Narf! Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are back in first trailer for Animaniacs reboot

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

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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“Here we go”: Disney drops one last teaser for The Mandalorian S2

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

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

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

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

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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Review: Raised by Wolves squanders early promise with clumsy, bizarre finale

Amanda Collin stars as Mother in <em>Raised by Wolves</em>: a deadly Android reprogrammed to raise human children on the virgin planet Kepler-22b to establish an atheist civilization.

Enlarge / Amanda Collin stars as Mother in Raised by Wolves: a deadly Android reprogrammed to raise human children on the virgin planet Kepler-22b to establish an atheist civilization. (credit: HBO Max)

A pair of androids struggle to raise human children on a hostile planet in Raised by Wolves, the new sci-fi series that just concluded its first season on HBO Max. In this era of bankable franchises, reboots, and adaptations, it was refreshing to see something so original and visionary hit the small screen, and we had high hopes for the series.

That hope was sadly misplaced. Granted, in its earlier episodes, Raised by Wolves is moody, atmospheric, strangely disquieting, and thought-provoking, with gorgeous cinematography. So it’s especially maddening that the show squanders all that considerable promise with a clunky, incoherent finale featuring a hackneyed, ham-fisted, totally unnecessary twist that left us seriously questioning whether we even want to tune in for a second season.

(Spoilers below, but all major reveals about the finale—because WTAF?—are below the gallery and we’ll give a heads up when we get there.)

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Here’s the trailer, release date for Simon Pegg/Nick Frost sitcom Truth Seekers

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play ghost hunters in the new Amazon Prime horror comedy Truth Seekers.

Back in July, during the virtual San Diego Comic-Con@Home, Amazon Studios released a beguiling teaser for Truth Seekers, the forthcoming sci-fi/horror/comedy series starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It looked like a lot of fun—how could you go wrong with a reunion of Pegg and Frost? The full trailer just dropped, and it definitely reinforces that positive first impression. We also now have a release date: Amazon will screen the first two episodes at the Canneseries festival on October 10 and will release the full series on Prime Video on October 30, 2020.

As we reported previously, the series was created by Pegg, Frost, James Serafinowicz, and Nat Saunders. It’s envisioned as a cross between The X-Files and the British TV series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. Each of the eight episodes will focus on a specific paranormal incident, a throwback to a classic monster-of-the-week format. Rather than going with pure spoof, Truth Seekers will apparently take its horror aspects seriously.

Per the official synopsis:

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Two demon-hunting siblings reunite to save the world in Helstrom trailer

Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon star as siblings Daimon and Ana Helstrom in Helstrom, a 10-episode horror series that hits Hulu next month.

An ethics professor and secret demon hunter reunites with his estranged sister to take on a powerful demonic entity in the trailer for Helstrom, an upcoming horror series based on Marvel Comics characters. The 10-episode series debuts on Hulu next month

Helstrom has a complicated back story. As we reported in 2019, Hulu announced the development of two new Marvel-centric series, Ghost Rider (with Gabriel Luna reprising his role from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Helstrom. The shows were intended to kick off a standalone “Adventure into Fear” franchise that would bring a chilling horror element to the Marvel formula. Ghost Rider soon fell by the wayside, and by December 2019, Marvel Television was shut down. That makes Helstrom the sole survivor of the planned fear-based franchise. Shooting finished in March, right before the coronavirus pandemic caused most Hollywood productions to grind to a halt. Showrunner Paul Zbyszewski’s contract was terminated in April—also due to the pandemic—but he stayed on for postproduction.

The series focuses on two characters from Marvel Comics. First: Daimon Helstrom, the son of Satan, introduced in Ghost Rider #1 (1973). He eventually became a recurring character in The Defenders. The other protagonist is his sister, Satana (Ana in the TV adaptation), who embraces the occult and her paternal heritage while Daimon chooses to defend humanity. Per the official premise: “The world isn’t ready for a Helstrom family reunion. As the son and daughter of a mysterious and powerful serial killer, Helstrom follows Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana Helstrom (Sydney Lemmon), and their complicated dynamic, as they track down the worst of humanity—each with their own attitude and skills.”

