Archive for the ‘streaming television’ Category

George Clooney is a grizzled Arctic astronomer in The Midnight Sky trailer

October 27th, 2020

George Clooney directs and stars in The Midnight Sky, based on the the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Netflix has bet heavily this year on high-profile feature films starring A-list talent: first with Chris Hemsworth in Extraction, and then with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron in The Old Guard. That bet has largely paid off. Now the streaming platform has tapped another Oscar winner, George Clooney, to direct and star in the post-apocalyptic science fiction film The Midnight Sky. It's adapted from the critically acclaimed 2016 debut novel, Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton, which has been compared to Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora and Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven. The official trailer just dropped, and it's giving us some strong Away vibes (which, alas, has been canceled by Netflix after just one season).

In the novel, a brilliant astronomer named Augustine is posted to the Arctic, scanning the night sky for clues about the birth of the universe. Then a mysterious global apocalypse occurs, prompting all his fellow scientists to evacuate. But Augustine remains behind, dedicated to continuing his research, even as the airwaves go silent. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts aboard the spaceship Aether is set to return to Earth after a mission to Jupiter. On board is Sully, who sacrificed her marriage and left her daughter behind in order to become one of the first humans to travel so far in our Solar System. The astronauts are unaware of the catastrophe that has befallen Earth, and it falls to Augustine to warn them not to return.

Snow is white, space is black

Clooney's film adaptation looks like it will hew closely to the novel. Per the official premise: "This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine (Clooney, Syriana, Argo), a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully (Felicity Jones, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe." The cast also includes David Oyelowo (Selma, Don't Let Go) as Commander Tom Adewole, Ethan Peck (Star Trek: Discovery), Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders), Kyle Chandler (Bloodline, First Man) as Matthew, Tiffany Boone (The Following) as Maya, Demián Bichir (A Better Life) as Sanchez, and Caoilinn Springall as Iris, a mysterious child that Augustine befriends in the Arctic.

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BBC drops new trailer and featurette for the upcoming His Dark Materials S2

October 26th, 2020

Dafne Keen, Amir Wilson, Ruth Wilson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda reprise their roles for the second season of the BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.

His Dark Materials, the BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman's classic fantasy trilogy, received mixed reviews for its first season, although it still warranted an honorable mention in our 2019 year-end TV roundup. The second season debuts next month. HBO dropped the first S2 trailer in July during the virtual San Diego Comic-Con@Home and a second longer one in August. Now BBC has released yet another trailer that includes a short featurette, with cast interviews and some cool glimpses behind the scenes.

(Spoilers for S1 and the Philip Pullman books below.)

As we've written previously, the three books in Pullman's series are The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. They follow the adventures of a 12-year-old girl named Lyra, who lives in a fictional version of Oxford, England, circa the Victorian era. Everyone has a companion daemon in the form of an animal—part of their spirit that resides outside the body—and Lyra's is named Pantalaimon. Lyra uncovers a sinister plot that sends her on a journey to find her father in hopes of foiling said plot. That journey takes her to different dimensions (the fictional world is a multiverse) and ultimately to her own coming of age.

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Lovecraft Country is a cleverly subversive take on notoriously racist author

October 26th, 2020

A Black family in 1950s Chicago struggles to reclaim their lost ancestral legacy while warding off monsters and magic spells in HBO's Lovecraft Country, based on the 2016 dark fantasy/horror novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. Like the novel that inspired it, the series' pointed juxtaposition of supernatural Lovecraftian horrors against more mundane, but equally horrifying racial inequalities of that era is especially timely in a year that has seen widespread civil rights protests against the brutal killings of Black men (and women) by police officers. And social relevance aside, it also works as pure entertainment.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Set in the Jim Crow era of the 1950s, Ruff's book is structured as a series of short stories, although everything is inter-related. The first quarter of the book focuses on Atticus, a black Korean war veteran and big H.P. Lovecraft fan, despite the author's notorious racism. When his estranged father disappears after encountering a well-dressed white man driving a silver Cadillac, leaving a cryptic message, Atticus sets out on a road trip from Chicago's South Side to rural Massachusetts. He's accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia (aka Leti).

