung and JB Tadena also star. David Grossman directed the episode written by Angela Trevino (#311). Original airdate 2/22/2023.

[KSiteTV]


The Flash

Barry develops a new theory about his rogues’ gallery in the synopsis for “Rogues of War,” the February 22 episode of The Flash.

ON THE MOVE - Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) start to put together the pieces of what’s happening in Central City and believe they know what the Rogues are after. Team Flash works together and recruits some unlikely allies to help, and the plan does not go as Team Flash expects. Meanwhile, Allegra (Kayla Compton) does her best to avoid having a conversation with Chester (Brandon McKnight). Brenton Spencer directed the episode with story by Sam Chalsen and written by Jeff Hersch & Jess Carson (#903). Original airdate 2/22/2023.

[Spoiler TV]


Star Trek: Picard

Finally, Terry Matalas introduced the bridge crew of the USS Titan-A on Twitter.


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Mutants, Mullets, and Masks Mark the Toy News of the Week @ io9

Image: Mondo, Bandai, Lego

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round up of the latest toy news. This week, Mondo’s X-Men: The Animated Series line continues with much jubilation, set phasers to stun with a new Star Trek replica, and Lego goes Disney for a new 100th anniversary celebration. Check it out!


Image: Mondo

Mondo Marvel’s X-Men: The Animated Series Sixth-Scale Jubilee Figure

A generation of kids were introduced to the X-Men through the Fox animated series, with the first episode focusing on the character Jubilee’s own introduction to the group of mutant superheroes. Mondo has done a fantastic job recreating that animated character’s look and feel with this new 9.25-inch figure, but you’re going to pay through the nose for that attention to detail. The standard version will set you back $195, while a Limited Edition option, with extra accessories and additional swappable heads, is $205. Both are available for pre-order now, with shipping expected in June.


Image: Lego

Lego Marvel The Infinity Saga Star-Lord’s Helmet

After a Star Wars-themed barrage of buildable helmets last week, Lego is flipping back to that other money-making machine, the MCU, with a 602-piece mini replica of Star-Lord’s helmet. As with past additions to this line, the helmet is too small for anyone but a toddler to try and wear, but it does include a display stand and nameplate, and is available for pre-order now for $80, with delivery expected to start on April 1.


Image: Tamashii Nations

Tamashii Nations S.H. Figuarts Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi Obi-Wan Figure

The Tamashii Nations’ new S.H. Figuarts Obi-Wan Kenobi figure almost bears a passing resemblance to Ewan McGregor the same way the Disney+ Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi series almost bears a passing resemblance to good Star Wars shows like Andor. We’re getting stronger Chris Pine vibes than Ewan McGregor here, but as with most non-masked S.H. Figuarts offering these days, the questionable face sculpt is balanced out with a fantastically detailed Jedi cloak, and accessories that include the Lola droid. Pre-orders for the around-$77 figure start later this week, with shipping expected in June.


Image: Lego

Lego Disney BrickHeadz EVE & WALL•E, Cruella & Maleficent, and Moana & Merida

If you’ve managed to so far resist the lure of Lego’s adorable BrickHeadz characters, the company is cranking the adorable to 11. The 320-piece, $20 Cruella & Maleficent set features some clever brickwork to recreate Cruella’s fur coat and Maleficent’s headwear, while the 410-piece, $20 Moana & Merida set has some of the best Lego brick hair we’ve ever seen. But it’s the 155-piece, $15 EVE & WALL•E set that’s going to convince most Lego fans to finally start buying up the BrickHeadz. If you can resist WALL•E’s puppy dog eyes, then congratulations, you’re some kind of monster. All three sets will be available starting March 1.


Image: Hasbro

Hasbro Transformers: Rise of the Beasts Studio Series Leader 101 Scourge

If you were to mash up The Transformers movies with the Mad Max films, you’d have to cast the Terrorcon Scourge as the lead, since it’s as close as you can get to a post-apocalyptic version of Optimus Prime. But you’ll instead find the bot in this Summer’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts who, along with the other Terrorcons, are battling the Autobots for the (spoiler alert!) Transwarp Key. Yeah, we have no idea what that means, either, but we do know this $55 8.5-inch tall Scourge figure goes from bot to truck mode in 31 steps, and is available for pre-order now from Hasbro Pulse, with shipping starting June 1.