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Sinister trailer for Haunting of Bly Manor looks like a classic ghost story

Victoria Pedretti stars as a governess to two orphans on a spooky estate in The Haunting of Bly Manor.

The Halloween season is almost upon us, so brace yourselves for the annual onslaught of horror fare. But we’re also getting a good old-fashioned spooky ghost story with the Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, loosely based on The Turn of the Screw while incorporating several other ghost stories by Henry James. The series is showrunner Mike Flanagan’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2018’s exquisitely brooding The Haunting of Hill House. The first teaser dropped earlier this month, and now the streaming platform has released the full trailer.

(Spoilers for the Henry James novel below.)

The Haunting of Hill House shared the top spot in Ars’ 2018 list of our favorite TV shows with BBC’s Killing Eve. We loved Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy’s inventive reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, at once a Gothic ghost story and a profound examination of family dysfunction. It stayed true to the tone and spirit of the original, aided by dialogue, narration, and other small details from the source material. Small wonder that it garnered award nominations from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, Writers Guild of America, and Art Directors Guild.

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Shock treatment: Ratched is a stylishly gruesome soap opera dialed up to 11

Sarah Paulson plays Nurse Mildred Ratched in Ratched, series creator Evan Romansky’s prequel (of sorts) to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

One of the most iconic movie villains of all time gets the American Horror Story treatment in Ratched, Netflix’s star-studded prequel, of sorts, to Director Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The series is richly styled and visually striking, and the cast is terrific, but there’s very little substance or insight, and the plotting is a meandering mess riddled with holes and inconsistent characterizations. It’s basically a body horror soap opera in which everything is dialed up to 11 for maximum shock value.

(Spoilers for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest book and film below. Some spoilers for Ratched but no major reveals.)

As I wrote previously, Forman’s film is based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. It’s set in a psychiatric hospital in Salem, Oregon, where Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent after faking insanity to escape a prison farm sentence for assault and the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. The cold, rigidly controlled (and controlling) Nurse Mildred Ratched (aka Big Nurse, played by Louise Fletcher) rules the place with an iron hand. She maintains order by withholding basic necessities, medications, or patient privileges—with the occasional bit of hydrotherapy and electroshock therapy for especially unruly patients—but McMurphy’s rebellious nature challenges her authority.

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Everyone loves the new couple on the block in first Wandavision trailer

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision, respectively, in Marvel’s spinoff series WandaVision.

If you were watching the virtual 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards last night, you no doubt caught the debut of a new trailer for WandaVision, the first standalone series to be released in Phase Four of the MCU. The studio offered a sneak peek last year during D23 Expo 2019, Disney’s annual fan extravaganza. Lacking any actual footage, that teaser was just snippets of The Dick van Dyke Show interspersed with snippets of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) from the various MCU films. At the time, I was skeptical of the concept, but this new trailer is quite promising and gives me hope that Marvel can pull it off.

WandaVision is meant to be a kind of sitcom/epic superhero mashup, with Kat Dennings reprising her role as Darcy from the Thor films, alongside Randall Park reprising his Ant Man and the Wasp role as FBI agent Jimmy Woo. Kathryn Hahn (Crossing Jordan) will play a “nosy neighbor,” and Teyonah Parris (Mad Men) plays a grown-up Monica Rambeau, daughter of Carol Danvers’ BFF Maria Rambeau, introduced in Captain Marvel. Within the MCU timeline, it takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and its events will directly tie in to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently slated for a 2022 release. 

Per the official description: “WandaVision will follow the story of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s superhero characters, the Scarlet Witch and Vision. The series is a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision—two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.”

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Blast off: Disney drops first trailer for The Right Stuff dramatic series

In October, Disney+ will debut its new series, The Right Stuff, based on the 1979 book by Tom Wolfe.

A team of elite military test pilots finds itself tapped to be astronauts for Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program in the United States, in The Right Stuff, a new eight-episode dramatic series debuting in October on Disney+. Like Philip Kaufman’s Oscar-winning 1983 film of the same name, the series is based on the bestselling 1979 book by Tom Wolfe.