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Hulu brings back that irreverent magic with trailer for Animaniacs reboot

October 22nd, 2020

Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are back in Hulu’s reboot of the classic Animaniacs cartoon.

Readers of a certain age will have fond childhood memories of weekday afternoons spent in the company of the Warner siblings, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, the central figures of the hugely popular, Emmy-award winning animated series, Animaniacs. Now a whole new generation can appreciate their comic genius with Hulu's revival of the show, slated to debut next month.

The premise of the original Animaniacs was that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were characters from the 1930s who were locked way in a water tower on the Warner Bros. lot until they escaped in the 1990s. Now they exist to wreak havoc and have fun. The format borrowed heavily from sketch comedy, with each episode typically featuring three short mini-episodes centered on different characters, connected by bridging segments. Other regular characters included two genetically altered lab mice, Pinky and the Brain, who are always trying to take over the world; Ralph the Security Guard; Slappy Squirrel and her nephew, Skippy; Chicken Boo; Flavio and Marita, aka the Hip Hippos; studio psychiatrist Dr. Otto Scratchansniff and Hello Nurse (also a common catchphrase); and a trio of pigeons known as The Goodfeathers.

As appealing to adults as to kids, the show was smart, funny, irreverent, and even educational, especially with its playful songs listing the nations of the world, for instance, or all the US states and their capitals—set to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw"—or all the presidents set to the "William Tell Overture." (My personal favorite was "The Solar System Song," complete with the obligatory joke about Uranus.) The writers were masters of parody, so much so that it became something of a badge of honor to be so featured. Honorees included A Hard Day's Night, Seinfeld, Friends, Bambi, Power Rangers, Rugrats, and The Lion King, as well as the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore. And of course, the Goodfeathers segments invariably parodied characters from both The Godfather and Goodfellas.

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Review: The Haunting of Bly Manor is a perfectly splendid ghost story

October 21st, 2020

A young American woman fleeing her tragic past finds herself caring for two orphaned children on an English estate that she suspects might be haunted in the new Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor. Showrunner Mike Flanagan's highly anticipated followup to 2018's exquisitely brooding The Haunting of Hill House, this season is loosely based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw.

Granted, Bly Manor never quite reaches the same level as the exquisitely rendered Hill House, but it's nonetheless a "perfectly splendid" ghost story that doubles as a quiet, thoughtful reflection on love and loss, in keeping with the oblique writing style of James. Between Doctor Sleep, Hill House, and Bly Manor, Flanagan has pretty much established himself as the reigning master of reinventing classic horror stories for a modern audience.

(Some spoilers for The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents, and The Turning. Only mild spoilers for Bly Manor; no major reveals.)

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Mando sports an iconic jet pack in one last teaser for The Mandalorian S2

October 20th, 2020

Pedro Pascal stars as the titular character in The Mandalorian, returning to Disney+ for a second season on October 30.

We're just a little over a week away from the S2 debut of The Mandalorian, the Emmy-nominated, first live-action Star Wars TV series. And Disney+ has decided to whet our appetites with one last "special look" teaser for the series.

Created by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal as Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian, the series takes place a few years after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. The basic premise is that, after the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, there was a period of chaos and lawlessness as a new government struggled to emerge from the wreckage. Pascal's bounty hunter is "a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic."

The first season garnered 15 Emmy nomination for its eight-episode freshman outing. And it easily landed a spot on our top TV shows of 2019. "Favreau's brainchild has proven to be a killer vehicle for the most Star Trek-like storytelling yet in a live-action Star Wars product," Ars Tech Culture Editor Sam Machkovech wrote at the time. "Even better, its freak-of-the-week and brand-new-planet progression has been paired with a proper samurai story, as anchored by the religious, fervent, and conflicted Mando himself."

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Review: Don’t call it a comeback—The Boys returns better than ever in S2

October 17th, 2020

Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its second season.