Image: Factory Entertainment

Factory Entertainment Star Trek: The Next Generation Type-2 Dust Buster Phaser Limited Edition Prop Replica

Affectionately known as the “Dust Buster Phaser” by everyone except the residents of the 24th century who probably wouldn’t even find the device in holo-textbooks, Factory Entertainment is releasing a replica with a satisfyingly hefty all-metal body, working light effects, and even sounds from the original Star Trek: TNG TV series. It’s expected to be available starting in June, but is available for pre-order now for $500 with a $50 discount. It comes in a themed storage box, but, disappointingly, it doesn’t include a Starfleet issue belt holster.


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Chapter 20: How Dorothy Lunched With a King @ Bureau 42

The Last of Us Gets Back on the Road and Introduces More Petrifying People @ io9

Joel and Ellie are forced to hide on The Last of Us.Image: HBO

As we’re here to talk about the fourth episode of HBO’s The Last Of Us, I think it’s okay to start the recap with a bit of a fourth wall break. Sunday’s episode, “Please Hold To My Hand,” is great. There’s lots of character-building, new conflicts, solid action, and more. However, I feel the need to disclose something. Having seen the rest of the season already, and specifically what happens in next week’s episode, this episode plays even better once you see it in tandem with episode five.

I won’t spoil why, but I do think it’s important to note. If you were in any way underwhelmed by this week’s short-ish episode, you are not likely to feel that way after next week. In reality, the two episodes are one and the storytelling choices here are so much more powerful and clear after seeing what’s next. That said, let’s get to the episode.

After the emotional bombshell that was last week’s episode, you might have almost forgotten that Ellie stole a gun from Frank and Bill’s house. She didn’t forget though, and things started with her posing with it in a mirror. She’s excited, empowered, and for the first time we see a duality starting to grow. Ellie is a smart-ass teenager, but there’s something darker in there too.

Ellie and Joel are at a rest stop gassing up Bill’s truck. Apparently, gas is so old, it’s degraded a lot and now they need to fill up every hour or so. To kill the time, Ellie breaks out a book of puns, hoping to lighten the mood. Joel stoically responds, but in Pedro Pascal’s performance, we can begin to see some of Joel’s hardened exterior cracking.

Joel and Ellie are up against it.Image: HBO

Set to the tunes of Hank Williams, Ellie and Joel get back on the road. Here, for the first time on the show, we really get a full look at 2023 America in The Last of Us. Abandoned cars, broken bridges, and desolate theme parks appear on the horizon as the pair drive across the wide-open plains. At one point, Ellie even breaks out a sticky magazine with a shirtless man on the cover, in a moment that’s sure to make fans of the video game very happy.

The desolation of the drive lets Joel and Ellie chat, bond, and joke before deciding to call it a night. Joel parks the truck in the woods and over a plate of 20-year-old Chef Boyardee, Joel explains his fear not of the infected, but of people and what they might do if anyone finds them. The thought keeps him from sleeping, but not before he blows Ellie’s mind by correctly guessing one of her puns.

After an uneventful night, the pair hit the road again. First Ellie can’t believe people drink the “burnt shit”-smelling beverage called coffee. Then, as they look at the map trying to figure out the best route to Wyoming, Ellie asks Joel about Tommy. Watching the show, we know that Tommy was with Joel on the first day of the outbreak and that Joel is looking for him now, but not what happened in between. Finally, we find out. Joel tells Ellie that Tommy is a “joiner,” always looking for a way to make a difference. First, that meant the Army. Later, after the outbreak, Tommy and Joel joined a group that worked its way up to Boston, which is how they met Tess. Once in Boston, Tommy met Marlene and he joined the Fireflies, which is how he found his way to Wyoming. However, Joel reveals, he doesn’t think Tommy is even with the Fireflies anymore and that’s why he’s worried about him.