Wolfe became interested in the US space program while on assignment by Rolling Stone to cover the launch of Apollo 17, NASA’s last Moon mission. He spent the next seven years writing The Right Stuff, intent on capturing the drive and ethos of those early astronauts. (In a foreword to the 1983 edition, he pondered “What makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle… and wait for someone to light the fuse.”)  Wolfe spent a great deal of time consulting with General Chuck Yeager, who was shut out of the astronaut program and ended up as a contrasting character to the college-degreed Project Mercury team featured in the book. The Right Stuff won widespread critical praise, as well as the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

When United Artists decided to finance a film adaptation, the studio hired William Goldman (The Princess Bride) to adapt the screenplay, but his vision was very different from that of director Philip Kaufman, and Goldman quit the project. Kaufman wrote his own draft script in eight weeks, making Yeager more of a central figure; Goldman’s script ignored Yeager entirely. Goldman later wrote that “Phil [Kaufman]’s heart was with Yeager. And not only that, he felt the astronauts, rather than being heroic, were really minor leaguers, mechanical men of no particular quality, not great pilots at all, simply the product of hype.”

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A dark comic book conspiracy turns out to be all too real in Utopia trailer

John Cusack and Rainn Wilson star in Amazon Prime’s black comedy/conspiracy thriller, Utopia.

Last month, at the virtual San Diego Comic Con, Amazon dropped the first teaser for Utopia, a reboot (adapted by Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author Gillian Flynn) of the controversial 2013-2014 British black comedy/conspiracy thriller. Now the streaming platform has released the official full trailer, and the series looks like it’s going to be quite the wild ride.

As we reported previously, the series is about online fans of a dystopian graphic novel called Utopia that seems to have the power to predict the real-world future. The fans are obsessed with tracking down the sequel (which supposedly also predicts future world events). This makes them targets of a secret organization called The Network.

The British version received critical praise for its originality and visual style, offset by strong reservations about its extreme violence, which struck many as unnecessarily gratuitous. (The most famous scene involved a torturer using a spoon to gouge out a victim’s eye). It remains to be seen if Amazon’s Utopia will match the same scale of violence, although Flynn recently told Deadline Hollywood that it wouldn’t be as prominent.

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Review: Smartly satirical Teenage Bounty Hunters is a perfect weekend binge

Fraternal twin sisters Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) join forces with bounty hunter Bowser Simmons (Kadeem Hardison) in the new Netflix series Teenage Bounty Hunters.

Twin sisters juggle the demands of high school, their Christian youth group, and raging hormones with a side gig working for a local bounty hunter in the new Netflix series, Teenage Bounty Hunters. Creator Kathleen Jordan’s delightful comedy-drama definitely brings the laughs with its razor-sharp satire, but it is also a smart, nuanced coming of age story with some genuinely surprising twists and turns. One of the executive producers is Jenji Kohan, who also worked on WeedsGLOW, and Orange Is the New Black, and Teenage Bounty Hunters shares a similar sensibility.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Per the official premise:

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Mission to Mars: Hilary Swank leads an elite team in trailer for Away

Hillary Swank stars as an elite astronaut preparing for a crewed mission to Mars in the new Netflix sci-fi drama series Away.

An elite international team of astronauts must leave family and friends behind for a three-year crewed mission to Mars in Away, a new science fiction drama from Netflix, starring Hilary Swank. Created by Andrew Hinderaker (Penny Dreadful), the 10-episode series was inspired by a 2014 Esquire article by Chris Jones about astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long sojourn aboard the International Space Station with a Russian cosmonaut—the longest space mission in American history.

Per the official synopsis:

Away is a thrilling, emotional drama on an epic scale that celebrates the incredible advancements humans can achieve and the personal sacrifices they must make along the way. As American astronaut Emma Green (Hilary Swank, I Am Mother, Boys Don’t Cry) prepares to lead an international crew on the first mission to Mars, she must reconcile her decision to leave behind her husband (Josh Charles, The Good Wife) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman, Countdown) when they need her the most. As the crew’s journey into space intensifies, their personal dynamics and the effects of being away from their loved ones back on Earth become increasingly complex. ​Away shows that sometimes to reach for the stars, we must leave home behind.