In my review of The Boys S1 last year, I called the Amazon Prime series "a wickedly funny, darkly irreverent adaptation" and "ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies." I wasn't alone in my love for the show: The Boys was a massive hit, and that success has continued with S2, which was the most-watched global launch of any Amazon series to date, pretty much doubling the show's worldwide audience. S2 is even better than its predecessor, deftly tackling timely themes and hot-button issues, while never sacrificing all the biting satire and good, gory fun that we loved about S1. And can we just give Antony Starr an Emmy already for his stunning performance as Homelander?

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, headed up by Homelander (Starr), a truly violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero, who mostly bullies his supe team into compliance. The other members include A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who boasts super-speed but has also become addicted to the experimental performance-enhancing substance called Compound-V. The Deep (Chace Crawford) can breathe underwater, thanks to having gills—voiced in S2 by Patton Oswalt during a hallucination sequence—and converse with marine creatures.

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Review: Utopia is a very good series released at exactly the wrong time

October 14th, 2020

It's a rare TV series that gives me pause about even writing a review, but Amazon's new sci-fi thriller Utopia turned out to be just that. Not because it isn't good—on the contrary, I found it both entertaining and thought provoking. But there are several key elements of the central plot that proved disquieting enough (even for someone like me who is not generally squeamish) that I had to ponder the pros and cons of giving space to a show whose release perhaps should have been postponed by a few months, given current world events. (I mean, read the room, Amazon! Geez!) In the end, the pro arguments won out.

(All major spoilers are below the second gallery. We'll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

As we reported previously, the series is a reboot of the 2013 British version, about online fans of a graphic novel called Dystopia that seems to have the power to predict the real-world future. The fans are obsessed with tracking down the sequel, Utopia, and this makes them targets of a secret organization. Amazon has kept the same basic premise (with a few tweaks) and swapped in an American cast. Per the official premise: "When the conspiracy in the elusive comic Utopia is real, a group of young fans come together to embark on a high-stakes twisted adventure to use what they uncover to save themselves, each other and ultimately humanity."

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NY Comic-Con: the Dark Man cometh in first trailer for The Stand miniseries

October 10th, 2020

James Marsden, Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgård star in the new CBS All Access limited miniseries The Stand, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.

It's Stephen King's world; we're just living in it. During New York Comic Con, CBS All Access dropped the first official trailer for its ten-episode limited miniseries of The Stand, an adaptation of King's sprawling 1978 post-apocalyptic fantasy novel about the aftermath of a deadly pandemic that wipes out most of the world's population.

(Some spoilers for the Stephen King novel below.)

The Stand is widely considered to be among King's best work, with a sprawling cast of characters and multiple storylines. It's also his longest, with the 1990 Complete and Uncut Edition surpassing even It in page count. King has said he wanted to write an epic dark fantasy akin to The Lord of the Rings, only with a contemporary American setting. "Instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg," King wrote in his 1981 nonfiction book, Danse Macabre. "The land of Mordor ('where the shadows lie,' according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas."

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The future of the Belt has begun in first trailer for The Expanse S5

October 9th, 2020

The fifth season of the sci-fi series The Expanse will begin streaming on Amazon Prime on December 16, 2020.

Amazon Prime debuted the first trailer (embedded above) for the upcoming fifth season of The Expanse during the series panel at the New York Comic Con's Metaverse today. And the stakes are high. According to the official premise, "The future of The Belt has begun as Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) wages Armageddon against the Inners for a lifetime of oppression and injustice."

(Some spoilers for prior seasons below.)

As we previously reported, The Expanse is based on a series of novels by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), exploring interplanetary tensions that are breaking out all over a Solar System long since colonized by humans—mostly between Earthers, Martians, and "Belters." Part mystery, part political thriller, part classic space opera, The Expanse has earned almost nothing but praise from critics and its devoted fans alike, not just for its gripping storytelling, but also its excellent use of accurate physics. The third and fourth seasons earned a rare 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes (seasons one and two earned 76 percent and 96 percent, respectively).

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