Lots of important info was shared between the pair.Image: HBO

Ellie senses Joel’s general pessimism and asks him why he even tries then. Is there no hope for the world? Joel says you move ahead and try for family. But no—Ellie isn’t family. She’s cargo that Tess made him promise to take care of, and Tess was family. This exchange, after all these days bonding in the car, felt like it should’ve been more important than the episode gave it credit for. It was a very shitty thing to say.

The Boston to Wyoming drive takes the pair through Kansas City, except the highway is barricaded. Instead of doubling back, Joel decides he can find the next on-ramp by driving through the city. Which, even in our reality, never ever works. So it’s no surprise that he and Ellie immediately get lost in the quiet city. Tensions rise as they frantically drive around looking for the highway when a man comes into the street asking for help. Sensing a trap, Joel speeds around him. Instantly, a cinder block smashes their window, the car’s tires are blown, they’re shot at, and they crash into a store. Joel’s instincts were right on the money. It was indeed a trap.

A shoot-out ensues. One of the show’s patented short but intense action sequences. Joel picks off two attackers as Ellie crawls to safety but, another sneaks up on Joel and pins him to the ground. Joel is going to die... until Ellie pulls out her gun and shoots the attacker in the back. It’s then we see he’s just a young kid and he starts begging for his life. Joel tells Ellie to go into the other room and we hear Joel end the kid’s life. They leave the building just as a bunch of trucks pull up to the scene.

All praise, Kathleen.Image: HBO

Already a few of the things you’ve seen in this episode are going to make more sense when you see next week’s episode—but, specifically, all of what happens next is even more important. The scene shifts to what looks like a FEDRA prison. Only, FEDRA is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we meet a woman named Kathleen, played by Yellowjackets’ star Melanie Lynskey. She interrogates a mysterious (for now) doctor and asks him if he knows the whereabouts of someone named Henry. This Henry, apparently, told FEDRA where Kathleen’s brother was, and, as a result, her brother was killed. She now wants the doctor to rat on Henry like Henry ratted on her brother. It’s a tense scene that results in Kathleen putting a gun to the doctor’s head. However, he doesn’t think she’ll kill him and he’s right.

Kathleen is distracted by some noises and goes outside. She learns from what seems to be her second in command (a Will Forte-meets-Commando dead ringer played by Jeffrey Pierce) that strangers who arrived in a fully loaded truck killed several of their men. She thinks that these might be mercenaries hired by Henry to help him so she orders everyone to go out into the city and find them. It’s here that we see the true power of Kathleen’s group, as several trucks and dozens of people set out into the city. She has an army. One that, somehow, overthrew FEDRA to take Kansas City back for the people.

Oh, and when Kathleen realizes her captured doctor won’t be able to help one of the men Joel and Ellie wounded, she walks back in and kills the doctor in cold blood. Kathleen is no joke.

Is the coast clear yet, Joel?Image: HBO

Joel and Ellie are hiding and peek out to see Kathleen’s army searching for them. Ellie asks Joel who they are since they aren’t FEDRA or Fireflies and Joel says they’re just people. People who, he knows, will find them soon if they don’t start moving. As they wait for the trucks to pass through, Ellie checks in on Joel. He did, after all, just almost get killed. Joel responds by asking Ellie how she is—since really, it was Ellie who had the traumatic experience of having shot a man in the back. Joel blames himself for getting into a position where she had to do that and he apologizes. She says it’s okay because it’s not the first time she’s had to hurt someone. A mysterious statement that’s left unanswered not just now, but later in the episode too when Joel brings it back up. (Fans of the game, however, might have a clue what she’s referring to.)

Before heading out, Joel gives Ellie her gun back and teaches her the way to properly hold it. She’s excited to finally have Joel’s permission to have a gun and you see more of his armor coming down and their trust and respect continue to grow.