The trailer opens with Emma’s NASA engineer husband Matt playing the opening bars of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” on a piano, as she presents their daughter Alexis with a gift: a necklace with three stones, representing Earth, the Moon, and Mars. “And the string is me making my way back to you. So just remember, the further away I get, I’m actually getting closer to being back to you.”

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Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

TKTK in the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year’s debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a “found family” of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series’ potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can’t really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a “negative energy entity” inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

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Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes

Executive producer Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series Raised by Wolves is coming to HBO Max in September.

Androids struggle to raise human children on a mysterious planet in the first trailer for Raised by Wolves, a new sci-fi series coming to HBO Max, courtesy of none other than Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, etc., etc.). Created by Aaron Guzikowski, who also penned the script for the 2013 thriller Prisoners, the ten-episode series was initially a straight-to-series order for TNT, but moved to HBO Max last October. Scott even directed the first two episodes, making this his US TV directorial debut.

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions,” Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. “What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

The tagline for the series gives little away: “Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.” But the basic premise revealed during development is that the story involves two androids serving as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) figures on a strange virgin planet. They are programmed to raise human children to rebuild the population. However, the people of the fledgling colony develop stark religious differences, and “the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.”

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Big Nurse gets her origin story in trailer for prequel series Ratched

Sarah Paulson plays Nurse Mildred Ratched in Netflix’s prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Fans of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—whether Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel or the 1975 Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson—know that the sadistic, tyrannical Nurse Ratched is a crucial antagonist driving the story of a rebellious inmate in a psychiatric hospital. Now she’s getting her own back story in the form of a new prequel series, Ratched. Netflix dropped the first trailer for the series yesterday.

(Spoilers for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest book and film below.)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is set in a psychiatric hospital in Salem, Oregon, where Randle Patrick McMurphy is sent after faking insanity to escape a prison farm sentence. Nurse Ratched (aka Big Nurse) rules the place with an iron hand, systematically abusing the inmates under her charge. She maintains order by withholding basic necessities, medications, or patient privileges, but McMurphy’s rebellious nature challenges her authority, even in the face of shock therapy.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #ken-kesey, #netflix, #nurse-ratched, #ratched, #streaming-television, #trailers

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The Umbrella Academy comes back stronger than ever with briskly paced S2

Ars staffers were divided on the merits of The Umbrella Academys first season. The pacing dragged a bit in the earlier episodes, and the deviations from the source material—the Dark Horse Comics  series created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá—were not to everyone’s taste. But I appreciated the time taken to flesh out the main characters, and I thought S1 ended strong, with a promising setup for a second season. I’m happy to report that S2 is even better: faster paced and well-acted, with some intriguing plot twists and developmental arcs for the Hargreeves siblings as they find themselves scattered in Dallas, Texas, in the early 1960s.

(Spoilers for S1; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals with regard to the final episodes.)

For those unfamiliar with the series, billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore, House of Cards) adopts seven children out of 43 mysteriously born in 1989 to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children are raised at Hargreeves’ Umbrella Academy, with the help of a robot “mother” named Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins, iZombie) and become a family of superheroes with special powers. But it’s a dysfunctional arrangement, and the family members ultimately disband, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves dies.

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#dark-horse-comics, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #the-umbrella-academy

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Simon Pegg, Nick Frost return to horror-comedy roots with Truth Seekers teaser

Amazon’s new supernatural comedy series Truth Seekers reunites Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

A group of part-time paranormal investigators team up to uncover a deadly conspiracy in the first teaser for Truth Seekers, a forthcoming sci-fi/horror comedy series from Amazon starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The first teaser was unveiled today at San Diego Comic-Con @Home, which has had to switch to an online-only, virtual format this year due to the continuing pandemic.

Created by Pegg, Frost, James Serafinowicz, and Nat Saunders, the eight-episode series is envisioned as a cross between The X-Files and the British TV series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. Each episode will focus on a specific paranormal incident, a throwback to a classic monster-of-the-week format. Rather than going with pure spoof, Truth Seekers will apparently take its horror aspects seriously.

“You have to not make fun of the horror,” Pegg said during the Comic-Con panel. “It’s tempting with genre fare to parody that… but I think the key for horror-comedy is to take the horror seriously.”

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#amazon-prime, #gaming-culture, #nick-frost, #san-diego-comic-con, #simon-pegg, #streaming-television, #trailers, #truth-seekers

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Netflix’s German sci-fi thriller Biohackers just might be the new Dark

New Netflix series Biohackers explores the high-tech world of biohacking and genetic manipulation.

With movies on seemingly indefinite hiatus—pour one out for the oft-delayed Tenet—until we collectively get our act together, streaming platforms are picking up the slack, pumping out original films and new series to keep us entertained while we’re all social distancing. Netflix just dropped the trailer for its latest foreign offering: the German sci-fi thriller Biohackers, about an ambitious young medical student seeking revenge on her mentor for the scientific sins of the past.

There isn’t much background information available yet on the series (not even on IMDb), other than the identity of the showrunner, Christian Ditter, and the main cast members. The German-born Ditter is best known in the United States for directing the 2016 rom-com How to Be Single and for his work on the 2017 Netflix comedy Girlboss, based on the autobiography of Sophia Amoruso, who founded the company Nasty Gal. (Girlboss received mixed reviews and was cancelled after one season.) Biohackers looks like a significant departure for him and an especially promising one, given the success of the German sci-fi series Dark, which just wrapped a mind-bending third and final season on Netflix.

Jessica Schwarz, best known stateside for her performance in the 2006 thriller Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (based on the 1985 novel by Patrick Susskind), stars as Professor Tanja Lorenz. Swiss actress Luna Wedler plays Mia, a young medical student who gets drawn into the world of underground biohacking and illegal genetic-engineering experiments. “Stories in which ordinary people have to face exceptional circumstances have always fascinated me,” Ditter told Biohackinfo last fall after shooting wrapped. “Working with Netflix has allowed us to tell a gripping story that focuses on multi-layered and believable characters.”

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#biohackers, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #sci-fi, #streaming-television, #trailers

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By the sword: Cursed is an inventive remix of classic Arthurian legend

A young fey woman with magical gifts finds herself hurtling toward a tragic destiny in Cursed, the latest re-imagining of Arthurian legend, this time from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake. The 10-episode Netflix series is an adaptation of the young adult novel of the same name, written by Tom Wheeler and illustrated by none other than the legendary Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, The Dark Knight Returns).

(Only the mildest of spoilers and no major reveals below.)

As we reported last month when the trailer dropped, the YA novel was published last year by Simon & Schuster—with eight full-color and 30 black-and-white original illustrations, making it a collector’s item for diehard Miller fans. Wheeler is a well-known screenwriter, producer, and showrunner, with such credits as Empire (ABC) and The Cape (NBC), as well as the Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots and The Lego Ninjago Movie.

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#cursed, #entertainment, #frank-miller, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television

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Sleek, sexy Brave New World is the crown jewel in Peacock’s launch offerings

A savage man ignites chaos in a seemingly perfect utopian society in Brave New World, the flagship original series on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, which launches today. It’s an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel of the same name, suitably updated for these 21st century times. This Brave New World is a sleek, sexy, and ambitious series with strong performances and impressive CGI that feels more akin to Westworld than Huxley’s novel, particularly in its philosophical underpinnings. And ultimately it provides an engrossing story of the pain of love and the human condition.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

The novel Brave New World is set in the year 2540, in the World State city of London, where people are born in artificial wombs and indoctrinated through “sleep-learning” to fit into their assigned predetermined caste. Citizens regularly consume a drug called soma (part anti-depressant, part hallucinogen) to keep them docile and help them conform to strict social laws. Promiscuity is encouraged, but pregnancy (for women) is a cause for shame. Needless to say, both art and science (albeit to a lesser extent) are viewed with suspicion.

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#aldous-huxley, #brave-new-world, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #nbc-peacock, #streaming-television, #television

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Ensigns are the scrappy underdogs in new Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer

Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid lend their voices to the new animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering next month on CBS All Access.