One last time in this episode, things cut back to Kathleen’s people. The Will Forte-ish guy takes her into a hidden attic where, it seems, this mysterious Henry has been hiding. The attic is covered in empty canned goods and drawings of superheroes. Clearly, Henry is with a child, who Kathleen says is named Sam. In the same building, Kathleen and the soldier find a crater in the basement. A crater that starts to rumble. Terrified of it, they run out, but Kathleen says they can’t tell anyone about what they just saw and to just seal up the building. This too, as you can expect, all become a bit clearer next week.

Kathleen leading her army.Image: HBO

Hoping to get a clear view of the entire city so they can find a way out, Joel and Ellie start to climb the stairs of a 45-story building. On the way up, Ellie asks Joel how he knew the situation before was an ambush and he explains his group did similar things to survive in the past. When Ellie asks him if he’s ever killed innocent people, though, Joel stops answering.

They get 33 flights up the building before Joel gets too tired to continue. So they find a nice quiet apartment, Joel spreads broken glass on the ground Die Hard style so no one can sneak up on them overnight, and Ellie mentions to him that he probably wouldn’t even hear it anyway because she’s noticed he doesn’t hear in his right ear very well.

Joel does hear Ellie tell one more of her punny jokes and though he tries to hold back a laugh, he can’t. The pair bust out laughing and just for a moment it seems like maybe these two are going to be okay. If they can share a laugh, can it really be that bad? The answer is yes. A few hours later Joel, now with his right ear in the air, is woken up by Ellie. A man is holding her at gunpoint. Joel looks up and he is also being held at gunpoint, this time by a young child. The child holds his finger to his mouth so Joel will be quiet, and the episode ends.

I just keep seeing The Last Man on Earth.Image: HBO

Who are the people holding up Joel and Ellie? If you’ve been paying attention, it should be pretty obvious, but I won’t spoil it here. But, suffice to say, we learn more about how they got to this room next week and it will make several scenes in this episode work so, so much better.

“Please Hold To My Hand” may not have been anywhere near the genius of “Long, Long Time” but we got to see Ellie grow into herself a bit, Joel become more comfortable with her, and the pair make good progress on their road to Wyoming. Plus, Melanie Lynskey shoots a dude in cold blood. What could be better than that?

Guilt, Fear, and Violence | The Last of Us Review

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Brubaker and Phillips' Criminal May Be Prime Video's Next Adaptation @ io9

Image: Sean Phillips/Image Comics

Right now, Prime Video is on a pretty good streak with adapting various properties to TV. Between Critical Role, Jack Reacher, and Invincible, plus its various original series, the streamer is good about finding something for a particular niche.

Per Deadline, Prime Video is currently finalizing plans to adapt Image Comics’ crime series Criminal. Written by Ed Brubaker (Batman, Uncanny X-Men) and drawn by Sean Phillips (Hellblazer, Kill or Be Killed), the series already has Brubaker tapped as an executive producer and showrunner, and a writers room is reportedly already going. The comics writer has been a part of the TV world for years, and most recently was the executive producer and head writer for HBO Max’s Batman: Caped Crusader, which is currently being shopped around to other streamers.

Released in 2006, Criminal has previously been described by Brubaker as “the interweaving saga of several generations of families tied together by the crimes and murders of the past.” Each story arc is self-contained and focuses on a different set of characters living in Center City, all of whom frequent the same bar and have similar upbringings in the crime world. The book was originally part of Marvel Comics’ Icon imprint before being republished by Image in 2019, and its last issue released back in 2020. Brubaker and Phillips have been longtime collaborators for years, having created fellow Image books Kill or Be Killed, Fatale, and The Fade during the 2010s.

At time of writing, Amazon hasn’t confirmed Deadline’s report, but Brubaker has a history with the streamer, having executive produced and written for its 2019 series Too Old to Die Young with Nicholas Winding Refn. That, and two of Prime Video’s bigger series at the moment, The Boys and Invincible, are based on indie comics. It feels like something in the streamer’s wheelhouse, so we should hear official confirmation at some point in the near future.


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