With the success of Star Trek: Discovery and Picard, CBS continues to expand its offerings within the Star Trek universe, this time with a new animated comedy series: Star Trek: Lower Decks.  The series boasts a unique angle: it focuses on telling the stories of the lower-ranking crew members, with all the big dramatic events of a typical Star Trek episode happening in the background. As Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome, Space Force) says in the new trailer, “We’re not really elite. We’re more the cool scrappy underdogs.” That sounds like a Star Trek series the fans can get behind.

This is the first animated Star Trek series since the Emmy-award-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) which ran from 1973-1974. That show served as a sequel to the live action Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)—effectively a fourth season—with many of the original cast members returning to voice the characters. Among the new characters introduced were a three-armed, three-legged alien crew member named Arex, and a Caitian (a cat-like alien) crew member named M’Ress. The 22 episodes included a sequel to the famous “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode from TOS, in which the breed is genetically altered to not reproduce—with the tradeoff being that they grow extremely large (or rather, clusters of tribbles are able to function as a single whole).

Star Trek: Lower Decks is a different beast. It’s part of a five-year overall deal Discovery co-creator and showrunner Alex Kurtzman signed with CBS to expand the franchise. Kurtzman tapped Rick and Morty head writer Mike McMahan to spearhead the project. “Mike won our hearts with his first sentence: ‘I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end,’” Kurtzman told Variety back in October 2018. “His cat’s name is Riker. His son’s name is Sagan. The man is committed. He’s brilliantly funny and knows every inch of every Trek episode, and that’s his secret sauce: he writes with the pure, joyful heart of a true fan.”

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#animated-series, #cbs-all-access, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #star-trek-lower-decks, #streaming-television

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First teaser for The Boys S2 promises another wild and bloody ride

Our vigilantes are on the run from Homelander (Antony Starr) and the rest of the Seven in the second season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys.

The war between corrupt, evil superheroes and a ragtag band of vigilantes out to expose their true nature and curb the power of “super” in society will escalate dramatically, judging by the first teaser for S2 of The Boys. The Amazon Prime series—one of the most-watched on the streaming platform when it debuted last year—is based on the comics of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

(S1 spoilers below.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) is a self-appointed vigilante intent on checking the bad behavior of the so-called “supes”—especially The Seven, the most elite superhero squad and, hence, the most corrupt. Butcher especially hates Seven leader Homelander (Antony Starr), a psychopath who raped his now-dead wife. Butcher recruits an equally traumatized young man named Hugh “Hughie” Campbell (Jack Quaid, son of Dennis) to help in his revenge, after another Seven member, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) used his super-speed to literally run through Hughie’s girlfriend, killing her instantly.

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#amazon-prime, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #streaming-television, #television, #the-boys, #trailers

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Superpowered siblings time travel to save the world in Umbrella Academy S2 trailer

The Hargreeves siblings are scattered in time and must reunite to stop the apocalypse in the second season of The Umbrella Academy.

A group of dysfunctional siblings with superpowers travels back in time to the 1960s in the hope of warding off the apocalypse in the official trailer for the second season of The Umbrella Academy. The Netflix series is an adaptation of the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series of the same name created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá.

(Spoilers for S1 below.)

The comics are set in an alternate 1977 (the year Way was born) in which President John F. Kennedy was never assassinated. The Monocle, an alien disguised as billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, adopts seven surviving children out of 43 mysteriously born to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children are raised at Hargreeves’ Umbrella Academy and become a family of superheroes with special powers. But it’s a dysfunctional arrangement, and the family members ultimately disband, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves dies.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #television, #the-umbrella-academy, #trailers

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Review: fierce and fun Warrior Nun is a perfect Fourth of July binge-watch

A young woman gains extraordinary powers when a divine artifact is accidentally embedded in her back, and finds herself reluctantly battling demons on Earth in Warrior Nun, a new Netflix series based on the comic books by Ben Dunn. It sounds like a cheesy premise, but this adaptation is anything but. It’s a fiercely fun, entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking series that will have you hooked and eager for a second season.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As we previously reported, the first issue in Dunn’s manga-style comic book series, “Warrior Nun Areala,” debuted in 1994. The series largely features Sister Shannon Masters, a modern-day crusader for the Catholic Church’s (fictional) Order of the Cruciform Sword. In the series mythology, the Order dates back to 1066, when a young Valkyrie woman named Auria converted to Christianity. Renamed Areala, she selects a new avatar every generation to carry on her mission of battling the agents of hell. Sister Shannon is the Chosen One. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer got religion.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #television, #television-review, #warrior-nun

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Lady of the Lake takes center stage in Netflix’s Arthurian retelling Cursed

Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) stars as Nimue in the new Netflix series Cursed.

A young, outcast fey woman finds herself in possession of a mystical sword of great power in Cursed, a reimagining of the Arthurian legend told from the perspective of Nimue, aka the Lady of the Lake.

The 10-episode Netflix series is an adaptation of the young adult novel of the same name, written by Tom Wheeler and illustrated by none other than the legendary Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, The Dark Knight Returns). It was published last year by Simon & Schuster—with eight full-color and 30 black-and-white original illustrations, making it a collector’s item for diehard Miller fans—but the series was already in development prior to the book’s publication. Wheeler is a well-known screenwriter, producer, and showrunner, with such credits as Empire (ABC) and The Cape (NBC), as well as the Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots and The Lego Ninjago Movie.

Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) stars as Nimue in the series. The show also stars Devon Terrell (Barry) as Arthur; Gustaf Skarsgård (Westworld) as Merlin; Daniel Sharman (Fear the Walking Dead) as the Weeping Monk; Peter Mullan (Ozark) as Father Carden; Lily Newmark (Pin Cushion) as Pym; Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl) as Morgan le Fay; Sebastian Armesto (Broadchurch) as King Uther Pendragon; Matt Stokoe (Bodyguard) as Gawain; Emily Coates (Flack) as Iris; and Billy Jenkins (The Crown) as Squirrel.

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#arthurian-legend, #cursed, #entertainment, #frank-miller, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #television, #trailers

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In trailer for Brave New World, everyone but John the Savage knows their place

An adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World tops the offerings on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, launching next month.

NBC’s Peacock streaming service launches next month, and the jewel in the crown of its initial offerings is undoubtedly Brave New World, an ambitious adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic 1932 dystopian novel. The full trailer for this Peacock original series is finally here, starring Alden Ehrenreich as Huxley’s antihero, John the Savage, who finds himself struggling to adapt when he is thrust into a utopian society.

(Some spoilers for the book below.)

As we reported in April, Brave New World is set in the year 2540, in the World State city of London, where people are born in artificial wombs and indoctrinated through “sleep-learning” to fit into their assigned predetermined caste. Citizens regularly consume a drug called soma (part anti-depressant, part hallucinogen) to keep them docile and help them conform to strict social laws. Promiscuity is encouraged, but pregnancy (for women) is a cause for shame. Needless to say, both art and science (albeit to a lesser extent) are viewed with suspicion.

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#aldous-huxley, #brave-new-world, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #nbc-peacock, #streaming-television, #television, #trailers

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Apple gives us our first glimpse of Foundation, adapted from Asimov series

Jared Harris and Lee Pace star in Foundation, coming to Apple TV Plus in 2021.

At today’s 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple dropped the first teaser trailer for Foundation, a new TV series for Apple TV adapted from Isaac Asimov’s seminal Foundation series of novels. The new show, which stars Jared Harris and Lee Pace, had already begun filming when the global pandemic shut down production in March. The teaser offers our first glimpse of what this highly anticipated series will look like, as well as a few peeks behind the curtain on set.

(Mild spoilers for the first book in the Foundation series below.)

The series started out as eight short stories by Asimov that appeared in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and early 1950, inspired in part by Edward Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The first four of those stories were collected, along with a new introductory story, and published as Foundation in 1951. The next pair of stories became Foundation and Empire (1952), with the final two stories appearing in 1953’s Second Foundation. Asimov’s publishers eventually convinced him to continue the series, starting with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986). Next came a pair of prequels: Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993), the latter published posthumously. (Asimov died in 1992.)

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#apple-tv-plus, #entertainment, #foundation-series, #foundation-tv-series, #gaming-culture, #isaac-asimov, #jared-harris, #lee-pace, #streaming-television, #trailers, #wwdc-2020

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